The Can-Am DS 450 is one of the most innovative sport ATVs to hit the market in a long time. The weld-less aluminum frame, inverted front brakes and amazing power-to-weight ratio are just a few of the features that caught everyone off guard when it first dropped. But the DS wasn't perfect; the power was very top-end heavy, and we felt like the handling was compromised by a tall ride height and excessive body roll. But with the right parts, those problems are easily corrected. So we became convinced we could build a project bike that would use all the strengths of the stock DS 450 while ironing out some of its kinks.
We began building our Project DS 450 down in Southern California, but we had grown tired of the usual fare of MX, dune and desert bikes usually associated with this area of the country. While these terrains are by far the most popular, they aren't the only type of terra firma you tear up while on the left coast. SoCal is also home to thousands of miles of mountain and high-desert trails. Venture off the beaten path and you can find winding trails, fire roads and even a mud-hole or two. So with that in mind, we found a focus for our Project DS 450; we wanted to build the ultimate West Coast trail machine.
To help us smooth out the DS 450's powerband, the guys at Motoworks hooked us up with their complete SR4 exhaust system. The SR4 features a proprietary stainless headpipe and performance-tuned aluminum muffler designed to give the DS 450 more low and midrange torque, thus creating a more ridable powerband overall. With some aftermarket pipes, fitment can be a problem, but we were thoroughly impressed with how perfectly our Motoworks exhaust mounted up. It also came with a quick drop-in spark arrestor, which was a must for our vegetated riding areas.
Motoworks also sent us its Fuel Management Interface (FMI) to help dial in the fuel delivery. The Motoworks FMI came preprogrammed with a map for the SR4 exhaust, but with the simple interface, we would be able to tweak the fuel curve out on the trail as needed. The FMI plugged right into the stock wiring and was a snap to install.
Since we had the exhaust covered, it was time to take a look at the intake. I've always been partial to K&N filters, mainly because I find them to be more durable and straightforward to service. One of the best ways to get a K&N filter on your bike is with a Pro Flow kit from Pro Design. The Pro Flow kit consists of a billet-aluminum airbox flange, either a Uni or K&N filter and an Outerwear. We also opted to pop the airbox lid off since we weren't going to be getting into any deep mud or water.
Under intense racing, some riders have found the DS 450 to run a little hot, so with the extra power we wanted to make sure our DS could keep its cool. We turned to the crew at PWR to set us up with one of their high-capacity radiators. Their hand-built radiators can be found on championship-winning race cars and motorcycles all around the world, so you know they mean business. The PWR radiator has a slightly larger fluid capacity and increased cooling efficiency to keep our DS 450's temp down.
Last but not least, we wanted to make sure we could count on the added power making its way to the wheels, so we installed a Regina Z-ring chain. The patented ring design helps increase flexibility and prolong the chain's life. Can-Am sells a special edition version of this chain as a factory accessory, complete with Can-Am yellow colored links--how awesome is that!
Power Department The Pro...
The Pro Flow kit and Motoworks SR4 exhaust helped our DS breathe deep and exhale smooth, while the Motoworks FMI kept it all in tune. Most importantly though, we could rely on our custom yellow Regina chain to keep the power going to the wheels.
The DS 450 comes stock with some pretty high-tech suspension components. So rather than reinvent the wheel, we stuck with a lot of the OEM components to capitalize on all that great engineering. Seeing as we weren't going to need to go any wider in the front or rear end for our type of riding, we left the super-light A-arms and axle right where they were. Sure, an aftermarket set would be beefier, but they would also be much heavier. Since we aren't planning on doing any hard-core racing, we opted to keep the unsprung weight low to help keep our suspension working as quickly and smoothly as possible.
However, the stock shocks and overall suspension setup definitely needed some work. So we boxed them up and shipped them off to Ross Benson at Hygear Suspension for a complete Pro Package rebuild. This rebuild is one of the most complete packages we have ever seen for OEM shocks. First, Hygear completely tore down our shocks and hard-anodized the bodies, giving them a much stronger interior coating, not to mention a trick look, too! Hygear also custom valved the shocks for XC riding and installed high- and low-speed compression adjustment knobs so we could really get the shocks dialed in.
Motoworks Exhaust And FMI...
