The 2010 Kawi features an updated engine, including a factory-bike-style box-piston, lighter piston pin, new cylinder, crankshaft, ECU, camshaft, clutch operating plate and friction plates, redesigned exhaust pipe, and larger radiators.
The end result is more power as well as a more consistent power delivery and better durability.
But when you get on the new green machine, the quickest thing you notice is not that it has more power, but rather how versatile the engine is. Do you want to ride it like a 125 or 250F? You can. It will rev for a very long time. Do you want to ride it like a 500cc two-stroke? You can. Just knock it a gear high and it will pull from very low in the rev range.
In testing the bike at Pala Raceway, which is a bit of a sandy track, we were able to do one particular straightaway on the main track in second gear, third gear AND fourth gear for its entire length. In second, it was screaming. In third, it was about where it seemed comfortable. And in fourth, it was lugging. But the point is that it did it in all three gears, clearing all the jumps. The same sort of thing can be said for turns, where you can take tight turns in first, second, or even third gear.
The end result isn’t just versatility for a variety of riders, but for a variety of conditions as well as the creation of a buffer zone to allow you to make mistakes. If you mess up a turn or miss a shift, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid jumping the next jump. You can probably just rev it out a gear low and go right over it. Big mistakes will cost you less time with an engine like this.
Then there’s the chassis. The chassis updates include fork updates (coated lower fork tubes both inside and out, new spring rates and damping settings), shock updates (new spring rates, damping settings, linkage and rocker arms), new swingarm (updates to reduce rigidity), and new tires (from Dunlops to Bridgestones).
To understand how good this chassis is in stock form, understand that the author of this article was the test rider for the day (apparently even Kawasaki testing is using replacement riders, as Cox filled in for Pingree), and he injured his wrist on the second lap around the track. Then, after letting his arm loosen back up, he taped it up and rode for the rest of the day. With tape on his wrist, he was doing all the jumps and going reasonably fast considering he had only one arm. The other arm was good for balance, but not really for hanging on very well.
However, the 2010 Kawasaki KX450F still managed to do everything without as much as a wiggle, much less anything crazy enough to try and toss the test rider.
This is a testament to the overall mild-manners of the new Kawasaki. But don’t confuse mild manners with being mild. This Kawasaki is seriously fast if you want it to be. It just delivers performance more in the style of Kevin Windham than Ricky Carmichael, and that’s a good thing.
The 2010 Kawasaki KX450F will retail for $8049. For more details, check with your local Kawasaki dealer.