450 Quad Shootout

Published on May rd, 2010
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It seems every week I’m able to experience something new for the first time and it’s usually something I never dreamed I’d get to experience.  My first month in California I attended the Baja 1000 with Wes and the entire Matlock Racing team.  I got to ride Ocotillo Wells with Mike Metzger and some of his crew for an event he was putting on.  Most recently I was able to be involved in my first magazine shootout between several very built race quads.

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I’ve done machine tests before but it’s usually in the sand and its usually some insane custom creation, not a full on mx prepped quad which is what I prefer.  Additionally, I’ve never even ridden a fully modified race quad.  My Honda TRX450 is practically bone stock and I’ve not spent much time at the track period.

Dirt Wheels Magazine was putting together a modified 450 shootout and six of the seven manufacturers were to contribute.  Be it our freestyle team is sponsored by Polaris we offered to supply the quad for the shoot.  I asked Wes if he thought they would need additional riders and he said it didn’t sound like it.

After a rather challenging day spent assembling the quad, we arrived at Glen Helen Raceway around noon.  I tagged along to see what goes on at these tests and happened to throw my gear bag in, hopeful that I’d get my chance to ride.

We had barely unloaded the quad when Ron Lawson, the man responsible for the shoot, asked if I brought any gear.  I said “oh yeah” and told me to suite up.  I was super excited but a little nervous as there were quite a few people around and I didn’t want to look like the inexperienced rookie since I’m still feeling out the whole motocross thing.

To that point we had only ran our quad on the dyno at Dasa Racing so this was indeed the maiden voyage.  I took it out only to discover it would barely run at lower RPM.  On top of that the REM track at Glen Helen was mostly elevation changes with switchback like turns and a few very rough jumps.  I made a few laps with the quad spitting and sputtering before taking it back to the pits.  We adjusted the jetting which seemed to have solved the problem.  I took it back out and my goal now became a small but intimidating tabletop above the largest downhill I’ve ever seen on a motocross track.

You would accelerate out of a turn and climb a steep hill which leveled off for about 50 ft before dropping out from under you.  The distance wasn’t the issue but more so the fact that you couldn’t see anything until you crested the hill.  Jumping blindly is sketchy at best and should you crash on this one, it was a long, long roll to the bottom of the hill.  This particular jump was very sharp at the point were the flat tabletop met the downhill section. (We freestyle riders refer to this as the knuckle.)  If you were to case the knuckle on this jump you had about 200 feet to roll to the bottom.

As I mad lap after lap I inched closer to the downside until I finally committed.  It was a weightless feeling as I lifted off the ground and sailed over the crest of the hill.  The best way I can describe it is there is no lip on the jump.  Your inertia just carries you up and as the ground levels off your momentum keeps going up and over the hill.  I managed to downside it perfectly and gain some confidence.

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After a few more laps I returned to the pits and Ron told me to ride any of the other five machines that were there.  With much delight I hoped aboard a Yamaha YFZ450 and began pounding out laps.

The rest of the afternoon was incredible.  I pounded out laps on all six of the quads, making mental notes on each machine’s power and handling.  I’m a rather large fellow so the quads with a lower center of gravity and tiny handlebars were somewhat uncomfortable.  In fact I only managed to jump the tabletop on three of the six quads.  I just didn’t feel comfortable enough leaving the ground on a few of the machines and I certainly didn’t want the liability of wadding up someone else’s race bike.

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The whole day was an eye opening experience.  Come to find out the group that had gathered was a who’s who list of industry names.  Doug Dubach, Wayne Hinson, former pro Kory Ellis, dirt bike champion Gary Jones and photographer Adam Campbell were all out taking part in the shootout.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take many up close photos of the day because the machines are all to be presented in an upcoming issue of the magazine.  I did snap a couple photos of the crew and track however.

The whole experience was something new, and something I never thought I would get to be a part of.  I’m so very blessed to be here doing what I love and meeting people that I’ve looked up to for as long as I can remember.  A huge thanks to Wes and Ron for letting me be a part of the shoot and a big shout-out to the Kawi guys for bringing lunch for everyone!

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