We have to emphasize this again—this isn’t a trail bike, or even an enduro bike. As such, Kawasaki didn’t add lights, mellow the power with heavy flywheels, soften the mapping, or overly lighten the suspension action. There is no spark arrestor and, in California, the KX250X gets the dreaded Red Sticker limitation. Go with something like a Yamaha WR250F for trail riding.
Our test course for the first ride was at Cahuilla Creek Motocross. Located in a valley in California’s rugged San Jacinto Mountains, Cahuilla Creek Motocross has some awesome natural terrain on the property. That includes tight single-track, faster flowing single-track, plenty of serious whoops, and rock sections are thrown in to make things interesting. The conditions on our five-mile circuit were dry and dusty—it’s California!
Like its motocross brother, the 2021 Kawasaki KX250X has an outstanding chassis. The KX250X has the same excellent handling as the KX250. Handling in tight, beat-up single track is superb, with perfect ergonomics for standing. The great habits in technical terrain didn’t mean the KX250X suffers at speed. Even in the heavy whoops, the KX250X tracked straight and isolated the rider from punishment.
The pegs can be mounted in one of two positions—we like the lower peg positioning. This was the case with the KX250 motocrosser, and the difference is more pronounced off-road as you’re standing more during a race. With the pegs in the bottom position, the center of gravity when standing is lowered. That helps with traction and supports balancing the bike.
The KX250X’s KYB suspension is outstanding, as is. All I did was set the sag at 105mm. Out on the five-mile loop, I was trying to feel what might need to be improved. However, it felt so on-point, I didn’t come up with anything. From small chop to faster hits, the KYB suspension absorbs it all.
The KX250X motor is exactly the same as the MX edition and likes to be revved. With all the updates Kawasaki made to the KX motocross version, it’s not a surprise, the engineers concentrated on top-end power to get the most out of its 250cc. While the motor works very well, more bottom end power and torque would be appreciated for an off-road bike. Although the engine doesn’t stall or have any hiccups down low, the KX250X is just not fast until you get in the upper rev range. The aggressive map/coupler is preferred for the most bottom-end power.
The lower gearing runs short. First gear is low that I never use it, even in the tightest or rockiest sections. When out on the single-track loop, the spacing felt about right. However, in the faster sections, the KX250X tops out in 5th gear pretty quickly. For faster GPs, higher gearing is needed—just hope that doesn’t make the gaps between ratios too wide. Suffice to say, we’d like to see Kawasaki slip a six-speed transmission in those cases.
The hydraulic clutch works great. It has an easy pull and great feel. I did abuse the clutch in the tight and technical sections, but it never fazed the coned-disc spring system. My only complaint is that the engagement window is a bit narrow, making things a bit trickier in technical sections.
An 18-inch rear wheel is mandatory for off-road racing, as it allows a taller sidewall. Along with the 18-inch rear hoop, and a set of Dunlop Geomax AT81 tires are mounted. They are built for durability rather than absolute traction—a reasonable balance off-road. However, if you have a favorite off-road competition tire, pull the AT81s off immediately and sell them to a trail rider.
Electric start is mandatory, and the KX250X has it. If there had been a KX250X last year, it wouldn’t have had e-start. Fortunately, that feature belatedly appeared on the KX250 this year, so the X gets it.
The 2021 Kawasaki KX250X’s kickstand is convenient, and stays out of the way. When I first saw the kickstand, it looked like it stuck out quite a bit. However, I didn’t feel it against my boot, or bouncing when charging through whoops or landing jumps. I had to think about it to remember it’s there until I need it at a stop.
Small details add up to a fine motorcycle. A Renthal Fatbar, adjustable bar mounts, adjustable peg mounts, outstanding ergonomics, and comfortable seat with a quality gripper cover all add up to a top-quality off-road racer. The dislikes are few and not deal-killers—the levers are too thin, hard grips, and the exhaust is on the loud and raspy side. For racing, we would like to see a larger-capacity fuel tank on the KX250X, along with handguards.
The 2021 Kawasaki KX250X has won me over. The big attraction to me is the excellent handling and overall feel of the motorcycle. Because the KX250X shares almost every part with the KX250 motocrosser, there is already an avalanche of aftermarket accessories available to alter performance to your needs. Kawasaki’s first try at a 250 off-road racer is an instant winner.
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!