MotoUSA tests out Kawasaki's new Fuel Injection Calibration Kit for the 2009 Kawasaki KX450F.
Fuel injection. These are the two hottest words in the dirt bike dictionary right now. At this point most all of us know its apparent benefits which include compensation for different engine running conditions (air temperature and elevation) as well as helping facilitate smoother, more predicable power delivery and superior fuel efficiency when compared to a carbureted set-up. What many don’t understand, though, is that they have the ability to tune their EFI-equipped off-road motorcycles. And of the three current fuel-injected Japanese 450s, without a doubt Team Green has the most sophisticated tool with its Kawasaki Fuel Injection Calibration Kit for the winner of MotoUSA's 2009 450 Motocross Motorcycle Comparison
, the 2009 Kawasaki KX450F
(See for yourself how Kawasaki's Fuel Injection Calibration Kit work in the Kawasaki Fuel Injection Calibration Kit video to the right.
Available at your neighborhood Kawasaki dealer, the $515 device (Kawasaki part number: 99999-0240) allows you to alter both the engine’s fuel and ignition maps independently via your laptop computer. Additionally, a data acquisition function gives the user the ability to record engine running parameters (data channels) in real-time; including ambient air and coolant temperature, engine RPM, throttle angle, manifold pressure, ignition timing, fuel adjustment, gear position and voltage for up to six hours, depending on the number of data channels selected.
The kit consists of the plug-in tool (roughly the size of a thick stick of chewing gum), mounting hardware, power and mini-USB to USB data cable, as well as KX Racing Software (PC-compatible only, sorry Apple users) and operating instructions.
Installation requires the removal of the front number plate and fuel tank. Use the supplied bracket to mount the device in front of the frame headstock. Then route the power/ECU data cable below the fuel tank and plug into the available OE receptacle. Reinstall the tank and number plate and you’re ready to go.
The $515 kit comes with everything you need sans external battery for use on your 2009 Kawasaki KX450F motorcycle.
The software includes a total of seven pre-installed fuel and ignition settings which the user can select from. Three of the maps alter both fuel and ignition maps (Beginner, Soft Riding Surface and Hard Riding Surface). Two more maps alter the fuel curve only (Lean Fuel, Rich Fuel) and the two remaining maps alter ignition timing only (Advanced Ignition, Retarded Ignition). Additionally, the program allows the user to modify any of the existing maps in order to create their own custom version.
Unlike other piggy-back type EFI modules, designed to work in unison with the stock ECU, Kawasaki’s Calibration Kit is used to transfer maps to the ECU and/or for data logging capabilities. Once you find a map or setting you like, you no longer have to have the Kit installed on the bike as the ECU has been programmed. Furthermore, the device is modular and can used to program a different ’09 KX450F motorcycle's ECU.
To transfer mapping data to the ECU, remove the front number plate and plug in the mini-USB male end into the device’s receptacle. Plug the other end into an available USB opening on your computer. In order to transfer data to the ECU the motorcycle either needs to be running or you can power it via the auxiliary power cord (included) and an external battery (not included). Conversely, using the device’s data logging capabilities requires just your computer since data is stored to the Kit’s read-only memory (similarly to a flash memory card for a digital camera.)
The Beginner setting retards ignition timing and richens the fuel mixture across the rev-range resulting in a significantly softer, more mellow power delivery, which is perfect for a novice rider or for situations when you don’t need hard-hitting engine response.
Changing fuel or ignition maps is as easy as plugging in your laptop computer into the tool and uploading the new data to the ECU.
Similarly to the Beginner setting, the Hard Riding Surface map richens the fuel mixture and retards ignition timing in order to soften power delivery and enable the rider put engine power to the ground more effectively, however not to the same mild extent as Beginner mode.
Conversely, the Soft Riding Surface setting is for riders who want explosive power or for when riding in power robbing conditions such as sand. This setting leans out the fuel mixture and advances ignition timing resulting in an explosive burst of power whenever the throttle is cracked.
The Lean Fuel setting reduces fuel mixture only (ignition timing remains stock). This setting is ideal for an off-road race in which fuel conservation is a priority. It can also be used if you’re running an aftermarket exhaust system which requires less fuel. On the contrary, the Rich Fuel setting richens fuel mixture only and can be used to slightly reduce engine power hit.
The Advanced Ignition map alters ignition timing and causes the spark plug to fire earlier during compression stroke for milder power delivery at low rpm and progressively more power as revs increase. The Retarded Ignition setting has the opposite effect, causing the spark plug to ignite the fuel mixture later which softens power delivery throughout.
KX Racing Software
The Soft Surface terrain setting made the 2009 Kawasaki KX450F much snappier down low making it easy to clear a jump right out of a corner.
