2014 Kawasaki KLX140L Trail Bike Test

2014 Kawasaki KLX140L Off-Road Review

With a set of wheels nearly as large as a full-size trail bike, the 2014 Kawasaki KLX140L is a perfect step between smaller youth bikes and full-size trail and competition motorcycles.

In addition to having a 19-inch front wheel and 16-inch hoop on the back, the Kawasaki KLX140L offers over seven inches of travel at both ends of the bike with 33mm forks up front and a linkage suspension system in the rear. Further making the bike an excellent bridge machine, a rider can begin to experiment with suspension tuning, as the shock has 22-way rebound damping adjustment, along with spring preload adjustment.

Still, the most important thing about a trail bike like the Kawasaki KLX140L is that it is easy to use, as well as reliable. We have tested KLX140L models over the year, and even with some heavy hammering by my full-size male counterparts, the bike always returns to the pits in one piece.

For my 5’ 6”, 115-pound frame, the KLX140L is compact, and certainly confidence inspiring for the new rider. With thousands of off-road miles under my belt, I find the KLX140L to be a fun bike that I can ride aggressively in highly technical terrain, thanks to the low seat height of 31.5 inches, and the moderate claimed weight of 209 pounds with the small 1.5-gallon fuel tank topped off.

Everything about the Kawasaki KLX140L lets me be aggressive everywhere but places where the suspension is heavily taxed — big jumps and whoops, in particular. But, in tight situations, or on a nice smooth motocross track, it’s fun to twist the throttle and see just how fast you can go. Without a doubt, the chassis is up to the 144cc motor’s output, so the matching of power and handling is just right. Again, a beginner or rider moving up from a bike with a smaller motor and smaller diameter rims will think he’s in heaven.

Getting the Kawasaki KLX140L going is as easy as pushing the start button. If cold, use the bar-mounted choke and patiently let it warm up — it will, eventually. Once warm, the 20mm Keihin PB carb meters fuel flawlessly and the power curve is fully linear and predictable up to the redline, which most riders will rarely hit.

There’s a smooth-shifting five-speed transmission and manual clutch. This may be the first manual clutch for some riders. Fortunately, it’s an easy pull and has smooth engagement courtesy of an unusual two-stage engagement design. A spring damper in the clutch makes it easier to slip without burning the plates to a crisp, something beginners can do if they aren’t careful.

There’s plenty of braking power on hand with discs front and rear. The IRC tires help in braking, of course. Thanks to the 19/16 rim sizes, you have access to full race rubber should the rider demand the best. For me, I could stuff the KLX140L into corners with abandon, and it crawled up technical trails without drama. Better tires would help some, I’m sure, but they are a purely optional upgrade. Most KLX140L riders will be fully satisfied with the trail-friendly IRCs.

As I mentioned, at 5’ 6” I’m near the top end of the fit, ergonomically. Kawasaki makes the KLX140L nicely friendly with confidence-enhancing wide footpegs, fatigue-reducing rubber mounted handlebars (other bars can easily be fit), and a slip-resistant seat that is very comfortable on all-day trail rides, which still excellent for harder riding.

Maintenance is extremely easy. Draining and refilling the transmission oil is a snap, and the oil filter is easily accessed on the side of the motor. I prefer no-tool airbox access, but it’s just a couple of screws and a wing nut to get to the good-sized foam filter, so I can’t complain too much. You can get to the spark plug easily, not that you’ll need to change it very often. I’d prefer a snail adjustment system to the nut/bolt adjustment on the KLX140L, but it’s not a chain-stretcher, so you won’t need to adjust the chain very often. Other than that, there’s no frequent adjustment or maintenance that needs to be done. Expect the Kawasaki KLX140L to last for decades.

Japan does an excellent job with these mid-size youth and women’s models. With styling straight from the Supercross Championship winning KX450F, that’s an extra-added attraction for a friendly, durable, and reliable trail-ready motorcycle like the 2014 Kawasaki KLX140L. And the good news is, the 2015 Kawasaki KLX140L is identical, save for graphics, including the $3399 price.

Photography by Don Williams

Riding Style

Helmet: Arai VX-Pro3

Goggles: Progrip 3450 LS

Pants, jersey, and gloves: Fly Racing Kinetic Women’s Raceware

Knee brace: CTi Custom

Boots: Alpinestars Stella Tech 3 Women’s

2014 Kawasaki KLX140L Specifications

• Engine: Air-cooled, SOHC, two-valve single

• Displacement: 144cc

• Bore x stroke: 58.0 x 54.4mm

• Cooling: Air

• Carburetion: 20mm Keihin PB

• Compression ratio: 9.5:1

• Ignition: CDI

• Transmission: Five-speed with wet multi-disc manual clutch

• Final drive: Chain

• Frame: High-Tensile steel, box-section perimeter

• Rake: 27 degrees

• Trail: 3.8 inches

• Front suspension / wheel travel: 33mm telescopic fork / 7.1 inches

• Rear suspension / wheel travel: Uni-Trak® linkage system and single shock with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload and 22-way rebound damping / 7.1 inches

• Front tire: IRC 70/100-19

• Rear tire: IRC 90/100-16

• Front brake: Single 220mm petal disc with a dual-piston caliper

• Rear brake: Single 186mm petal disc with single-piston caliper

• Overall length: 74.6 inches

• Overall width: 31.1 inches

• Overall height: 42.3 inches

• Wheelbase: 50.6 inches

• Ground clearance: 10.0 inches

• Seat height: 31.5 inches

• Curb weight: 209.4 pounds

• Fuel capacity: 1.5 gallons

• Color: Lime Green

2014 Kawasaki KLX140L MSRP: $3399