2008 Kawasaki KLX450 Long Haul Wrap-Up - Dirt Rider Magazine

Long-Term Testing
Long Haul Wrap-Up

2008 Kawasaki KLX450

One of the requirements for borrowing a DR Long Haul bike is that you have to treat it and take care of it like your own bike; not just go out and thrash it like it was someone's bike you'd just stolen. Well, as much as I'd tried to screen our test riders, they created some pretty bad luck for our KLX, or did they just fool me?During the bike's 160 hours it completely overheated-to the point of barely running-at least three times. Whether it was abuse (the first time), a punctured radiator in a race (the second time) or a rider who'd never ridden at night with a discharging electrical system on a coolant catch tank-equipped bike during a Last Man Standing-style training ride (the third time), the riders not only boiled the bike dry, they warped the cylinder/head surface way beyond sealing so the water we added just ended up in the cylinder. No, we really take perfect care of our Long Haul bikes, I promise. Oh, I almost forgot, we raced it at EnduroCross, too; that was easy on it, I swear!So between our last update (February '08) when we'd just rebuilt the bike (splitting the cases and replacing the oil-pickup contraption) from meltdown number two, we again had to take off the top end, resurface the head and replace the cylinder (precautionary), piston and rings. But the head, cams and valves all looked good. The whole time we had this bike we only needed to adjust the valves once. This KLX and its diet of Bel-Ray have surpassed our expectations and survived abuse that would have most likely destroyed other machines. In my history I have not seen bikes take this much abuse without more severe internal damage. Frankly, the engine did not even look like it had become as hot as it had.Aside from having the chain (on a 14-tooth countershaft sprocket set up for desert racing) smack the case saver and break a post off the centercase causing a slight recurring oil leak and resultant use of JB-Weld to keep it sealed, we had zero other motor issues. We only replaced the clutch plates once, just as a precautionary measure before a race. After sawing through a few stock chain guides we replaced it with a T.M. Designworks unit and permanently solved that issue-we should have done that sooner. One of our ongoing issues was the battery charging problems. That was cured with a rewound stator, which we installed primarily to run brighter lights. We were never able to get the high-end (above a solid 100 watts) output we were searching for, but were able to run decent lights when needed. Most of the time that was the Trail Tech Extreme Trail Light, with only a single light (instead of all three) running. Some other goodies that worked out were the Pro Moto Billet kickstand and, for most of the test, their disc guard; EnduroCross tore it off the swingarm. Fasst Company Flexx bars and a brake clevis did us right. And the Acerbis disc guard up front looked good and stayed put.Stock, the KLX is a super trail hound, but it fights going race speed. We fixed that with a Pro Circuit suspension setup which dialed in the chassis for desert racing speeds and didn't lose much comfort on the trail. In fact, it made the bike much more proficient on an MX track as well. We swapped between a Scotts and an Elka steering stabilizer as part of testing, and those both make an already stable bike as straight as an arrow without losing that light feel the KLX has-when they're set up correctly. Adding to make this bike more aggressive was a Two Brothers Racing slip-on muffler that really woke up the bike and kept the sound below a respectable 96 decibels. The improvement to power, with the necessary richer jetting, was quite substantial, with a feeling of boosted torque all the way through the pull.When we tore it all apart we were expecting to find a lot of hidden damage from the overheating. In fact, the internals showed no sign of any damage, and you could not tell of the bike's brutal history from close examination to any of the usual high-wear areas. What we did find was a nearly plugged oil-pickup screen, loaded with silicone (from the rebuilds) and clutch material. If you have a KLX, we suggest you put this screen, found behind the ignition and flywheel, on your yearly checklist. Other than that, there's nothing to report. Kawasaki has done a really good job at shooting oil at all the right places and all the parts are beefy enough to take some abuse.All in all, as a first-year bike, the 2008 KLX450 held up way better than most first-year models, most of which often display some sort of teething issues. That shouldn't be a surprise since the off-road model was so heavily based on the successful KX-F. As a stock bike the KLX was great, and we were easily able to make it into a Long Haul that performed exactly like we wanted.Final Tally
Hours on Bike: 160.0
Modifications: $2551.07 (none since last update)
Maintenance and Repairs: $1484.53 (not including the tires)4 oil changes since last update, with Bel-Ray 10w40 Thumper Oil ($9.79 per qt) and one oil filter ($6.70)
Base gasket: $8.52
Head gasket: $25.84

Behold: 160.0 hours of desert-, single-track- and EnduroCross-induced abuse. May our 2008 KLX rest in pieces.
Pro racer Chris Barrett was our main hour-logger on the Kawasaki Long Haul. He did his job with pride.