Does the KLX250S still have what it takes to compete in the 250 dual-sport class? Watch the 2013 Kawasaki KLX250S Comparison Video and see for yourself.
Riders seeking a motorcycle that is as adept on pavement as it is when the road ends should consider Kawasaki’s KLX250S ($5099). Although it isn’t the newest thing on the street, Team Green’s entry-level dual-sport gets the job done with its relaxed riding positioned and easy handling.
Despite being a few years old, the KLX remains easy on the eyes even in front of the fresh-faced Honda. With its narrow perimeter steel frame arms and flat radiator shrouds it looks every bit like a real dirt bike. But it does have some unsightly wiring and hoses protruding from the engine area giving it a less refined appearance.
“It looks the part,” thinks Agustin. “It has a tough stance but it doesn’t look quite as modern as the others. I think if Kawasaki gave it new plastics it would do wonders for it aesthetically. The quality of the bike’s hardware, like the fasteners and the brackets don’t look as nice either.”
Jump aboard the green bike and it’s a cross between the raciness off the Yamaha and the more road oriented Honda. The height of the saddle (35.4 in.) is taller than the red bike but an inch less than the WR. All of us six-footers could land both feet on the ground. The steel handlebar has a more street-oriented sweep (rearward) at the ends however you get used to it. And for those who don’t, the fix is as simple as swapping out the bars with a Renthal or ProTaper set-up. Dimensionally the KLX stands between the Honda and Yamaha and will accommodate the widest range of rider’s—both short and tall. On the scale it was the most svelte weighing 298 pounds—one less than the WR and 21 fewer than the Honda.
These days most motorcycles feature fuel-injected engines. But the Kawi still employs a good ol’ fashioned carburetor. If you ride at or near sea level it works sufficiently, accept for one thing: cold starting. Regardless of the air temperature, activating the carb’s choke lever is mandatory before the engine will fire to life. Once running it takes at least a minute of high-speed idling before it can be disengaged or else the engine will stall. For most of us it’s not a big deal but it does add an extra step before riding. Clutch lever pull is light and responsive and once the motor is warn it launches forward with ease. Instrumentation is easy to read and the only thing missing is a fuel gauge as used on the Honda.
Twist the right grip and the KLX’s engine feels similar to the Honda. Power comes on smooth but it lacks the acceleration punch of the Yamaha. It does have a more organic feel making it more playful to flog around at full throttle. Looking at the numbers verifies our assessment behind the ‘bars with it arriving to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds—just a hair behind the Honda (8.6 seconds) but more than a full second behind the class-leading WR. The Kawasaki’s engine sounds muted but sound testing shows that it actually emits more noise with it registering 73 dB at idle and an 86 dB reading at half throttle.
(Left) The engine in the KLX250S feels similar to the Honda in terms of how smooth and mellow feeling the power comes on. (Center) There really isn’t a whole lot to not like about Kawasaki’s KLX250S. It is an capable performer on and off-road. Right) The suspension on the KLX250S is a good balance between on and off-road use.
Results from dyno testing prove the KLX’s mill produces the least amount of peak torque (13 lb-ft), though sports the flattest and most consistent torque curve – demonstrating how smooth the engine’s powerband is. Initially, horsepower output is lower than the Honda in the lower rpm range before it surpasses the red bike, albeit by the slimmest of margins, cranking out a fraction more power. Yet it’s still more than five horses down on the class-leading Yamaha. The green machine out-accelerated the Honda in the quarter mile (16.67 seconds @ 76.21 mph) by a smidge but once again more than a second behind the Yamaha, which again proves its outright power deficiency.
(Top) The Kawasaki’s instrumentation is clean and legible but it lacks a fuel gauge as employed on the Honda. (Centers) The Kawasaki’s ergonomics were well received for their versatility. This will be the bike of choice for the biggest group of riders. The build quality and attention to detail like hose and wiring routing and placement isn’t at the same level of the Honda and Yamaha. (Bottom) The Kawasaki handles well off-road but even its easy handling couldn’t prevent Waheed from taking spill moments before this photo was taken.
Because the Kawi lacks the metered precision of fuel injection, it wasn’t a surprise that it netted fewer mpg (57 vs. 64) compared to the CRF. It did, however, get one more mpg than the FI-equipped Yamaha. Although it didn’t net the lowest average mpg based on the capacity of its two-gallon fuel tank, the Kawasaki has the least range between fill-ups (114 miles).
“The Kawasaki’s engine isn’t bad, but it is more of a pain to get started first thing in the morning,” Gauger shares. “It’s really cold blooded but once you get some heat into it runs just fine. The power felt similar to Honda which made it really easy to ride. But the gearing or the transmission ratios were closer together so the Kawasaki actually got up to speed quicker.”
Whether you’re riding on the road or off the KLX tackles both surfaces with greater ease than all but the blue machine. The seating position is balanced and will fit a wide range of riders. The seat didn’t prove quite as comfy as the Honda’s but it was close—and folks that prefer a more conventional flat dirt bike saddle might prefer the Kawi’s. The suspension and overall handling was pleasing too. Sure the chassis moves around in the rough stuff more than the ultra-stable Yammie, but it is by no means terrible and the additional movement actually can boost a less-experienced rider’s confidence as it did for Agustin. It also fared well on the street soaking up bumps as well as anything else.
“Being a newbie I felt pretty comfortable on the KLX,” says Agustin. “The engine is smooth like the Honda’s and it was easier and more natural feeling to stand on the footpegs occasionally on the sketchier trails.”
On the road the difference between brakes is like splitting hairs. Though the KLX did achieve a marginally shorter stopping distance from 60 mph compared to the red machine. Off-road, the difference was more noticeable because of its added feel from the brake lever making it easier to apply and modulate on loose surfaces.
No doubt about it, the Kawasaki is a mighty fine motorcycle. It’s an all-around performer and it is positioned between the newbie-oriented Honda and the racy Yamaha. Even without fuel-injection the engine runs great once warm, though it’s a finicky morning starter. Both on the street and on the dirt it offers an authentic dirt bike experience, yet it’s not so hard-edged to cause discomfort.
The Kawasaki is a solid runner, and while we enjoyed zipping around on it, the green bike just doesn’t offer as much excitement or uncorked performance, as a certain pesky blue one. Though with a price tag that’s just a few hundred dollars more than the Honda, it’s worth giving a second look.