2019 Off-Road Factory Racebikes—Josh Strang’s Kawasaki KX450

Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Kawasaki racebike for the GNCC and Full Gas Sprint Enduro series

Josh Strang’s Kawasaki KX450
Kawasaki has made its return to off-road racing in 2019 with its backing of Babbitt's/Monster Energy/Kawasaki teammates Josh Strang and Jordan Ashburn in the GNCC and Full Gas Sprint Enduro series.Darrin Chapman

Kawasaki has made its return to off-road racing in 2019 with its backing of Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Kawasaki teammates Josh Strang and Jordan Ashburn in the GNCC and Full Gas Sprint Enduro series. Strang and Ashburn have been consistently fast so far this season, and it’s clear from the team’s presence that it intends on challenging for championships. At the opening round of the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series in Gaston, South Carolina, we spoke with Strang’s mechanic, Joey Mauer, about the inner workings of his KX450.

The engine is mostly stock, including the piston and valves. The exhaust system is by Pro Circuit and the clutch components are from Hinson Racing. According to Mauer, other than that, the engine is stock. For Strang, Mauer changed the gearing and swapped out the 19-inch rear wheel for an 18-inch.

Josh Strang’s Kawasaki KX450
Kawasaki has made its return to off-road racing in 2019 with its backing of Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Kawasaki teammates Josh Strang and Jordan Ashburn in the GNCC and Full Gas Sprint Enduro series.Darrin Chapman

“Went up one tooth in the rear and put an 18-inch wheel on it,” Mauer said. “The stock motor is awesome. Everybody keeps asking, ‘It’s a motocross bike—how do you get away with it in off-road?’ Mitch [Payton’s] exhaust system smooths the power out and makes it a little bit longer, but it makes it really smooth and easy to ride. If you’re a motocross guy and you want to hammer it and the thing to take off, you can clutch it. You can do whatever you want, but it’s a nice roll-on power. There’s a lot, so you just give it less gas.”

As far as the ignition, there are three maps—Mild, Standard, and Aggressive. Strang uses the standard map at most races. “The Aggressive is aggressive,” Mauer offered. “It’s a big step [up from standard]. The Mild is maybe like for the Snowshoe GNCC or something. We’re working toward stuff like that [and are] already thinking about settings for that race. For races where we know it’s going to be hard and slick, we may go to a Mild setting. It’s a nice and easy tune. It’s just a plug—you plug it in and plug another one out. It’s awesome. You’re not changing the whole mapping, just kind of retarding the ignition or advancing it. That’s basically what it’s doing.”

Mauer builds the engines at Fred Andrews’ shop and leaves the suspension work to Pro Circuit. “We do all of our own engine work; the only thing we do at Pro Circuit is suspension,” Mauer mentioned. “We don’t do suspension, but we [build] the engines and chassis. Most people know that [Jim “Bones” Bacon] retired [from Pro Circuit] and Adam Walters has stepped in to do the suspension work in his absence,” Mauer said. “Adam used to be at Showa and he actually did Josh’s stuff when he rode Suzukis, so Adam and Josh kind of have a little bit of a relationship already. Bones is still involved. Most people don’t know, but he’s still there, just [doing] behind-the-scenes stuff.”

The team uses Xtrig triple clamps with a standard offset. According to Mauer, Strang’s control setup is pretty standard.

“Josh runs a pretty low bar, pretty straight,” Mauer told us. “He runs a Renthal 821 bend. He’s pretty normal [as far as] setup [and is similar to] most riders. Most guys want their bars straight. They don’t want the sweep or anything. He’s a pretty natural setting, really. Nothing crazy [and] nothing abnormal. Lever height, bar height—all that’s kind of normal.”

18-inch rear wheel with 240mm rear rotor.
The stock 19-inch rear wheel is swapped out for an 18-inch. They also use a 240mm rear rotor instead of the stock 250mm unit.Darrin Chapman

The 2019 Kawasaki KX450 comes with a 270mm front brake rotor, which Strang and Ashburn opt to use, but use a smaller size rear rotor than stock.

“We were going to try a 260mm front rotor, but Josh and Jordan actually got used to the 270mm rotor and love them,” Mauer said. “It’s a lot of braking power and they don’t have to use the brakes so hard. The [stock rear rotor] is a 250mm rotor, so we downsized that a little. Mainly just because for off-road, we’re worried about ruts and stuff. We went down to a 240mm rotor for the rear.”

Mauer told us the stock Nissin brakes are awesome and that Strang has had issues with his rear brakes getting hot on previous bikes he has ridden, so Mauer keeps an eye on them as a precaution.

“The [Nissin brakes] don’t overheat that bad,” he said. “Everything’s pretty good with them, so that’s not an issue. Nothing against Brembo; they work great, but I think they get hot. I know the KTMs and Husqvarnas run a small [rear] rotor. They have a 220mm, while Josh is running a 240mm. It’s a bigger rotor, so it cools better. If we have an issue, we’ll go up to a 250mm, but I think we’re going to be fine with the 240mm.”

The team uses D.I.D rims, Mitas tires, SRT mousses, IMS fuel tanks, and Acerbis hand guards.

“The SRT mousses have a nice, soft feel,” Mauer offered. “Sometimes with mousses, you struggle with them, but the guys seem to really like them. Both Josh and Jordan are new to Mitas tires. They love them [and have given us] good feedback on them. We’re running IMS tanks for GNCC, and are running their pegs and [other items] now too. The hand guards are Acerbis. Both guys run hand guards and neither one of them want to run bark busters. It seems like that’s a thing that’s going away from off-road. For us mechanics, it kind of sucks because the guys can break stuff.”

As far as personal preferences, Mauer told us that Josh runs just a tiny bit of play in his throttle cable, while his clutch and brake are standard. The radiators and hoses are all stock. “The only thing we do is run a crimped hose connector instead of a hose clamp or anything like that,” Mauer said.

The team gave Strang a bone-stock KX450 at the beginning of the year, and added parts and made adjustments from there.

“We put triple clamps on it because we can move the bars in different spots, and that’s what we were going to race with too,” Mauer mentioned. “The offset of the handlebar mounts are a little different than stock, so that was the biggest reason to put that on the bike. We put stock suspension on with [different] springs, and we installed a Pro Circuit exhaust. Other than that, the bike was bone stock and he immediately fell in love with it. He said he’s never ridden a stock bike before; he’s always just got a racebike.”