Riding the 2018 Kawasaki KX450F

Motocross Bike Long Haul Update

2018 Kawasaki KX450F
"The Kawasaki has good stability, a strong motor, and ergonomics that are easy to get along with." —Ricky YorksPete Peterson

Primary use: Motocross

Main Mods: Currently stock but working on a list of new parts to test.

Moment of Glory: Passing two riders at a time on one of many uphills at Glen Helen.

Forgettable Experience: Running the "firm" setting in the air fork at a 45-minute GP race on a rough, beat-up track, which was extremely harsh for the track conditions.

Hours: 19 and climbing every weekend

Aftermath: Two air filters, one oil change, lots of time spent playing with fork air pressure and clickers to find that "perfect" setting

After the 2018 450 MX shootout, I was assigned the Kawasaki KX450F as my Long Haul bike for the rest of year. I was excited because the bike placed in the top three in my personal ratings at both tracks where we tested. I know the KX has good stability, a strong motor, and ergonomics that are easy to get along with. My only real main complaint was the feel of the air fork. That being said, I look forward to riding it, testing parts, and getting some better settings for the bike as I continue to rack up time on the hourmeter.

2018 Kawasaki KX450F in air
"Besides the struggle of finding the balance of comfort and control of the fork, I love the Kawasaki KX450F in stock form." —Ricky YorksPete Peterson

Of all the 2018 450s, the Kawasaki was the only bike that, aside from bold new graphics, was unchanged from the previous year. When I picked up the bike after the shootout, the bike only had around 10 hours on it. I rode my local track, Pala Raceway, a couple of times and set the bike up on the stiffer side for the bigger jumps and relatively smooth layout. A few weeks later, I raced A Day in the Dirt at Glen Helen Raceway. The race was 45 minutes and the Grand Prix-style race was fast paced and rough.

I was still running my same settings (Kawasaki’s stiffer fork spec) for the fork. On the motocross part of the track, the bike felt great. I could stay on top of the big, rolling whoops and charge into the jump faces with confidence knowing I wouldn’t likely bottom out the fork. As I got to the faster, square-edged, rock-infested GP part of the track, I quickly learned that my “firm” fork setting was definitely not optimal for this part of the track.

After the race, I went back and took some notes on my settings. The next track I rode, I made sure to ride later in the day (when the track was rough and choppy) and tried some new settings on the fork and shock. I lowered the fork air pressure to stock air pressure settings and sped up the rebound two clicks in the rear shock. This did cause the bike to bottom easier on the big jumps, but it gained some comfort in the small braking and acceleration bumps in and out of the corners.

2018 Kawasaki KX450F on straightaway
"In the upcoming months, I would like to try to get the fork revalved or possibly test some spring forks back to back to see what difference they would make." —Ricky YorksPete Peterson

Besides the struggle of finding the balance of comfort and control of the fork, I love the Kawasaki KX450F in stock form. The motor is great and has plenty of power from bottom to top. I like the way the bike revs, which is very smooth and quickly. It also has very little engine braking. I like that the bike is very stable at higher speeds too. To top it off, the stock 7/8-inch 971-bend Renthal handlebar is my favorite bend. In the upcoming months, I would like to try to get the fork revalved or possibly test some spring forks back to back to see what difference they would make.

I look forward to logging more hours on this bike and giving all the Kawasaki fans some feedback on what products I test. Check back soon for updates on the big 450 green machine.