2018 Kawasaki KLX110 Review | Motorcycle For the Under 10 Crowd
With riding a motorcycle as a youngster an important gateway to enjoying motorcycling as an adult, the 2018 Kawasaki KLX110 is an important motorcycle for our sport. It accommodates new young riders, as well as offers an upgrade path for kids who have cut their teeth on 50s.The 2018 Kawasaki KLX110 has the attributes we look for in a trail bike for the under-10 set—reliability and ease of use. You might notice that performance isn’t one of the requirements, and there’s a good reason for that. New riders need a motorcycle that will always run and can be maintained by almost any parent.
Now, that’s not to say the KLX110 doesn’t perform well. The air-cooled, two-valve, SOHC 112cc motor may be bone-simple, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t put out the power needed to keep a rider entertained.Plenty of torque is on tap, and our test rider was able to successfully trail ride the KLX in the sand, as well as engage in some reasonable hill climbing. At the same time, there’s nothing intimidating about that power, and the delivery is fully intuitive. Trail riding is a breeze with the KLX110.With a four-speed auto-clutch transmission, the rider will have plenty of opportunities to learn the selection of the proper gear. Taller hills will require a bit of a run, along with the wherewithal to shift down as needed. Without the burden of working a clutch, the rider can focus on changing cogs by simply actuating the shift lever.When riding more technical trails, the rider doesn’t have to worry about the clutch or stalling. Instead, the youngster can concentrate on selecting the right line, which is a skill that must be developed with the KLX110’s relatively small wheels.Handling and suspension are ready for what the KLX110 powerplant has to offer. The IRC tires offer good traction, and the cornering is up to par. Small jumps are fine—this is a trail bike, not a racer. The 4.3 inches of travel at both ends will remind the rider when to slow down, or move up to another model.The 14-/12-inch wheel combo keeps the seat height under 27 inches. Gavin Graham, the nine-year-old test rider in the photos, is 52 inches tall and weighs 68 pounds. He was easily able to keep his feet planted at a stop, though he did complain a bit about the 168-pound weight of the KLX110.Though the weight is in the ballpark of other 110s, it is nearly 50 percent heavier than the 50cc trail bikes a rider may be graduating from. Remember that most adults are not riding dirt bikes that are 2.5-times their weights, so coaching a new rider is imperative.This gives us a chance to remind you that it is essential that you do not buy a motorcycle too large for your youngster. If the rider is truly a beginner, a too-small motorcycle is preferable. That will allow the rider to dominate the bike, rather than the other way around. This makes motorcycle riding more fun for the child, as well as much safer—nothing slows down a riding career like an injury, so do not buy a motorcycle that is too large.Also, get the right gear for the rider. The Fly Racing outfit Gavin is wearing was perfect, and safe. Make sure the helmet fits correctly. Under no circumstances should you get a too-loose helmet and expect the child to grow into it. Don’t let a child ride without goggles or gloves—eye protection is always a must and, in the case of a fall, hands hit the ground first.All of the 2018 Kawasaki KLX110’s controls act as expected. The drum brakes do fine, and the throttle for the 18mm Keihin carb is not excessively sprung.As we’ve come to expect on any motorcycle, the 2018 Kawasaki KLX110 has electric start. There’s a kick backup, which we oddly found more effective for starting the bike for the first time for the day.Even with the temperatures in the 70s, the KLX110 is a cold-blooded engine first thing in the morning. We had to nurse the throttle and choke for a few minutes before it would settle into a consistent idle.This isn’t unusual for these small displacement trail bikes, as the emissions standards to get the engine certified as Green Sticker legal in California require very lean running. Once warmed up, the bike started easily—kick or button—and carbureted as expected.Maintenance is something we like to teach young riders. Adults will need to be involved for a while, as the 2018 Kawasaki KLX110 does make some of the maintenance chores a bit difficult.The worst offender is the air filter. To get to it, you have to remove the number plates, seat (!), and left fuel-tank shroud. But, wait, there’s more—it also requires tools to get the air filter cover off. This is a lot more work than it should be for a bike that will likely be following other bikes in the dirt and eating some dust.Draining and replacing the engine oil is straightforward, though you have to remove the skidplate to get to the oil filter. A window is provided for checking the oil level, and we definitely like that there’s a skidplate.Adjusting the chain requires a handful of tools, and will take some time. As there’s a rear drum brake, you also have to deal with the torque link. It’s not a big deal, but the KLX110 isn’t as easy to maintain as it should be.The 2018 Kawasaki KLX110 works well as a step up for 50 riders, as well as an introductory platform for kids whose ages are still in single digits. Parents may gripe a bit about maintenance, though the Kawasaki KLX110 is a reliable mount that can be passed on to multiple youth riders as they come through the ranks.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE
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