WHY SHOULD THE KX450F WIN THE
Largely because we said Kawasaki would if it
built a lower, lighter and sleeker bike that didn’t
have weak brakes, a marginal clutch, stodgy
upright handling, obnoxious sound, mediocre forks
and a famously weak chain guide. And that is
exactly what Kawasaki did in 2016, except for the
“marginal clutch” part.
WHY SHOULD THE KX450F LOSE THE
Even though the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F is a
lighter, thinner, lower and better handling bike
than any KX450F ever made, the MXA wrecking
crew reneged on the deal for it to win the shootout.
Why? We’re not as thrilled with the overall power
output of the 2016 KX450F. It’s easier to ride but
not as fast. Our KX450F popped on deceleration
and pinged late in the motos. We tried 10 different
maps and couldn’t fix it. We finally settled on the
black coupler. And “marginal” is still an accurate
description of the clutch.
HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER DOES THE
55. 43 horsepower at 9300 rpm. It makes 35. 79
foot-pounds of torque. Historically, the KX450F has
been horsepower king; however, in 2016, Yamaha,
KTM and Husqvarna eclipsed it by 2 to 3 horsepower. That doesn’t mean that the 2016 KX450F
engine is slow. It isn’t. It also doesn’t mean that it
is blazing fast. It isn’t.
WHAT DOES THE KX450F WEIGH?
231 pounds. The Kawasaki went from a porcine
239 pounds last year to 231 pounds in 2016. It is
the lightest Japanese 450 by several pounds
WHERE DID IT PLACE IN LAST YEAR’S MXA
Fourth. Over the last eight years the Kawasaki
KX450F and KTM 450SXF have tied, with four
shootout victories apiece. It is possible for Kawasaki
to claim that it won “MXA’s 2016 Japanese
HOW DOES THE KX450F RATE IN THE
Power output: 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.
Forks: These are really good air forks. We never
thought we’d say that about Showa 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 (in sharp contrast to the SFF TAC
forks on the 2016 Suzuki RM-Z450).
Shock: 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 105mm, we liked the improvements to the
Overall handling: Would it sound rude to say
that the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F handles nothing
like any previous KX450F? The mellow engine,
light weight, narrower chassis and improved
geometry elevate the KX450F chassis out of its
Cornering: All previous KX450F’s were stodgy,
upright machines that turned via brute force.
Not the 2016 KX450F. It wants to turn. Okay,
maybe it wants to turn a little too much—as it
exhibited looseness on the entrance to corners—
but we will take that over a bike that fights you
in every corner. A front tire change will calm
the steering response.
Shifting: Mediocre. It feels stiff and doesn’t
always reassure you on the upshift from second
Brakes: Good. The 270mm front rotor was a
great addition to the KX450F package, but we
still had to bleed the brakes after the first hour to
Clutch: Iffy. If you are a clutch abuser, or even
a moderate user, you will eat this clutch alive.
WHAT WOULD WE CHANGE ON THE
The popping is irritating; this issue needs further
investigation at the factory. We’d dropkick the front
tire for a Dunlop MX32 or Bridgestone X30. We
believe that aftermarket KX450F plastic will have a
higher oil content and be less brittle.
WHAT’S NEWSWORTHY ON THE KX450F?
Thanks to its lighter weight, flatter seat, narrower
tank and more balanced chassis, the 2016 Kawasaki
KX450F 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 tug boat
to get around a corner. Not perfect, but far from
THE FINAL WORD?
Reexamined. Why did it take them so long to
rectify the errors that every KX450F racer already