Retarded: 2012 Kawasaki KX450 Launch Control

Dailies -


Launch control is a pretty awesome thing. The idea behind it is that at the start of a race, you whack the throttle wide open, dump the clutch, and the computer makes all the hard calls for you. This tech is the reason MotoGP and F1 starts are so drama free and smooth. All the guy behind the controls has to do is keep it pinned wide open and it’ll go as fast as the tires will allow. Kawasaki‘s launch control on the new KX450F is special though. In all the wrong ways..

Kawasaki says:
2012 Kawasaki KX450F riders can easily activate the new Launch Control mode – a key feature never before seen on a production motocross bike. The push-button system is activated by a touch of the switch on the left handlebar, and optimizes off-the-line acceleration by altering ignition timing in first and second gears to help maximize grip and reduce the chance of excessive wheelspin. Shifting into third gear automatically deactivates Launch Control Mode and returns the ignition timing to the parameters of the installed ignition map. The Launch Control’s effectiveness is further enhanced by a chassis designed to maximize suspension performance and rear wheel traction.”

The thing they’re calling “launch control” is literally retarded. It’s an ignition retard switch that activates a different map for the first two gears and automatically shuts off once you click into third. That’s it. No traction control, no fancy computer magic, just an ignition retard that cuts power in the first two gears.

The funny thing is that a lot of MX racers use another, much more effective and race-legal form of launch control. The device consists of a fork clamp with cut-out that catches a button that’s attached to the fork guard. It works like this: Roll up to the start line, compress the forks and push the button into place. The forks are now held in their compressed position and the bike will be less likely to wheelie. Simple, easy and mechanical.

Kawasaki could, if they wanted to, build a real launch control system for use in MX bikes. The tech is all there and has been for years. The problem is with the rule books. In the same way that NASCAR stifles technological advancement, the AMA prohibits the use of traction control. Computer controlled launch control is really just a highly refined traction control system that incorporates wheelie control, allows for some wheel-spin and juggles a whole bunch of variables while deciding how to best achieve maximum acceleration. A system like this would probably add two pounds of weight, and not really cost all that much to adapt to MX. Traction control on an MX bike would have the same effect as BMW’s S1000RR system–everyone but the fastest pro-racers are both faster and safer. The one percent of guys who can really ride would shut the system off or modify it to suit their needs.

So that’s why this isn’t real launch control. It’s just not allowed. Still, I can’t help but wonder why didn’t Kawasaki just bolt-on an effective, cheap, low-tech device like motion pro sells at the factory instead of a gimmicky power-killing switch 90 percent of riders will never use.


  • evilbahumut

    So you’re saying the launch control is like Sean Penn in I am Sam?

    BTW, you were talking about a system like this: right?

    • Sean Smith

      Yup. The Pro Circuit system is what I linked to. Those things work great. It’s a simple system with all of 2 moving parts (spring and button) that offers a real solution to a hard problem. Why the OEMs don’t use tech like this is beyond me.

  • motoguru

    Yes, retarded. The dual riser positions is kinda cool though…

    • Sean Smith

      If you like nice details like that, go check out a KTM. Even their bolts are nice.

  • NickP

    Wow, that is stupid. Kinda like the Dodge SRT-4. Their “fix” for selling a front wheel drive performance car is to reduce power in first and second gear. No thanks!

  • Brammofan

    At first, I was offended that you used the “r” word, but then realized you were using the literal sense of it. Then I felt happy and quite gay. Too bad Kawasaki acted so niggardly with their launch feature.

    • DAVID

      I see what you did.

    • Miles Prower

      Almost threw up laughing.

    • Mark D

      ::slow clap::

      The whole system seems like a Gyp. Its a very queer way of engineering a launch control system. (#AmIDoingItRight?)

      • Brammofan

        My local Kawasaki dealer wants $8100 for this bike. Wonder if I should jew him down to $7900? #onlybecauseIwasbornjewish

        • Dumptruckfoxtrot

          You probably could, but he’d inevitably bitch about it. You could always claim that something was off by a cunthair and get a discount though.

    • Case

      Well played, sir. Well played.

