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2012 Kawasaki KXF 450 Bike Test by Rick Johnson

Published November 10th, 2011

Ryan Villopoto is the 2011 AMA Supercross Series Champion, and the 2011 AMA Motocross National Champion, racing a Kawasaki KXF 450. In mid season during the outdoor MX series, Ryan switched to the 2012 edition of the Kawasaki KXF 450. Some thought it might be a strange move changing model years in the middle of a season. I can see why they did it … this bike is incredible.

2012 Kawasaki KXF 450 Bike Test by Rick Johnson - Photo 1 of 8

Ryan went on to clinch the AMA National Motocross Championship in the MX (450) class in convincing style. And then, on basically the same machine, helped Team USA win the Motocross of Nations in France. He then won 1 million dollars in sweeping all three races of the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas.

This bike certainly has the latest in technology, looks, performance, and more. What I like most, and I hope comes across in the video, is the adustability, and comfort level of the bike. Adjustability makes the bike have a comfort level beyond anything I’ve ever ridden before. In fact, this is the most modern, technologically advanced motocross bike I have ever ridden.

Thanks again to everyone at Kawasaki for making this happen. I had a blast.

RJ

 

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Feel free to share your thoughts via Supercross.com’s Facebook Fan Page, and Supercross.com’s Twitter Feed.

Below is info from Kawasaki on this championship winning machine.

 

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The race-winning power and confident handling of Kawasaki’s KX(TM)450F motocrosser are back in an even sleeker and more advanced package than ever before. With racing always at the forefront, the KX450F’s latest technical innovations were developed from the factory know-how of the Monster Energy Kawasaki race team, with the final product representing an unmatched combination of cutting-edge innovation and race-proven components. Its best-in-class performance is facilitated by the highest level of rider adjustability and the most progressive electronics package ever seen on a production motocrosser. From the moment the gate drops, the 2012 KX450F is set to leave challengers in its dust.

The 2012 highlights begin with the Supercross-winning DNA of last year’s bike. The advanced design of the aluminum perimeter frame and dominating motor receive a host of refinements to create a more compact and mass-centralized chassis propelled by more usable power than ever. Headlining the technological charge, the KX450F features an all new Launch Control Mode, which is tuned to maximize traction out of the starting gate. This is accomplished without sacrificing any of the mid-range grunt or straight-line speed that made the KX450F famous.

2012 KX450F riders can easily activate the new Launch Control mode – a key feature never before seen on a production motocross bike. The push-button system is activated by a touch of the switch on the left handlebar, and optimizes off-the-line acceleration by altering ignition timing in first and second gears to help maximize grip and reduce the chance of excessive wheelspin. Shifting into third gear automatically deactivates Launch Control Mode and returns the ignition timing to the parameters of the installed ignition map. The Launch Control’s effectiveness is further enhanced by a chassis designed to maximize suspension performance and rear wheel traction.

No other production motocrosser offers a higher degree of adjustability to the rider interface or engine character than the new 2012 KX450F. With a choice of four different handlebar positions, two footpeg positions, and virtually unlimited ignition mapping capabilities – thanks to its advanced Digital Fuel Injection (DFI®) system – the KX450F is uniquely able to adapt to changing track and surface conditions and meet the needs of a surprisingly wide range of riders.

The DFI system comes with pre-programmed ignition maps, but new for 2012, these maps are interchangeable without the use of a laptop computer – or other separate electronic devices. Maps can quickly and easily be changed between three settings – standard, hard (conditions) and soft (conditions) – by swapping the DFI wire coupler cap clipped to the side of the steering head. No additional accessories are needed to alternate between preprogrammed settings – simply install the coupler cap with your desired ignition mode and start winning. The ECU is also still fully re-programmable by using the accessory KX FI Calibration Kit, the same tool used by Kawasaki factory and privateer teams in AMA and FIM racing.

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The KX450F delivers improved mid- to high-end power and a wider powerband, thanks to numerous upgrades. The KX450F’s race-proven bridge-box bottom piston allows for optimum strength just like last year, but has been revised to optimize its rigidity balance and enhance mid-high-rpm character. A new thinner top piston ring with upgraded surface treatment reduces friction and helps improve throttle response. A new intake cam offers a slight increase in intake valve lift and allows the motor to breathe deeper, boosting power as well. The resulting combination offers a wider spread of torque and increased high-rpm performance. That extra power makes it to the ground more effectively than ever, thanks to the new electronics, plus multiple transmission upgrades and chassis improvements designed to complement the bolder power delivery.

