A year or so ago, after I purchased my '14 CRF, I studied here quite a bit looking for tips on off-road set up, and found little, even a post I put up asking about exhaust advice (single vs. duals) was confusing at best. Shortly after, a major injury kept me off the bike, so it wasn't till the last couple of months that I have really gotten to ride this thing. I thought I'd share a couple of things that worked for me to make mine an easy to race for two hours fun wagon.
First of all, a bit of background, I've been racing since '78, have had literally hundreds of bikes since then and am an Exp SS rider, more SS than Exp anymore, so while I still dig the moto track, big air isn't my thing, HS and GP racing is. This bike replaces my '08 CRF450R, which I loved.
Power: After the first couple of rides, it was apparent this bike was no where near as fast as the '08......major disappointment After asking questions and following threads here, it seemed like I was doomed if I didn't invest in major engine mods and remapping. Being that I hate to waste perfectly good parts and money, and really like the reliability of stock components, I almost bowed out early for a brand change. Decided instead, to invest in an exhaust and see where that got me. After my aforementioned post I learned little. Checking all the places I could think of, I just couldn't find a review of the FMF single w/Powerbomb, and most everything I did see, single or dual offered little hope of a major gain in power. I decided to go with the FMF Ti-4 with Powerbomb header. It fits incredibly perfectly and went on without issue, saving a crap load of weight in the process. I used the included UFO side panel on the now non-exhaust side and got a decal works one piece panel for the other to really clean up and simplify the look. To help prevent flame outs, I got the heaviest flywheel I could find, 13 oz. I believe. The clutch was next. While every review I read said it was junk, and $1,000 worth of Hinson hardware was in order, I decided to take a more budgetary route. I started by removing the judder spring and replacing it with another stock plate. In an effort to ease the pull effort required, I next invested in a Magura hydraulic set up. It is an easy and sano installation. The last thing I did was to experiment with gearing, trying a 48, 49, 50, 52 and 54 on the rear with the stock front. I settled on the 52. A friend who rides enduro with this model, uses a 54, but I found that way to low for the more open stuff that I do. No mapping mods as of yet.
Result: These relatively simple mods have turned my bike into a relative rocket, comparable to my '08. Realize I'm not saying national level fast or anything, just saying now I can hit the start line against other similar bikes and not feel disadvantaged. The exhaust moved the power significantly up in the rev range, while the flywheel and gearing help keep the original low and mid range thrust intact, while reducing flame out by about 75%. It still revs fast and smooth, but much higher and more predictably. The clutch mods made the pull, one finger easy, and as good as anything else I have ever owned, including KTM's. I'm easy on clutch's as it is, but after pulling my '08 down after 100 hrs. of use, it all looked brand new. I expect the same from this bike and think Hinson stuff would just be a big waste of money. The bike is still a bit lurchey at the very bottom putting around, and perhaps some mapping would clear that up and take a bite out of the remaining threat of flame outs, but I so rarely ride down in that range, that it really doesn't concern me. It would be more tinkering for pleasure than for need. If I rode tighter trail or enduro, I certainly would delve into that though. The '08 (with the same muffler and flywheel, but a 50t sprocket) is a little slower revving and throatier, but pulls a little harder in the bottom/midrange and goes longer on the top even with the taller gearing, but is a little more prone to flameout. They both start easily, hot or cold, but the edge goes to the '14 on that. Really though, the '14 is so close now, I don't feel the '08 has a measurable advantage anymore and the more freewheeling feel of the '14 contributes to it's more nimble and less tiring feel.
Chassis: Forks...air forks..ugh! I did not buy this bike in '13 specifically because of the fork, and am personally dumbfounded this is the direction the japs are taking. Just another reason KTM is kicking their collective asses, and they don't get it. But, I may just be old and set in my ways. Besides the constant fiddling, I don't need my forks getting hot and therefore stiffer as a two hour race goes on. So......the product that changed my mind and allowed me to stick with my beloved Honda's, and not buy a KTM was the emergence of the Ohlins TXT spring conversion kit. MX Tech also has a home brewed SFF spring conversion kit, but I went with what I know and chose Ohlins. Yes, it was $1,100, but I justified it by the great deal my dealer gave me on the bike, plus the money I would have spent on a revalve regardless of bike I would have bought, and it was pretty much a wash. In the rear, I had the stock shock revalved to suit my preferences. The fork now is pretty damn good. Honestly, I didn't get a magic carpet ride or anything, it's amazingly average and comparable to any well set up fork, but it works well all through the stroke, is predictable and I set it and go, no fiddling. That's all I want in a bike. In the rear, the shock was pretty darn good, rarely doing any thing weird, but I had it set up to be a little more progressive as it went through the stroke. Stock, it seemed like it would move through the second half of the stroke too quickly. Now, the whole chassis is level and predictable. I have also added a Stillwell adjustable link guard, that both protects the vulnerable lower clevis, and allows both lengthening or shortening of the link. I got it primarily for the off-road abuse protection, and the cool red blingy look, and have yet to experiment with adjusting the length.
Result: All I can say about the handling and feel of this bike compared to my '08, is WOW! The difference in agility is amazing, it almost feels like a two stroke comparatively, and is much less tiring to ride and it turns on a dime......any inside line seems possible. The '08 is definitely more stable feeling, and in a desert race, would be much more confidence inspiring, but I don't do that much. I'll take the trade off and hold on tighter and pay more attention in the fast stuff. I certainly feel advantaged handling wise to any other 450 out there. Makes me feel better about the power also.
Bits: Needing a big tank, I narrowed it down to the Acerbis (which I have on the '08) or an IMS. I believe, Acerbis makes a superior product by far. Better plastic, better fit, usually better ergonomics. But, comparing capacity, the IMS slightly edges out the Acerbis. I wanted to do the Acerbis, and on it's face the capacity should be just enough to finish a two hour HS, but...and this is big; The fuel pump takes up a tremendous amount of space in the tank! I don't believe the advertised capacity accounts for this, so I went with the slightly larger IMS. My instincts turned out to be right. After two hours, there is barely anything left, maybe not enough to do another 5 mi. lap. I can only assume that my chances of running dry on the last lap are great had I gone with the Acerbis. Unfortunately, the IMS is rather bulky, but not hard to get used to, worse yet though, the fit is horrible. I never could get it to sit all the way down in the frame at the rear, and had to manufacture spacers to float it a bit. The shrouds are barely mountable, and being rather thin, they twist away from the tank at the bottom, don't tuck into the frame properly down there, and don't sit tight against the tank up top. Disappointing and something the magazines won't tell you. The Acerbis on my '08 is perfect, I can only think it would be similar for the new bike, but sadly, I can't use it. I'm also running Acerbis flag guards with folding levers. Running the stock clamps with a Scott's Damper and Pro-Tapers. Removed the stock damper.....experimented with it a bit, but I think it is damped to lightly, as I could feel little difference between settings. Wish I did like it, because I really want to get that top clamp with the little air dampers in 'em, but for what I do, the Scott's Damper is a necessity.
Well.......hope that helps somebody looking for off-road set up tips. I'm super happy with the bike now and expect to get 3-5 yrs of trouble free racing with it, plus I just happened to be in a writing mood and you all are my victims......sorry......ha ha