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By: Jason Giacchino

December 2010 - Off The Pegs

In Memory of a Good 450

When William Shakespeare said that parting was such sweet sorrow, it’s a safe bet he wasn’t talking about the sensation that accompanies parting with a beloved ATV.  There’s nothing sweet about that sorrow!

I know from experience having only last week parted with my 2009 Polaris Outlaw 450 MXR, a machine that, in my short stewardship, really never did anything to disappoint.  In fact, a very solid argument could be made that this ATV perfectly walked the line between a competitive MX machine and a rip-roaring fun trail quad right out of the box.

In stock trim, the KTM 448cc single overhead cam mill (the exact same unit providing the go-juice in KTM’s 450XC ATV) is quiet, smooth and plenty zippy for wide-open trails.  Like most 450s, it puts out more power than most mere mortals will ever need, but a trip to the MX track had me seeking just a little more punch to conquer those triples with landings that seem way, way out there.

A little web research revealed a very common complaint in the form of the MXR’s restricted airbox/ exhaust combo.  Indeed I had been experiencing a lot of popping from the muffler when letting off the throttle in the top end of each gear. While the bulky and fairly restrictive exhaust is commonplace for OEM machines of late (due to sound regulations), the airbox, it would turn out, was especially choked up on the 450 MXR due to frame space restrictions of the 2009 model-redesign.

Simply opening up the lid made a difference but the gains I was after involved removing the stock system entirely in favor of a free flowing open-style air intake (with paper filter element) and a lighter exhaust system from the likes of Yoshimura (and of course requisite jetting adjustment).

The contrast was truly unbelievable!  Having tested the KTM 450XC in the past, I was all too aware of the potential in this particular engine.  The simple modification unleashed a side to the fairly docile setup that really must be experienced to be believed.  Elbow-stretching punch became standard-fair even out of tight corners and the chassis, which was commendable right from the get-go, seemed custom built for the increase in power.

As with any ATV that I happened to add to the collection, there would be a single memory of fondness that outshone the rest and the 450 MXR was no exception.  Now that it’s gone I find myself thinking most of one particular day back in early October of 2009 when I finally gave in to my cousin Mike’s endless pressure and loaded up the Outlaw for a 2-hour road trip to Majestic Trails in Smethport, PA.

I should note that the particular weekend we finally decided to take the trek just so happened to be plagued by weather conditions that were less than ideal.  Gray skies swirled overhead all day long and on more than one occasion during the 2-hour drive to the trailhead, the clouds wept a barely-above freezing drizzle that hinted of things to come.

By the time we arrived and unloaded the first real raindrops began to fall.  By the time we geared up and filled our tanks, the rain was falling pretty steadily.  By the time we got to the MX track portion of the part, it was an all out downpour in 40-degree darkness!

Vented MX gear was stuck to shivering bodies in no time and chunks of Pennsylvanian soil and sand had found their way across our goggle lenses instantly.  Determined to make the most out of the fairly long drive to get there, we pressed on, sans goggles: Sailing jumps in near zero-visibility with teeth chattering all the while.

At the time the experience was akin to torture but as it would become the last big ride of the season, the memories became much warmer over steaming coffee while the snow piled up outside.  Now that my trusty 450 MXR has found a new home, the fond memories of that ride are even stronger.

 Here’s hoping for 2012, Polaris decides to follow in KTM’s footsteps by opening up that airbox to turn the MXR into a fire-breather right off the showroom floor and note to Shakespeare: You didn’t know what you were missing!

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