Motoworks Exhaust And FMI
The company also slapped a set of triple-rate springs on the front and a dual-rate spring in the rear to give our stockers the progressive action of high-dollar aftermarket units. On our front shocks, Hygear machined the bodies down to give us a lower ride height and help reduce body roll. Last but not least, it installed extra volume caps on our reservoirs, allowing our shocks to hold more nitrogen. The extra gas helps disperse the heat on long rides and keep the shocks from fading.
To hold the steering in check we installed a stabilizer from GPR. The company's new low-mount stabilizer attaches down on the frame and connects to the steering stem with a machined clamp and arm with precision bearings. The GPR has eight stiffness settings and even has the option for a remote adjuster to change the resistance on the fly.
Rear Shock (Hygear Rebuil...
Rear Shock (Hygear Rebuild)
The rocky trails were sure going to be hard on whatever tires we put on our machine, so we decided to go with some of the most reliable ones out there. We got a set of six-ply Maxxis Razr 2's for the front and six-ply Razrs for the rear. The Razrs will give us all the traction we want and all the longevity we need for the countless trail rides we had planned.
To follow Can-Am's lead of using the lightest and most advanced parts available, we thought the perfect wheels for our project would be a set of HiPer carbon-fiber wheels. HiPer set us up with a set of its Tech-3 beadlock wheels for the front and rear. To keep the stock width, we had to run a 4+1 offset in the front because of the inverted caliper and long A-arms and a 3+6 offset in the rear. We weighed our new tire and wheel package to see what kind of penalty we were paying over the stock setup: only two pounds per tire in the front and three pounds in the rear, not bad for six-ply tires and full beadlocks!
Front Shock (Hygear Rebuild...
Front Shock (Hygear Rebuild
With the Hygear-rebuilt shocks we now had a plush ride and a lower and more confident cornering machine, plus all the adjustability we would ever need. The GPR stabilizer soaked up the jarring terrain and kept the wheels in our control.
Comfort And Protection
Just as important--if not more so--as all the performance parts we put on this machine are the items that increase its safety and comfort. We sent our stock seat to Bill Pointer at Quad Tech-ATV so it could set us up with a seat cover and hump modification. The hump on the rear of the seat is designed to help keep your butt from sliding too far back, thus taking a little strain off your arms. We've seen this seat gain a ton of popularity in the racing scene, so we were sure it would be a welcome addition for those long trail rides.
Pounding over rough and rocky trails is as hard on your body as it is on your ATV, so we installed a set of Fasst Company Flexx bars to give our hands, wrists and upper body some extra cushion for the serious jolts. The rubber joints in the Flexx bars allow them to soak up harsh hits and absorb vibration. The best part, though? They are 100 percent made in the U.S.A.
Keepin' it Cool The PWR radiator...
Keepin' it Cool
The PWR radiator helped us keep our hot-blooded DS's temps in check. Plus, the beefy construction meant we could count on it for the long haul.
In order to get the larger-diameter Flexx bars mounted on our DS, we needed a little help from the guys at Rox Speed FX. They set us up with a pair of Rox risers to give us a 2-inch-higher mounting point and allowed us to go from the stock 7/8-inch bar to the oversize 11/8 inch. The Rox risers are a great way to get some of the benefits of an aftermarket steering stem without the high cost. The risers also pivot from front to back, giving another dimension to dial in your steering position.
High fives from your buddies are great, but not when they're coming from a manzanita branch at 35 mph. So we bolted on a set of PowerMadd hand guards for some hand protection from overgrown shrubs and possibly any roost-happy slower riders in front of us. PowerMadd's Star Series guards come in just about every color you could want, and have a straightforward mounting setup that makes them a breeze to install and align.
We knew there were going to be some nice beach ball-sized pieces of granite out on the trail ready to take a bite out of our DS's underside, so some protection was definitely in order. Pro Armor helped make our Can-Am bombproof with a full body skid plate, swingarm guard and some fat peg nerf bars for good measure. We also installed a set of factory Can-Am A-arm guards to give our aluminum arms a fighting chance out on the trail.
Every project bike should have a few parts for aesthetic value, if for nothing more than to set your machine apart from the crowd. For us, that meant slapping on a Can-Am yellow radiator guard like the ones on the X models and a graphics kit from G4-Graphics.
