2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review | Trail Test

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review - Streambed

Kawasaki has taken its KLX140 trail bike and fitted it with full-size wheels, creating a perfect combination of light weight and low-end power on a bike with a very manageable seat height—the new 2017 Kawasaki KLX140G. How much do I love this bike? Let me count the ways!

First and foremost, confidence for beginning riders, transitioning riders, or anybody new to off-road riding, comes from the security of being in control of your bike. Much of security can be found in keeping touch with the ground. The 2017 Kawasaki KLX140G has a seat height just under 34 inches—remember a couple of inches disappear as soon as you swing a leg over the seat and compress the suspension.

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review - PriceSo, with an inseam of 30.5 inches, I am easily flat-footed and immediately at ease. Follow this up with a light curb weight of 218 pounds and I’m growing bold before I’ve even punched the starter button (there’s no backup kickstarter).

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Next on the list of items that will bolster your dirt self- esteem is a friendly engine that doles out its power in a usable manner. The air-cooled slightly oversquare 144cc thumper delivers its torque with a smile from the bottom up. Sure, the engine is small, but the power is in the low and mid-range, and the clutch is easy to slip so that you can milk as much of the torque as possible.

The motor and frame come from the KLX140 and KLX140L. The KLX140G adds a longer swingarm (a couple of inches), and longer travel suspension (around a half-inch at each end), along with the 21- and 18-inch wheels. The weight penalty isn’t much—the 2017 Kawasaki KLX140G weighs less than nine pounds more than the mid-size KLX140L.

You’ll quickly gain confidence in the KLX140G as soon as you take-off down a dirt road. The well-regarded IRC Volcanduro VE-33 tires feel secure on the loose rocks and gravel, and the full-sized wheel combination takes everything in stride.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have those full sized wheels; the KLX140G may be smaller in stature than a 250cc enduro bike, but the full sized wheels allow it to go where the ‘adult’ sized bikes go. The tires are a bit narrow, but they work well in conjunction with the KLX140G’s intended role.

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review - Jeep trailGranted, the KLX140G won’t go as quickly as the larger displacement bikes. You’ll have to twist the throttle harder and shift up as needed to access the KLX’s torque to keep up with the bigger bikes, but you’ll have a blast doing it. At my 115-pound weight, the KLX140G took me anywhere I wanted to ride, including up some nasty trails, such as Whata Trail and Miller Jeep Trail in the Los Padres National Forest.

I found myself riding faster over the same jeep and single-track trails than I had on larger displacement motors and much longer suspension travel because I was the master of the KLX140G, and not the other way around.

Ergonomics are interesting on the Kawasaki KLX140G. With my 30.5-inch inseam, I almost feel cramped when seated on it—one drawback of repurposing the standard KLX140 frame. It is as if I’ve nabbed my nephew’s bike and decided to take it out for a spin. Yet, because of the full sized tires and a healthy amount of suspension, it doesn’t ride like it’s too small. The KLX140G moves along relatively quickly and does a good job of soaking up the bumps and ruts of rock- embedded dirt roads.

However, I do find that utilizing the brake pedal from a seated position is not practical with my size 42 Alpinestars Stella Tech 3 boot. It’s very difficult to put a soft touch on the lever, as I have to move my boot up and forward, which inevitably results in a clumsy, heavy contact that can lock up the 186mm rear disc. When standing, this is not a problem at all, and the action from the brake pedal is perfectly dialed.

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review - trail bikeOn fast dirt roads with sweeping turns, the KLX140G holds a steady line when I slide closer to the tank. I can truly feel the effect of weighting the front end as the weight differential between me and the bike is a lot less than on, say, a Yamaha WR250F (one of my all-time favorite dirt bikes).

The Kawasaki KLX140G’s lighter weight (and smaller dimensions) also means I can muscle the bike a lot easier if need be. This gives huge confidence in riding more aggressively. Minor transgressions are no big deal, as even ladylike pressure on the bars will put me right back on line.

There’s a single 220mm petal disc brake up front to keep tabs on your speed, and response from the front lever is appropriately tuned for the KLX140G. There’s no sharp bite upon initial engagement, and there’s enough power to haul the small bike down from top speed quickly, with a healthy squeeze.

