BUBBA-LICIOUS!

By Michael Young

Being a magazine test rider is not as glamorous as you might think. Sure, I get to try out all of the new model bikes before they are even on the showroom floor, but that’s only half of the story. There are also times like this, when I am sitting in front of a blank computer screen, just watching the cursor blink, over and over, or those days at the track when I am required to fill out a lengthy evaluation form, though all I really wanna do is lay down in the back of my truck with a towel over my face…

Every now and then, though, something really cool comes along that makes all of those pipe, boot and grip-testing days worthwhile. Today was one of those days: with James Stewart sidelined with a broken wrist, Team Kawasaki phoned us up and asked if we’d like to throw a leg over the #259 KX250. And get this: they wanted us to ride it at the private Team Kawasaki test track! Bubba’s race bike? Does any more need to be said? I’ve tested a lot of race bikes over the years, like Chad Reed’s championship-winning Yamaha YZ250F, Ricky Carmichael’s Honda and Kawasaki 250s, and my favorite bike to date; Sean Hamblin’s factory Suzuki RM250. But Bubba’s bike? Now we’re talking!

GREEN DESTINY

When I rode the brand-new Kawasaki KX250 for the first time back in August, I was so pumped on the new bike that I declared it was going to win the 250cc Shootout. (Or that it deserved the biggest improvement award.) With the chance to ride Stewart’s race bike, I was anxious to learn just how great the KX250 could become.

When I got to the Kawasaki test facility, the first thing I had to do was walk the track. Believe it or not, I had never done a bike test on a full-blown Supercross track, and I was nervous about trying out Bubba’s bike on an unfamiliar track with all of the Kawasaki execs looking on. Team Manager Bruce Stjernstrom, Bubba’s mechanic Jeremy Albrecht, team technician Skip Norfolk and even Michael Byrne all chilled out as I suited up in anxious anticipation. To be honest, though, they were all quite nice and told me to relax and enjoy myself. Still, I couldn’t believe that I was about to ride on the track that I had previously only gazed at from the I-15 freeway.

After J-Bone warmed up the bike for what seemed like five or 10 minutes, he handed it over and I rolled out to do some warm-up laps. The first thing that I noticed before jumping anything or really getting on it was how snappy the throttle response was. If you remember my story about Hamblin’s bike, I said that it was one of the fastest bikes I had ever ridden. Okay, this is a totally different type of power than that. The motor was so responsive and touchy, with so much torque, that I was having a real hard time getting used to the track and the bike at the same time! For those of you who have ridden any type of Supercross track, you know that you will have really small but abrupt doubles that require good throttle control because they kick your rear end up. With all of this really touchy low-end power, it was hard to hit those without getting gooned out with the front wheel going above my head! As I got more used to the track and the power, I was starting to learn things about the green machine: second gear was the only gear that has that really strong, sharp power, but it flattened out real fast, requiring you to shift into third gear. There is so much power in third gear that all you have to do is turn the throttle: no clutchwork is required at all, even on tricky step-on, step-off combinations with no take-off lip. As I figured out that third gear was the gear that I wanted to be in, I began to get some type of rhythm going.

That’s when Donn flagged me over and said, “Ok Deez Nutz, let’s get this shot while the light is still good!” “No problem,” I replied. “What jump do you want me to hit?” Dumb question. Naturally, Swap pointed at the triple. If you live in SoCal, you know the one: the big one, right next to the I-15. Naturally, tt triple was the only jump on the track I had decided I was not going to do, because it is set right out of a corner and I was not yet comfortable on the bike. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the first triple I have ever hit, so I agreed and launched it in second gear on my first attempt. Remember how I said that second gear was really snappy and wants to rip the bars out of your hands? Well, as soon as I left the jump face and both wheels were off the ground, I realized that I was going to land about 10 feet past the landing. With a rhythm section right after the landing, this was not good! Once I landed 15 feet past the third jump and was only a few feet away from the next section, I realized that the suspension was the stiffest suspension I have ever ridden on. I barely even felt the landing! I rode over to J-Bone and joked with him about putting on some new wheels before Bubba got back on it, because they might be a little square. “Bubba does that jump in third,” said Albrecht. “In fact, he rides the whole track in third and fourth because he carries so much momentum in the corners.” That said, I went for it again, but this time in third gear. Coming out of the corner, it didn’t sound like there was enough power to pull me over the 65-foot triple, but I found myself sailing over it and landing perfectly. The exhaust note of the bike as it chugs along in third gear is deceiving: all you need to do is turn the throttle a little and the motor pulls like a tractor. This motor had so much power on tap that it was hard to believe.

Once Swap got the shot, I decided to go do some laps to really feel why this bike was good enough for Bubba. The stock 2005 Kawasaki KX250 motor is really well balanced and spread out between the gears, but Bubba’s bike has all the power in second and third gear. I started out riding second and third around the whole track, but after Jeremy told me that Stewart runs third and fourth, I tried to do the same. To be honest, I felt like the bike was going to just bog down and stall; I guess I don’t carry the amount of corner speed as James!

