Motocross and Enduro are really demanding types of motorcycling; as I learned while I raced at some local competitions earlier this year; both you and your motorcycle need to tolerate fairly extreme conditions. The engine needs to constantly rev at a high RPM, the suspension need to be able to take a beating and the frame needs to absorb the stresses mile after mile.
Given these conditions, not a lot of manufacturers play in this arena. You’ve got the Japanese who are currently at the top followed closely by a couple of European manufacturers. Among the Japanese, there is one that sits right at the top and that is Honda with their CRF 450 series. However, the rest of the pack are hot on the heels of Honda; lead by KTM; who are refusing to let go of the ambition of being the best and rightfully so, after having built an array of Dakar winning machines.
Looking at the Japanese line-up, there’s one unsung hero that I’ve been eager to try for a while and that’s the Kawasaki KLX450R. The KLX450R is Kawasaki’s capable big-bore 4-stroke off-road Enduro model. It is known to be an easy to handle, rider friendly, road registerable, trail explorer, Enduro racing KX derived motorcycle that has ample amounts of low down torque.
Even though it’s derived from the KX, the KLX450R has an electric starter and performance components that combine to deliver a fast and usable total package built for the off-road while being road legal. An electric starter was regarded as essential in the design brief. A lightweight, highly reliable electric start system is employed for fast, easy and trouble-free starting. A manual kick starter is retained as a backup. Having both electric and kick starter means the bike can be quickly restarted if the engine stalls or has to be stopped. The KLX 450R is essentially a KX450F open-class motocross bike with added convenience features that make it more suitable for trail riding, green laning, Enduro events and lower speed riding in general.
The KLX450R’s gear ratios have been selected to specifically suit off-road competitions. The engine is tuned for a broad delivery of power to optimize the gear ratios. The gear sets and centre cases are very compact allowing the frame to be narrower at the riders’ ankles. Wide, grippy foot pegs are standard and ready to race. Kayaba twin chamber forks take care of the big hits up front while Kawasaki’s legendary Uni-Trak rear suspension gets the power to the ground. Fully adjustable damping at both ends provides easy tuning and setup. The high-performance race-spec KYB AOSS 48mm inverted front fork and superb rear suspension have been tuned for off-road competition and to minimise rider fatigue over long distances.
Petal brake discs front and rear reduce unsprung weight, and help clean the brake pads for more efficient braking. The forged aluminium rear brake pedal has a heavy duty mounting bolt and a large “foot” with sharp teeth to provide a solid feel. An integrated rear brake fluid reservoir provides increased reliability. It also comes factory installed with a LCD instrument panel that lets the rider see what the bike is doing. This lightweight digital instrumentation includes a speedometer, twin trip meters, odometer and clock. Also fitted with a full complement of warning lights.
During my ride, I found it to be a brilliant mix of accommodating and adaptable riding and the engine proved to be very manageable without being boring. It didn’t feel like a race bike that I’m used to but that’s something I was looking forward to on the KLX. I could see myself out in the desert riding this thing for hours at a leisurely pace and ripping it up on occasions as it’s capable of doing both. It is a carburetted machine; however; the exhaust on the stock bike was a bit too quiet. If I were in the Northern Emirates, this would be a motorcycle I’d love to own. Being road legal, I’d just hop on and head towards the hills for a quick getaway.
Kawasaki has also got the price spot on with the KLX450R. At AED 26,000, it is almost AED 10,000 cheaper than a Honda CRF450X and that’s a big price difference. Kawasaki needs to look at marketing this motorcycle harder among the local off-road riders and even consider entering local dealership teams at the races to increase awareness on this machine’s capability.