KX450

Top 5 Mods For The 2019 Kawasaki KX450


By Dominic Cimino

So I’m guessing you might have (or thinking about putting) a 2019 KX450 in your garage if you are reading our “top five improvements”. Good! This bike is awesome and deserves some minor updates to make it even better. After racing our test bike for the first time this year I can vouch that the five things you are about to read about have definitely help make this green machine shine. Let’s get into it...

DSC_0073.jpg

First - Suspension. This is a public service announcement that should not go unnoticed. This is hands down one of the best things that any of you can do to improve your new ride. The new model mx bikes that are hitting the showroom floors in the last few years have proved to have great working components. Look at the BluCru - the KYB fork and shock combo continues to dominate every year. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider getting the bike tailored specifically for you and your riding ability. The KX benefited greatly from Race Tech’s special touch. After two attempts, we got the spring rates/valving dialed in for me, providing a plush/stable ride at speed with great bottoming resistance for the big stuff. I’m so happy with how the suspension feels compared to stock, so this first improvement is a no brainer.

Second - 22mm offset triple clamps. 
The Kawasaki motocross bikes have always handled well in stock trim. Cornering is made easy with their comfortable ergonomics and chassis combination. But after testing Ride Engineering’s shorter offset (stock is 23mm) it was a clear decision to stay with this improvement. Although they have a more rigid feel, the 2019 KX450 became even more playful in the cornering department allowing me to practically point & shoot anywhere I want to go when on the track. Laying over in deep ruts is made easier as well, as the naturally flickable character of this bike and improved cornering precision will make you smile. Let’s not forget that they also give the bike a special look as well, so I always give a nod for these added bonus points. 

DSC_0056.jpg

Third - Rear linkage pull rod. 
This is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to test this easy bolt-on part from Ride Engineering. And easy it is - two bolts and a sag adjustment (105mm) will really prove to improve the way this 450 feels. The pull rod squats the rear end of the bike out slightly and alters the progression of the shock, which all translates to a more stable ride. There are no surprises even in rough conditions. The KX stays planted and predictable and I have found myself charging the rough sections much harder than I have in the past. This is a great performance benefit at a great price point.

DSC_0094.jpg

Fourth - Handlebars. 
Kawasaki has done a great job at providing a motorcycle with a very adjustable cockpit to fit a wide range of riders. Having different foot-peg placements and handlebar mounting positions helps any of us get the most comfort out of our new bike. So why not maximize the comfort even more by selecting your preferred bar bend? I chose a set of Pro Taper EVO bars (in the Husqvarna bend) to achieve this. The low/flat sweep really caters to my riding style, and after trimming 1/4 inch from each side, this really got the cockpit dialed in. These handlebars also offer a bit more flex, so I feel they compliment the Ride Engineering triple clamps added rigidity.

IMG_2723.JPG

Fifth - Exhaust. 
Our latest test was thanks to our friends at Yoshimura. They provided us an RS-4 full exhaust system to help further improve the power delivery on our 2019 KX450. After a painless installation, we were greeted with better looks and a better sounding tone. Power improvements were found from the mid to top-end as this exhaust really enhanced the free revving character of the new green machine. The mid-range stayed plenty lively with a little bit more aggressiveness that progressed into top-end over rev. I am able to hold gears longer while staying on the gas before having to upshift. I am definitely convinced that once we start adjusting mapping/ECU settings, this exhaust system is going to shine even more.

So there you have the top five improvements for Kawasaki’s newest big bore. Such an awesome bike to ride/race, it truly has been a blast getting this bike dialed in for me and I can’t wait to ride it more! If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate: Dominic@keeferinctesting.com






2019 KX450 Stage 1 Modifications


“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. 

DSC_0056.jpg

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. 

DE74232C-DD07-4D85-B6A9-81B2AF6C4468.JPEG

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. 

DSC_0073.jpg

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. 

DSC_0094.jpg

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: dominic@keeferinctesting.com.  Thank you for reading!

