First Impression: 2024 Kawasaki KX450X

All New KX450X

Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Mark Riker

We spent all of last year testing and developing the 2023 Kawasaki KX450X and we were quite happy with the end product, though it was without its quirks for some of our test riders. The stable, comforting chassis was welcomed by all of our riders, but a moto-oriented motor proved difficult to ride in an off-road arena for some. With all that knowledge and experience on the outgoing generation bike, we put our first hours on Kawasaki’s all new 2024 platform at the recent 6 Hours of Glen Helen Raceway – a race that offers a good variety of west coast off-road conditions and the perfect stomping grounds for a production off-road race bike.

To start, the motor character is quite a bit different than the previous gen bike. Gone is a hard hitting, abrupt-off-idle power that is upsetting in anything remotely technical, but rather a smooth, linear pull off the bottom that builds into a healthy mid-range and a strong top end. We stray away from saying this motor is “slow” in that it still has good pulling power, and it puts it to the ground well. In the process, it’s just much easier to ride in all conditions and for an off-road bike, we feel it is a better starting point than most.

Most of our ECU tuning and exhaust combos on the 2023 version were spent trying to smoothen out the power, but the new motor does exactly that and proved ideal for our vet rider on hand today. Even our younger, more aggressive rider enjoyed the rideability of the KX power plant, and with some fine tuning using the new Kawasaki Rideology App, we were able to give the 450X a little more pep in its step in some further testing.

We say this all the time, but the KX suspension is on the slightly softer side – typical for an off-road bike being ridden out west by anyone in our stable of riders. The faster terrain mixed with bigger bumps being ridden by generally faster riders all leads to suspension being a bit soft; however, we do feel it’s much improved from before. The suspension now rides high enough in the stroke to avoid harshness in the small chop.

The front end is susceptible to diving under hard braking and through bigger braking bumps, but it’s more controlled than before and offers more comfort and compliance in the small bumps. Out back we have similar feelings, as the rear can wallow and move through the stroke more than we’d like in bigger whoops, but it tracks straight and drives through square edge holes and smaller acceleration chop. Overall, the bike is more balanced and controlled than before.

In the chassis department, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the KX handles. The green machine retains a lot of the same characteristics that we enjoyed from the last model, boasting a lot of bump compliance and comfort while retaining a good amount of stability. However, the whole bike now feels drastically lighter and is more maneuverable. A lot of the new bikes are going too stiff and rigid in the chassis department to accommodate for Supercross, but the general public suffers as a result. Kawasaki kept things in check and we don’t feel we’ll have any of those bugs to work out on this new chassis.

A lot of the smaller changes Kawasaki introduced are also welcomed by our testers. The Brembo front brake (the new lever alone is a godsend) works very well with good power and modulation when slowing things down. Also, the ODI grips are much more comforting and appealing to most than the old stock grips. The ability to change mapping “on-the-fly” is a nice touch as well, and losing couplers in the track box is now a thing of the past.

Overall, we feel Kawasaki is in a good place with this bike. As an off-road platform, the bike is easier to ride than before with a smoother motor (yet still has potential to be opened up if preferred), a good suspension baseline with capable components, and a reworked chassis that shares a lot of its positive attributes from before, but picks up some new ones in the process. We’ll be testing this bike a lot over the next months with a lot of racing and riding planned, seeing what works and what doesn’t on the new gen KX.

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