We’ve spent quite a bit of time on Kawasaki’s KX450X over the last year and in that time, we’ve run through quite the selection of parts. Mostly good, some bad, and nearly all made a difference. Some of the biggest differences were felt when changing out triple clamps. Triple clamps have quite the effect on chassis feel and handling characteristics and we’re here to break down the different options we’ve tried and how they work on the track/trail. The four different options we’ve tried are stock, stock bottom/GPR upper, Ride Engineering 22mm, and XTrig 23mm.
First, we’ll start with stock. Of the four different options, these clamps felt soft and flexy, which isn’t always a bad thing. On some bikes, we prefer the stock clamps over any other aftermarket option. However, the soft feel made the front end feel vague and loose on corner entrance and through the corners, hurting the bike’s turning capabilities.
Stock Lower/GPR Upper
Second, we’ll go with the stock lower/GPR upper clamp combo. The GPR clamp is part of their “Pro Kit” and also comes with a stabilizer and post mount – something this bike (and just about every other bike) really benefits from is a stabilizer. Overall, this has grown into our preferred combo as we’ve continued to develop the bike. Just by putting the clamp on alone without a stabilizer, the front end has a more positive feel with more preciseness and stability on corner entrance and through the corners. The front end feels connected to the ground and follows through better without adding any extra rigidity or harshness. Past renditions of the GPR clamps have added a lot of rigidity to the front end, but their new split clamp design that they’ve introduced over the last few years is a huge step up and really helped this bike. Not to mention, you can also run a stabilizer under the bars and only raise the handlebars 2-3mm with this setup – a win-win in our book.
Next, we have the XTrig 23mm clamps. You can purchase them HERE from Rocky Mountain ATV/MC for a heavily discounted price (~$550 with the PHDS Bar Mounts). Initially, these clamps worked well and were even included on our Bike Build, but as we’ve worked with suspension even more, these clamps’ rigidity has become more apparent. If we were just riding moto tracks or in soft dirt, the clamps wouldn’t be as big of an issue, but for our current West Coast Off-Road conditions, they’ve become too rigid with our stiffer suspension setup. These clamps work really well in cornering, offering a very precise feel that makes this bike a little more of a front wheel steering bike than it comes stock. However, you feel a sense of harshness through your hands in braking bumps and across chop that unsettles the bike and wears you out. If we were just riding motocross tracks or riding more sand/soft dirt, these clamps would be a real winner but most of our riding/racing is far from that.
Ride Engineering 22mm
Finally, we have Ride Engineering’s 22mm offset clamps. These are the only clamps that are of a different offset. To start, we really liked these clamps. On a motocross track or in tighter off-road races, these clamps worked better than anything else. Part of that is the offset change which makes the KX more nimble and easier to change directions on, and part is the flex characteristics of the Ride Eng clamp. It softened the front end feel tremendously, but still kept enough strength to keep the front end from getting vague. Our only gripe is in faster terrain or in the sand, we didn’t care for the 22mm offset as it left the front end unsettled and a little nervous feeling. If we could get these clamps in a 23mm offset, they may be the best yet.
It’s quite amazing how much a single part can change the feel of a bike so much, but all four of these clamp options gave the KX450X its own character. All of these clamps were done back-to-back at one point at the track, which really gives you the best feel for what’s changed for better and for worse.