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2006 ATK 450 Enduro Comparison

Monday, May 22, 2006
Hopping up vertical ledges was simple with the ATK’s predictable handling and relatively jump-friendly suspension.
We flogged the lesser-known American machine through everything the other bikes went through, and more. Just because it's heavy and slightly outdated doesn't mean that it won't hang with the group. This bike stands out from the crowd with its expensive componentry and unique design.
2006 ATK 450 Enduro
The Crowd Pleaser

Motor-wise, the American machine makes plenty of noise with its whiny fuel injection and wide-ratio, cassette-style 5-speed transmission. Our test bike still had the motocross silencer on it, so the exhaust note was unruly as well. But aside from the amplified volume, the ATK led the torque category with an impressive 39.4 lb-ft. Despite being the heaviest of the crowd, the motor was able to pull all 270 pounds up and over any obstacle we came across. A 12.5:1 compression ratio was the second-highest of the group and is more comparable to 450 motocrossers than this arrangement of off-road machines.

An aluminum perimeter frame doubles as the oil reservoir, providing an easy-to-use sight bubble on the left-side spar of the American-made bike. Though placed in an unsightly location, it was by far the easiest bike to keep track of oil usage. How the chassis performed was more of a concern to our testers, however. At 38 inches of seat height, only the Yamaha places its riders in such a lofty status. But, thanks to a lower center of gravity, the Yammie feels much more down to earth. Not only is the ATK tall but long as well with a 58.5-inch wheelbase. With 27.5 degrees of rake, the combination doesn't bode well for those addicted to carving tight lines.

"The ATK turns very slowly," says Chamberlain, "but high-speed stability is fairly good."

Though the decision was unanimous, Ken had slightly different take on the situation, having a greater appreciation for this beast's extraordinary nature. "It feels tall and the seat is hard, which took a toll on longer rides, and it could use a softer seat for enduro applications," he admits. "But, overall, the bike feels different than the others, sort of like a Ducati feels different. A hard seat, engine vibes and engine noise are all a part of riding a hand-crafted bike. Some people love that, others prefer to be sedated with smooth, quiet rides. If that is for you then the ATK might be too much to handle. If you like the rawness, this bike is fun."
ATK owners should be prepared to bust out the jumper cables at some point. While the battery held up well under normal conditions  leaving the lights on will leave you stranded.
Adding a set of jumper cables to your tool kit is a necessity for ATK owners. Without the inclusion of a foot-operated starter, it's doubly important not to leave your lights on when the engine is turned off.

Lacking a kickstart, the levers that it does come with work very well. The brakes aren't the strongest we've tested, but they do an admirable job of slowing this monster down. Steel-braided brake lines add quality, reliability and strength while boosting cool factor. Clutching and shifting were also good on the ATK, though we were a bit more likely to miss shifts on the American bike than on the Honda or KTM.

We've been able to put some serious time on this bike between the 450 Motocross test and the revamped enduro version. The more we ride the ATK, the more those things we like about it stand out, and conversely, the deeper its thorns bury themselves in our tender sides. Regardless of the quirks, the American bike continually impresses us with its adaptability, craftsmanship and dependability. Yes, a dead battery has left us searching for jumper cables a time or two, but when you consider the testing we've put this bike through, plus the 350-mile dual-sport ride we threw in afterwards, the ATK proved to be a really solid bike.

Like we discovered during our motocross test, whether you're at the track, unloading area, gas station, parts house or coffee shop, people will want to talk to you about the ATK. You've just got to ask yourself, does individuality and dependability overcome the cost, weight and rude behavior of the American machine? Well does it, punk?

ATK Notes:
- Second-best hydraulic clutch.
- No kick starter is a bad thing when the electric unit craps out.
- One piece radiator is going to be expensive to replace.
- Carry spare fuses.
- Normal use bent kickstand into uselessness.
- All it needs is a license plate to be street legal.
- MSRP: $7,895


American dirt bikes are few and far inbetween. Special thanks to Oregon's Best Motorsports for letting us repeatedly bash one of their personal dealership bikes.


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