For 2021 Kawasaki brings out an all-new KX250 that closely matches the changes the KX450 got in 2019. For the first ride, Kawasaki invited us out to Perris Raceway for an introduction. To follow up, we then took the 2021 Kawasaki KX250 to Glen Helen Raceway a couple of days later to get a true feel of the bike.
Kawasaki reports to us that its 2021 KX250 has over 300 new part numbers. That tells you not much was left unchanged. The highlights are a new frame, motor updates, electric start, a hydraulic disc-spring clutch, and new bodywork. We had a full rundown of the changes in our 2021 Kawasaki KX250 First Look
The new frame comes directly from the KX450. While the new KX250 frame is dimensionally an exact copy of the 450 frame, Kawasaki R&D told us that the material thickness in stress areas is different to provide the additional flex that a 250 requires. When they used the 450 frame, it was too rigid with the 250 motor.
The new chassis makes for a great handling motorcycle. The 2021 Kawasaki KX250 is slim and comfortable immediately—it takes no time to adjust to. While it did gain some weight due to the electric start and hydraulic clutch, the new KX250 has a lighter feel when riding.
The KX250’s turning is best described as stable. Although it isn’t the quickest turning motorcycle on the track, it does what you want and gives you the confidence to run the inside or outside of turns at speed. Stability-wise in high-speed sections, or just in rough terrain, is top-notch. We really like this chassis, whether it’s on the 450 or this 250.
Unlike the 450, which comes with Showa suspension, the 250 is equipped with KYB. On the first day of testing, we couldn’t find fault with the suspension—the Perris Raceway track was pretty smooth. For the second day of testing on the rougher Glen Helen circuit, we were still pleased with the KYB components. The only change we made was going a few clicks stiffer on the fork’s compression damping to hold it up better while hard on the brakes coming into the turns at the bottom of the hills. We left the rear sag at Kawasaki’s recommended 103mm.
Kawasaki aimed for more top-end power with the motor, and they certainly hit their mark. For 2021, the KX250 revs 300 rpm higher than last year. On top of that, the engine spools up very quickly with a more free-revving feeling. To get the most out of the motor, you really have to let it rev out, which is easy to do with its quick-revving character. The downside is that the powerplant lacks some bottom end and torque to pull you out of tight corners or let the revs drop.
There are three different stock maps available on the 2021 Kawasaki KX250. To switch from one map to the other, you change a coupler at the steering head. The three maps are Standard, Soft terrain (rich), and Hard terrain (lean). At Perris and Glen Helen, we like the standard map best. The aggressive Hard map pulled a little harder down low, but didn’t rev out as far. The Soft map was just too soft all the way through. Kawasaki also has a KX FI Calibration Kit ($700) that allows you to install custom maps. We didn’t get a chance to try custom maps, but we would like to try one that offers more on the bottom and midrange without sacrificing the top end over-rev.
The new hydraulic clutch is something we’ve been wanting. It has a nice pull at the lever and engagement point. Even with hard use, the clutch did not fade, and there was no change in lever position. The only complaint we have is that it has a slight on/off engagement—we would like a little more progression.
Electric start is welcomed. While the previous KX250 kickstarted easily, it is always better to have e-start—especially when you stall out on the track and need to get going again fast.
The exhaust note is pretty loud. While it does have a big muffler, it’s still on the loud side and has a not very nice raspy tone. An aftermarket exhaust would probably add some performance and give it a better sound.
Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires are excellent. We really like the performance of the MX3S, so we are happy to see them as stock tires. Although the durability isn’t the greatest, the traction they offer is.
The rear disc brake is smaller. The rear disc dropped in size from 250mm to 240mm. The 2020 was touchy and locked up easily, so the smaller rotor gives the rear brake a much more progressive feel. It also saves a bit of unsprung weight.
The 2021 Kawasaki KX250 has two footpeg mounting positions—standard, and 5mm lower. The rider triangle is very comfortable stock—even for our 6′ 1″ test rider. When we tried the lower position, our test rider was pleasantly surprised with the results. While it didn’t give him much more legroom, it does offer a lower center of gravity, giving him more traction on the rear wheel. Overall, the ergonomics have been narrowed, making the KX250 feel nicely slim.
While we like the new lower-bend Renthal Fatbars, we want an upgrade to the controls. The levers are too thin, and the grips aren’t very comfortable.
The styling is sleek and modern. We really like the lines of the new bodywork, along with the distinctive racing lime green plastic, including the number plates. The only thing we don’t like is the very plain and dark shroud graphics—an easy change.
The 2021 Kawasaki KX250 is a winner. With a great-handling chassis, excellent suspension, a huge clutch upgrade, electric starting, and a motor that revs to the moon, the new KX250 is a great motocross weapon.