Crutcher’s Corner | One Size Fits All
A couple months ago, let’s say July, Anton and I were talking about my 250 SX two-stroke, as the premix burner needed to be revalved and set up to match the new-to-me Race Tech outdoor settings I had gotten accustomed to on the KTM 250 four-stroke. I had 3 motorcycles in the garage and on my mind as I sat on the couch with a broken leg: a powerful 2019 KTM 450 SX-F that I didn’t like too much, a 2021 KTM 250 SX-F with low hours, and a 2018 KTM 250 SX that I loved riding but hated its suspension.
During the phone call, we formulated the idea of doing a “bike build” with affordable and in-stock parts, two things that can be hard to come by right now with what seems to be a logistics downstream crisis of more significant proportion than the pandemic.
Race Tech’s manufacturing shop in America made it the primary place to source new parts for my project, and fortunately, all of the appropriate pieces of hardware needed for the suspension (which was incorrectly built for me by a previous shop) were in stock and ready to ship. In no time, the Gold Valves, bladder conversion kits, springs, and shims that matched my beloved 250F suspension were ordered by my tuner, Justin Hauss of JH2. UFO supplied new plastics and accessories to trim the refresh up, ProTaper provided bars and grips, and before long, we were on our merry way with another great handling/sound/looking motorcycle to plaster all over the front pages of the SML website.
As mentioned above, I had a pretty gnarly leg injury the day before Easter. I was ripping an outside line and trying to make passes at Tony Wenck’s Riverside Raceway when I dabbed my foot perfectly into an inward rut and had the footpeg pin my boot into the ground as I accelerated out. Snap.
My whole summer plan, a blend of the coolest races, was cut by one big ass plate on my fibula and a litany of miscellaneous ortho hardware. Although it was several-month rehabilitation, my leg did heal faster than planned.
I was straight feeling froggy and the need to leap was growing when I began to ride in the last week of July. After a couple days of seat time, I started to formulate a plan to propel me back to the outdoor nationals by the end of the summer, with the 250F in the garage serving as the steed. My mind was made, and it meant the bike build was going to be put on hold just as the 250SX suspension with absolutely perfect-matching characteristics to the 250F plus fancy coatings came back from JH2. So, after doing a giveaway with my 450, purchasing my Pro License, and not wanting to put hella hours on my 250F but looking to get heavy ride time in, I picked up a 2022 350 SX-F from Cycle Zone. Keep following because I know this whole thing seems like a giant mixing bowl.
To keep hours off of the 250F, I pulled the shock and forks off and put them on the new 350. Though 250SX’s suspension was fresh from JH2 with a matching build, I put the coated pieces to the side so they’d be fresh for Pala and Hangtown and made 350 with 250F suspension my training bike; since they are the same motorcycle, short of the base gasket up, the setup worked flawlessly.
I arrived in California with the 250SX suspension, refreshed and barely broken in, and strapped it onto the MXA GasGas that I borrowed for the races. These moving parts, including four motorcycles and two suspension sets, correlated back to two common denominators: JH2 and Race Tech.
That I could rely on such consistency and control across a range of motorcycles with the same chassis is attributable to having an ace-in-the-hole tuner like Justin. Race Tech installers have access to the Digital Valving Search: using a unique code with each kit, they enter the rider/bike/setup details, and the DVS produces a setting for them. It’s essential to have a baseline to start with, but handiwork crafted by a personal relationship that Justin and I have built helps, too. He knows exactly what I am looking for out of my motorcycles and can fine-tune them all to do so, an extremely hard considering each bike has different characteristics from the motor torque and bike weight. Hauss can get a 125/250/250F/350/450 within acceptable and predictable handling parameters that are consistent across the board, and so much of this is dependent on the tuner. Remember, given the importance of tolerances and consistency, the product is only as good as the installer.
Every time I show up to the track, there is no guesswork or questioning how my motorcycle will handle. Consistency builds confidence, and knowing that Justin is a wizard who can rely on the millions of dollars Race Tech invested into their research and development in pursuit of the best suspension, has convinced me I’ll be absolutely dialed when I roll onto the course. The personal relationship with my tuner, mixed with the superior hardware manufactured by Race Tech in America, cannot be beaten, and every rider should consider calling their local Race Tech Center for a suspension rebuild when acquiring a new (or new to them) motorcycle. If you are unsure who your local guy is, one quick call to Race Tech’s HQ in Corona (which also services suspension in-house) will result in a list of tuners in the area.
Although we started with a bike build idea, something that evolved so much over the last couple of months, I realized having reliable and trustworthy suspension was something I’d enjoy writing about more than talking about a list of parts that were thrown on a bike.