2011 Kawasaki KX250F | First Ride

Factory fresh

It's pretty common for manufacturers to present new models amid a flurry of acronyms, and the 2011 Kawasaki KX250F is no exception. DFI and SFF are two new technologies that top the list of over 30 new features for the latest quarter-liter motocrosser. DFI stands for Digital Fuel Injection, the battery-less system intended to take the KX to the next level in terms of throttle response and reliability. The other standout acronym represents the Kawasaki-exclusive Separate Function Fork, with the spring support in the right fork leg and the damping circuitry in the left. Other notable updates include a higher compression ratio, redesigned five-speed transmission and a higher-volume muffler, which would make it seem as though Kawasaki has addressed every complaint that anyone had about the '09 KX250F.

DFI isn't entirely new. The electronics package is identical to that of the KX450F, but with revised programming and maps to work with the 250's higher, 13,000-rpm ceiling. The Showa-produced SFF fork certainly is, with its separate leg functions and 60-click preload adjuster-a godsend on a breed of bikes that typically offers no fork-spring preload adjustability. Benefits include easier adjustments and maintenance, finer tuning and more precise damping.

Unlike the easy-starting 450, the 250 doesn't have the most cooperative engine we've ever kicked over. The engine has powerful off-the-gate torque and exhibits instant and flawless throttle response. There's a slight dip in midrange power, but up top the KX produces another strong punch that holds firm nearly until redline, a marked improvement over last year's bike. The extended top-end power is thanks to more aggressive cams, while a longer header and increased compression help bolster the midrange.

The front end is a touch quicker and a little lighter-handling than last year's model, but front-tire traction hasn't been jeopardized. In fast, sharp hits or slow, bucking bumps, both the front and rear remained planted and in control. One thing we noticed was how huge an effect the fork adjustments make. One click of rebound or compression damping makes a noticeable difference, equivalent to about three clicks on a regular fork.

A rundown of additional likes and dislikes brings out a thumbs-up for the new muffler, which is quieter but still sounds rough and raspy. The bike fits a wide range of pilots and combines a great bar bend with a new gripper seat for maximum control. Braking is excellent, and aside from a vague feeling in the clutch's friction point at higher temperatures, we don't have any complaints about the transmission.

All together, the 2011 KX250F is an awesome machine that incorporates a lot of racing technology into a remarkably rideable motocrosser. Our initial impression of the SFF fork tells us Kawasaki is onto something, and that, combined with the new EFI, makes for an impressive package.

Price $7299
Engine type l-c single
Valve train DOHC, 4v
Displacement 249cc
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque na
Frame Aluminum perimeter
Front suspension 47mm Showa inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Showa shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Nissin two-piston caliper, 250mm disc
Rear brake Nissin single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire 80/100-21 Bridgestone Motocross 403
Rear tire 100/90-19 Bridgestone Motocross 404
Seat height 37.2 in.
Wheelbase 58.1 in.
Fuel capacity 1.9 gal.
Claimed dry weight 221 lbs.
Contact www.kawasaki.com

Verdict 4.5 out of 5 stars
The best bike in its class just got better.

They say: "Faster and fiercer than ever."
We say: "But still just as easy and fun to ride."
The 250's 43mm throttle body flows 20 percent more fuel than that of the KX450F, and intake airflow is higher than on the carbureted 2010 250. More fuel and air means more power.