New bike season is always fun—who wouldn’t love to ride every brand-new bike under the sun? But when you get to ride a completely new machine like the 2019 KX450, there is an added element of excitement. The list of changes is too long to print right here, so we’ll just include a link to the press release that Kawasaki put out.
It would be easier to list the things that didn’t change on this bike. The key points are an all-new chassis/frame, completely new engine with electric start and hydraulic clutch, and new suspension that includes Showa A-kit spring forks, which is a first on any production motorcycle.
After a dinner and presentation on the development of the new bike at the Pala Casino resort in San Diego, California, the stage was set for a day of riding the new machine. We were met with a perfect track and great weather for the test, and I was itching to ride like a psoriasis sufferer with chicken pox having an allergic reaction. My first impression was that the changes made to the rider compartment were excellent. While older Kawasaki 450s felt taller and heavier to me, this bike felt comfortable right away and had a light, quick feeling to it. The bar and footpeg mounts are still moveable, giving taller riders multiple setup options. The engine has a quick, free feeling to it, something all manufacturers have been striving for. Kawasaki nailed it, as this bike has a connected, electric feel while producing earth-moving horsepower numbers. Getting that power delivery right is key, and the KX450 delivers.
The best feature on the bike, in my opinion, is the fork. I won’t speak of the abomination that was the 2017 KXF450 fork; I’ll just say that this Showa A-kit spring fork is a revelation. This fork would cost you several thousand dollars if you wanted to buy it a la carte in the past. It includes DLC coating on the sliders, as well as a dimpled coating on the internal portion of the tubes to reduce friction. On the track, they are more compliant than any production fork I can remember riding with. That ultra-plush initial is paired with bottoming resistance that feels like, well, an “A-kit” fork. To summarize, the fork is incredible, and that translates to a comfortable ride and confidence in the traction and performance of your front end. The shock works well with the fork, and the handling as a whole is excellent.
European manufacturers have put pressure on the Japanese to step up their game in recent years. In 2019, Kawasaki responded with a bike that raises the bar for 450 motocross models. I’d also like to thank the Kawasaki folks for dropping the “F” in the name and going back to KX. I appreciate the tradition and simplicity. Besides, when you bring back that two-stroke line, you can just call them KXT’s. Right?
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