Kawasaki redesigned this bike two years ago with
weight loss and improved handling as the primary goals.
The chassis was changed much more than the motor,
which dates back to a time before anyone thought that
electric start would be a trend in motocross. So, now the
KX450F is one of the two that still has a kickstarter. It’s the
lightest of the Japanese bikes, due in part to its air fork.
While the other Japanese bikes have returned to springs
(aside from Yamaha, which never left), Kawasaki is using
a Showa SFF fork with three separate air chambers in the
Without a doubt, handling is the KX450F’s calling card.
It doesn’t do anything wrong, and it feels much lighter than
any of the Japanese bikes. It is, in fact, around 9 pounds
lighter than the Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha, which is easily noticeable. While the KX’s peak power is less than most
of the others, it has more low-end power than any of them,
and that makes it very easy to ride. The suspension, once
you get the fork dialed in, is excellent, and the bike has
very neutral ergonomics, which can be further customized
with the adjustable footpeg height and handlebar position.
Pros will notice that the KX doesn’t rev out and is down
on peak power compared to most of the others. The performance and weight of the Showa Triple Air SFF forks
are good, but the fork is very hard to work with. The three
air chambers have different values and different functions,
and it’s easy to get lost. Unless you know exactly what
you’re doing, any deviation from the stock settings is risky.
The front brake is the weakest in the group. The handlebar is an old-school 7/8-inch unit. The grips are hard, and
the muffler is the loudest in the test. The motor frequently
pops on decel. It doesn’t have electric start and is still 6
pounds heavier than the KTM and Husky.
The Kawasaki is easy to ride but hard to own. The handling is without flaw, and the torquey motor makes it an
absolute pleasure to ride, but it has a number of nagging
issues, like the overly complicated fork, the mediocre
brakes and the little bars that are hard to overlook. Yes,
it’s lighter than the Japanese bikes, but it needs to offer
more in exchange for the lack of e-start.
KX450F Safe refuge
Weight: 231 lb (without fuel) MSRP: $8849.