For 2019 Kawasaki completely overhauled the 2019 KX450, so much so that Kawasaki has dropped the “F” in the name. The new motocross motorcycles is now simply the 2019 Kawasaki KX450, instead of a KX450F. This makes sense, as we all know it is a four-stroke.Now it’s time for the Fast Facts on riding the KX450. I have to say I was pretty excited to ride the 2019 model, as they made changes to most of the items we wanted to see improved.
1. Beyond the name, the 2019 Kawasaki is all-new and the list of changes is much longer than what isn’t new. The motor, frame, suspension, and bodywork are all new—pretty much the whole motorcycle! Instead of going into great detail of all the changes in this review, it can all be seen in our 2019 Kawasaki KX450 First Look.2. The motor in the 2019 Kawasaki KX450 is completely new. With the changes the motor is also physically smaller and lighter. The cams are now finger-follower style that allows for higher revving. Last year’s motor was good. It was extremely strong off the bottom end into a hard hitting mid range. For 2019, the KX450 is both easier to ride and faster!3. At low rpm, the new KX450 pulls smoother with none of the previous harshness. From there, the transition into the mid range is seamless and it revs out much farther than before. In the whole rpm range, the motor has a freer revving feel. It doesn’t feel as tight or harsh as the old motor. The powerplant almost feels like a smaller bore motor with the power of a larger motor. It is just plain easier to ride, which in turn lets you ride more aggressively going faster. This seems to be the direction most manufactures are going with 450s.4. As with the KX450F in previous years, Kawasaki offers three couplers to change the power delivery of the new KX450. The three choices are based on terrain—Standard, Hard and Soft. In the past, we always preferred the Soft setting. For 2019, we liked the stock best due to the new easier-to-ride power delivery. There’s also an optional KX FI Calibration Kit, which uses a hand-held controller to make ECU adjustments. This doesn’t compare favorably with the WiFi connected systems that come stock on other 450s.5. With the new motor, Kawasaki completely eliminated the kickstart to save weight and added a lightweight electric starting system. To put it simply the system, with a lithium-on battery, works perfectly. It always starts quick and easy.6. Another major change comes is the new hydraulic clutch. For years the European manufactures have equipped their MX bikes with hydraulic clutches, while the Japanese have stayed with the old-fashioned cables, until now. This is a change that made a huge difference. While the clutch pull is only slightly lighter than the 2018, the overall feel and engagement point is much improved, and there is zero clutch fade. On the 2018, the clutch would start to fade pretty fast when its used heavily. That’s not the case with the ’19; the feel and engagement point always stays consistent.7. With the new chassis and body work the 2019 Kawasaki KX450 has a smaller and lighter overall feel. That is primarily because it is lighter by nearly eight pounds—down to a claimed weight of 232 pounds wet, despite the addition of electric start.8. Kawasaki dropped unpopular air fork in favor of new Showa 49mm spring fork that has A-Kit technology, including black coating on the lower fork legs. For years that Yamaha’s KYB SSS fork has been the best production fork made. We feel the new Showa fork on the KX450 is equally good, and that’s high praise.9. The work Kawasaki and Showa put into the new fork is evident. They have excellent feel. Through all the small breaking bumps there is zero harshness, just plush absorption through the chop without it diving down into the stroke. On harsh landings or on hard G-outs there is zero harsh bottoming. Sure, it does bottom out and use the full stroke, as it should, and the feeling is just plush as it does so.10. The new Showa shock gets A-Kit technology, along with new linkage. The piggyback shock is matches up with the fork perfectly. Harsh landings or jagged braking bumps are handled well by the KX’s shock. High- and low-speed compression damping adjustments make it possible to fine-tune the shock to taste.11. Overall, the new suspension has a slightly softer feel that is perfect for lighter riders. Even with that, our bigger test riders still felt both ends where excellent.12. The new Kawasaki KX450 carves corners like the 2018 never could, in part due to an all-new frame. While the 2018 wasn’t a bad handling bike by any means, it was a large motorcycle and you could feel it. For 2019, Kawasaki has changed that. The KX450 flat-out turns with the best in the class. Kawasaki credits the new balance of rigidity created by the combination of forged, extruded, and cast aluminum parts for the responsiveness.13. The 2019 Kawasaki KX450 is still extremely stable, in the rough fast sections of the track. Even while in the air moving the bike around is effortless. The KX still retains the adjustable peg mounts and adjustable handle bar mounts and just like in previous years the stock position is the most comfortable. Unless your extremely tall or short the optional positions just feel odd. The KX feels correct from the get go.14. Braking received a needed improvement in the 2019. The new front master cylinder and larger rear disc get the KX450 stopped much better than before.15. The Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires work well. They’re pretty much the gold standard right now for most uses. Of course, you’ll want to put on tires with a pattern optimized for the tracks you race on.16. Ergonomics are improved, but our hands had some complaints. The footpegs are now wider with nice feel—we always appreciate the comfort of wider pegs, plus you have a choice of two positions. The handlebar is a traditional crossbar-style Renthal with very comfortable bend, plus there are four mounting positions. The levers are extremely thin and small. It’s not a comfortable feel, as they feel like they a digging into your fingers. The grips are also on the narrow side, and barely large enough for our hands. The new bodywork is sleek and slim giving the KX a nice look, though graphics look plain to me.17. The 2019 Kawasaki KX450 could be the best 450 of the year. We have some more testing to do, but the new KX450 stands out right away for us.Location photography by Brandon KrauseRIDING STYLE
KTM Super ADV R + Lightning Motorcycles’ Richard Hatfield
byMotos and Friends by Ultimate Motorcycle
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends—the weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling. My name is Arthur Coldwells.
In this week’s first segment, Editor Don Williams rides KTM’s new 1290 Super Adventure R. This hardcore ADV bike is big, powerful, and a true expert-level machine. Interestingly, it has multiple points of adjustment within its highly capable electronics package, and Don discovered several big surprises where the bike changed personality completely. His is an intriguing look at one of the most capable off road ADV bikes on the market today.
In the second segment, I chat with Richard Hatfield, CEO of Lightning motorcycles. This silicon valley based manufacturer was founded in 2006, and having racked up several notable race victories (including Pikes Peak in 2013 with the late Carlin Dunne on board) Lightning have certainly dominated in racing terms. In another first, Lightning has just announced a new rapid-charging battery technology that may well bring electric motorcycles into becoming real-world, practical transport.
So from all of us here at Motos & Friends… we hope you enjoy this episode!