Honda Motorcycle tests
Crunchies Food Company
offers a wide assortment of dried fruit and vegetable snacks. What
makes them crunchy is their drying process—which takes place in a
refrigerated vacuum. Supposedly, this allows the fruit to retain more
natural flavor and nutrients, so Crunchies can avoid the use of sugar,
preservatives or chemicals. One of the owners of Freeze-Dried Crunchies Natural Snacks is a motocross fan. Through the luck of an enterprising AMA National Motocross privateer, MXA test rider Dennis Stapleton and Crunchies Natural Snacks came together to form a racing team. Dennis has traveled the world racing motocross, and he has been in the sport a long time (he raced 450 Nationals when they were the 250 Nationals). Being a privateer, even one sponsored by the motocross magazine that he works for, has always been a challenge (made all that more difficult with the purse tightening of the current recession). Luckily, Dennis’ experiences in the trenches as a magazine editor and an AMA Pro have made him savvy about getting enough help to get out to the Nationals or European races. So, one morning as Dennis Stapleton was pouring Strawberry Crunchies onto his yogurt, he had a brilliant idea. Why not talk to Crunchies about sponsoring a race team? Amazingly, such a simple idea resulted in a deal.
Stapleton’s first race on his new Team Crunchies machine was at the
World Four-Stroke Championship at Glen Helen—where he nearly holeshot the second moto. Next, Dennis went home to NorCal for the opening 450 AMA National at Hangtown, where he qualified for the big show. The following weekend saw Dennis on the line at the United States Grand Prix back at Glen Helen. Dennis, who has earned FIM Grand Prix points in the past (in Denmark), just missed earning FIM MX1 points by one spot. At the Freestone 450 National in Texas, Dennis qualified 27th overall, but got involved in first-turn carnage (in the same second moto crash that took out Ben Townley). Dennis persevered without a rear brake pedal. He went 26-29. It was a rocky start for the startup team, but there is something about seeing a bike with your logo on it that makes a sponsor proud as punch.
The Crunchies Natural Snacks-sponsored CRF450 of AMA National privateer
Dennis Stapleton shows the minimum level of commitment that is required
to race at the top level. The engine, brakes and suspension received
most of the attention.
The MXA wrecking crew spends most of its time testing motorcycles—and Dennis Stapleton is a member in good standing of the test crew. But, for this assignment, Stapleton was banished to the sidelines as all the other MXA test riders lined up for a chance to test his Team Crunchies Honda CRF450.
SHOP TALK: WHAT GOT THE ATTENTION?
If there’s one thing Dennis Stapleton wants in a motocross bike at the National or Grand Prix level, it’s a rocketship engine. The key to a good day is a good start—and good starts don’t come to slow motorcycles. Dennis has tested virtually every production bike and every factory bike during his stint at MXA, and he knew through experience that he didn’t want to mess around with trying to mix and match cams, pistons, valves and pipes. He wanted to get the best engine that he could with the least drama.
Dennis went straight to Mitch Payton at
Pro Circuit. Mitch utilized Pro Circuit’s consumer-spec piston, camshaft, valve springs, head porting and Ti-4R titanium exhaust system (and provided Dennis with FIM-legal mufflers for the USGP). There is nothing unobtainable in the Team Crunchies CRF450 engine. Anyone can build a Stapleton replica by calling Pro Circuit.
Pro Circuit’s Ti-4R exhaust offered excellent power and was tunable enough to meet both FIM and AMA sound limits.
Thanks to bad experiences with the stock four-spring CRF450 clutch, and a great relationship with
Wiseco, Dennis dropped the mushy stock four-spring clutch and replaced it with a Wiseco six-spring unit (including basket, pressure plate and inner hub). Wiseco CNC machines their clutch components, then hard anodizes and Teflon coats them. Wiseco feels that their clutch is so strong, compared to the stock clutch, that they offer a lifetime warranty on the parts. The Crunchies CRF450 used OEM clutch plates, Pro Circuit’s stiffer clutch springs and a Pro Circuit clutch cover.
For the suspension, Stapleton went to Factory Connection.
They revalved the components for the outdoor Nationals and went with
the next stiffest fork springs (he kept the stock shock spring). Based
on previous experience with Factory Connection, Dennis was able to get
his preferred setup right away.
For the suspension, Stapleton went to
Factory Connection. They revalved the components for the outdoor Nationals and went with the next stiffest fork springs (he kept the stock shock spring). Based on previous experience with Factory Connection, Dennis was able to get his preferred setup right away.
Pro Circuit also provided radiator hoses, a 1.6 kg/mm radiator cap (1.1 is stock), and red anodized dipstick and engine plugs. The radiator hoses were molded in a
Y-shape that eliminated the stock plastic fitting and decreased the chance of problems. The radiator cap keeps the radiators at a higher boiling point to lessen the risk of overheating in long, hot, summer Nationals. The metal dipstick is stronger than the stock plastic unit, while the engine plugs just look snazzy.
