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"Dirt", December 1, 2012

GIDDY UP YELLA

There’s nothing like a three-hour pony express to help you get the hang of a new bike

WORDS GREG MASTERS

PHOTOGRAPHY DAMIEN ASHENHURST

It was to be the first test for the bone-stock RMX450Z project bike which, apart from setting the race sag and removing the airbox restrictor, was exactly how it would roll out of a Suzuki dealership.

Being a little underdone in the fitness department, I invited local rider Joel Armitage to saddle up and share the project RMX450Z with me. Joel knows how to twist a throttle pretty well in the bush and even though he was a little rusty he was the fastest man on our two-man team.

The Pony Express was three hours long and the RMX has only a 6.2-litre fuel tank, so at some point we were going to have to refuel at a rider changeover. The other competitors in our class were all on separate bikes — once they tagged their partner, they could pit and refuel at their leisure.

It wasn’t to be a drama, though, as the RMX has a fuel indicator light which would come on when there was 1.5 litres to go. That would easily get us back to the changeover checkpoint for a splash and dash.

I started for our team on this dry, dusty and partly shaly 12–13-minute loop. Not long into my first lap, it became apparent how well the RMX450Z turns across different surfaces and over the different obstacles. Fast or slow, roots or dust, it didn’t seem to matter — and it absolutely loved the ruts. I know that’s a big rap but it’s really noticeable, even to a B-grader like me.

The Showa suspension coupled with the standard-issue Dunlop Sports D742 front and D756 rear worked a treat, in my opinion, although by the end of the race, thanks to Joel, the rear tyre was fairly thrashed from the shale sections.

Before the race, a local enduro god urged me to put the muffler silencer back in; it looks more like a pea shooter. After some experimentation I’ve found it does tame the power and gives the bike more torque off the bottom, which paid off in the gullies and on the slippery uphill shale sections.

It also turns the muffler bark into a purr. Even though the power’s smoothed out, it still has plenty when blipped to get the front wheel over an obstacle on the trail.

The RMX comes with Renthal Fatbars, so if you clip a few trees like I did you simply straighten the rubber-mounted triple clamps and power on. At the three-hour point, with only one fuel stop needed and both riders and bike in one piece, Joel brought the stock project RMX450Z over the finish line in third place class/overall.

JOEL’S THOUGHTS

Usual ride, 2011 CRF450 “I was very surprised at how well the RMX stopped and turned. The motor was strong yet smooth and didn’t want to stall, even in the tighter sections. The clutch is a cable pull but was light and consistent even when the bike got hot in the slower parts of the loop. The only things I didn’t like were the skinny front brake lever and the front tyre, but that’s about it after one good ride. A great bike as it is or a great platform for a serious off-road rider.”

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