WE RIDE MDK MOTORSPORTS’ KAWASAKI KX450F:

July 10, 2009
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To the majority of motocross racers worldwide, MDK is best known for its race team. In the past, MDK has sponsored a host of well-known racers (including Nick Wey and David Vuillemin on CRF450s three years ago) and, for the last two years, they have run Team KTM’s complete race effort. For 2009, they sponsor Travis Preston and Josh Summey in the 450 class, plus Wil Hahn, Justin Brayton, Ryan Sipes, Martin Davalos and Tommy Searle on KTM 250SXF’s. Also little known outside of NorCal is that MDK owns a string of California motorcycle dealerships that collectively carry every major brand. Until recently, MDK had their own hop-up company called MDK Speed that did engines and suspension. In the failing economy, MDK Speed was closed down so that MDK Motorsports can focus on its core interests.

Although MDK is the official arm of KTM racing, they have always produced race bikes for a select list of privateers on other brands. One of those privateers is MXA’s Dennis Stapleton. Stapleton, apart from his MXA duties, also races the WORCS series and the AMA Nationals with support from Kawasaki, MXA and MDK.


Through Stapleton’s connection at MDK, where he also helps out as a durability test rider for race parts, the MXA wrecking crew made arrangements to get a full-blown MDK Kawasaki KX450F?a bike that is essentially what MDK would be racing if they were a Kawasaki team instead of the KTM team.

Oh, by the way, the initials MDK are those of team owner Mark D. Kvamme (a very successful entrepreneur and racer from the Bay Area).The MXA wrecking crew was eager to test MDK Motorsports’ KX450F.

 
MDK Racing is best known for their KTM teams, but a quick glance around the AMA National circuit will reveal MDK sponsored CRF450’s, YZ450F’s and KX450F’s. The MXA wrecking crew wanted to try MDK’s green flavor.

SHOP TALK: WHAT ARE THE PARTS AND PIECES?

In the engine department, MDK Motorsports stuck pretty close to the sponsors who support their factory KTM teams. The most notable part, to any consumer looking to duplicate MDK’s effort, would be the $849.99 FMF Factory 4.1 exhaust with Ti MegaBomb header. The overall power of the stock 2009 Kawasaki KX450F engine is decent enough that a 13.5:1 high-compression CP piston, Twin Air filter, FMF pipe and Hinson clutch were about all that was needed to maximize its potential.

In an effort to fight heat buildup, which can be a curse on an open-loop, fuel-injected bike, a $189.95 Boyesen Supercooler water pump and impeller (with $29.95 Supercooler elbow) were installed. Team Kawasaki runs the Boyesen Supercooler and, for Stapleton, the ultra-long WORCS races put an even bigger load on the coolant system. Additionally, a high-pressure CV4 radiator cap, radiator hoses and temperature strips were employed in the fight against heat.

Although MDK’s team is sponsored by Dunlop, Stapleton outfitted his KX450F with Bridgestone 201/202 tires. The 201/202 combo is designed for intermediate to soft terrain. The MXA wrecking crew prefers the more intermediate-focused 403/404 combo, but Stapleton is more interested in the sandy, wooded terrain often found in the WORCS series.
 

To get the most out of the 2009 KX450F, you have to make careful choices on where you spend your money. MXA focused on handling, gearing and brakes.

THE MOST UNIQUE PART OF THE MDK MOTORSPORTS KX450F WAS THE CZ O-RING CHAIN. YOU READ THAT RIGHT! THE SAME CZ FROM THE GOOD OLD DAYS. THE CHAINS ARE PRODUCED AT ONE OF THE OLD CZ FACTORIES IN STRAKONICE, CZECH REPUBLIC.

The most unique part of the MDK Motorsports KX450F was the CZ O-ring chain. You read that right! The same CZ from the good old days. The chains are produced at one of the old CZ factories in Strakonice, Czech Republic, by a company called CZ Retezy. When the Iron Curtain fell and CZ failed as a motorcycle manufacturer, the factory turned its attention toward automobile components, chains, tools and casting machines. You can read more about them at www.czchains.com. The Czech chain is guided through a $69.95 BRP polymer chain guide.

