The 2016 Kawasaki KX450F underwent a major overall, getting a head-to-toe revamp, its first in seven years. The all-new chassis is narrower and the overall package much lighter, 7.5 pounds lighter to be exact. Past complaints of a wide and heavy feel from the KX450 are now remedied, as the KX450 finally feels slim. It doesn’t feel as slim and light as the Husky, or the KTM, but compared to the bulky Yamaha YZ450F the Kawasaki is anorexic.
In the past, the KX450F was known for its brutal arm stretching power. Now, like other manufactures, Kawasaki has reworked power delivery to provide a more pleasant experience, especially for the non pro rider. The Kawasaki is by no means a slouch in the power department, it is now just easier to manage. The power pulls through the rpms smoothly and is way more friendly off idle.
Test riders who wanted more hit simply changed the ignition coupler to the more aggressive white map. Kawasaki finally has a handheld device that allows the rider to adjust the fuel and ignition curves quickly, much like the Yamaha GYTR Power Tuner. Kawasaki’s is just as easy to use but it doesn’t require a PC computer and auxiliary 12 volt battery.
Engineers may have tamed power delivers, but the KX450F is still stupid loud. Kawasaki reputedly lowered the decibels by two, but we can’t tell. The KX’s bark is downright annoying. And Kawasaki isn’t the only ones playing the noise game, as the Yamaha YZ450F is right there with KX when it comes to loud bikes.
Front wheel traction is improved with the KX’s new chassis and it carves corners better than ever before. The KX450F is still a rear steering bike, with the added ability to hold an inside line when needed. It doesn’t corner as well as the KTM, Husky, Honda or Suzuki, but in the stability department it’s hard to beat the Kawasaki KX450F. It rarely twitches or steps out of line. Down the big hills at Glen Helen, the KX was the bike that begged to go faster into the braking bumps.
After riding the Suzuki RM-Z450 one might believe there was zero hope of the Showa TAC fork ever working decent, but it works fairly well on the 2016 KX450F. Showa’s valving updates for 2016 work and the recommended stock air pressure and clicker settings are an excellent starting point. It isn’t as comfortable as the spring fork-equipped bikes in this shootout, but it isn’t bad.
Again, the Showa TAC Air forks offer up a wide range of adjustment, which is good and bad. Between three air chambers, 22 compression settings and 20 rebound settings, the opportunity to really mess up the fork action is endless. Add in the fact the three air chambers have to be checked at the beginning of each ride day and you have a recipe for disaster. Consistency when setting pressure is key and more than once we’ve seen a KX450F out at the local track with its nose riding low only to find out from the rider that not only has he not checked the air pressure in over a month, he doesn’t even know where the fork pump is.
The 2016 KX450F engine is much more rider friendly while still maintaining its strong output. Cornering has improved and the handling is ultra stable. The KX450F offers up a lot of adjustment from the suspension, as well as the chassis, with multiple footpegs and handlebar positions. Overall, the KX450 lands in the fourth-place for our 2016 MX shootout, with the Kawasaki improved but unable to hunt for the win.
• Better turning than 2015
• TAC air fork is improved
• Lighter and narrower
• TAC air fork lacks comfort
• Loud exhaust
• Chain slider and guide wear out quickly
KX450F Suspension Settings
Inner Chamber: 189 psi
Outer Chamber: 14.5 psi
Balance Chamber: 218 psi
Compression: 7 (Turns out)
Low-Speed Compression: 13
High-Speed Compression: 1.75
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2016 450 Motocross Shootout Intro
2016 Suzuki RM-Z450 Comparison
2016 Honda CRF450R Comparison
2016 KTM 350 SX-F Comparison
2016 Kawasaki KX450F Comparison
2016 Husqvarna FC 450 Comparison
2016 KTM 450 SX-F Comparison
2016 Yamaha YZ450F Comparison
2016 450 Motocross Shootout Conclusion