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WP Suspension Press Introduction
Factory Parts For Regular Riders
Last week I was invited to the 2016 press introduction for WP suspension services. It consisted of dinner in the Temecula wine country and a private ride day at Pala Raceway.
Temecula is not too far away and it was a lovely evening to take the dual sported 450xcw out for a ride on the backroads to the dinner party. I was tempted to just ride the xcw to the track the next day too, but opted not to, expecting that I could get some more track time in on the 350xcf test bike while I was there, but that didn’t quite turn out.
For 2016 the WP slogan is “Get in front”. Presumably they are going to make me faster. The heart of the message is that WP is now operating as a stand alone business here in the States. Via their authorized distributors, an entire line of street, MX, offroad and mini cycle suspension products are available.
For our purposes we will focus on the off road products. The main items now available are the Cone Valve fork, AER 48 air fork and TRAX shock. These are all offered as direct bolt on OEM replacements for KTM and Husqvarna.
Additionally, these are available for late model Honda CRF, Kawasaki KX, Yamaha YZF and Suzuki RMZ lines. There are also applications for late model Beta, Sherco and KTM 990 Adventure bikes.
Other cool parts in the WP catalog include the Cone Valve Cartridge Kit, to convert any stock WP 48mm fork (open chamber, CC or 4CS) to a Cone Valve fork. There is also a “Race Performance Kit” which is a retrofit to give Closed Chamber forks Cone Valve technology.
Other trick parts from the catalog include the screw adjuster preload collar, PHDS bar mounts and WP triple clamps.
For the ride day WP gave us a couple of different set ups to try. First up was the 2016 KTM 250sxf with a Cone Valve fork and TRAX shock. Next a 2016 Husky FC450 with the AER 48 air fork and TRAX shock. Then came a CRF450 and KX450, each to be tested with stock suspension and then with the WP parts.
I guess I better throw out a couple of disclaimers here. We were riding on the Pala Amateur track and it was amazing, freshly prepped on a beautiful fall day. But for the entire group of journalists, we only had the 4 bikes to ride. So time was a bit limited. With so few bikes (no others were allowed on the track), the track stayed in perfect condition. It wasn’t rough enough to show much for weak points on any of the bikes.
We also did not get to ride any other KTM or Husky models for comparison, only the specially prepped bikes.
Regardless, I immediately fell in love with the 250sxf. First, the little 250 is amazingly easy to ride. It carves the corners like a razor. Wide open is the standard throttle position. Frankly the bike made me feel in hero mode, like I could do nothing wrong. It has great handling and enough power to get around the track, but not so much as to worry about getting in trouble.
As for the suspension, it was really really good. Wow. The fork is wonderfully consistent through the entire stroke. It feels plush on top and just continues that feel through every bump and landing. I don’t think it ever bottomed on me.
The rear hooked up great. I am not sure I can point out anything else specific that I liked about it, it just worked well. Keep in mind I rode the bikes just as they were set up, no clicker or sag changes.
Next up was the Husqvarna. Not sure why but I don’t think it is PC to say “Husky” anymore. The 450 felt big by comparison. I never thought I would see the day my 6′, 200 lb frame would feel more at home on a 250 than a 450, they have come a long way. But the 450 required almost no shifting, I think the entire track could be ridden in 3rd gear.
The AER 48 fork on the Husky was very close in overall performance. The general feel under compression was very similar to the Cone Valve fork. But I did find the rebound to be a bit too fast for me. Over one section of fast rollers, the front would pogo just a bit. It was also riding just a little high in the stroke for my taste.
But, from what we are told regarding the new AER fork, these are things that can be quickly dialed with air pressure changes in for any rider. So, in a way, it just leaves me in anticipation of the day when we can spend more time to learn the unique properties of air suspension.
I had to leave the ride day early, so I didn’t spend any real time with the Kawasaki and Honda. I did a couple of laps on the stock Kawi, it felt sort of heavy to me but had great torque.
I was told that the 250sxf was Marvin Musquin’s set up. So the formula must go something like this: world class set up, minus about 80% of the rider talent, plus about 50 lbs extra weight, still equals great set up.
So that is the news from the ride day. Perhaps more important, I think we have arranged to get a set of suspension to test, Cone Valve fork and TRAX PDS shock, for the 450xcw! I will be anxiously looking forward to getting some real world trail time on the factory style set up.