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The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

Well, it’s Monday and we’re now into the second half of November. Later this week, the official countdown to Christmas will begin as we’ll be inside of a month until the big day. These next two weekends will also see the final two racing events of the year in Canada take place, as the gate drops this Friday on the AMO AX Championships in Chilliwack. As Ryan Lockhart pointed out to us in his Friday 3 Q’s feature last week, there are several cool things planned for this weekend in Chilliwack, it should be a great weekend of racing.

Congratulations to Trystan Hart on taking home the AMA Endurocross Championship.

I’ll begin this week with a few odds and ends before I get into my trip last week to California. The Thor Mini Olympics have begun down in Florida at the famous Gatorback Cycle Park. It seems like each year more and more Canadians make the trek south to compete in this iconic event. This year, there is a plethora of fast Canadian riders of all ages and skill levels lining up. I want to take this opportunity to wish all of our riders good-luck, and I hope everyone has a safe week. Moving indoors to the AMA Endurocross Championships and this past weekend Trystan Hart clinched his first-ever title. Hart has been steadily improving his racing skills each year, whether it be indoors in Endurocross Racing, or outdoors in Hard Enduro Racing. Hart is one of the most talented Canadian’s on two-wheels right now, and it’s great to see him finding success on the world stage. Also, Jett Lawrence and Jo Shimodo were crowned King and Prince of the Paris SX over the weekend as they took the victories in the SX1 and SX2 classes. Both riders looked great on their factory Honda’s and both are going to be tough to beat in 2024.

On Monday evening last week all of us media gathered at the Kawasaki HQ for the official presentation of the 2024 KX450.

So, as I mentioned last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days in California test riding the all-new 2024 KX450. It was a great trip filled with many unforgettable moments both on and off of the track. I’m not going to go too much into how the new KX450 is, as I will be posting a complete rundown tomorrow, but I can tell you a little about my trip. It all began a week ago as I flew into Orange County Airport on Monday afternoon. From there, I grabbed a rental car and made my way 25 minutes south to Irvine, and a hotel just up the street from the Kawasaki HQ. On Monday evening, I made my way to Kawasaki for a media welcome reception, as well as the official presentation on the 2024 KX450. When I arrived I was greeted by friendly Kawasaki staff, as well as “The King’ Jeremy McGrath. Jeremy has been a brand ambassador for Kawasaki for almost a decade now and he does a great job. He’s very friendly, and always up for a good conversation. He’s actually so easy to chat with that you sometimes forget that you’re talking to someone who has won a record 72 SX main events. On a side note, if you haven’t read his autobiography then you should ask for it for Christmas. I’ve read it like five times since it was released years ago, and even my son has read it a few times. Anyway, after getting caught up with everyone, it was time for a tour of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Race Shop. For obvious reasons, we weren’t allowed to take our phones with us on the tour, so sadly there was no documenting anything we saw. However, I can tell you, that to once again see the level at which they do things on the factory level in the USA, is amazing. From the engine room stocked with 23 factory engines all ready to go, to the suspension room with all of the exotic factory Showa suspension, there was so much eye candy to see. Jason Anderson’s and Adam Cianciarulo’s mechanics were busy working on their riders bikes, getting them ready for a busy week of testing. It was a fun and informative 60 minute tour, and then it was time for the official presentation of the new 2024 KX450.

I think Cameron McAdoo liked my set up!

There is obviously a lot that goes into these product launches, and while they happen every year, media from Canada usually only attend when dealing with a completely new model. Well, this is certainly the case with the new KX450 as there are over 140 new parts on the green machine. These new parts are located in all areas of the KX450, and while some are quite visible, like the new Brembo front brake system, and rad shrouds, some of the new parts aren’t easily visable. I will say though that from the moment I saw this bike in person, I thought it looked stunning. It has great lines, and looks much more modern than the older model. During the presentation, Kawasaki had everyone from the Project Manager to the Marketing Manager, speak about the new bike and how it came to fruition during the past several years. It’s always interesting to hear about the process of how a new bike is designed, tested, tested some more, and then finally released to the public. It’s a multi-year project, and in the case of the 2024 KX450, it was mostly done during the Covid-19 Pandemic. After the presentation concluded, it was time to eat, and then head back to my hotel to get some much needed sleep. By the time my head hit the pillow, I had been awake for 20 hours.

