Tuned: 2023 KX450X Build Phase 1

KX450X Bike Build Phase 1

Story by Trevor Hunter

After our first ride on Kawasaki’s KX450X last week, we felt good enough to go racing a week later, albeit with a few modifications. In stock trim, the machine has a lot of good traits and is a well rounded bike, but to comfortably and safely go racing at the highest level off-road, we felt the need to make a couple adjustments to give it our best shot. We’re far from done as this is only phase one of the build, but this is the platform used to go racing in Ridgecrest, CA for Round 8 of the AMA National Grand Prix Championship.

TCS Powersports helped improve the Showa suspension for the weekend.

The biggest change implemented is a suspension revalve. In stock trim for a Pro level racer, it’s very soft for high speed racing on ROUGH race tracks. In a trail riding application or on smoother tracks, the stock Showa valving works pretty good. However, we aren’t lucky enough to race on anything remotely smooth after 1,500 racers have already taken to the track. TCS Powersports helped us throw a setting in with no testing time previous. We both went into the weekend blind unsure of what was needed, but ultimately it helped the bike. The stiffer setting helped the bike ride higher in the stroke, giving it a little plusher feel while helping bottoming greatly front and rear. Our goal wasn’t to go too far with the setting, and we found out we didn’t go far enough with it as it was still soft for the ultra rough race course conditions. We’ll continue to progress and make changes in hopes of getting the Kawasaki up to speed, which we feel shouldn’t take long. 

The Ridgecrest GP track is littered with holes and square edges on a high speed track mixed with both hard pack and sand – it’s nearly impossible to find a good setting here. Nearly every factory racer struggled with bike setup and comfortability throughout the weekend. 

After suspension, the next necessary mod is an IMS dry-break tank. We race for 90+ minutes at a time, so a quick pit is necessary, as well as the extra fuel capacity to go a reasonable distance. The stock tank provides ~1.6 gallons and making a 45-60 minute off-road race on that would be pushing it. The IMS tank is very clean and fits well without affecting the handling much in a bad way. 

Acerbis helped us out with some protection pieces that are missing off the showroom floor. The stock skid plate is mediocre at best (but at least it comes with one!), so we stuck an Acerbis plastic unit down there to protect the undercarriage and side cases. Likewise, some Acerbis X-Future Handguards and Fork Shoe Covers were nice touches in the off-road arena. 

A Works Connection Holeshot Device is magic on the start. We pulled Top 5 starts all weekend in a stacked 20+ rider 450 Pro field and the holeshot device surely played a part. 

Dunlop helped us out with a MX53F Front Tire, a big improvement over the AT81F that comes stock. Ridgecrest has a hard base for most of the track so the MX53F sticks to that slick ground better than most tires. Out back, we kept an AT81 as it’s a good all-around tire, but an MX53 or even MX33 would have also worked well. We stuffed the Dunlop’s with Nitro Mousse Foam Inserts to keep us flat free all weekend long. 

Last but not least, we ran a Corner Coach Adjustable Seat Bump to help with all of the flat corners on the track. It helps keep us in a better position for cornering throughout the race and is something we’ve come to like more and more for certain riding and racing. Additionally, the bump is money on the start. With 60HP under you, it can be tough to hold on and stay in position when flag drops, but the bump holds you tight and lets you put the power to the ground.

So, after a full weekend of racing, what more do we want? A steering stabilizer is a must. For high speed choppy terrain, a stabilizer would’ve helped tremendously and we have a GPR Stabilizer on order. Additionally, we’ll keep progressing with TCS Powersports looking for an updated suspension setup for the next one. Also, we’ll look at improving the mapping. We raced with the green coupler and it was a little too hard hitting at the crack of the throttle, making it difficult to ride in some of the slick areas of the track. We have a couple different maps saved from previous KX450 tests including the infamous “Chavez Map” that we feel will improve the bike a lot.

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