The least changed bike in the shootout is Kawasaki’s KX250F, receiving only new graphics, a green rear fender and a minor engine update to improve durability. Don’t be bummed or discouraged by the unchanged 2016 KX250F, as it’s far from slow and far from needing to be put out to pasture. The KX250F has long been a benchmark in the 250F class, one which others have struggled to outdo.
The KX250F engine boasts an incredibly wide powerband that is easy to use while providing impressive output. The power is always just a twist of the grip away, and really shines in the mid-to-top. The Kawasaki isn’t slow off idle, it just doesn’t have the low-end response and grunt of the YZ250F and the Suzuki RM-Z250. If you ride the KX250F too high in the rpm range, living near the rev limiter, you aren’t making use of the broad, free-revving power. The KX250F revs high, all the way to 13,000 rpm, but none of the 250Fs can hang with the KTM 250 SX-F and Husky FC 250, which rev to 14,000 rpm and unquestionably own the max horsepower title.
Kawasaki offers three plug-in map couplers to adjust mapping, with every test rider preferring the more aggressive (white) coupler. And you can’t mention the Kawasaki’s engine without pointing out the obnoxious exhaust note, which is offensively loud and raspy. Someday Kawasaki will change it. The KXF might not have electric start but it is the easiest kick-starting bike in the class, requiring virtually zero effort.
Overall handling of the KX250F isn’t mind blowing but it is the most stable 250F in a straight line and through fast corners. Typically, a stable machine requires extra effort in the corners, and the KXF is no different. It isn’t a front wheel steering bike and it doesn’t beg to lean over in a corner like the Suzuki, KTM or Husky. Keeping proper body form is very important to staying consistent in the turns. The KX250F likes to be steered and controlled with the rear wheel. Staying on the gas and driving through corners under power is the best approach to almost every style of corner. Riders won’t win any inside line contests on the KXF.
Many riders assume since its big brother, the KX450F, has an air fork that the KX250F does as well. In fact, it doesn’t use air and it doesn’t have a traditional spring fork but uses the Showa SFF fork, housing one big spring in the right leg and compression and damping in the left fork leg. The stock Showa suspension settings aren’t bad and the bike is well balanced. For some testers the KX250F feels a bit harsh overall and the solution was to back out on compression and run 105mm of shock sag. We aren’t blown away with the Showa SFF fork performance, but we do prefer it over most air forks for performance and simplicity. Kawasaki’s ergos are widely adjustable and allow a larger rider to move the handlebars forward and footpeg mounts down for more room.
The Kawasaki’s awesome engine, stable handling, decent suspension and a proven track record as a 250F class leader are only good enough to earn the 2016 KX250F fourth place in this year’s shootout.
• Strong mid- and top-end power
• Good overall balance
• Very stable
• Comfortable ergos
• Obnoxiously loud muffler
• Lack of bottom-end power
Compression: 7 clicks out
Rebound: 10 clicks out
Spring preload: 8 clicks in from fully open
Low-Speed Compression: 11 clicks out
High-Speed Compression: 2 turns out
Rebound: 14 clicks out