2009 Kawasaki KLX250SF

Small Bike, Big Fun

As the low man on the totem pole, I'm often given the ponies in the Motorcyclist stable to trot around on: Suzuki DR-Z400SM, Kawasaki Ninja 250R and now the KLX250SF. What the higher-ups don't understand is I love these little thrash-monsters. They're light, agile and endlessly amusing to flog. Sure, I enjoy wheel-lofting horsepower and race-winning performance on the track, but on the street it's far more entertaining to wail on an underpowered bike than it is to restrain a powerful one.

The KLX250SF is a supermoto version of the company's recently updated KLX250S dual-sport. Radial 17-inch street tires, a bigger front brake and a lowered stance ready the SF for backroad fun, but with 9 inches of travel front and 8 inches rear, it's not limited to smooth terrain. Bring on the curbs, scabby pavement and fireroads!

Both the inverted 43mm fork and shock are 16-way adjustable for compression and rebound damping, with a collar on the shock for setting preload. With stiffer springs and street damping, the SF's suspension yields a surefooted ride that keeps the chassis level when you pull on the front brake and lets you corner like a slot car. At 300mm the supermoto's front petal rotor is 50mm larger than the dual-sport's, and offers ample power to slow the 302-pound machine.

The long, flat seat is easy to move around on and contributes to a relaxed, upright riding position that's great for taking on traffic. An electric starter, ignition switch-operated steering lock and a claimed 70 mpg make it a smart choice for commuters looking to liven up their ride to work.

At the heart of the KLX is a 249cc four-valve single that produces enough pep to dispatch the herd at stoplights and squirt through city traffic. Shifting is a bit stiff between first and second gear, and neutral can be deceptive when rolling to a stop, but the ratios are well-spaced, with a low enough first to pop wheelies and a tall enough sixth to cruise a mile a minute.

The SF's modest displacement doesn't relegate it to the slow lane on the freeway. It's perfectly happy to move along at 70 mph, and the gear-driven counterbalancer does a commendable job of stifling vibrations. With 10,500 revs available on the cool, blue-backlit, bar-graph tach, the little 250 can sprint up to 90 mph, but high-speed travel is not its forte. While good for executing U-turns and blasting tight corners, the KLX's short wheelbase and bicycle-like 2.9 inches of trail cause frightening instability at anything above 80 mph, and the narrow width of the front tire makes it susceptible to catching in rain grooves, causing the front end to wander like a divining stick. Better to take surface streets.

At $5299 the KLX250SF isn't cheap, but that's not a bad price for a bike that's more fun that a ZX-10R-on the street anyway.

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