When we last tested the Kawasaki KLX110 dirt bike, we came away impressed by its durability and capabilities, but less than satisfied with its features. At the top of the to-do list we sent to Kawasaki was the addition of an electric starter and the implementation of fourth gear (it was in the transmission of the old three-speed, but locked out).It didn’t take long for Kawasaki to step it up, as the 2010 KLX110 has added the features we demanded, along with a bit more power, upgraded suspension, new ergonomics, and KX450F-inspired styling for your budding Ryan Villopoto or Chad Reed! Someone at Kawasaki definitely has the back of young riders.
To pump up the KLX110’s power by a claimed 15%, Kawasaki has revised the valve timing, developed a free-flowing exhaust, a new ignition system and low-tension piston rings. Now, our test riders didn’t really notice the additional power, but if they just barely make it up that big hill, they’ll know why.For the young, new rider, the power is perfectly delivered–there’s a consistent push from idle to redline, and there are no hits or surprises. It’s a tractable air-cooled, two-valve, SOHC motor that is more than satisfactory and can take a rider who is developing his talents almost anywhere. If the rider is truly new and timid, a throttle stop can be adjusted to restrict power until the rider is ready.What they will all notice immediately is the electric starter. This is one cold-blooded little bike, and the adults were happy that the KLX110 has the magic button. Even with the choke engaged, it was very reluctant to fire up one morning. We even resorted to kicking it a few times with the backup kickstarter, to no avail. Finally, it fired up and, after a slow warm-up period, it ran fine the rest of the day. We blame the California Green Sticker emissions requirements, which make these bikes run pretty lean. It’s not an issue when the youngster is riding around, but it can make starting more challenging. Let’s all give thanks for the electric starter!The fourth speed gives the KLX110 the ability to grow with its rider. While the three-speed edition may have put an unreasonable speed-govern on the youngster, the four-speed lets him kick it up another notch before he needs another bike. It’s an auto-clutch design (there are accessory manual clutch conversion kits available) with neutral on the bottom of the shift pattern, and Kawasaki has improved the shifting with updates to the shift drum and springs. We didn’t have a problem shifting the old 110, but improvements are always welcome.With a faster bike, Kawasaki upgraded the suspension a bit. Make no mistake; it’s still playbike suspension. With 4.3 inches of travel in the back, doubles or whoops are out of the question. However, for minor jumps and regular trail riding, the suspension is certainly adequate. Our young test rider, Shaun Merritt of LewisportUSA (not a Kawasaki dealer), mentioned the suspension as his favorite part of the KLX110. Watching him ride, we saw that he could turn the KLX at will, with or without a helpful berm. Wide-open in 4th gear, he felt rock solid on the bike. The brakes may be drums, but they are more than adequate for bringing the 110 down from speed, and they offer the rider excellent feel.The gas tank, seat, side panels, shrouds and fenders have also been modernized, plus the seat and bars have been reworked to current tastes. Shaun fit the bike perfectly, and because it’s easy to ride, he was able to challenge himself on the tough trails we threw at him. He’d look at a hill (up or down) or obstacle, not sure if he could take it. But, he’d go for it and surprise himself repeatedly. The wheels are a little small-14″ front, 12″ rear-so those are limiting factors went rolling through technical terrain (the “L” version sports larger wheels, but it also taller). If your youngster fits this motorcycle, it’s a great choice for learning the tricks of the off-road trade.We would be remiss if we didn’t give our standard youth bike advice to parents: Don’t buy a dirt bike expecting your rider to “grow into it.” The bike should fit him from Day One. If it’s too large, he will be less able to control it safely. He will be constantly overmatched and end up frustrated. Buy your child a bike that fits, and let the child grow out of it, even if it happens quickly. The four Japanese manufacturers have plenty of bikes for youngsters of every size, so there’s no reason to buy a bike that doesn’t fit.As with the previous Kawasaki KLX110, we were impressed by the bike’s durability (Shaun tested that a number of times). Maintenance is easy on the bike, and there’s not much to do. Just change the oil when you think of it, keep the air filter clean, and check the chain for the right slack. You might even be able to teach your child the fine art of maintenance. However, most of the time the KLX110 rider will be simply having fun, learning wheelies, jumps, berm shots, hillclimbing, and all the other good things that come with dirt bike riding! 2010 Kawasaki KLX110 SpecsEngine: Four-stroke, SOHC, two-valve single Displacement: 111cc Bore x Stroke: 53.0 x 50.6mm Compression Ratio: 9.5:1 Cooling: Air Carburetion: Mikuni PB18 Ignition: CDI Transmission: Four-speed with automatic clutch Final Drive: Chain Frame: Backbone frame, high-tensile steel Rake / Trail: 24.8 degrees / 2.0 in. Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 30mm hydraulic telescopic fork / 4.3 in. Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Swingarm with single hydraulic shock / 4.3 in. Front Tire: 2.50×14 Rear Tire: 3.00×12 Front Brake / Rear Brake: Mechanical Drum / Mechanical Drum Overall Length: 61.4 in. Overall Width: 25.6 in. Overall Height: 37.6 Ground Clearance: 8.5 in. Seat Height: 26.8 in. Curb Weight: 168 lbs. Wheelbase: 42.3 in. Fuel Capacity: 1.0 gal. Color: Lime Green 2010 Kawasaki KLX110 Price: $2099 MSRP
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!