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By: Jason Giacchino

Can-Am Tricks Out the DS450 So You Don’t Have To

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We adjusted the levers and set the proper sag before taking the DS450X MX to the track. Other than those simple tweaks, we left the machine in absolutely bone-stock trim. The 449.3cc Rotax mill fired up with the slightest touch of the starter and idled strong and crisp thanks to electronic fuel injection (with a 46mm throttle body). The clutch pull was spot on (and thanks to full adjustability right at the perch, it’s tough to ask for more). Easing the clutch out revealed a steady build of power that surprised all of our testers by climbing steadily into the revs rather than exploding off the line. Once in the middle reaches of the power spread, the Can-Am begins to feed the rider the perception that he’s really building speed. Don’t be tempted to short-shift at this sensation even when your brain is convinced there couldn’t possibly be any more power in reserve. The X MX’s true charms are found at the very top of each gear. Revvers will be absolutely delighted with this mill out of the box, short-shifters will have to learn either to adapt their technique or get used to spending time at the back of the pack.

Ergonomically, the Can-Am DS450X MX earned solid praise from every single test rider from rank beginner to B-class competitors. The chassis offers just the right blend of rigidity and feedback to make it a lethal MX weapon. Stability (especially in sweeping corners) is easily on par with what have been up until now, the class leaders. Tire selection plays no small part in the wonderful handling characteristics of this machine, and we found the ITP Quadcross series to be an absolutely perfect fit for the black loam of our eastern MX track in late fall.

As much as we would love to say that the machine is without flaw, in truth there were a few nags and bugaboos to report. For starters, this quad simply adores tight tracks; and try as we may, it was impossible for us to find a long choppy whoops section or giant double right out of a corner that gave the quad a fit. Stay on the gas to keep the quad in its high revving sweet spot, and it will comply with bells on. However, that confidence in the tight stuff turns into nervousness at high speed. Most MX tracks are third to fourth gear affairs in even their fastest sections, and that’s a good thing for the DS450X MX rider. We managed to tap into fifth on an extremely long straight and found that the quad continually lost traction and became far less compliant to steering input. We fiddled with the suspension to lessen the effect, but the only real solution we found was to slow it down a notch. Once in the lower gears, the DS suddenly returns to a completely different machine.

We also had more than one rider complain about the transmission displaying a tendency to slip into false neutral between gears (especially on hard upshifts). A majority of our testing took place on a track that allowed the rider to stay in third gear throughout so such claims weren’t verified during our day of experimentation.

Weighing in at 345 pounds, the 450X MX is far more nimble in flight than it has any right to be. We credit this phenomenon to incredible chassis balance, as this machine is a joy to send sailing above the triples. Midair corrections respond very well to slight body input, and the suspension (which is about as close to full factory units as we’ve yet to experience) is there in case you got a little jittery on the take-off.

All in all, we absolutely adored the DS450X MX for its intended purpose. This is a motocross weapon tried and true, and we’re grateful that Can-Am didn’t make compromises to please a wider audience. Woods riders, after all, have two viable options to choose from in the form of the base DS or the X XC package. The component spec is truly on par with the type of modifications any racer would make to his or her machine at a price that would be literally impossible were they to attempt to do so themselves. The suspension is in a league of its own and will prove competitive against even the priciest aftermarket units. About the biggest complaint comes in the form of the quad’s power spread, whereby many riders seemed to expect a bit more torque out of the low end. Can-Am’s decision to locate the meat of the power up top most likely stems from feedback from its own factory efforts as pros like Natalie and Lawson are very rarely anywhere but wide open. The good news is popping off the air box lid and switching to a lighter, more free-flowing exhaust actually pushes the ponies all across the spread and tuners are already developing new ignition maps for those seeking even more low-end from the motor.

Up until now, it appeared KTM had the concept of the “race-ready ATV right off the showroom floor” designation cornered but Can-Am clearly hasn’t forgotten its early heritage as a competition-hungry OEM. Four out of five of our test riders (none of whom ride Can-Ams coming into this test) voted the DS450X MX the model they would choose if they were presented the option to purchase any of the 2009 race quads on the spot. Yes! It’s really that good!

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