    • ike6116

      I love you.

    • ursus

      Incidentally, for those not so advanced, “niggardly” is not a slur:

      • Brammofan

        Actually, my ex-wife just called me “niggardly” because I’m so reluctant to give her more money than I already do. And she was drunk when she said it, and … yes, she was slurring her words. True. So there.

    • stempere

      I’ve always been facinated by the american obsession for political correctness.
      I, for one, never understood the choice to use “african american” to refer to a black person. “African american” implies both an origin an a nationality, so if you run into an english man (for instance) that is of indigenous australian decent and has dark skin, americans are supposed to refer to him as “african american” to be sensitive, regardless of him being neither?

      In french, the word “nègre” is both the equivalent of the “n word” (as a racial slur) and the french word for “ghost writer” (spelled exactly the same way).
      The usual response here is not to ban the use of a word altogether but to use it sensibly. We still call a ghost writer a nègre but don’t use racially oriented terms anymore, like “Tête de nègre” (a whippet cookie) which literally meant a “nigger’s head”.

      Coincidently in france some people that feel uneasy using the french word for black (noir), frequently us the english “black” in the middle of a french sentence, funny.

      • Mark D

        In most academic circles, African-American is usually used when discussing the history of Africans brought to the US as slaves, and their decedent’s history up to the present. Black American is perfectly PC when discussing, well, a black American (same as a Black Canadian, White American, Latino Irishman, etc etc etc).

        Actually, its kind of funny that Obama, who’s father was Kenyan, not a descendant of American slaves, is understandably erroneously referred to as “African American”. So…yeah, its fucking confusing to be American sometimes.

      • evilbahumut

        I’m black and rather be referred to as black instead of “colored.” I think the PC-ness of “African American” is bullshit, as if you can’t look at me and tell what I am.

        I’m not expected to refer to you all as Anglo-Americans so I don’t see why I (along with Hispanics, Asians and other minorities) have to be a “special” case. Fuck that.

        • Brammofan


    • holdingfast

      ^THIS! @Brammofan

    • Cajun58
    • Tim

      Nice and proper use of “niggardly” rock

  • skadamo

    It seems the whole motorcycle industry is suspicious of what the customer really *wants*… even if they say they want it.

    I bet Kawasaki is going to see how much this shiny new button moves the sales needle. If it is justified they will build the real system.

    • Sean Smith

      They won’t build it. The AMA says you can’t race a bike like that. They’d have to get the traction control ban lifted first, and if they did that, there would be an explosion of tech in MX.

      • skadamo

        gotcha. Why innovate.

        I still think if the device is as lame as it sounds they are testing how the riders respond to it in some way.

        Either that or they recognize most mortal riders cant control the massive amounts of power 450s put to the rear wheel. Maybe it will become more of a switch next year.

        • Sean Smith

          It’s probably that power thing. 9 out of 10 flat-bill wearing, MX racing bros can’t launch a 450 like a pro. For those guys, this will be a pretty neat trick.

  • a special ed teacher

    i officially deem this retarded.

    • Sean Smith

      I always thought you were just a hipster?

      • a special ed teacher

        if you look carefully, i’m plenty more than that.

  • dux

    How much does it cost? I wanna put this system on……someone else’s bike

    • Sean Smith

      If you looked around the aftermarket a bit, I’m sure you could find a solution. Back when I wore the engine builder hat and wrenched on KTMs, a lot of guys had ignition map switches on their bars. Now, you had to have the hot-rod ignition box to do it, but it was a pretty simple install.

      Most people had two maps: one for pump gas, and one for expensive 110+. If you wanted to, you could set it up to just retard the hell out of it, and switch it to full-power before the first corner.

      If you wanted to that is. I’d recommend just getting a 250 and learning to ride that first. A lot of people don’t make the connection between MX bikes and sportsbikes; a 250 is somewhat equivalent to a 600, and a 450 to a 1000. The actual riding is very different, but the amount of skill required is similar. The acceleration is similar too.

  • John

    “Never go full retard.”

  • george_fla

    Is the 2012 KX4fiddy gonna have EFI?

    • george_fla

      errr… nevermind. lol