First Ride: Kawasaki KX450 Factory Replica—Better Than SR and More Affordable?
Photos: Scott Hoffman, Test Rider: Dustin Hoffman
We started our “Factory Replica” months before we caught wind of the new Kawasaki KX450SR. Ironically, they are similar but we think our ride is a step above—more upgrades and costs less than an SR. And this is if you can pick up an SR for the suggested retail price of $12,399 plus $680 for destination/freight/material charges. We have seen some reports of crazy markups on the SR, close to $20K.
Seems like “Special Edition” is more popular or at least more OEMs have adapted the concept KTM has been doing for some time now. The names are all over the place, Special Racer (SR), Works Edition “WE,” Factory Edition (FE), and Monster Edition. They often come with some cool parts but with a generic setup for a wide variety of riders. If you like bling and often accessorize your own ride, they are often worth the extra capital expenditure. Yet there is nothing like building a bike and tuning it just for yourself.
The KX has been one of our favorite 450s but they always need a little massaging to fulfill their true potential, and we took it a few steps past that mark. The KX has not changed much since 2019 and we were on a budget for this build (sort of). We perused the Internet and found a practically brand-new KX with less than 10 hours on it for $6K. The only thing worn was the rear tire from doing pop-a-wheelies up-and-down the street for over a year. From there the project was on and the partial teardown began.
We addressed the areas that needed tuning and the few areas that needed to be beefed up. The bike was to look trick and almost “factory” from afar and outperform the stock steed in spades. Suspension made its way to Enzo for a full revalve and we wanted that “Kit” look and function, so we had the upper tubes Kashima coated. From there it was off to Technical Touch USA for XTRIG triple clamps for function/comfort, and this is also what Factory Kawasaki runs. We updated the handlebar with an ODI oversized bar and added their awesome lock-on grips. Stock levers can be an issue for some so they were swapped out for ASV F4 series on both sides. They are adjustable on the fly with no tools and offer a way better feel over stock, not to mention they come with a warranty.
The clutch on the 2019-2020 can be a weak link so we updated the clutch to the Hinson 2021-2022 single spring design, (again, same as Factory Kawasaki). It’s awesome that you can pretty much buy many components that some of the teams run. Back in the day, this was not the case. The updated 2021-2022 standard clutch is good but the Hinson is as durable as they come and the action is amazing and a step above, and for our project, well worth it.
From there it was a call to Dubya for wheels. Stock KX wheels are ok but they can bend, flat spot, and the spoke nipples can round over time while adjusting, plus we wanted the factory look. Dubya upgraded the rims to DID ST-X, went with Kite hubs, and stronger stainless spokes. With these wheels, over jumping or coming up short will never be an issue. Dubya offers a wide variety of more cost-effective wheel sets but we went with the top dogs. The wheels were also fitted with Dunlop MX33 tires front and rear. An x-ring chain and new sprockets were also part of the upgrade. To improve the touchy rear brake, we also fitted a smaller rear rotor and bracket off the KX450X for more feel.
For performance, getting an exhaust at the time was next to impossible. We hit the Internet again and found a once-ridden Pro Circuit slip-on for the project for an affordable price. We did not polish the intake ports like the SR but we did re-map the ECU to give the KX more of a mid-range punch and improve the over-rev. These two changes do make a big difference. Luckily, we already had the Kawasaki computer so making changes at the track was easy.
To top off the project we had to have the factory “look.” D’COR Visuals offers several “Factory Kawasaki” replica kits and since Tomac jumped ship, we went with the Cianciarulo #9. D’COR kit went on easy and line-up was spot on.
This Beauty Is a Beast
In the end our “Factory Replica” tops the SR with additional upgrades compared to the SR including fully upgraded Dubya wheels, complete Hinson clutch, ODI grips, ASV levers, gripper seat, smaller rear brake rotor, LightSpeed carbon fiber components, and Enzo suspension that was specifically tuned and set up for our test rider on record. In the end the cost was less than the SR, yet was it worth the labor/time? We believe the answer is yes.
