Riding the Oregon Dunes on Can-Am's 2009 DS 450 X mx gave some insight into the potential of this sport ATV.
450 motocross quad is pinned headed down this beige mountain. Engine vibrations rattle through the bars and choppy sand skims underneath the paddle tires heading into the bowl. The motor bogs as G-force sacks the suspension; our shoulders and helmet sag under the weight. The right thumb never lifts and suddenly we’re upright again. Up the other side, chop the throttle, downshift and squat on the right heel. It rains grit. We can do this all day…
Can-Am makes three versions of the DS 450 EFI X sport quad. The standard DS is an all-around performer while the DS xc brings cross-country racing amenities and the DS mx targets hard-core motocross. We picked the moto version for a dune trip along the Oregon Coast. The DS 450 mx might make its home around groomed berms and manicured jumps, but every rider and sport ATV deserves a vacation to the beach. Steep climbs, long sidehills, deep whoops and twisty trails make for a unique experience, and ATVs are perhaps the best way to experience sand riding.
It’s incredibly easy to change riding position on the DS. The 33-inch-high seat is a narrow, flat platform that allows the rider to hang off and scoot their butt around. Because it’s a motocross seat and designed for short, intense sprint sessions, there isn’t much in the way of all-day comfort. The front is particularly skinny, but the wide bars, burly footpegs and wide aluminum nerf bars and heel protectors give all the tools necessary to stand up and manhandle the DS.
The ALTEC chassis and KYB suspension components give the DS mx a very aggressive stance.
“It takes a little getting used to,” said experienced sand rider Scot Gibson as we bounced back and forth between several different machines. “It comes pretty quick though and now I don’t want to get off of it. This thing is a blast.”
Scot was referring to the aggressive motocross stance provided by the aluminum dual-pyramidal ALTEC chassis that handled unlike any of the other quads on our dune trip, including some Suzuki QuadSport Z400s
. Obviously the Can-Am has more serious intentions than these general purpose sport ATVs, but they served as a good comparison for the sake of highlighting the MX influence. With a 50-inch-wide stance, the DS has great stability through turns. Wide aluminum handlebars placed in an aggressive, forward position give the rider strong control over the front end. We liked the Can-Am’s ability to hammer through whoops as well, only noting the moto-spec width on the tighter sand trails that snake along the fringes of the open dunes.
It’s difficult to feel the finer suspension action with paddle tires and deep sand, but there were no complaints from any riders about the Kayaba components. For our trail use and play riding we left the adjustments alone. Getting the mx into its natural motocross environment will prove more use of the available compression, rebound and preload settings. We’re no professional FMX riders, but our largest jumps were handled with ease. Heavy acceleration G loads were the only way we taxed the 9.5 inches (front) and 10.5 inches (rear) of travel. An area called Coliseum Dune provided the hardest impacts as we compressed the suspension, and our spines, with a fifth-gear bomb through the tallest bowl.
The stock 18-inch QuadCross MX PRO tires and black aluminum ITP wheels were left mounted up front but we switched to paddles in the rear; the combination adding to the chassis balance and handling. A stinkbug feel with large emphasis on the front tires is probably great when trying to stick it inside of a Yamaha YFZ450R
or Suzuki QuadRacer R450
on the moto track. It was exaggerated by the sand. The rear end slid easily and predictably, but it took far more effort to transfer enough weight rearward to get the front end up. It was imperative to get as far back over the 50-inch wheelbase as possible to lighten the front end in the whoops.
Steering is so quick with the chassis balance that the DX moves around in the whoops. It’s difficult to skim the front without it wanting to bite and change direction, but even with the sharp handling, the suspension never did anything weird and we were able to just let the quad wander a bit. The wide footprint was much better than more narrow arrangements when the whoop road starts winding. The motor and suspension worked well enough that we headed for the moguls when others tried a different line. Excellent grip on the pegs and strap webbing in the nerf bars didn’t hurt anything either. Aluminum spacers on the rear axle provide half-inch increments of adjustment to form a track width from 46 inches to 50 inches wide.
Fortunately, the burly motor and durable clutch were up to the task of constant wheelies. The Rotax powerplant uses a 97 x 60.8mm bore/stroke to churn out the abusive power. Even with the drag created by deep sand, the Can-Am moves forward in a hurry (and it only moves forward because the five-speed tranny lacks reverse). Only a the KTM 450 SX has a bore as large and Can-Am uses 38mm intake valves and 31mm holes on the exhaust end. Speaking of exhaust, ours was equipped with an
The X mx wasn't designed for the sand, but it excels nonetheless.
aftermarket system from Motoworks. The SR4 system is supposed to boost power throughout the rev range, though we never got a chance to try a stock unit. What we can say for certain is that it was extremely loud.
The EFI system gave us no qualms. It was nice not having to worry about jetting when we got to the oxygen-rich coastline. Electric start is nice but the Can-Am can be stubborn. We had to find neutral about half the time before it would light – no big deal when you’re dinking around on the sand, but an issue during a motocross race. Inverted brake calipers allow for 182mm discs up front, but we never used any brakes in the sand so we’re not sure how well they slow down the potent motor.
It was a brief introduction to the 2009 Can-Am DS 450 X mx, but we wanted more time on it once our trip was over. The 450 sport ATV market is dominant on the dunes and the Can-Am proved why with its awesome motor and beefy suspension. Getting the front end to ride a bit higher and slow the steering a bit would help, but this quad is designed for the track where those handling traits are exactly what’re needed.