It’s no secret that riding and racing off road machines can be insanely expensive. Sure, maybe not as much as many other forms of motorsports, but pricey none-the-less. Engine modifications, suspension upgrades, complete exhaust systems, these all cost a fortune but can help give you the edge when riding or racing.
But what about performance on the cheap? We looked at a bunch of upgrades that come in around $200 or less, and some can really wake up your machine for busting berms…without busting your wallet.
When we started researching this article, we set a $100 limit on the items to be covered…but we quickly found out that by extending that ceiling to $200, we were able to include a lot more valuable products into the playing field.
First up we looked at gearing. Gearing your bike correctly can make a huge difference in winning holeshots as well as keeping your bike (whether two or four stroke) in the meat of its powerband…and this modification can be especially effective when your bike has a six speed gearbox.
Changing gearing can be as simple as changing your front or rear sprocket, but for consistent results, changing both sprockets and chain is the best method…but beware, big changes to sprocket and gearing can result in massive changes in the way your bike performs, so never do dramatic changes in gearing. One tooth up or down on the front or a few teeth either way on the rear is the maximum you should be experimenting with.
Simple primer on gearing: When changing sprocket sizes you will change the overall gearing of your machine. Simply put, this is changing how the power is delivered to the ground via the drivetrain.
When increasing rear chainwheel size, you will influence the bike to deliver more torque with less top end.
When decreasing rear chainwheel size, you will influence the bike to deliver less torque with more top end.
When changing your front sprocket, the opposite is true...and keep in mind front sprockets are cheap and easiest to change so this is a good place to start for the inexperienced.
Always read up in the ThumperTalk forums to determine some rational changes for your specific model of machine before embarking on this journey.
Some quality chain and sprocket options that we’ve used with good results around $200 (and less) are:
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Intake modifications abound in the off-road world, and some are rooted in years of experience (jetting) while others use newer engineering techniques to achieve their goals.
Jetting your bike correctly has to be one of the biggest modifications offering the most gains that bike owners neglect. Some bikes come jetted from the factory notoriously lean to meet EPA guidelines and can really benefit from changes in jetting, as well as the fact that many owners change exhaust systems which increases airflow, thereby necessitating changes in fuel delivery to obtain optimal performance. For riders and racers in higher elevations, these modifications are vital. Changing exhaust components without changing jetting usually results in lower overall performance and can also cause lean conditions, dangerous to the engine itself (detonation).
We normally purchase jetting kits, which usually supply multiple pilot jets, main jets and proprietary needles for your application. Of these three kits, we’ve used the JD Jetting Kit and it’s considered the gold standard in this category.
Some jetting options well under our $200 target are:
PUSH IT GOOD
For two strokes specifically, reed and reed valve upgrades can offer some real snap to your engine. These reed petals sit over a block fits between the carb and the engine and pulse as the engine rotates, feeding the fuel/air mix. Because they vibrate at such high RPM, they tend to wear and crack or chip during hard duty cycles like racing.
Upgrade options from reed upgrade/replacements all the way to products like modified reed block holders have undergone extensive testing to bring out the beast that lives within your brapmonster. This segment is dominated by two companies, and we’ve used both the Boyesen and Moto Tassinari products with great results.
Some reed and reed valves options meeting our sub-$200 target are:
Moto Tassinari V-Force 3 Reed Valve System (starting at approx. $143.00)
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Intake modifications abound in our sport, and they range from common sense to the edge of gimmickry but all claim improvements at a low cost of entry. We talked to riders about some of the products they felt actually made a difference, and we’ve included those here, but keep in mind, your mileage may vary.
First up are the products that claim to increase the performance characteristics of the air/fuel mixture flowing to the cylinder. Some install into the backside of the carburetor where the air boot connects and some occupy the boot itself.
Some intake modification options well under our $200 target are offered by:
Four strokes have gotten a lot easier to start and keep running without bogging or stalling…but most riders can use all the help they can get when racing or hardcore trail riding, due to weak designs of stock carburetor accelerator pumps. Many carb setups in their stock configurations do not supply enough fuel to satisfy the demands of a modified engine, especially as it gets hotter.
These stock pumps were not only designed for a purely stock intake and exhaust setup, but are kept quite lean as the try to meet EPA regulations for (less) unburnt fuel out the exhaust. In the case of the Boyesen Quickshot, Boyesen claims it features a “tunable leak jet circuit” that “maximizes volume of fuel and duration of fuel spray for any condition.”
Boyesen along with others have stepped up in the segment and offer some help in this area.
Some carburetor modification options under our $200 target are:
Boyesen Quickshot 3 (pictured above)
Of course with a $200 ceiling tires made our list…and there isn’t a lot on this list that can make such a dramatic performance improvement as new tires. We’ve all felt what a new set feels like and for me, it’s like a new lease of life with my YZ.
So we’ve included some of the tires that we like and feel offer a good brap for your buck:
(Note: All tires below are rated for motocross/intermediate terrain)
Michelin Starcross MH3 combination
In conclusion, even though the sport we love is costly, some performance upgrades aren’t. Most of the products listed here aren’t made of shiny chrome or carbon fiber, but they shine brightly when installed and in use - and they cost a lot less than you’d expect for the amount of brap for the buck they deliver!