2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review [From the Mountains to the Desert]

A close relative of the KX450 motocrosser, the 2022 Kawasaki KX450X is designed for cross-country competition. When we got our hands on it, however, we had fun on our minds, not racing. So, we tested the KX450X as a high-performance off-road playbike, and it didn’t seem to mind a bit.

Kawasaki didn’t do much in translating the motocrosser to an off-road ripper. Handling was changed by going to softer Showa suspension, an 18-inch rear wheel, different front brake pads, and Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires on the KX450X.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: For Sale

The motor remains the same, though the mapping softens the delivery to match the reduced traction in off-road racing. Although Kawasaki has a handheld, wired KX FI Calibration Kit ($774!) to fine-tune the ECU, we kept it simple and went with the soft black plug-in coupler. We want the friendliest power delivery from the 50+ horsepower beast, as Kawasaki gears it down by adding a tooth to the rear sprocket. Given that it’s 2022, Kawasaki should be offering a free app and wireless connection for ECU tuning.

The KX450X also gets a kickstand and a minimal skidplate. The racing motorcycle isn’t outfitted with a USFS spark arrester, so we slipped a Fisch Moto spark arrester into the exhaust outlet to please the tailpipe inspectors.

Successfully riding the 2022 Kawasaki KX450X as a trailbike took a bit of recalibration on my part. Initially, the KX450X’s suspension felt too firm and the motor too abrupt. It was the motorcycle’s way of telling me to kick it up a notch, or two.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: Price

Certainly, if you want a casual and friendly motorcycle that’s fully capable of riding trails at a sensible speed, the KLX300R is ready and waiting for your attention—and it costs nearly $4k less than the KX450X. So, I put on my race face, if not my race pace, and got more serious about my trail riding.

Testing of the 2022 Kawasaki KX450X ranged from the wide-open Mojave Desert to tight, technical single-track trails in the Angeles National Forest. Regardless of where I was riding, the KX450X insisted that I stay in the moment and on the gas.

The horsepower of the KX450X is best exhibited in a desert setting. You can ride with the throttle wide open and feel the power every firing stroke provides. It’s a true pleasure, and the motor spins smoothly up into its peak—no hits or dips, and plenty of overrev, making it a forgiving powerplant.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: MSRP

However, it’s in the desert where you wish Kawasaki had invested in a wider-ratio five-speed transmission, if not a six-speed gearbox. The broad powerband allows for wider spacing between gears, and would make high-speed runs across the desert less frantic. Plus, when riding the technical trails in the desert, it would have been nice to have a lower first gear to reduce the need for clutch slipping.

Speaking of the clutch, I’m a big fan of the feel and operation of the coned-disc spring design, and its hydraulic actuation. It feels good, and the KX450X’s clutch survived my clutching in hot weather in tight conditions without a complaint.

The chassis is more than up to the rigors of speeding across the desert. The twin-spar aluminum frame is nicely balanced for the rigidity needed at high speeds, yet compliant enough to not beat you up. The softer X suspension turns into a magic carpet ride as speeds increase. That produces more confidence, and more speed is rewarded by a better ride—it’s a positive feedback loop.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: Desert Racer

Even with the soft suspension, the fully adjustable Showa suspension can handle the unexpected washouts frequenting the desert. High speeds can mean surprises, and the KX450X is there for you. Suspension bottoms softly, and only in the most extreme circumstances, including some g-outs. In most cases, the obstacle is felt, but it doesn’t cause a problem. Even at speed, a throttle blip will lift the front end over most washouts, leaving it to the shock to absorb the hit, and it does so without drama.

Although riding in the desert means lots of straight-line running, turning occurs, and you often don’t have the luxury of berms. Sweeping through the desert to avoid creosote bushes, the 2022 Kawasaki KX450X is happy to let you steer with the rear wheel. It’s great fun to let the back end step out under power to avoid a collision with nature.

