Kawasaki KX450 – 105.4kg 53.0bhp
The only new parts for the AMA National-wining bike are the graphics, as last year the flagship bike had a major overhaul with a more compact frame, new motor with an electric start and hydraulic clutch, improved suspension and new bodywork. It also has lots of power.
The Showa 49mm spring forks on the KX450 work very well. Stock settings are a bit soft when landing big jumps, but stiffening up the compression improves things.
The rear Showa shock wasn’t liked by either main testers as it pushed through the stroke too quickly at high speed. Stiffening up the compression damping helped, but it wasn’t a total cure.
Overall the KX450 performs well. There is nothing to catch you out and it’s a joy to ride fast.
Motor oil: 1.0 litre
Oil and filter replacement: after break-in then every 15 hours or 6 races
Air filter cleaning: after 2.5 hours use or every race
Piston Replacement: every 15 hours or 6 races
Valves: Check every 15 hours or 6 races
Starter motor: No maintenance required
Front: Dunlop Geomax MX3SF 80 / 100-21
Rear: Dunlop Geomax MX3S 120 / 80-19
What the testers said:
Davide de Bortoli:
The KX450 definitely surprised me. Immediately I liked the overall fit and feel of the bike, and riding it is excellent. It’s manageable in the air and barely less manoeuvrable than the nimble Honda on the straits. In fast corners, it is stable and precise. The suspension is excellent suspension. The rear gives a lot of traction and the fork is a bit soft but stable.
The engine doesn’t have a huge amount of low end or top end, but lots in the mid range. If you don’t get the right gear in a corner, it won’t come out too quick. But get it right and it is very fast.
The Kawasaki instantly impresses with a very good initial feeling, like the Honda. It’s a bike that gives you so much confidence very quickly. You always feel in control. When you open up other bikes they can feel like they drag you along but the Kawasaki remains composed.
The suspension was good, but I adjusted the shock because when I had my weight forward, I lost the back end.
The engine is not explosive but has a nice supply of power that’s not scary. And the launch control works great.
The highlight of the KX450 a year ago was the new twin cam motor. But it’s not as powerful as some of the other 450s which penalizes it at the start. On the other hand Kawasaki has an impressively balanced feeling, coupled with particularly well-sorted ergonomics. That makes for a bike that is truly fun and intuitive to ride.
Both stable and manageable, it gives a confidence-inspiring ride, is neutral in the air and has suspension that works well. It also has great electronics, with the best launch control of the lot.