The DBT FR still feels like a KX450, just better in every sector. The suspension probably is what makes this bike that much improved over stock. It’s more balanced than ever, holds up in the stroke, has amazing bottoming control, and still feels plush. The combination of the XTRIG clamps and their PHDS bar mounts really offer that extra rider comfort and performance. The Enzo valving specs along with the Kashima coated upper tubes and the already DLC lower legs of the stock KX450 offer the “Kit Fork” look and bridges the gap between the two at an affordable price.
With the Pro Circuit exhaust, we custom tuned the ECU to the exact needs of our test rider. If you don’t have the Kawasaki computer, there are several aftermarket performance shops like Twisted and Tokyomods that offer this service. You can actually make three new settings by swapping the couplers if desired. The KX is very receptive to aftermarket exhaust combined with ignition and fuel injection adjustments. The engine is now more responsive, pulls into the mid with more vigor, and has a little more top-end pull over stock settings. The Hinson clutch also helps the power feel better because of the accuracy of the engagement and the feel when you have to slip the clutch to make power or use a little clutch in the corners. You don’t realize the difference until you ride a bike with a full Hinson, now we understand why many factory teams use them.
Most of the rest of the build was for looks, durability, and some rider comfort. Parts like the LightSpeed Carbon Fiber skid plate is not the exact part Factory Kawasaki runs but the build quality is amazing and they look very similar. The Factory team did run Kite hubs several seasons ago and the Dubya quality of wheels is on that level. The wheels actually tighten up the feel of the KX on the track but it’s subtle over stock but the strength and durability is definitely there. Other parts like updated chain and sprockets, servicing all moving parts with new grease are part of normal maintenance. But even little items like the smaller rear rotor was an improvement and made the experience better.
Could we have gone further with the build? The answer is yes but where does it stop unless you are a top-100 pro? Yes, we could have added TI pegs, more bling, radiator hoses, water pump, but we did not want to break the bank over the standard cost of the 2022 SR. But we could have done less with looks, saved a few bucks, and still had an amazing bike.
Our FR (Factory Replica) is a step above the SR and custom built and tuned for a specific rider. Yes it’s easier to just buy a bike ready-to-ride but the build is part of the fun. This bike for sure outperforms a stock KX450 and we have yet to put it up against an SR. Our FR looks sick just sitting on the stand, performs really well on the track, and is steps above a stock KX450, which is already really good. In the end it’s a win-win for us, and when the project began, we had no idea we would be comparing our build with the SR. We think we have the stock SR beat.
2019 KX450 with less than 10 hours $6,000.00
Hinson single-spring complete clutch $1,115.99
XTRIG (21-23 offset) clamps with 1 1/8 bar mounts $899.88
LightSpeed carbon fiber glide plate $199.95
LightSpeed carbon fiber front brake cover $112.95
Enzo Racing Kashima coated upper tubes (exchange) $500.00
Enzo Racing fork revalve (not including parts) $230.00
Enzo Racing shock revalve (not including parts) $225.00
Dubya built wheel kits (Kite hubs with DID ST-X rims) $1,500.00
D’COR Monster Energy factory replica graphic kit $209.90
ODI Flight 1 1/8 handlebar $89.95
ODI MX V2 lock-on half waffle soft compound $25.95
Dunlop MX33 120/90-19 rear tire $100.00-130.00
Dunlop MX33 80/100-21 front tire $90.00-120.00
ASV F4 series levers $165.00
Pro Circuit slip-on exhaust (used one time) $250.00
Miscellaneous components for the build $200.00
Hinson Clutch Components, 909-946-2942, hinsonracing.com
Technical Touch USA/XTRIG, 909.949-4155, technicaltouchusa.com
LightSpeed Carbon, 714-990-5767, lightspeedcarbon.com
Enzo Racing, 714-541-5218, enzoracing.com
Dubya, 714-279-0200, dubyausa.com
D’COR Visuals, 855-359-3267, dcorvisuals.com
ODI, 951-786-4755, odigrips.com
Dunlop, 800-845-8378, dunlopmotorcycletires.com
ASV Inventions, 714-861-1400, asvinventions.com
Pro Circuit Racing International, 951-738-8050, procircuit.com