PART 5 FINAL TESTING
Last Chapter in Project GNCC 200XC! We have taken a nice 2007 trade in and transformed it into a lean, mean GNCC fighting machine, with a "best bang for the buck" diet of just the essentials: no fluff or bling, no ultra expensive parts. Not one orange anodized part found its way on our GNCC project racer, and all funds went towards what works best for the least amount of money, in several stages of spending.
The whole project turned out better than even I expected, and the bike takes the wonderfully light and nimble KTM 200 to a new level of competence. Now that the bike is suspended well, handling well, and has new found muscle in the motor dept, it´s time for a few things we will call "extras". Still all business, no money spent yet on fancy graphics or handlebar tassels.
The bike works right, what will we change? First, let´s look at race fuel and what it can do for us. We did not bump compression to a level that will require race gas, and race gas is expensive, right? Why go there when we are on a budget with our project bike? Race gas is not as expensive as you think, and I´ll show you why. Without going for the super high priced stuff, you can get very good race fuel for about $10/gallon in small quantities (5 gal can), and a lot less than that if you buy a 55 gal drum. The project 200, which has a pretty efficient motor now, and is crisply jetted, gets good fuel mileage in a race. Most 2 hour woods races will consume about 2 gallons. In other words, the 200 has an average fuel consumption rate at typical GNCC of about a gallon per hour. Since premium pump gas costs close to $3/gal, the difference is about $7/gal using race fuel.
No calculator is needed to see 2 gallons of race fuel for a 2 hour race is only $14 more than using 93 pump gas. When you think about the total cost of racing, $14 does not really make much difference in your wallet, but it does make a difference in power output. If you ran 10 races a year, and used race fuel at every one, your total cost for the year is only about $140 more than using premium pump gas. You probably spent that much in fuel for your truck just getting your bike and race trailer to and from one race.
VP fuel is readily available, and they have cheap to ultra expensive fuels, but without big compression numbers on this motor that would require super high octane numbers, I stayed in the lower range of costs and tested the VP110 and the VP U4, both advertised by VP as a good choice for 2-stroke dirt bikes. I did not test the VP U2, advertised as a 2-stroke specific fuel, because VP says you cannot leave the fule in your bike: you have to drain it after you ride, or it can damage your carb. Don´t need that hassle.
The 200 motor is running very well, but I know from experience that race fuel will add some ummph. What I found was a little strange, but I was pleasantly surprised. The VP110 was the least expensive, worked best, and required the least amount of jetting!
The VP Ultimate 4 is oxygenated fuel and gave only a slight increase in low to midrange performance, but did pull great at high RPM´s really great. However, it required a richer needle and a richer needle clip position, plus 2 sizes larger main jet to get the 200 happy with the Ultimate 4. It did make the bike pull on top like it was possessed, but fuel mileage suffered. The cheaper VP110 was just the opposite. After trying a lot of jetting changes, I actually ended up slightly leaner (1 main jet size leaner) on the jetting (as compared to 93 pump gas) to get the VP110 to work best, but it worked very well with no jetting changes. That surprised me, but it´s a near perfect situation for our budget GNCC racer. Run pump gas when trail riding and practicing, pour in the race gas for races, no jetting required. And the kicker is that the VP110 did not make nearly as much difference on the high RPM horsepower like the Ultimate 4, but what the VP110 did do was boost the low end and midrange pull a good bit: exactly what we were looking for! The motor on this 200 project bike is already way stronger than stock, especially in the low to mid range dept, but the VP110 put the icing on the cake. I love a crisp running, hard accelerating bike! I want to know something is happening when I open the throttle at low to mid RPM´s, and the VP110 definitely makes a very noticeable difference. The down side is that you will want to run the VP110 all the time, not just when racing. Once you have the extra power, you don´t like giving it up!
I wanted to try the new Rekluse Pro auto clutch, even though I was not sure it would be the right choice for me, since I already have a little experience with them. We install a good number of them on customer´s bikes, so I have ridden bikes with auto clutches for short periods of time, but I have never had one on my own bike or raced with one. I use the clutch a LOT, going into turns, coming off turns, feathering it over off camber root sections, lofting the tire over obstacles, etc, etc. I have one or two fingers on the clutch lever almost all the time, so if I could get an auto clutch to take care of a lot of that for me, life would be great. Rekluse´s new Pro model clutch is supposed to have all the auto clutch advantages, but allow normal manual use of the clutch with no weird feeling in the clutch lever, unlike the older standard model Rekluse. The install was pretty straightforward, the quality of the components was top notch as usual, and I set it up to the recommended setting for a rider that carries momentum. After the recommended break in procedure, I took off for a ride.
Hmmmm... far too much slip coming off turns, like the clutch would be toast before the end of a race, and there was a little lag time whenever you used the clutch manually, so you had to plan ahead for obstacles and such. Stabbing at the clutch and applying throttle produced a half second of no power, waiting for the auto clutch to fully engage. That´s too many problems, so I turned around and went back to the shop to take it apart and try a different set up on the clutch. I changed it a total of 7 times that day, and could make things better, and move around the way the clutch engaged, and at what RPM, but I could never get it to stop slipping more than I like when riding one gear tall, which is how I carry controlled speed between trees. Without the Rekluse, you can let the 200 motor lug down in the gnarly stuff, especially on this stronger than stock 200 project bike. The 200 pulls really well at lower RPM´s, but the Rekluse made the clutch slip anyway whenever you opened the throttle at low RPM riding a gear high. It forced me to downshift all the time and use more RPM in a lower gear, rather than carry speed in a taller gear, if I did not want the clutch to slip.