The five-speed manual transmission handles the torque load with an ideal balance of precision and durability, thanks to an extra dog on the gears (up from 3 to 4) which improves shift feel. A new, shorter shift fork gives a smoother, more positive feel and reduces stress when changing gears, making shift action more efficient, while a new first gear is 2.8 mm thicker to enhance strength and durability. A new shift lever moves the pedal 3mm farther from the footpeg and offers greater durability. Finally, heavier clutch springs help channel the engine’s considerable torque when rocketing out of the gate.

Not only have the electronics, engine and gearbox been extensively upgraded, but a new frame and slimmer rider compartment also join the party for 2012. A total width reduction of 4mm across the main frame spars gives the 2012 KX450F the most slender mid-section ever. Chassis rigidity has been refined by altering the shape of the ribbing inside the new frame, creating more flex in the upper portion and stiffening the lower sections around the swingarm pivot. These changes helped increase rear wheel traction and also allowed additional room for the alternate footpeg mounting position.

In another industry-first innovation, the 2012 KX450F offers two footpeg positions to choose from. The alternate position places the footpegs five millimeters lower than stock, which not only allows for taller riders, but lowers the center of gravity and gives the rider a lower point of view, adding to both physical and psychological stability.

The tie rod arm of the Uni-Trak® rear suspension linkage is now slimmer, offering slightly less rigidity for added rear-wheel traction. Kawasaki will also offer an optional rear suspension tie rod, which can be used to reduce seat height. The optional unit is one millimeter shorter than stock, which translates to a six millimeter reduction in seat height – a subtle but effective change for “inseam challenged” riders.

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The Kayaba rear shock features a beefy 50mm piston and also receives a top-shelf Kashima Coat surface treatment in its internals. Ample adjustability of the shock body helps ensure smooth, reliable and consistent action of the rear suspension that not only offers superior performance, but also helps the rider relax and conserve valuable strength on the way to the finish line.

Up front, the Kayaba Air-Oil-Separate AOS fork keeps oil and air in separate chambers for remarkably stable damping performance during long motos. A revised lower triple clamp contributes to improved fork action. The new clamp can be recognized by its rear-opening design. The super-hard Diamond-Like Carbon DLC coating on the outer surface of the inner fork tubes and high-tech Kashima Coat treatment on the inner surface of the outer fork tubes significantly reduce drag compared to a standard fork assembly and help deliver supple, fade-free fork action.

Mass centralization and a lower center of gravity were additional targets for the 2012 KX450F, so a new fuel tank, upgraded bodywork and a shorter muffler help relocate weight toward the center of the motorcycle and make the new KX more nimble than ever.

The new fuel tank has a shorter overall height and a narrower top section, which forms a straighter, smoother line with the seat and allows greater freedom of movement for the rider. The new fuel tank also houses an upgraded fuel pump, which is lighter in weight thanks to an integrated filter cover which wraps around the inlet port and acts as a fuel trap. This also eliminates the need for a pressure regulator fuel return hose.

The new header pipe has a shorter length and features a tapered mid-section. The new silencer is a full 60mm shorter than its predecessor, but features a revised cross-section and the same overall volume as the 2011 model and meets noise regulations.

A new rigid-mount wave-type front brake rotor, slimmer front tire and new seat foam add to the lengthy list of improvements made to the 2012 KX450F. Minimalist body work, revised shrouds and smaller number plates contribute to the slender feel and sleek new looks of Kawasaki’s flagship motocross machine. Sparing no attention to detail, the seams between the radiator shrouds, seat and side covers are very flush fitting, which helps prevent snags and allow the rider to alter position and maneuver the bike more effectively.

A blue alumite finish on the oil cap and two caps on the generator cover highlight the upgraded appearance of the KX450F motor, and match the blue finish on the suspension adjusters and splashes of color in the new graphics. A new embossed logo on the clutch cover features a trick design that reveals a raised Kawasaki racing insignia as the black paint is worn away by the rider’s boot.

