In the world of four-stroke motocross, few bikes have the storied history and successful track record like the Kawasaki KX250F. Since the small-bore Kawsaki’s introduction more than 10 years ago, the KX250F has won six AMA National Motocross titles, 10 AMA Regional 250 Supercross titles, and countless individual races. Well, someone is probably counting, but the point is the small green machine has been a force to reckon with since it first hit the track and Kawaski aims to maintain that potency for 2015.
During some model years, brands will choose to leave their steeds alone and opt for the dreaded BNG (bold new graphics) treatment. Fortunately, this is not one of those years for the KX250F. Similar to its bigger brother, the 2015 KX450F, the smaller machine receives updated styling closer to that of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team (not to be confused with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team, which tends towards a distinctly different look). Along with cosmetics, a list of small, yet effective, upgrades should keep the KX in the running for 250 Class excellence.
In the suspension department, the KX250F now has updated valve settings in both the rear shock and the proven Showa SFF (Separate Function Fork), which remains a traditional coil system rather than the SFF-Air TAC system found on the KX450F. A new feature for 2015 are adjustable footpegs that can be moved down 5mm to provide more space for taller riders. On the chassis itself, the subframe is now a few grams lighter.
Helping riders get to the first turn first is a new Downstream Fuel injector paired with revised ECU settings, a Bridged Box piston and a new magneto rotor with increased inertia. With all of that increased power, Kawasaki chose to beat the aftermarket companies to the stopping power punch, as the front brake now has an “oversized” 270mm wave rotor while the rear rotor is 240mm.
In the Saddle
When Kawasaki first introduced their aluminum perimeter frame, it was greeted with open arms and praised for its handling and form-fitting ergonomics. Now the frame is in its third major iteration, and the fit and feel have only improved for 2015 thanks to the new adjustable footpegs. For the average rider, the ability to lower footpegs probably does not factor into their decision making when buying a new machine. However, for taller riders, those additional 5mm (0.2 inch) can make a world of difference not only for holding the bike with your legs, but also in the transition from sitting to standing. Add in some aftermarket lowered footpegs and a rider can drop about 10mm (0.4 inch), which is enough to make a significant difference in riding posture.
On the track, the KX250F frame allows you to lock your legs against the bike, which makes controlling the machine with your lower body that much easier. On straights, whoops, and choppy terrain (although there was not much chop at Milestone MX where this First Ride press intro took place), the Kawasaki is about as stable as one could hope for a motocross bike to be. Whether under acceleration or braking, a rider can take comfort knowing the green machine will continue tracking straight. Headshake and rear-end swapping are terms that need not be associated with the KX250F.
Similar to the larger KX450F, the KX250F falls right in the middle for turning prowess. Never a bike to corner sharply, the Kawasaki takes a little effort getting into a turn or rut, yet once the turn is initiated the bike will remain on course. Long sweepers are the KX’s best friend, as it is best steered with a rear-end bias; accelerating through a turn aggressively rather that rolling on the throttle and relying on the front end for steering.
(Above) Balancing out the bike, the revised Showa rear shock also provides smooth and progressive action, but did feel a little under sprung for my weight and intermediate riding ability. (Below) Braking with the new petal-style front rotor, which provides excellent stopping power, the fork would gradually settle into the travel with appropriately dialed rebound so as to maintain contact with the track surface.
In an inherently underpowered class (at least when compared to its larger 450 siblings) horsepower is, ironically, essential. Fortunately for Kawasaki, the KX250F has been in the running for HP king since the introduction of dual fuel injection, which has been further improved for 2015 with its new downstream injector.
Even for someone tipping the scales at 200 pounds with gear, I never had the sense that I needed more power on the Milestone circuit. Out of turns, the KX has a snappy low-end hit that comes alive as the RPMs climb into the mid-range. The continued ascent from mid to the top-end is where I found the happy balance of grunt and revs, while the power tended to flatten out when climbing into the upper ranges on straights.
Fortunately for Kawasaki owners, there is a limitless range of ignition maps that can be programmed with the optional Kawasaki Racing Software kit, along with the preprogrammed coupler system. As the track dried out, I went to the Soft coupler and found it allowed me to still be aggressive on the track without needing to be overly precise with throttle control.
Kawasaki was the first company to provide Separate Function Forks as OEM equipment, and as such, they now have years of development on their front suspension. For 2015, the revised valve settings on the Showa fork provide smooth, predictable action. Quick bumps and chop are soaked up effectively while still providing the muted feedback one might expect out of a traditional and well-tuned coil fork. Jump faces and landings are met with progressive action that never caught me off guard.
In relation to the aforementioned turning characteristics of the KX250F, the suspension holds up far enough in the stroke to allow the rider to sit close to the tank with confidence. Braking with the new petal-style front rotor, which provides excellent stopping power, the fork would gradually settle into the travel with appropriately dialed rebound so as to maintain contact with the track surface.
Balancing out the bike, the revised Showa rear shock also provides smooth and progressive action, but did feel a little under sprung for my weight and intermediate riding ability. After Brett Leif, our Kawasaki technician for the day, went in a few clicks on the compression adjuster and a half turn on the high-speed adjuster I did feel a bit more at home on the bike. While the action was solid and stable at speed, if I had my druthers, I would move to a slightly stiffer spring for the shock.
Overall, Kawasaki has put together a very strong platform for 2015. While racing credentials are always a nice bonus, the fact remains that every bike will work differently for every rider. In the case of the KX250F, the bike worked very well for me. One day on one track will never be enough to get a good overall sense of a motorcycle’s capabilities. However, a desire to try out the machine at different facilities means that Kawasaki is undeniably doing something right. I would gladly throw a leg over the 2015 KX250F again… and again.