 
The MDK KX450F’s brake system was the awesome, $299.00, 270mm QTM/Brembo front disc compressed by AP brake pads. The QTM front brake was mounted on a complete set of wheels built up with Talon hubs, Excel rims, Bulldog spokes and spline-drive nipples. The prebuilt wheels retail for $549.95 per wheel (and you can choose from gold, silver or black rim colors). Ride Engineering braided steel brake lines were used front and rear (these make a noticeable difference in the Kawasaki’s stopping power). Ride also provided anodized banjo bolts, but we had one split during our testing and returned to stock banjo bolts. The brakes and wheelsets can both be found at www.qtmi.com, while the brake lines are at www.ride-engineering.com.

In a nod to handling, the MDK KX450F used Ride Engineering 22mm offset triple clamps (although for WORCS racing there is less urgency in cornering, so the stock 23mm clamps would suffice). The Ride clamps retail for $419.90 in green or black anodizing.

At one time Kawasaki was at the head of the wide footpeg movement, but not anymore. To keep the bike up-to-date, $96.00 IMS Bigfoot footpegs were installed. The Bigfoot is a 57mm-wide, cast stainless steel peg with a proprietary tooth design.
To finish out the KX450F, Decal Works printed a custom graphics kit ($199.00), T-6 number plate backgrounds ($69.95) and radiator louver decals ($59.95). No bike would be complete without Works Connection case guards, a skid plate, axle blocks and complete clutch lever. www.worksconnection.com

 
In an ode to aftermarket aluminum, the MDK Kawasaki KX450F had a Hinson clutch cover, Zip-Ty oil filter cover and cast Boyesen Super Cooler water pump.

TEST RIDE: TWIST AND GO

First and foremost, the MXA wrecking crew loves the 2009 Kawasaki KX450F powerband. With a fuel-injected engine, it does something that neither Suzuki nor Honda can do?pull over the top without going flat at 8500 rpm. The MDK KX450F pulls even harder thanks to the high-compression piston and FMF exhaust system. The power is fed through a 50-tooth Pro Taper rear sprocket. Since the WORCS series is a mix of motocross and cross-country racing, Dennis Stapleton stuck with the stock gearing. For motocross, MXA tends to run a 51-tooth sprocket to get into third gear sooner.

THE SUSPENSION WAS SET UP FOR STAPLETON’S PERSONAL TASTE. HE SAID IT WOULD WORK BEST FOR ANYONE WHO WAS “REALLY FAST OR REALLY SLOW.” WE HAD BOTH SPEEDS OF TEST RIDERS RIDE THE BIKE, AND THEY ARE PRETTY SURE THAT THIS SETUP ONLY WORKS WELL IF YOUR NAME IS DENNIS STAPLETON.


The suspension was set up for Stapleton’s personal taste. He said it would work best for anyone who was “really fast or really slow.” We had both speeds of test riders ride the bike, and they are pretty sure that this setup only works well if your name is Dennis Stapleton. The shock ramps up very quickly and is harsh in the second half of the stroke. The damping is strange, because it isn’t Supercross stiff, but it isn’t very fluid either. When hard on the gas or hard on the brakes, the bike tracks straight, stays stable through turns and soldiers through the big bumps. It just doesn’t like anything in the middle.

WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?

 
We admit that we can’t live with Stapleton’s suspension choices, but since we have actually lived with Stapleton, we knew that going in. He doesn’t like our settings, which we think are universal, and we don’t like his settings, which we think are too individualized. But, and this is a big but, it is his bike?not ours.

Apart from what we already knew would be an issue, we loved every aspect of the MDK Motorsports KX450F. It stopped on a dime, went like a rocket and handled like it was on rails.

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