2018 Kawasaki KLX250 Review | Softly Satisfying
Three years after the Kawasaki KLX250S disappeared from the Kawasaki lineup, we get the 2018 Kawasaki KLX250 as a replacement.
While it loses an S in its name, it also loses the Keihin carburetor. The good news it that Kawasaki replaced the carb with a Keihin fuel injection system! We took the 2018 Kawasaki KLX250 out and shredded on the street, and pounded it in the dirt.
1. The only change from the KLX250S is the switch to EFI. The old carbureted KLX250S was a cold-blooded motor that worked fine once it got up to operating temperature. With EFI, the 2018 Kawasaki KLX250 is ready to roll after pushing the start button. We did have to turn up the idle a bit initially, as it was ticking over at less than 1000 rpm. After kicking it up to about 1250 rpm, the motor ran flawlessly.
2. Power starts off soft on the bottom on its way to a redline north of 10,000 rpm. If you just want to poke around leisurely, the KLX250 motor is willing to accommodate you. This makes it appealing to newer riders, as it is totally unintimidating. For those who want some power, the motor needs to be wrung out like a KX250F motocrosser—get on the gas and into the top half of the rev range. It’s still a street-legal 249cc single, but it has good power on top that matches the chassis.
3. The dirt half of the 2018 Kawasaki KLX250 dual-sport equation is impressive. Given that it is not overly powerful, Kawasaki made the right call in making the KLX250 a comfortable ride. Weighing in at just below 300 pounds, it has a good nimble feel, as well as dirt-focused ergonomics.
4. The KYB suspension is softly sprung and gently damped. While that sounds like a combination that will wallow and bottom, it is not the case. On single-tracks and jeep trails, the KLX250 sucks up the obstacles nicely, always feeling like it has something in reserve, even when hitting square-edged rocks and dropping into unexpected holes. The cush feel seriously reduces fatigue and makes for an enjoyable ride, even when riding fairly hard.
5. You certainly want to know your limits on the 2018 Kawasaki KLX250. For the most part, the motor is the limiting factor. You aren’t going to go flying through whoops, and the lack of immediate power delivery will warn you away from jumps. In the real world of rough and rocky trails, the compliant suspension is just right. About the only time the soft settings get overloaded is on g-outs. Even then, the KLX250 doesn’t lose its composure. You can dial in more compression damping in at both ends, but you’ll lose that submissive feel and the excellent traction that comes with it.
6. The KLX250 is happy to turn in the dirt. While berms are always a good idea when changing direction, the KLX250 is ready and willing to change direction on flat loose corners. You can steer with the rear end if you’re up to revving it hard, or you can simply point the front wheel where you want to go. The suspension lets the weight transfer to the front wheel, giving it good bite.
7. The Dunlop D605 tires are a good match off-road. While Dunlop D606 tires are a more dirt-oriented tire, the D605 can be spun up, which allows the KLX250 motor to easily get to the more powerful part of the rev range. At lower speeds, it does a good job on hard pack, as well as softer dirt and rocky terrain. Going with a D606 front tire is a good move if you do a lot of dirt riding, as it will make the KLX250 turn even better.
8. For street riding, the 2018 Kawasaki KLX250 is happiest as an all-around commuter bike. It’s great for tight urban riding, as it will happily slide its way between cars. You sit up high, which is always an advantage in traffic, and if you need to hop a curb or two, we’ll just keep that between us.
9. The seat height of 35 inches isn’t as tall as it seems. There’s plenty of sag in the soft suspension, making the pavement accessible to all but the shortest riders. Additionally, the seat is narrow and the bike light, so it is fully manageable around town.
10. Freeway and canyon riding are challenging for the KLX250. Top speed is in the mid 80s, unless you do some drafting. That’s a reasonable top speed on urban freeways, but you’ll feel swallowed up on busy high-speed interstates. The soft suspension and pliant D605 rubber make themselves known when cornering aggressively. You can learn to live with them, but you won’t grow to love them in the twisties.
11. The 2018 Kawasaki KLX250 is a true dual sport bike. You can have tons of fun in the dirt on the KLX250, and turn around and tear it up in the city. It’s quiet, reasonably light, narrow, nimble, and impressively capable, as well as being satisfying to new riders and experienced riders who respect its limitations.
Photography by Drew Ruiz
- Helmet: Fly Racing Carbon Rewire
- Goggles: EKS Brand EKS-S
- Jersey and pants: Fly Racing Lite Hydrogen
- Gloves: Fly Racing Lite
- Body armor: Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V
- Knee braces: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon
- Socks: Fly Racing Knee Brace
- Boots: Sidi X-3
For specs and a photo gallery, click to page 2