Little Bit Moto, Little Bit Off-Road
2021 Kawasaki KX450X
Photos: Scott Hoffman and Trevor Hunter
So what is a KX450X? It’s not a full motocrosser and not what we would call a full off-road weapon. We too were a little skeptical. Then we rode the bike and discovered it for sure has a special purpose in the world. We took it to the track, we took it to the trail, and we took it to the desert.
The Kawasaki KX450X is essentially a 2021 KX450 with a nice mix of off-road additions such as 18-inch rear wheel, one tooth added to the rear sprocket, kickstand, engine cradle plastic rock protection, and a suspension that received lighter spring rates over the standard KX and softer valving. The X also comes with the soft map coupler for ease of riding, yet the standard and aggressive couplers just like the standard KX come with the bike as well.
The X really fits into a category for riders looking for a more versatile bike that is more compliant for natural terrain moto tracks and works very well on GP- and GNCC-style terrain. With the addition of a spark arrestor we also took the X to the desert and it flows through the sand whoops, square-edged desert hits, and does not beat you up like riding a full moto bike in these types of conditions. It’s also ideal for vet riders and those not looking take on huge jumps and landings at the moto track, although we tried.
It’s basically a KX in the grand scheme, but for those who want to do more GP races, desert riding, and some moto, it offers a really solid mix. The fork is soft on the moto track with 4.8 nm springs, one rate softer than standard motocross setting (and keep in mind we usually go up a half or full rate fork spring on the moto KX). Yet it’s not terrible, just blows through the stroke a little on larger hits and bottoms now and again. To combat this a little, we did our quick fix of raising the oil height in each fork by adding 10cc per leg, this helped firm up the last part of the stroke. We did turn the compression clickers in on the fork to around 7-8 and slowed down the rebound a few clicks as well. On the shock we also went in on compression and slowed the rebound down a tad. The shock works really well with a very similar feeling to the moto bike but more plush. However, in the desert we did not feel it was too soft and it offered a really good off-road feel.
The 18-inch rear wheel is nice for off-road but we are not a huge fan of the MX81 unless you really need a long-lasting off-road tire. If you plan on doing GPs or moto on the X, think about going to an MX33 or MX53 if you are a Dunlop person or your favorite tire is an 18 inch. The kickstand was never an issue and our test riders didn’t even really notice it until they realized they didn’t need to lift the bike onto the stand after they rode it.
Suprisingly we rode several main tracks such as Perris in SoCal on the X. Because it’s a little soft, if you come up a little short or long on larger jumps you quickly realize the difference between the X and the standard KX450, be alert!
Now if you are looking for an enduro bike or something you want to do slow-speed technical riding with, the X can do it but it’s work and not ideal. The gearing helps but this bike wants to go and really does not like to chug-chug up billy-goat trails. If you have to, you can but it’s not what we call fun and there are other bikes in the world that do a way better job. It’s really good and crosses over to many forms but hardcore technical trail riding is not its forte.
After several days on the 2021 KX450X, we really appreciated what it is and what it can do for a pretty wide range of riders. For any rider that does more than just moto tracks, you don’t want to overlook the X. For vet riders or riders that stick to the vet tracks and will never progress past the novice level and are out for having fun, the X is also a bike to really think about. And even for faster recreational riders, with just springs, the X can be a real value.
For its versatility between moto, GP-style, general off-road, and desert-style terrain, the KX450X has followed in suite with some other OEMs and produced a solid alternative to their full motocross bike. This is a category and a bike that should not be overlooked if crossing over genres is part of your riding. If you like one of the best stock motocross bikes in the field (the KX450) and yearn to do more than just moto, the KX450X is a winner.