Watch how the updated 2014 Kawasaki KX250F performs when MotoUSA puts it to the test in the dirt in our 2014 Kawasaki KX250F First Ride Video.
Refinement is the name of the game for Kawasaki and the 2014 KX250F. As the years have rolled on since its total redesign in 2011, each successive year has seen some measure of improvement to stay ahead of the 250cc pack. In 2012 it was dual fuel injectors and a Showa SFF fork; 2013 brought chassis updates and motor tweaks; and this year it’s transmission refinement and the addition of Kawasaki’s Launch Control Mode. While the competition ups its game with new models, Team Green is confident that the winningest 250 can still amass more trophies with a handful of well-engineered updates.
We headed to Competitive Edge MX to sample the 2014 model just two days after it was announced to the public. Comp Edge’s layout is long, can be brutally rough and features massive jumps that require total confidence in your machine. Kawasaki’s choice to use this track was an indication to us that the KX250F is better than before.
There are no clues when looking at the 2014 KX250F that anything has changed except for new graphics and a white rear fender. Closer inspection reveals a new button on the left side of the handlebars indicating Kawasaki’s Launch Control Mode, the same that was fitted to the KX450F back in 2012. The nifty red button can be activated when in neutral, first or second gear to retard the ignition timing for more traction on slippery or concrete starts. Once the bike is shifted into third the timing is returned to normal. Using the system is simple and straightforward, and it does work when traction is less than optimal. However you would not want to use it every time you line up at the gate. When the traction is good, your acceleration will actually be hampered.
Just a press of a button while stopped in neutral, first or second activates the Kawasaki Launch Control Mode on the 2014 KX250F.
“I think the launch control is a great tool for concrete starts or really hard ground where you don’t want to spin the rear tire,” says our pro test rider Chris See. “For those situations it works really well, and it’s a really cool feature for Kawasaki to add.”
On the chassis, the front motor mount plates are now 29% thinner for enhanced front wheel feel and traction. While our pro test rider See didn’t notice a difference from the 2013 model (he owns one), I felt that the front-end feel was improved. While it’s not a dramatic difference, for me the front tire did have slightly better communication, especially in flat-rutted corners. As for traction, the KX still likes to push slightly when there is no berm or rut present.
The suspension settings, front and rear, were revised to compliment the new motor mounts, but both See and I felt the fork was too soft. The softness did help the KX250F settle into the corner, but on braking bumps and hard impacts it often bottomed out. We increased the preload by five clicks to get the front to ride a little higher and that seemed to help. But for heavier riders (170 pounds or more) a spring change would be in order. The shock was much better behaved and kept the rear tire hooked-up well in almost any of the conditions we encountered. Unlike the fork it was not too soft, and we actually took out a quarter turn of high-speed compression damping for a little more plushness on some of the fast chuckholes. See also slowed the rebound by two clicks to control a slight rear-end hop in the braking bumps.
(Top) The 2014 Kawasaki KX250F has plenty of room to move around. (Bottom) At higher speeds on flat corners the 2014 Kawasaki KX250F’s front-end still pushes slightly.
The KX250F has always had one of the best powerplants in its class, and we really like the extremely healthy low-end and mid-range power. When getting out of corners and pulling up the face of jumps, the KX’s engine is phenomenal. Up on the top-end, however, the power begins to flatten out and it signs off sooner than we would like. Throttle response is crisp and snappy, highlighting how much grunt the 250F really has on tap. A change of the ignition map couplers does allow for even more torque or more revs, but we preferred the standard map for Comp Edge’s mix of terrain.
“I went to the leaner map to try and get a little more top-end out of the KX,” explains See. “It made the bike crisper, but it really didn’t rev out that much more. I think the stock map worked the best here.”
Kawasaki reworked the transmission for smoother shifts by adding an additional dog to the gears and changing the shift drum. Team Green claims this gives a more direct feel during gear changes. While I had no issues with the transmission what-so-ever and would say the gearbox is solid, See had a few issues getting the KX to shift under hard acceleration at the top of the rev range. A stab of the clutch rectified the problem, but he would prefer to only have to chop the throttle slightly. I am a first class clutch abuser and my fingers remain glued to the left lever, so for me shifts were solid and precise each and every time.
The first thing I’ve always changed on any KX has been the grips, due to their blister-inducing construction. For 2014 Kawasaki has finally used a softer compound, and it is greatly appreciated. While not as cush as a set of Pro-grips or Renthal softs, the new units are a nice mix of comfort and durability.
Sometimes when you mess with something that isn’t broken, you end up with an end result that is worse. Not so on the KX250F; it continues to get better year-after-year, although the gains are diminishing. At the end of the day, both See and I agreed that the 2014 KX250F may be changed for the better, but it is not as dramatic as we had expected. Kawasaki has managed to further refine the KX250F without screwing it up, and that is the the key. There are still a few trophies left for the current iteration of this 250-class ripper.