This was our set up for the 2024 KX450 ride day at Glen Helen Raceway.

The following day was a quiet day for the other journalists as Wednesday was the big 2024 KX450 ride day at Glen Helen Raceway. However, the fine people at Kawasaki thought it would be a good idea if I came out to Glen Helen on Tuesday to ride the 2023 KX450 while they were getting everything set up. I jumped at the chance for several reasons. One, it’s not every day you get to ride one of the most iconic tracks on the planet. Second, with winter fast approaching at home, I’ll take any chance I can get to ride during November. Finally, riding the older generation KX450 the day before I rode the new bike, was certainly going to give me a solid apples-to-apples comparison of the two platforms. So, for a few hours on Tuesday I rode the 2023 KX450 up and down the famous hills at Glen Helen Raceway with obviously a large smile on my face. One of Kawasaki’s test riders, former pro Broc Tickle was also there riding and doing some final ECU testing on the 2024 KX450. Broc has been instrumental with the testing process for both Kawasaki, as well as for the factory Monster Energy Kawasaki Team. After a few sessions under the California sun, I retire to my hotel to rest up for the big day.

Before the rains came the Glen Helen track was in excellent condition.

Unfortunately, the weather on Wednesday was not ideal and certainly uncharacteristic for Southern California as the morning overcast skies quickly turned to rain, and even a rare thunderstorm. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of riding sessions in on the 2024 KX450 before the rains came, so I was able to get a good idea of what the new bike was like in dry conditions. Sadly, since it was raining we had to cancel our plans to walk up to the Pro Circuit Kawasaki SX test track at lunchtime where we were scheduled to watch the factory riders spin some SX laps. However, it wasn’t all bad, as some of the riders like Jason Anderson, Adam Cianciarulo, Levi Kitchen, and Cameron McAdoo all came and hung out under our tent in order to get out of the rain. After lunch, with most of the media deciding to call it a day, myself, Kris Keefer, and Dennis Stapleton headed back out on the Glen Helen track to play in the mud. Thankfully, the rain had subsided a little and we only had to deal with the muddy track conditions. It was a lot of fun for sure, but I must admit, it was a little tricky trying to navigate some of the steep elevation changes that Glen Helen Raceway is famous for. I’ve done a lot of these media intros over the years, but this was my first one riding in the mud. In the end, I had a great time and my initial thoughts on the new 2024 KX450 are that Kawasaki has taken an already solid bike, and made it even better. Having ridden a KX450 in 2020, 2021, and 2022, I obviously have a lot of hours on the old generation bike. My description of the older model is that although it wasn’t really great in any one area, it definitely wasn’t bad in any area, and it’s predictability and rideability were its best attributes. Well, the new bike hasn’t lost any of that, but it has improved in many areas and now it does some great things in my opinion. Look for a complete rundown on the 2024 KX450 this week on mxpmag.com.

I haven’t been to Glen Helen a lot in my lifetime so going there is always special.

Even though the weather conditions weren’t ideal for most of the day on Wednesday, I still ended up having a great ride, and an unbelievable trip to California. I haven’t been to the Golden State since early 2020 when I attended the Anaheim SX prior to Covid-19, so it was great to get back there. California really is a special place and for the next three months at least, it will be the focus of our sport. It was also cool to ride at Glen Helen Raceway as last week was only my fourth time there. Back in 2017, I attended a Yamaha media event there. In 1990, my Dad took us to the 500cc Grand Prix at Glen Helen, which was interesting. Also, way back in 1987 my Dad, my cousin, and my brother traveled there the day after the Anaheim SX to watch a Golden State Series race. Who knew then at 13 years old, that I’d be back riding the same track 36 years later. It’s crazy how time flies and where our lives take us. Anyway, it was a great trip, and it made me want to return in January for one of the Anaheim SX events.

Good luck to Cole Thompson this weekend in Australia.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the USA. Finally, good luck to our riders at the Thor Mini O’s, to everyone in Chilliwack this weekend, and also to Cole Thompson who will be racing the final round of the Australian SX Series, and the WSX Series this weekend in Australia. Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions please email me at editor@mxpmag.com.

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