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“Fine Tuning Chassis And Handling With Ride Engineering”
By Dominic Cimino
As you may or may not be aware by now, I am enjoying my time on Kawasaki’s newest big bore. We are deep into the initial stages of fine tuning this dirt bike to my personal preferences and have logged a lot of laps with only a couple aftermarket modifications. Pro Taper handlebars, Race Tech tuned suspension, and most recently, Ride Engineering’s rear linkage and off-set triple clamps. I wanted to give you some insight I experienced during testing Ride Engineering’s chassis specific parts and what worked best for me to date.
Performance Link: https://ride-engineering.com/products.php?d=1&p=l&pn=KX-LKA39-GN&t=
This was the very first thing we bolted onto the KX450 and it definitely proves to be worth the investment. You can immediately feel how this shock link makes the bike more planted. It technically lowers the rear end when compared to the stock setting, which translates to a squatted feel (which I like on my bikes regardless of color). After setting the sag to Ride Engineering’s recommended setting (103mm), I found that sliding my fork up 3mm in the triple clamps from flush improved things even further. With the fork flush in the top clamp, the KX lost some of the initial lean-in feeling entering corners. The bike just wasn’t as responsive overall when I wanted to point and shoot places. After sliding the fork up, it allowed the bike to regain “some” of those specific handling traits that we all like with this bike. For this test, keep in mind that I kept the stock triple clamps on to get a true gauge on improved performance, and I feel that for a $220 bolt on part, this performance link is worth it.
21.5mm off-set triple clamps: https://ride-engineering.com/products.php?d=1&p=bm&pn=KX-TBK20-B9&t=kx
Next up on the chopping block were these 21.5mm clamps. The stock clamp off-set on the 2019 KX450 comes in at 23mm, so 1.5mm is a pretty decent adjustment. It shows immediately when on the track too, as the bike handles completely different. Ride Engineering’s purpose when developing these clamps was to make the bike turn on a dime and leave a nickels’ worth of change… and I’m pretty sure they accomplished that! The steering became very aggressive and literally allows you to look in the direction you want to go as the bike follows. If anyone out there reading this would like to have assistance in corners and/or ruts, you may want to consider these clamps on your bike. The bike will point and shoot as you wish, the lean-in feel entering ruts is much more sensitive, and when you are physically in the rut, the bike likes to lay over with ease. But for me personally, I felt that these clamps were a little too much for my riding style. I naturally tend to ride over the front-end a lot (I’m a desert rat, remember?) and because of this, the front end became over-aggressive. At speed, I lost confidence because my bike inherited a twitchy sensation, making me feel like it could “knife” at any moment. Although it gained huge advancements in corners, I would rather the trade-off for better stability at speed. If you tend to ride tighter tracks at slower speeds, these clamps would probably be a no-brainer.
22mm off-set triple clamps: https://ride-engineering.com/products.php?d=1&p=bm&pn=KX-TBK22-B9&t=kx
Ok – I know you might be saying, “really bro – .5mm different off-set?? Can you really tell?” The answer is whole-heartedly, YES. That 1/2mm really translates to a more predictable front-end steering feel, where the bike gained more stability in the places it needed it. In my layman’s terms: this is the happy middle between stock and that Supercross ready 21.5mm off-set. These clamps still allow you to enter a corner with ease (although not as easy as the 21.5’s) and keep you laid over until you exit. We kept the fork at the 3mm mark in the top clamp, and it proved to be the best position while testing. It really was a cool experience to test all three of these clamps during the same day to decipher which was best for me.
On another note, I did want to mention a vital characteristic of the stock triple clamps that stands out after riding with different sets: they are less rigid than the Ride Engineering sets. This translates into a more compliant chassis feeling, where the bike feels better over small chop/bump absorption, as well as slap-down landings. This directly correlates to what you feel in your hands while riding, because I liked the stock clamps for these exact reasons. I personally think that some of you out there might have a hard time telling/feeling the difference of what I’m explaining here, so please take this little tidbit with a grain of salt if you’re not sensitive to small changes in your machine. Keep in mind, a TON of research and development go into OEM production clamps, but they have to appeal to an average rider world wide. Ride Engineering is taking that a step beyond and really fine tuning the handling characteristics for those of us that want more (hence the title of this update, “fine tuning”). That is what their clamps are providing – more precise and predictable handling for a motorcycle that already does it well, which in turn translates into more smiles at the end of the day.
Stage 1 is almost complete on this 2019 Green Machine. I would like to re-visit Race Tech for some changes on suspension before we embark on the next slew of modifications, which will find us in the power department. This motorcycle continues to get better with every bolt we turn, so please stay tuned along the way. As always, we are here to help in any way we can, so feel free to send me an email if you need more info or have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!