Bret Milan – Vet – 6’4”, 210 pounds – Kawasaki KX450F
There is really only one choice here for me. The KX450F is the only bike I could buy and race next weekend in stock form. The Kawasaki engine was almost magical, as it provided smooth, strong power from the bottom to the top of the rpm range. No other bike in the test could match this performance. The Kawasaki was also the most firmly suspended bike in the test, with a wide range of adjustability thanks to the incredible air forks. Although I wish the Kawasaki turned a bit more like the Suzuki, as the day wore on and the track got rougher and rougher, I really learned to appreciate the stability of the KX 450F. When you combine all the traits mentioned above with an ergonomic package well suited to my rather large frame, I really had no other choice than to declare the KX450F the winner.
Chris See – Pro – 5’9”, 160 pounds – Honda CRF450R
With the bikes being insanely priced these days, you really have to put a lot of thought into this category. What’s going to last? What works with the least amount of money put into it? What makes me happy to look at? For me I just can’t go against the Honda. The CRF needed the least amount of work for me to get comfortable; it has Honda’s reliable reputation; and damn, it’s good looking. With just minor adjustments this thing could be race ready right out of the box and that is what I look for when I’m going to spend my hard earned money.
Jason Ellis – Novice – 6’0”, 200 pounds – Kawasaki KX450F
For me I just trust the Kawasaki more; after riding all of those bikes for two full days my best laps were always on the Kawi. It had enough power to get over the big jumps, which gave me way more confidence. Everything feels like it should on the Kawasaki – right where it is supposed to be. The only thing with the Kawasaki is that it doesn’t turn as well as some of the others, but I’m not that great in the turns anyway.
Vicki Golden – Pro – 5’6”, 140 pounds – Kawasaki KX450F
If I were to buy a bike with my own money, I would choose the 2013 Kawasaki 450. I was instantly comfortable on the first lap, which made the decision easy for me. The bike was very predictable in corners and handled great down any rough straightaways. It had unbelievable power, and brakes to match. The bike also comes with plenty of extras to make it more customizable to fit my riding style and my body size. Being a privateer racer there are things that I have to take notice in buying a bike to make my sponsors happy. The biggest and most obvious thing that sponsors want to see is there logo as big as possible on the bike. Kawasaki has great shrouds to work with to get my sponsors noticed at big races and even at the practice tracks.
Nick Thiel – Pro – 6’1”, 175 pounds – Honda CRF450R
Although in the previous sections I have been extremely critical, all of these motorcycles are great specimens. It’s the small things that make a huge difference. Reliability is always a major component in my choice to buy a motorcycle. Although the CRF didn’t have the best motor package, it does have a long-standing record of being the most reliable bikes you can throw a leg over. It handles well, looks great and also stayed the same price as in years past with a complete overhaul. It was a difficult choice, but as an overall package, Honda is where I would spend my money.
Frankie Garcia – Intermediate – 5’8”, 190 pounds – Honda CRF450R
If it were my money on the line I would definitely go with the 2013 Honda CRF450R for one main reason. The bike is all new, meaning it is the first year of this new generation 450. The twin pipes and all new plastics design really give the red racer a modern look. Because it is new, resale on the bike would most likely be the best of all the bikes. The Kawi is in its second year minus the PSF fork. Although its engine is updated, the Suzuki is still basically the same. The KTM’s are…well…KTM’s, and the Yamaha received no changes for 2013 besides black handlebars and a white rear fender. The Honda is one cool looking machine and its handling and engine characteristics prove stood out on the track, not to mention that bad dude Chad Reed rides red. It’s a win, win with the CRF.
Justin Dawes – Vet – 5’10”, 220 Pounds – KTM 350 SX-F
As I get older I care less about how fast I can go and worry more about how long I can ride. For me the KTM 350 SX-F makes going to the MX track fun again. It’s not a step behind the rest of the bikes anymore in terms of power, it’s got electric start and it doesn’t wear me out. The power delivery works for me in that I can ride it around and be lazy, but when I want to get with it, both the chassis and motor are more than willing to impress. The Honda has more low-end, and the Kawasaki has more top-end, but the KTM 350 is a Goldilocks bike. It’s just right.