Rekluse Pro model components
The clutch lever never did work "normally", as advertised. No matter what set up I tried, there was always a little lag time when you did a quick pull of the lever to loft the front or steer with the rear, unless you were already hard in the gas, and then you typically don´t need to use the clutch lever. You sort of get used to it after a while, and your brain begins to plan ahead to use the clutch lever, so it´s not as bad as it sounds, but sometimes you don´t have time to plan ahead. The best thing about the Rekluse was no stalling under braking coming into a turn. Once you have it adjusted right, it is very difficult to stall the motor.
The bottom line on the Rekuse: I took it out and put the stock clutch back in the bike. For trail riders and C level racers, I believe the Rekluse Pro clutch is a great product, and will help you ride longer, faster, with less left hand fatigue. For B level racers, it might be a toss up depending on whether you are a B- or B+ rider, and what sort of terrain you ride. For a fast A or Pro rider, I don´t think the Rekluse will be well received. Coincidentally, if you look at the GNCC ranks, I cannot think of one pro rider using an auto clutch, but you will find plenty of auto clutches in the C ranks. For a well experienced and fast rider that knows how to use a clutch to make the bike do what he wants, the Rekluse is probably not a good investment. For a less experienced rider that has trouble working the clutch, particularly in tight woods or on rough terrain over the course of a long race, the Rekluse will make life on the trail a lot nicer. It´s an expensive modification, but well worth it for most C racers, and nearly all casual trail riders.
I installed a set of Air Cells to the forks to see if they added much after all the time spent dialing in the valving and spring rates. The suspension was working great, and I was skeptical about spending more money on the suspension, since this whole project started out as a "best bang for the buck" deal. The KTM 200 is a "best bang for the buck" bike to start with, and things like a Rekluse clutch and Air Cells are not cheap mods. I was surprised to find the Air Cells worked great and I can tell you they are definitely worth the money. MSRP is $299, but some places (like KTM World) will give you a discount, and this is a complete kit with everything you need, including nice machined aluminum clamps to securely mount the Air Cells to your forks. The quality of the components is good, and Air Cells were Dirt Bike Magazine´s product of the year a couple years ago, and for good reason: they work.
I installed them (about 20 minutes) and adjusted them to the middle setting: 5 turns out on the control valve knobs. I set up forks on the bikes I ride for fast GNCC racing and a rider weight of about 220 (with gear). They work wonderfully at higher speeds over rough and chopped out terrain, but the plushness at slower speeds is hard to retain. The Air Cells give it back, plus some. I was frankly amazed at what the Air Cells did for my well dialed forks. The plushness was back in the first part of the stroke, even more than the wimpy stock forks had, and the front end just floats over roots and rocks with the Air Cells installed. Far less jarring felt through the bars, and the forks still worked great at speed in the really rough and choppy sections.
Air Cell tanks hide behind your number plate.
I worked with the adjustment range available with the Air Cells, and the maximum (10 turns out = softest) setting was super plush, so it´s great for first and second gear tight woods with roots everywhere, but you blow through the stroke too quickly for the fast stuff. The minimum setting makes the forks almost like you never installed the Air Cells, and I ended up at 6 turns out on the adjuster knobs for best results in varying terrain. It´s the best of both worlds: a set of massaged forks that handle hard high speed use over nasty ground and big whoops, but are still plush on roots and rocks at lower speeds! Awesome. The front tire deflects less, and I even backed off my steering damper a couple clicks. I also have a lot of trouble with numb hands when racing (carpal tunnel syndrome), and the Air Cells even helped that! I think you unconsciously loosen up your grip on the bars because the front end no longer "feels" every little root and rock, and neither do you.
How do they work their magic? The Air Cell tanks essentially add extra air volume to the forks, which makes your forks plush over small to moderate things your front wheel encounters, like rocks and roots. With more air volume, there is less air spring effect at low fork compression speeds, but on high speed hits, big jumps, etc, the built in adjustable valves control the air flow so that big hits and landings off jumps do not result in bottoming the forks. The adjustability also allows you to dial in the Air Cells for the type of riding and/or terrain you will riding. More air flow for a slow speed rooty or rocky Enduro, less air flow for higher speed Hare Scrambles or a typical GNCC.
Racing is not a poor man´s sport. If you have a late model bike, a nice enclosed trailer, an RV, or stay in motel rooms while you travel, you are spending a lot of hard earned cash to go race. Our 200XC Project bike was not Honda CRF230 cheap, but we took a good slightly used KTM 200, which is probably the best bargain in a race capable woods bike (new or used), then did the best things we could without spending a ton of money, and ended up with a very competent race bike that in total cost would be about the same as buying a new 450XC and racing it bone stock. Which do you think would cut faster laps at a woods race? Not much debate there, and that´s why our project 200XC is such a bargain.
Part four of our Project GNCC 200XC.
Internal motor modifications.