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I’ve had the opportunity to ride Todd Water’s race bikes multiple times since becoming MX Editor for ADB in June, 2014, and each time they’ve been a different colour.

In June, 2016, I tested his factory Suzuki RM-Z450 and in December, 2017, I got the opportunity to review his Honda CRF450R.

As I prepared to swing a leg over his latest ride, the DPH Motorsports Husqvarna FC450, you’d think I’d have a decent idea of how Waters likes to set up his bikes. You’d expect there to be a certain pattern being followed with both the motor and suspension wouldn’t you?

Well the Todd Waters’ bike mould has been thrown out the window with his latest creation, at least in the motor department anyway. I actually had to look down at the race numbers to make sure I hadn’t hopped on the wrong bike. Yep, it was the #47 machine, sure enough. It took a while to make sense, but more on that in a little bit.


With Waters and me both weighing 80kg I measured up pretty well on his bike, with no need to adjust the ride height. Todd likes a firm set up on the rear and an even firmer fork. The WP Trax shock he runs is not a production unit and is a nice little upgrade from the production unit. Todd runs a 4.5Nm rate spring on the rear with 104mm ride height and 37mm of static sag.

Up front, a 48mm WP Cone Valve fork replaces the standard WP AER air unit that comes stock on Husqvarna motocross bikes. In previous years I’ve had the pleasure of testing WP’s much-sought-after 52mm Cone Valve fork which is still used by factory riders world-wide such as Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin, Dean Wilson, Jason Anderson, Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings.

However, that larger-diameter Cone Valve fork doesn’t seem to be available to distributor-backed riders in Australia anymore. The upgraded components on Todd’s bike can be purchased by your average racer straight from Husqvarna’s Hard
Parts catalogue.

In the motor, the main power characteristics come from the cylinder-head porting job done by DPH Motorsports lead mechanic Jarrod Pyne. Pyne created a head that gives smooth, tractable power while allowing Todd to ride the bike in any part of the power curve.
Compression was added by “decking” the cylinder rather than fitting a high-compression piston. A Vortex ignition was fitted, with engine development guru Phil Tainton doing the ignition tuning to match the VP racing fuel. Todd runs an FMF exhaust system that can be purchased by the public and oversized radiators to help with the overall package.

The standard Magura hydraulic clutch assembly is swapped for the Brembo unit that comes on the KTMs. Finally, the stock 13-48 gearing is changed to 14-49. This is roughly like going down two teeth on your rear sprocket, which will widen the gap between gears and smoothen the power delivery even more. The gearing, along with the powerplant, has been specced to smooth out the power characteristics … something that I am not used to with Todd’s engines.

Our test track was Park4MX in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Being a Thursday morning, the track was about to be open to the public and had been prepped and watered to its usual spectacular level. With enormous amounts of traction and deeply ripped corners and straights the track would rut up and develop lines very quickly. The perfect environment for putting any MX bike through its paces.

After suiting up, I had my first sit on the bike and immediately felt comfortable. I could tell before Pyne measured my ride height that it would be bloody close to spot on and, sure enough, I measured up identical to Waters. The bend of ODI handlebar that Waters runs is slightly higher with more sweep than what I would run, but the positioning of it and the levers was spot on for me. The only thing I changed was to get rid of the five or so millimetres of free play in the throttle that Waters runs (I run about 1mm). Other than that we were good to throw down some warm-up laps.

My initial circuits around Park4MX were quite relaxed. The last thing you want to do when you ride someone’s precious racer is to throw it down the track, so a bit of caution is used during the “get to know you” period. My first thoughts were about the suspension and the familiar feeling of stability and firmness that I always get from Todd Waters’ bikes.

Victorian suspension specialist Krooztune has the task of fine tuning the valving of all the DPH Motorsports Husqvarna race team bikes and does a fine job customising each machine to the rider’s needs.

The shock holds up well but also has a nice plushness to it. The Cone Valve fork is firm and demands to be ridden at least somewhere near Todd’s pace. No surprises there. If you cruise around slowly you’ll be lucky to move them a few centimetres. The balance from fork to shock really allows you to ride aggressively over the front of the bike through the jumpy sections of the track with not even the slightest feeling of being jacked over the ’bar.

If you even try to hang off the back of this bike without any body weight on the front end you will feel like you have a BMX fork on it. The brakes felt strong but smooth, the Brembo clutch action felt nice for a hydraulic unit and the pull felt lighter than what I was used to from an FC450.

After my warm-up laps, I headed out for my first proper ride before the photoshoot. I immediately tried to pick up the pace and throw down some hard laps to see what this thing could do. I knew what to expect from Todd’s motors and was well and truly prepared for the gnarly, hard-hitting horsepower that I’ve always loved with his bikes.

After two laps I pulled off on the far side of the track, away from everyone, to gather my thoughts and figure out what was going on. This 450 was not the fire-breathing, hard-hitting engine I thought it would be. It felt smoother and more placid than a stock FC450.

I knew the motor wasn’t slow because Waters had holeshotted the major share of motos so far this year. Then it all started to come clear. Todd has always loved a hard-hitting, strong motor because he is the type of rider who will almost rip the throttle off the bike when he twists it that hard. He is not a Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Cooper Webb type of rider who rolls the power on smoothly.

Waters is a Marvin Musquin, Jason Anderson type of rider who is more likely to grip it and rip it. And, for the first time that I can remember, somebody has taken the time to build him a motor that suits his style. I’m more of a roll-it-on rider so I thought, what the heck, let’s try some Waters’ style riding.

After my next couple of laps I came to the realization that with this motor you can ride it a gear high or a gear low and it will still pull smoothly, and you can either pin it or roll that throttle on smoothly and it will still track nicely and mask most of your mistakes. The quicker you twist that throttle the quicker the motor reaches its sweet spot. Pyne and the team have really created a masterpiece here. Not for Dean Ferris or Kirk Gibbs, and certainly not for me, but for Todd Waters, which is what matters.
Just like any factory race team bike there are certain bits and pieces on the machine that aren’t going to suit everybody. And one of the most interesting parts of Waters’ bikes is his tyre/tube setup. Todd likes to run a mousse tube in the rear and a normal tube in the front. And he doesn’t just run a mousse tube in the rear because he doesn’t want to get a puncture, he actually prefers the feel of it.

I must say that I quite liked the feel of the rear-end with the mousse tube but the 12.5psi that Todd runs in his front Pirelli tyre is just not enough for me and I was getting a little bit of tyre roll in turns. Air pressure is such a personal thing though and what may be right for one rider may be totally off for another. Fourteen pounds for me in the front and we were good to go!

Well, there you have it. The DPH Husqvarna FC450 #47 race machine is exactly what a factory bike should be, and that is customized for its rider. I can’t remember riding a bike that is more suited to Todd’s style. And that may be why we have been seeing him in career-best form.


Gearing: 14/49
Exhaust: FMF system from Husqvarna Hardparts
Forks: WP 48mm Cone Valve fork
Shock: WP Trax monoshock
Suspension: Valving and setup by Krooztune
Handlebar: ODI Podium Flight, Xtrig PHDS handlebar mounts
Levers: ARC
Chain: EK
Sprockets: Super Sprox
Graphics: The Collective
Ignition: Vortex ignition tuned by Phil Tainton
Clutch: Brembo master cylinder and slave cylinder
Tyres: Pirelli with a Nitro mousse tube on the rear and normal tube in the front
Seatcover: Topline
Cylinder Head:
• Porting by JP Performance
• Polished gearbox
• Factory coolant pump impeller
• Oversize radiators