2019 Kawasaki KX450 Update

Ahhh, the twenty-nineteen Green-Machine. There is a lot to love about Kawasaki’s new 450 and after an initial 20 plus testing hours have been racked up, this quick-read breaks those loves down and also highlights what I look forward to improving moving forward. As we all know, the KX450 was ranked high during our shootouts (it almost won the damn thing) for the new year, and for good reason! This completely brand new bike harnesses a lot of great features that will keep it a front runner moving into the future. 

9X1A9214.jpg

First and foremost, the chassis. When you look at this 450 on the stand, the bike looks big. When you sit on the bike, it feels big (tall). If you weigh the bike, it still is “big” (3rd heaviest bike in class, weighing in at 242lbs wet). BUT, when you ride the 2019 KX450, it DOES NOT feel big. Kawasaki has designed this chassis in a way for it to feel more slim, nimble, and easy handling than ever before. This bike is so playful in so many ways, and literally lets you put it anywhere you want. The cockpit dimensions were a bit off for me, as I’m short (period), and I felt the bar bend was too high. Not only do I dislike the 7/8th Renthals that come stock (sorry Kris), but it was even more of an excuse to change them out entirely for a low-bend, oversize bar. I chose a set of Pro Taper EVO (Husqvarna OEM bend) as the replacements, because I wanted low and a relatively mild sweep. The combination seems to work well as of now, but I literally just put them on and need more time to test. *(On a side note - why can’t Kawasaki use a different glue for their throttle side grip?? As an FYI, it takes an act of god, razor blades, and a Dremel to remove the damn thing).

9X1A4971.jpg

Moving onto the suspension, I was able to log the first 10-12 hours on all stock settings (adjusting minor clickers here and there) before sending the fork and shock to Race Tech for some love. In stock trim, the forks where a bit soft on harsh landings (bottomed out quickly) and they also liked to “pack up” in the mid-stroke. What I mean is, under braking or de-cel at speed, the fork likes to stay in the mid-stroke portion of the travel, translating into a harsh feeling/un-stable front end. Obviously, we sped up the rebound quite a bit, to get the fork to stay higher in the stroke, but the improvement was marginal. After riding Race Tech’s re-valve, bottoming resistance has been greatly improved, but I am still struggling with the same mid-stroke instability. Some things that have helped it (but not perfected it) have been speeding up the rebound settings again, and turning in high-speed compression on the rear shock. By doing so, it makes the rear shock ride higher, thus transferring more weight to the front with hopes to make the forks work as they should. I am pretty picky when it comes to front-end feel on my bikes, so this is going to be a work in progress to get it where I want. Part of the reason I wanted a lower-bend handlebar was to see if it would help me put more weight up front (from a body positioning stand point) to settle down the front. If not, I plan to turn back to Race Tech in the near future for new settings if I cannot get it where I want. Stay tuned. 

9X1A4784.jpg

As for the shock, I think it works well all around. In stock trim, it was too stiff for the forks, which I believe made the front-end feel ever softer than it should. After Race Tech massaged it, we lowered the spring rate for my weight (145lbs) with some internal valving to compliment it, and the shock is more supple and forgiving. I have a feeling that if/when I perfect the forks, the overall chassis/suspension combination on this bike is going to be hard to beat.  

With all of the new 450 power plants being so good these days, to dissect and nit-pick each of them is a real chore. The same goes for the KX450 motor. It is very free-revving and easy to ride across multiple different tracks and conditions. It definitely is not the fastest, it definitely does not have the most torque, but the usability and “racey” feel makes up for all of that. We had the guys at Kawasaki help us with some new map settings during initial testing, and we found two that we really liked. The first one Kris developed, with the intentions of a more aggressive, “snappy” race-feel to make the bike stay alive across the RPM range (which you can find by clicking on the 2019 KX450 “Optional Settings” article). We have currently been using this map the most. The other is for the nasty, slick days out here on the west coast. When blue groove becomes your friend, the more linear map really keeps the power plant more subtle, but useable from bottom to top. 

