Three years after a full redesign in 2016, Kawasaki’s top-of-the-line motocrosser receives only minor cosmetic changes for 2018. Fortunately, smooth and predictable power delivery continues to define the 449cc DOHC single, making the KX450F a logical choice for riders transitioning from a 250 to the premier class. This congeniality is further improved by a choice of three different included power couplers: stock, mellow, and aggressive. (We generally like the aggressive coupler as it provides quicker, crisper throttle response.)
The KX450F’s aluminum frame carries a Showa SFF-Air Triple Air Chamber (TAC) fork, which works well enough but requires setting air pressures separately in inner, outer, and balance chambers. (Not to mention tire pressures! Bring your air pumps…) The shock is plush and keeps the rear end nicely planted in tough conditions. Ergonomically, the big Kawi excels, with a slender overall build that lets the rider move about freely whether bombing to the first turn, weighting the front end while cornering, or airing it out over jumps. Like the KX250F, adjustable handlebar mounts and footpegs help tailor the bike to taste.
Likes: Smooth and predictable power delivery, and the included power couplers
Dislikes: Having to adjust three air chambers in the Showa TAC fork
Verdict: A solid performer that requires a technically proficient rider