2009 Kawasaki KX250F Review
Team Green's redesigned motocrosser packs plenty of punch
When climbing aboard the brand new 2009 KX250F for the first time, I must admit to a bit of that eerily familiar ‘big guy on a little bike’ feeling. Being 6-foot 2 and 215-pounds pounds, hopping on a small displacement bike often leads to the suspension sagging nearly to the ground. Fortunately, Kawasaki was on hand as journalists tested the thoroughly new bike at an equally new test track in California and Team Green had brought the suspension experts from Showa with them to tune things for each rider. After a few quick turns of the wrench, the KX250F lost that lowrider feeling.
After kicking the beast to life it was time to set off for the track. From that point on, the new KX proved extremely impressive, as it had plenty of power to clear the doubles of the track - even with this mildly-tubby rider on board. More about that later; first, what makes the '09 KX250F new?
Seriously, nearly every single piece of the '09 KX250F has been redesigned. Starting with the (take a deep breath) 249cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-valve, DOHC 'thumper' engine, a new cylinder head keeps the titanium valves from last year but enlarges them and casts them from a revised material. Along with a straighter intake tract, the new head allows the engine to take much deeper breaths from its single lung. That lone piston spins a new crank which is completely new and has more weight down low - a feature that is immediately felt and provides very smooth operation with little vibration, even at high revs. Also noticeable is the extremely smooth shifting action, which can be chalked up to the stronger gears and new cast-in clutch cable holder.
That powerplant is hung in a new aluminum perimeter frame. Although its design certainly draws inspiration from its bigger brother, the KX450F, it is completely new and shares no parts with any other machine. Kawi's engineers managed to remove 2.2 pounds of material from the new main spars while keeping everything nice and rigid with new engine mounts and newly-shaped geometry.
The totally new front downtube is easily identifiable due to the reduction in material around the head-tube and fewer welds as compared to last year's model. Continuing to the rear of the bike, the subframe features thicker diameter tubes that are set wider apart for more rigidity -- something our well-padded posteriors appreciated.
At the front, off-set triple clamps hold dark navy blue titanium-coated forks. Kawasaki is very proud of its friction-reducing titanium and Kashima coatings, something which no other manufacturer can claim in the 250 four-stroke class. Despite the long travel, absolutely zero stiction could be felt in their operation, so perhaps Kawasaki is on to something here. Combined with the new rear shock and the D-shaped swingarm which sees its pivot placement raised by some 3 millimeters, the Kawasaki's suspenders kept us well cushioned and never bottomed out (after being properly set-up of course).
Rounding out the changes is an enlarged skid plate made from flexible resin as opposed to the previous rigid aluminum. Kawasaki assures us that the new plastic piece is plenty strong. Although you'd never notice it otherwise, we got a good look at the bikes undercarriage while watching fellow journalists lap the track – everything looks fine from that vantage point. The bodywork has the Kawasaki 'speed-holes' at the front and is made from about half as many pieces as before thanks to new molding techniques which allow for multiple colors in one plastic unit. As you would expect, green is front and center on the new bike while black makes up the rest. All in all, it's a mean looker, all the more so when equipped with the new Monster Energy graphics for an extra couple hundred bucks.
Considering that this was our first time swinging a leg over the new bike, we think that Kawasaki did an excellent job of refining its past race-winner. Before setting off, we noted how slim the bike felt between our knees and thighs. After a minute of fidgeting, it’s easy to get comfortable in the saddle. Everything fell easily to hand and the grips were right where we expected them. Ample ground clearance was afforded by the pegs, which felt just a wee-bit high for our liking before hitting the track. Of course, after the first whoop section, we changed our tune and appreciated everything as it was. Those of us large of foot may want to especially thank Kawasaki's engineers for the wider foot pegs this year.
Kick-starting never proved problematic as long as the bike was kept in neutral. When left in gear, we kicked ourselves silly with no results. Kawasaki recommends leaving the bike in neutral for starting. The shifting mechanism is now a ratcheting design and finding the next gear was never a problem, and neither was locating neutral after coming to a stop. Despite the heat of the mid-day California desert sun and machine's constantly being abused, the bike showed no signs of overheating, which could possibly be due to Kawasaki's newly-designed radiators which are now six-percent larger and feature more cooling blades.
From the first tentative lap around the Rynoland track in Anza, Calif., we felt at ease with the smooth power delivery. Some added compression damping was needed after the first lap, but that was largely due to the 215-pound rider, which is considerably heavier than the typical motocross racer.
After getting things adjusted, the KX felt like an excellent handling machine. While wallowing just a bit in the sandier sections of the course thanks to the tight steering geometry, the hard-packed dirt allowed us to rail through the corners without fear of putting it down. Wheelies were a quick blip away in first gear while a mild clutch drop was needed to bring the front up at speed. Once there, everything felt well balanced and easy to maneuver. On a motocross bike, the brakes should be easy to modulate without fear of locking them up unless desired - no problems there. Sliding the tail around tight turns proved ridiculously simple, which is definitely a boon for those who ride on smaller tracks.
The grounds-crew on-site kept everything nice and smooth on the track, so we ventured out to find some less ideal conditions. We found plenty of places to ride the new bike and it always proved steady and relatively stable for a race machine. Despite our best efforts, the green-machine never placed a tire wrong. The power delivery will never catch you off guard thanks to the four-stroker’s smooth power-band. We felt no undue spikes, just smooth power from low revs straight up to its power peak. That's not a bad thing in the least, especially when the conditions get loose. We found some very sandy off-road single-track nearby to tackle where we greatly appreciated the thinner center-section and light weight, all of which conspired to keep us on the bike and off the ground. What's more, the clutch proved very smooth and never grabbed throughout our entire torture-test.
After all was said and done, we walked away quite impressed by the Kawi. There were literally no glaring faults to speak of, though the same could likely be said of all four Japanese 250s. For our money, though, nothing else quite matches the coolness of the new '09 Monster Energy Edition. The blacked-out bodywork combines with the green hubs to make for a very distinctive bike right off the showroom floor. The base price for the new KX250F is $6,499 with the Monster model running a bit more at $6,699.