Next on my to-do list, is an exhaust. This is not to say the stock system is bad (I mean… if we are judging by looks, it’s bad). But, it actually sounds good and I do not mind the performance either. I am interested to see what improvements can be made by bolting on a new system. Is there any specific brand requests from anyone reading this? (Editors Note: We tried the FMF full system and although it was good, we wanted a little more excitement down low. FMF has since re-configured the headpipe and we will test ASAP).

Want to learn about a specific system, tell Kris! I am sure we can make it happen. -Dominic Cimino





Ok, this was supposed to be a “quick-read”. I guess it is easy to talk about something that you really like, and that is the case with this new 450 from Kawasaki. As stated, there is a lot to love about this bike, and we are just scratching the surface on the things that will prove to improve. My focus is to really get the forks dialed in, to polish of the great chassis combination that this bike has to offer. I am confident that when this happens, all of the others things that we will get to test moving forward will become the cherries on-top. You know the drill - keep an eye on KeeferIncTesting.com for all of this stuff and more. Thank you for reading!

2019 Kawasaki KX450 Optional Set Up Notes

 

I have been spending a lot of time on this 2019 Kawasaki KX450 lately and have been enjoying my days with the green machine! The Kawasaki engineers should be proud with how their production machine came out and the consumer/buyer should be as well. However, that doesn't mean I will not experiment and try other settings to see if I can improve on the this 2019 Kawasaki  KX450. I wanted to share with you some of the settings that I have came up with since the "First Impression" podcast. If you have a 2019 KX450 and want to "tinker", give these a whirl and see if it helps you out on the track! As always feel free to email me your questions, concerns or maybe how you liked these settings! Hit me up at kris@keeferinctesting.com. Enjoy!   

 

9X1A4886.jpg

 

Engine: 

Optional Keefer_1 map (Linear, More Control, Bottom End Pull With Increased Mid To Top End)

The engine on the 2019 KX450 in stock trim is exciting and makes the Kawasaki feel light. It has great RPM response, but does have a little dip from bottom to mid, so we created this map to help fill that dip in and make it pull slightly longer. You will notice a slightly more linear (more control at low RPM) pull down low without the jerky feeling through corners. With this map installed it helped settle the chassis down through long ruts. In the testing world we call this "cornering stability". With this map installed it helped the 2019 KX450's cornering stability, especially on intermediate terrain. You will need to plug the white coupler in and use the Kawasaki FI Calibration Tool to create this map. *SEE BELOW*

 

IMG_9063.jpg
IMG_9064.jpg

 

Optional Keefer_2 Map: (To Try With After Market Muffler System To Help De-Cel Popping) 

If you plan on installing a slip on or full aftermarket muffler system on your fresh 2019 KX450, use this map below to help reduce de-cel pop and increase pulling power through mid-top end. Chances are that you might have some de-cel popping when you install an aftermarket muffler and are running the white or green coupler. Simply installing the black coupler will help this de-cel popping, but takes aways some of the Kawasaki's RPM excitement. By using this map with the black coupler you get that RPM excitement back with a small amount of mid to top end pull increase. Try it if your aftermarket muffler gives you "The De-Cel Pops"! If it is NOT popping DO NOT worry about it and continue on with your life. This is for riders that experience de-cel pop only. *SEE BELOW*

 

IMG_9065.jpg
IMG_9066.jpg

 

 

Suspension: 

The 2019 KX450 can experience a little pitching on de-cel especially when the track is tilled up deep or sandy. I spent some time with the Kawasaki technicians and really worked on trying to keep the KX450 balanced (while keeping comfort) around the track. Below are two settings that I came up with that will help two different types of tracks/dirt. One is for very soft/heavy dirt and the other is geared towards more Southern California type tracks. Try these if you're experiencing any type of pitching or if you just want to experiment when you're riding. Note: "Pitching" is when the bike dives too hard towards the front end (fork is low) and makes the rear of the bike feel high when off-throttle. This causes instability coming into corners.

