In his infinite wisdom our main man Sutty has been sat in DBR Towers coming up with ideas to challenge the team! His latest cunning plan started with him chatting to the guys at Honda UK and ended with a pretty big challenge being set for me – thanks for that Sutty.

My mission is to take a 2013 Honda CRF450R and get it competitive for racing in time for the Matterley Basin Vets GP at the end of August. As I turned 40 in April it’s now possible for me to enter the old boys’ class and getting myself competitive for racing is a challenge in itself since I had an ACL knee ligament replaced during the winter (and you’re an old giffer – Sutty).

The last time I raced was at Farleigh Castle on my Team Dickdo 490 Maico last September. As I’m a little race rusty I’ve already started my preparation and shortly after getting hold of my new steed I entered the Patchquick Trophy race at Kingsteignton in Devon. With little time to prepare I still found time to make some essential adjustments to the bike.

First things first and an oversized front braking disc was added. With the weight of a 450cc machine and all its power that hauls your ass down the straights at warp factor one, anything that can help you slow down as late as possible for the next turn is going to give you an advantage. It’s also worth remembering that around 75 per cent of your stopping power is coming from the front brake and the standard front disc is only slightly bigger than the rear and the rear only does around a quarter of the work!

I will also be adding a steel braided hose so that there is no hose expansion. That will produce a very direct and solid feel at the lever and should have this puppy standing on its nose whenever I give the lever a pull.

On the other side of the handlebar is my second favourite addition to the bike. When we tested the new Honda in Italy last year the clutch lever felt quite small – especially compared to the previous year’s bike. While I could have just fitted a lever from a 2012 model machine I went the whole hog and installed a hydraulic clutch system that comes complete with a man-size lever instead. There are other advantages too – like you never need to make any adjustments so you’ve got the perfect feel the whole time. It’s also lighter than the cable set-up and makes the Honda clutch feel much less like the clutch off a 1981 490 Maico!

I’m amazed that even though the factory Hondas and factory Kawasakis are using hydraulic clutches – like KTM have being doing for such a long time – they still haven’t made it on to the production machines. And don’t even get me started on the subject of electric start!

The next thing I was eager to change was the gearing mostly because I like the principle of it rather than trying to seek an outrageous competitive advantage. I’m running a 14 tooth front sprocket. The reason for this is that with the smaller 13 tooth sprocket the chain is turning on a smaller circumference and therefore has a great resistance compared to the chain turning on a larger gear, therefore, less friction equals a greater power output plus there will be a little less wear on the sprockets and front chain slipper that covers the swinging arm. Changing one tooth on the front is close to adding four teeth on at the rear so we’ve moved the rear sprocket up to a 52 toother to compensate.

The last change we made was adding a Yoshimura pipe. I actually quite like riding with the standard Honda pipe – like I do with my ’11 model CRF. The bike is super quiet and slightly restricted and this appeals to me because in my own little riding world it’s fun being in stealth mode, riding under the radar of the people in front as their aftermarket pipes bark so loud that its difficult to hear someone riding something as quiet as a hairdryer sneaking up on them.

The point here though is that the bike does feel restricted by the standard pipe and although the engine performs fine it still feels like Bradley Wiggins trying to blow through a clarinet! This bike needs to breathe and by opening up the pipe, the gases are going to pass through quicker and give this bike – which has got more bottom than Rick Waller – a bit of top-end.

I tested the pipe at the Patchquick event and the difference was immediately obvious – without being too noisy either. Straight away the bike revved more freely and that was before I got it off the stand. On the start line the bike even let a couple of pops go as I gave it full gas – before the gate dropped!

Out on the track the bike still keeps its smooth bottom and mid-range with the addition of a little extra free revving top-end – not a lot but I like it! Of course there are two other major benefits in using an aftermarket pipe – one is that it is lighter and the second is that it looks the nuts!

So with these mods my starts will be improved straight away. I get a direct light feel with the clutch and no dragging and I’ve got smooth power out of the gate and a few more horses behind me. So lots of speed can be built up along the straight and finally I can now stop quicker for the turn with the more powerful front brake. Just one more addition that I have yet to do to maximize the start and that is to fit a holeshot device. I’ll do that in time for my next race…