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Racer X Tested: 2009 Kawasaki KX450F

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  • The 2009 Kawasaki KX450F
When the good folks at Kawasaki sent us the invite for the official introduction of the all new 2009 KX450F, we began licking our chops here at the office. David Pingree typically takes care of the testing duties for Racer X Online, but with this test taking place at the scenic Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, Tennessee, I got to go have some fun. Celebrity guests included factory Kawasaki’s Timmy Ferry and four-time AMA champion Jeff Emig, who joined more than 20 of the most distinguished moto journalists in the industry.

We arrived at the track around 8:00 a.m. and met the Team Green 18-wheeler, which had 16 sparkling new 2009 KX450F machines lined up and ready to be abused. Those who were slated to ride the bikes took about 20 minutes to get into their gear and get on the Muddy Creek track, which Sam Gammon had prepped into absolute brownie-cake perfection. It was one of those perfect days at the motocross track. But let's talk about the bike.

For starters, appearances can be deceiving. The 2009 KX450F is pretty much brand-new from the ground up. The frame, the motor, and the suspension are all brand-new and, in our opinion, vastly improved. The bike is full of cool new goodies, but none more so than the new EFI system. It can be digitally manipulated with a laptop for different track conditions, and it lays the power down instantly and more smoothly than a baby’s bottom. It's awesome, but it's not my favorite function of the trick fuel-injection system. What really makes it cool is how easy the machine starts because of it. When the kick-starter is pushed through the stroke, it delivers an electric current to the brain of the EFI system, which in turn delivers the ideal fuel and air mixture into the power plant and fires the behemoth to life. That’s right, kids. One kick. And go ahead and pin it for five laps, then shut it off. Wait three seconds, then kick it back to life in one fell swoop. No hot start button, no gas petcock ... just smooth, easy-starting happiness. 

  • Andy Bowyer shakes down the new KX450F.
  • Timmy Ferry was just a little bit faster than Bowyer....
On the track the bike rides like a dream. I felt immediately at home aboard the bike and raved about the thin feel of the machine. The aforementioned EFI system makes cornering the bike seem effortless. Once you point the bike where you want it, just roll on the throttle and you have instant traction to the rear wheel. It doesn’t jerk your shoulders out, yet it sure doesn’t bog either. The bike is very confidence-inspiring. Just climb on, grip it, and rip it.

There were a few very minor groans about the bike. The grips were too hard and abrasive and the bike is rather stiffly sprung. I went back two clicks on the shock after the first couple laps, then gradually kept backing the forks off to soften them up with each passing session. While the suspension was stiff, the bike still handled surprisingly well, especially at speed. The big-bore Kawasaki is most at home when you are third gear, half-to-full throttle. If you have the fortitude to get her there, you will discover that she absolutely gobbles up terrain.

Its almost a cliché when you read a bike test and hear the rider say, “This machine is race-ready out of the box.” Well, guys, this bike is ready to see a gate drop right out of the box. An expert rider will fall in love with the stock suspension. The bike just begs to be ridden harder and harder. Smaller riders will enjoy the extremely thin and light feel of the bike, yet some of the riders at the test were well over 6-feet tall and said they felt just fine.

There's no question that the 2009 KX450F is a finely tuned machine. It was a joy to ride; I'm glad Ping stayed home for this one!

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