The all new 2021 Kawasaki KX250, on paper it looks great, and on the track it did not disappoint.
There were or I should say are several bikes I have been keen to spend some time aboard in 2021, however, with Coivd still playing havoc with both manufacturing and supply chains worldwide along with some risks still involved with traveling interstate due to sudden border closers, it’s made it a little tough to both travel to bike launches and also get our hands on bikes to test due to availability.
One bike launch we were hoping to make it to early this year was the launch of the all-new Kawasaki KX250 ( Kawasaki have dropped the F off the end of the four stoke machines, guess there is no need for the F if they are no longer making a KX250 two-stroke) Unfortunately, due to timing, we were unable to make the trip to Sydney but have continually hit up the team at Kawasaki Australia to get our hands on a KX250, with our efforts paying off recently.
A few weeks back, we got the news that Kawasaki had a new KX250 in South Australia that we could get our hands-on, so we quickly jumped at the chance and were able to spend two days at two different venues putting a couple of hours on a fresh KX250.
Why were we so keen to get our hands on the KX250, you ask? Every few years, manufacturers produce all new bikes, and for 2021 the KX250 was one of the bikes that was pretty much all new and was one of the bikes at the top of my curiosity list and looking at it on paper it had everything I personally wanted out of the crate on a 250 four-stroke motocross bike.
Add that to the fact that I had never had a chance for one reason or another to spend some quality time on a KX250, so I was pretty happy when I got word that Kawasaki had a bike for us to spend a weekend or two aboard.
The KX250’s big brother, the KX450, had already had a big makeover, and for 2021, the smaller bike was set to receive all the updates the 450 had seen, plus a few more aimed directly at the 250.
An all-new chassis/frame was one of the significant changes, focusing on an evolution of the current design. The new frame was built to offer a better overall rigidity balance. While many parts are shared with the KX450’s frame, the cast parts (like the shock tower mount and engine hangers) were designed specifically for the needs of the KX250.
The Steering head area with optimized rigidity, main frame rails with revised cross-sections, and a revised line for the swingarm brackets contribute to the overall rigidity balance.
Wider lower frame rails also aim to contribute to overall rigidity balance. The new swingarm delivers the rigidity to match the frame and contributes to increased rear traction. Chassis balance and settings were all set to suit race-experienced riders.
The new narrower frame was matched to minimalistic bodywork that offers a slim riding position. A low, flat tank/seat design makes it easier to sit farther forward, and long, smooth surfaces make it easy to slide back and forth.
All of the new chassis changes are enhanced due to a choice of four handlebar positions, and two footpeg positions allow riders to tailor their riding position to suit body size and preference.
If the changes to the frame were not enough to get us a little excited, the 2021 KX250 now comes with an electric start, which has become the norm in recent years for just about all motocross bikes. Also, for 2021 the KX250 received a hydraulic clutch that offers direct feel and light lever action. Less play as the clutch heats up during heavy use results in a more consistent feeling. The use of coned-disc springs contributes to lighter clutch actuation when the lever has been pulled in and a wider clutch engagement range, which facilitates control (especially when half-clutching).
While the 2020 KX250 already benefited from a significant power increase over the past couple of years thanks to its adoption of finger-follower valve actuation like the KX450, additional changes for 2021 raise peak power even further and enable an even higher rev limit while significantly increasing low-mid rpm performance. As before, dual injectors, downdraft-style intake, and race-inspired tuning and parts add to the performance.
The engine characteristics can still be changed via the three DFI couplers, and for those looking for more control, there is the optional KX FI Calibration Kit. The Plug-and-play style system is quick, easy, and stress-free. Each of the three maps can be reprogrammed using the optional accessory KX FI Calibration Kit.
Bringing the whole package together is the High-performance KYB 48 mm inverted coil-spring fork that handles suspension duties upfront. Its large-diameter inner tubes enable the use of large 25 mm damping pistons, delivering smooth action and firm damping. Lower triple-clamp with revised rigidity and revised linkage ratios contribute to increased absorption and damping performance while down back a KYB shock with adjustable dual-range (high/low speed) compression damping, adjustable rebound damping, and adjustable preload is fitted.
As you can read; on paper, there are a lot of changes to the new 2021 KX250. It is easy to see why we were excited to get our hands on the bike that had slimmed down, had a slight increase in power, hit the modern era with electric start, then threw in a hydraulic clutch for good measure and came with KYB spring forks, so pretty much everything I personally would want in a bike!
So what did that mean in the real world for a Veteran / Clubman level rider who weighs in a little over 100kg and has done minimal riding in 2021?
Before we jumped on track, the first thought I had on the new KX250 was it not only looked slim but I was surprised at just how flat the bike was from the tip of the rear guard all the way through to the fuel tank. Not flat as in it looked dull and boring, it was physically flat, with the new fuel tank sitting only mm higher than the front of the seat, giving a very level work station.
The all-green bike, with the black and gold KX livery, looks clean and smart, and overall, the bike has a stylish look about it; the only thing that looks a little out of place is the muffler on the exhaust system. While everything else on the bike looks neat and slim, the KX250 still has a cannon of muffle in comparison.
