Long Haul Update: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F

Test rider Nick Evennou gives us a long haul update on our 2016 Kawasaki KX450F.

Primary Use: Weekly Riding, Tracks, Ramps and Hills

Main Mods: Dunlop MX32 tires, FMF Racing 4.1 Ti System, Limited Decal Custom Graphics, Race Tech Fork Spring Conversion System, Ride Engineering Front Brake Caliper

Moment of Glory: Hitting the 120FT Ramp at FitzLand.

Forgettable Experience: Getting the swaps at Chaney Ranch in the roller section and almost having a heart attack!

Hours: 36

Nick Evennou updates us on our 2016 KX450F Long Haul bike
You can still rear end steer the 16 KX450F, but now the Kawasaki will gel with front end steering riders as well.Photo by Metal Mulisha

After the 2016 Dirt Rider 450 MX Shootout came to a close, I was pretty dead set that the Yamaha YZ450F and the Kawasaki KX450F were my two favorite machines without a doubt. Having the 2016 KX450F for a few months now, I've started to get acclimated to it more now than when I rode it at the shootout.

Since starting this Long Haul project, I have been able to ride at Pala Raceway, Chaney Ranch, Milestone, Fitzland FMX and in the hills of Southern California. Pala Raceway and Chaney Ranch are two of the most jump filled, choppy tracks in Southern California, so getting a gauge of the Kawasaki’s suspension was key here at these tracks.

I started the session at Pala with the suspension set up stock, but quickly moved things a bit stiffer to my style of riding. The front fork inner chamber was set to 183PSI, outer at 15PSI, balance chamber at 220 PSI, and compression at eight turns out, as well as the rebound set to 12. The KX450F was easier to put into corners and now was able to stick around the whole turn. The FMF Racing 4.1 Ti Full System gave the KX better low-end grunt out of corners that the stock engine character was missing. It also made the top end pull slightly longer down long straights. With the FMF muffler installed it still feels slightly less powerful off the bottom than a 16 YZ450F however.

Nick Evennou jumps the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F
Our test rider Nick Evennou took delivery of our 2016 Kawasaki KX450F in stock form and piece by piece started making changes to the green machine.Photo by Metal Mulisha

As I tested at more tracks that were deteriorated and rough I noticed how the suspension still wasn’t the way I wanted it. I started go stiffer on my shock settings, so the bike wouldn’t wallow through rollers and could track more and not dance around so much on me. I noticed this helped in the fast and rough sections of most tracks, allowing me to attack with more confidence. I am still not a huge believer in the air fork, but with the way the manufacturers are all going we will have to get used to it sooner than later! After messing with the air fork for a while I decided I would try the Race Tech Spring Conversation Kit, which eliminates your air forks. If you are like me and keep it “old school” and like a lot of front end feel this is a must. I did not have to check air pressures before every ride; I just unloaded the bike and went riding. Just like old times! Race Tech was very courteous to giving me a set up that met my needs right off the bat, so it made things bit easier to get comfortable. The front fork felt plusher over square edge and I could hit the rougher part of the track instead of trying to find ways around it. Leaning into corners I felt like I had more traction and front end bite, especially when the ground got hard packed. I am going to test a race Tech spec’d rear shock soon, so stay tuned.

One other new item that we installed on the Kawasaki was the Ride Engineering Front Brake System that comes with a steel braided cable and billet caliper. If you are an Intermediate to a Pro skilled level rider, this is a product that tremendously helps the mighty green machine slow down in a hurry. It has a powerful feel at the lever, but it is not too grabby. With the stock front brake I noticed it faded a little when I abused it too much, but the Ride Engineering front caliper never seemed to fade and it is always powerful when you need it to be.

Nick Evennou, 2016 Kawasaki KX450F Long Haul Bike Update
Our 2016 Kawasaki KX450F has seen many ramps with test rider Nick Evennou at the controls.Photo by Metal Mulisha

My overall impression of the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F now has drastically changed since I made these modifications. The second place finisher in Dirt Rider's 2016 450 MX Shootout could now be a contender to win in my eyes, with just the couple minor tweaks that I made in the last couple months. I will be putting in more time on the KX450F, along with making a shock valving change and possibly a clamp offset change in my next update.

Nick Evennou, 2016 Kawasaki KX450F Long Haul Bike Update
The KX450F now equipped with the Race Tech Spring Fork Conversion kit hits a sizable gap at the Fitzland compound.Photo by Metal Mulisha