K TM FACTORY - Gravity TM Racing USA

K TM FACTORY - Gravity TM Racing USA
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A: We don't have a clue. Why not? The answer is
simple: we did not test last year's TM 450F[-MX, or the one
the year before that. In fact, our last TM 450FI-MX test was
in 2013. Why? TM has had a topsy-turvy relationship with
its rotating string of U.S. importers over the past decade.
Because of its high base price, late-arriving bikes, the
euro-to-dollar exchange rate and the small size of the Italian
firm. TM hasn't worked well with the men trying to import
the bikes. But, that changed when Dutch TM importer Ralf
Schmidt decided to become a two-continent TM importer.
In late 2014, Ralf took the U.S. reins from Pete Vetrano,
who had stepped in for a second enlistment a few years
ago but was frustrated by the inherent problems of dealing
with a boutique builder whose priority is not the United
States. Ralf Schmidt has a more worldly view and
a successful history in Holland with TM, so he stepped
in to fill the gap.
This is the long answer to why we haven't seen a TM
450FT-MX since we tested the 2013 TM 450FTES-MX.
A! we miss the good old days when bikes had
names like Ca appra, Elsinore, Phantom, Pursang, Super
Rat or Green Streak. The names were descriptive and
didn't require a college degree in Advanced Acronym
Deciphering. Using boring names isn't unique to TM, but it
does have some of the longest aiphanumeric nomenclature
in the moto world. Here is what TM 450FI-MX and TM
450FT-ES-MX stand for.
First, the "TM" stands for Thomas and Mirko. Those ar
the first names of founders Claudio Flenghi's and Franc
Battistelli s sons.
Second, the "450" is self-explanatory. It means that 1t 15 à
460cc motocross bike.
Third, “MX" is also self explanatory and means moto-
cross. TM also makes enduro bikes designated as “ENs”
and Supermoto bikes called “Shas”
Fourth, the "FI" stands for four-stroke iniezione, meaning
that it is fuel (F) injected (1). This is à hold-over from when
1 TM made carbureted fourstrokes but is meaningless in
today's four-stroke market.
Fifth, the “ES” stands for electric start. The 2016 TM
450FI-MA is available with a kickstarter only or with an
electric starter and kickstarter (designated “ES”).
O: wnar is THE PRICE OF THE 2016
TM 450FI-MX?
A: £10,500 for the kick-start model ($10,900 for the
electric-starter version). The 2016 Yamaha YZ450F is $1910
cheaper. A CRF450 15 $1801 cheaper. А ВМ-2450 15 $1751
TM и. MX
cheaper, and à KX4500e €1701 cheaper. A KTM 450SXF
is $1201 cheaper, and a Husky FC450 is $1101 cheaper.
Why is a TM so expensive? Exotic motocross bikes are
just that—exotic. TMs are hand-made in a 40-man Italian
factory in very small numbers. They dont have the
economy of scale of a monolithic corporation.
A? What isn't?
Engine. The MX 450FI-MX's twin overhead cam is
designed with long valve stems to allow them to be
guided more accurately. The valve seats are berylium
for longer life. The cams ride on bearings on one side
and coated bushings on the other. The stock piston 15 a
Vertex (TM used Wiseco pistons up until 2013). The
piston is a compact slipper design mated to a long rod
(prior to 2009, TM used a taller piston and a shorter
rod). The piston has one oil ring and the standard-issue
compression ring. The wrist pin is DLC-coated to reduce
friction, and the lubrication system uses a doublechamber
oil pump to force feed oil into the cam tower and head,
with a mister to keep the underside of the piston cool
Maps. There are two maps accessible on the hancdle-
har-mounted switch, and TM's Microtec ignition system
has different maps for first, second and third gears, while
fourth and fifth share a map. Additionally, the TM has
a special rev limiter that cuts revs until the water
temperature reaches 60 Celsius or 140 Fahrenheit.
