The new 525mxc was all prepped and ready to ride. It was so clean, like a time capsule gem, it could serve as the perfect yardstick to compare advances in dirt bikes over the last decade. Ideally I wanted the KTM 500xcw for comparison, but with only the 450xc-f handy, it would have to do.
Regardless, both the mxc and xc-f represent the pinnacle of race bikes for their day. I was at the 2005 Idaho City Qualifier when Jason Dahners won the overall on a showroom stock 525mxc just like ours. While our 525 is all stock too, the 450xc-f has had a few mods to make it more trail ready. It has a bigger tank, flywheel weight, LED light and Flexx bars added. All of those mods actually make it closer to the old 525.
Ron Wilson and I unloaded at McCain Valley on a weekday just after the rains. A perfect day for trail riding. Most of the terrain is 1st – 3rd gear trails, short straights with tight corners. When the dirt is good, it is a day of railing from corner to corner with a few rocky climbs mixed in.
As for how they matched up, the 450xc-f is by far the fastest. It is faster than just about anything period. Hammer the throttle and it jumps to attention. With the super light throttle pull and lighter DDS clutch, everything has a featherweight feel. Enough so it requires a bit of discretion from the rider. Too much throttle twisting just makes a mess of things.
Everything on the 525 is a little heavier and solid feeling. It doesn’t leap forward like the 450. The throttle is almost a little easier to modulate with the stiffer pull. The big bike does not react to the clutch quite as fast, but it doesn’t need the clutch much either.
The biggest difference was in turning. The soft forks on the 525 are easy to control, using the front brake to compress for turns. It will corner more aggressive and the front is more solid feeling. The 525 was the best for railing around most of the trails. In the few sections of big whoops it would blow through the travel at both ends, but never really get out of control. As for the 450, the faster the better. The big whoops are child’s play for the xc-f.
Overall the two motors are not far from each other for practical use. Both are muscular and fun to ride. The 525 is less refined, showing its own kind of charm. As for pure trail speed, neither had an overall advantage. Both of us were about the same speed on each bike. I had a slight preference for the 450, it is all I have been riding lately. But Ron loved the 525 immediately and felt the fork helped him get through the turns faster.
It was an interesting day of riding and contrasts. The 450 certainly has to get the nod for best bike. But the 525 acquits itself quite well on the trails. If we had gone to the track or a desert race, the gaps would surely be larger. But for everyday riding, the fun factor of the 525 keeps it right near the top.
I just unloaded both bikes and put them on the scales. I was shocked at the result. Each with 3 gallons of fuel, just as tested, they weighed within 4 pounds of each other, right at 266 and 270 respectively. Here is the basic math on the 2014 450xc-f: 242 lbs tested dry weight, 18 lbs for fuel (6 lbs per gallon), about 6 lbs for added tank, flywheel, light, sparky and bars equals 266 lbs.
Considering how close the set up is on the two bikes, the difference in weight is amazing. We didn’t add a bunch of bling to the 450xc-f. It is just set up as a proper trail bike. Most of which are things the 525mxc came equipped with from the factory.
I failed to bleed the brakes on the 525 since buying it, the resulting performance was poor. Fluid aged nine years doesn’t work well. I boiled the rear and did not have enough power to lock up the front. It will be first on the maintenance list.