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Sep 1, 2009

We Get Letters: The Debate Over Converting 450cc Motocrossers Into Road Racers Continues


Via e-mail:

We have all seen the negative reactions to the idea of 450s as a road racing platform. Shame on you all whom have reacted this way!

Here we have a perfect solution to the high cost and high maintenance of 600s and liter bikes and few want to buy into the idea.

Well , if your (sic) all so damn smart and capable then lets (sic) see a better idea!......These bikes are readily availiable (sic), built by most manufacturers, of sound design and quite bulletproof. Just think of the additional technological advances too, if they are used in this manner.

I , for one, plan on taking advantage of this platform if it becomes reality and I can barely imagine the fun we could be having with this.

My feeling has always been that the best riders are those whom have been able to push their bikes to the absolute limit before moving to the liter sizes. They know what WOT riding is about and they come up to speed quicker at the next higher level.

And hey , what the hell do we have to lose? Certainly not much money, and in fact I think we'll gain more riders and sponsors with this and that can only be good for the entire 2 cents.

Eric Barrows
Fullerton, California


Via e-mail:

Just opened the valve cover today (first time since 2008 before the GNF) - the valve clearances are the same spec as last time - now we are at around 20 hours run/race time on the engine (10.5 hours this year).

Geoff Maloney
GPtech llc.
Hickory Corners, Michigan


Via e-mail:

I just wanted to touch on a few things regarding the proposed F-450 class for the 2010 AMA/DMG season. Firstly, I am well aware that my daughter Elena's name and image has been used for the promotion of this class. I just wanted to state that though she did indeed ride one at a local club event, that fact alone, without knowing her full opinion, should not be used as a "Pro" endorsement for the Formula 450 class. Our original intent to be involved with Gavin Trippe in the development of this project was to help determine the viability of the class on a Amateur level, have some fun and to race it in an up-coming USGPRU event (the class at that particular event unfortunately got cancelled). The simple fact is that the opportunity to race the machine presented itself and she took advantage of it because she is a racer, loves to compete and will race just about anything. You can read about her experience in her Girl Racer article in the September 2009 issue of Roadracing World magazine. But for what it's worth, this is my opinion on the bike after experiencing it first-hand, and the proposed Pro class structure.

The small race shop that I currently work at has been building winning Supermoto, MX and Flat Track bikes for several years. One of our 450s recently won the Baja 500 Sportsman class (after a complete rebuild which it will now need again). The Baja is indeed a true test of machine but hey, this is racing right? Running these machines on the pavement is nothing new to us either but mind you, the asphalt section in Supermoto is usually under a half mile in most cases and sustained high rpm is rare. We service all makes and are constantly rebuilding these motors, often needing new cranks, pistons and valves at great expense to our customers and all in the name of running up front. How the AMA plans to bill this as cheap entry level Pro road racing when our local Amateurs spend wads of cash to win a local Flat Track or Motard race remains to be seen. And remember, we're just talking about motor maintenance here, forget about when one of these road racers goes end over end at speed (like they all do at some time or another) and crashed body work, bent mag wheels, clip-ons and rear sets, among others, are in order for repair or replacement.

I do have some personal experience running these 450s as full-on road racers, though somewhat limited, and believe they may indeed have their place. Maybe in Clubman, Formula Singles or Sportsman classes at the Amateur level as they are being raced now, but the Pro ranks with young upstarts looking to make their mark, not likely. I will acknowledge that some individuals have had success riding their 450 Singles as road racers and I won't debate that fact here, but again, this has all been at the Amateur level. What's the difference, you may ask? Well, the difference may be that there will be 30 or more young guns going at it with no regard for anything but making their mark and getting noticed, worrying about taking it easy on the motor or not crashing be damned. The idea, as they are being described, as being a cheap, reliable entry level Pro class will be quite to the contrary. As a reference, the machine my daughter rode had well over $12,000 invested in it and is still in the "development" stage. Forget about the cost of man hours involved. It was a beautiful machine I will admit, but form, as always, should follow function. Did the machine as a road racer do what it was intended to do? Sure. It went sround the track like a motorcycle would, accelerated, turned left and right and stopped. It did all those things but that doesn't mean it was necessarily designed for it or did it better than one of the many other alternatives. Are there not already machines out there to develop young riders that are true road racing machines? I believe there are and a converted dirt bike, in my opinion, isn't one of them.

