PROJECT FROM THE PAST: XC Racer Suzuki LT-R450
When Suzuki introduced the track-ready, 49-inch wide LT-R450, they turned a lot of heads. Now amateur MX racers had a machine they could take off the dealer showroom floor, add a few safety features, and race it that weekend. They would save thousands in aftermarket A-arms, shocks and tires. Furthermore, Suzuki had a product that their racers could win with on Sunday to increase sales on Monday.
Unfortunately, Suzuki alienated a customer base that wanted a 450cc quad that they could comfortably ride deep into the woods. Sure, they have the ever-popular Z400, but that machine is no match for the trail ready 450cc machines sold by the other manufactures.
To make the Suzuki Quadracer LT-R450 more trail friendly, we needed to do several things. We first raised its ground clearance and narrowed the overall width. At 49 inches wide, the Quadracer is great for a fast, wide, smooth trail but too wide for a narrow tree-lined path. Its low center of gravity adds tons to its cornering abilities but hinders it in rough terrain.
If you don’t ride in the tight woods, you can probably get away with just mounting up, a set of 20-inch rear and 21-inch front tires and leave the Quadracer wide. To raise our machine up, we installed a set of Dunlop’s brand new trail tires. Since the Quadracer comes stock with this brand of tire, we felt it would be a good tire for the comparison.
The wheels on our project LT-R450 are the new OMF Billet Center products with their scalloped beadlock and Inner reinforcing ring, in a 10-inch size with 4+1 offset up front, and eight-inch 5+3 (not 3+5) offset for the rear. The rear wheels were built backwards from a stock offset to make a 5+3 offset. This wheel is similar in offset to what would come on an independent rear suspension quad such as the Polaris Outlaw 525IRS or the new Honda 700XX. The front wheels started as a normal 10×5, 4+1 wheel, but from there OMF Performance Products cut the wheel as narrow as possible before adding their scalloped beadlock. The heart of what makes these wheels narrow was OMF’s billet center modification.
The great thing about the billet center is that if you change quads, in most cases you can simply purchase a new center with the correct bolt pattern for your quad. For this project, though, the other benefit of the billet center was the main selling point, with its adjustable offset. Because the center bolts in to the wheel, it can be shimmed out or in depending on the desired effect. There is limits to this, however, and OMF suggests that the shims are for fine tuning only. Using the OMF products, we were able to narrow the quad up by 2.5 inches in the front and a full three inches in the rear. The cost of these wheels is not cheap, but this is cheaper than buying narrower A-arms and axle. The base cost on the wheels we ordered is $249.95 per wheel with the billet center, scalloped beadlock, and inner reinforcing ring. We opted to take it a step further in the style department and have them do some custom powdercoating of the rim shell ($44.95 per rim), the scalloped beadlock ring ($9.95), and the billet center ($9.95).
We tried a few things to get the correct gearing for our newly modified machine. For the budget-minded tight woods rider, we found that just adding a one tooth larger sprocket to the rear will do the trick.
But since we wanted the most useable yet reliable power the Suzuki motor can churn out, we opted for some more extensive modifications.
On the top end, we installed a set of more aggressive, torque-producing Hot Cams brand camshafts. The intake cam had a price of $170 and the exhaust cam retailed for $190. Below the head, we inserted a 12.5:1 high compression, CP piston. This 98mm, $230, forged unit increased the Quadracer’s displacement up to 474cc. Replating and boring of the cylinder set us back another $235 and a $58 Cometic gasket kit tied the top end back together.
Unfortunately with a today’s EFI equipped quads, you can’t just do a simple rejet of the carburator and call it good. However, on the positive side, you can fine tune the engine’s fuel system for exactly how you would like it to run with the addition of an aftermarket management system. The fully programable Dyno Jet Power commander unit we used on this project goes for $340. We then downloaded a special Hot Cams developed fuel map from a company called Rocket Factory for $60.
On the exhaust side of the engine, we installed an FMF 4.1 muffler and a Powerbomb head pipe. Although rather expensive at $600, this system helps get the most possible power from the hopped-up engine. For more budget minded riders out there, removing the stock Suzuki muffler insert and installing a $39 Cherry Bomb ignition product from Yoshimura will give the stock engine substantial power gains. Or if you have to have the sound of an aftermarket muffler, FMF also makes a slip-on quiet muffler called the Q that will only set you back about $300. For most trail riders, that is the system we would suggest. It’s the best bang for your buck and offers a quiet tone of 94 dB that is legal at any ride area.
