2006 Suzuki LT-R450 First Ride

Part I - An overview

Mar. 01, 2006 By Pattie Waters

We were as anxious as everyone last fall when Suzuki finally rolled out the ALL NEW 2006 LT-R450, their first truly race-ready ATV. And answer to the Yamaha YFZ450 and Honda TRX450R.

Then we waited.

Of course, once we see the FIRST of anything, we in the media can’t wait to get our hands on it. Greedily, we scuffle in line with the dealers, who are in a hurry to get it out to their waiting buyers. We always insist that you certainly won’t buy if you’ve never read anything about it. Dealers insist they’d rather manufacturers just get those puppies on the showroom floor so you can test it yourself. Either way, it’s a great battle for attention between two spoiled children. They love us so much and know they need us both, as much as we need them.

So it was with great anticipation that Suzuki invited the ATV media and a few select dealers to the World Launch of the LT-R450, to be held at the ATVA GNC at Glen Helen Speedway in San Bernadino CA on February 2. Not only a chance to see, touch and explore the 450, but also the opportunity for hands-on riding and even competition in the GNC class of their choice. We asked Off-Road.com’s favorite Pro Test Rider Brandon Brown to set aside his “red” preferences for a bit, and give us his impressions. He was glad to oblige.

Before we launch you into his personal ride impressions (that article to follow later this month), what is so special about this ATV? What makes it a race-ready machine, and why should you accept that someone else has really done all your testing for you?

As we did when it was initially announced last fall, we went back to Rod Lupusnak. After a short stint with the AMA last fall, Rod is now back with American Suzuki Motor Corp - this time, as ATV Operations Manager. The Big Guy. However, the LT-R is truly his baby, as he was in on it’s inception. (Don’t even ask how that’s possible – he’s VERY close to his work…)

History –

In 2004, Suzuki sent Pro rider Doug Gust’s race bike to Japan. Lupusnak estimates Doug’s race bike was worth about $20,000, including all the aftermarket goodies. The goal at that time was to build a bike that somebody would be able to walk in and buy new for less than $7,500.

Rod says, “It would cost you a minimum $4,000 [in aftermarket parts] to get the Yamaha or Honda to this level. That’s the whole concept. To be able to bring a motocross bike for the average person, to be able to walk in and buy a product. Be able to race it and be competitive.”

When racer and test rider Brown looks over a new machine, he has some very specific areas of interest, and it was those he keyed in on immediately in his conversation with Lupusnak.

Lupusnak assured him, “We’ve thoroughly tested this suspension, we don’t have any issues with it. There’s a little bit more adjustment [than ball joint-style], you can play with caster and camber. Doug [Gust] put it through so many tests in Japan.

A racer that knows the highly-competitive nature of aftermarket parts, Brown also was interested how the partnerships of products are determined. Why would Suzuki as a manufacturer, select one company or one product over another? What goes into that decision?

Re: using Walsh – “They were there when we needed them, so we feel that loyalty back. When all the manufacturers were ‘out’ of ATV racing, all these key manufacturers like Walsh, Roll, kept this sport together. I don’t want to turn my back on them. They kept the whole race movement going when there was nothing there. Walsh is incredible to work with. Same thing with Fox; they want to be part of the program, we’re going to go ahead and go for that.”

Taking a look in person at the bikes being specifically prepped for Gust and Jeremiah Jones the GNC weekend, we were interested to know how what they are riding will translate into what Joe Everyman will be buying. And why.

“Doug & Jeremiah are the cream of the crop. I would guarantee that they’ll be able to go out there and race, and you’ll see that. They’ll be able to go out there and finish in the Top 5, the way it is. I believe that whole-heartedly.”

Regarding racing on the new Dunlop tires – “Jeremiah…. doesn’t feel as comfortable on them yet as Doug does; Doug really likes them. That’s a pretty big thing, for them to go out and race on the same tire as a stock competitor. Most of the components [on their race bikes] are stock. “

In fact, Jason Dunkelberger was out for the press ride (for ATV Rider magazine) and offered his unbiased opinion as well. Lupusnak confirmed that Dunkelberger “thought it was very impressive. He said, ‘I NEED nerf bars, that’s how fast I was going. I was looking for my nerf bars.’ From a Top 10 pro - If I’m going to talk box-stock and go race, he was pretty impressed.”

What’s next for Suzuki and the LT-R450 platform specifically? Don’t think they are resting yet.

“We’re testing everything. In order to bring this level of product, we’ve got to keep pushing that envelope. We’re testing now for 2007. If we don’t evolve – we’re on the highest level of racing here, this is meant for someone to spend $7,299 and be able to go racing. There’s going to be a lot of changes yet. We’re spending a lot of development time on the Yamaha and the Honda.”

Have they reached a point that truly answers a racer’s need? Is it user-friendly, as well as fast? We’ll have Brandon Brown give at least his first impression, in Part II.

By the way, just how did those Weekend Warriors from the Media do? Let's just say there were some very happy Japanese engineers running around the finish line. Cody Anderson from ATV Sport took top honors in 4-Stroke Stock on his LT-R450, with Adam Campbell from ATV Rider Magazine and Cain Smead from DirtWheels Magazine right behind him. Not far back in fifth was Darrin Hoeft from 4Wheel ATV Action. Brian McCulloch from that great new mag Quad Off-Road (have you checked it out yet?) snagged a win in Production C as well. Now I hate to be the one to say it, but the point really was to prove if THESE guys can take a win on a Stock bike, anyone has a chance!

And we’ll all be watching the Big Three Pro podium count with great interest in 2006. It could be the best year yet.

-ptw

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