The desert races of Baja, Nevada, and Southern California seem to be dominated by Honda-derived race ATVs. For the most part, Honda machines have won the SCORE championship, BITD championship and most smaller organized desert racing series for the past few years. Knowing that this wasn’t the only way to win, we tried racing a LT-R450 back in 2009, and after limited success in the San Felipe 250, we pulled off a slightly lucky win in the Baja 500. This year, things are shaking up again. Can-Am is waging a solid effort in the desert, and a win at the prestigious San Felipe 250 and the Silver State 300 proved that you don’t necessarily have to ride red to win in the desert. Last year’s Baja 500 was even further shook up with the Josh Row/Dustin Nelson team pulling a solid first-time Baja win for Yamaha on the YFZ450R.
Leaning on my past experience, my Baja teammate, Keith Carlson, asked me for some assistance in setting up his LT-R 450 for us to race the BITD series. While there are many personal preference items on every build, a desert bike requires a few key attributes. For the most part, these include great suspension, reliable run-flat tires, and quality skid protection. These are what we went after, and the following companies and parts have made it pretty easy to have a successful outcome.
LONESTAR DC-PRO A ARMS
The DC-Pro long-travel arms are Lonestar Racing’s top-of-the-line A-arm kit, and it’s designed to be lighter, stronger and feature a bulletproof, cup-style, sealed-bottom ball joint. The uppers feature easy camber adjustment and sliding ball joints. The DC-Pro uses needle-bearing pivots to reduce resistance (stiction) throughout the travel. The DC-Pro features a 2.13:1 leverage ratio and a lifetime warranty. Several other LSR parts were used to improve durability, such as a billet-axle carrier, 1-inch-plus chromoly steering stem and a lifetime warranty.
Contact: www.lsracing.com, 800-4LS-RACE
ELKA STAGE 5 SHOCKS
ELKA Stage 5 shocks are quickly proving themselves to own the desert. The massive oil volume provides better bump absorption with less heat than anything else currently available. The Stage 5 high-flow internals not only flow more oil, they also dramatically reduce friction. We literally got our set of Stage 5s for the LT-R the day before the Silver State 300 and had less than 25 minutes of riding time to dial them in. The rear shock is built to work with the stock linkage, which saves about 500 bucks compared to some other models. With the proper ride height set, a few clicks of compression and a little slowing of the rebound was all we needed to be fairly confident on Saturday morning’s start line. After 300 miles of mixed terrain, they were still working great; they stayed cool, and the bike reacted level and straight to any square-edged bumps that snuck up on us, and it even worked well in the limited whoop section at the finish of the race.
Contact: www.elkasuspension.com, 800-557-0552
OMF BEADLOCKS & REINFORCED WHEELS
We needed a no-compromise wheel setup that was lightweight, beadlocked in the rear and would hold up to an entire season in the desert. OMF’s setup was a no-brainer when it came to the best possible wheels for our application. OMF parts are developed by savvy desert racers, and their beadlocks are truly a work of art. Helping to keep rotating weight to a minimum, OMF suggested its new Super Lite beadlock wheel. Super Lites are just as strong as OMF’s conventional beadlocks, with material removed for weight everywhere that it can be without compromising strength. For the front, OMF sent us non-beadlock reinforced wheels that have a rolled lip on the inside and a stylish ring on the outside.
Contact: www.omfperformance.com, 951-354-8272
If you want to win races, you can’t waste valuable time limping in on flat tires. Tire Blocks are the latest development in run-flat ATV tire technology. Developed initially to conquer Baja, Tire Blocks are now proving themselves in the WORCS point leaders’ tires as well as the current points leader for the Quad X series; in other words, they have proven themselves at the highest level of ATV racing in desert, off-road, and MX. Tire Blocks are specially shaped blocks of dense foam that are lubed and stuffed inside the tire. Once installed, the Tire Blocks will give the ride quality of properly inflated tires, even with no air at all. We found the best results by running 3 pounds of air over the top of the foam, and you won’t even notice a pull when you get a puncture.
Contact: https://ridetireblocks.com, 360-951-2903
MAXXIS RAZR TIRES
The Maxxis Razr tire combines the ultimate in puncture resistance with a great traction-inducing tread pattern. The Razr has proved over the years to provide unbeatable grip, whether accelerating or braking, and the compound is durable enough to last for an entire 500-mile desert race. Maxxis Razrs are without a doubt the tire of choice for serious desert racers.