Although this mild engine mod did not required a larger radiator or any modifications to the cooling system, we installed a set of CV4 silicoln radiator hoses. These slick hoses are not only stronger than the stock equipment, they are available in a variety of colors that will match any scheme you desire. A set of these hoses for the Suzuki LT-R450 retail for $53. Millennium Technologies and Para Pros in Southern California took care of the engine work for us. They both accept motor shipments from across the country and have a fast turnaround time.
Even though this machine is not set up for the track, we opted to install a set of nerfbars anyway. For aggressive trail riding, nerfbars help you knife through tight woods and offer a needed safety aspect that will keep your feet from falling off the quad. Plus, a nerfbar makes a good grab handle to lift a stuck quad out of the muck.
For this project, we went with Pro Armor products. They have a nerfbar/footpeg combo exclusively designed for a narrow Quadracer. A standard set of nerfbars from any other company will stick out past your wheels, defeating the purpose of narrowing up the quad in the first place.
The Pro Armor set includes a heel guard and a super aggressive footpeg that provides a sure footing even through a slippery mud bog.
To finish up our shopping list at Pro Armor, we installed a front bumper and rear grab bar. Both of these products are made with large aluminum tubing, and make for a great handhold in case you need to move the machine around by hand on the trial. Since the LT-R450 does not have reverse, this is a possibilty. The stock bumpers are too small and weak for most to manhandle.
Further protection was added for the rider in the form of Cycra/Pro Armor handguards. We installed the set on Renthal handlebars. Now when bushwacking in tight trails, our rider can keep their hands firmly on the bars. We wish more quads would come stock with handguards. The XT versions of Can-Am’s products are the only quads that come with guards from the factory.
A little bling was also added to our project LT-R450 just to attract more attention out on the trail. Up on the Renthal bars, we installed a Works Connection billet clutch perch and lever. On the throttle side, we capped off the thumb throttle housing and front brake master cylinder with more billet products from Works Connection. Renthal’s new ATV Titainium colored grips provided the soft, comfortable handhold for our riders.
The finishing touch of a full bodied graphics kit was supplied by Flu Designs. The kit was a custom head-to-toe layer of cool colors and supplying companies’ logos. Flu offers custom graphic kit services for almost any ATV made.
TIGHT TRAIL TEST RIDE
We took our trail LT-R450 out on our GNCC style test course to see how it performed. It’s the same loop that was part of our 450 shootout. Where the stock Quadracer got hung up on tree roots and rutted trails, this machine skated right over. In fact, during most of our testing we hardly ever scraped the Pro Armor swingarm guard.
The comfort factor is much improved due to the taller tires. With more carcass between the knobbies and the wheels, the tires flex and deflect without transferring any feedback to the rider. To further add to the comfort and control factor, we made only minor adjustments to the stock shocks. In the front, we added two turns to the spring preload adjuster, and slowed the rebound down four clicks. In the rear, the compression setting was turned in four clicks as well.
It only took about two corners to fall in love with the Cycra handguards. With their help we could keep both hands on the Renthal grips and navigate through the tight trail.
The narrowed-up Quadracer was a blast on the trails. This modified unit was very comparable to the KTM525XC both in the power and handling departments. The low-end torque of the 474cc kit matched perfectly to the tall 20-inch rear Dunlops and the stock gearing. Our riders could lug it around in first gear without ever stalling the engine. In stock trim we were constantly stalling the LT-R450 in the woods.
Out on the faster roads, top speed was increased at least 5mph to a 75mph top speed. That’s right in the same ballpark as the Honda and Yamaha 450’s. Stability at those speeds was good, and with the three-inch narrower width, it was much easier to dodge obstacles on the trail. And the flat profile Dunlop rear tires make the Suzuki just a touch more stable than the Honda and Yamaha 450s which have a more rounded profile rear tire.
After running a few tanks of gas through our new trail-ready LT-R450, we knew we had a close to perfect machine for Suzuki lovers. About the only thing it could use is a reverse gear. With that addition, Suzuki could build a multi purpose quad that would even fill the need of a full trail machine like the Yamaha Raptor or KTM525XC that their customer is looking for. The power is available, tires are available from Dunlop, and OMF showed it was possible, with their wheels, to build a narrow machine without sacrificing wheel travel.
In the next few months we are going to compare this machine to the KTM525XC and maybe others. We are also going to make it even more trail friendly by adding a speedometer and lighting from Trail Tech. Stay tuned; it should be exciting.