 

9X1A5071.jpg

 

Soft Dirt Setting: (Note: "Plus" means stiffer or slower and "Minus" means softer or faster. When trying clicker ranges go one click at a time on fork as this Showa suspension is sensitive to clicks. When stiffening low speed compression on shock "4 clicks" equals "1 turn")   

Fork: 

Spring Rate 0.51 Spring (0.50 is stock) *If B level rider and over 200 pounds 0.52 springs is also a great option*

Oil Level: Standard

Compression Range: Stock to Plus three

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus One

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: Standard

Low Speed Compression Range: Plus Eight Clicks (Equals Two Turns) 

High Speed Compression Range: Stock To Minus 1/4 Turn

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus Two

 

Southern California Dirt Setting: (Note: "Plus" means stiffer or slower and "Minus" means softer or faster. When trying clicker ranges go one click at a time on  fork as this Showa fork is sensitive to clicks. When stiffening low speed compression on shock "4 clicks" equals "1 turn")

Fork: 

Spring Rate: Stock

Oil Level: Standard

Compression Range: Plus Three To Plus Four

Rebound Range: Minus Two (Important to speed up your rebound when going stiffer on this fork. If you don't speed up rebound, when going stiffer, the fork stays too low in stroke and almost feels sticky on de-cel.)

 

Shock:

Spring Rate: Stock

Low Speed Compression Range: Plus Eight Clicks (Equals Two Turns)

High Speed Compression Range: Stock To Minus 1/4 Turn

Rebound Range: Stock To Plus Two

 

 

9X1A4780.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

2019 Kawasaki KX450 First Impression

Kawasaki has a brand new KX450 without the “F” people! Who needs more “F” in this world anyway?! Seriously though, Kawasaki has a brand new 450 and it is probably the most anticipated motocross machine of 2019. I headed down to Pala, California last Tuesday night to attend the presentation that Kawasaki had for the media, to get a feel of the new parts that are on this 2019 KX450 machine. Kawasaki has a lot of R&D invested in this bike and definitely are looking for some great results come shootout time. The 2019 KX450 is available now at our local dealers and cost $9,299.00. Will it be in the hunt for a shootout win this year? It’s quite possible, but first things first, let me break you down some things I felt on the first day of testing so you can get an idea of what this bike is all about.  

 

9X1A4780.jpg

 

Engine Feel Compared To 2018 KX450: Ummmm…No comparison. The 2019 comes on quicker with a lighter, more free-revving feel! I am usually not a guy who likes to de-tune a stock 450cc motocross bike, but the Kawasaki simply is too crisp from 0-5% throttle opening. Yes, too crisp! Where you feel this 0-5% is when you are barely on the throttle through ruts. The KX450 gets jumpy with the stock green coupler and it upsets the chassis, which makes you very inconsistent through corners. Once the black coupler is installed it controls that 0-5% and gives you an incredible, yet smooth pulling power that feels similar to a KTM 450 SX-F. The mid range has a ton of meat and the increased top end/over-rev is noticeable on the second lap. I felt like I lost zero mid to top end pulling power with the black coupler (compared to the stock green one) and I could ride the KX450 more aggressively through corners. The engine is super connected to the rear wheel and never steps out coming out of corners. This is an impressive power plant! After I was done testing I was chatting with McGrath and he even said he preferred the black coupler. So there’s that, if you don't want take my word for it. 

 

9X1A4886.jpg

 

Cornering/Chassis: The new 2019 KX450 is more cornering “neutral” than in previous years. I am able to get more front end bite than last year, but also am still able to rear steer the green machine very well too. I had a rear end steering tester with me at the intro and he liked how well it backed into corners as well as I liked the front end bite from mid-end corner. I say mid-end because the KX450 still does have a slight vague feel on entrance of corners. Raising the fork up 2mm in the clamp helps this feeling somewhat and gives you increased front bite. 

