Japanese manufacturers like Kawasaki and Honda are taking a slightly different approach than European manufacturers KTM, Husky and GasGas when it comes to the special-edition market. The Japanese are taking their current platform and adding proven modifications that their professional-level race teams have tested or are currently using, and making that setup available to the general public. The 2023 Kawasaki KX450SR has around 10 upgrades in various areas compared to the KX450 standard model, but it’s also $3100 more than the standard model at $12,699.
Kawasaki KX450SR is where the factory race team starts their builds every year, and the upgrades compared to the standard KX450 are as follows:
• Cylinder head with polished intake ports
• Pro Circuit Ti-6 complete titanium exhaust system
• Performance ECU/DFI settings
• Showa fork and rear shock with Kashima coating
• XTrig ROCS Tech triple clamp with PHDS
• Hinson clutch cover
• D.I.D. Dirt Star ST-X black rims
• Renthal rear sprocket
• D.I.D. ERT3 gold chain
• Factory race-team Monster Energy graphics
• Reinforced subframe
The main difference between the 2022 and 2023 KX450SR model is all in the suspension department. Last year the machine came with Kayaba components because that is what Kawasaki’s premier factory rider Eli Tomac was using at the time. But, the 2023 model features Showa suspension components similar to what’s on the standard KX450, because both factory racers, Jason Anderson and Adam Cianciarulo, are currently racing on these components. The Showa fork on the KX450SR features titanium-oxide-coated inner fork tubes designed to resist wear and reduce friction. The 49mm inner fork tubes are the same size found on Kawasaki’s factory race team and allow for the use of 39mm compression-damping pistons and a 25mm cartridge cylinder.
The inner surface of the outer fork tubes features Showa’s Dimplush texture, which has a wave-like finish to help retain an oil film for smoother action. The Dimplush texture also has a Kashima coating to create a low-friction surface that helps prevent wear so the sliding surface remains smooth for a long time.
Just like the previous model, the 2023 KX450SR is outfitted with XTrig ROCS triple clamps featuring XTrig’s progressive handlebar dampening system (PHDS) handlebar mounts. This system is designed to dampen the forces acting on the handlebars in both horizontal and vertical directions. The handlebar can be adjusted to 12 different positions located on the top clamp. A Showa rear shock with coating replaces the Kayaba unit offering high- and low-speed damping with dual-compression adjustability so that it can be tuned separately.
Just like the 2022 model, the 2023 KX450SR is equipped with polished intake ports designed to provide smoother airflow that in turn increases overall engine performance. The complete titanium Pro Circuit exhaust system features Kawasaki’s internal specifications to enhance the internal head modification. This exhaust is only available through authorized Kawasaki dealers, is for closed-course competition use only and does not have spark-arrestor capabilities. Kawasaki has also changed the ECU mapping on the KX450SR model to match the head and exhaust modifications. These new maps are accessed through the colored couplers just like on the standard KX450 model.
Monster Energy Kawasaki race-team-inspired graphics adorn the 2023 KX450SR, along with a exclusive Pro Circuit exhaust badge. There is also a Hinson billet-proof clutch cover with the Kawasaki race-team logo, but it houses the same OEM clutch as the standard model. Rims have been upgraded on the KX450SR in the form of D.I.D. Dirt Star units with a black coating emulating the look of a factory race-team machine. Just like the race-team bike, the KX450SR also features a black Renthal Ultralight aluminum rear sprocket and D.I.D. 520ERT3 gold chain.
The SR is an upgrade over the standard KX450, and we already love that bike. The performance upgrades are to the tune of around 4 horsepower between the head modifications, Pro Circuit exhaust and mapping. This makes the bike more appealing to pro-level riders without losing the easy-to-ride characteristics that appeals to the average rider. For our test riders, it was a tossup when it came to the ECU mapping—between the white (aggressive) and the green (standard)—with the white coupler producing more revs on top. There is nothing boring about the KX450SR’s power delivery anymore.
The switch from Kayaba to Showa suspension components for 2023 wasn’t as big of a deal as we initially thought it would be. The Showa components feature the same spring rates as the standard KX450, but with slightly altered valving specs and fork-oil height. This, combined with the XTrig clamps and bar mounts, gives an impressive plush feel overall that we couldn’t get out of the standard KX450. With some minor clicker and fork-height adjustments up front teamed with a rear sag set between 104/106mm, most of our test riders had smiles on their faces.
The first question we get when it comes to special-edition units is, “With a price tag of $12,699, is it worth it?” There is a $3100 price difference between the standard KX450 and KX450SR. If you were to do all the upgrades featured on the SR to a standard KX450 on your own, your bank account would be impacted substantially more than the factory’s $3100 price difference. If you are looking for a race-ready Kawasaki straight off the showroom floor, then the 2023 KX450SR is it.
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