In the 450cc motocross game, the only thing that matters to serious racers is top-tier performance and running up front. And for 2011, the best tool for the job is once again a Kawasaki's reworked and revised KX450F. In this arena you can't stand still technically, which is why Kawasaki engineers scrutinized every system and component of the race-winning 2010 model and came up with a host of tweaks that'll have red, blue, orange and yellow wondering what hit 'em.
Last year, the KX450F featured a number of engine refinements, including the first ever production use of a bridged-box bottom piston (more high-end power and better over-rev characteristics), revised cam timing for better mid- and top-end performance and a reinforced cylinder sleeve and crankcase for improved durability.
This year there's even more. The bridged-box bottom piston shape, for instance, has been modified to meld with the upgraded, higher-volume muffler, which is quieter than last year's unit. The ECU has been tweaked to provide a hotter and longer-duration spark for improved low-rpm response. The shift mechanism incorporates a larger internal roller and stronger shift-spring tension for more positive shifting. Finally, the fuel-injection system's Calibration Kit software has been updated, while the controller harness and connector have been modified for easier use.
Changes in the chassis department are equally impressive, and show the results of our race team's effect on development. First up are revisions to the engine mount brackets that optimize chassis flex and improve handling. Next, the engineers revised the damping settings for the massive fork tubes for even better performance. For that factory-bike touch there are also blue-anodized compression damping adjuster caps in place of last year's silver ones. Damping settings on the rear shock have also been revised, and it, too, gets a blue-anodized compression adjuster. The seat features a new side-surface texturing for increased rider grip while aboard, and the drive chain guide has been thoroughly beefed up for increased durability; testing shows it to be nearly three times more durable than the unit fitted to the 2010 machine.
The race-ready engine is compact and light, with a short 100mm cylinder head and a 12.5:1 compression ratio. A wedge shaped crank web offsets 60 percent of the crankshaft’s reciprocating weight, producing an effective 'counterweight' effect. This is on par with Kawasaki's factory racers and helps reduce engine vibration, smooths power delivery and enhances low-rpm throttle response. A stainless steel exhaust pipe connects to the revised silencer, which uses long-fiber packing material to maximize service intervals. A rubber damping collar in the rear silencer mount provides a boost to long-term durability. The KX450F's Digital Fuel Injection (DFI®) automatically adjusts to suit track and climate conditions, and offers stable fuel metering even when landing from jumps in tough motocross conditions. The DFI system includes a compact and lightweight ECU, a 43mm throttle body, a lightweight aluminum fuel pump and an ultra-fine atomizing injector. Set at a 45-degree angle for ideal mid-range power, the 10-hole injector sprays precise, 60-micron fuel particles for smooth power delivery and accurate engine response throughout the rpm range. Designed specifically for supercross and motocross, the KX450F's lightweight DFI system doesn't require a battery; the engine can be started within three rotations of the crankshaft using only the electricity generated through the initial stroke of the kickstarter.
An optional ECU Setting Tool allows racers to select from several different ECU data maps, or fine tune a custom map that alters fuel injection and ignition timing to suit different tracks and conditions. The tool can also be used as a data logger, recording up to six hours of data, including engine rpm, degree of throttle opening, engine boost, coolant and air temperatures, ignition timing, fuel adjustments, gear position and system voltage.
The engine's phenomenal power is delivered through a clutch that features an ultra-light operating plate with superb oil drainage and beefy friction plates. The entire assembly is designed to provide exceptional clutch feel and durability. The drive chain features thin inner links and a slight weight savings relative to typical designs to help boost acceleration. The revised suspension damping settings provide lighter handling, improved suspension action, increased comfort and greater cushioning when landing from jumps.
The 2011 KX450F's D-shaped aluminum swingarm features a cross section with narrow ribs and thin walls. It pivots high in the aluminum frame to maximize rear wheel traction. Mounting the arm of the Uni-Trak rear suspension linkage below the swingarm provides a long rear suspension stroke and facilitates precise shock tuning.