Fuel injection. Unlike any other manufacturer in the
world, TM makes its own EFI] throttle body and mounts
it behind the head at a 45-degree downward angle to
60 www.motocrossactionmag.com
moore DROSS
[pence rar un ETF
ok IRN
2016 TM 450F1-MX: Big-
Боге ТМ four-strokes are
rare in the United States.
At the moment, this is
the only one in the
country. TM expertise and
clientele are focused on
a aaa
maximize fuel misting and air velocity (think of it as a mirror
image of the Yamaha YZ450F intake tract). Before TM went
to fuel injection, it had to make special angled float bowls
to allow its intake design to work with old-school carbs. The
TM throttle body uses a 12-hole injector nozzle located on
| the bottom of the throttle body's throat.
Clutch. As with the throttle body, TM makes its own
hydraulic clutch slave unit, which it mates to a Brembo
master cylinder. The 6-spring clutch fits in a billet-machined,
cush-drive, aluminum clutch basket that has been hard-coated
for durability. TM even makes clutch plates in 2.8mm, 1.8mm,
1.5mm and 1.0mm thicknesses for tuners who want to fine
tune the feel or fix wear in a pinch.
Brakes. The front brake is a 270mm Galfer rotor powered
by a Brembo master cylinder and caliper. The rear brake
uses a Nissin master cylinder and caliper.
Suspension. The TM comes with Kayaba 555 forks that
have been revalved by TM. We surmise that they are 2011
Yamaha forks. TM builds its own shock absorber. It uses a
hillet-machined and coated aluminum body with a piggyback
reservoir that is moved inboard to make room for the central
fuel tank. Consumers can order the 450FI-MX with either
motocross or endure valving (an Ohlin TTX shock is also
an option).
Fuel tank. The oval Twin Air air filter is where the gas
tank would normally be and vice versa. It is a much cleaner
and simpler design than the Yamaha YZ450F version. The
filter can be accessed by removing one bolt, and the gas cap
is mounted on the right side like on a Formula 1 car.
Tires. The stock OEM tires are a Mitas C-19 in the rear
and Mitas C-20 on the front. You may not recognize the
Mitas name, but there is a backstory to Mitas tires. Mitas
is a Czech company that is owned by the Barum group,
now called Ceska Gumarenska Spolecnost (CGS). In
2000, Mitas hought the motorcycle tire molds and
licensed the name from the Swedish Trelleborg A.B.
firm, which enabled them to build Trellies in the Czech
Republic. That licensing agreement ended in 2010. Just
recently, Trelleborg A. B., which is still in business
making agricultural and industrial tires, bought Mitas for
11 billion Swedish Krona ($1.2 billion).
A: It's not as fast as it is broad. The powerband
is torquey, with a metered power delivery that has a
very linear feel to it. It is eminently manageable because
it revs a little slower than a typical 450 four-stroke. It
doesn't hit hard down low. It de: a't rush through the
middle. It doesn't sign off sar just keeps going. It
is like à diesel locomotive wheu compared to the EX-F,
YZ-F, RM-Z, CRF or KTM. It starts out mellow, stays
mellow and just keeps pulling. It has power virtually
everywhere in the rpm range.
It wasn't faster than the other bikes on the starting
line, but since we never had to shift, we could use each
gear to its fullest. And, it had the style of torque that
could hook up on any kind of dirt, even with questionable
Mitas sneakers. We covered ground without ever feeling
that we were going fast.
We found that the overall powerband, chassis
and suspension worked best when we got the TM
450FI-MX into third gear, but third gear was fairly high in
the range and thus we spent more time than we wanted
revving out second gear, which made the engine buzz,
the front-mounted airbox wail and the suspension load
up as the revs increased.
The gearing was a big problem for the powerband. On
a big, fast track, the gearing was just adequate. On a
tight track, we were stuck in one gear (and not always
the one we wanted to be in). The solution? Gear the TM
450-FI-MX down. We started by adding one tooth to the
rear sprocket and ended up changing the countershaft
sprocket from the stock 14-tooth to a 13-tooth. That's the
equivalent of 3-1/2 teeth on the rear. Our goal was to
make third gear more accessible. Geared lower, the TM
powerband was much more aggressive, and we weren't
forced to overwork second and then go flat in third.