Intended purpose aside, the fact that this proposed F-450 class will be used in place of the current SuperSport class for the development of young riders is where I find the fundamental problem. What seems strange to me is the idea that the AMA is somehow convinced, or at least seriously considering that this will be a class to hone a young up-and-comers skills. They only need look at their SuperSport class as it currently stands with several of the top contenders coming directly off of 125cc road racers for a reference of development. In my opinion, if you're not already on a 600cc machine by the time you're 16, or even 14 these days, then you are most likely behind the 8-ball in this country and abroad. Go to any WERA, USGPRU or local club and you'll witness kids who are ages 10 to 14 and up that are racing 125s and purpose-built 250cc four-stroke road racers. Many of these kids, the ones who are qualified, are also riding 600s preparing for the AMA's current SuperSport class (Yes I understand that 16-year-olds can still enter SuperSport next year but getting rid of the age cap and turning it into an all-comers class will surely diminish the intent). My question is, what are the current crop of these young racers under the age of 16 supposed to do? Keep riding 125s till they are of age then jump on a bike that does not handle as well and is arguably slower than what they've been training on when they turn Pro?

Ridiculous! Development should have started long before they were ready to turn pro, that is what Amateur racing is for.

In reference to and to quote Gavin Trippe's "back to curing cancer," I'll say this, I believe there is a reason why things are done the way they are done. You can look at history and see for the last 20 or more years that the platform for training up-and-coming racers has changed little if at all. Does the AMA/DMG think that they know of a better solution than what nearly every World Champion, European Champion and American Champion has done to this point? Time will tell. I just hope the powers that be really explore the ins and outs before they make a final decision. Regardless, we'll be on a 600 next year and hopefully proving that a 16-year-old who has taken the proper steps in her development is perfectly qualified to race and be competitive on said bike.

Matt Myers
Discovery Bay, California


Via e-mail:

Regarding the prospective F450 class and engine/drivetrain durability, how about a mandatory and enforceable rev limit device? It would be the single most-easily applied measure to address a motocross motor's roadrace shortcomings. Smart too would be extra cushy rear hubs and perhaps belt drive and power-interrupted shifting.

A dyno simulation of a MX race vs. a road race would be, as others have noted, as near different as it is possible to conceive while still using the full rev range and all throttle settings. 450 MX motors spend very little time at both full throttle AND near the redline. Further, the rest of the drivetrain is designed mindful that peak loads ( acceleration, deceleration, and gearchange) are relieved by wheelspin. The limited maximum traction on dirt serves as the limiter of peak loads. Clearly, a gummy race tire on pavement"¦"¦

Sidenote: In motocross use, the 250 four-strokes spend (relative to the 450s) more time at full throttle and a great deal more time near peak revs. And, as you may have guessed, the 250s require more everything regarding parts & maintenance. True Pro privateers, if they have a choice, often run the 450 class because it's much cheaper to own & maintain the comparatively snoozing 450 than the 250 when stressed as it is by a Pro rider. Taking a 450F single and running it far harder than it is possible to MX a 250F--not hard to see how that will go. The very short MX life of a Pro-ridden 250F is existing partial proof despite the drivetrain cushioning of MX traction.

Limit F450 revs to (pure guess) 9500 revs and the top end lives exponentially longer than the 11,500+ they would otherwise. Simultaneously, the rest of the drive train gets a break. Then permit/encourage/require cush-hubs and/or belt drive, and maybe it works. Maybe an ignition interrupter on the gearshift or whatever you pavement guys call it. Otherwise it's grenades or massive expense.

I hesitate to point out the following, given my belief that Nascar is to motorcycles what trout are to bicycles; but a performance difference between brands or model years could be "adjusted" by tweaking up/down the rev limit. Don't hate me.

