Kawasaki doubles the size of its supermoto line-up by adding the 2023 Kawasaki KLX230SM. As the little brother to the KLX300SM, the KLX230SM is an ambassador to the world of motorcycling for entry-level riders looking for supermoto styling while they develop their riding skills.
- At 296 pounds, the KLX230SM almost feels like a mini-moto bike, despite its 33.3-inch seat height. While we’ve always acknowledged that new riders gain a lot of confidence from having both feet flat on the ground, the KLX230SM’s suspension sag and light weight keep the bike accessible to inseams that don’t quite match up. With my 30.5-inch inseam, I’m on the balls of my feet, though I barely noticed, as there’s not much weight to balance at a stop. Don’t let the number scare you off—sit on your dealer’s bike to see how it feels.
- The narrow supermoto seat helps get your feet to the ground. You don’t spend much of your inseam getting over a wide seat or chassis, and the bike’s overall slender physique makes it easy to control and maneuver at slow speeds—which can be the most intimidating speed to newer riders.
- Supermoto ergonomics favor less experienced riders. The upright seating makes it easy to keep an eye on surrounding motorists, and the relaxed, neutral body position allows a natural reach to all controls. The wide handlebar provides good leverage for slow-speed maneuvering and faster moves in the twisties. While the non-adjustable levers are a bit of a reach, the clutch pull is light and won’t fatigue anyone.
- The 233cc air-cooled, two-valve thumper has plenty of usable power for around-town fun and sprints into the local hills. The just-oversquare single-cylinder motor has a satisfying pull off the bottom, making it easy to get away from a stop. The torque climbs gently through the mid and upper mid-range before dropping off. With no hitches in the engine’s powerband, it’s smooth sailing whether you’re moseying through the neighborhood or pushing the pace and leaning into turns.
- If you’re light enough, the motor is responsive and relatively quick, so you can have an enthusiastic ride if you give the throttle a healthy twist. Keeping in mind that I weigh 115 pounds, the 230SM moves through the gearbox quickly as I reach the bike’s maximum power. The six-speed transmission is perfectly behaved with no missed shifts, and finding neutral at a stop is easy.
- There’s no suspension adjustment on the KLX230SM, and that is fine. There’s no tinkering with the 37mm inverted fork or the linkage-assisted shock, though you can adjust the shock’s spring preload if you’re going to ride two-up. With eight inches of travel up front and 6.6 inches in the rear, the suspension works well over rough roads at urban speeds, and is not too soft for flicking through the twisties. The ride can feel a bit harsh on the freeway over expansion joint bumps.
- The KLX230SM’s 17-inch wheel combo and IRC RX-01 Road Winner tires favor athletic street riding. Unlike the KLX230, the SM’s dual-sport cousin, which sports a 21-/18-inch wheelset, the SM is nimble on its 17-inch rubber. Should you want to upgrade the tires, there are plenty of high-performance options. The stock IRCs are a good match for the power and chassis, resulting in a motorcycle that handles lightly and is easy to maneuver.
- The KLX230SM is freeway capable, but that’s not where you’ll want to spend your time. Top speed is just above 70 mph in sixth gear before the rev limiter kicks in. However, add a slight uphill grade to the mix, and the diminutive single feels the burden, even with my 115 pounds. The SM feels stable at speed, and the IRC tires handle the freeway rain grooves without complaint. Consider the SM a way to get down the freeway for one or two exits, unless you’re in an urban area with freeways with a 55 mph speed limit.
- The large 300mm disc brake up front provides more than enough confidence to ride the KLX230SM full out. While the front rotor is large and the 110mm front tire has a good contact patch, initial engagement from the lever is soft, so there’s no snatchy bite to catch you out. There’s plenty of power to slow the 230SM, and the harder you squeeze the non-adjustable lever, the quicker you will stop. It’s totally confidence-inspiring.
- Budget $300 for the optional ABS, despite the excellent front brake. A large percentage of KLX230SM buyers will be less experienced riders, so it’s always a good idea to have backup. Braking in autumn leaves had the non-ABS SM skidding—it’s less of a problem for an experienced rider than it would be for an easily rattled newcomer to the sport.
- The no-nonsense dash provides the basic data, but is obscured by the brake line. Depending on your torso length, this may or may not be an issue, but I could not read the screen without leaning forward to see over the hydraulic brake line, or using my left hand to briefly push it down. The digital LCD dash displays the KLX230SM’s speed in large font, along with the fuel gauge, clock, and trip meter.
- From the moment I had the KLX230SM rolling out of the driveway and heading down the street, I had a smile on my face. The peppy engine delivers an easy ride that is as rewarding putting through the neighborhood as it is bustling down the boulevard. For new riders, it’s an almost-perfect unintimidating introduction to the world of motorcycling.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai XD4
- Communications: Sena 20S Evo
- Jacket: Alpinestars Eloise Women’s Air Jacket
- Back protection: Alpinestars Nucleon KR-1i
- Chest protection: Alpinestars Nucleon KR-CiW
- Gloves: Alpinestars Stella Baika Gloves
- Jeans: Alpinestars Daisy v2
- Shoes: Alpinestars J-6 Waterproof
2023 Kawasaki KLX230SM 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
- Final drive: Chain
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable inverted 37mm fork; 8.0 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted spring-preload adjustable shock; 6.6 inches
- Tires: IRC RX-01 Road Winner
- Front tire: 110/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 120/70 x 17
- Front brake: 300mm semi-floating petal disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm petal disc w/ single-piston caliper
- ABS: Optional ($300)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 54.1 inches
- Rake: 26.5 degrees
- Trail: 3.4 inches
Seat height: 33.3 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.1 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 2.0 gallons
- Curb weight: 296 pounds (ABS: 298 pounds)
- Color: Lime Green; Oriental Blue (non-ABS only)
2023 Kawasaki KLX230SM Price: $5299 MSRP