After several months of having this beast on an ATV stand and watching it slowly come together, I don't have any fingernails left to bite. I waited in suspense as the day finally came to top off the fluids, install the trick new custom G4 graphics and race to the ATVR testing grounds. Photos come first, and since I was going to be operating a camera, John "The Serbian Sensation" Jovanovic, our trusty photo monkey, would be the first to throw a leg over the Raptor. I had already taken a few short test runs to make adjustments to the controls and such, but I didn't give any indication of what was in store for John. He fired up the Rocket and headed to our first photo location where we met up with him and found a huge smile on his face. His response was just as I expected when he said it was the fastest ATV he'd ever ridden.
Once the photography was complete and Jovanovic received his unexpected rush of adrenaline, it was my turn to rip it up on the Raptor. I knew this wasn't going to be an ordinary test ride from the moment I released the effortless hydraulic clutch and the Raptor took off like a bat out of hell. The power was absolutely ferocious, easily pulling the front wheels off the ground in every gear. It's not like some machines that have awesome bottom- or top-end and lack in the other; this Raptor has the total package. The ridiculous speed this machine is capable of reaching in a very short amount of time quickly becomes obvious as turns approach and you must slow down. Impressive doesn't begin to describe the results that Team Rocket Factory accomplished with this motor, and remember it runs on 93-octane pump gas. Both the Yamaha Rhino 700 and Grizzly 700 use variations of this powerplant and TRF is also known for adding the wow factor to these units.
Even though the Raptor and the YFZ450 share the same front-end geometry I didn't know what to expect from the Raptor's handling. It weighs in at about 50 pounds over that of the YFZ450 and doesn't seem to share the same aggressive nature. This particular machine now sports the exact suspension setup as the GNCC podium regular, Taylor Kiser's YFZ450, and it wasn't long before the overall performance and comfort of the Raptor had me pushing hard. Again, I was impressed as this Raptor blasted through turns and soaked up gnarly, teeth-chattering terrain with ease. It had taken on the preferred handling characteristics of the race-bred YFZ which I'm very familiar with. Much needed stability for this powerhouse was improved across the board tenfold thanks to the Houser/hlins combination with help from GPR's phenomenal damping system. These suspension components work together like Bonnie and Clyde to overcome any obstacle that stands in their way.
I assumed traction would be a serious issue due to the massive horsepower output of this engine, but my assumption was incorrect. The Maxxis Razr is an easy tire to manipulate, and traction can be controlled with the throttle and a little body English. Making transitions between high-speed straights, sweeping corners or hairpin turns can be accomplished with perfection time and time again. Overly aggressive tires can provide too much grip making the machine tippy, while less aggressive tires often cause the Raptor to push through turns and be difficult to control. In my opinion, the Maxxis tire combination paired with DWT's G4 beadlocks provide unmatched quality and performance.
Predictability is essential for any machine to be competitive. If you know without a doubt how your quad will respond to your every action, you can push harder with confidence and ride smarter than the competition. This machine isn't a 405-pound YFZ450R that you can throw around with ease but it is extremely predictable with phenomenal handling and has unmatched speed. With a skilled rider at the controls it will be a tough competitor to beat. I guess I'd better start practicing.
Houser TricTrac System
An ATV's front-end caster setting greatly affects the machine's cornering ability and high-speed stability. The problem of the past is that a single setting had to be determined, and exploiting one function couldn't be achieved without compromising the other. The Houser TricTrac system has solved this problem by utilizing an ever-changing caster setting. This system places the upper ball joint in its ideal position in every possible situation by shifting the upper A-arm forward and back as it is compressed and extended. The caster is decreased as the front end is compressed providing exceptional cornering characteristics, and the opposite effect is achieved as the front end lifts under acceleration increasing the caster. This allows extreme stability during acceleration and at speed. For us, this was a killer innovation by Houser and we greatly enjoyed the benefits of a self-adjusting caster system. This setup comes highly recommended by the ATV Rider staff.