For our testing session, we took to the mountains east of San Diego to the Corral Canyon OHV riding area. This area has a bunch of tight and twisty trails along with some wide-open fire roads and even some sections where you can climb along solid rock. So it was basically the ideal location to test our freshly minted machine.
Right off the bat we could feel how the Motoworks exhaust smoothed out the DS's power delivery. With the new setup, our DS now had the grunt to power around corners and still enough top-end to wind out in the straightaways. The new breadth of the powerband allowed us to just leave the gearbox in second or third and concentrate more on dodging trees than finding the right gear or clutching to get the revs up. We did lose a bit of that crazy overrev top-end that the stock DS had, but with new boost in midrange and bottom-end, we didn't miss it for a second.
"...We were impressed with the potential locked up in the stock DS 450 that's just waiting for the right tweaks to be unleashed."
Hygear worked wonders on our stock shocks; the lower ride height made our DS 450 stick right to the ground, that tippy feeling from the stock setup was history. The ride was very plush but still precise enough to dodge boulders and weave around narrow trails. Our test rider felt like the shocks were a little too plush for his riding style--namely getting it airborne every chance he got. So we clicked up our new high-speed compression adjuster and were impressed again when the shocks responded with a decisive change in feel. Rebuilt OEM shocks usually have a stigma of being a "budget" option, but the Hygear units performed just as well if not better than some aftermarket units we've tested.
At the end of the day, we were thoroughly impressed with all the parts and modifications on our Project DS 450. Everything combined to make this bike feel very complete and an all-out blast to ride on the trails. After this project we were definitely impressed with the potential locked up in the stock DS 450 that's just waiting for the right tweaks to be unleashed. We also had a new appreciation for trail riding and can't wait for the next free weekend to hit the mountains again, especially since we now have the perfect ride.
Bulletproof Our Pro Armor...
Our Pro Armor plating took the hits so our DS 450's undercarriage wouldn't have to, and the Can-Am guards let our A-arms glide over the rocks rather than smashing into them.
The six-ply Maxxis Razrs proved to be a great combination of hook-up and puncture-resistance for the trail.
|PARTS:Project DS 450 |
|Motoworks: 951/587-9222; www.motoworks.com ||SR4 full stainless exhaust: $549.99; Fuel Management Interface: $279.99 |
|Pro Armor: 888/312-7667; www.proarmor.com ||Pro MX bumper: $118.95; fat peg nerf bars: $429.95; full chassis armor: $124.95; swingarm guard: $146.95 |
|Hygear Suspension: 607/533-7434; www.hygearsuspension.com ||Pro Package rebuild: $1299; front shock travel mod: $100 |
|GPR Stabilizer: 619/661-0101; www.gprstabilizer.com ||Low-mount stabilizer: $450 |
|Rox Speed FX: 218/326-1794; www.roxspeedfx.com ||Pivoting risers: $79.95 |
|Pro Design Racing: 714/534-0620; www.prodesignracing.com ||Pro Flow air cleaner kit, with K&N: $118.95 |
|PWR: 877/656-9256; www.pwr-performance.com ||Oversize radiator kit: $449 |
|PowerMadd: 800/435-6881; www.powermadd.com ||Star Series hand guards: $34.95; mounting kit: $24.95 |
|Fasst Company: 562/601-8119; www.fasstco.com ||Flexx bars: $329.99 |
|Maxxis: Contact your local dealer; www.maxxis.com ||Six-ply Razr 2 21x7-10 front tires: $105 ea.; six-ply Razr 20x11-9 rear tires: $95 ea. |
|HiPer Wheels: 877/464-4737; www.hiperracingwheels.com ||Tech-3 10x5 front, 4+1 offset: $221 ea.; Tech-3 9x9 rear, 3+6 offset: $291 ea. |
|Can-Am: Contact your local dealer; www.can-am.brp.com ||A-arm protectors: $69.99; front plastic grille: $16.99; Regina Z-ring chain: $103.49 |
|Quad Tech-ATV: 949/859-7823; www.quadtech-atv.com ||Seat cover with hump: $170 |
|G4-Graphics: 866/884-2207; www.goforitgraphics.com ||Razor yellow/black graphics kit: $69.99 |
|+ ||More manageable power and much |
|With any add-ons, a lot of tweaking and |
dialing in is required.
|= ||This DS has been transformed into a trail |