First Ride- 2019 KX450
As it almost always is during this time of the year in Southern California, yesterday started off sunny and warm as I arrived at Pala Raceway. This is one of the famous California tracks that I’ve never had the pleasure of riding, so obviously my excitement was high as I drove through the front gate and into the paddock area. Once inside the gate, I was treated to a perfectly groomed track and my very own personal 2019 KX450 to ride for the day. At almost all of these OEM media launches, each member of the press will get their very own bike, as well as technicians from the factory and suspension company that the bike is running for that particular year. On this day I had the pleasure of working with Travis Murphy from Kawasaki and the guys from Showa USA. Having your own bike is crucial on these test days, because usually with multiple changes to the new model, most of the day is spent trying new things to see how each one feels on the track. After getting a few static photos and reacquainting myself with a few old moto media friends, we had a quick riders meeting and then it was time to ride!
Here is a quick rundown on some of the new features that grace the 2019 KX450:
* Hydraulic Clutch
* Electric Start
* Redesigned and Lighter Aluminum Frame
* Showa 49mm Coil Spring Forks with A-Kit Technology
* Longer Header Pipe
* Master Cylinder and Larger Rear Brake Rotor
* Throttle Body
* Flatter Fuel Tank
* Air Filter and Downdraft Intake System
As you can see above, the 2019 KX450 is completely redesigned. With electric start becoming the new norm on the modern day 450 machines, Kawasaki decided to go one step further and become only the second OEM to offer a hydraulic clutch system. With more durability and peak power offered with the 2019 KX450 engine, as well as one of the best suspension kits on the market, this new Kawasaki is looking to win races and of course magazine shootouts. Also, even though there are a number of new features on the KX450, it still has trusted items such as DFI Ignition Couplers, adjustable handlebar mounts and adjustable footpeg mounts. This is by far the most adjustable 450 machine in its class.
After an hour or so of getting some static shots, it was finally time to ride. The conditions at Pala Raceway were very good on this day as the track had been watered, groomed and tilled deep. The crew at Pala Raceway took great pride in hosting this event and they did a great job of having the track perfect for us. To join us on the ride was the Kawasaki Brand Ambassador, the King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath. He’s been helping Kawasaki out for the past few years and it was definitely an honour to ride with him.
With the soft and loamy track to start off the day, it gave me a great opportunity to see how this new KX450 motor worked with the multiple changes made in 2019 to help make this engine produce more rider-friendly power. Over the past few years I’ve always found the KX450 to have a little too much power. With the key these days to have a more linear power that pulls right through the entire range, I feel like for 2019 Kawasaki has nailed it. Whether you want to short shift this bike or allow it to rev out, the motor responds very well. As the Pala track rutted up and got rough, with this new engine I was able to ride the KX450 around mostly in third gear and it worked very well.
The next item I noticed very quickly in my early laps was how well this new Kawasaki handled. With the new 49mm Showa Coil Spring Forks (with A-Kit technology), the action of the front is smooth and predictable. For 2019, Kawasaki also made updates to the Showa shock as well. With the new front forks, the revised shock and changes to the chassis, the 2019 KX450 has been thrust into the class of great handling 450s. One big change for 2019 that is noticeable right from the moment you sit on the bike is Kawasaki has really flattened out the seat and tank area. Once on the track, I was able to slide forward and back very easily as I transitioned from corner to corner. Of course, with the all-new hydraulic clutch, it made it very easy to feed in some clutch whenever you needed it. As the Pala track dried out and got more and more challenging, I felt like the 2019 KX450 got better and better. One adjustment I made for our afternoon session was moving the handlebar clamps forward one spot. Being a little taller of a rider, I felt like this gave me more room in the KX450 cockpit, and I definitely felt more comfortable.
Everyone in attendance had a great day of riding at Pala Raceway. All of the changes and updates made to the 2019 KX450 have turned this bike into a class leader. I found this new Kawasaki to be very easy to ride and extremely rider-friendly. Because of this, I feel this bike will suit every level of rider, whether that be a novice or pro. Look for a complete story in the next issue of MXP Magazine where I will break down how each change affects the 2019 KX450. In closing, I’d like to thank Canadian Kawasaki Motors and Kawasaki USA for the great opportunity to go to California to not only test ride the new KX450 but also to spend a day riding with the legendary Jeremy McGrath. It was most definitely a day I won’t soon forget.