Kawasaki Goes All in With The Ready-to-Race Parts Special KX450SR

A race bike for you.

byJonathon Klein|
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Few outfits have the heritage in motocross such as Kawasaki. The green machines have dominated for decades, breeding champions in both race and freestyle competitions. And the company has also made some of the wildest consumer machines ever, including the psychotic H2 that Pete "Maverick" Mitchell rides in Top Gun: Maverick. Few, however, are as race-ready and wild as the 2023 Kawasaki KX450SR.

That SR tag on the end is the special bit and denotes "Special Racer," the best-of-the-best in racing technology from Kawasaki. It is, for intents and purposes, a race bike built for consumers. No, seriously, this is a bike you can buy at your local Kawasaki dealership on Saturday and then, theoretically, show up to a race and, potentially, win on Sunday.

"Starting with the KX450 concept, the new KX450SR model has been designed to suit riders seeking race wins and features elite-level racing components, special tuning and design elements inspired by the Monster Energy® Kawasaki race team to further elevate its performance and factory racer looks," states Kawasaki. But what do you get from that race-driven formula? A lot.

For the KX450SR, Kawasaki re-tuned the 449cc engine and close-ratio 5-speed transmission with the help of the factory race team, gave it a titanium exhaust, a lightweight aluminum frame, D.I.D. DirtStar Wheels, as well as a D.I.D. gold chain, a Renthal aluminum rear sprocket, and Braking-branded brake discs and calipers. Kawasaki, however, wasn't done, as the KX450SR also gets the race-bike's Showa front and rear suspension, which are the star attractions.

According to the brand, "Large-diameter inner fork tubes are the same size found on Kawasaki’s factory racing team and allow for the use of large 39mm compression damping pistons and a 25mm cartridge cylinder, providing smooth action and firm damping. The inner surface of the outer fork tubes feature SHOWA’s DimplushTM texture, which has a wave-like finish to help retain an oil film for smoother action." As for the rear, "The SHOWA rear shock offers dual compression adjustability so that high speed and low-speed damping can be tuned separately. Utilizing feedback from Kawasaki’s factory race teams, the 22mm front axle enhances front-end traction. The New Uni-Trak® rear suspension linkage ratios have been selected to suit the chassis."

The upgrades didn't stop there, as "Holding up the SHOWA front forks is a set of XTrig ROCS (revolutionary opposing clamp system) tech triple clamps that help to improve fork flex action for more optimal fork function. The upper triple clamp is outfitted with XTrig’s PHDS (progressive handlebar dampening system) handlebar mounts that are lightweight and improve the responsiveness of the fork, and is supported by elastomers which are designed to absorb vibration from the engine and chassis. This system also helps to dampen the forces acting on the handlebars in both horizontal and vertical directions, translating into increased steering precision for the rider."

And precision, power, and burly parts are what you want when you're hitting whoops, jumps, and trying to beat out all the kids who've been riding since they were still in the womb. Trust me, my daughter is going to be riding faster than me in maybe a year. I'm going to need all the go-faster parts I can get just to keep up with her.

All of these parts used to be either one-off special buys, factory-supplied to the proper race teams, or you had to know a guy who knew a guy who found the kit after it "Fell off a truck." No more shadiness is required, though. You just turn up at a Kawasaki dealership and ask for a KX450SR. Well, you will have to pay Kawasaki.

But thankfully, the KX450SR doesn't carry the same astronomical price tag as that aforementioned H2. At $12,699, it is on the more expensive spectrum for dirt bikes, but it's not outside the realm of sanity. And for all the race-prepped parts you're getting, you'll be hard-pressed to find something equally as capable right off the showroom floor. It is, however, a limited-production motorcycle. And according to Kawasaki, once they're all sold, that's it.

Is the KX450SR more bike than I can handle? You bet. But would I ride the ever-living-snot out of it? I'm pretty sure you know the answer.