Last year, Kawasaki introduced the KLX300R dirt bike to its off-road lineup. We anticipated a dual sport version of the KLX300R, and we got it this year—the KLX300. What we didn’t know was that a KLX300SM was coming—a street-legal supermoto addition to the KLX300 family. As a reminder, a supermoto is a dirt-bike that has been converted for aggressive pavement use. That usually means 17-inch wheels with street rubber, shorter and stiffer suspension, and higher gearing. Let’s go riding and find out what makes the 2021 Kawasaki KLX300SM tick.
The ergonomics of the 2021 Kawasaki KLX300SM are like a dirt bike, though more accommodating for shorter riders. The seat height on the SM might seem high at 33.9 inches, but it’s 1.3 inches lower than the KLX300 dual-sport bike. For another comparison, the SM seat is 2.8 inches taller than a Honda CB300R pure street bike. That is due to the longer suspension travel, as the CB300R and KLX300SM both have 17-inch wheels.
The SM’s seat is the same as the KLX300 dual-sport bike. It’s not the narrow hard seats that you’ll find on the aggressive European dual sport motorcycle. Instead, the KLX’s seat is softer and wider, allowing for a full day in the saddle.
The performance of the KLX300 thumper motor is typical of the genre—tuned for reliability and ease-of-use. Although it is a supermoto-style motorcycle, and you can ride it on the track, most of its use will be in canyons and urban settings. So, the focus is going to be on durability over absolute performance.
The DOHC 292cc water-cooled engine is fuel-injected, and a new rider won’t find much to complain about. The KLX300SM gets the same cam profile as the KLX300R dirt bike, so there’s plenty of torque. That makes it easy to launch the SM on its way. Still, it’s a quiet and pleasant 300-class street thumper, with a linear powerband that produces predictable acceleration. The KLX300SM will wheelie, but not unexpectedly. With a high rev ceiling, you will always shift before hitting the rev limiter as the power flattens out on top. Still, a bit of overrev is always welcome.
The six-speed transmission has properly spaced ratios to make the most of the motor. Kawasaki geared up the KLX300SM compared to its dual-sport sibling—the rear sprocket has four fewer teeth. Shifting action is superb.
The clutch is cable-actuated, so keep it lubed for an easy pull and longer cable life. The clutch does not have slipper or assist functions, though they are hardly missed.
The KLX300SM uses a steel perimeter frame, and the bike feels solid. It’s a proven design for Kawasaki and works fine on the SM. With just 2.8 inches of trail, the KLX300SM could be a twitchy ride. However, it never does anything unexpected and does not punish minor errors. Whether hitting high speeds or in a straight line, the KLX300SM has confidence-enhancing stability.
The suspension is almost fully adjustable, and certainly up to the task. The only adjustment that goes wanting is rebound damping on the 43mm inverted fork. However, for the intended use of the KLX300SM, the stock damping settings are fine. Despite being firmer than the KLX300 dual-sport bike, the SM is plush on the road. I rode the SM hard on a compact supermoto-friendly track, and dive during hard braking was not excessive.
Braking is impressive thanks to the lightweight of the KLX300SM and modest speeds. The four-piston Nissin caliper works on a 300mm disc to slow down the 307-pound SM (with the two-gallon tank filled up). That’s a good braking-to-weight ratio, and the SM decelerates controllably, and with authority should you need it. The rear disc is there when you want it, though the front disc is where most of the braking action resides. There is no ABS, and it’s not an option. Supermoto diehards will rejoice, as you can back it into corners, provided you have the necessary skillset.
You might scoff at the IRC Road Winner RX-01 tires, but they work on the 2021 Kawasaki KLX300SM. The IRCs are more than up to the SM’s demands on the pavement—street or dirt. If you’re so inclined, the standard 17-inch rims allow you to upgrade to the highest performance tires.
Range is limited due to the two-gallon tank. It’s plenty for city riders, but range might be an issue for riders in rural areas. Hopefully, the aftermarket industry to come up with higher-capacity tanks to fit both the dual-sport and SM models. The windblast from a fully upright un-faired motorcycle makes the KLX300SM a favorite of backroads over open highways—perfectly in line with the motor’s performance.
Bits and pieces enhance the KLX300SM experience. The headlight uses a halogen bulb, with LEDs for the brake light and turn signals. The LCD instrument panel has a backlit blue tint with a digital speedometer and sweeping rev counter, along with the necessary warning lights. There is a small fender bag that can hold a tube repair kit and carry necessary papers, along with the included barebone toolkit. Bars are the standard 7/8-inch diameter with a crossbar to mount a phone and GPS unit, though no charger ports are included. The stylish triangular mirrors function fine, though a more extensive view would be more helpful and safer for a newer rider.
The 2021 Kawasaki KLX300SM is a perfect springboard machine for someone wanting to get into motorcycle riding, as well as anyone looking to dabble in supermoto riding. At $5999, the SM is $100 more than the Kawasaki Versys-X adventure bike and $400 more than its dual-sport brother—both 300s. On its own terms, the KLX300SM works as a fun local commuter mount, canyon carver, urban warrior, and all-around fun machine, as long as you can handle the 34-inch seat height.
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.