The other thing that was hugely different on Bubba’s bike was the works Kayaba suspension. When I flat landed that triple, stock suspension would have gone all the way through the stroke and hit metal to metal, causing me to whiskey throttle over the bars into the next section. With the factory fork and shock, I barely even felt it! Don’t get me wrong; it was still a hard landing, but the bike took it like a champ. The bike was definitely too stiff for me on the rest of the track, but if you have ever watched Bubba slam into the face of everything, you know how hard he rides. The initial stroke of the fork was really stiff, but once I actually got on the gas and rode hard, I began to use the whole stroke. I only took a couple of passes through the whoops before I decided that riding around them would be a better option. Though stiff suspension is better than soft suspension in stadium whoops, Bubba’s ride was set up so stiffly that I could envision myself being spit off right in front of all the Kawasaki personnel on hand and everyone driving past on the I-15.

Getting a feel for the suspension on a Supercross track that I have never ridden before was a little tough, but I could definitely tell that the motor was drastically better than stock. The shifting was so smooth and easy, and the bike was jetted to perfection. Oh, let’s not forget to mention the brakes! The works Nissin brakes worked awesome. There was no play or drag, and the front brake had incredible power with an amazing amount of feel at the lever.

As our “guest ride” came to an end, I realized that although I contest a Honda CRF450R four-stroke in the 250cc Supercross class, racing on a two-stroke like Bubba’s would definitely not be a disadvantage by any stretch of the imagination. For a privateer racer like myself, opting for a big powerful four-stroke is the best option, but now I understand why the majority of factory riders still choose a 250 for Supercross.

In closing, I’d like to thank the guys from Kawasaki for giving me this amazing opportunity to ride this bike that a lot of people only dream of doing. Thanks, guys!

Michael Young is a 24-year-old privateer from Southern California who has been testing bikes for close to a decade. “Deez Nutz,” as he’s affectionately known around the TWMX offices, qualified for the 250cc main event at San Francisco and finished 16th…Editor.

|#259 SPECS|

Cylinder à˜

SR

Head à˜

SR

Crank à˜

SR

Clutch à˜

Production

Carburetor à˜

Keihin SR

Spark Plug à˜

NGK Racing

Ignition à˜

SR

Pipe à˜

Pro Circuit

Silencer à˜

Pro Circuit

Air Filter à˜

UNI Filter

Chain à˜

D.I.D.

Gas/Oil à˜

VP Fuel/ Castrol A747 40:1

Trans Oil à˜

Castroi R4 5w-40

Hubs F/R à˜

sr

Rims F/R à˜

D.I.D.

Brake Pads F/R à˜

SR

Brake Discs F/R à˜

SR

Master Cylinder F/R à˜

SR

Calipers F/R à˜

SR

Forks à˜

Kayaba sr

Shock à˜

kayaba sr

Linkage à˜

sr

Triple Clamps à˜

sr

Handlebars à˜

renthal twin wall #997

PlastiC à˜

acerbis

Graphics à˜

factory effex

shock spring à˜

renton coil spring

Foot Pegs à˜

production

clutch basket à˜

hinson

sprockets à˜

renthal

majority of factory riders still choose a 250 for Supercross.

In closing, I’d like to thank the guys from Kawasaki for giving me this amazing opportunity to ride this bike that a lot of people only dream of doing. Thanks, guys!

Michael Young is a 24-year-old privateer from Southern California who has been testing bikes for close to a decade. “Deez Nutz,” as he’s affectionately known around the TWMX offices, qualified for the 250cc main event at San Francisco and finished 16th…Editor.

|#259 SPECS|

Cylinder à˜

SR

Head à˜

SR

Crank à˜

SR

Clutch à˜

Production

Carburetor à˜

Keihin SR

Spark Plug à˜

NGK Racing

Ignition à˜

SR

Pipe à˜

Pro Circuit

Silencer à˜

Pro Circuit

Air Filter à˜

UNI Filter

Chain à˜

D.I.D.

Gas/Oil à˜

VP Fuel/ Castrol A747 40:1

Trans Oil à˜

Castroi R4 5w-40

Hubs F/R à˜

sr

Rims F/R à˜

D.I.D.

Brake Pads F/R à˜

SR

Brake Discs F/R à˜

SR

Master Cylinder F/R à˜

SR

Calipers F/R à˜

SR

Forks à˜

Kayaba sr

Shock à˜

kayaba sr

Linkage à˜

sr

Triple Clamps à˜

sr

Handlebars à˜

renthal twin wall #997

PlastiC à˜

acerbis

Graphics à˜

factory effex

shock spring à˜

renton coil spring

Foot Pegs à˜

production

clutch basket à˜

hinson

sprockets à˜

renthal