Bam! Kawi came up with a winner on its first solo effort. Based on the results of the previous versions of the KX250F, the future is bright for green riders.
Another 250F that got a bit of the black makeup for '06 is Kawasaki's KX250F. We thought the two-piece radiator shroud with a black and lime green combo was hot the first time we rode it, and the bike is still easy on our eyes. The other thing that MCUSA noticed when we first tested the KX-F was the amazing amount of torque that oozes from the DOHC motor. This time around was no different as all of our testers commented on the stellar power from the Kawasaki
The motor pulls from low, snapping out of corners and launching towards the next obstacle. In our particular case, low-end was exactly what each of our testers preferred in a 250F. I'm a short-shifter by nature that likes to lug around, while Mandahl and Minter are fast enough to run that extra gear high through corners and need some thrust at the exit, and Drew weighs a stout 190 pounds. All told, the KX-F's powerplant was right on the money for each of us. With a dyno marks giving Honda the nod, all of us felt that the green machine had more down low on the track. "There is plenty of power, especially the bottom-end pop," claimed Drew. "It seemed like I could take on any obstacle."
Steve Drew loved the power from Kawi's new motor. Combine that with a sweet chassis and first-time-ever Showa suspension and the KX-F is tough to beat.
I could immediately feel comfortable whenever I hopped on the Kawasaki, no matter which bike I had been on previously or at which track we were riding. A huge part of that was the extremely forgiving motor. With so much on tap it was easy to make mistakes and still be able to pull the next hill or clear the next jump. Again, the motor was definitely a highlight of this bike, as was the easy starting procedure extend lever and kick. No gimmicks or checklists, all the 250Fs we tested started pretty easily, but the KX-F easily topped the rest. Even with a 13.5:1 compression ratio (way above the next closest, the 12.9:1 CRF) the Kawi almost always fired on the first kick and can even be done by hand. Phenomenal starting.
Now that Suzuki doesn't have a hand in the equation, the KX-F is once again unique unto itself. Obvious changes are the suspension and chassis. Kawi seems to have copied Honda with its twin-spar aluminum frame that has similar rake and trail numbers (27.7 degrees and 4.7 inches/27.5 and 4.8, respectively) and a 47mm inverted Showa fork just like the CRF250R. The most obvious difference is wheelbase length, as the KX-F undercuts the Honda's 58.2-inch gap by 0.4 inch and is the shortest in the class. As it turns out, both are excellent handling machines with predictable turning and tremendous inline stability.
Ooh-la-la. Kawi has the looks to go along with its stellar performance. For $5899 the Kawi is the least expensive of the bikes we tested, which means that riders who purchase their own shootout winner will get a lot of value for their greenbacks.
Kawasaki changed its way of thinking when it set out to design the '06 250F. Instead of Kawi's staple Kayaba suspension components, outside-the-box thought process convinced the green company to spice up the KX-F with some Showa seasonings. A titanium shock spring, similar to the Yamaha's, blends cool factor with performance. Both ends were said to be too stiff by some and too soft by others, but not one of our testers said they disliked the KX-F's new suspenders. The package is well-balanced and predictable, adding to the Kawi's user-friendliness. At 219 pounds the KX-F is no porker, but it didn't feel quite as light on the track as the other bikes. The chassis was stiff, but not overly, and it looked as well as it performed, but nobody went out of their way to make special mention of the Kawi's agility. Still, it's no sloth.
Another strong point for the Kawi is its brakes. With a 250mm front disc pinched by a dual-piston caliper and 240mm rear grabbed by a single-piston unit, both ends work exceptionally well. The petal-style rotors are the real key to the KX-F's stopping prowess, not to mention giving an upwards nudge on the trick scale. KTM is the only other manufacturer to offer wave rotors and they got high marks as well, though we found them a bit grabby. Finding things to complain about on the KX-F was tough to do. It had everything the others did, and in some areas a bit more, which ultimately put the Kawi at the front of the pack.
MSRP - $5899
Final Ranking: 1st
Tale of the Tape - The Decision
All of the 250Fs are improved for '06, and not one is a disappointment. The continuous lessening of the performance gap makes deciding on shootout winners harder than ever. We're up to the challenge.
Upon reaching the point where the metal meets the flesh, we were forced to evaluate each bike as a whole to determine which is best. For us the decision was clear, whether crunching numbers or by the unofficial "it just feels right" scale: The Kawasaki KX250F has become the bike to beat.
As the revolution continues we'll see what each manufacturer brings to the Lites battlefield in 2007. Can the KXF establish itself as the dictator of the Lites division with a follow-up win, or will we see another 250F coup?
Let us know what you think about the 2006 250Fs
in the MCUSA Forum.