Last year Kawasaki brought the off-road-only KLX300R back to the market, which we have reviewed. This year, Kawasaki has upgraded the long-running KLX250 dual-sport motorcycle to the 300 class, with the 2021 Kawasaki KLX300. We took the new 300 out on the dirt and pavement to determine if the off-roader’s success has translated to dual-sport capability.
The 2021 Kawasaki KLX300 is a performance boost to the previous KLX250. The new KLX300 has 43 more cubic centimeters, and a point more compression, bumping it up to 11.1:1 and 292cc. The DOHC motor’s performance is close to the EPA-friendly KLX300R dirt bike, so it has plenty of power for urban dual-sporting and trail riding. Freeways tax the single-cylinder motor, though it is capable of short high-speed excursions thanks to a wide-ratio six-speed transmission. Both the clutch and transmission work flawlessly.
It’s the weekend—you’re ready to explore to release some tension, and the 2021 Kawasaki KLX300 wants to join you. Your reason may be that you’re retired, you want your kid to join you on your rides, or you want a fun way to get around town. The user-friendly KLX300 will put a smile on every motorcycle-licensed member of the family. It has electric start and, while the 35.2-inch seat height is tall for the shorter rider—we would point that rider to the KLX230 we have tested—getting a good foothold on the ground will be easily and quickly achieved with seat time for those with a long-enough inseam.
The KLX300 feels nimble and light while riding. However, at just over 300 pounds with the two-gallon tank topped off, it feels heavy for the lighter rider when dropped out on the trail.
The medium-travel suspension works well for friendly off-road rides. The 2021 Kawasaki KLX300 gets 10 inches of travel on the KYB 43mm cartridge fork, and a bit over nine inches from the linkage-enhanced piggyback shock. The standard suspension setup should work fine for most riders; it is plush, without feeling soggy. For the discerning rider, the suspension is almost fully adjustable, with only fixed rebound-damping hindering full personalization. The suspension action is never harsh, and it does not defect off sharp objects—something a beginner or novice rider will appreciate.
The 2021 Kawasaki KLX300 delivers comfort and confidence at the grips. Sitting at the cockpit, err, the seat of the KLX300 feels right. The controls require all four limbs to function the machine as you traverse both tarmac and terrain. Doing that effortlessly takes practice, and a new rider wants as little intimidation as possible. These factors must be considered in producing such machines—bar width, hand and foot control positioning, throttle, switchgear, and mirrors. It’s provided for most body configuration and personal preference, but it arrives stock to the general public as intended. Practice makes perfect, and few preferences need adjustment in stock form.
What separates you and your machine from the surface you traverse are the Dunlop D605 tires. The KLX300’s Dunlops have to work in both street and dirt. But, like the category of bike, the tires satisfy both, within reason. Aggressive riding style requires either a real knobby tire off-road or a street pattern for asphalt. The D605s are a sensible choice that the owner can override at any time, though likely won’t if 50/50 dirt/street riding is in the cards.
Should the rider be interested in more aggressive off-roading, then plenty of dirt-aggressive options exist. The choices are more limited for the street-oriented rider, due to its 21-inch front wheel. Exclusively street riders who simply like the dual-sport style and attitude will want to consider its fraternal twin—the KLX300SM supermoto, which we have recently tested.
The disc brakes have good feel, and the 240mm rear disc will lock up off-road as needed. ABS is becoming more prevalent due to the Euro 5 influence, which is welcome for street bikes, though not the best for dual-sport riders. We’re glad that Kawasaki has left the 2021 KLX300 ABS-free, though a front-only system wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The LCD Instrumentation is easy to read and provides the necessary readings in an orange glow. Your speed is easy to read at a glance, and those who want access to the rev-count have a wide-sweep display to monitor. Keep an eye out for the low-fuel light, as there is no reserve setting on a petcock on an EFI motorcycle.
The KLX300 features a rear fender bag to fit a few tools, a tire tube repair kit, paperwork, and an energy bar. It’s definitely preferable to no fender bag, which is usually the case.
Nothing sells quicker off showroom floors than a bargain-priced motorcycle that provides function, good looks, and simple joy—the 2021 Kawasaki KLX300 fits the bill. The base price of $5559 (add $200 for Fragment Camo Gray) is worth the price of admission for years of fun and pleasure exploring the 100-mile radius from your garage with just a single fill-up—especially during or after a pandemic. Best of all, no trailer required!
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.