Posted on Aug 26th 2016
With a lot of attention toward KTM these days, it's exciting to see the other major brands developing new technology. In this case, it is a new GREEN 450. Showcasing a new fork with a bigger cartridge and updated internal designs, the 2017 Kawasaki KXF450 will receive plenty of research and design attention from MX-TECH.
Due to very wet local conditions, our first ride was at LTMX. This sand track was super deep and challenging – it got the usual things with a new bike: A couple heat cycles, air filter check, tire pressure, and setting both the sag and fork pressure.
Every rider was impressed with the bike's overall feel: equal to a Honda or KTM, and noticeably lighter. We rolled onto the track and let it rip! The Kawasaki 450 was different than our last KXF, easier at turning an inside line, the engine is familiar where the mid-range is really strong, yet the clutch seems a little weak. (The Rekluse Torq Drive is the absolute best option on all of our Japanese bikes.) While the mid is strong the top end seems to come up short, and the brakes seem dangerous – especially when compared to our KTM and Honda test bikes which all have MOTOSTUFF oversized rotors.
About the suspension.
In the sand, the bike was very rideable and balanced, allowing riders to feel comfortable almost immediately.
In the fork, a bigger air piston improved the physics by supporting equal mass with a lower pressure, this will allow us to do more with the new design. While the "friction" in the fork was noticeably better than the 15 & 16, we are looking forward to testing the SKF Glide kit when it becomes available. The biggest issue we see up front is that the fork bottoms metal to metal easily, and will need an MXT Huck Valve. Additionally, a TACR system will help manage the air spring characteristics even more effectively than the smaller version on the older KXF fork. By going to the larger size, Showa was able to reduce the reservoir size giving the fork a better feel and more control, making this a perfect candidate for the MXT TACR system.
The shock had good movement and worked predictably. It was a little loose after bigger rollers on corner entry, but in the soft deep conditions that was about all we got out of the initial testing.
Whenever it stops raining, we will be riding the bike in hard dirt, which will be very informative.
We are giving "The Bike That Builds Champions" two thumbs up!