2016 Kawasaki KX450F

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First Ride: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F
Vital Review

First Ride: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F - More Motocross Videos

Once we received our 2016 Kawasaki KX450F after returning from the intro at High Point, we decided to expand our feedback on the new green steed by meeting up with Vince Friese out at Pala Raceway. Click play to hear Vince's thoughts after spending the day ripping corners and throwing the new bike around.


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Tested: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F

Curious how the 2016 Kawasaki KX450F's upgrades have been received? Then look no further, we have five different test riders to give you their thoughts on this heavily upgraded 450. The list of revisions are fairly long; include a new frame, swingarm, engine, and more! The KX450F has been known for its great power and stable chassis, but have the changes finally made the Kawasaki the nimble and easy-to-turn bike riders have been waiting for? Find out below.

Dyno services provided by Race Tech.

Name: Robby Bell / Age: 30
Height: 6' 0" / Weight: 165 lbs.
Riding Experience: Professional Motocross and Off-Road

Kawasaki did quite an overhaul to their 450 for 2016, reducing the weight and getting the handling to feel more responsive on track. I definitely noticed the weight savings right away, as the bike felt especially light in the front end. So much so, that the initial sag setting of 107 didn't put enough weight on the forks and hurt the cornering ability. Once we bumped up the sag to 105, the bike responded and tracked much better into corners, though it also brought about a bit of harshness in the front forks. I went in two clicks on the fork compression to try to compensate by getting the forks up and off the harsh spot in the valving. That helped some, but didn't totally solve the issue. For me, the KX's cornering characteristics are similar to the KTM, but lacked the same ease of cornering, as the front and rear end don't settle quite as well as the orange bike.

The power felt similar to the KTM as well, as it liked to be ridden in the mid-range. But it had good low-end power as well, again though not as much as the YZ, but enough to be enjoyable and exciting. One thing I noticed was that the KX had the shortest distance between the seat and footpegs of all the bikes. I have pretty long legs and I was right on the border of being slightly cramped, but this is easily fixed with the bike's adjustable footpeg location. One more minor squabble I had, was that the KX grips aren't very pleasant but that's also a pretty easy fix. Overall, the KX450F is fun and confidence-inspiring, and though it doesn't necessarily stand out in any measurable area, it's very solid across the board. I feel some suspension work would dial the bike in pretty quickly and put it right up there in anyone's rankings.

Name: Derrick Caskey / Age: 42
Height: 6' 2" / Weight: 195 lbs.
Riding Experience: Vet Expert

To put it bluntly, the 2016 Kawasaki was awesome. I think with a little work to dial in the forks (which I know can be done), the bike is near perfect. The new chassis was very comfortable in regards to the seat and bar combination, and is easy to tailor fit to my size. This lighter and slimmer 2016 model was easier to flick around in the air, but was also improved in the corners. I found myself confidently whipping the bike out further and further on jumps, feeling that it could be easily brought back to land safely. With the limited time, I went Kawasaki's recommended air pressures for my weight at 180 psi inner, 203 psi on the balance, and 18 psi on the outer. At this setting, the forks worked okay, but I would have needed a few more days of riding to find a air pressure combination to completely make me comfortable. The shock worked very well, even with being under-sprung for my size, as I just increased the compression a couple clicks and it helped compensate enough to give me confidence in the rear end all day.

As for the engine, the standard coupler puts out great overall power, with okay hit off the bottom, into a fairly healthy mid-range and top-end. However, I preferred the aggressive coupler as it increased the bottom-end, but I felt like it may have given up a little on top. Outside of this, I really don't have any complaints. Both the front and rear brakes felt great, and nothing really popped out at me as a large negative. It was very hard to not pick the Kawasaki as my top bike for 2016, because I feel that in its stock form with a few more days of testing with the bike, it could have been the best for me.

Name: Ricky Diaz / Age: 25
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 145 lbs.
Riding Experience: Expert

My favorite aspect about this year's KXF is definitely the weight reduction. It really feels like Kawasaki shaved a lot of weight off of this bike for 2016, and you can feel it immediately while on the track. This weight loss, combined with the thinner frame, really added a lot of confidence for me that I haven't had with the past KXF models. For me, it was by far the easiest and most fun to corner.

