Suzuki LT-R450 Dessert Racer

Suzuki has not been a major contender in any form of ATV desert racing until its most recent win at the 2009 Baja 500. A highly prepped QuadRacer LT-R450 stole the show from the usual Honda title contenders, and it is now considered to be a threat for many years to come. This race-ready ATV has been tearing up the national motocross circuit with Dustin Wimmer holding the reigns, but did Suzuki intend for their QuadRacer to find its way off the track and blasting the desert trails? This is what we did to make our LT-R450 desert-worthy.

You never know when an unusual obstacle will come in your path. Lucky for us, the Ohlins front and rear shocks were plush even on the harshest of landings.

Despite being known as one of the slower stock high-performance 450s, the LT-R450 now holds the largest two titles in ATV racing, thanks to Chris Borich and his 2009 GNCC championship crown, and Dustin Wimmer and his consecutive journeys (2008 and 2009) to the number one position. What does this have to do with racing in the desert? Well, we took what the two champions learned from their Yoshimura powerplants and extended it to our Desert LT-R450.

Although the desert scene has many top speed sections, the idea is not to build a drag racer, but a marathon runner. The stock displacement of 450cc remains, as did the stock bore and stroke, and the stock EFI. The main additions were a Yoshimura cam, programable ignition module, billet motor goodies and a complete exhaust system.

The head was cleaned up and ported as well. To improve airflow to the motor, a Velocity intake kit with race wrap replaced the stock air filter setup. The kit runs for $110, and is available through

Although the stock LT-R transmission works well, a complete Hinson clutch component kit was installed to help with the heat from high-speed racing. This kit runs for $1090 and includes a basket, hub and plates. Also, 100-percent synthetic oil is a must. We used Maxima’s 5/40.

The stock gear ratio does not provide enough top speed for the long straights expected in the desert. A 14-tooth countershaft was matched with a 38-tooth rear sprocket to get the extra speed we were looking for.

Velocity Air Filter kits start at $100 and can be purchased at

Before any more additions were made to the Desert Killer LT-R450, the machine was stripped. The chassis was then sent out for a crinkled black powder-coat finish. It looks great, and you just can’t hurt the tough crinkle coat.

Up front on our Desert LT-R450 are Laeger long-travel A-arms with ten-degree caster tops. Mounted to these are Ohlins TTX shocks. The stock rear swingarm was powder-coated as well, and was hooked up with a single Ohlins TTX shock.

A $395 Precision stabilizer was installed in the stock steering stem. This setup is used by the majority of top racers from nearly every racing series in the country. A stabilizer is a must for the desert, and we used the best.

A Velocity prototype axle was installed. Here’s a great idea: For any ATV heading for rough terrain, try cutting automotive shrink tubing long enough to cover each side of the axle and slide them on before installing the hubs. Then heat with a blower and marvel over the cheap way to extend the life of your axle. The wrap keeps the axle from being pitted by rocks and sand. The pits cause rust, and weakens the axle.

Large 23x8x10 Maxxis RAZR (fronts, $75 each) and 22x11x9 (rears, $116 each) tires were mounted to DWT aluminum wheels with beadlocks ($130). Tire Balls were also installed. There are 14 balls per front tire, and 13 balls per rear tire. The fronts are aired up to 5 psi, while the rears are filled at 6 psi. Tire Balls run around $200 per wheel for desert tires. To slow the Desert LT-R450’s massive Maxxis tires from super-high speeds, brake improvements are needed. The stock calipers were used with steel braided lines and wave rotors.

Up front on our Desert LT-R450 are Laeger long-travel A-arms and Ohlins TTX shocks.

An important aspect of desert racing is with your controls because you are traveling at such high speeds for long periods of time. Tag CR double high bars ($110) provided a two-inch taller height over the stock bars. They provided the LT-R with a much more comfortable ergo feel for the desert. We might even prefer these bars to stock for motocross. We’ll install some, and let you know soon.

A Terry Cable dual gasser thumb/twist combo throttle ($150) was installed. Long mileage races can wreak havoc on your thumb and forearm, depending on the throttle type you use. Many desert racers have grown fond of the Dual Gasser for its unique throttle option. Its pin lock is quick to adjust, and with practice, adjusting from thumb to twist is simple.

The majority of desert racers opt not to race with full nerf bars. With this machine, IMS/Roll Design footpegs ($200) were installed with aluminum foot wells ($180). The footpegs are ultra-sharp and provided great traction. Our favorite part is the two-inch kick-up that we planted our feet against on sharp and high-speed corners.

To add more beef to the chassis, a Pro Armor front Pro-Am bumper ($90) and rear Pro-Am grab bar ($65) was installed, as was an 8mm plastic skid plate from AXP Racing Products. After miles of slamming rocks, the skid did just what it needed to do, and that was to protect the more expensive parts above it.

Also from AXP was a one off 6061-billet aluminum swingarm skid plate. This chunk was everything the LT-R needed to protect its high-dollar rear end. AXP does not currently sell this piece, but we should expect to see it in catalogs in the near future.

The stock LT-R450’s fuel supply is not nearly enough for long treks found in desert racing. An IMS four-gallon tank ($275) replaced the two-gallon stocker. Rather than a dry break system, which some riders find to start leaking over time, a stock cap-style system was mounted to the IMS tank. The fill tank was then rigged to incorporate a large vent hose to speed up the fill process (We show you how to do this yourself at For obvious heat reasons, CV4 heat wrapping was used on the bottom of the tank and on plastic parts surrounding the exhaust.

The idea of this project was not to dazzle, but to run hard and run long. However, a little cool factor never hurt anyone. A Quad Tech seat cover ($185) and many carbon goodies were installed, as was a One Industries custom digital graphics kit. These trick graphics can be altered just for you and installed on just about every sport ATV made. Check out

IMS/Roll heel guards and footpegs were matched together. The pegs are ultra-sharp and feature a two-inch kick-up.

Steve Beilman and Jason Dunkelberger race tested this Desert Suzuki LT-R450 and won the Expert class at the BITD. “We had a great race. It was gas and go all day,” said Steve. “There was really bad dust until the hundred-mile mark. There were many 80 mph sections with lots of water crossings, train trellises and 6000-foot mountains.

“The Ohlins suspension worked awesome! There was no fading and great traction all day. We wore the tires bald, but had no failures! We had a lot of battles coming from 75-plus bikes and quads in the race. As far as I am concerned, if you own a LT-R and you buy any other engine modifications than Yoshimura, you are not getting the best—period. I have ridden them all, and this thing ripped all day. Lots of motor packages start well, but 300 miles later they are as fast as a 1987 warrior! Our quad was as fast at the finish as it was at mile marker 1.

“As for shock setup, we dial in the shocks to the average pace or speed of the track. We do this by experience, knowing what type of course it will be (fast or slow, rocky, whoops, etc). Most courses have all of these things, but we look at what the course will look like overall and set the quad up accordingly.”

The Dirt Wheels crew has tested many “built” QuadRacer LT-R450s in the past, but none that could pull a steady 85 mph at such a long, steady pace. The cam, pipe and other goodies from Yoshimura as well as minor head porting provided a strong and, more importantly, reliable powerplant for the race. Those smarty-pants Swedes at Ohlins are really on top of their suspension game as well. There’s nothing like traveling that speed thinking about how smoothly you’re riding, then looking down at your suspension rapidly soaking up huge whoops. Suzuki’s LT-R450 is turning out to be a great desert ATV. Not only did it serve well for Beilman and Dunk at the BITD, but it tackled Baja’s 500 in 2009 as well.

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