A: We could put the TM wherever we wanted it.
This is a bike that really wants to turn, even with a
mediocre front tire and King Kong seat height, The size
of the TM reminded every test rider of racing a pre-2016
Kawasaki EX450F, except it was one that could tum
without being forced. If this bike were lowered about
an inch, the suspension were made more plush and the
tires were updated, we would rate this in the top three in
overall handling. But, it isn't low, plush or tacky.
We can't blame the Kayaba 555 forks, because they
are just metal parts. Instead, we blame the TM test
riders, who tend to be part of their Grand Prix race team.
The forks probably work for ultra-fast GP riders but not
for the typical TM buyer. Anyone who rode this bike for
more than a lap would know that the shock resists
movement and the forks are harsh in the mid-stroke.
TM needs to get some real-world input before
selecting valving in the future. With better valving and
more thought put into the shock spring rate, the TM
would be a completely different machine.
Borrowed: Кауаба 555 forks have a killer reputation with
Yamaha valving in them, but not with TM valving.
A: Here is what the MXA wrecking crew would do
if we owned a 40-man exotic factory in Pesaro, Italy.
(1) Forks. If we went to the trouble to spec Kayaba
355 suspension, we would install Yamaha YZ450F valving
and call it a day. Why reinvent the wheel?
(2) Shock. We admire that TM designed and built its
own shock, but now the engineers should concentrate on
making one that moves. A little less of everything would
go a long way on this shock. We would make it shorter,
lighten the compression, get more effective high-speed
damping and lighten the spring rate.
(3) Gearing. TM's standard gearing is off by more
than 3 teeth on the rear. We go with 13/53, not 14/50.
(4) Starting. The kickstarter is so far up on the
engine that Paul Bunyan would have trouble getting his
| leg that high. It barely turns the engine over, and if you
aren't standing on a bike stand, you won't have enough
leverage. Half of the MXA test riders sought competent
help—meaning a taller test rider—to start it for them. Pity
Big boy: With the tall engine, domed airbox cover and large
frame, the TM 450FI-MX is a big bike. Very big.
Airbox: Unlike the Yamaha airbox design, TM's air filter is
easy to access and simple in design.
62 www.motocrossactitonmag.com
| the poor test rider who flamed out on à flat section of
| track in the middle of a moto. Did we mention that the
TM 450FI-MX has a flame-out issue?
(5) Gas cap. It locks cool, but the cap is so poorly
designed that you can't get enough leverage on it to
pry it open.
(6) Seat height. Unless TM is building theme hikes
for the NBA, there is no reason a bike should be this tall.
(7) Two-strokes. We'd stop making four-strokes and
focus on building the best 85cc, 125cc, 150cc, 250cc and
300ec twostrokes imaginable. This is where TM, who
cut its teeth with 125cc shifter karts in the World
Karting Championship, has expertise.
A: |
= The hate list:
(1) Rear sprocket bolts. It takes twice as long to
change a sprocket on a TM as on any other bike. The
nine sprocket bolts seem like overkill.
(2) Handlebars. The Reikon handlebars are
old-school high-risers. We swapped them for lower
Renthal TwinWall 999s.
(3) Gearing. This bike is geared too tall. How much is
too tall depends on your local track, but unless your local
| track is on the Bonneville Salt Flats, suffice it to say that
you need to gear it down.
(4) Height. If you are short, your toes aren't going to
be able to touch the ground. The seat height is way up
there and very stinkbuggish.
(5) Starting. We began to wish we were testing the
ES model. This is a hard bike to kick to life.
(6) Decompression braking. The decompression
braking on the TM 450FI-MX reminds us of the good old
days of four-strokes—and by good old days, we mean
bad old days.
(7) Tires. Mitas tires would not be our first choice. Or
| fifth choice.
(8) Gas cap. We love the lock of the side-panel-
mounted gas cap, but we couldn't get the cap off without
using a pair of pliers.