Make no mistake about it, the included KX Racing Software is a very advanced program. The sheer number of buttons, menus and features can seem overwhelming, but spend just a little time with it and you won't have to be a tech-savvy computer nerd to figure it out. It's complex and comprehensive, but, fortunately, the program is laid out logically with a friendly menu and toolbar set-up.
As you open the program a status bar lets you know if the system is connected or not, and whether or not the ECU is powered on or off. Open one of the pre-installed Setting Data Files and you’ll be able to view both the fuel and ignition maps in separate windows. Each adjustment window is displayed like an Excel spreadsheet with throttle angle being represented on the Y-axis and engine rpm (in thousands) displayed on the X-axis. Below, a user-selectable 2D/3D graphic provides a visual of what the map looks like.
The software is very intuitive and there are multiple ways to modify settings. One method is to select any point on the graphic, which in turn selects the corresponding column above and allows the user to enter a positive (more fuel/ignition timing) or negative (less fuel/retard ignition) integer value.
If the value entered exceeds the system parameters the column will be highlighted yellow and the system will enter the maximum value allowed. The software has logic built into it so the user can never modify any of the settings enough to cause damage to the engine. And if you ever get too wild with your adjustments you can always revert to a pre-installed setting or re-flash the ECU to its stock calibration.
MotoUSA test rider Scott Simon surmised the new Kawasaki Fuel Injection Calibration Kit best saying: "The best thing about the system is that no matter what level rider you are, you can make the bike work to your needs. Whether that's riding in the woods, in the sand dunes, or around the track."
The software’s integrated data logging feature allows the operator to view and/or record from any of its nine data channels. Furthermore, the channels can be sampled in either one second or one thousandth of second increments and can be set to record on or off based user selectable parameters.
For example, you can set the system to begin logging any data channels as soon as the rider shifts into second gear, and can then be stopped when he shifts into fifth gear thereby isolating certain running conditions. The information can then be saved as a Logging Data File and can be viewed in 2D graphic format which allows the user to view any of the channels at each sample rate through the duration of the ride.
So Does it Work?
Enough with the techno mumbo jumbo, does the kit actually work? Simply put, you won’t believe the difference in how the engine feels between each of the seven settings. The kit has the ability to transform your KX450F into a different machine. This system, without a doubt, is some of the coolest new technology to hit the motocross world. Period.
“Out of all of the settings the Advanced Ignition was my favorite," noted expert-level rider Scott Simon after using it to trim a full two seconds of his lap time. “What I liked so much about the setting is that it took a little bit of the torque away from the bottom-end which actually made the bike easier to turn. It also allowed the tire to hook-up better out of the corner and kept it from wheeling too much, yet mid-range and top-end power was still really strong.”
Although we thought that the Advanced Ignition setting was the perfect balance between soft bottom-end power delivery and ripping mid-range and top-end, Beginner mode will be ideal for novice riders or someone new to the sport of motocross.
The difference in engine character between each of the seven pre-set settings is very noticeable. We settled on the Advanced Ignition setting as that enabled us to lap the fastest.
In Beginner mode, power delivery is considerably softer than stock. As you crack open the throttle you’ll notice how much less sensitive it is. As you accelerate, the motorcycle doesn’t lunge forward with the same tenacity that you would expect from a 450. In fact, you’ll be downright surprised by how much more throttle you’ll need to clear jumps compared to the stock setting. For someone who doesn’t want to deal with the intimidating power typical of a 450, this setting might be perfect.
“The change from the stock setting to the Beginner setting is so drastic that it made the bike hard for me to ride,” mentioned Simon. “It felt so much slower and like a 250F. Sometimes though you don’t need or want all the horsepower and torque of a 450 and the Beginner setting is perfect for those times.”
On the opposite end of the power delivery spectrum is the Soft Surface setting. While this setting is without doubt the most explosive, hardest-hitting and makes for an entertaining, adrenaline-filled experience, it wasn’t necessarily the fastest around Milestone Motocross Park’s main track.
There's simply no question. The Kawasaki Fuel Injection Calibration Kit is the best $515 you can spend on your 2009 Kawasaki KX450F.
The difference between the remaining four settings are incremental and provide balance between the subdued power delivery of the Beginner setting and the audacious Soft Surface mode.
So is the kit for you? Well that depends. If you’re completely satisfied with the engine power characteristics of your stock 2009 KX450F and don’t want the ability to log engine running data from your motos then obviously not. However, if you wish you could alter engine settings to be more or less aggressive based on where and what type of terrain you like to ride then this tool is the best $515 you can spend on your KX450F. If you race a Kawasaki 450F there’s no doubt that this kit will allow you to lap faster, easier and with more confidence than ever before.
We’ve got to hand it to the folks at Kawasaki. They’ve managed to engineer a feature-rich electronics package that delivers tangible results around the racetrack all at a reasonable price. If you’re serious about your riding than you need this kit.