Bike Tests 19 Aug 2011

Race Test: 2011 Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F

Learn all you need to know about Dean Ferris’s factory MX Nationals contender as we test it!

As a 12-time Australian national champion in either motocross or supercross, Monster Energy Kawasaki team manager Troy Carroll has been there, and usually done that.

When he was called upon to take over the reigns as the manager of Kawasaki’s factory team in Australia for 2011 after a number of seasons involved with his own private outfits, he jumped at the opportunity.

Relocating the team to his hometown in Toowoomba was the first step, and then signing riders who were capable of winning was another vital step the team needed to take with the full support of Monster Energy Drink.

Following seven rounds of the MX Nationals series this season, the team was on track for a dream finish to the series with team newcomer Dean Ferris leading by a 14-point margin after maintaining the red plate for much of the year.

MotoOnline.com.au had MX Nationals regular Aiden de Jager come test with us for Monster Energy Kawasaki. Image: Alex Gobert.

MotoOnline.com.au had MX Nationals regular Aden de Jager come test with us for Monster Energy Kawasaki. Image: Alex Gobert.

Things went south at Moree’s penultimate round though, with Ferris crashing out and returning Scottish teammate Billy Mackenzie encountering troubles of his own that would dash the team’s title hopes. Once all was said and done, BillyMac finished third in the series, with Ferris a close fourth after crashing out again at Coolum’s finale.

Despite the troublesome finish to the season, you have to applaud the tight-knit team for their efforts, a first season together that really could form the base of big things to come in the future.

MotoOnline.com.au recently had the opportunity to travel to Queensland for a visit the Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Toowoomba base, snaring a ride on Ferris’ actual factory KX450F race bike while we were at it!

To give us the best feedback possible, we took MX Nationals privateer Aden de Jager along for the ride to see how he compares Ferris’ largely Pro Circuit-equipped ride to the privateer race bikes he’s competed on over the years.

Stay tuned for a film from the test to be uploaded this coming Monday!

Monster Energy Kawasaki provided Dean Ferris' factory KX450F for us to test at a private track in Toowoomba. Image: Alex Gobert.

Monster Energy Kawasaki provided Dean Ferris' factory KX450F for us to test at a private track in Toowoomba. Image: Alex Gobert.

Aden de Jager – Guest MotoOnline.com.au Test Rider

Getting on a factory bike that you know has been fully looked after is a good feeling, knowing that everything is fresh and good to go. The throttle was just like spinning a feather sort of thing, just really good.

In this case it was just a good opportunity to feel what Pro Circuit suspension is like, how it turns, what a factory motor feels like compared to my bike, and just all of those sort of things. Seeing the shop and all of the available resources that the team has is exceptional.

Dean’s handlebars are forward and seem to be a pretty standard kind of bend, whereas I’d probably run them a little lower. It was pretty standard, nothing majorly different ergonomically. The clutch was really nice, the ARC levers good and everything just really smooth to operate.

As far as handling goes, Dean tends to run a really stiff fork like I usually do, probably even a little stiffer than what I run. The faster you went, the smoother it got, even though the track conditions were kind of tough. There weren’t many lines, but it tracked really well in a couple of fast sweeping corners and the rear-end just sticks to the ground.

De Jager was impressed with the bike's power once clicking through the gears at speed. Image: Alex Gobert.

De Jager was impressed with the bike's power once clicking through the gears at speed. Image: Alex Gobert.

Obviously with the front being really hard, you could just dive-bomb into some of the sandy corners. I noticed that it would sit up nicely, wouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary and that’s obviously how Dean likes it – he comes in pretty hard and bombs into the corner.

All in all the bike was great, it turned really well and that really stood out to me. I’d like to see how it goes on a hard-pack track, I think it would be great there as well.

I was actually really surprised with the engine, I thought it’d be pretty snappy because the Kawi I had in 2010 was pretty fast. It didn’t feel too much different to that, and I think that the Kawasaki has a lot of top-end speed. Compared to the Yamaha I’m riding at the moment, my bike seems really snappy off the bottom.

When I hopped on Dean’s bike it was very manageable, really easy to use, and I was really impressed with the bike. The second you start hooking gears it really pulls hard. You could lag the motor a bit, even here in the sand, and it just pulls through anything. That was a really good part.

I think it would suit either hard or soft tracks, since the power is so manageable. A few minor suspension changes would make it perfect for a harder track, while at the moment it felt good in the soft stuff at this track. For me, I’d probably look for more power at the bottom-end, but the second you start clicking gears it just wants to rip your arms out. You just have to go fast and ride it to its potential.

Steering is good and the Pro Circuit suspension works a treat through the rough stuff. Image: Alex Gobert.

Steering is good and the Pro Circuit suspension works a treat through the rough stuff. Image: Alex Gobert.

Dean Ferris – Pro Open MX Nationals Number Four

To start off with, I like my ’bars, levers and foot controls pretty neutral really, kind of textbook style, I guess. My ’bars aren’t too high, not too low, and I actually run them forward on the Tag bend, like plus one.

