2014 Kawasaki KLX250S Dual Sport Motorcycle Test
The 2014 Kawasaki KLX250S sits right in the middle of the popular and practical 250 dual-sport class in both price and stats, and is a solid choice if you like to hit the trails on weekends after doing your 9-to-5 weekday commute.
Unlike its primary quarter-liter dual sport competitors that have gone to fuel injection, the 2014 Kawasaki KLX250S goes the old school route with a Keihin 34mm semi-flatside carburetor. This requires at least a minute on the choke before it’s ready to roll, even on a warm spring morning, so plan accordingly. If you’re always running behind getting out the door on your way to work, there’s no hurrying the liquid-cooled KLX’s cold-blooded nature.
Once the 249cc DOHC single is warm, the KLX250S runs as seamlessly as its EFI-equipped compatriots. Power off idle is smooth and predictable, if not as low-end focused as Honda’s CRF250L. The light-pulling clutch lever is appreciated by all, and is especially welcome to novice riders.
With a reasonably inseam-friendly 35-inch seat height, the Kawasaki KLX250S manages to provide a good amount of travel without completely losing touch with terra firma. Yes, a dual sport bike is taller than your average street-only bike, but the long-travel suspension is the reward and well worth the tiptoeing at stops. Riders who cut their teeth in the dirt won’t even notice.
The tallish seat provides both a great vantage and good visibility while commuting, and the KLX’s svelte profile allows easy lane splitting should that be legal in your state. Rough pavement, dips and bumps all get soaked up by those extra inches of travel, so around town riding is just plain fun. Should you need to bump up or down a curb, enjoy the fact that you can and go for it; experienced riders will be hard pressed not to let their enthusiasm get the best of them when opportunities present themselves.
Keeping up with freeway traffic is not above the pay scale of the Kawasaki KLX250S, but the combination of upright seating position, lack of fairing, and semi-knobbed tires will ensure you don’t get into ticket territory. That said, the wide handlebars provide good control, the seat is comfortable, and this is a more enjoyable way to get to work than the four-wheeled commuters.
The single petal discs (250mm up front and 240 at the rear) are enough to slow the KLX down – not on a dime due to the dual-sport tread tires, but they will certainly get the job done – with good feel at the right lever that won’t get novices in trouble. Surprisingly, the rear foot pedal needs a softer-than-expected touch from your boot.
Being able to ride from your door to the dirt without having to load your bike into a truck or trailer is where a dual sport bike really shines. At just under 300 pounds ready to go, taking the KLX250S off road doesn’t feel at all unmanageable. The modestly knobbied Dunlop tires have good feel along fire roads, feeling secure over the scattered gravel and sand, and soaking up the ruts and braking bumps well. If you pick the wrong line along a washed out section and wander into the rocks, don’t worry – the KLX will track right over them without getting out of shape.
The KLX 250S is geared just a bit high for the dirt, and I found myself stalling the bike a number of times when I let the revs drop while picking my way through the tight stuff. This will happen without EFI to cover for less-than-precise throttle control off-idle – the KLX250S is short on low-rpm torque as compared to the Honda CRF250L or Yamaha WR250R.
Being able to hit the electric starter button prevents the stalls from being much of an issue, and if the KLX lived in my garage permanently I would surely adjust to the carburetor-delivered power. Of course, everything is a trade-off, and the higher gearing on the KLX makes the bike more freeway-friendly than the CRF.
Controls are easily managed from a standing position, so whether you’re getting up on the pegs to absorb a set of bumps in 3rd gear, or picking your way through a tight section in 1st, you won’t find yourself in an awkward position trying to reach levers. Whether standing or sitting, however, I found the rear brake to be touchy on the dirt, though a non-issue on the street.
While the KLX isn’t at its strongest on the bottom, it easily pulls well enough confidently attack hill climbs in higher gears and motor up to the top. The bike handles nimbly through serpentine canyons, its smooth power delivery encouraging spirited rides.
Suspension is appropriate for a 250 dual sporter, and fairly adjustable. You can fine-tune the compression damping in the 43mm inverted forks, and the compression and rebound damping (plus spring preload) in the linkage rear shock. The forks don’t flex at dual-sport speeds and, with just over nine inches of travel in the rear and ten up front, the KLX250S credibly handles rough terrain and rolling bumps at speed. Yes, Yamaha’s WR250R does it better, but you’ll add over an inch and a half to the seat height, and your wallet will be $1,600 thinner.
Instrumentation on the KLX250S is basic: tach, speedo, clock (thank you!) and two tripmeters. You’ll want to keep an eye on one of the tripmeters as the tank holds just two gallons (like the CRF and WR), and there is no gas gauge – only a petcock which reserve, which is required quite early. I had to abandon one ride when a miles-long sand wash quickly turned the KLX into a gas guzzler.
It’s a shame the bike’s range is limited to about 120 miles in perfect conditions, and considerably less when riding in technical terrain, as the KLX is capable and fun enough to wander farther afield than that. Acerbis has an aftermarket tank that will bump capacity up to 3.7 gallons, and IMS has a three-gallon tank – they are an improvement, though fuel capacity is still a limiting factor.
If you don’t have the garage or budget for multiple bikes, but you like exploring off road as well as commuting to work, a dual sport bike is the best thing since sliced bread, and has been for the last 45 years. The Men in Green have done a fine job with the 2014 Kawasaki KLX250S, taking styling cues from its motocross line and packaging up a cool looking, novice friendly, wallet-friendly bike that can be enjoyed by veteran riders in the dirt and anyone doing battle on urban streets.
Photography by Don Williams
Helmet: HJC FG-X Talon
Communications: Uclear HBC100 Plus
Goggles: Progrip 3450 Top Line
Jersey, gloves, and pants: Fly Racing Kinetic Girl’s Blue/White Race Racewear
Knee Brace: CTi Össur Custom
Boots: Alpinestars Stella Tech 6
2014 Kawasaki KLX250S Specifications
Engine: Four-stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, four-valve single
Bore x stroke: 72.0 x 61.2mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Cooling system: Liquid
Carburetion: Keihin CVK34
Ignition: Digital CDI
Final drive: Chain
Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake: 26.5 degrees
Trail: 4.1 inches
Front suspension / wheel travel: 43mm inverted cartridge fork with 16-way compression damping adjustment / 10.0 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Uni-Trak with adjustable preload, 16-way compression and rebound damping adjustment / 9.1 in.
Front tire: Dunlop 80/100×21
Rear tire: Dunlop 100/100×18
Front brakes / rear brakes: 250mm semi-floating petal disc with two-piston hydraulic caliper / 240mm petal disc with single-piston hydraulic caliper
Overall length: 86.6 in.
Overall width: 32.3 in.
Overall height: 47.4 in.
Seat height: 35.0 in.
Wheelbase: 56.3 in.
Ground clearance: 11.2 in.
Fuel capacity: 2.0 gal.
Curb weight: 298 lbs.
2014 Kawasaki KLX250S MSRP: $5099