Johann Kemsuzian
Hamilton, Ohio


Via e-mail

The 450 Single four-stroke motorcyle engine can be a great starting platform to build a very reliable and very fast road race machine. When talking about entry level racing, the unreliability, the costs etc. the 450 Single is no different than most, dad just needs to open his wallet. If push button start, reliable racing is what the young racer is looking for, perhaps the Ninja 250 will keep food on the table.

A few years back my good friend Cedric Smith (Voodoo1 Racing #88) built the ultimate CRF450. He competes against 100-hp SV650s with OMRRA. His Honda 450 engine is placed into an RS125 chassis. This was fairly easily installed with a small case mod and front mount welded into the frame. He has reworked the head to include porting and camshaft-throw in a big piston and 450x gearing and he has achieved over 75 hp on the dyno. This bike has been very competitive and very reliable.

To be successful at taking a bike that was designed for application (a) and used in application (b) you need to be creative and patient. Cedric is both. Maybe instead of looking at the 450 as entry level, we should all be looking at it to be the heir to the throne of the TZ250. Thinking outside of the box can get you on the podium, it's only time and money.

Matt Taylor
Snohomish, Washington


Via e-mail:

In Canada all top classes including Superbike have horsepower restrictions. Colin Fraser has much experience of this with his Canadian Racing history.

This has been a rule for many years and in my estimation served to keep costs down and the playing field "more" level. While I do not advocate it for the Superbike class it makes sense for the entry level class being discussed.

It seems to me that a spec engine class regardless of 450 Single or SV Twin etc. is destined to fail if only because it quickly becomes two things: 1. boring for spectators or 2. a development race for the team with the most money.

A calculated maximum horsepower limit set low enough to negate the advantages of excessive spending and modern 600cc Supersports would allow any number of configurations of bikes and manufacturers. One single hp rating not multiple for different bikes and no individual weight limits either.

This would allow anyone to throw as much money as they wanted at the class and still, relatively, keep the playing field level. There would be no weight limit so underpowered or smaller engined bikes like a Single could have an advantage and bigger horsepower bikes would have to manage that hp better including the added stress on tires and rid-ability. It would also allow the teams to ride the brand and type of bike they enjoy and the manufacturers to support brands based on sales strategies.

I raced in the AMA ProThunder Class on a Yamaha Single. As noted in previous comments that Single and others like it had an advantage or at least were competitive, until the class opened up to the Ducatis. They would have still been competitive IF the class had a hp restriction.

No worries about fuel testing, suspension mods or excessive spending - in the end you can do what you want but when you come off the track your bike can not run higher than XX hp or you are out. Simple. Easy to police, easy to tech and it allows for some incredible ingenuity and funky bikes. It would also mean that the AMA wouldn't have to think too much... which in most cases has proven a bad thing.

For the manufacturers it would allow them flexibility to offer support to types of bikes they want to market and specific demographics. The rules could specify certain consistent elements or graphics so the brands do not get lost in the race etc. You could still have builders like Roland Sands and get some diverse coverage - if marketed correctly and done right.

It would mean a good young rider with talent and some brains could manage his bike, his tires and his relative horsepower to a win and different tracks would present different advantages to some over others.

To me a perfect way to get a young rider to think the way he will need to win and separate a thinking rider from the rest.

Dean de St. Croix
Waterdown, Ontario, Canada


Via e-mail:

I felt compelled to send you a letter regarding our super single 450 bike (CF-450). I purchased a 2009 Honda 450. We rode this bike over the winter for ice riding which is quite hard on bikes to begin with. In spring we decided to convert our bike in to a road racer. We did go a bit over the top with ours but the bike has been great. The first race my son rode the bike at was a CCS race at Road America. He did the full practice day as well as rode the bike in two different races on Friday as well as two on Saturday. The bike rode well and worked great. We went back to Road America and did another Thursday track day before the AMA race there. Again the bike ran fine.