The long sweeping side plastics hug the frame tightly and connect seamlessly with the seat and rear guard, while the multi-angular front number plate ties in perfectly with the front fender, giving the bike great clean lines front to back.
Jumping aboard, everything came to hand and foot comfortably in stock settings, with the only minor adjustments that I needed to make were to roll the handles bars back slightly and adjust the front brake and clutch levers to suit and were ready to fire the KX250 into life with a push of a button.
The electric start worked flawlessly over the two days of riding, starting easily in neutral and in gear with the clutch pulled in.
Rolling out on track, it became apparent very quickly that the KX250 has a super responsive motor; the dual injectors do their job producing instantaneous power with the slightest roll of the throttle.
The power itself was impressive, having plenty of pull from the moment you twisted the throttle and just kept on pulling.
The first track we spent the day on was Renmark in South Australia, which has a good combination of some loamy to hard Pac rutted corners, along with a fun winding sand section in the back two-thirds of the track.
While the second day we spent on the KX250 was at Port Gawler in South Australia, which has a combination of reasonably deep sand tracks and a wide-open enduro loop giving us a good variety of both terrain and track design to see how the bike felt at both high speed and in tighter riding situations.
The bike comes with standard 13/50 gearing, and I found myself able to pull third gear through the majority of corners both at Renmark and the short sand track at Port Gawler, which was more than a little impressive for a rider of my weight on a 250 four-stroke. Still, at the same time, I was not looking to click 4th straight away, exiting a turn with the bike revving out nicely.
The only time the stock gearing became an issue was on the wide-open enduro loop, where we hit top speed in 5th reasonable quickly, but that is not really what this bike is aimed at, though, with plans now to spend some time on a KX250 long term, I would probably look at going to a 48-tooth rear when racing any Off-road events with some longer straights.
I have a natural tendency to use the clutch a little too much, especially on a 250 four-stroke, even when it is probably not needed, and while I have gotten a little better over the years, it is still a bad habit I have. The good news was over the course of both days of riding; the new hydraulic clutch stayed consistent, giving good feel, while the five-speed gearbox was also smooth, with the bike sliding up and down the gearbox with ease.
The one thing I was hoping for on the KX250 was a good setting on the KYB spring forks straight out of the box. After having a few months off a bike, I spent the first couple of laps easing into things and was a little worried about the feedback coming through the fork.
The past three bikes I have had long-term were fitted with KYB spring forks, and all had a harsh feeling in the initial part of the fork stroke and needed some internal valving adjustments to make them comfortable for me.
Once I was up to speed (My speed), the 48mm KYB spring fork on the KX250 could not be faulted for my weight and speed; it was bang on the money, and the more comfortable I got, the quicker I started to ride the better it felt. It glided over the small chatter bumps then soaked up the bigger braking bumps in its stride, making for confidence-inspired cornering.
Again I have not done a great deal of riding this year, and my pace is not where it would generally be, not that it is overly fast anyway, but I am quietly confident that the front fork will hold up to the task perfectly as my speed comes back with more ride time.
Outback, the rear shock was predictable for the most part but would occasionally give a bit of “dead” feel on bigger hits; it’s a little hard to put exactly into words how it felt, it wasn’t bad and didn’t unsettle the bike at all, it was just a bit of a weird feeling.
Overall, I have only spent a couple of hours aboard the 21 KX250 so far, but in that short time, the bike had actually over delivered on what I was hoping for after seeing the specs on paper.
While the electric start is not the be-all and end-all for Motocross, for those of us that ride both MX and some Off-Road events, the E-start becomes a considerable savour in the Off-Road / Enduro events.
The hydraulic clutch was smooth and consistent; the bike produced great power throughout the entire rev range, especially down low, which I like; the stock suspension soaked up bumps and had the bike handling exactly how I was hoping it would; the chassis was thin enough and light enough, without out being too narrow through the knee area, allowing the bike to be easily gripped with the knees and legs without feeling bulky at all.
Whether sitting or standing through turns, running an inside line, or a wide outside line, the bike was stable and turned with ease.
The flat seat and fuel tank made it easy to slide back on the bike or bring yourself right up over the tank in turns.
It was only two hours of riding; however, I was left impressed with the Kawasaki KX250, and after another couple of emails to Kawasaki Australia, we will now have the chance to spend some more time aboard the KX250 to see if it continues to live up to our new found expectations.
Over the next couple of months, we have lined up to race the KX250 at the opening rounds of the 2021 South Australia Off-Road championships in back to back 2.5-hour cross country races, a local country club race meeting on a flowing hard pack track, and also the 4th round of the South Australian motocross championship at Keith, one of my favorite tracks that usually offers some sandy, loamy conditions with a limestone base making for a very unique track over varying surfaces.
It will give us an opportunity to see how the bike handles in a variety of racing situations, allow us to play around with the launch control system in race situations, something we have not tried yet with this bike, and allow us to see If the stock suspension settings continue to suit as we put a few hours on the bike.