Pucker power: The 270mm front rotor is just what the doctor
ordered. It can handle the momentum of a 231-pound bike.
compared to what KTM and Yamaha produce, especially
on top. Luckily, it feels slower than it is. We would
recommend testing all three plug-in couplers to see
whether or not your mapping suffers or not. If your
conditions favor the white map, run it. Kawasaki
admitted that the bike did pop, but also said that they
had production units that ran fine.
Q: HOW GOOD ARE THE 2016 KX450F
A: The answer to this question is found in a brief
history of KX pucker power.
In our 2011 KX450F test we wrote, “A bike this
fast and heavy needs the best brakes it can get.
Unfortunately, the Kawasaki brakes are not crisp,
powerful or accurate.”
In our 2012 KX450F test we wrote, “If this bike
weighed in at the AMA minimum, maybe—just maybe—
these spongy brakes would stop it, but with the 2012
KX450’s ample horsepower and girth, these brakes are
In our 2013 KX450F test we wrote, “As a credo, the
company that makes the most powerful engine should
also make the most powerful brakes.”
In our 2014 KX450F test we wrote, “These old-school
brakes won’t stop 239 pounds of runaway locomotive.”
In our 2015 KX450F test we wrote, “Thankfully,
Kawasaki upsized last year’s 250mm front brake rotor to
270mm for 2015. Good stuff. But are these brakes as
good as KTM’s 260mm Brembo brakes? No!”
In 2016 we will stick with what we said in 2015. The
270mm KX450F front brake is much better than the old
250mm front brake, but just bolting on a big rotor isn’t
enough to compete with Brembo’s totally integrated
package of a rotor, caliper and master cylinder.
Q: HOW GOOD ARE THE 2016 SHOWA
SFF-AIR TAC FORKS?
A: Make no mistake about it, Showa Air TAC forks
are the most complicated and difficult forks to live with
ever devised to torment a motocross racer. Between their
three different air pressures, 22 compression settings, 20
rebound choices and four different oil-height adjustments,
a rider has 420,000 tuning combinations to work with.
And one change to any of the adjusters reconfigures
the relationship between the inner, outer and balance
chambers to the point where you’ll want to pull your
hair out without removing your helmet.
That said, these are really good air forks. We never
thought we’d say that about TAC forks. Whether we
were setting them up for an AMA Pro or a portly Vet
Novice, we got them in the sweet spot quickly and with
little or no hassle (in sharp contrast to the SFF TAC forks
on the 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450). Of course, the air pressure
and clicker settings for a Pro and a Novice are in
different zip codes, but we will provide you with the
ballpark numbers to help you find the perfect setting.
Kudos to Kawasaki for updating and upgrading its
valving specs, because last year its recommended air
pressures were so far off that they would bottom if they
hit a Snicker’s wrapper on the way to the starting line.
This year’s stock setup is spot-on. The best thing about
the 2016 SFF-Air fork is that we were able to find air
pressure settings that really worked, something that
mystified and evaded many 2015 KX450F owners.
What’s the worst thing about SFF Air? The average
rider doesn’t have the patience to live vicariously through
his air pump. We have met some racers who gave up and
Pop gun: We expected more oomph from the 2016 KX450F
engine and we didn’t expect so much decel pop.