The 2012 KX450F is available in Kawasaki Lime Green, with black alumite-coated rims, blue anodized highlights and aggressive graphics.

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Racers who ride their KX450F at designated events are eligible to receive support from Team Green(TM), Kawasaki’s amateur racing support program. Each year, Team Green provides regional support vehicles and highly trained technicians at more than 100 events throughout the United States, offering technical information and assistance to those who race Kawasaki products. Kawasaki also offers a comprehensive contingency program for amateur and professional riders who place well at designated events.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. KMC markets and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft, utility vehicles and recreation utility vehicles through a network of more than 1,350 independent retailers, with an additional 8,000 retailers specializing in Kawasaki power products and general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 3,100 people in the United States, with 300 of them located at KMC’s Irvine, California headquarters.

Kawasaki’s tagline, “Let the good times roll.(TM)”, is recognized worldwide. The Kawasaki brand has become synonymous with powerful, stylish motorcycles for over four decades.

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Features and Benefits

At a glance…

  • All-new Launch Control Mode increases the chance of nailing the holeshot
  • New pre-programmed ignition maps, interchangeable trackside, no PC required
  • Upgraded engine with more top-end thrust and a wider powerband
  • New adjustable bar and footpeg positions
  • New slimmer frame and minimalist bodywork
  • Upgraded transmission for easy, reliable shifting
  • New pipe and silencer help centralize mass
  • 48mm AOS forks with DLC coated inner fork tubes
  • Black Alumite coated rims

Engine Overview

  • 449cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke single
  • Works-based Bridged-box Bottom piston has revised rigidity for improved high-rpm power
  • Revised intake cam and all-new exhaust result in wider powerband
  • A forward lean angle of 3° puts the engine in the ideal position for maximum traction
  • Highly balanced crankshaft, on par with Villopoto’s factory racer, creates minimal vibration
  • Maintenance-free automatic cam chain adjuster
  • Large airbox flap helps prevent mud and water from entering

Bridged-box Bottom Piston

  • Thinner top ring and revised surface treatment of oil ring reduce friction
  • Same design as used on our factory racers; offers optimum performance at all rpm
  • Lighter and more durable than traditional piston designs
  • Short piston skirt features low-friction coating to minimize mechanical losses
  • Reinforced external ribs enhance strength and durability

Cylinder Head

  • Compact head is only 100mm tall
  • Intake camshaft profile revised to increase intake for better low- and mid-range power
  • 36mm titanium intake and 31mm exhaust valves with aluminum spring retainers minimize reciprocating weight and cylinder height to help ensure reliable valve control at high rpm
  • Double valve springs allow a short cylinder head height and help ensure stable valve operation
  • Camshafts, lobes and tappet surfaces feature a soft-nitride treatment for long wear and high-rpm reliability

Crankshaft

  • Crankshaft with high inertial mass helps maximize rear wheel traction
  • Wedge-shaped crank web provides enough offsetting moment for a 60 percent balance factor – and is similar to the crank balance in Kawasaki’s factory race engines
  • Net result is reduced engine vibration, smoother power delivery and increased performance, with a noticeably snappier response at low rpm
  • Crankshaft and connecting rod feature a special carburizing and quenching treatment to maximize rigidity

Digital Fuel Injection

  • Self-adjusts to atmospheric changes for easier starting, sharper throttle response and optimized power and stability when jumping/landing
  • It is not necessary to re-tune, or change any jets to suit climatic conditions like on a carbureted model
  • Ultra-fine atomizing injector with 12 holes sprays particles with a droplet size of 60? for smooth power delivery and engine response throughout the throttle range
  • 43mm throttle body uses a progressive throttle linkage to deliver airflow in much the same way as an FCR carburetor
  • Using two linked shafts, the throttle body opens more quickly after reaching the 3/8 open position
  • Fast-idle knob on the throttle body allows riders to increase engine speed when starting a cold engine
  • Fuel injector set at 45°, the optimum angle for mid-range power

Launch Control Mode

  • Factory-style launch control system increases chance of getting a good start by maximizing traction on a slippery surface
  • Push-button activation of the Launch Control Mode retards ignition timing in first and second gears, giving the greatest effect within the first few seconds of releasing the clutch
  • Launch Control can be activated in neutral, first or second gear
  • Shifting into third gear deactivates Launch Control Mode and returns the ignition to normal mapping
  • System is designed to same specifications as factory Kawasaki AMA machines

