Back in 2007 Kawasaki introduced its KLX450R to the enduro market. At the time, the specifications were very similar to its competitors in the 450 enduro class.
In fact the KLX450R was based on the 2006 KX450F motocrosser, but with all the fruit necessary to make it capable in off-road conditions.
Kawasaki gave it an eight-litre fuel tank, 18-inch rear wheel, sidestand, electric start, wide-ratio gearbox and more user-friendly engine. The KYB fork and monoshock were tuned for enduro conditions and all the bells and whistles were fitted for ADR compliance.
In short, it had everything it needed to be a capable off-road racer or trailriding machine. Since then, 450cc enduro racers have advanced considerably, mainly in weight savings and power refinements courtesy of electronic fuel injection. Given the lack of development on the KLX, Kawasaki riders like Inverell’s Josh Strang are switching to the KX450 motocrosser and racing that in series like the GNCC thanks to the huge tuning options and button start.
So where does the KLX450R fit in now? It’s not as old as Suzuki’s DR-Z400, introduced in 2000, but it’s getting up there. The last time I rode one was for the ADB 450 enduro shootout back in 2006 but I still remember sending the green meanie over a massive downhill jump.
Looking at the current KLX450R, it definitely looks a little fresher than the 2007 version as it has different graphics, seatcover and fork protectors but, other than that, not much has changed. Soon as I sat on it memories came flashing back!
The seat on these things is super comfortable and quite soft. The seat height of 935mm is definitely on the low side compared to most of the current crop.
I am only 178cm tall, so the lower seat gives me a good feeling straight up. The alloy Renthal handlebar is positioned reasonably low, with comfortable half-waffle handgrips. I did start twisting the throttle, until I remembered this engine is fed by a carburettor and that every twist, pumps fuel into the engine and potentially floods it.
I did like the feel of the cable clutch, it was rather light and smooth.
Something I haven’t had to do on a four-stroke since our DR-Z400 test, was make sure the fuel tap was on. Keen to ride the green machine, I hit the starter, but the battery was a little dead and it didn’t turn over fast enough to start. Luckily the KLX still comes with a kickstarter and one easy kick brought it to life. The muffler outlet on these things is small so it keeps noise to a minimum.
Venturing onto some singletrack, the first thing I noticed was the carby-fed engine felt really connected to every twist or movement I made. Maybe I’m getting old, but the carby 450 engine really had me smiling straight away. It has a raw, meaty feel, that most EFI bikes don’t give me.
The first 30 minutes of the ride was quite tight and twisty, and really showed how well this thing held a line and turned. There were sections where I could tell it wasn’t the lightest machine, tipping the scales at a claimed 115kg dry but, in general, the weight didn’t bother me much at all, it actually made some loose, stony sections easier as the extra kilos kept the bike nice and settled.
The nice feeling was helped by the KYB fork and shock. Both are quality units, especially the twin-chamber fork. The suspension really gave me that soft, comfortable feeling that makes a long day on the trails enjoyable. For some reason, I kept waiting for the engine to flame out in the tight stuff, but it was quite the opposite, and never wanted to stall.
The bottom-end power just feels so reliable, it isn’t aggressive at all but gives the feeling you could tow a loaded trailer without bothering the KLX at all.
Not overly sure where I was going, I stopped to look around before deciding to test the thing out on some more open trails. I forgot that the battery had been a bit dead and still hit the starter button but it fired straight into life, the 30 minutes of singletrack had charged the battery enough to start the bike.
On the fireroads I opened the KLX450R up. The mid-range was nice and strong, just like the bottom-end power was in the tight terrain. The top-end is a little flat, it’s still capable of speeds that will have the best of us overshooting corners, but it isn’t 450 current enduro-race bike fast.
The wide-ratio gearbox was eating up the high-speed trails and capable of getting me thrown in jail if caught on radar. The alloy frame and suspension also work quite well on the high-speed terrain, as it felt super stable in a straight line while soaking up all the little stuff.
As soft as the suspension felt on everything I threw at it, I never really bottomed it that bad, and I’m no whippet at 86kg.
I do remember from back in 2007 that the Nissin brakes, both front and rear, had nice feel and good stopping power and this hasn’t changed.
Overall I had a great day trailriding the KLX. Yes it isn’t state-of-the-art but it is based off a 450 motocross machine that only a few people have ever ridden to its maximum potential. So it doesn’t surprise me that a mellowed out, easier to ride version is still capable of giving me a great day and tackling everything I threw it at with ease.
Heck the price tag of $11,199 is enough to make me see some great value in this bike, especially for trailriders.
WHAT THE KLX450R NEEDS
The beauty of the KLX450R is that it’s based on the 2006, 2007 and 2008 KX450F, so if you want to turn it into a bit more of a hard-edged off-road machine, you can look at all kinds of options. Personally I’d look at a lighter, less restrictive exhaust system as this would give you quite a few gains.
Then I’d replace the lead-acid battery with a much lighter lithium-ion one. That would be about it for me, but I do know it’s possible to look at lots of different engine combinations to increase power by using some KX-F engine parts, like camshafts and hi-comp pistons. So contact your Kawasaki dealer if you are interested in that.
And the beauty of the quality KYB suspension is that you have the option to get either end set up exactly for your size, speed and riding conditions.
KAWASAKI KLX450R Specs
TYPE DOHC, four-valve
BORE x STROKE 96.0 x 62.1mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.0:1
FUEL METERING Keihin FCR MX40
FUEL TANK 8.0L
TRANSMISSION Five-speed, constant mesh
CLUTCH Wet multiplate
SEAT HEIGHT 935mm
GROUND CLEARANCE 315mm
WEIGHT 126kg wet
FRONT KYB spring-cartridge USD, 305mm travel
REAR KYB gas-oil monoshock, 315mm travel
FRONT Nissin twin-piston caliper, 250mm wave
REAR Nissin single-piston, 240mm wave disc
HANDLEBAR Renthal tapered alloy
FRONT TYRE Dunlop 80/100-21
REAR TYRE Dunlop 120/90-18
PRICE AND CONTACTS
PHONE (02) 9684 2585
WARRANTY Three months parts only
WORDS: BEN GRABHAM, PHOTOS: MITCH LEES – THIS FEATURE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ADB ISSUE #478 – JULY 2019