FIRST RIDE! 2012 Kawasaki KX450F





Photos by Adam "Hollywood" Campbell


We just returned from two days of hammering the 2012 KX450F around the famous Red Bud motocross track in Michigan. The weather was blazing hot, the humidity was mighty and the track was excellent.

The 2012 KX450F isn't radically different from last year but does feature some cool features not seen on other production motocross machines. Taking a hint from the YZ triple clamps, the new upper triple clamp on the KX450F features offset handlebars mounts and offers four different mounting positions for the handlebars, the standard position, 10mm back, 15mm forward and 25mm forward. Something totally new to a production machine is the option of two different footpeg positions, standard and 5mm lower. In the lower position it moves the footpeg 2mm forward. The shifter for 2012 is 3mm longer. Something only seen previously on factory race machines now comes on the 2012 KX450F and that is launch control. The all-new Launch Control Mode, which is tuned to maximize traction out of the starting gate, is easy to activate by simply pushing a switch on the left handlebar. It 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.

DB's Ryan Orr uncorks the new 450. He had nothing but positive comments about the green machine.

The fuel injection system comes with pre-programmed ignition maps, but new for 2012, these maps are interchangeable without the use of a laptop. 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. The ECU is also still fully re-programmable by using the accessory KX FI Calibration Kit. We ran the standard map (green clip) the first day and played around with the different clips the second day when the track dried out and became more slippery we loved the black clip, programmed to offer smoother power with less hit. The bike still had plenty of power, just not as much hit, making it easier to keep traction through slippery corners.

A total width reduction of 4mm across the main frame spars gives the 2012 KX450F a more slender mid-section while 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 were aimed to increase rear wheel traction and also allowed additional room for the alternate footpeg mounting position. We could definitely feel the bike was narrower and maybe it was just due to the frame width, but the bike felt lighter.

Mr. Orr floating LaRocco's leap

The engine didn't receive huge changes for 2012 but the small changes focused on throttle response and more mid to top power. A new thinner top piston ring with upgraded surface treatment reduces friction and helps improve throttle response while the new intake cam offers a slight increase in intake valve lift and allows the motor to breathe deeper. The exhaust is all new with a shorter header pipe and a tapered mid-section and 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. We didn't have a sound meter but it is possible it's quieter but we are betting the money in our pockets, it's still a loud bike.

            Overall our first two days aboard the 2012 KX450F left us smiling, both from the bike and the Red Bud track. We are anxiously awaiting the return of the Kawasaki big rig so we can grab our bike and get to testing on all our favorite So Cal tracks. Look for a full test in September issue of Dirt Bike.


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WARNING: Much of the action depict­ed in this magazine is potentially dan­gerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced ex­perts or professionals. Do not at­tempt to duplicate any stunts that are be­yond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear.

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