Originally, the plan called for Jimmy White to get a KFX700 from Kawasaki and build it for our 24-hour test. However, as with many projects, the forces of nature, deadlines, parts availability and numerous other snags kept the big green machine from being ready to hit the trail in time for the test. Since there is a huge number of riders who swear by the KFX700, or V-Force (as it was once called)-judging from the hordes of them at the GNCCs and the amount of fiery mail we received when we gave the tank, er, KFX, last place in a few comparisons last year-we gave the green light to White to continue with his plan to modify and fix some of the Kawasaki's shortcomings. Thus White's Dream Ride was born.
If you will recall, we chided the KFX for being big, bulky and ill-handling with more power than common sense. Hopping off the lithe Yamaha Raptor 700R and onto the KFX700 was more like trading in our Corvette for a Suburban. Both make big power, but one slips through the trees while the other prefers to plow straight ahead like a giant bomber regardless of the pilot's wishes. Frankly, I'm amazed every time I see a flock of the Kawis blasting around a GNCC course. However, the big KFX isn't all bad. Its simple, easy-to-use automatic transmission permits the rider to focus on negotiating trail obstacles, slow-moving forest animals or anyone too deaf to hear the V-twin rumbling up behind them. After a momentary lag as the tranny spins up to speed, the Kawasaki lunges forward with a big-bore yank that demands your attention.
As such, there is some room for improvement to make life more comforting for die-hard KFX/V-Force fans. Big power is useless without a suspension set up to cope with the ponies, so White swapped out the stock boingers for a set from PEP. And while he had her on the lift, a new set of BKT meats and tough Douglas wheels were mounted to give improved traction. To provide the motor with more snap, White turned to Pro Circuit for its dual-exhaust setup, which also enhances the dragsterlike rumble from the beast. A Twin Air Power Flow air filter kit let the engine breathe in as easily as it was now exhaling. And to cope with all the hazards on the trail as well as to protect from the inevitable tree collision, AC aluminum was bolted on all the way around. A Tag handlebar and IMS gas tank round out the list to make the KFX more rider-friendly.
White also had a PEP steering stabilizer to help keep the big girl focused on the trail, but we tested it without, as he felt the front oscillations were worse with it. After a short test loop, we identified the culprit-the toe-in angle. Adjusting the wheels 11/44 inch inward solved the problem, and the 700 was more polite on the rocky, rough Hungry Valley trails we let the Kawi gallop down. Jenny Craig plan or not, the cumbersome feel is still there with the KFX, but it certainly has a better personality now. The PEP suspension no doubt aided this effort. More time turning the clickers would have made it even more flawless. However, it is still a big-bore beast that demands respect. Pitching it sideways to get those cool photos, tester extraordinaire Steve Valli made the move look deceptively easy. Replicating his maneuver in the sand wash for photos, I could never get over the feeling of an impending high side. Part of the problem is the high center of gravity-the elevated mass and big power combine to ensure this beast resists course changes without a lot of body English. Yes, it can be surprisingly agile-as long as the direction changes are kept small or are made at a slower speed. Violate this rule and the big green monster will demand payment for the infraction.
Confused yet? Don't be, there are folks who will like this machine and benefit from White's modifications. Who are these insane people? For starters, any Big Green owners who are happy with their ride but know it has more potential locked away in there somewhere. Dune junkies looking for a casual cruiser that will kick sand at any drag challengers could also use these mods to gain a happier time in the sand on their Kawi. If the tanklike KFX is your cup of tea, then White's Dream Ride is less fantasy and more daydream-plus it's easily doable and affordable by Joe Average. That's dreamy in our eyes.
Pro Circuit: 951/738-8050; www.procircuit.comT-4 Dual System: $699.95PEP: 909/590-4111Steering stabilizer: $169Shocks, front: $595Shocks, rear: $750AC Racing: 714/808-8330; www.acracing.comSwingarm skid: $99.95 Front bumper: $109.95 Grab bar, wide: $74.95 Engine skid plate: $109.95 Black Line pro pegs, includes nerf bars: $319.95 Douglas Wheel: 760/758-5560; www.douglaswheel.comBeadlock with Shamrock billet center, 10x5 front wheels: $265 ea.Beadlock with Shamrock billet center, 9x8 rear wheels: $217.30 ea.IMS/Roll Design: 800/237-9906; www.imsproducts.comGas tank: $225BKT Tires: www.bkt-tires.com22x7-10 X Drive: $70.95 ea. 20x11-9 X Drive: $78.95 ea. Twin Air USA: 800/749-2890; www.twinairusa.comPower Flow air filter kit: $89.95Tag Metals: 619/299-6255; www.tagmetals.usHandlebar, with pad: $94.9