The Kawasaki likes to be pushed hard. Our expert and pro testers found more to enjoy about the KX250F than others, especially with the stiff suspension.
Second place is not the first loser. Kawasaki came to the table in 2009 with the most heavily updated model. A new chassis is supposed to be 2.2 lbs lighter with better rigidity balance. A new swingarm gets rid of another pound and the subframe drops 1.3 lbs. With all the trimming going on, we’re not sure where the extra weight came from, but our digital scales find that overall the KX-F is only one pound lighter than last year. Top off the largest-capacity fuel tank in the group (2.1 gallons) and you’re looking at a 231-pound green machine.
The Kawi engineers certainly got what they wanted in terms of added rigidity. The new chassis and Showa suspension arrangement give the stiffest feedback in our test. The 47mm air-oil separate fork with 1mm less offset gets a black titanium coating on the inner tubes for less stiction and greater protection against damage from flying roost.
Showa’s 50mm shock isn’t quite as abusive as the sticks up front, but they are definitely complementary. Finding the right setup was difficult for most testers and the scoring showed our frustration with a tie for last place in the suspension votes. Only our vet pro rider found them better than the rest, and his nickname is Big Air, go figure. In fact, the Kawi was his favorite bike overall.
“With a few clicker adjustments and fine-tuning on the highly progressive and very comfortable suspension, I got this bike working perfectly for my riding style,” he recalls. “It didn’t take long to get used to how the whole bike works, and after a good moto I really felt that I was on my own race bike. The Kawasaki is definitely my favorite 250F motocross bike.”
Bantamweight Cruse wasn’t as thrilled with the Showas, but she did find the new chassis excellent in the corners and an ergonomic package that works. Anticipating some tweaking from her favorite tuners, the WMA rider was confident enough to put the Kawi in her top For My Money spot.
WMA rider Sherri Cruse was able to come to terms with the aggressive Kawi, though she did win the Best Near Death Award with a massive KX-F swap.
Speaking of top spots, Mickey’s dyno wasn’t very impressed with the motor, but our riders certainly were. “The Kawasaki has great over-rev power, and feels like a 300cc bike,” says our most experienced tester, Sciacqua.
A new cylinder head and 31mm intake and 25mm exhaust valves cut weight and add durability to the 249cc mill. We found it competitive throughout the rev range, but its best attributes are from low to mid where it leaves the Honda behind and runs strong with the class-leading Suzuki. Follow the dyno curve even higher and the KX-F starts to lose ground, but it doesn’t correlate the same on the track.
Some of our testers really noted the torquey bottom, but others, mostly the expert and pro levels spent a lot of time near the rev limiter, and were completely happy. Even though it isn’t making the most output, the KX250F cuts out at 13,400 rpm which is 200-300 more than the other machines. Straights that require just another split second of throttle-stretching are doable on the Kawi.
“The motor has amazing pull on the top end, with endless over-rev when you really pin it,” Tod insists. “There is always enough power to really pull over the biggest jumps and up hills on a motocross track.”
The Kawasaki has a great motor,” says Alvin, who also ranked the Kawi mill first, “it hits really hard from the mid to top-end leaving you with confidence to get over big jumps and coming out of turns. It’s essential to have a good motor for these little bikes and that is what I was looking for.”
We all liked the way the Kawasaki looks, and climbing aboard proved that the rider layout is fairly good sized. None of our riders complained about being cramped or too spread out.
Though the motor was impressive, the five-speed transmission responsible for transferring it wasn’t. Mostly it just wasn’t as smooth or precise to maneuver through which led to a few false neutrals. You definitely know when it misses a gear. If going over the handlebars wasn’t enough, the resounding belch of ear-shattering exhaust noise lets everyone at the track know about your mistake. We all noted, and disliked, the massive amount of decibels coming from the muffler. Slip-ons will be popular with this one.
How did the KX-F fare on the scorecards? Well it won the appearance category. It is a handsome devil, no question. The black plastic for the number plates is an especially nice touch. A few extra points here are what helped keep it ahead of the Yamaha once it was all tallied.
The Kawasaki’s greatest strength may be its ability to convince riders that it’s faster than it really is. It doesn’t have the most power, but because of its extra rpm range it can get the job done in a lot of situations, especially for higher-caliber riders. Just like the Honda, which it trails for another year, this machine is geared for upper-level skill and needs to be prepped for it accordingly. You hear it from every top pro on the SX/MX circuit: confidence and mental prep are just as important as your machine. Believe in the KX250F and it will match that faith with an appropriate level of mechanical performance.