This is how we set up our 2016 Kawasaki KX450F
for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your
own sweet spot.
SHOWA SFF-AIR TAC FORK SETTINGS
The inherent problem with air forks is that they
are speed-sensitive. A faster rider will run higher air
pressures in the inner and balance chambers than
a slower rider, which means that suggested air
pressures must always have an asterisk attached that
is based on the rider’s speed, his weight and the track
design. The settings below are for a Vet rider. In
parentheses, we listed the air pressures we ran for a
Pro rider. These are the setups we ran on the 2016
Kawasaki KX450F for hardcore racing:
Inner spring rate: 160 psi (185 psi)
Outer spring rate: 14. 5 psi ( 14. 5 psi)
Balance spring rate: 175 psi (215 psi)
Compression: 13 clicks out ( 9 clicks out)
Rebound: 13 clicks out
Fork-leg height: 5mm up
Notes: If you are neither Vet speed nor Pro speed
but somewhere in between, try 174 psi (inner), 14. 5
psi (outer) and 203 psi (balance). As a general rule, we
always ran more air pressure in the balance chamber
than in the inner chamber. This lets the fork settle
and not ride as high in its stroke, which helps the
KX450F turn better.
SHOWA SHOCK SETTINGS
The shock was a surprise. It worked well from day
one. And although we went out on several settings
and ran the race sag at a relatively low 104mm, we
liked the improvements to the rear suspension. We
recommend this shock setup on the 2016 Kawasaki
KX450F (stock specs are in parentheses):
Spring rate: 5. 2 N/m
Hi-compression: 2-1/4 turns out (1 3/4 turns out)
Lo-compression: 15 clicks out ( 13 clicks out)
Rebound: 11 clicks out ( 12 clicks out)
Race sag: 104mm
Notes: The shock was easy as pie to set up.
The rear end exhibited minimal wallowing and
worked very well under braking in chop and
square-edged bumps. ;
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Launch control. We run it on concrete and
hard-pack starts but not on loamy starts. It functions in
first and second gears and is turned off when you shift
( 2) Mapping tool. Most MXA test riders admire the
$291 Yamaha GYTR programming tool, because it is easy
to use, simple to understand and similar to a Playstation.
Kawasaki’s hand-held mapping tool is much more complicated, but it gives an aspiring hacker all the tools he’ll
ever need to store up to 200 distinct maps. It costs $500.
( 3) SFF Air TAC forks. The KX450F air forks surprised us. How so? They actually worked right off the
showroom floor. Will wonders never cease?
( 4) Air pump. Kawasaki gives every KX450F buyer a
free 0–300-psi digital air pump. You will wear it out.
Houdini: The key to success with the TAC forks is knowing
how to use the pressure in the balance chamber properly.
Airflow: There is no doubt that the KX450F’s Showa SFF-Air
TAC forks are the best air forks ever offered to the public.
( 5) Footpegs. The KX450F footpegs can be moved
down 5mm if you so desire. No MXA test riders have
ever wanted to lower the pegs, but it is reassuring to
know that if we have a growth spurt we could stretch
it out a little.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: Love the forks, weight and smaller dimensions.
Like the handling and power. Hate the clutch, mapping
and rear brake pedal. We can fix the glitches.