Tunable engine mappings help set up the 2012 Kawasaki KX450F for the prevailing conditions.
Tunable engine mappings help set up the 2012 Kawasaki KX450F for the prevailing conditions.
Adjustable handlebars and footpegs help set it up for the rider.
Adjustable handlebars and footpegs help set it up for the rider.

Kawasaki has moved its premier-class dirt-digger a step further into the electronic age for 2012 with a new launch-control system and a programmable engine control unit with three basic mappings for soft, normal and hard conditions.

The launch control - which KHI says is the first on production motocrosser - has a thumb-operated switch that simply retards the ignition timing in first and second, softening power delivery, than reverts automatically to whichever engine mapping you were using, as soon as you hook third.

And you don't even need a laptop (or a computer genius) in the pits to access the three basic mappings - simply plug in one of three colour-coded couplers and away you go.

If you do have access to the necessary hardware, the individual couplers can be tweaked using the optional fuel-injection calibration software - which also functions as a data logger, storing up to six hours of info about throttle position, revs, gear position and various other parameters.

But this isn't a PlayStation game and electronics can't win you motocross races, so the nuts and bolts have also been upgraded for 2012, with a new frame that's 4mm narrower across the top but substantially wider at the bottom for better ankle grip and a beefed-up swing-arm pivot area.

The fuel tank is now smaller and lower to form a straight line with the top of the seat, and the body plastics are smaller and slimmer. The rear monoshock now has its connecting arm below the swing-arm rather than above it for a longer stroke and more precise rear suspension tuning while, up at the sharp end, the lower triple clamp now has its slots at the back rather than on the sides, for increased rigidity.

A lot of set-up problems have to do with that indefinable area labelled feel; Kawasaki has opened that particular can with a new upper triple clamp that has two sets of handlebar mounting points and reversible handlebar clamps, giving rider a choice of four handlebar positions - standard, 15mm forward, 25mm forward and 10mm back.

Adjustable footpeg brackets allow the rider to move the footrests through a range of 5mm and an optional (1mm longer) rear suspension tie rod lowers seat height by 4mm.

Inside the powerhouse, the tappet surfaces are now carburised making them harder, for improved durability, the gear lever is stronger and the kick-start ratchet has been revised - which says more about Kawasaki riders than about the bike.

There's a new piston with a thinner top ring and a revised intake camshaft with 0.4mm more lift, four engagement dogs rather than three on each gear, a beefed first gear and a shorter shift-fork for crisper shifts.

The 2012 Kawasaki KX450F will be released in South Africa at the end of August at R74 995.


Engine: 449cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single.

Bore x stroke: 96 x 62.1mm.

Compression ratio: 12.5:1.

Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 35kW at 6500rpm.

Torque: 60Nm at 5000rpm.

Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with 43mm Keihin throttle body.

Ignition: Digital electronic capacitor discharge ignition.

Starting: Kick.

Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Five-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.

Front Suspension: 48mm inverted AOS cartridge forks adjustable for compression and rebound damping.

Rear Suspension: Monoshock adjustable for spring preload, high and low-speed compression and rebound damping.

Front brakes: 250mm petal disc with dual-piston floating calliper.

Rear brake: 240mm petal disc with single-piston floating calliper.

Front tyre: 80/100 - 219 tube type.

Rear tyre: 120/80 - 19 tube type.

Wheelbase: 1480mm.

Seat height: 955mm.

Kerb weight: 113kg.

Fuel tank: 6.2 litres.

Price: R74 995.