After years on a 250, Ken Roczen is jumping up to a 450. What can he expect from the bigger machine?
On paper, the difference between 250s and 450s is clear. With 50 to 55 ponies on tap, the 450 boasts roughly a ten to fifteen horsepower advantage over its little brother while tipping the scales at an additional ten to fifteen pounds. With the 450’s clear power advantage, it seems that it would be the superior machine in just about any race situation. Of course, simple facts and figures don’t always translate into the real world.
As a race fan, you’ve probably been blown away during qualifying when guys like Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin occasionally set qualifying times aboard 250s that are faster than times posted by 450 legends like Ryan Dungey and James Stewart. How does that happen? Aside from the fact that track conditions are usually rougher for the 450 guys, the answer lies, in part, in that some tracks are better suited to 250s.
A great example of this is the recent Motocross of Nations in Teutschenthal, Germany, where Roczen trounced the field on a 250 in the MX2/Open moto, in which scores of 450s were competing. Finishing behind him was GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac, who also rode a 250. The track was tight and rough, conditions that make using all the 450’s power nearly impossible. As the old adage goes, unusable power is of no use at all, and in situations where the 450’s horsepower advantage is negated, its extra weight can put it at a disadvantage to the light, nimble quick-turning 250.
On tracks where the horsepower of a 450 can be utilized, such as larger, more open venues or tracks full of power-robbing soil, like sand, the 450 reigns supreme. It’s a big reason why just about every single rider, including Roczen, chose to ride a 450 at the recent Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas, even though the rules at this one-off race allow racers to ride any size bike they want.
For Roczen, the 450 decision was a good one. He was leading the points heading into the final race and found himself out front for the first four laps. Had he been able to hold James Stewart off for the win, he would have won the whole thing. Even so, his third overall is fantastic, and with results like that already rolling in, it’s obvious he’s going to make waves in the 450 class in 2014.
So which bike is best for the everyday enthusiast? Both are great of course, but riders who crave horsepower above all else have to go with the 450. It has unholy amounts of it, and it’s also cheaper to maintain than the extremely high revving 250, which is a big reason why you see so many strapped-for-cash privateers choosing to race 450s. Its power advantage also makes it a more versatile machine, capable of tackling everything from motocross to sand dunes in a hurry, although its tremendous power output makes it an unsuitable bike for riders without a healthy amount of experience. For everyone else, it’s a turnkey motocross missile.
For the latest dirt on moto, follow Red Bull Moto Spy on Twitter.