The KX250F didn’t receive any of the same complaints about difficulty turning like the Green 450F. As you can see, the little Kawi is willing to be tossed around.
Like its bigger sibling, the Green bike was heaviest on our digital scales (220 lbs.). The difference between the two classes is that none of our testers complained about the tiddler’s weight like they did on the big bike. We attribute this to a closer discrepancy between the steering geometries in the 250Fs. The KX450F has a rake figure between 0.3 and 2.1 degrees more than the others. However, the KX250F has no more than 0.7 degrees over its competition. With similar geometry to the others, the Kawi doesn’t stand out from the group as top-heavy or difficult to turn in.
But the Kwacker wasn’t judged highly in the handling department, as it received the lowest marks. Some believed its twin-spar aluminum chassis is too rigid, while others said the KX’s stiff suspension is at fault for the handling woes. The Showa components are surely capable, but our efforts to reach a better balance were met with little success. Most riders complained of a tall feeling in the rear that wouldn’t allow for the bike to settle into turns, and the bike would sometimes want to push the front end in corners.
“Wow,” said intermediate rider, Ian Martin. “This bike was tough. I felt like I was bull-riding in the ring the way I fought the front end through corners and tried not to get bucked around.”
Once again the KX-F’s motor blew us away. Huffman was one of our heaviest riders and he had no problems getting over the biggest obstacles on his private tracks.
Martin is our lightest tester at 135 lbs, but all riders noticed the Kawi’s tendency to bounce and deflect on sharp-edged impacts. Faster riders had less trouble with the shock, but even our pros wanted additional plushness from the KX-F. Mike Horban is one of our ringers and he looked to the benefits of the rough ride. “It’s stiff,” he admits, “but it doesn’t bottom and generally has a good feel”
Though it sounds like we’re bagging on the Showa components, they actually do a quality job. Huffman, our fastest rider, ranked the Kawasaki second in handling and suspension and felt the shock simply needed to be broken in more – so it obviously gets the job done. We’re only picking on it so hard because the shock is the one thing we didn’t love about the Kawi.
If the rear suspension left us wanting, so did the 4-valve, DOHC motor – wanting nothing else, that is. No bike dominated a category like the Kawi and its dream engine. Five out of five test riders ranked it first, which is impressive considering the spectrum of talent among our troupe. The torquey 249cc powerplant was the main reason the KX-F won our 2006 comparison. Thankfully, Kawi engineers did everyone a favor and basically left the motor alone. Subtle improvements to the ignition timing and hand-polished intake ports give the ’07 better mid-high performance without affecting the snappy tug down low.
“What a strong motor,” enthuses Martin. “It pulls very hard on the bottom and about rips your head off. It signs off a little on top but the over-rev is still usable. It has snappy, quick response with no lagging. This motor is definitely a trooper.”
Our intermediate rider wasn’t smitten simply because of his miniscule stature; even our 190-lb novice rider was impressed by the bottom-end grunt. Along with the polished intake ports, Kawasaki redesigned the airbox funnel for a straighter shot and better throttle response. It works, and the KX-F barks when you want it to. A class-leading 18.1 lb-ft of torque lets the Kawi pull away from its competitors as the revs climb to around 8000 or 9000, and it doesn’t lose anything to the other bikes up high. The KX-F is great off the gate and rips second-gear launches with even our heaviest rider. Of the four bikes, the KX-F was the only one that we felt didn’t require a bigger rear sprocket during our arenacross testing. “The Kawi is fast,” chimes Huffman. “It’s very responsive initially.”
If we have one complaint about the Kawasaki’s motor, it’s one that you’ll notice right away. The 13.5:1 compression ratio gave our right leg a workout. Suzuki utilizes a 13.4:1 ratio and both were a pain to get lit. However, the Green bike earned the title of hardest to start, especially in cold weather.
The Kawi got dinged for its clutch which was a bit grabbier than the rest. A likely cause is the 20%-stiffer springs which were part of search for durability in the transmission. Thicker gears and beefier dogs are Kawasaki’s answer for increased longevity, but our testers think the tranny needs to be refined a bit for slicker shifting.
- Killer motor
- High sex appeal
- Plenty of optional dealer parts
- MSRP under $6K
- Extra-stiff chassis and rear shock
- Terribly hard starting
- Where’s the DLC?
Every time we finish riding the Kawi and take a step back to look it over, the individual gripes about a stiff shock and slightly notchy gearbox are swallowed by the impressive appearance and motor. The overall package looks more like a race bike than any of the others, with magnesium-colored triple clamps, hubs and engine cases. The only thing missing is the Diamond Like Carbon of the KX450F on the fork sliders to complete the factory look.
Choosing to ride the Lites over bigger, more powerful machines can reward a rider with more fun, safety and better racing, but we can’t expect people to completely shake the bigger-is-better theory. That’s where the KX-F comes in. The burly motor is going to win a lot of fans on its own, and probably a lot of races.
Overall Rank: 2nd