The Kawasaki KX250F
has dominated racing and also done well in our annual 250 Motocross Shooutout. Its brutish power and stable chassis year-in and year-out make it a staff favorite. For 2014 Team Green made some updates to keep the trophies coming. The competition is on to Kawasaki’s game of overpowering its rivals, so can it still stay on the top step?
In 2013 the KX250F got a massive dose of revisions and updates, so 2014 saw just a few notable changes. First was the addition of launch control to help it get out of the gate quicker when the traction is less than optimal. And it does help. During our holeshot testing the Kawasaki
was able to lay down the second-quickest time to the 125 mark of 3.168 seconds at 42.8 mph. An impressive result considering its meaty low- and mid-range power would have just spun on our dusty start straight.
You can’t avoid mentioning the KX's power; it just plain rips. Healthy bottom-end torque rockets the Kawasaki out of the turns and then pulls hard with a rush from the mid-range power. Up top it tapers off, but is by no means wimpy. Five out of our six riders
rank the Kawasaki’s power as the runner-up, with the other tester placing it third. The mighty green giant is no longer the bully on the block.
Factory-racer-turned-trainer, Sean Hamblin, says, “As usual the Kawi has a strong motor package and with the changing of couplers to better suit the power to your liking, it is always responsive when needed.”
Our go-to pro Chris See adds, “The green machine, as always, has a great stock package, supplying bottom-end power to fulfill my needs. But I feel as if this bike could use more top-end over-rev to make it perfect for me.”
On the MotoUSA DynoJet the Kawasaki makes a respectable 36.77 horsepower at 12,700 rpm for a third-best result. When it comes to torque the KX makes the podium as well with 18.24 lb-ft of toque with a flat curve that is easy to feel on the track.
Power is nothing without handling, and the KX250F delivers. In fact, the Kawasaki placed second in both suspension and handling according to our test crew thanks to its ability to turn on a dime, yet still be stable at speed. The suspension settles nicely in ruts and berms making easy to turn but it can still handle a pounding in the chop and whoops. Only the Honda is easier to ride.
“The Kawasaki was a very close second for me when it comes to handling,” comments pro tester, Nick Thiel. “It just didn't quite have the stability of the Yamaha, but it did feel more comfortable in the tighter corners.”
WMX racer Sara Price also says, “All around it is just comfortable, and I love the fact you can just throw it into any corner with confidence.”
While the KX looks heavy with its black wheels and large big flat seat, the 2014 KX250F is the lightest bike in the test at 234 pounds with a completely full 1.61-gallon tank. Sound testing confirmed what our ears already knew – the KX was one of the loudest, with an idle sound level of 97 decibels and a half throttle measurement of 113 dB.
Our crew found the Kawasaki to be one of the most comfortable behind the bars with a compact rider’s area and a thin feel
between the legs. Also gone are the notoriously harsh grips that seemed to be made of granite; Kawasaki replaced them with a much softer compound taking mercy on our calloused palms.
See ranked the Kawasaki first in the ergonomics category saying, “The Kawi was easily the most comfortable for me; the bike feels so thin and narrow and it’s easy to move around.”
Price agrees, “Being a shorter person I would have to say the Kawasaki was close to the Honda as my favorite with the feeling of it being very compact. The only thing that keeps it from being above the Honda is the seat height when just sitting on the bike.”
In the drivetrain category the Green Machine sits mid-pack thanks to perfectly spaced gearing and a fade-free clutch. Some riders complained of a stiff pull on the left lever and a slightly notchy engagement. Our fastest riders also found the KX hard to shift under power at higher rpms.
Price comments, “The shifting is the same as Kawasaki has always been – a little stiff.”
When it’s time to throw out the anchor the KX250F’s brakes rated mid-pack as well. The front brake has a feel that lets you know when traction is at its limit, but the power could be stronger and the lever more firm. At the rear, the pedal is slightly vague and mushy but is strong at the same time.
In what is the most surprising result in our 2014 Motocross Shootout, the Kawasaki KX250F finishes in third-place. While the KX did improve from last year, two of its competitors made bigger gains and stole points from categories that the Kawasaki used to own. In the MX world, a third-place finish is total junk in the eyes of those that put such a high price on winning, but it really is not the case here. The KX is an excellent motocrosser and we wouldn’t hesitate lining up at the start gate on a green bike.