High-performance ECU

  • New ECU programming offers three preprogrammed maps: Standard, Hard (conditions) and Soft (conditions)
  • Maps are now easily selectable via DFI wire coupler caps, no computer necessary
  • No battery needed; the engine can be started with only three rotations of the crankshaft using the  electricity generated by a single kick of the starter
  • The system delivers electricity to FI system in sequence: first the ECU, then the fuel pump, and finally the injector for quick, easy starting
  • The compact, lightweight ECU, located on the front of the steering head behind the number plate, was designed specifically for motocross use. The fuel pump relay is integrated with the ECU to help cope with the shocks and vibrations of motocross riding

Optional User ECU Setting Tool

  • KX FI Calibration Kit allows racers to reprogram the ECU’s data maps for volume of fuel injected and ignition timing to alter engine characteristics to suit rider preference
  • The tool can also be used as a data logger, recording up to six hours of data, including engine rpm, degree of throttle opening, engine boost, coolant temp, air temp, ignition timing, fuel adjustments, gear position and system voltage
  • 2012 software program is updated for compatibility with 64-bit operating systems such as Windows 7

Easy Starting

  • Revised shape of kickstart ratchet enables lever to return to start position more smoothly
  • Strong output from the large ACG rotor provides enough electrical power for the battery-less FI system to enable true one-kick starting without using a battery
  • Equipped with an automatic compression release ACR system for quick and easy starting. The dual-weight centrifugal decompression system is fitted to the exhaust cam
  • Compression release features 1.0mm of valve lift, to minimize the required kicking power

Lightweight Aluminum Fuel Pump

  • Fuel pump now features a one-piece filter cover and body, eliminating the need for fuel return tube from pressure regulator and contributing to weight reduction
  • Features a plastic (formerly rubber) fuel filter cover that wraps around the inlet port and acts as a fuel trap to help ensure a stable fuel supply during vigorous motocross riding
  • New 1.6-gallon fuel tank is formed using a blow molding process

Efficient Cooling

  • High-capacity Denso radiators feature tightly packed cores and a fin design that deliver superior cooling efficiency
  • Changed left side radiator upper pipe angle for new shroud design
  • New shroud shape features a slimmer profile and larger cooling outlet hole
  • Radiator louvers feature four small blades set at a shallow angle for minimum overlap and maximum air flow

Strong and Durable Clutch

  • Clutch assembly provides a direct feel and superb control
  • Heavier clutch springs give a more positive feel to the rider
  • Excellent oil drainage contributes to more direct feel
  • Friction plates with substantial friction material contribute to a direct feel
  • New clutch case cover features embossed logo, designed to be revealed as rider’s boot wears away black paint

Close-Ratio 5-Speed Transmission

  • 5-Speed transmission and low-rpm engine response combination offers riders more gear options for traversing rough sections or getting into the rhythm of a course easily so they can focus more on racing
  • Revised number of gear dogs (3 dogs/3 holes to 4 dogs/4 holes) improve shift feel
  • Thicker first gear offers greater durability for launching off the line
  • Shorter shift fork 5.3mm to 4.4mm reduces the shift force necessary to change gears
  • New shift lever moves the pedal 3mm farther from the footpeg and offers greater durability
  • New polyurethane resin drive chain roller reduces weight

Exhaust

  • New tapered header pipe is shorter in length and features a smaller overall diameter
  • Tapered mid-piece is new for 2012 KX450F
  • New silencer is 60mm shorter, but thanks to a new cross-section, features same overall volume as ’11 model to help meet current 94dB noise regulations

Powerful Disc Brakes

  • New front disc features an aggressive petal design
  • Powerful twin piston hydraulic front caliper squeezes 250mm rotor
  • Lightweight rigid-mounted front disc reduces unsprung weight by 80 grams
  • Single piston hydraulic rear caliper squeezes lightweight 240mm petal-type rotor

Light, Slim Chassis

  • New main frame spars are 4mm slimmer to help reduce overall width at the rider’s knees
  • Increased rigidity in the swingarm bracket area helps increase rear wheel traction and provide a more solid feel when landing jumps

