2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S Review [21 Dual-Sport Fast Facts]

2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S Review: Trail Test

Debuting last year, the Kawasaki KLX230 S is a lowered version of the KLX230 dual-sport bike that bowed-in three years ago. Just a year after it appeared, it’s already getting updates. As we didn’t get a chance to review it last year, we’re happy to test the already-refined version. I’m an off-road neophyte—exactly the target audience for this friendly dual sport motorcycle. So, let’s see how the 2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S did with a dirt novice in the saddle.

  1. The S’s 32.7-inch seat height is low enough for me at 5-foot-6 with a 30-inch inseam to sit with my boot soles flat on the ground. Although it’s taller than the seats on street bikes I’m used to riding, the suspension on the KLX230 S has more sag, putting the seat lower. So, when I get on, I feel confident to try lots more challenges in the off-road sections of our ride. I can take a dab as needed, making dropping the bike less likely. That also means not having to worry about the effort of picking the KLX up repeatedly.
  1. The lower seat height is not as simple as chopping down seat padding. Kawasaki shortened the KLX230’s fork travel by 2.5 inches and the rear wheel travel by 2.2 inches to cut 2.1 inches from the seat height. Rather than just cutting travel, Kawasaki firmed up the compression damping and softened the rebound damping to keep the shorter-travel suspension near the top of its stroke, reducing the likelihood of bottoming off-road. The progressive spring rate of the suspension is also specific to the S model. Less than seven inches of travel doesn’t sound like much for off-road riding, but it is plenty for cautious new riders.
  1. The KLX230 S is slim and easy to grip with your knees for control. The seat height gives way to a flat tank top, so you can move around and forward easily.

  1. The seat is firm and narrow, yet not uncomfortable. Of course, you don’t stay seated when riding off-road on a dual-sport bike—sections are often ridden standing on the pegs to tackle the bumpiest areas. I had no complaints about the firm, narrow seat on hours-long rides, including street and freeway stints.
  1. I appreciated the weight of the KLX230 S, on and off the bike. It’s a nimble bike weighing in at just under 300 pounds with the two-gallon fuel tank topped off—much lighter than street bikes I’m used to riding. When my brain identifies the need to select a different line through obstacles, my 135-pound body gets the KLX230 S to move quickly. The S is nicely balanced and has a lightweight feeling when pushing the moto, making it easy to move around when parking.
  1. My testing took me on a wide variety of terrain. Pavement riding was a mix of twisty canyon roads, which I’m quite familiar with as a sportbike owner, along with the freeway and city riding. Dirt roads I tackled included loose rocks, shingle, and muddy rivulets, while going over hills and down slippery slopes—yes, we’ve had some rain in California. I slalomed around, avoiding some deep-to-me sticky mud patches along the way. I also avoided target fixating on cliffs over the road’s edge.

  1. Ground clearance has been slightly sacrificed—not that I noticed, because no large logs jumped out in front of me. The ground clearance is reduced 2.1 inches compared to the standard KLX230. Again, it’s critical for me to have my feet easily reach the ground, so the reduced ground clearance is not off-putting.
  1. Kawasaki didn’t drop the seat height by making the wheels smaller. The KLX230 S has a 21-/18-inch wheelset with budget-oriented IRC Trails tires. The tires are a good balance between on- and off-road and match the performance of the motor and chassis. If you prefer one kind of riding over the other, there is a wide choice of replacement rubber when the time comes.
  1. The rear-wheel ABS can be turned off this year. Rear-wheel ABS can be a liability in the dirt, and Kawasaki now allows the rider to disable it when the pavement ends—you have to stop to do it. ABS is always active for the front wheel, though it has been recalibrated for improved off-road performance. If you don’t want any ABS, you can save $300, though the non-ABS version has a smaller front disc. The brakes have a friendly soft engagement, so you won’t activate the ABS often.

