2009 Can-Am DS 450 EFI X mx Long Term Review

2009 Can-Am DS 450 EFI X mx Long Term Review


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When huge tabletops need to be cleared and very technical obstacles must be conquered, the 2010 Can-Am DS 450 EFI X mx is certainly a great new ride to consider purchasing. It includes many extras for race readiness on full-on MX type race tracks as standard equipment. The basic DS already offered loads of intelligent technology with features such as an ALTEC frame, inverted brake calipers, as well as the lowest un-sprung weight, ample but smoothly delivered power and excellent mass centralization. This X mx version just brings it up a notch with countless adjustments and customizing possibilities, and an impressive list of things that have the potential of bringing out the better quad racer in you.

When asked by our friends at Can-Am, what machine we would like to try for a whole year, the choice was pretty easy. It’s no mystery that I’ve always been a hardcore racing fan, and to get the opportunity to ride a race-ready machine, whenever I felt the need to was like a dream come true. Well aware that most people buying it will just ride it for fun, we felt it was important for us to push it to its full potential, in very varied conditions on a number of different surfaces. Yes, this quad’s true calling is domination on full-on MX type race tracks, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be used in the dunes, woods, snow, ice, you name it…True that the X xc DS model is more purposely built for some of these other types of riding, but anyway, most gals or guys buying such a racing machine will still expect it to be versatile enough to do all of those.

The 2009 Can-Am DS 450 EFI X mx sure didn’t disappoint in that sense. We rode it at X-Town, a sport quad rider’s paradise in Mirabel, Quebec, to truly test claims of its greatness as a racer. We brought it up to the beautiful Lac St-Jean region, with its generous serving of serpentine dirt roads, sand pits, wood trails and breathtaking scenery. We pinned some tires to scrape the ice wide opened throttle in fifth gear, for laps and laps of pure ATV’ing bliss in a never ending power slide. Trust us, when we say this is one ride we really put through all the rigors of off-road riding.

What it offers

Many Motocross specific amenities included, greatly contribute to its high level of competitiveness even in stock form. A slew of add-ons and race inspired features including: an extra-strength extended 25.4 mm (1″) steering stem with anti-vibe mounts, +2 (5.1 cm) A-arms for your all-important MX racing 50-inch (1270 cm) width; a whopping 10.7 inches (272 mm) of suspension travel with dual-rate shocks with crossovers; light T-9 GP front wheels; aluminum nerf bars with netted heel guards and beadlock ITP T-9 rear wheels with QuadCross MX Pro tires also, from ITP. Another interesting factor about this ride, in that race-readiness sense, is that the racer can completely dial in the DS 450 X mx’s front suspension geometry to his or her preferences, by using a shim-style adjustment system, with each shim representing one degree of adjustment. Camber is adjustable from 11 degrees to 15 degrees; while caster is adjustable from 3 to 10 degrees. The rear width is also very quickly modified from 46 to 50 inches, by placing the 4 half inch shims on each side, in the desired order, before or after slipping the wheel back onto the hollow rear chromoly axle. I for one, need all the width I can get and the wider the better in any trail or on any track, so setting the rear to the maximum 50″ was the very first adjustment I did.

All this control over the very geometry of the suspension elements is, of course, something rather new to mainstream sport quads, and can be quite complicated to fully understand and efficiently used by some. It’s good to know that most users won’t have to touch anything to enjoy this ride and that it’s delivered already well set-up, for any kind of off-road activity. These adjustments are in addition to those more directly affecting how the suspension reacts to asperities in the ground like spring pre-loading and the more precise rebound and low or high speed compression adjustments offered by the fully adjustable KYB HPG aluminum piggyback shocks in front and remote reservoir one at the rear. If you’re not familiar with the basics of suspension adjustments, we strongly suggest you check out JL’s article, on how to adjust your suspension, in this same great issue of ATV Trail Rider.

Another small adjustment possibility to be appreciated was the position of the levers, which are positioned near or far from the grips, at a choice of five different settings. This was practical for us, because both I and Fitto a companion have very different finger lengths. He liked his set at zero and very close to the grips, while I was happy with a halfway setting of 3. More adjustment capabilities on the nice and wide handlebar would have been nice. As far as I was concerned, they were perfectly positioned for my tall stance, a tad on the high side and leaving room to move at knee level, and enabling the rider to still have some flex in his elbows, when standing up on the ride, either to fly or blast through a series of whoops. The wide design and low weight of the handlebar, greatly affected ease of steering; it’s clearly one of the easiest of all quads to steer without a power steering. When parked, the one-handed effort needed to steer, was actually comparable to one of those new big bore quads with power steering. My companion isn’t as tall as I am, but still loved how the handlebar was set stock.

