Folks looking for a low-risk way to kick up some dust off-road while still being able to zip to the corner market for a carton of eggs should check out Kawasaki’s fuel-injected KLX250 ($5349). Light and nimble, the KLX250 offers decent bang for your buck when it comes to around town fun.
Reappearing in the Green Team’s US model line-up after a couple year hiatus, the 2018 KLX250 now squirts fuel from its two-gallon fuel tank into the same 249cc single-cylinder engine via 10-hole fuel-injection as opposed to an old fashioned carburetor. This makes for easy starts day or night, hot or cold— it’s a big upgrade considering the cold-blooded nature of the KLX250 ’S’ of old.
The cool thing about the KLX is that it doesn’t take up much garage, nor real estate on the road or trail. Light and nimble, it’s exceptionally easy to master, as long as you’ve got the legs to overcome its lofty 35-inch seat height. Shorter than average folks will likely desire a shorter seat option. Seat Concepts offers a one-inch lower setup that’s also claimed to be more cozy as well.
Weighing in at just over 304 pounds, the little 250 turns on a dime and effortlessly slips in and out of city traffic. Genuine off-road sized wheels perform well on the road and even better off, allowing the green machine to maneuver over rocks and challenging terrain with competence and almost a foot clearance between the frame and Earth. Grip from the Dunlop tires is adequate in loose silt to hard pack and even the gritty abrasiveness of pavement.
Capable suspension components complement the ride offering 10-inches of impact absorbing travel at the front and just over nine inches at the rear. Adjustment comes by way of forward compression damping, adding rebound damping and spring preload adjustment at the rear.
Even with adjustment, we wouldn’t deem the suspension heavy-duty by any means, yet for most folks it will function fine during both street rides and hard-charging blasts over dusty and beat up fire roads. Heavier riders will likely want to invest in heavier suspension springs. Larger footpegs will be another worthy add-on especially for anyone that plans on taking their KLX over more challenging terrain.
Compared to the carb-equipped ’S’ KLX, the somewhat lengthy cold engine start procedure is simplified with the bike ready to ride away immediately, even after a chilly night outside.
Engine power, especially down low off idle, is muted— which will no doubt be appreciated by novices— however more power hungry riders will desire more. A fair degree of engine vibration is apparent at all speeds, and paired with the skinny dirt bike seat “touring” capabilities are nil. It does offer a set of passenger pegs if you want to bring a friend along for a quick outing.
Final drive gearing is tall enough for the KLX to run at freeway legal speeds, however if off-road riding is your plan you’d be wise to invest in lower gearing (smaller front sprocket, or larger rear) to keep the engine singing in its happy place.
Additional power can be unlocked by removing the airbox snorkel and by installing a more free-flowing exhaust reputable aftermarket companies like Yoshimura R&D. And since fuel-injection is now present you don’t have to monkey around with needles and jets if you swap out exhaust systems.
Hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, don’t benefit from ABS, yet with their softer response they prove easy to master. We’re especially fond of the rear brake with it providing just the right amount of power, feel, and ultimately control. Unlike most big off-road bikes, lever position is absent up front but the height of the rear brake pedal can be moved up or down.
Instrumentation and styling carry over, and the all-digital display is easy to see behind the handlebar. We also appreciate the addition of the low fuel indicator light— a feature that was missing on the previous model.
During our short day ride we didn’t get to test the merits of the halogen bulb headlamp but we’d be remiss if we didn’t wish it used bold and beautiful LED lighting. Despite being nearly a decade old in its current skin, the 250 still appears modern—especially in its covert Matrix Camo colorway ($200 upcharge) that also comes with blacked-out chassis, engine and wheels— just like its KLR650 big brother.
Plenty of dirt bike riders dream about plaiting their moto and riding it legally on the road. Well with the return of the KLX250—now you can.