  1. The 2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S’s fuel-injected air-cooled motor gets ECU updates. The engine was already beginner-friendly, with a predictable and docile power delivery. This year, Kawasaki fine-tuned the EFI for throttle response and sensitivity toward altitude. It’s a sweet little engine that is easy to use off-road, yet freeway capable. 
  1. Engine warm-up on cold days has been improved. I had a chance to experience this on a chilly morning in the Santa Ynez Valley. The air-cooled 233cc powerplant keeps a high idle when cold, allowing for improved throttle response before reaching full operating temperature. 
  1. Whilst freeway riding, the KLX is stable. There is only the slightest mirror vibration at 70 mph; otherwise, the mirrors give good rear visibility. The front cowl breaks up the wind, so I don’t feel buffeted. Also, I can grip with my legs, as the ergonomics are sleek, making me feel secure and stable.

  1. The six-speed transmission is a wide-ratio design, giving the KLX230 S plenty of flexibility. First gear is low enough for the level of trails I would ride this bike on, while top gear will take me up over 70 mph. I used the clutch quite a bit off-road, and it didn’t fatigue my left hand.
  1. I like the at-a-glance instrument panel. It can be annoying if your eyes must make a second scan to see its information. The KLX230 S has a full LCD instrument panel, odometer, fuel, speedometer, and clock situated in a good position for quick reference. I found it was easily readable in the sun and when it’s overcast.
  1. This new model is styled with a more assertive-looking front fender, and the headlight is neat and compact. Previous KLX230 models had an ungainly bulbous headlight and shroud. The new design is sleeker and uses an LED to light the way. It’s bright enough that you can see the effects of the headlight on tree-lined low-light lanes. The turn signals are now LED, with stylish clear lenses.

  1. The two-gallon fuel tank has a range of about 85 miles, depending on how hard you ride it and the terrain difficulty. That’s enough for exploring anywhere but the most remote parts of the country’s western deserts. 
  1. A toolbox is locked away behind a side panel. Handily, it’s locked with the same ignition key for ease of use if basic repairs or adjustments are needed.
  1. Kawasaki has a nice range of accessories available. Dirt riders will be interested in handguards, a skid plate, and a tapered aluminum handlebar. For the street, a USB port and rear rack can be added.


  1. Kawasaki keeps the price point the same for the KLX 230 S as the standard KLX 230. Whether you’ve been blessed with shorter legs or not, Kawasaki doesn’t expect you to pay extra to ride—the MSRP is $4999 without ABS. The thoughtful pricing encourages newer riders into motorcycling by not having to pay more for the lower height.
  1. Protection is essential for new riders, and I had plenty. In addition to an Arai XD-4 for my head, I had a Forcefield Pro Air Shirt X-V with CE-rated armor for my chest, back, elbows, and shoulders. Sidi Trial Zero boots kept my feet safe while making it easy to change gears and operate the rear brake. Alpinestars took care of the knee protection, pants, and gloves, along with a Session Race Jacket, which I love on and off the bike.
  1. This lower-height 2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S is great for learning riders. Although every motorcycle feels good and balanced once you’re rolling, you need to feel that you have control for low-speed riding. You need to feel that the motorcycle is easy to ride with soft controls. This bike is a neat workhorse and fits the novice bill in every way, on- and off-road.

Photography by Kevin Wing


2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S Specs 


  • Type: Single-cylinder four-stroke
  • Displacement: 233cc
  • Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 66.0mm
  • Compression ratio: 9.4:1
  • Valvetrain: SOHC; 2 valves
  • Cooling: Air
  • Fueling: EFI w/ 32mm throttle body
  • Transmission: 6-speed
  • Final drive: Chain


  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 37mm fork; 6.2 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted spring-preload adjustable shock; 6.6 inches
  • Front tire: 2.75 x 21; IRC Trails GP-21F
  • Rear tire: 4.10 x 18; IRC Trails GP-22R
  • Front brake: 240mm petal disc w/ twin-piston caliper (ABS: 265mm)
  • Rear brake: 220mm petal disc w/ single-piston caliper
  • ABS: Optional ($300)


  • Wheelbase: 54.3 inches
  • Rake: 27.5 degrees
  • Trail: 4.6 inches
  • Seat height: 32.7 inches
  • Ground clearance: 8.3 inches
  • Fuel tank capacity: 2.0 gallons
  • Curb weight: 296 pounds (ABS: 298 pounds)
  • Color: Battle Gray (Lime Green: standard KLX230 S only)

2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S Price: $4999 MSRP (ABS: $5299)

2023 Kawasaki KLX230 S Review Photo Gallery