Standing on the pegs to add my legs to the suspension equation when conditions become bumpier, the KLX moves along convincingly. The non-adjustable 33mm forks soak up plenty of abuse rolling over rocks, roots, and ruts without a complaint, their 7.5 inches of travel are completely adequate for the targeted use of the KLX140G.

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review - jumpOff the showroom floor, the linkage-assisted shock is quite capable. I did appreciate the four-position compression damping adjustment capability, though the standard setting was fine for my weight and speed. I’m not sure why Kawasaki offers 22-way rebound damping on a shock on a bike for less-experienced riders. Four positions are about right, and any more choices are daunting.

Where I might have expected the little KLX140G to be challenged was in the sand, but its light weight combined with the full sized tires made all the difference. As long as I got on the gas, stood on the pegs, and leaned back, the bike skimmed the top pretty darn well.

The 5-speed transmission shifts smoothly, with only the lightest of nudges needed to move it up, or down. I realized this while riding at a nice clip downhill on a single-track trail and twice found myself unexpectedly in neutral.

No, the KLX140G did not slip out of gear; I had unintentionally touched the toe of my boot against the shifter, clicking out of second. There’s definitely not as much room for size 42 boots in the small space between the footpeg and shift lever.

On technical trails, the KLX is nicely maneuverable—again, its 218-pound weight is an asset, allowing you to pick your way through obstacles at your own pace utilizing the low-end torque.

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Review - CorneringCornering is highly intuitive. Not once did the KXL140G surprise me, as it predictably went exactly where I pointed it.

Loose uphills strewn with larger rocks are no problem. Once I lost momentum, I could easily paddle my way through these difficult sections with confidence as the lower seat height allows a lot of riders to easily put both boots on the ground. The torquey little thumper and IRC tires will do the rest.

It cannot be overstated how confidence inspiring it is not be intimidated by your bike’s height, weight, or power. With the KLX140G, instead of feeling anxious when faced with a difficult obstacle, I find myself sizing it up and looking forward to taking it on. I’m not worried that I will lose control or be overpowered by the bike. If the terrain gets too difficult, I just slow down and let the engine chug along.

Do I sound like I have a crush on the KLX140G? Perhaps I do! But there’s nothing more reassuring than finding something that truly fits, and like a great pear of jeans, the KLX140G fits me to a T and flatters my riding style.

Up until the 2017 Kawasaki KLX140G, if you wanted a trail bike 150cc or less, you had to settle for smaller wheels, which definitely compromised off-road capability if you were interested in technical terrain.

Move up to the 230cc range and you are faced with bikes that are at least 30 pounds heavier and, more importantly, a bit taller. The additional power of a 230 is a plus, or a minus, depending on the rider.

Whether you just want to putt down dirt roads, take in the beautiful great outdoors, or tackle tough single track, or build your dirt riding skills, the KLX140G is a perfect waypoint between the kid-oriented 150s and the more cumbersome 230s.

Kawasaki totally nailed it with the 2017 Kawasaki KLX140G.

Photography by Don Williams

RIDING STYLE

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Specs

ENGINE

  • Motor: SOHC single
  • Displacement: 144cc
  • Bore x stroke: 58.0 x 54.4mm
  • Compression ratio: 9.5:1
  • Cooling: Air
  • Fueling: 20mm Keihin PB
  • Ignition: Digital DC-CDI
  • Transmission: 5-speed
  • Clutch: Wet multi-disc manual
  • Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS

  • Front suspension: Non-adjustable 33mm forks; 7.5 inches of travel
  • Rear suspension: Linkage assisted fully adjustable shock w/ piggyback reservoir; 7.9 inches of travel
  • Front brake: 220mm petal disc w/ a dual-piston caliper
  • Rear brake: 186mm petal disc w/single-piston caliper
  • Front tire: 2.75×21; IRC Vulcanduro VE-33
  • Rear tire: 4.10×18; IRC Vulcanduro VE-33

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • L x W x H: 78.9 x 31.3 x 44.7 inches
  • Wheelbase: 52.4 inches
  • Rake: 27°
  • Trail: 4.6 inches
  • Seat height: 33.9 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 1.5 gallons
  • Curb weight: 218 pounds
  • Warranty: 6 months (Kawasaki Protection Plus: 12, 24, or 36 months)

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Color:

  • Lime Green Limited

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Price:

  • $3699 MSRP

2017 Kawasaki KLX140G Gallery

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