The motor, we started out with Billy’s from last year for the first few rounds, but I wanted a bit of extra over-rev and overall power. We achieved that by changing the cams, ECU and pipe, so my bike got faster as the year went on.

Overall, I like it pretty smooth, but a lot of it and my bike was really fast. Especially after we changed the motor, I got better starts and I could hold the gear longer on the straight.

With the suspension, I’m pretty picky about it and we changed it a lot through the year. I actually kept going stiffer and that’s the first time I actually got the bike to where I want it. It’s probably a lot stiffer than what Troy or the mechanics thought I’d run it because I’m not that heavy, but that’s how I like it. You can hit any bump, any rut, and just bulldog it if you have to. It did it all for me.

It was about halfway through the series – Coonabarabran I think – where I found the set-up I needed and stuck with it through to the end as far as valving goes. Every weekend we actually change the clickers quite a lot, because the Pro Circuit stuff is really adjustable. We’d change the geometry a bit, maybe slide the forks up here and there, but that’s basically what we stuck with.

The Monster Energy KX450F is customised to Ferris' wishes using countless resources. Image: Alex Gobert.

The Monster Energy KX450F is customised to Ferris' wishes using countless resources. Image: Alex Gobert.

I’d drive backwards and forwards to Toowoomba all the time to test, but I was willing to do it so we could make the bike better. The guys have all the resources, so it’s good to go there in between rounds and work to make things better all the time.

With Kawasaki and having those resources is great. It showed in my results, we made the bike better and my starts got better. I was more rock solid in my results and if we didn’t have those resources I would have had to wing it, which I’d done in the past. It definitely all reflected on my results and I’m very thankful to have that support.

Troy Carroll – Team Manager

We went down the direction to use Pro Circuit basically because of the success that Mitch Payton has had with his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team in the U.S. We aligned ourselves with them because of the brand and we’re glad we did – we’ve had some great results.

It’s easy for us to pick up the phone and say okay, we’re having a little bit of trouble with this, and they give us everything that we need to build a bigger team. Hopefully we can also help them out by giving them feedback from the team about the conditions in Australia and everything like that.

We get stuff that we need from PC sent over, but also this year we took the team’s 250F engine over and got it built by those guys while they showed us how to do it. We thank Pro Circuit for their help in doing that kind of thing and working alongside us.

The direction that we are taking with our team bikes is similar to the KX450F that Josh Hansen won the Super X championship on last year. Billy Mackenzie rides a little bit different bike to what Pro Circuit build because he likes the power in a different area, but apart from that I think PC have got the strongest engines.

De Jager flies high aboard Ferris' Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F. He was impressed, to say the least. Image: Alex Gobert.

De Jager flies high aboard Ferris' Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F. He was impressed, to say the least. Image: Alex Gobert.

I believe that they are going to be stronger again next year with the 2012 bike. We do all of our testing before the race weekend and spend a lot of time with the R&D of the bike to get the best possible set-up that we can.

We use everything from Michelin to Castrol, Unit, Kwala, and also source local products like Talon wheels from John Titman Racing. Those guys sponsor us as well, so what we have is a good thing and we’re going to try and keep it that way.

I’m excited about the team, I think I’m the youngest factory team manager out there right now and I have big dreams. I want to build this thing up and I’m here for a long time if I can be. I want to take Australian motocross to a new level, which is what we’ve been trying to do this year. Everything takes time, it won’t happen overnight, but hopefully we can keep pushing forward and make a great show for spectators.

For our first year as the factory Monster Energy Kawasaki race team I think it’s gone really well. There have been some critics that say we dropped the ball at the end, but this is what we’ve achieved in one year – wait until we get to years three or four.

I have a lot of faith in our team, the mechanics and Kawasaki, as well as all of our sponsors. We need to keep pushing forward to set new levels, so hopefully we can win a lot of championships along the way.

Pro Circuit components are sprinkled throughout the factory Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F. Image: Alex Gobert.

Pro Circuit components are sprinkled throughout the factory Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F. Image: Alex Gobert.

Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F Specifications

Engine: 450cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC
Cylinder Head: Pro Circuit
Cylinder: Standard
Piston: Pro Circuit
Camshafts: Pro Circuit
Throttle Body: Keihin
Spark Plug: NGK
Ignition: Vortex
Exhaust Pipe: Pro Circuit
Muffler: Pro Circuit
Air Filter: Unifilter
Sprockets: Talon
Drive Chain: DID
Tyres: Michelin
Wheels: SM Pro Platinum
Suspension Front Fork: Showa/Pro Circuit A Kit
Suspension Rear Shock: Showa/Pro Circuit A Kit
Triple Clamps: Pro Circuit
Front Brake: 270mm Braking Bat-fly disc with standard brake hose
Rear Brake: Braking wave disc
Handlebars: Tag
Controls – Front Brake: ARC lever
Controls – Clutch: ARC lever
Grips: Kwala
Clutch Components and Cover: Hinson
Graphics: ONE Industries
Fuel: VP ROO 100
Carbon (bash plate/rear disc protector): Light Speed
Lubrication: Castrol oils

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