CT RACING ENGINE & EXHAUST
Allen Knowles of CT Racing knows what it takes to build championship-winning ATVs. CT’s exhausts and motors have won the last several BITD titles. CT Racing has spent years developing four-stroke heads that are fast enough to win but will run all year long without failure. For our desert LT-R motor, CT uses oversized valves, a Web Cam and their proven port work. Combined with a stock piston and a CT exhaust, we have a pump-gas motor that is torquey enough to pull 80-plus mph even with our heavier tire setup. CT’s five-angle Newen Race valve job really makes the power on the LT-R, as the seat diameter is opened up into the casting, which blends right into the port work. If you want big power on a LT-R, then you want big valves.
Contact: www.ctracing.com or call Allen at 562-945-2453
LTZ400 K&N POWERLID
We feel that the K&N Powerlid is so important to desert racing success that we adapted a LTZ400 unit to fit the LT-R. Unfortunately, K&N does not offer a Powerlid for the LT-R, so we grafted the top of a LTZ400 airbox onto our LT-R airbox to increase airflow without dusting out the main filter.
Contact: www.knfilters.com, 800-858-3333
If you want to be comfortable at speed, then you have to be able to trust your brakes. Galfer’s stainless brake lines coupled with their sintered ceramic composite-pad compound will deliver smooth, consistent braking mile after mile. The ceramic compound will withstand higher temperatures than OEM and lacks metallics that eventually eat up the rotors.
FASST COMPANY FLEXX BARS
The Flexx handlebar system absorbs shock and vibration that would be transferred to your body. When pounding out mile upon mile of abusive terrain, you need every advantage you can get. By design, the rubber elastomers not only reduce shock, but also drastically reduce vibration.
Contact: www.fasstco.com, 877-306-1801
STEERING STABILIZER & HANDGUARDS
The Fastway System 5 stabilizer drastically reduces negative feedback that would otherwise fatigue the rider. The System 5 is the most adjustable, fine-tunable damper on the market. Low speed, high speed, return to center, corner angle and corner damping level are all on separate, adjustable circuits. Five circuits may seem like a lot to take in at first, but after a quick read into what each does, you will have your damper working exactly like you want it to in no time. Another well-thought-out product we used was the trouble-free Fastway handguards, designed specifically for the Flexx handlebar system.
Contact: www.promotobillet.com, 208-466-4762
DID 520ATV CHAIN
Without a good chain, you’re going nowhere. The DID ERV3 is DID’s double-throw-down, gold-plated, strongest-available, longest-lasting, low-friction X Ring chain. The 520ATV is that same high-quality chain with special steel-alloy construction developed to hold up to the extra loads of a race ATV. The 520ATV is so tough that we can adjust it once after break in, and it stays in spec for an entire 500-mile desert race.
Contact: www.didchain.com, 615-323-4020
PRM HEAVY-DUTY SKID PLATES
The .250-thick PRM Z-swingarm plate is the strongest swingarm skid you can buy off the shelf. Protecting your sprocket and rotor is very important, and at the speeds of desert racing, it requires the toughest protection available. Desert racers who are in the know either run PRM skids, or they are forced to customize and reinforce other brand skids to qualify for the job. The LT-R does not come with a true skid plate, so mounting options are limited. We found that you need to tack-weld the threaded inserts into the side of the swingarm before mounting a race skid. This will keep them from jarring loose and spinning within the swingarm. Another pro setup we found was making a sandwich-type mount plate, with three long bolts through the rear of the
Contact: www.prm-atv.com, 866-874-5846
PRO ARMOR REVOLUTION NERF BARS
Pro Armor really did their homework when designing these stellar nerf bars. They include a full-wrap nerf bar, super-gnarly footpegs and integrated, netted heel guards. What really sets the Revolution nerf bar apart is that they will clear 22-inch tires. We tried multiple footpeg, heel guard and nerf bar setups that wouldn’t even come close to clearing our 22-inch desert tires before finding the Revolution.
Contact: www.proarmor.com, 888-312-7667
IMS DRY-BRAKE TANK
Every desert racer needs more fuel capacity, and the serious ones will opt for a dry-brake setup as well. The IMS tank holds 3.6 gallons of fuel, and the dry-brake fueling system can have you in and out of the pits with a full tank in seconds. For the Suzuki, or any fuel-injected ATV, we have found the dust cap to be very important. If the dust cap is not in place, the fresh fuel will wash accumulated dirt into the fuel system, clogging up the injectors or filters. We crimp the inside lip of the dust cap outwards with a pair of dikes to ensure a positive, secure fit at each and every fueling.
Contact: https://www.imsproducts.com, 800-237-9906