2012 Kawasaki KX450F First Look

May 17, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

The 2012 Kawasaki KX450F is eligible for Kawasaki contingency.
Kawasaki gave the KX450F Launch Control Mode and multiple ignition map options without having to use the calibration kit.
Kawasaki gave the KX450F Launch Control Mode and multiple ignition map options without having to use the calibration kit.

Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of the page.

Kawasaki just wrapped up the 2011 Supercross title with Ryan Villopoto at the controls of a factory KX450F. For 2012, Kawasaki focused its KX450F efforts on centralizing mass, making usable power and offering increased setup options for suspension, engine and chassis.

Having multiple ignition and timing maps is nothing new for fuel-injected bikes, but Kawasaki puts a different spin on it with its new Launch Control Mode for the KX450F. This production-first feature is designed specifically for the start of a motocross race with the ignition timing in first and second gears altered to reduce excessive wheelspin. The LCM is activated by a switch on the left handlebar and automatically deactivates when shifting into third gear. Kawasaki went a little further with the programming by offering three base settings that are interchangeable without having to bust out the calibration kit (ECU is still fully programmable with the tuning tool). Settings for hard conditions, standard and soft conditions are all controlled by switching the DFI coupler cap next to the steering head so you don’t necessarily have to bring a laptop to the track.

Inside the four-valve, DOHC Single is a thinner top piston ring and new intake cam. Less friction and greater intake valve lift create better throttle response and improved power. The drivetrain also gets an extra dog on the transmission gears (4 vs 3) and the shift fork is shorter. First gear is 2.8mm thicker for durability and riders interact with the new changes via a shift lever that is 3mm further from the footpeg and heavier clutch springs.

A new fuel tank (1.64 gallons) is shorter and narrower on top and contains an upgraded fuel pump within. The pump uses an integrated filter cover that also acts as a fuel trap. On the other end of the combustion process, a revised head pipe is shorter and tapered through the middle. Kawi’s notoriously raspy muffler is now 60mm shorter (2.4 inches). However, the cross-section is changed to keep the same overall volume.

Paint will wear first on the raised insignia  hopefully creating somewhat of an interesting look rather than seeming tattered.This is one of three DFI couplers that change ignition settings.Kawasaki thinned the chassis by 4mm between the main aluminum spars.
Two footpeg placement options give the KX450F more adjustability for rider size and preference.The linkage tie-rod is less rigid and Kawasaki offers a shorter option to lower the seat height.The handlebars have two mounting holes in the top triple clamp.

Kawasaki trimmed the 450F’s midsection by narrowing the distance across the main aluminum spars by 4mm. Riders will be able to grip with their knees easier than ever and they can tailor the footpeg placement to suit their particular taste. Kawasaki now provides two footpeg mounting locations, much like is popular for sport bikes, one 5mm lower than stock. The Kawasaki KX450F was already one of the largest-feeling bikes with the most room for riders in the saddle. This will only further that sensation and make big riders even more comfortable. Engineers didn’t forget about the short guys and gals out there either. With a thinner tie rod on the rear shock linkage, Kawi will offer an optional rod that is 1mm lower, making for a 6mm shorter seat height. The rear Kayaba shock uses a 50mm piston and offers 12.4 inches of travel. The 48mm Kayaba is the Air-Oil Separate (AOS) design with DLC coating on the lower tubes, Kashima coating on the inner tubes and the same amount of travel.

Another chassis change is the lower triple clamp which now opens from the rear. Updated bodywork and graphics and blue oil cap, engine plugs and suspension adjusters give it a fresh look. Other details include new seat foam, slimmer front tire and rigid-mount front brake rotor. We complain about the engine cases looking haggard quickly so Kawasaki but a raised insignia on the clutch cover to add some style to the deterioration. No pricing information is available yet.

2012 Kawasaki KX450F Specs

Kawasaki uses a slimmer front tire for 2012.

Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, 4-stroke Single
Displacement: 449cc
Bore x Stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.5:1
Fueling: DFI, 43mm Keihin throttle body
Ignition: Digital DC-CDI
Transmission: 5-speed
Rake/Trail: 26.9 degrees/4.4 in.
Front Suspension : 48mm inverted Kayaba AOS with DLC coated sliders, compression, rebound adjustable,12.4 inches travel
Rear Suspension: UNI-TRAK® linkage system and Kayaba shock with 50mm piston, preload, low/high-speed compression and rebound adjustable, 12.4 inches travel
Front Tire: 80/100-21
Rear Tire: 120/80-19
Front Brake: Rigid-mount 250mm petal disc with 2-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 240mm petal disc with 1-piston caliper
LxWxH: 85.8 x 32.3 x 50.2 in.
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 13.0 in.
Seat Height: 37.6 in.
Curb Weight: 249.1 lbs. (claimed)
Fuel Capacity: 1.64 gal.
Color: Lime Green

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