Riding the Green Machine
By John Basher
Everyone has been waiting with baited breath at the arrival of the new arsenal of 250 four-strokes, whether it is from Honda or Kawazuki. Wait, what’s that again? Kawazuki? Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the deepest and darkest caverns of earth (in which case you’re pretty far out of the loop), Kawasaki and Suzuki formed an alliance two years ago. By now you should be familiar with the terms of agreement between the two motorcycle manufacturers, and it should be no surprise that Kawasaki and Suzuki both wanted to create a 250 four-stroke. In reality, Kawasaki had the most say in the development of the four-stroke, because after Suzuki drew up the blueprints for the engine, everything else Kawasaki took control of. R&D and testing were all done by Kawasaki, and now that the bike is in production Kawasaki even makes the bike (for Suzuki as well) in their factory. Being that the green team created nearly the entire bike, I was interested to see how Kawasaki was planning to one-up the class leading Yamaha YZ250F.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
We’ve all heard the details on the KX250F, but what does this mean to me? Absolutely nothing. Sure, I’ve seen it in the studio, but I wasn’t allowed to bring the mean green machine to life. I could only drool and stare at the thing of beauty for so long before my salivary glands ceased to emit fluid. The bike looked cool, but what did it matter if I couldn’t ride it? Then before I knew it, I was once again eyeing down the KX250F like a filet mignon that had just been grabbed off the grill. Needless to say, I was hungry to ride it.
It shouldn’t be hot anywhere at 8 a.m., unless of course you’re in the desert. The designated track that Kawasaki selected was none other than Cahuilla Creek. To give you an idea of how to find the track, just head 30 minutes outside of Temecula and into the hottest and driest place you can find. Stop, put on the parking brake, and you’re there. Fortunately, the Kawasaki guys had two tents, an air-conditioned rig, and an endless supply of water for the intro. The track, which I was able to ride for the first time ever, was prepped to near perfection despite the dry conditions. It was time to throw on my vented gear and complete my mission to ride the KX250F.
SNAP, CRACKLE, POP
Immediately when I threw a leg over the bike, I was pleasantly surprised at how sleek it was for a four-stroke. It started on the third kick, and with a slight change in lever positioning I was off to thump. Since I usually ride two-strokes, it took a few laps to both learn the characteristics of the machine and also learn the track. Cahuilla seemed to have it all; jumps, bumps, berms, and flat turns. How’d the Kawasaki deal with the conditions? I was truly impressed with how the bike felt in the air. It didn’t feel quite as nimble as a two-stroke, yet it didn’t feel like I was jumping an elephant either. Call it a happy medium, because under my helmet I was sporting a huge grin.
Around the pillow soft berms, the torque alone would blow up the berms with a flick of the wrist (not that you’re supposed to do that on a four-stroke). Concerning flat turns, I could point the front wheel to the inside of a turn and just roll on the power smoothly, carving the bike around the most difficult of turns.
I’m sure the question you’re asking now is, ‘How does the KX250F compare to the YZ250F?’ Simply put, I found the KX250F to be more fun to ride than the Yamaha. I didn’t ride the YZF head to head with the KXF, so my basis for comparison extends back to what sticks out in my head about the Yamaha. Both corner very well, although the airtime winner hands down is the Kawasaki. Weighing only 216 pounds (w/o fuel), jumping the bike was a blast. A big concern I had entering the initial ride was that the bike would feel like it was sitting low. I had that problem when riding the 2004 KX125, but thankfully the KX250F sat high enough for me to fit well on the bike.
ÿTo truly let you know how I felt riding the bike, it was like a play bike that allowed me to go as fast as I wanted. What happened if I missed a berm? No worries, because the Kawasaki could get me out of every problem I was in. Did it feel like a cheater bike? Yes and no. To me, the YZ250F and the KX250F feel like cheater bikes on certain tracks, but on others they are hampered by their traits. Considered heavy and not necessarily great on loamy tracks, the KXF seems to have erased one stereotype right out of the book of four-strokes by its lightweight.
Would I pick the Kawasaki over the Yamaha? Right out of the box I’d say yes, although the YZF has a stronger motor with oodles of horsepower. The KXF needs to be ridden more like a two-stroke in the sense that it can’t handle the load of moving mountainous berms with a twist of the throttle. With me riding two-strokes almost exclusively, I like that the KXF almost feels like a two-stroke, yet has more grunt and options to get around a corner than a 125. Will I try hoarding the KX250F for my own moto benefit when the gate drops? Nah, I’m a sucker for the two-strokes, although I’d split my time 50/50 between a two and four-stroke. Look for a full report in the mag very soon.