The Kawasaki crew started me off with the sag at 105mm, and I never felt the need to change it at any point during the day. I felt like I could make the bike go anywhere I wanted it to, especially as the track got rougher. If for some reason I needed to make a last-second decision and cut down quickly in a turn, the bike did so perfectly and the front tracked right into the new line. I was also fairly happy with the power that this bike had as well, especially after I switched the the more aggressive coupler to get more low-end response out of the bike. Although it's not as powerful as the Yamaha, it felt very competitive compared to the rest of the field.

Name: Chris See / Age: 26
Height: 5' 11" / Weight: 170 lbs.
Riding Experience: 25+ Pro

Right off the bat, you can really tell that Kawasaki has made some huge strides this year. I can't say enough about how much thinner and lighter this bike feels when you swing a leg over it. At the same time, the green monster was still extremely stable at speed and creates a huge amount of confidence the faster you go. The Kawasaki has always been a front-end high bike...well, at least since I started riding them...and that is still the case here. I think it's both a good and bad thing for this bike; good in the sense of when it's rough, the bike is stable and that's what you want in that situation. But it can be bad in the sense that the bike feels squatted in the rear and high in front in corners, causing it to stand up a bit when on the throttle. This is part of what makes the Kawasaki more of a rear steering bike, which just doesn't suit my style. For me, this was the biggest negative and brought the bike down a bit in my final decision.

Other than that, I feel that this bike also had some of the best air forks I've ridden, as I made very few adjustments and was much happier with the overall action when compared to past years. Overall, this Kawasaki has seen the biggest improvement in my eyes, but still needs a little work to be my top choice.

Name: Michael Lindsay / Age: 23
Height: 5' 9" / Weight: 150 lbs.
Experience: Expert

For 2016, Kawasaki definitely improved the all-around handling characteristics. The new, lighter, and more nimble chassis kept the rear steering and stable feel that I enjoyed from the previous model. But it also added confidence in the front end that they haven't had before. Also, while air forks have been somewhat of a struggle for some riders over the past few years, I was quite happy with the improvements Kawasaki made with the Showa TAC fork this year. The combination of air pressures is similar to a setting I was running last year, so my changes were held to the clickers on the valving leg. With Pala having quite large obstacles, I stiffened up the compression a few clicks to keep the fork a bit higher in the stroke when tackling the track. At my lighter weight, the actual action of the fork was quite consistent, and really added to the improved front end traction. Compared to the past few KX450Fs, I found myself happier with a bit less sag (105mm vs 107mm), but I did open up the high-speed compression a bit to help it squat a bit deeper under acceleration.

Overall, my only complaint is I'm not 100% sold on the engine changes. I quite liked the more snappy feel of the previous KX engine, while the new bike has more of slower to build torque feel. Switching to the white (aggressive) coupler helps bring back a bit of this snap while keeping a bit of the new broad roll-on feel, which works well when the track gets rougher. However, I could do with just a bit less engine braking on this bike.

All-in-all, I chose the Kawasaki after I rode it as my first bike and last bike of the day. When the track was at its worst at both ends, which raised the lap times (plus my injured feet didn't help in my speed aspect at all). But through this, I found that the KX gave me confidence in all areas at any time of the day, making it the bike I would like in my garage.

As mentioned above, these opinions were taken from our 2016 450 Shootout. If you're interested in how it faired against the competition and how the other models performed, click here: 2016 Vital MX 450 Shootout.


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Kawasaki KX450F
Model Year
Engine Size
Engine Type
Engine Displacement
Bore x Stroke
96 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio
Fuel System
DFI® with 43mm Keihin throttle body
Digital DC-CDI
Final Drive
Suspension Front
49mm Inverted Showa SFF-Air TAC Separate Function front Fork with Triple Air Chamber, DLC coated sliders, 22-position compression and 20-position rebound damping adjustment / 12.2”
Suspension Rear
Uni-Trak® linkage system and Showa shock, 19-position low-speed and 4-turns high-speed compression damping, 22-position rebound damping and fully adjustable spring preload / 12.4”
Brakes Front
Single semi-floating 270mm Braking petal-style disc with dual-piston caliper
Brakes Rear
Single 240mm Braking petal-style disc with single-piston caliper
Tires Front
Tires Rear
Overall Length
Overall Width
Overall Height
Seat Height
Ground Clearance
28° / 4.9”
Fuel Capacity
1.66 gallons
Curb Weight
239.6 lb
More Info
What do you think?
Where To Buy
Free 3-day express shipping on orders over $79.

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