The universal truth about children is that you feed them, and they grow. So, after an extended time with the Honda CRF125F, my daughter started to look like a giant on the bike and needed to move up. A year prior, she’d tried the Kawasaki KLX140R L and found it intimidating because she couldn’t easily touch the ground when astride it. Well, adolescence took care of that issue, and along with growing, she expanded her riding skills, making her first reaction to throwing a leg over the KLX one of “Wow, it fits!” before heading off to ride in our favorite desert OHV area.
Kawasaki produces three varieties of this model: the KLX140R, the KLX140R L, and the KLX140R F (which Burns rode a few years back in G form and said was a blast for adults, thanks to the 21/18-in wheels). Although there are some other differences, like adjustable suspension on the F, the primary difference between the models is the seat height (and the wheel/suspension changes to make that possible). Let’s dive into what makes the KLX such a good bike for novices.
Seriously though, the SOHC 58.0 x 54.4mm Single provides enough power to keep things interesting without overwhelming newbies, while the air-cooling helps reduce the weight and size of the engine. Feeding that cylinder is a 20mm Keihin carburetor. Kawasaki is working hard to keep the costs down with the 140R, and the carburetor is one of the few choices that I would see as a shortcoming, simply because the example tested here was cold blooded, requiring extended use of the choke (which had to be held up to keep it on). The Honda CRF125F mentioned above is fuel injected.
Once the engine is warm, however, the little Single is ready to play at pretty much any terrain you throw at it. The low first gear and easy-to-modulate clutch make getting under way and shifting extremely easy. Once going, the engine supplies reliable power, which can be spun up if you like, but it clearly prefers that riders use the five-speed gearbox to ride the diminutive torque curve.
All-in-all, this mill, which probably puts out about 11-12 hp, should be practically bulletproof over its lifespan, requiring only basic oil/air filter changes and the occasional screw-type valve adjustment. This is the type of bike that should be relatively easy to sell after the rider grows out of it – both physically and skillswise.
The lightness of the powertrain combines with the 27° rake and 3.8 in. trail to make the KLX easy to maneuver. The claimed 209 lb. wet weight (well, 90%-full 2.0 gallon tank) means that the bike feels light between the legs and isn’t too difficult to lift off of a new rider who happens to be lying under it (which happens with remarkable frequency in my family). The trio of KLX140R models feature seat heights of 30.7 in., 31.5 in., and 33.9 in., with the L model slotting right in the middle. The L’s seat height was just about perfect for my 5’ 4” fourteen-year old to flat foot at a stop. The narrow seat clearly helps with this. Both contribute to confidence when pulling away from a stop.
When riding, the peg-to-bar relationship is just about ideal for her size, giving her the room she needs to move around on the bike without feeling stretched out on a bike that is too big. When it comes to how the bike handles, the operative word is forgiving. I’ve watched her recover from pushing the front in deep sand to cruising down two track sections of road without issue.
My daughter is a methodical rider, preferring to build skills, and speed, gradually. So, the stock suspension, with its 7.5 in. and 7.9 in. of front and rear travel, is perfectly set up for her skill set. If she were more of a “send it” type of kid who liked to bomb up and down the same hills repeatedly, I could see needing some of the 22 clicks of shock rebound damping. However, our riding tends to be at a more measured pace as we explore dirt roads and washes. So, rather than going fast and treating the OHV park like ski slopes, our rides tend to be more about adapting to the ever changing conditions we encounter.
Ultimately, as she grows I could see the basic suspension getting taxed as her height, weight, and speeds increase. So, the KLX140R would be a transitional vehicle until she advances to a full-sized dirt bike if she chooses.
Face it, as parents, we’re all too familiar with how quickly kids outgrow everything from clothes to toys to friends to activities. So, expecting the KLX140R L to be more than a step along the journey into becoming a dirt or dual sport rider would be unrealistic. That’s why Kawasaki kept the price of the KLX140R L down to $3,749. You buy it knowing that it will play a role in developing the next generation of riders before it gets passed on to another kid. By creating a mild-mannered, solidly-reliable, and no frills dirt bike built to a reasonable price point, Kawasaki has provided riders with a great stepping stone into becoming a motorcycle enthusiast. In fact, on our last ride, I can already see the writing on the wall. I swear that she’s taller than she was two weeks ago. A full-sized bike might not be too far away.
|2022 Kawasaki KLX140R L Specifications|
|Engine Type||144cc 4-stroke single, SOHC, air-cooled, two valves|
|Bore and Stroke||58.0 x 54.4mm|
|Fueling||20mm Keihin carburetor|
|Front Suspension||33mm telescopic fork/7.1 inches of travel|
|Rear Suspension||Uni-Trak linkage system and single shock with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload and 22-way rebound damping/7.1 inches of travel|
|Front Brake||Single 220mm petal disc with a dual-piston caliper|
|Rear Brake||Single 186mm petal disc with single-piston caliper|
|Rake/Trail||27 deg/3.8 in.|
|Seat Height||31.5 in.|
|Curb Weight (Claimed)||209.4 lbs.(ready to ride, 90% full tank)|
|Fuel Capacity||2.0 gal.|
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