Words and Photos by Brendan Lutes
Video by Casey McPerry
What do you do to a bike that has already been proven on the track and in the magazines? Leave it alone. For 2014, Kawasaki did exactly that to the KX450F, updating only the graphics and grips while leaving the motor, suspension, and chassis exactly the same as the 2013 model.
The first thing we noticed upon firing up the machine was how easily it starts. The KX450F, while powerful, starts with one or two kicks depending on how hard you kick it. One full, smooth kick, however, was usually all it took to bring the bike to life. The motor on the big KXF has always been strong, and this year it remains the same. The bike comes on strong right from the first crack of the throttle and continues to pull all the way through the top. Even with just the stock coupler installed, the bike was extremely fast, as it continued to rev and still produce power even down long straights. The motor on the bike is the KX450F's biggest attribute—it's fast.
Last year, Kawasaki made a big change by introducing the Kayaba Air Fork, and for '14, the suspension returns. Out on the track, the fork soaks up both hard hits and small chop with ease and works well with the shock. We must say, however, that you need to consistently check the air pressure of the fork, as it changes due to temperature and altitude, and too much pressure makes for a very harsh ride. We rode in the morning, and after the fork heated up, there was too much pressure, causing the bike to be too high in the stroke when entering corners, which produced a harsh feel. After playing with air pressure, we found that a couple pounds under stock worked best and wasn't too harsh on small chop. While the Air Fork can be finicky, one obvious advantage is that you can easily adjust the pressure. And it's also worth noting that Kawasaki will be providing a fork pump to each new KX450F owner, as well as anyone who purchased the 2013 model. With the suspension dialed in, the KXF turns exceptional, allowing the rider to throw it into corners and slide around hard-packed turns with confidence. As a package, the suspension and chassis work very well together.
For a bike that was already a great machine to begin with, we're happy that Kawasaki didn't change much. The KX450F faired well in our annual shootout last year, and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against the competition this year. Don't forget to check out an upcoming issue of TransWorld Motocross for a more in-depth test of the KXF. We have a lot more riding to do.