Kawasaki KLX 250S - First Ride

The biggest obstacle for any dirtbike can be the family loan officer, but Kawasaki's KLX250S makes it easy. Fun comes later. Start with the practical, tangible spreadsheet benefits. You, selfless, sensible, high-minded spouse, are just looking out for everyone else. It's only $4799-emphasis on only. Second, it's street-legal-huge talking point here. No fuel-swilling, globe-warming, iceberg-melting pickup hauling it around every weekend. You can ride it to work, to the store or even to fetch Xavier from his oboe lesson.

The 249cc four-stroke single has enough steam to cruise at 70 mph and can squeeze upward of 70 miles from a single gallon of unleaded. Young X is a few bucks closer to Julliard every time you thumb the electric starter. Al Gore would want you to have one. It's even green.

The healing powers of fresh air, wide-open spaces and family recreation can justify regular forays to local fire roads, trails and state off-highway vehicle areas, as well as recurring mounds of foul-smelling gear on the washing machine. Now that we've found a way around the worst domestic washouts, what's the little green thumper like to live with? Pretty easy, really, but there are some things you should know.

Assuming you could start it, James "Bubba" Stewart's #7 KX450F would make you wet your pants halfway through second gear. The KLX250S, however, is your friend. The lean-jetted 34mm semi-flat-slide Keihin CV carb supplying Kawasaki's stout, liquid-cooled single needs some coaxing from Mr. Choke on cold mornings. Otherwise, it fires up with all the drama and only slightly more noise than a DVD player. It's no stump- puller in stock trim, but there's more than enough muscle in the upper half of the rev range to yank a healthy sapling (metaphor-ically speaking, of course), accelerate through city traffic, climb hills, ford streams, the whole shtick.

The seat is a stretch from the street for short legs. And at a claimed 262 pounds dry, the S is 28 lbs. heavier than Kawasaki's dirt-only KLX300R, though it's a lightweight by dual-sport standards. Imagine an overgrown mountain bike you don't have to pedal and you've pretty much got the picture. The fork and shock feel squishy if you're stepping off a streetbike, and the brakes need a bit more effort. And though the little single isn't quite tapped out at freeway speeds, it's close. That slim seat starts turning into a pain after more than 30 minutes anyway. If the fuel tank looks tiny, it is, but 1.9 gallons is enough to cover 125 miles.

No need to muck up initial negotiations with the live-in loan officer talking about the Uni-Trak rear suspension, 43mm cartridge fork, 11 inches of wheel travel and disc brakes at both ends; suffice it to say the KLX carries more than its share of serious off-road tack. You're looking at a small-bore, street-legal KLX300R here: same steering geometry, same wheelbase and an inch less ground clearance, lower seat and softer suspension. As delivered, it's no ISDE contender. But if you're trying to slide a dirtbike into the budget, this little line item fits between the dog food and the dentist's co-pay a whole lot easier than most.

Tech SpecEvolution
Essentially a small-bore version of the long-running KLX300R with lights and less ambitious dirty bits, the KLX250S debuted in Japan before immigrating to America in '06.

Aside from Husqvarna's pricier TE250, the KLX has no serious competition. The Suzuki DR200SE and Yamaha XT225 are softer, slower and less expensive.

Price: $4799
Engine type: l-c single
Valve train: DOHC, 4v
Displacement: 249cc
Bore x stroke: 72.0 x 61.2mm
Compression: 11.0:1
Fuel system: 34mm Keihin
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Horsepower: 24.5 bhp at 8500 rpm
Torque: 15.5 lb.-ft at 7000 rpm
Frame: Steel, perimeter-type
Front suspension: 43mm fork, adjustable for compression damping
Rear suspension: Single shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Two-piston caliper, 250mm disc
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire: 80/100-21 Dunlop D603
Rear tire: 100/100-18 Dunlop D603
Rake/trail: 26.5 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat height: 34.8 in.
Wheelbase: 56.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 1.9 gal.
Dry weight: 262 lbs.
Colors: Lime green
Available: Now
Warranty: 12 months
Contact: Kawasaki Motors Corp. USA
9950 Jeronimo Rd.
Irvine, CA 92618

A great way to get your feet wet, muddy and dusty with a brand-new dirtbike that can deal with pavement, too.