The Crunchies bike had a
LightSpeed carbon fiber skid plate and chain guide for lightweight protection against rocks and damage, while the LightSpeed carbon fiber gas tank cover was just for looks. Dennis is a firm believer in Czech-built CZ chains and British-built Renthal sprockets. Stapleton normally adds one tooth to the rear sprocket (49 teeth instead of 48). The CZ chain wasn’t the only European flavor on Stapleton’s CRF450—he also runs a Dutch-made Moto Air two-stage foam air filter.
The first step in getting a handle on the CRF450’s quirky handling is with a longer shock linkage.
National riders can’t risk blowing a wheel in the high-intensity atmosphere of professional motocross. Team Crunchies relies on
D.I.D. Dirtstar LT-X MX Light rims, Talon hubs, Bulldog spokes and spline-drive spoke nipples. To bring everything to a halt, Stapleton went with a QTM oversized front brake rotor matched to AP brake pads. For the deeply ripped AMA National tracks, Dunlop MX31 soft terrain tires were chosen for the front and rear.
In the cockpit of the Crunchies bike were Renthal
TwinWall 997 bend bars with Sunline mounts to accommodate their oversize diameter. A Works Connection lever and Elite Perch were on the clutch side. Works Connection’s digital display hour meter helps Dennis and his mechanic stay on top of the maintenance schedule, plus it records peak rpm on every ride.
Dennis’ knee braces are hard on seats, so Dennis runs
Stomp seat covers. Their thick rubber sides can stand up to the pressure. The finishing touch is the Crunchies logo from Oneighty Decals—who designed and laid out the graphics.
TEST RIDE: SOME BIKES ARE JUST IN A HURRY
When we first kick-started the bike to life, we noticed the idle was pretty high. We complained, but later found out that Dennis does this as a strategy to save on the cost of clutch kits. Dennis, a clutch abuser, worked on modifying his riding style so that he could roll through turns using less clutch—bumping up the idle helped. The six-spring Wiseco unit felt so much better than the stocker that it was hard not to use it. In the name of testing, however, we resisted and tried Dennis’ technique. We didn’t like it, but we did carry more speed into the corners—and often through the banners on the other side of the track. The increased idle did prevent the infamous CRF flameout.
|The 270mm oversize QTM front rotor is mated to AP ORR brake pads to ensure that what gets started gets stopped.
The Pro Circuit-tuned powerband was free-revving and responsive to the slightest wrist movements. Test riders could get a nice spurt any time they wanted to unweight the front or powerslide the rear. The engine’s low-to-mid power was incredibly usable. The average local racer could stay in this part of the powerband most of the time and be competitive. But, the best part of the Crunchies powerband was the mid-and-up portion. When kept singing, the Crunchies bike made power that could run with the big dogs—unlike the stock CRF450, which we are forced to shift at 8200 rpm.
The Factory Connection suspension was a good middle-of-the-road setup. As a rule, we don’t like Dennis Stapleton’s suspension choices—he is an advocate of the “Pro Stiff School.” Shockingly, we didn’t hate Dennis’ fork setup on his 2010 National bike. It was a firm enough platform to keep the forks high in their stroke, but not so stiff that the forks wouldn’t absorb little bumps. It was very un-Dennis-like.
What we really liked on Stapleton’s Team Crunchies CRF450 was the longer shock linkage. Stapleton added the Factory Connection link to lower the rear of the CRF450. This fought against the Honda’s tendency to stinkbug and oversteer. Factory Connection had the shock set up to coordinate with the link. The balance of the bike was great, although Stapleton’s shock settings aren’t for everyone (we want to say they aren’t for anyone, but his choice is how stiff most pros run their stuff).
CONCLUSION: IS THIS YOUR FINAL ANSWER?
Make no mistake about it, the most unique thing about Dennis Stapleton’s CRF450 is that it is an AMA privateer bike that was built by the same method that every hardcore motocross racer—Novice or Vet—uses. Dennis went to the best people he could find to help him meet his goals.
It is also good to see that sponsors haven’t disappeared from the face of the earth. They exist—you just have to go out and find them. Crunchies was brave enough to step up, and it is outside sponsors like them that help the sport grow. The MXA wrecking crew especially liked the Crunchies sponsorship scenario because they sent us a big box of tasty goodies. The Team Crunchies CRF450 is a competitive machine with mods that are readily accessible by anyone with the funds.
This is a win-win situation for Crunchies, Stapleton and MXA—Crunchies gets their name out there to a young demographic, Stapleton gets to the AMA Nationals and MXA gets to thrash Dennis’ race bike.