Consider this Step 3 in your quest to race ATVs.
Step 1 started with our Beginner's Guide to ATV Racing. As you discovered, wanting to race is one thing, participating in a race is another. Once you figured out how to get into racing there was more to do, this time to the ATV.
Step 2 discussed the Best ATV Upgrades for Racing. Motocross ATVs are a bit different than the off-the-showroom-floor model and the AMA requires certain parts added to an ATV in order to qualify as a Racing ATV. Through this guide you bought Nerf bars and a kill switch, required add-ons for racing, and you upgraded to racing tires and wheels among other necessary parts and equipment designed for racing and to address entry rules.
Step 3 now addresses your results. Perhaps you've already experienced your first race and, well, you would have been happy with at least a Top 10 finish. But that didn't happen. Or, maybe you want to be the surprise amateur that blows everybody away. In either case, you now want to know how to make your ATV faster for racing.
There are two approaches to making your ATV faster: The small things, like simple adjustments that cost you little to nothing and bigger things, like upgrades to your exhaust system that you'll need to factor into your budget. We'll first cover the minor adjustments you can tweak in your garage and address after practice runs.
- Air Filter
Make sure your filter is clean each and every race. Some riders swear by the K&M filter and suggest using one. This is a relative inexpensive upgrade and is recommended. At the very least a clogged air filter reduces air flow so ensure whatever filter you use is fresh and ready to race.
- Adjust Your Height
If you're riding at the wrong height in relation to space between the ATV frame and your comfort zone, wiping out is a good possibility but most likely you'll ride slower. The lower your ATV the better it handles, but the harder you'll feel bumps and landings. Until you get into racing shape, you might want to adjust to a higher height.
- Tire pressure
This is a no-brainer but it's often overlooked. We recommended racing tires in Step 2 but they'll do you no good if improperly inflated. The best tire pressure depends on the tires and rims used and the type of racing. Motocross racing requires a different tire pressure than flat track or off-road. Best bet is to check the tire manufacturer's recommendation.
- Change the Gear Ratio
Add or decrease sprocket size front and rear. This may or may not be necessary depending on what you ride on now. "Gearing down" or installing a larger rear sprocket reduces top speed but increases acceleration. Better top speed of course, means you gear up. The trick is to find the right balance. Winning the holeshot is nice, but if you eventually get passed by 10 other riders during the course of the race you'll never step on the podium.
- Camber, Toe and Caster Adjustment
Camber, toe and caster relate to your ATV's alignment and each can affect the way your 4-wheeler rides. Camber is adjusted using degrees. A zero degree camber means the tops of the tires are perpendicular to the ground. A three to four degree adjustment is most often preferred by MX racers and just one to two degrees for cross country.
Toe, or toe-in, is pointing the front of the front tires inward. Caster is the angular displacement from the vertical axis of the suspension. This too is measured in degrees and helps with cornering.
All these adjustments take time which is why practice runs are so important. As the rider, you'll know if the adjustments help with handling, cornering and the overall ride. Pros make adjustments all the time to find that sweet spot that enables them to ride hard and stay on the bike.
- Tighten Up
Another oft looked over basic maintenance routine is tightening all the nuts and bolts. A sound frame is a secure frame and allows you to ride better. Eventually the tightest bolt rattles loose and if left unchecked could very well mean the difference between finishing and limping to a stop during the middle of the race. Take five minutes before every Moto and tighten everything that tightens.
Major ATV Racing Upgrades
Now that we've covered what you can do very little or no money, the next option to make your ATV faster is upgrading parts. This is a little more involved and may require a mechanic if you're not comfortable removing and adding parts.
Upgrading your 2-stroke or 4-stroke exhaust need not be overtly expensive though you can definitely bust your budget in the process. You can replace the entire exhaust or just the pipe.
Upgrading your pipe, or slip-on, is the most cost effective and can help reduce weight and provide an increase in power. This is the easier of the two as far as installation and typically can be accomplished with needing special tools. It's as easy as removing the stock muffler and putting the slip-on in its place.
ATV Slip-ons for Racing
Full Exhaust Systems
A full exhaust system replaces everything from your header to your tailpipe. This is the most expensive upgrade but also the best performance gains. You'll get significantly more weight loss and performance. Installation is much more involved and may require a professional's help.
ATV Full Exhaust Systems for Racing
ATV Big Bore Kit
A Big Bore Kit includes pistons, head and gasket and cylinders. This is what's known as rebuilding the top end of your bike. The top end involves the pistons/rings and all of the replaceable parts above the base gasket.
A rebuild is a routine part of maintenance but you can also upgrade for increased combustion flow. You can buy pistons and gasket kits individually but when replacing it's best to replace everything together and buying a Big Bore Kit saves you money.
Racing requires lots of patience and constant fine-tuning. Pro racers routinely work on their bikes between races to find every small edge to get the holeshot and stay out in front. Beginner's luck aside, don't expect to sweep both motos your first time out. Practice regularly, fine tune accordingly, then practice some more. Sooner or later you'll find all the right adjustments and then you'll spend time maintaining what works.
Written By: AndrewT