Of course, BRP’s no weld, ALTEC twin pyramidal aluminum frame, provides great strength. A proven effective dual-pyramidal design, with many sturdy beams that are tied together with a unique aluminum lock-bolt fastening system which eliminates the need for welds, which can be less predictable in integrity, by sometimes, leaving certain areas weakened by the metal melting process. This certainly helps a great deal in keeping the whole package very light, but low un-sprung weight is even more important in off-road applications, greatly affecting how the ride is kept smooth and minimizing vibrations and transfer of forces to the sprung part of the vehicle. Un-sprung weight includes the mass of components such as the wheels, wheel axles, tires, bearings, and a portion of the weight of springs, shock absorbers, suspension links and any other components directly connected to the wheels or suspension, so great care was taken in minimizing all of these parts‘ weight with computer-optimized design.

All DS 450’s have great power from the Rotax 4-TEC 450 EFI, inspired by the Rotax V990, which powers the Aprilia RSV 1000 R sport-bike. Its free-flow design, which has the largest piston bore, intake valves and throttle body of the whole segment, delivers nice power and great potential for after-market tuning.

What it can do

For all the good reasons described so far, both I and my companion found this ride to be very easily thrown around in every direction, while staying in total control of everything. Sometimes, even when pushed beyond that point, the ride seemed to almost place itself back in the right position on its own. It truly has a more predictable feeling behavior over rougher sections, than most other 450 racers. I could very well imagine this trait being a great thing to have, when mixed up with a full gate of hungry racers. Enabling the rider to focus on other things going on around him, and better judge what the next move should be, or what line to take, instead of just struggling with the ride to merely stay on it.

Some will go a step further and start playing around with some small mods, like the very talked about “Pink wire mod”, which simply involves unplugging the pink wire included in the circuit that communicates with the ignition module and the throttle position sensor. That allows the engine to rev up to the limit ceiling faster. It has no effect on horsepower at all! It only changes how the throttle functions, but it can give a sense of having a little more low-end power, since it does take less time to climb up in rpm. Trying to find ways to get more speed out of a race machine is, of course, only natural; but it is important to understand that more power doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have more chances to win a race. Knowing how to use what you already have to its full potential, might be a more logical place to start.

Truth is, it can do quite a bit in its stock form, and once you’ve succeeded in finding that sweet spot with all of your adjustment possibilities, this quad surely enable you to become a better racer. This race-ready quad is a force to be reckoned with on the track, and also a joy to just play with, as is right out of the box. If you are among the very few that can push this ride to its full potential and start feeling, you could shave a little more off your lap times. The first thing is to make sure the whole suspension system is well set-up specifically according to your size and riding style. You might be surprised at how much improvements in lap times can be achieved just by setting your suspension just right.

What are you waiting for?

On the up side, this machine had absolutely superb handling and was always very easily controlled,, both in the air and on the ground. I can even say that it is so forgiving in nature, that I would strongly recommend it for beginning racers. The front end geometry is spot on; you can truly feel in constant total control of it, even when things get a little wild. I admit having the ride to thank for saving my skin on one occasion, where I just didn’t spot a sharp bump in time through my friend’s always dense dust cloud and went flying off to one side. I was actually amazed that I was still sitting on it, after this short but very expressive dance.

We found the ride always ready to quickly get back into action, with every push of its electric starter, unless we had tipped it to the side or just stalled and pushed too much too soon on the thumb throttle, while the engine was still off. With a little more patience, just letting it crank a few turns without touching anything, would always bring it back to life soon enough for our needs to get back to the fun. If we would have been in a real race though, we might have had time to get quite angry with it. By far the most significant positive fact about this quad is that it never failed us despite the fact that most of our repeated  times on it were pretty much always of the wide open throttle kind. Not one weird smell, puff of smoke, leak of fluid, or enough infiltration in the air box to slow it down. We even had to cross a flooded part of a trail near Chicoutimi, and the DS didn’t seem to mind it at all. We unplugged the drain cap when we reached our destination and a full glass of water leaked out, but the good thing is that the air filter already has a sleeve on it (normally an aftermarket part), and it seems it did its job well, since we never felt any hesitation from the mill, despite all this moisture inside the box.

Despite the fact that it had been a while, since we needed to use the brakes, we spent all winter doing laps on the ice. We remember them to be not only very efficient, but also very easy to apply smoothly without causing any surprises.

On the down side; we have to bring it back! No but seriously, there is nothing really to complain about ; we did kind of miss having a reverse gear, and there is room for improvement in low to mid-range power. Oh yeah, and our 2009 Can-Am DS 450 EFI X mx had a few added yellow side reflectors on the front bumper, and they quickly started rattling soon into our tests, which for a short but stressful time, tricked me into thinking the engine was all of a sudden grinding itself down to its doom. Imagine my relief when I put a finger on one of those reflectors and silenced the very annoying vibration. Truth is the engine still purred as nicely as it did on the first day. Detachable headlights and race number ready fenders were the only things we didn’t really enjoy. I could only fantasize about sticking three big #1’s and crossing the chequered flag in first. Snif, snif…

For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Can-Am Off-Road Website

More from Can-Am on ATV Trail Rider :

Can-Am ATV Models – Can-Am UTV Models – Can-Am ATV Reviews – Can-Am UTV Reviews