Hot on the heels of Jo Shimoda’s run of moto wins and podium in the 250MX class at this year’s AMA Nationals on a Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki KX250 comes the 2023 Kawasaki KX250. We ripped some hot laps at historic Perris Raceway in California’s broiling Island Empire to check out the latest version of this successful support-class racebike.
Walking up to the 2023 Kawasaki KX250 and seeing it for the first time, you’ll notice it looks like last year’s model. However, Kawasaki progresses the KX250 with various updates to enhance engine performance, suspension, and transmission. Oh, and despite no changes to its appearance, the KX250 is perhaps the sexiest bike in its class. But, that is all about rider preference.
More motor performance starts with better airflow for 2023. Starting with engine performance, Kawasaki engineers focused on improving combustion by increasing cylinder-filling efficiency. The downdraft-style intake duct has been straightened for better airflow, and the injector is repositioned to the bottom of the intake duct to create a straight shot into the motor for more efficient cylinder filling. So right off the bat, the overall intake system has been advanced for optimal airflow. We all know that increased airflow contributes to higher performance.
The intake valve pitch has changed from 37mm to 35.5mm, bringing it closer to the center of the cylinder. When the intake valve opens, it is not as close to the cylinder wall as last year. As a result, the air/fuel mixture is more evenly displaced around the cylinder, according to Kawasaki.
For more torque at low rpm and through the midrange, the exhaust header pipe has been lengthened 100mm compared to the 2022 model.
The 2023 Kawasaki KX250’s suspension has been fine-tuned to complement the increased engine performance. The fork internals, including a new oil height, are updated to deliver firmer compression action. The goal is to provide the rider with greater front-end feedback and contribute to a more planted feel.
Kawasaki maintains the “plug and play” ECU map selection system with the three couplers. The black coupler is the smooth setting that offers a more linear acceleration off the bottom end with less of a hit at the crack of the throttle. The green coupler is the all-around or standard engine map, with consistent power throughout the entire rev range. Lastly, the white coupler is the aggressive setting that adds a snappy punch to the bottom end and revs much quicker. However, the aggressive white coupler loses a little power on the top end.
At Perris Raceway, the aggressive white coupler serves a racer well with that low-to-mid punch. There is no right or wrong choice with these couplers. It depends on the track’s character, riding conditions, and your riding style. If you’re racing at a longer, faster track where you would be riding in the high end of the rev range, then the green standard coupler is likely the way to go.
As I jumped onto the track for my first sight lap, the front end felt very quick and light in movement. It is effortless to turn the motorcycle, and it is agile between the legs. This generation of the KX250 is very slim. With the optimized updates for 2023, the bike handles obediently. The chassis doesn’t feel too rigid despite the stiffer suspension settings.
Standing through corners or long sweeping turns, the 2023 Kawasaki is light on the feet. It was almost as if the bike would go wherever my eyes would look. Gripping the midsection firmly with my knees, the chassis is responsive to my commands—a major plus. Negotiating ruts and bumps on the long straights on the deep tilled clay-like dirt at Perris Raceway is easy, and the highly regarded Dunlop Geomax MX33 tires did their part.
Kawasaki’s factory spec for sag is set at 100mm, which is a bit of a shock to me, as I’m normally in the 103 to 105 range. With the factory sag lifting the rear, the front end is maybe a little too nimble. It is quick to react and sometimes jerky on the fast straights at Perris. There were a few times the bars got a little wobbly on me. At lower speeds, the KX250 tracked well through the rough stuff. If we spend more time on the 2023 KX250, I’ll set the sag to perhaps 102 or 103 to get more weight on the rear end and calm down the reaction on the front.
Although I typically slow the rebound on my fork settings, the factory fork rebound settings felt fine all day. I stiffened the compression by two clicks to suit my preference. Regardless, the factory suspension settings are spot-on.
The transmission gear ratios for 1st and 2nd gear have been updated to offer a more racer-friendly power delivery. 1st and 2nd gear are longer to smooth the transition between gears from 1st to 3rd. First gear offers more usable power for tight cornering and technical situations. Second gear maintains a strong pull through the high revs for a smooth transition to 3rd gear. The taller gearing allows more power to the ground through the entire rev range. The 2023 stiffer shock settings maintain traction through the acceleration bumps on the corner exits.
