Kawasaki KLX140L Fills The Gap - First Ride

Not-So-Mean Green

By Chris Denison, Photography by Karel Kramer

Not-So-Mean Green
Kawasaki fills a gap in its off-road lineup with a surprisingly capable playbikeUntil now, the diminutive KLX110 has been Kawasaki's lone small-bore off-road four-stroke, which left a considerable gap between it and the full-sized KLX300. But with the new KLX140L, that gap's been filled smartly.

The KLX's smaller physical size relative to, say, Honda's CRF150F, was intended to make it more accessible to a wider range of riders. "The focus was to have a low seat height and short wheelbase that would cater to younger riders," says Kawasaki's Karl Edmondson. "So we focused on the 125cc segment-a larger group than the 150cc class. We know the bike was built primarily for smaller kids, but larger kids and smaller adults will also want to ride it." And so the KLX140L is the ramp that encourages a whole range of riders to clear that gap.

The new Kawi is available in two flavors: the KLX140L shown here with 19/16-inch wheels, plus the base KLX140, which rolls on 17/14-inch hoops. The only other difference is the L-model's upgraded shock, featuring an aluminum body and piggyback reservoir plus adjustments for spring preload, four-way compression and 22-way rebound damping.

Developed by Kawasaki's KX motocross engineers, the 140 is a step up from other bikes in its class. It employs an air-cooled SOHC single and conventional fork, but trick details abound, including disc brakes front and rear, KX-type chain adjusters, frame-mounted footpegs, an aluminum swingarm, a five-speed transmission and electric starting.

How's it work? Impressively. The 144cc engine has a smooth, electric pull that ends in surprisingly usable top end. There isn't a ton of arm-yanking hit, but the engine balances that with enough midrange to lug around on trails. The five-speed transmission is geared tall; you end up using second and third most of the time. The bike has commendable top speed, but it's not exactly fast. It's ideal for beginners.

The KLX is similarly competent chassis-wise, especially out back, where the adjustable shock keeps the bike settled even over seriously rough terrain. Though the 33mm fork can't quite match the shock during aggressive riding, feeling mushy when slamming berms or landing flat off of jumps, it works fine at the pace most beginning riders will generate. Stopping power is excellent. Ergonomically, the KLX is superb-the seat/tank junction, bar and pegs all promote comfortable, natural riding position. The tank shrouds (you can't call them radiator shrouds with an air-cooled engine) emulate a KX450F, though the bottom halves look a bit toy store-ish.

Best of all, the little Kawi doesn't cost an arm and a leg. For about the same money as a KX85, you get roughly 60cc more displacement, push-button starting, a trail-legal spark arrestor and an engine that runs on gas siphoned from your car. It's no racer, just a friendly, surprisingly capable playbike that's perfect for youngsters between minis and full-sized machines. If your kid fits the bill, we recommend the KLX140 enthusiastically.

By Chris Denison
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