(9) Airbox. Compared to Yamaha's convoluted air-
box design (with the flip-up seat piece and triple Dzus
fasteners), the TM airbox is straight-forward and simple.
However, lots of dirt goes in the large vents in the airbox
cover, and even more noise comes out of them. The vents
need a foam or mesh screen to keep dirt clods and birds
out of the filter. We also didn't like that the air filter sat
on a perfectly flat platform with no ridge to keep dirt or
water away from it.
(10) Setup. This bike could be so good with some
common-sense changes—at the factory level.
A! The like list:
(1) Brakes. Awesome power and superb modulation.
Just imagine KTM brakes but with an oversized
270mm rotor.
(2) Wheels, Blue Takasago Excel rims are laced to
very sleek, polished spool hubs.
(3) Map switches. There two maps available on the
handlebars, We ran map 2.
(4) Shifting. Good, solid and predictable. The clutch
could take abuse, and with the bike's tall gearing, we
abused it quite a bit.
(5) Handling. Even with the questionable front tire,
the TM 450FI-MX could turn on a dime—or koruna.
2 Grab handles: We loved the way
¡ the TM turned, with the caveat that
x we softened the fork, changed the
= shock spring, slid the fork tubes up
| and lowered the handlebar bend.
Pit stop: The side-mounted gas cap looked cool and got lots
of oohs and ahhs—when we could get it to come loose.
> A see
= чт
Fire one: This artillery piece of the muffler muted the bark of
the big TM. The airbox noise made up for it.
Bushel and a peck: The nine-bolt rear sprocket is a mystery.
We took three bolts out to speed up gearing changes.
64 www.molocrossacltionmag.com
(6) Gas cap. We hated that we couldn't get the cap
to open, but loved showing it to people. Plus, the
translucent gas tank means never having to wonder
if vou have enough gas for the next moto.
(7) Airbox. Yamaha could learn something about
function from the TM airbox design—flawed as it is.
A: The TM 450FI-MX is not your father's Honda. It
is hand-made by Italian craftsmen, whittled out of solid
billet and designed to the particular wants of à small
group of Italian racers. This is not a bike for the run-of-
| the-mill racer. It's too special. It needs to be placed into
the loving hands of a connoisseur of motocross machin
ery, where its peccadilloes will be considered charms.
That kind of man will ride it with aplomb.
MXA'S 2016 TM MX
This is how we set up our TM MX 450FI-MX for
racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your
own sweet spot.
Given that these forks are Kayaba 558 forks, there is
no reason they shouldn't perform well, but as they roll
out of the factory, they are plush for the first half of
the stroke and then ramp up quickly. For hardcore rac
ing, we ran this setup on the 2016 TM 450FI-MX (the
stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 0.48 kg/mm
Compression: 19 clicks out (12 clicks out)
Rebound: E clicks out
Fork-leg height: 5mm up
Notes: We lowered the oil height in 10cc
increments, depending on the speed and weight of
the rider, and kept going until we got a plush feel.
Although they are Yamaha SSS forks, they dont feel
hike 55S forks.
The rear of the TM 450FI-MX rode high in its stroke
and was very firm on compression. Our first change
was to install a softer shock spring, and then we
focused on the high-speed compression to encourage
the shock to drop into its travel quicker. We also sped
up the rebound—not just to free the shock up, but to
take advantage of the crossover effect on the
low-speed compression valve stack. For hardcore
racing, we ran this setup on the 2016 TM 450FI-MX
(the stock settings are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 4.8 kg/mm (5.2 kg/mm)
Hi-compression: 24 clicks out (16 clicks out)
Lo-compression: 21 clicks out (16 clicks out)
Rebound: 24 clicks out (20 clicks out)
Race sag: 110mm
Notes: We set the sag at 105mm in an attempt to
coax a more supple feel out of the shock and to get
the chassis a little lower to the ground when it had
human cargo on board. The U.S. TM importer will
work with you to get the shock valved to your height
and weight. This is important, because very few
suspension shops have ever seen a TM factory
shock (although internally it is fairly standard). For
more help, go to www. lmracing-usa.com or
(951) 850-6021. 9
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