Yamaha Raptor 700R Mods

Features, Project Quads, Sport ATV — on November 2, 2007 at 12:00 pm

It was almost too cold to ride that late-fall day last year. It was our first official evaluation of the Yamaha Raptor 700R SE we had just received as a long-term test unit and we were lucky to be riding so late in the year. There were clouds of fog over the ditches and swamps along the trail and the morning’s frostiness had yet to melt away into a pleasant fall day.

With cold, white knuckles, we cruised around and scoped out the trails at the riding area waiting for conditions to improve. Eventually the blood started pumping and our core temperatures rebounded as the fog started to lift. Our pace quickened and we started to realize Yamaha’s Raptor 700R was an awesome machine for woods riding.

We liked it so much in our initial review that we said the Raptor could be the ultimate trail machine with a few simple modifications. Immediate braking, incredible torque and stable handling were already in place and nothing needed drastic correction, only minor modifications.

In the days and weeks after that first ride, the idea didn’t go away. How would it look if we replaced the cheapskate black plastic radiator cover and front bumper? How much better would it sound with an aftermarket pipe? And, most of all, what if we widened it out just a bit?

The Beginning
It all sounded good — a mod here and a mod there would be enough to satisfy our curiosity and take the Raptor’s performance to the next level. Since we had the orange and black Special Edition model, it already looked cool and came with upgraded factory shocks.

With that as a jumping off point, we decided to order a few GYT-R components. Looking at the list of possibilities got us pretty fired up and we settled on a new, tougher clutch and a host of aluminum components — skid plate, front grab bar, snazzy radiator guard and a trick brake lever.
Installation for it all, even the clutch components, was a snap. Removing the clutch cover and taking out the components, at first, felt like being forced to perform brain surgery. It all turned out fine, though, and swapping out the clutch components took less than an hour. The rest of the factory Yamaha components were a breeze, but part of the foot peg needed to be ground down to allow the wider GYT-R brake pedal lever to fit. Strange.

We then began checking out our exhaust options and found that HMF Bill Ballance Pro Series with the carbon fiber canister would be a good match. With a little polite finagling, they agreed to make us a one-off unit that would match this orange theme we were on to.

Those few modifications were all it took for us to realize the project must go on.

Loosening Our Grip
Since widening the Raptor’s stance was one of our initial priorities, we got on the horn with Walsh Race Craft. It was the start of the busy race-prep season and they were swamped with orders, but agreed to build us a custom set of A-arms that would work with the upgraded stock shocks and give us an extra inch on each side. Thanks guys! Swapping them out was an extensive task, but we took the opportunity to install some steel braided brake lines from Russell Performance Products, since we were in the neighborhood and all.

Stock as it was, our Raptor sported a boring set of black steel wheels — nothing to see there. MotoSport Alloys’ Redline S3’s had previously caught our eye and we ordered a set finished in diamond chrome and machined black.

We also knew from the start that the Raptor’s stock tires should be upgraded for trail duty. Our previous ride proved them far too mild for our intentions. We settled on a set of Kenda Klaw tires that were intended for hardcore cross-country duty. They were exactly what we were looking for — more traction, without overdoing it or lessening the Raptor’s fun-to-slide character.

We looked to White Brothers Racing for a set of nerf bars. Their brushed aluminum tubing perfectly matched the machine’s aluminum frame. Now our Raptor was starting to look dangerous.

The stock, plain-Jane graphics seemed out of place with all the nice add-ons, so we called up Invision Powersports who previously supplied us with a skull-covered kit for a Polaris Outlaw rebuild that turned out particularly well. They already had some ideas percolating for the Raptor and agreed to custom-design a kit that would match — black, with orange lightning and some subtle skulls hanging out in the faded clouds. The kit dramatically transformed the evolving orange beast.

Spiraling Out Of Control

Since we hadn’t originally set out to do a complete rebuild, we were pleased with how much better the Raptor looked and were excited to test out its new, wider stance, louder growl and improved traction.
It was here where we started to lament the decision to stick with the stock shocks. Sure, they were upgraded from the factory and handled just fine, but we’d come so far! What’s one more modification, but even more fun on the trails?

This time it was Öhlins that answered the call and provided us with a set of progressive rate front shocks to fine-tune compression damping, spring preload and shorten spring stroke at the click of an adjuster. While we had requested a rear shock, they were out of stock and time was wasting — we needed to finish this thing up and ride before the snow started flying again.

What was left? Before it was said and done, we threw on a set of dramatically lighter handlebars from Renthal, some great-feeling grips from Spider, Streamline’s flashy Wave Rotor out back and, finally, the Yamaha blue Bill Ballance steering stabilizer from Precision Racing Products to smooth out trail chatter — giddyup!

On the Trail
After countless months, hours wrenching and, most notably, the day we undertook the graphics kit and seat cover, it was great to finally see the Raptor in its natural trailside habitat. Going on looks alone, the project was a success.

With the soft, grippy Spider grips in hand, the Raptor began its attack on the trails. Although it now sounded better, stopped quicker and felt more comfortable, the front-end changes were clearly the most worthwhile.

Fly down a straight stretch, ease off the throttle and carry your speed through corners — this is the goal out on fast woods trails. Any of the stock Raptor’s (slight) body roll and suspension limitations was banished and replaced with absolute stability and suspension that never lost its composure.

Every move was more deliberate and driver-initiated, rather than the machine’s reaction to ground conditions. While there weren’t any modifications for speed, other than the new exhaust, the “endless project” was much quicker and more rewarding to blast through the woods. As promised, the HMF Ballance Pro Series exhaust delivered more torque on a machine that never had a shortage of twist.
Tight chicanes could be taken faster and the wider front stance provided significantly more leverage to swing the rear end around when called upon. Furthermore, the slightest blip of the throttle brought an immediate reaction in ground speed.

The top-shelf Precision stabilizer also made its presence pleasantly known when the going got rocky. The bars never felt like they were being pried from the fingers, which was another factor that encouraged faster, more controlled riding.

Since we were on private property, we ran the exhaust without the quiet core and were running between 102 and 104 dB. It sounded like it. Trail requirements aside, the quiet core is the way to go. The HMF exhaust note was night-and-day compared to the stock can, though, adding an exclamation point to a visually loud quad.

Turn and Burn
When the dust settled and it was time to reflect on the ride and the differences achieved, the project accomplished everything we intended. Straight from Yamaha, the Raptor 700R is a very fun trail machine. Invest some time and money, though, and the sky’s the limit. Handling, traction, power delivery, ergonomics were all singularly improved. In combination, there are few better choices for tearing it up on the trail.

As for looks, there are endless opportunities for customization. Replacing black plastics went a long way, but the Invision graphics and MotoSport wheels garnered the most attention. Mission accomplished.

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