From the May/June 2012 issue of ATV Rider Magazine.
The Yamaha Raptor 700R and factory Yamaha GNCC champion Traci Cecco are legends to those of us who worship the ATV and off-road community. When Cecco bum-rushed the racing scene back in 1999, she was the catalyst that helped woods racing women all over the country focus their attention on the GNCC series. Cecco’s accomplishments and friendly trackside manner have made her an immediate icon and ambassador for the sport, and she’s won eight championships throughout her incredibly successful career. When the Raptor 700 first hit these shores back in 2006, it left a similar impression on the fans of open-class big-bore sport ATVs. Growing up together in the Anthracite Coal Region of Central Pennsylvania, I’ve known Traci and her family for years. So when a fresh, new Yamaha Raptor 700R became the canvas for our ATV Rider Magazine build project, it was a no-brainer to set Traci up on a hot date with the finished product to test it out! As it turned out, Traci enjoyed thrashing our Raptor almost as much as I enjoyed shooting photos of her bludgeoning it. Besides, Traci’s personality, beauty and mad riding skills were no match for the heinous, odorous, objectionable test riders we typically attract.
The start of any quality build begins with a solid foundation. The compact, CAD-designed stock frame on the Raptor 700R houses big power within a small package. Because of the Raptor’s torquey stock powerplant, tearing into the engine to extract more power wasn’t necessary. Instead, we focused on utilizing bolt-ons to uncork the inner demon lurking within. Keeping the motor stock also retains the reliability inherently engineered into the engine’s original design. To help the 700R exhale more efficiently, a Duncan Fat Boy 4 exhaust and a Vortex EFI Interceptor fuel controller round out the performance enhancements.
The first time I ever rode a stock Raptor 700, I was amazed at how smooth and compliant the stock suspension was. With that said, there is always room for improvement. With the thought of building the perfect Raptor in mind, our goal was to not only widen it slightly, but also install a suspension system that would allow us to adjust both caster and camber settings. Houser A-arms were chosen for our project due to their solid reputation, durability and ease of adjustment. Bolted to the Houser arms are a set of Fox Float XL Evols up front and a Podium X rear. Both have high- and low-speed compression adjustment as well as adjustable rebound. On the back end, we added a Tusk Off-Road adjustable-width axle paired with its three-piece locking axle nut.
To keep the Fasst Company Flexx bars on the Raptor at bay in harsh terrain at terminal velocity, we opted for a Pro Moto Billet Fastway System 3 steering stabilizer to handle that task. Flexx handlebars have been around for years, and their ability to absorb energy by flexing is undisputed. Their performance is badass, and we all know it. Houser Racing took that concept of energy absorption one step further and applied it to its Pro Bounce nerf bars with flexible footpegs. Since our A-arms are MX width, longer brake lines were in order. Galfer hooked us up with a killer custom blue front and rear set of stainless steel lines, which we plumbed into the stock Yamaha calipers that grab Galfer Wave rotors with Galfer pads. Since we removed the parking brake to save weight, a billet-aluminum parking brake cover from XCBob’s handles the chore. To protect the salty rear rotor and sprocket, we utilized Blingstar dual sprocket and rotor guards.
To get all of the power to the ground, we wrapped DWT Alumilite Rok Out front wheels and Rok’n Lock rear beadlocks with Maxxis’ killer new six-ply front and rear Razr XC tire. To wrap things up, we tailored the look of our Raptor with a complete set of white carbon-fiber Maier replacement plastic. Finally, the icing on the cake is a QuadTech Hump seat, a minimalistic and sharp-looking Duncan chrome front bumper, Pro Moto Billet hand guards and a custom graphics kit made by G4 Graphics.
Circling the ATV Rider Raptor 700R like my chocolate Lab Louie implementing a plan to devour my daughter’s socks, I couldn’t help but admire just how damn handsome this monster is. The combination of white carbon-fiber Maier plastic, blue/black QuadTech seat, the flashy G4 custom graphics kit and the contrast between the black stock frame and bright blue Houser accessories make this Raptor finer looking than a new set of snow tires! If it’s truly possible to fall in love with an ATV, you may want to keep your distance from this one Bubba.
With my gimpy leg thrown over the QuadTech Hump seat, I flicked the starter and lit the raging Raptor to life with a roar reminiscent of a prehistoric dinosaur! The Duncan Fat Boy is loud, so if your neighbors don’t hate you yet, it won’t be long! Although exceptionally loud, the Fat Boy makes nice, linear power throughout the rev range. As I pulled in the clutch, clicked it down into first and proceeded to row through the gears, I was amazed at just how well the machine fit me. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, I sometimes feel a little cramped on a sport quad. With the addition of the Houser +1 stem and the Flexx bars, though, I fit perfectly. If this were Traci Cecco’s permanent ride, on the other hand, we’d have to certainly make some changes to suit her tiny frame.
I’ll go on record stating that the stock Raptor shocks are certainly one of the most comfy stock units on the planet. However, simply put, the Fox Float X Evol fronts and Podium X rear are utterly amazing. With tunable high- and low-speed compression and rebound and ride-height adjustment, it is relatively simple to dial the machine into a level unattainable with stock suspension. The biggest asset of owning Fox shocks is their innate ability to endure abuse for a much longer duration than a stock shock. They do this by more effectively dissipating the heat that normally causes shock fade and ultimately leads to shock failure. The Houser long-travel front end worked great, and it gave us the confidence that we could nail the perfect setup in just a few test runs.
Speaking of a comfortable ride, when riding in the standing position, the Houser Pro Bounce nerf bars certainly help take the harshness out of hard hits and landings. I’ve had both knees reconstructed, and unfortunately, the knees I’m stuck with feel every violent hit. The Houser Pro Bounce nerfs are phenomenal and are especially worth consideration for a pilot with wadded-up knees! Additionally, often missed in the evaluation of suspension is how front wheel travel translates into unwanted feedback felt through the handlebar. If you’re going to ride hard, a good steering stabilizer is a great investment. Our Pro Moto Billet Fastway System 3 stabilizer did a remarkable job of eliminating unwanted twitchiness at high speeds while also providing effective damping to keep roots, ruts, rocks and tree stumps from ripping the bar out of the pilot’s hands.