This past weekend my son rode the bike once again but this time at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas. We ran all day practice on the Thursday and rode the bike in three different races. Ultra Lightweight as well as Lightweight Super Bike and GT lights. Once again the bike worked great.

We are off to New Jersey next week with the bike for another race weekend. At present all we have done to the bike is wash and clean the bike as well as change the oil and transmission fluid after each race. To this point the bike has been great like all the other Hondas we have owned. As far as upgrades to the bike for racing we have done the following: A Power Commander, an FMF exhaust system and a Hinson slipper clutch. We have the left the motor completely stock.

The reason for us building the bike is simple my son currently rides a Honda RS125 as well as a MD250H both in the USGPRU as well as CCS. As a father I would love to put him a a 600 but as a parent I feel that it is quite a big jump from a RS125 or a MD250H to jump on a 600. But with a middle of the road 50 to 55 horsepower bike he can learn more and have a feel of a bit heavier bike before riding a 400 pound bike with 100 horsepower.

I do see other young kids at the races and yes some have done well on the 600 but also there are several that have struggled on them. The Super Single 450 is a bit more of a steeping stone I feel for young kids to move to before a 600.

I can tell you that each time we get the bike out people want to stop and talk about it and ask about building one. The project was also fun for my son and I to work on along with my son's uncle who also put quite a bit of work into the project. As for 2010 we look forward to running the bike in the 450 class in the USGPRU as well as other classes and would also run it in the AMA rounds if we could. The whole concept of taking a 450 bike of any brand and turning into a road race bike is fun and you can put as much or as little into the bike as you want and yes when we are done we can e-bay the parts that we purchased as well as put the bike back to stock and sell it if we want.

All I can say is that we have built this bike to race and we are doing this and the bike does perform as expected and beyond and yes it might only be 50 hp but my son is learning more each time it takes it out on the track.

This past winter he also was asked by Martin Conway to ride his Super Single bike at several tracks to see what he had thought of the bike and to give some feedback on suspension and how the bike handled. He was able to ride a Suzuki 450 bike at Laguna as well as Fontana and Las Vegas again after some feedback to Martin and the folks at Race Tech the bike performed as promised.

So in closing all I can say from our end is my son has but quite a bit of time on 450 (SuperSingle) type bike this year and they have worked and performed as advertised and we have yet to have a problem. Thank you.

Allen P. Hansen
Cedarburg, Wisconsin


Via e-mail:

It seems there is a jihad out there on Spaniard Dani Pedrosa because his manager Alberto Puig used his influence to get Repsol Honda to rally around his rider at the expensive of Nicky Hayden. Well in case you haven't noticed, politicking behind the scenes has become key in the quest for world championship stardom. Like it or not, it's not just what you do on the track but who you have as your team advocate fighting for your best interest in terms of equipment and your principle stature on the team. Whether you're Michael Schumacher or Valentino Rossi, getting the powers that be to support your efforts primarily and your teammates secondarily is the recipe for continued success.

Puig did his job well, bottom line. Add to that 2007 Repsol political power struggle, the unfortunate crash at the penultimate round of the championship involving Pedrosa and Hayden. It was insinuated on some websites stateside that the Spaniard somehow deliberately threw his bike down at speed to derail #69's title hopes.

Now you can't view a picture of the Spaniard in the U.S. without a snide remark or caption. Add it all together and you have the genesis of the Pedrosa internet jihad. It's getting real old and as an American whose grandparents are from Spain, it is becoming personally offensive as well. Apparently it's even gotten to the point to where you can use the anti-Pedrosa-Spanish rant when defending a new proposed road racing formula like Mr. Gavin Tripp did in his most recent submission, "plus you don't have to be 5', 110 lbs and Spanish to fit on one."

What if you had used the word "black" or "female" instead of "Spanish"? Think you'd get some flack, Mr. Tripp? And furthermore, I would have to believe the decision makers in Daytona Beach would not take lightly remarks that would alienate one of the fastest-growing road racing demographics in this country and south of the border.

Denis A. Torres
Smyrna, Georgia