traded their TAC forks for older coil-spring forks and others who
chased air pressure settings without even a minimal understanding
of the interplay between the inner air chamber and the balance
chamber (hint; they work in opposition to each other). We’ve also
met a few who stopped checking their air pressures months ago.
Nobody ever asked for labor-intensive forks, but they got them.
Now, you might say that great forks often require constant care,
but that maxim is negated by Kayaba’s fabulous SSS coil-spring
forks. Set ’em and forget ’em.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2016 KX450F HANDLE?
A: Would it be rude to say that the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F
handles nothing like a Kawasaki KX450F? All previous KX450Fs
were stodgy, reluctant, upright machines that turned via brute
force. There was nothing intuitive about the KX450F handling from
2006 to 2015. You had to manually steer the bike into a corner,
unless there was a berm, and then correct the steering input at
the midway point when the KX450F stood up. Not so with the
2016 KX450F. It wants to turn.
Maybe it wants to turn a little too much, as every test rider
complained about looseness on the entrance to corners, but we
will take a little front-end wag to get a green machine that doesn’t
fight you when you try to make a direction change. Thanks to its
lighter-weight, flatter seat, narrower tank and more balanced
chassis, this is the anti-KX450F that we all dreamed of. It will
erase the old memories of the heavy ocean liner that needed a
harbor master and a tugboat to get around a corner. Not perfect,
but far from flawed.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Plastic. This isn’t Kawasaki’s first rodeo with brittle plastic.
Kawasaki has a history with front fenders, front number plates
and fork guards that splinter when roosted. The extra-long radiator
shrouds on the 2016 KX450F crack on the left side (just rear of the
gas tank) and crackle on the right side around the bolt holes.
( 2) Sound. Kawasaki claims to have knocked 2 decibels off for
2016. If that’s true, it has reduced the sound to painfully loud as
compared to last year’s ear-bleeding loud. Surprisingly enough,
it is very quiet when held to the Amateur-required SAE 94 decibel
sound test (at 4500 rpm).
( 3) Rear brake pedal. Old-school racers who want to run their
brake pedals low will have to hacksaw off some of the plunger’s
threaded rod. If they don’t, they will burn up the rear brake in a
few laps. Riders who run their pedals high will have no issues.
( 4) Ignition. Just like last year we had some mapping problems.
( 5) Clutch. The stock KX450F clutch pack is marginal. If you are
a clutch abuser, you will eat this clutch in short order. Stiffer clutch
springs can save the day.
( 6) Black coupler. Because of the detonation problem, we
switched from the stock green map coupler to the mellow black
coupler. It eliminated the decel pop, but the mellow map made the
power mellower. Who would have thunk it?
( 7) Airbox. We can’t say that we are wild about the free-style-like airbox vents on both sides of the KX450F’s airbox. They
are large enough to allow massive amounts of air into the engine,
but also small rodents, water and dirt. We do like the rear intake
channels built into the rear fender.
( 8) Chain guide. If history is any indication, the stock chain
guide will get chewed up faster than a $3 steak special at Sizzler.
We suggest contacting TM Designworks at (541) 772-4161 to
purchase its indestructible chain guide kit.
( 9) Power. We miss the halcyon days of 2012 when the KX450F
made the most power in the 450 class. For 2016 it ranks fourth in
peak horsepower and delivers a very deliberate but uninspiring
style of power.