As China’s Kove Moto prepares for their second Dakar Rally in 2024, they will do so on an upgraded version of the Kove 450 Rally that was revealed Tuesday at EICMA in Milan, Italy.
The new bike is smaller than its predecessor to improve efficiency, being 26 lbs (11.8 kg) lighter but boasting twelve more horsepower. Inside the 65-hp engine, the intake and exhaust rocker arms have been combined while the cylinder’s head is more compact and straighter to reduce resistance. The revised engine is also available on Kove’s updated MX450 motocross bike.
The starter clutch has been consolidated in the hydraulic. Said clutch is also narrower and lighter by ten percent than competing products.
Various components are modified to further decrease weight, such as a one-piece tail light and lighter headlight, a revised handlebar, and an integrated buffer and large sprocket. The new tail light is lighter by nearly eighty percent, while the buffer and large sprocket system has gone from consisting of three parts to just one.
One of the more notable changes is to the fuel system, which is larger at thirty-four liters. Laid out in a twin fuel pump format, riders can either toggle between front or rear pump automatically or on their own. Despite the capacity increase, the bike’s centre of gravity is lowered to offset any increased weight.
Fifty units will be produced and sold in 2024 for twenty thousand euros each.
“We went to 2023 Dakar and three of our riders finished the race which is really good, but to win the race you need better performance as you ride,” explained director Zhang Xue. “As we improve our bike to modify it, the performance is even better.”
Kove Moto was founded in 2017 and made their rally raid début at the 2023 Dakar Rally. Sunier, Deng Liansong, and Fang Mingji all reached the finish on Koves with Sunier finishing the highest in twenty-seventh in the Rally2 category. The perfect completion rate checked off the first box in Zhang’s five-year Dakar plan for the marque, with the main goal for 2024 being to have at least one bike finish in the top twenty, followed by a top ten in 2025, a podium in 2026, and finally winning in 2027.
After Dakar, Kove appeared at the final three World Rally-Raid Championship rounds—the Sonora Rally, Desafío Ruta 40, and Rallye du Maroc, though their factory riders skipped the DR 40. Sunier respectively finished ninth and nineteenth in Mexico and Argentina, whereas Neels Theric narrowly missed the podium in his first race at Sonora before crashing in Morocco. The duo were joined by Xavier Flick and Fang Xiangling at the Rallye du Maroc; the former withdrew shortly after the start due to his father’s passing while Fang placed sixteenth.
In June, the team prepared six bikes for their home rally at the Taklimakan Rally. All three Dakar riders, Fang, Theric, and Zhang represented Kove, and Theric led the group with a fourth-place run ahead of Fang.
Hoping to dip their feet into the American markets, Kove established partnerships with regional distributors and riders for the two W2RC rallies there. USA Motortoys and Rocky Mountain Detours provided technical support at the Sonora Rally, while RVM did so for the DR 40 with Joaquín Debeljuh on a Kove 450 rebadged as an RVM Rally 450. Mike Johnson finished fourth in the non-W2RC National Enduro class at Sonora before placing third overall at the following week’s Mexican 1000. Debeljuh dominated the DR 40’s Open class but crashed in the final stage.
The quartet that raced at Morocco is expected to return for Dakar. The race will be used to test parts like the new engine before it can be introduced for consumer models. In late October, the 450 Rally received a Euro 5 rating to become eligible for sale in Europe, albeit sacrificing nine horsepower and seven Nm of torque to comply with the European Union’s emissions standards.
The 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January.