Rock gardens are handled impressively well by the KX450X. The softball-sized volcanic rocks are nasty to ride through, and you do not want to fall in them. Initial confrontations were less than satisfactory, due to my hesitation to attack. Once I gained confidence, the KX450X got on top and shredded. The steering is accurate enough to avoid most hits where the rocks are less dense. When the individual rocks can’t be avoided, the front-end resists deflection, even without a steering damper.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: Specs

Hillclimbs are a natural part of desert riding, and the flexible power, traction-friendly suspension, and grippy Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires all worked to make big hills feel smaller. Full attack mode is appreciated by the KX450X’s motor. However, when conditions require backing off, the power is tractable enough to pick your way up the technical hill as needed. You don’t want to stall, though, as the tallish first gear makes getting back underway tricky.

Heading to the single-tracks of the mountains, the 2022 Kawasaki KX450X certainly favors the aggressive. It’s all about ramping up the your attitude when riding. The tall first gear does not reward the timid, and the suspension prefers the input of higher speeds.

Sweeping single-track is a joy on the KX450X. The throttle is smooth, and the suspension sure. As things tighten up, the KX450X is an able cornerer, even on bermless turns—all it takes is moving far forward on the seat. Exiting corners is all about getting on the throttle, and the X makes quick acceleration a piece of cake.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: Off-Road Motorcycle

As trails get rocky, speeds need to increase. Going faster gets the KX450X on top of the rocks, and lets the suspension do its job, rather than bounce you around. You can get into the sweet spot of the KX450X, where it feels perfect and completely controllable. Lifting the front end over rocks and logs is just a crack of the throttle away, pretty much in any gear you’ll be in.

The wealth of power and traction that the KX450X possesses makes a big difference on short-approach hillclimbs. The power is there, and easy to deliver to the ground. The rider just has to get the proper body position and not do anything untoward with the throttle. If the hill is too tricky, you’ll lament the tall first gear ratio again. Up in the mountains, you’re not using fifth gear frequently, so a sixth gear or a wide-ratio transmission isn’t missed as much.

Braking is superb in all situations. The initial bite in the front is not excessive, though plenty of power is there when you squeeze the lever with authority. The rear brake is fully usable without locking up the wheel. Engine compression braking is also nicely predictable.

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review: Cross-Country Racing Motorcycle

Kawasaki is a leader in ergonomically adjustable motorcycles, and the KX450X will adapt to most riders. The Renthal handlebar can be mounted in your choice of four positions across a 35mm range, and the footpegs can be dropped 5mm.

Stripped down for racing, the KX450X lacks an odometer or a low-fuel light for the tiny 1.6-gallon fuel tank. So, you’ll need to ride trails with distances you know, or with someone with an odometer. I did have range anxiety now and then, though I never ran out of gas. If you live in rocky areas, you’ll want a more extensive skidplate and front disc protection. Woods riders will need handguards.

While designed for cross-country racing, many people like racebikes as high-performance trailbikes. There are limitations to the flexibility of the 2022 Kawasaki KX450X in the dirt; assess your needs carefully. If the KX450X fits the bill, it’s a fantastic, fun dirt bike.

Photography by Kelly Callan


2022 Kawasaki KX450X Specs 


  • Type: Single-cylinder four-stroke
  • Displacement: 449cc
  • Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
  • Compression ratio: 12.5:1
  • Starting: Electric
  • Fueling: EFI w/ 44mm Keihin throttle body w/ dual injectors
  • Transmission: 5-speed
  • Clutch: Hydraulically actuated w/ coned-disc spring
  • Final drive: Chain


  • Frame: Aluminum perimeter
  • Handlebar: Renthal Fatbar
  • Front suspension; travel: Compression- and rebound-damping adjustable Showa 49mm inverted fork; 12.0 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable Showa piggyback reservoir shock; 12.1 inches
  • Tires: Dunlop Geomax AT81
  • Front tire: 80/100 x 21
  • Rear tire: 120/90 x 18
  • Front brake: Semi-floating 270mm Braking petal disc w/ dual-piston Nissin caliper
  • Rear brake: Single 240mm Braking petal disc w/ single-piston Nissin caliper


  • Wheelbase: 58.5 inches
  • Rake: 27.6 degrees
  • Trail: 4.8 inches
  • Seat height: 37.4 inches
  • Ground clearance: 13.2 inches
  • Fuel Capacity: 1.6 gallons
  • Curb weight: 246 pounds
  • Color: Lime Green

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Price: $9599 MSRP

2022 Kawasaki KX450X Review Photo Gallery