 

9X1A4971.jpg

 

Suspension Comfort: Thank you Kawasaki and sweet baby Jesus for the return of spring forks!!! The 2019 Kawasaki is so much more balanced than last year’s bike and I was able to set the front end down where I wanted to without feeling like the front end was going to snap my wrists. The fork has tons of comfort, but is also too soft for my liking. At Pala there are some sizable jumps and the fork bottomed at too many times. Going stiffer on the compression only hurt de-cel bump comfort, so I settled on going slower on the rebound, which helped some. The shock is soft as well on slap down landings, but going eight clicks (two turns) in helped keep the rear end up and thus helps wallow feeling. 

 

9X1A5071.jpg

 

A-Kit Style Fork: When asked about the Showa A-Kit style fork to a Showa technician, I was told that this is truly an A-Kit style fork. When the Showa tech saw the drawings of the 2019 KX450 in its pre-production stage he thought it was a race team fork at first glance. Many parts that are inside of this production Kawasaki Showa spring fork is what comes inside the factory boys forks. 

 

Weight Feeing (Chassis): I was told that the 2019 Kawasaki KX450’s frame is 1.87 pounds lighter than it was in 2018. The total weight of the new machine has only increased roughly three pounds from 2018, but to me it feels lighter than the 2018. Why? I feel it is because of the way the 2019 Kawasaki makes its power. It is very free feeling and snappy which makes this bike have a very light feeling through corners. I am ale to lay it down with ease and cut down under a blown out rut almost as easy as a KTM/Husqvarna. I do get a little twitch on de-cel, but it wasn't a horrible or un-easy feeling. Straight line stability is still the same straight and arrow Kawasaki feel that you expect. The frame absorption is one of the Kawasaki’s strong points and although the Pala track wasn't rough, there was some hidden square edge that I managed to hit during the day to test this. 

 

9X1A4951-2.jpg

 

Hydraulic Clutch: The Nissin hydraulic clutch feels nothing like a Brembo or Magura. The Nissin hydraulic feel is a little bit of cable and hydro. What the hell does that mean Keefer? It means that there is a little play in the Nissin hydraulic lever that makes it feel like a cable pull initially. Unlike a Brembo where there is no play and is very touchy (on/off feel), the Nissin has more of a progressive feeling. So far I prefer the Nissin feel over the Brembo. I like to ride the clutch a little with my finger while I ride, so having that little bit of play makes sure that I don't burn up my clutch as quick. The clutch feeling as you would expect was superb and I had zero fading or lever movement while riding. Kawasaki is the first Japanese manufacturer to have a hydraulic clutch on a motocross machine. Impressive! 

 

9X1A4813.jpg

 

Muffler: Ehhhhhh boy, here we go! Everyone complaining about the bazooka of a muffler from the 2019 Kawasaki. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s not that attractive, but the muffler tone is ten times better than the 2018. I will gladly take a long muffler that sounds good and provides excellent power delivery. This bazooka does just that!  

 

9X1A4859.jpg

 

Rider Traingle: The footpeg to seat to handlebar ratio is also another improvement. The seat is flatter, which puts me more on top of the machine than “in” it like last year. I like this feeling and it makes maneuvering on the bike better for my 6’0 frame. 

 

9X1A4784.jpg

 

7/8 Handlebars: Some manufacturers go away from 7/8 handlebars but Kawasaki keeps them around and I approve! They flex, they offer better vibration characteristics and unlike what most people think DO NOT bend THAT easily. I have crashed my brains out on 7/8 bars and they didn't bend as bad as I thought. I can live with 7/8 bars on a production machine. 

 

9X1A4855.jpg

 

Brakes: Kawasaki also went to work on the front and rear brakes of the 2019 KX450. The rear brake has a 250mm rotor (which is the largest rear production disc on a motocross machine), new master cylinder/hose and the front brake also has a new master cylinder. I would have to say that the front brake was more impressive than the rear because of how good its modulation was. It wasn’t a grabby feeling front brake and was more progressive to pull in. I could drag the front brake more through corners without getting that stabbing front end feel. I didn't notice that much of a power difference in the rear brake compared to the 2018, but it still worked well enough for me. Kawasaki riders that update to a 2019 will be able to feel the front brake improvements on their first ride.