Top Mods For A 2023 KX450X

Despite it being strikingly similar to its MX brethren, the KX450X truly is a great off-road race bike. Most everything about it is very neutral – nothing stands out glaringly bad and most all of its traits are good for the masses. However, it isn’t 100% perfect out of the box. Below are a few of the (fairly) inexpensive mods we found best fit for the Kawasaki. Some are for performance, some are for ease of use, but all have a purpose. We wanted to keep this list to more inexpensive, essential items only. Things like a suspension revalve or exhaust can and do help on this bike, but are costly and will be talked about at another time.

The Essentials

The KX450X comes with a small tank, no handguards, and a lackluster skid plate. Right away, any serious off-road rider/racer will likely need and/or want these to be a little more off-road equipped. As usual, we went straight to IMS for a 2.8 gal fuel tank that’s also dry-break ready for when we need pit stops. The IMS tank installs easily, doesn’t affect the cockpit much, and adds over one gallon of fuel in a very clean manner. We’ve gone ~60 fast desert miles on one tank of fuel, but can stretch it out a little longer if the speeds are down. 

For handguards and a skid plate, Acerbis was a one-stop shop. We’re running the X-Future Handguards and their Plastic Skid Plate. Both offer nice protection, install rather easily (though we’d like to see the Acerbis skid plate utilize all of the stock mounting tabs on the frame), and look pretty good too. Obviously there are other options out there, but you can’t go wrong with Acerbis here.

The Other Stuff

An ECU remap is a big one here if you’re struggling with the power at all. Right off the bottom, the KX has a hard hit and could benefit from having a bit smoother roll-on, especially in an off-road setting. We’ve used maps from Kawasaki before in the past (the Chavez Map), and are currently running something similar feeling from Precision Concepts that works really well. It smoothes out the initial hit and blends that with a hard pulling, linear power from top to bottom. From a performance standpoint, this is the first mod we’d make and it is relatively inexpensive at that. 

According to Robby, the Ride Engineering link arm is one of, if not the biggest handling changes to the KX. It really helps settle the rear end on decel, while also offering some smaller improvements under acceleration. We’ve tested this on our own KX450X and approve.

As stated in our Product Test, the Ride Engineering Performance Link works wonders with the KX chassis. It drives through chop and whoops much better than before, following the ground and finding traction. Similarly, the bike remains much flatter and calmer on decel. With the link, we decreased sag from 106-108mm down to 102-104mm.

Another tip in the cap of Ride Engineering, their Wheel Spacers are another big plus. They don’t have a performance advantage on the track, but the stock wheel spacers hang in the wheel by a thread and fall out just about every time we go to put the wheel in place. The Ride spacers have a nice lip to them, staying in the groove and near impossible to come out of place in wheel changes. Whether you’re changing wheels in the race or simply in the garage, these are nice to have.

A free bee! Similar to a lot of the “factory” off-road racers here on the West Coast, we dropped the forks to flush in the clamps. This helped find some stability at speed while also helping on decel. As we’d enter corners, the front end would want to tuck with the forks at their stock height. Dropping them flush helped this a lot, with both stock and revalved suspension. 

Gearing goes a long way on the KX and depending on where we’re riding dictates what gearing we run. Our go-to setup is 13/50 (same as the MX bike, -1 from the 450X) and this works well on a motocross track and typical GP style course. It helps reduce that initial hit, broadens the power and spacing between gears, and gives that little extra top speed. In the desert, we drop down to a 13/47 to get the top end we need without killing first and second gear when needed in the technical sections. In the trees, a 13/51 or 13/52 allows you to chug down more and stay off the clutch in slower terrain. 


Swapping out little things like the tires, bars, and grips helps find more comfort in the KX. The stock AT81 tires are stiff and don’t always offer the best traction, especially up front, so going to a MX33 or MX53 helps in that department (or whatever your favorite tire is). Likewise, the Renthal Fatbar offers a lot of feedback to the rider, so we went with a Pro Taper CR Mid bend handlebar to remedy that issue. Like most, the stock grips are tough on the hands so we put some AME grips on-board and our hands thank us.

This is more of a costly one, but it does help a ton. A steering stabilizer is much appreciated at speed on this bike. Even with valved suspension, the KX is prone to head shake at times much like most every other motorcycle out there. We’ve been running GPR Stabilizer’s latest V5D Pro Kit, including the split top clamp and V5 stabilizer and have a lot of good to say about it. First off, the top triple clamp helped remove the vague feeling the KX has upon corner entrance through mid-corner. In going back-to-back with these components, it was quite surprising just how much the top clamp made a difference. Additionally, the stabilizer itself resolved all head shake issues and that is now a thing of the past. This is the most costly mod on the list, but one that is welcomed if riding/racing at speed.

The KX is a very good off-road race bikes – dare we say one of our favorites – but a few mods can go a long way on this machine. Stay tuned as we put all of the pieces of the puzzle together on the complete package we’ve settled on for our KX450X Project Bike.

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