Aluminum Swingarm

  • Cross-section design contributes to light handling
  • Tapered “D” shape swingarm provides ideal rigidity for excellent stability, and is lighter than a comparable box-section unit
  • Alloy swingarm features a cast front section, tapered hydroformed spars and forged chain adjusters
  • Uni-Trak® rear suspension linkage altered for improved traction, utilizing a revised tie-rod unit which is less rigid
  • Suspension arm is mounted below the swingarm to allow a longer rear suspension stroke and more precise tuning
  • New optional linkage tie rod is 1mm shorter, creating a 6mm reduction in seat height for shorter riders

AOS Front Fork

  • Race-oriented suspension settings offer maximum overall performance
  • Revised lower triple clamp locates the clamp opening in the rear as opposed to the side for increased rigidity and improved fork action
  • Kayaba Air-Oil-Separate (AOS) fork keeps oil and air in separate chambers for stable damping performance during long motos. Low-friction fork seals contribute to smooth action
  • Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coating on the outer surface of the inner fork tubes offers minimum stiction when the fork is exposed to lateral forces that would usually hamper slide action. The result is improved fork response, especially during cornering
  • Friction-reducing Kashima Coat on the inside of the fork’s outer tubes contributes to smooth suspension action (especially at the initial part of the stroke) and a superb ride feel
  • Wrap-around fork tube guards offer effective protection for the sliders

Rear Shock

  • Rear suspension settings and linkage ratios derived from extensive rider testing
  • Kayaba rear shock features a large 50mm piston
  • Rear shock features dual compression adjustability, allowing high-speed and low-speed damping to be tuned separately
  • Also features Kashima Coat treatment on the cylinder for reduced friction and smoother suspension action
  • Easy adjuster access for track-side suspension tuning

Rider Interface and Styling

  • Dual injected 2-tone, one-piece plastic shrouds and side number plates minimized for mass centralization and rider comfort
  • Upgrades bodywork features more flush seams for easier rider movement
  • Lower-capacity fuel tank is shorter and narrower, creating a straighter line from the seat
  • Black plastic covers, triple clamps, engine covers, and black alumite-coated rims – just like Kawasaki’s factory teams
  • Blue alumite finish on suspension adjusters and engine plugs match new graphics accents
  • Wide 50mm footpegs can be adjusted to alternate position, 5mm lower than stock
  • Frame is wider at the ankles to offer optimum grip, narrows below the seat to allow a slim riding position
  • Slim seat design uses new urethane foam designed to retain its original shape longer

Additional Features

  • Skid plate made of resin material offers great protection without excess weight
  • Clutch cable boot features a large quick adjuster, making it easy for riders to adjust play in the clutch cable on the fly
  • Rear caliper guard helps protect the caliper from damage
  • Ribless rear hub and butted spokes offer light weight and excellent durability
2012 Kawasaki KX(TM)450F Specifications*

Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke single with DOHC and four-valve cylinder head

Displacement: 449cc

Bore x stroke: 96.0 x 62.1mm

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Fuel Injection: 43mm Keihin Throttle body

Ignition: Digital DC-CDI

Transmission: Five-speed

Rake / trail: 26.9 degrees / 4.4 in.

Front suspension / wheel travel: 48mm inverted, Kayaba AOS with DLC coated sliders, 22-position compression and 20-position rebound dampening adjustment / 12.4 in.

Rear suspension / wheel travel: UNI-TRAK® linkage system and Kayaba shock with 50mm piston, 22-position low-speed and stepless high-speed compression dampening, 22-position rebound dampening and fully adjustable spring preload / 12.4 in.

Front tire: 80/100-21

Rear tire: 120/80-19  

Front brake: Single rigid-mounted 250mm petal disc with dual piston caliper

Rear brake: Single 240mm petal disc with single-piston caliper

Overall length: 85.8 in.

Overall width: 32.3 in.

Overall height: 50.2 in.

Wheelbase: 58.3 in.

Ground clearance: 13.0 in.

Seat height: 37.6 in.

Curb weight: 249.1 lbs.

Fuel capacity: 1.64 gal.

Color: Lime Green

MSRP: $ TBD

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