Test by Dirt Action test pilot – Mat McEntee
Every time you rock up to the Sydney MX Dome you get a reminder of how insane this place is. The structure is massive and as I drove down the driveway, it was cool to see all the Kawasaki vehicles parked up. Being a bit of a nervous bloke, I was intimidated to walk in until good friend and film god Adam Spence pulled up. We walked in together and saw the Dome kitted out with Kawasaki KX250s and Kawasaki signs and banners. I got straight into it and walked over to the all-new KX250 checking every detail, and I was happy to see the KX has joined the electric start party for 2021.
THE NEW STUFF
After a quick introduction to all the new components for 2021 and an overview on our schedule for the day, we went out to the viewing platform to watch Lance Russell burn some laps and see the track and bike in action before we got to gear up ourselves.
There are a lot of new features on the 2021 KX250, making this basically a brand-new bike from the ground up. It’s got a new frame based off the current 450 frame, with slightly different engine mounts to accommodate the smaller engine and the KX450 swingarm to help drive, as well as an all-new hydraulic clutch and coned-disc spring system. A new engine that has an increase of power now revs up to 14,500rpm, which on a 250 is ideal as these things love getting revved to the moon and back. The 250 now has electric start, which is a must on all bikes these days. Personally, my favourite improvement is the fat bars, which eliminates the need to buy bar mounts when upgrading your handlebars. And finishing off the bike are the same plastics as the 450, completing an unreal look.
We were greeted by a total of six KX250s and each were given one to ride for the day. Being a very picky guy with my bar setup, I asked the techs from Kawi to roll my bars back a bit and they were more than happy to make the changes with a quick adjustment.
As soon as I hit the track I felt comfortable and after just a few laps letting it bed in a bit more I started to open it up. With the Dome being a small track with a few big jumps, I was impressed to be able to do the whole track in second gear without it revving out. This was impressive as a 250 normally wouldn’t handle this, but I was also disappointed as I realised I wouldn’t be able to see how fast this new engine really was.
I spun a few more laps and pulled in to ask the techs if they could lower the foot peg mounts as I found the transition from seated to standing to be a bit of an effort. That’s the cool thing about these bikes — they can accommodate to taller riders like myself without having to buy any aftermarket parts. You have the option of two footpeg positions — the standard or the lower, which moves them down five millimetres — and you also have the option of moving the handlebar mounts across four positions, giving you a range of about 25mm. As soon as the footpegs were back on I headed straight out on the track and instantly felt better. It could be that I do have longer legs, but it felt like the pegs should come out in this position as standard. I could weight the outside peg in turns more easily when standing, I felt like my centre of gravity was lower and it made the bike track and handle way better.
The more I rode, the more I learned that it’s a very predictable bike. I knew what it was going to do and when it was going to do it, which is a hard feeling to find these days. It turns off anything and gives you confidence to attack flat turns and ruts. I did notice it took me a while to get confidence scrubbing and whipping, but being such a slim, light bike, once I got comfortable it was a walk in the park. Another thing I noticed and spoke to a few people about was it felt a bit choked up. This is understandable as with our noise restrictions, the bikes often come with all sorts of stuff confining the airbox and big exhausts to keep the noise down, which is an easy fix.
The next thing I thought I would test was the ignition plugs. The Kawasaki comes with three different plugs ranging from standard to aggressive, and a soft map. Normally I’d look at the soft plug and bury it in the bottom of my tool box as who wants a mellow-feeling 250? I wouldn’t say I was unimpressed, but with the track being that tight it was a bit too tame for me. I could grab a handful of throttle and it wouldn’t break traction, but it didn’t have the bite I wanted. After chucking the aggressive plug in I was pumped that it opened the bike up in the bottom end and gave it the punch I needed to get that bit more power out of corners. In the areas it was bogging earlier, it was now crisp without sacrificing any power up top.
MORE LAPS, PLEASE
I found the refined suspension worked a treat. I like to go long on some jumps while testing to see if it can handle it and it felt like I landed smoothly. There is also a triple at the MX Dome that I’d normally only jump on a 450, but I tried a handful of times and came up very short on a couple. I was thinking it was going to blow my ankles out like stock suspension normally does, but it was fine and I hardly felt a thing. The downside of the testing location was that there were no braking bumps or high-speed sections, so I didn’t get to test the suspension to its full potential.
All in all, Kawasaki has definitely done its homework for 2021 and it’s paid off. This is a damn-impressive 250F that shows all the signs that it’ll find its way to the front of the pack.
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