2012 Kawasaki KX450F | First Ride

Prepare for Launch

By Karel Kramer, Photography by Karel Kramer

The 2011 KX450F had arguably the best suspension in its class. And while the actual suspension components are unchanged, they are high-end units, with the only fork in the class boasting a DLC (Diamond Like Coating) on its inner tubes. Upgrades to the internal settings combined with the aforementioned chassis changes make for a bike that isn't upset by bumps-and the track had plenty of those by the end of our two days there! The action is plush-yet-controlled and the clickers make a difference you can feel. Bottoming resistance was good even for heavier riders, and the stock springs worked under a wide range of rider weights and skill levels.

Once we were happy with the handling and had settled on the hard map as our favorite, we explored the KX's ergonomic adjustability. New on the 2012 model is a top triple clamp with a total of four handlebar positions. The rubber-mounted bar dictates that the adjustments are coarser than those of other brands, but they're welcome nonetheless. We settled on the bar mounts bolted in the forward position with the offset clamps turned to the rear.

Kawasaki also cleverly gave the frame two sets of footpeg mounts. Moving the bolts to the second set of holes lowered the pegs by 5mm. We found the extra legroom welcome as it made it easier to get up off the seat. Combined with the forward bar mounts, the stretched-out cockpit was well suited to riders over 6 feet tall.

The KX450F is a motocrosser Kawasaki can be proud of! It has better-than-average stability, handles airtime with ease, its suspension sucks up most anything in its path and it requires less effort to change direction than before. Riding on an unfamiliar track without any competing models (or even a 2011 KX450F) on hand makes it difficult to be absolutely certain, but the steering precision and ability to track into small ruts still feels a little behind the best in the class. Beyond that, though, the KX450F is a masterwork of adjustability combined with tour de force engine performance. That should make it very hard to beat in 2012.

tech SPECS

EVOLUTION
A late entry in 2006, the KX450F has been consistently upgraded to the point that it won the 2011 AMA Supercross Championship.

RIVALS
Honda CRF450R, Husqvarna TC449, KTM 450 SX-F, Suzuki RM-Z450 and Yamaha YZ450F.

Tech

Price: $8399
Engine type: DOHC, 4v
Displacement: 449cc
Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
Compression: 12.5:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 5-speed
Claimed horsepower: na
Claimed torque: na
Frame: Aluminum perimeter
Front suspension: Kayaba 48mm inverted fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Kayaba shock with adjustable spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Nissin two-piston caliper, 250mm disc
Rear brake: Nissin single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire: 80/100-21 Bridgestone M403
Rear tire: 120/80-19 Bridgestone M404
Rake/trail: 26.9°/4.4 in.
Seat height: 37.6 in.
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Fuel capacity: 1.6 gal.
Claimed curb weight: 249 lbs.
Color: Lime Green
Available: Now
Warranty: na
Contact: Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA
9950 Jeronimo Rd.
Irvine, CA 92618
949.770.0400
www.kawasaki.com

VERDICT
For 2012 it may be the other brands that are green-with envy.

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