Perris Raceway is a tight course with many jumps and turns, and 1st gear is now usable thanks to the new ratios. There were a couple of tight corners where 1st gear played out well. The taller 2nd gear pulls me through successive jumps, and still has more power left. As said before, Kawasaki focused on optimizing the KX250 for racers. The gearing updates are great for racing—the less shifting, the better. The power delivery to the dirt is optimized thanks to smooth transitions between gears.
The hydraulic, cone-disc clutch feel is light and smooth. Throughout the day on the KX250, I used only my index finger to accentuate the clutch, yet fatigue did not set in. A buttery smooth clutch is always a nice touch. The hydraulic clutch also seemed to have cable-like characteristics when actuating the clutch around corners. Sometimes a hydraulic clutch system can be more of an on-off feel rather than a precise cable feel. But the Kawasaki hydraulic clutch system was smooth and predictable.
This 2023 Kawasaki KX250 delivers smooth corner-to-jump transitions. With the improved combination of the taller gears and higher peak performance of the 2023 motor package, the refined suspension tuning is smooth off the jump takeoffs. As I mentioned, the taller 2nd gear carried me through the jump sections close to the corner exits. Without the need to upshift to 3rd gear before the jump takeoff, I can focus more on bike control and handling.
In the air, the latest KX250 is as light as a feather. It is comfortably controllable, especially flying over Perris Raceway’s 90-foot jumps. Combined with well-balanced ergos and placement of the controls, the bike never felt as if it were fighting against me in the air. Additionally, the KX250 is easy to correct in the air should your takeoff not be so perfect. On the landings, the suspension soaks up the impact nicely without bouncing.
The improved motor package offers incredible power at high rpm, so you can keep that throttle wide open for days in each gear. In 3rd gear on the long straight section at Perris, I was waiting for the motor to hit the rev limiter, but I was already at the next corner.
The 2023 Kawasaki KX250 comes with a 110 rear tire—finally! All the Japanese 250 four-strokes, with the exception of the Yamaha YZ250F, are sold with a 100 rear tire to save weight. However, with Kawasaki’s increased motor, the 110 rear tire works wonders for the KX250.
The hand levers are way too thin for my liking. If there was one thing on the bike I would change immediately if I owned the 2023 KX250, it would be the levers. They feel almost sharp and hit a pressure point on my fingers.
The updated KX250 focuses on the racer, while still offering rider-friendly features. With the ability to ride the KX250 high in the rev range, reducing shifting, the powerplant is a racer’s dream. Beginners or novice riders considering a new 250 four-stroke machine for the pure joy of riding, do not be deterred from the Kawasaki platform. The smooth engine map setting, plus the customizable controls and footpegs, will help you learn the art of setup. The overall handling is fluid and nimble, adding to the motor’s rideability. The chassis corners with ease and is stable down the straights. The 2023 Kawasaki KX250 gives the rider confidence that it will go wherever the rider wants, and it gets you there quickly and with less effort.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050 DE + Scott Casey – Living with PTSD and the Rolling Barrage
byMotos and Friends by Ultimate Motorcycle
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends, a weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
The new Suzuki V-Strom DE has just been announced, and Avery Innis, Training and Publications Manager from Suzuki Motor USA, is just the expert to explain its nuances to us. The V-Strom has always been a superb, yet inexpensive platform, and the new DE variant gets more serious about ADV riding. I find out from Avery whether the new upgrades are worthwhile; and the place that the new V-Strom has in the current market.
Our second segment covers a subject that’s a little more serious than usual.
Many veterans and first responders suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, aka PTSD.
Scott Casey—himself a sufferer—decided to try and help his fellow vets, and started a cross-Canada charity ride in 2016 called the ‘Rolling Barrage’. It was—and is—incredibly successful.
It’s not just a tremendous ride. The Rolling Barrage is a place for like-minded sufferers and their supporters to ride together. They get some serious “wind therapy” whether it’s on just a stop, or a leg of the ride, one day, a weekend, or even the whole ride. Scott opens up with Associate Editor Teejay Adams about his personal history, and how he came to create such a brilliant and worthy real-world event that truly helps.
The Rolling Barrage is a supportive network of brothers and sisters. To quote Scott Casey: “this is the family you never knew you had”.
It was a Nation exploding into civil war. In 1992, the collapse of the former Yugoslavia triggered an international armed conflict that would last more than 3 years and eventually see nearly 100,000 people killed. Canadians were thrown into what was declared a peacekeeping mission, but it wasn’t. They were going well beyond the rules of engagement that were provided by the UN. Told by Scott Casey, Former Canadian Peacekeeper.