It has been a few years since I had anyone work on suspension for me. It is kind of one of those personal issues with me I think, sort of like going to the dentist. If I don’t know for sure it is going to be right, I would rather not go at all. Great, now I am thinking about how over due I am for a dentist appointment. Let’s get back on the beam.
I ride a lot of bikes. Frankly, it is not that often that I ride on aftermarket suspension and feel that it is significantly better than stock. Of course half of that is simply the fact that most riders do not know how to dial a bike in correctly. Most use the lefty loosey/righty tighty method. That is, they just start turning things without taking any baseline settings into account. Then the next time they go out, they just keep doing the same, making more or less random turns and hoping for the best.
If you are going to improve on the already good KTM & WP stock settings, you have to know something about what you are doing. So I typically just add some springs and play with oil. But when it was time to start planning for the Baja Rally, I knew I needed some professional help. The rally would bring some big challenges with all the additional weight put on the bike. Besides, some of the other bikes in my fleet were getting well overdue for some suspension love too.
Moto Lab came to my rescue. I was able to schedule some other business over to the Phoenix area and that gave me a chance to meet with owner Rob Kozler. We talked about my impressions of the stock suspension. I explained some of my personal preferences and how I expect the bike to react. We also discussed some of the unique challenges for the rally bike.
Rob did full suspension front and rear for the 2015 KTM 450xcw and also for a couple of my older RFS bikes. The RFS bikes would provide a good comparison against some of my older Trail Tricks stuff.
Initially Rob had suggested that I go with .48 springs for the front. But I always race on .46, including for the slightly heavier 525xc that I raced in the rally last year. On initial testing I found the suspension to work fantastic. It was amazingly plush and easily the equal to anything else I had ever used or tested. It just went to reinforce my love of the WP 48mm open chamber forks. When set up properly, there is nothing that will beat them for all around off road use. But I had to also admit that the front was bit too soft for hard hits once all the navigation gear and 19 litre tank were installed. So I called Rob and had him send me the .48 springs for the front.
With that I was very happy with the set up. I try to run my suspension just as soft as I can get away with. I want it to perform best in the very nastiest of conditions, even if that means I have to back off just a bit for the biggest hits. I started the rally with lots of confidence in the bike and it performed just as I hoped it would. The best part was that the 450 really felt lighter than it was, the suspension was that good.
In the rear Rob and I debated shock springs also. On the RFS bikes I like running the progressive spring for the plush ride it offers. I decided that I would try a progressive for the first time on the 2015 bike, a Race Tech P25. It was just sort of a guess as Race Tech will not talk about the exact spring rates. Again with the fully loaded rally set up, I really liked the spring and used it for the event.
Now that the rally is over I have put the 450 back into enduro form. I have swapped back to the .46 springs for the front. It will be interesting to see if I still like the P25 in the rear. I suspect I will end up back to a 7.6 straight rate. Overall, the progressive and straight rate both have their strong points and it would be hard to call one a clear winner.
Things are good on the RFS bikes too. A while back, when I was doing front tire testing, I was also comparing the suspension on my two nearly identical 2006 450xc’s. I have to confess that I was so happy with the Moto Lab set up that I almost chose the XC to use for the rally. There is just something about the old motor and chassis that I have a hard time letting go of. But I figured that over the course of a long race the new bike would be easier to ride and it was. My point is that the suspension was good enough that I did not consider the old bike to be of any real disadvantage for the fast and smooth Baja terrain that I expected to encounter in the Rally.
Overall I was quite happy with the work that Moto Lab has done for us. I hope to be able to send him some other brands to play with also. While a long time KTM rider, Rob has just picked up a new Gas Gas for himself. So he isn’t just a WP guy. He is testing Marzocchi and Sachs components too.
For our standard fork and shock revalve, along with springs, the price was $661.