WE RIDE HOT CAMS’ KAWASAKI KX450F: FIXIN’ FLAWS

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A high level of trust is required for an MXA test rider to pitch a bike flat in a corner.

Motocross is a sport based on the simple joy of riding dirt bikes to their fullest. As with all sports, there are fan boys (the people who root for crashes and confrontations), but in general, motocross is ruled by those who twist the throttle. Though few in comparison to the stick-and-ball sports, motocross racers are a passionate group. We invest heavily in pursuing our racing dreams. How so? Anyone with $20 to cover the cost of a ball and an open field can play soccer. Motocross, on the other hand, requires a laundry list of necessary items—a motorcycle, protective gear and fuel are the bare essentials, plus you need a proper mode of transportation. There are also maintenance costs, gate fees and Band-Aids. Motocross may not be as expensive as Formula 1, but it is not a poor man’s sport.

A high level of trust is required for an MXA test rider to pitch a bike flat in a corner, such as on the previous page. The Hot Cams Kawasaki KX450F is confidence-inspiring, thanks to excellent suspension and a monster powerplant. Those attributes, along with the comfort of Renthal bars and a durable Moto Seat, made us feel at home.
The Hot Cams Kawasaki KX450F is confidence-inspiring, thanks to excellent suspension and a monster powerplant. Those attributes, along with the comfort of Renthal bars and a durable Moto Seat, made us feel at home.

Still, the beauty of motocross is that talent is the most important factor in determining the outcome of a race. We’ve witnessed guys on claptrap relics blow the doors off riders jockeying $15,000 money pits. Money may be required for participation, but it’s not the key to success.

We’ve had good luck with Tusk’s 270mm oversized front-brake rotor kit. Given the power and curb weight of the Kawasaki KX450F, an oversized brake rotor is a must-have. At $119.99, the oversized Tusk kit was very inexpensive for the performance gain. The Tusk wheels, at $499.99, were also a bargain.
We’ve had good luck with Tusk’s 270mm oversized front-brake rotor kit. Given the power and curb weight of the Kawasaki KX450F, an oversized brake rotor is a must-have. At $119.99, the oversized Tusk kit was very inexpensive for the performance gain. The Tusk wheels, at $499.99, were also a bargain.

MXA has tested every conceivable type of motocross bike—from Ricky Carmichael’s $100,000 works Honda to a restored Kawasaki KX125 bought off of Craigslist for a few hundred dollars. We’ve ridden extravagant bikes and minimalist bikes. They all have their charms. In every case, we’ve learned that we go as fast as our brains let us. As for our own fleet of test bikes, we are steadfast in our approach, keeping them as stock as possible (aside from the occasional product test). We make changes as necessary for the sake of durability, safety or performance.

The $399 Holeshot Link locks the rear end down by 130mm for starting. It releases after hitting a bump. It was remarkably  efficient at keeping the rear end tracking straight. Better yet, MB1 is selling the HSL incorporated into a longer link arm than stock for better handling on the KX450F.
The $399 Holeshot Link locks the rear end down by 130mm for starting. It releases after hitting a bump. It was remarkably efficient at keeping the rear end tracking straight. Better yet, MB1 is selling the HSL incorporated into a longer link arm than stock for better handling on the KX450F.

The 2014 Kawasaki KX450F won our 2014 450 shootout. That comes as little surprise, given that it boasts the best powerband in the class and is workmanlike in every other area. It is not, however, the best that it can be off the showroom floor. There are several flaws that need addressing. And, in an attempt to make the changes necessary for durability, safety and performance, we enlisted the services of Hot Cams, MB1 Suspension and several other key players in the aftermarket pool. As for money, we spent $3000 on our modifications, focusing most of our allowance on the engine and suspension.

It’s hard to deny that the KX450F feels like a fishing boat in the air. It’s hefty and tall, but those shortcomings equate to a  motorcycle that is stable and predictable. An amped-up engine provided an eye-watering experience down fast straights, while  the tuned suspension made us yearn for bigger jumps.
It’s hard to deny that the KX450F feels like a fishing boat in the air. It’s hefty and tall, but those shortcomings equate to a motorcycle that is stable and predictable. An amped-up engine provided an eye-watering experience down fast straights, while the tuned suspension made us yearn for bigger jumps.
Why would the MXA wrecking crew want more power out of an engine that already makes 55 horsepower? We didn’t want more power; we wanted a broader powerband. Power gains from the Vertex piston and Hot Cams Stage 2 camshafts were noticeable without being overwhelming.
Why would the MXA wrecking crew want more power out of an engine that already makes 55 horsepower? We didn’t want more power; we wanted a broader powerband. Power gains from the Vertex piston and Hot Cams Stage 2 camshafts were noticeable without being overwhelming.

What was the most unique part on our Hot Cams-modified Kawasaki KX450F? Without question it was the MB1 HSL holeshot device. It works in similar fashion to a fork holeshot device, except that it lowers the rear end for starting on dirt and concrete. Every MXA test rider liked the MB1 HSL.

Moto Tassinari, a leader in two-stroke performance products, has broken into the four-stroke world with its Air4orce  tunable air boot. It is an ingenious idea that many of the factory race teams are using. We noticed an improvement in throttle response.
Moto Tassinari, a leader in two-stroke performance products, has broken into the four-stroke world with its Air4orce tunable air boot. It is an ingenious idea that many of the factory race teams are using. We noticed an improvement in throttle response.
The Hot Cams KX450F powerband demanded respect. It wasn’t too fast for Pro-level test riders, but those aggressive with the throttle soon realized that bravery wasn’t the best policy. The bike handled better than a stock KX450F, even though the geometry was identical. The reason? The MB1 suspension  settled better in corners.
The Hot Cams KX450F powerband demanded respect. It wasn’t too fast for Pro-level test riders, but those aggressive with the throttle soon realized that bravery wasn’t the best policy. The bike handled better than a stock KX450F, even though the geometry was identical. The reason? The MB1 suspension
settled better in corners.
MB1 installed its own KYB PSF pistons for less friction and re-valved the forks for less float to prevent harshness. We quickly found comfort from the forks with 34 psi.
MB1 installed its own KYB PSF pistons for less friction and re-valved the forks for less float to prevent harshness. We quickly found comfort from the forks with 34 psi.
No, our Hot Cams KX450F didn’t suffer from a blown shock or broken shock shaft. We are illustrating how low the KX450F gets after latching the rear MB1 HSL and front Works Connection holeshot devices. Both devices lower the KX450F by 130mm.
No, our Hot Cams KX450F didn’t suffer from a blown shock or broken shock shaft. We are illustrating how low the KX450F gets after latching the rear MB1 HSL and front Works Connection holeshot devices. Both devices lower the KX450F by 130mm.

For more information, please visit www.hotcamsinc.com and www.mb1suspension.com.

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