TransWorld Motocross is on hand at Kyushu Motorsports Park in Kumamoto, Japan, where the opening round of the 2018 All Japan National MX Championship series kicks off tomorrow. As always, there is a lot to see in the pit area. The big news this weekend is the factory Kawasaki bikes raced by factory riders Makoto Ogata and Hiroaki Arai. The bikes were kept hidden from onlookers during yesterday's setup session, but they were open game in the tech inspection area today.
We have heard from insiders that these are indeed pre-production 2019 models and that aside from a few works components, the basics of what you see is what we'll get in coming months as the new bike is released to the public.
Visually, the new bikes are stunning. With all-new bodywork, they are obviously significantly different than the bikes they replace. Outwardly, the most obvious changes are the lack of a kickstarter, which means electric start. A hydraulic clutch is outfitted on both bikes and we're told that's what will come standard. This bike is piloted by Ogata, who finished second in last year's title chase.
Kawasaki will be the first Japanese manufacturer to equip a production motocross bike with a hydraulic clutch. The system offers consistent feel at the clutch lever and requires no mid-ride adjustments. Note the electric starter motor mounted just above the countershaft sprocket. The power plant has an all-need cylinder head. We're told that big internal changes in the head and valve train equal big power gains while maintaining Kawasaki's typical rideability.
Although Ogata's race bike is equipped with Factory Kayana suspension, expect the production 2019 KX450F to be outfitted with Showa componentry…including mechanical spring forks! Thank goodness the nightmarish air fork revolution is coming to a close!
The chassis of the 2019 bike is completely redesigned, including the swingarm. Changes in rigidity and how it affects the ride are the obvious goals. We can't be certain but it looks as if the front axle is larger in diameter for a more rigid and precise feel up front while the rear swingarm pivot appears to be relocated slightly.
As for the bodywork, it looks as if the left panel of the airbox snaps off for filter access, which would make sense if the electric starter battery is located under the seat
We will continue to snap more photos of the exciting new machines during tomorrow's racing program and also try to gain more information and insights. Want to see any specifics? Comment below!