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Machine reviews

Project ARS-FX Axis Honda XC450R

Chris Earlywine's Championship Winning Honda


October 05, 2006

Suspension
ImageARS-FX A-arms and AXIS Shocks... Front suspension never had it so good. Since the ARS-FX chassis components were originally built to work with Custom Axis suspension, we knew who to call for shocks. According to ARS-FX, Custom Axis already had specific build information that they developed cooperatively in order to make sure their customers have a complete top of the line suspension system that worked right out of the box with minimal adjustment.

After a brief conversation with Axis, we had a complete set of their new piggy back shocks on the way.

When we first opened the box we were a bit surprised. According to ARS-FX they have their suspension specked with triple rate springs up front with a dual rate spring setup in the rear. They say that even with their linkage, it was necessary to go with a dual rate setup out back on the Honda to make the suspension travel as smooth as possible. What was in our Custom Axis box was a set of their new piggyback titanium sprung fronts with a single rate rear. Before we contacted anyone, we decided to give the shocks a try and see how they performed.

Other than the discrepancy that we noticed between ARS and Axis setup, the new Custom Axis shocks look quite trick. The new piggy back fronts now feature both high and low speed compression and rebound adjustment, giving experienced racers the utmost in tuning ability The rear shock is a remote reservoir unit, “for clearance purposes” that features high and low speed compression and rebound adjustability.

Important Shock Suggestion
The original specs developed between ARS-FX and AXIS call for triple rate shocks up front and a dual rate shock in the rear. What AXIS sent us was their new high and low speed compression and rebound adjustable shocks with dual rate titanium springs up front and a single rate titanium spring in the rear. When we installed them they were far too rigid and especially stiff for woods racing. Finally, we sent them to ARS-FX where they ditched the titanium springs which originally cost us an extra $200 and converted them to their original specs for an additional $400. When ARS-FX got finished they performed flawlessly. Bottom line, buy your AXIS shocks from ARS-FX, you’ll save $600 and get the right setup the first time around.

Armor Worthy of a Pro
ImageBesides offering a stainless steel skid plate for their swingarm, ARS-FX is the first manufacturer we’ve seen to offer a linkage skid. Genius! To equip our Honda with the necessary protection to battle its way through the rocks, roots and ruts, we contacted Pro Armor. Pro Armor builds virtually everything you need to make your machine more durable and it’s the choice of Pro XC racers Bill Ballance and Chris Borich.

For the front of our machine we chose their classic aluminum Racing Bumper. With our ultra expensive Axis shocks on board, we really appreciated the upper tube of the bumper that keeps the shocks remote reservoirs somewhat protected. To help us lift the machine out of the deep mud holes that it will encounter on the GNCC circuit, we installed a Pro Armor Pro Race rear grab bar. The unit has a unique v shape to it and is plenty wide offering lots of leverage for quad wrestling.

To protect our newly powder coated frame, we installed Pro Armor’s Full Chassis Armor. The skid plate is constructed of aircraft quality aluminum and features recessed areas for the skid plates hardened bolts. This is a great design as it keeps your mounting hardware from becoming damaged while traversing rocks and logs. Protecting our swingarm is ARS-FX stainless steel chassis skid plate. The ARS unit is designed specifically for their swingarm and is tucked away nicely with no large protruding sections that could become snagged on a trail obstacle.

While not every XC racer uses nerf bars, we think they are as important in the woods as they are on the MX track. Not only to they help keep other riders wheels away from your legs, they also help keep you from snagging your rear wheel on trees as you rail tight turns. What's more, they provide more leverage when rocking the machine out of deep mud holes. We mated Pro Armor’s Sport Series aluminum nerfs to a set of Roll Design foot pegs to fill our need for foot protection. While Pro Armor’s Sport Series aren’t as feature packed as their higher end Fat Peg nerfs, they are still extremely strong and actually offer more ground clearance than their Fat Peg nerfs.

 
Pro Armor's Sport Series nerf bars are extremely strong and provide more ground clearance than some of their race peg nerfs. In case Chris gets his machine hopelessly stuck in a mud hold, Pro Armor’s Pro Race grab bar provides plenty of leverage for ATV mud wrestling.

ImageNot only do Tire Balls prevent flats, they allow your tires to better conform to terrain - improving suspension action and providing maximum traction on slick rock strewn climbs. Wheels, Tires and Balls
For our wheel and tire setup we chose a set of carbon fiber Hyper Technology beadlock wheels wrapped in Kenda Klaw XC tires front and Kenda Knarly XC rear. The six ply Kenda tires have proven to be puncture resistant and we have always enjoyed how well the Knarlys hook up in a variety of riding conditions.

Tire Balls became famous among the GNCC elite for their ability to prevent your tires from going flat even if you rip or tear a hole in them. Inside your tire, the individually inflated cells pressurize the tire and give it shape whether there is air inside the tire or not. Even if you somehow manage to damage one of the tire balls and it goes flat, the other cells remain inflated keeping your tire on the rim and your machine in the race.

Beyond their reliability attributes, Tire Balls actually improve your machine's ride quality and traction. We set up our 450R with zero air pressure in the rear tires and two pounds of pressure in the front in order to capitalize on these attributes. While they are expensive, you need every advantage you can get when you’re running for championships.

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