FORK WORKS: TBT RACING’S KAYABA SSS VET MX SETUP
One of the strangest phenomena in the world of motocross suspension is the total dominance of Yamaha’s Kayaba SSS suspension. Amazingly, Kayaba SSS suspension, the forks and shock, were first introduced in 2006, and over the ensuing 11 years, nothing has come close to matching their performance. Back in 2006 when MXA first raced with Kayaba SSS suspension, we said, “There is no doubt that Kayaba’s new SSS forks are the best on the track in 2006. By switching from position-sensitive damping to speed-sensitive damping, the latest Kayabas are very fluid (and still resist bottoming). The shock is a works shock—18mm shock shaft, Kashima-coated internals, 30-percent-larger reservoir and titanium shock spring.”
Now, flash-forward a decade and read what MXA said about the 2017 Kayaba SSS suspension: “Where are the air forks on the YZ450F? Hopefully, they are in a dumpster behind the Yamaha factory. Yamaha’s Kayaba SSS suspension uses old-fashioned coil springs. Guess what? Coil springs never go flat, and unlike air pressure, coil springs follow the ground for improved control. No one ever comes in from a moto and says, ‘I think I need to change my coil springs before the second moto.’ All of this would be meaningless if the fancy air forks were better, equal or even close to as good as Yamaha’s Kayaba SSS suspension, but they aren’t.”
What Yamaha knew 11 years ago—and was brave enough to stick with—is now the new cause célèbre, as every Japanese manufacturer tries to turn back the clock to before the PSF-1, PSF-2 and SFF-TAC ever graced the surface of a motocross track.
It is obvious that MXA admires Kayaba’s SSS suspension, but we aren’t blind to the fact that Yamaha has to choose a middle-of-the-road setup to bridge the gap between Novice, Intermediate, Vet and Pro. So, when we set out to build a project 2017 Yamaha YZ450F for one individual test rider, a former rail-thin AMA Pro who is now closer to 200 pounds, we decided that his fork and shock needed tender-loving care. We chose Travis Flateau’s TBT Racing shop to do the work. Why? Over a year ago, TBT took MXA’s less-than-stellar WP 4CS forks and turned them into air forks by using modified Kayaba PSF-2 internals along with custom valving (this was before WP introduced its highly regarded AER air forks). We loved TBT’s low-pressure air-fork setup. So, when it came time to modify our Yamaha YZ450F’s SSS forks, we turned to TBT again.
TBT re-valved the rear shock by adding more high-speed compression and mid-speed rebound to help the rear wheel follow the ground better. On the front, the mid-speed valve stack was modified to hold the SSS fork higher in its stroke and give a more progressive feel as the bike transitioned from small chop to big bumps. In back-to-back tests against the stock SSS suspension, the TBT setup (known as the Vet MX setup) was noticeably better. We like what TBT did to the forks that we already liked—that’s a compliment.
What does it cost? The complete re-valve, including fork, shock, oil seals, dust seals, fork bushings and fluids, came to $652. This price included all labor. The fork re-valve by itself was $255, while the shock re-valve was $225. TBT has service centers in six different locations to enable more personal service. TBT service centers are located in SoCal, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington and Brazil. For more information, contact TBT Racing at (951) 707-7837 or go to www.tbtracing.com.
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