2004 Kawasaki KX250F
Up, up, and away!
In the air, the bike remains neutral easy to flick around, as if you knew what you were doing. I had a blast jumping everything I could find. I'm normally a bit of a chicken when it comes to jumps, but the 250F made me feel like Superman (ok, Superman with a beer belly then.)
The most rewarding part of my time on the Kawasaki was when I would land it on the down-ramp and immediately jump all over the brakes and carve the inside line on the next corner. I'm not normally good enough to do that, unless there is a longish straight after the jump. The 250F let me land and turn like a pro. Though the KX-250F is much easier to start than the original Yamaha YZ and WR 4-strokes, great strides have been made recently in the arena of 4-stroke starting and Ifear that the 250F is lagging a bit behind the game in this aspect.
Most of the time, it starts easily on the first or second kick, but every now and then it'd taunt Fonzie and I with an old fashioned session of "go ahead and kick till you drop, I just ain't gonna start" This is the single fault that I can find with the new KX 4-stroke and I'm willing to bet that it is more of a rider-induced problem, that will fade with familiarity.
Now that MO has re-let the dirt cat out of the bag, I can't wait to get my hands on a YZ-250F and CR-250F (Suzuki's RM-Z250 is the exact same bike as this KX, aside from decals and plastic.) to see how they stack-up against the new Kawasaki and Suzuki contenders. It's a dirty job...
There's not much of a technical comparison I can give you about this bike, since it was my first time on both a dirt bike and an MX track, but I CAN tell you that it sure is a blast! Here's my take on the whole experience: I've played my share of Playstation... who hasn't? I think I can be cool and smooth at any sport I put this body to, after the infusion of delusion that video game machines can deliver. Oh boy how I was certain that after many years of motorcycle riding mixed with a few years of adolescent BMX racing, I'd be able to jump right into the mix, clearing jumps with ease and maybe even style. Lemme tell you about how I narrowly escaped with just such a dream intact. Thanks to my gig working at MO and knowing Sean Alexander, I was able not only to attend and shoot a demo ride of the new Kawasaki KX-250F, but also able to take my own rides and
actually learn, while getting dirty in the process.
"It was a blast and the bike was always there for me when I needed it."
Sean had arranged with Kawasaki to have a pair of bikes delivered for us at Lake Elsinore Motocross Park's Vet track, in sunny southern California. After a little confusion as to how to actually get into the track from the freeway, we were on our way to fun, at a steeper than anticipated learning curve.
Like I say, I already know how to ride, how to "take a corner", how to shift and so on, but I really wasn't ready for learning both a new bike type and a new type of course. I was so wrong in thinking there would be no traffic, just because it was a weekday. Being the day before a holiday, it quickly became apparent that I would be learning the finesse portion of MX riding some other day. This day I was simply going to be learning how not to get run over by another rider hotter for that corner than my old-assed self.
Sure I knew about apexes; start wide, and dive to the inside line to cut off the others behind me.... I tried them all. All while watching over my shoulder. I can handle falling down -- I'm not afraid of the dirt - as with snow, I almost welcome it. But I became more worried about getting in the way of someone that's there to actually practice, or falling on a bike that doesn't belong to me. So, like I said, I was all over the board. Each turn, or approach to a same turn, I tried all the approaches. Fast, slow, wide and fast or narrow and tight.
It was a blast and the bike was always there for me when I needed it. I circulated most of the course in first or second gear, ready to drive out hard from any turn and spray roost to boost my ego, thrashing dirt around like I knew what I was doing. Surely, I had no one else at the track fooled, but it was fun to think I did. Soon, I was riding the 250F towards and over jumps without hesitation.
Never with great form - not even close to good looking form - but towards, up and over nonetheless. I was happy when I didn't crash on the landings, but most of the credit goes to the near 12" of travel in both the Kayaba fork and the revamped UNI-TRAK rear suspension. After having landed more than trice on the front wheel, sloppy and near to jumping-off the bike from the fear, I thought Hold Steady! --check! Hands in place - check! Feet almost on the pegs - check!
Head kinda looking forward, come-on stay with it boy! I did it, I landed it, yeah! This is cool! Oh shit, another jump! I learned a lot today. Not only does it take a lot of balls - or guts in a lady racer's case - but strength and good hydration are a definite must for a day at the track.
I think I maxed out at 6 laps, before needing to stop for a few minutes and catch my breath, while watching the others for pointers along the course. Entry points, exit strategies, landings, they all need some thought, as well as patience, strength, courage and protective gear!
A few sessions later, after many photographs, I could feel that my arms were not responding as quick as my mind was to obstacles in my way. On the back stretch, where there's a set of four wide and smooth tabletops, with nice, safe solid top decks to back me up "just in case" I come up short. And such "cases" happened all day long. So many positive escapes. It's all part of the game. This session, after course maintenance and wetting, the last jump in the series had a landing with 12"+ of standing water in thick mud form. The landing run-off immediately became an inside line of a left turn, that is where I learned my final lesson of the day, falling. One, two, three - little short - and then four.... what? Oh, huh? You what? As quickly as the thought passes, I'm down and extracting myself from the clay mud I found the bike lying horizontal in. I hustle to get off the track and another rider stops to offer help, only because he had just run completely over my shoulder and arm. He was a little concerned, but I hadn't even noticed. I was more surprised that someone stopped to help me get up - but we're all learning today right?
"If the KX-250F is tipped over or stalled, the rider pulls a small lever that is unitized with the clutch lever, drawing extra air into the carburetor to give it a leaner, faster-burning fuel mixture, making starting easier."
I landed in the slop on the last of the four tabletops and immediately went down trying to brake and lean into the turn - inexperience on may part for sure. The guy in the air just over my right shoulder while I was still in the air didn't see it coming. I found the whole thing awesome! He was a little spooked at having ridden over another rider - so he says - but I didn't care. I thought it was an incredible rush and once I caught my breath again, I was back on the bike and riding.
The KX-250F survived my beginner tip-overs in great stride, and funny enough, even though it balked at hot starting a few times in the pits, it always started with ease right after I'd crash it. Kawasaki uses a system called KACR (Kawasaki Automatic Compression Release) and a hot-start circuit. KACR slightly opens one exhaust valve while the engine is being kick started to ease compression. also equipped with hot-start circuit. If the KX-250F is tipped over or stalled, the rider pulls a small lever that is unitized with the clutch lever, drawing extra air into the carburetor to give it a leaner, faster-burning fuel mixture, making starting easier. The only negative thing I experienced in the entire day, was the bike's stock handlebars - I hear that they're often the first thing to get replaced - they seem to bend too easily when landed on. This isn't unheard of, but - falling down and then keeping going, is something dirt bikes are meant to do. I did ride a few more laps before calling it quits, and I only called it quits, because my body was screaming for me to stop, not because the bike was! Thanks Kawi for a great first ride.
|** SPECS PROVIDED BY KAWASAKI **|