2015 Kawasaki KLX140L

The Proper Playbike

MSRP: $3399.00

Roost
  • Push button electric start.
  • High-revving 144cc air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke engine.
  • Taller (19F, 16R) wheels than the KLX140 (17F, 14R) contribute to a taller 31.5 inch seat height.
  • Front and rear disc brakes provide strong progressive stopping power
Endo
  • The 209 lb. full of gas weight is a little high for such a small bike.
  • Clutch pull is a little stiff and so is the throttle pull.

Credits

  • Writer: Jimmy Lewis/Alexcie Sanchez
  • Photographer: Drew Ruiz

Introduction

  • Kawasaki's mid-sized play and kid's bike fitting between the KLX110 and full-sized bikes.

Kawasaki’s KLX140L is the company’s mid-sized play-bike for first time riders through young adults. It is built around a simple and durable air-cooled four-stroke engine with a chassis and suspension setup that won’t get in the way of a good time even as the skill level increases. With push-button electric starting and a low seat height the bike is unintimidating for most and in the L configuration sized a little bigger and roomier compared to the standard KLX140.

"The KLX140L is built around a simple and durable air-cooled four-stroke engine with a chassis and suspension setup that won’t get in the way of a good time"

Changes

  • This bike has stayed the same since its 2008 introduction.

The KLX has not seen many changes since it’s introduction in 2008, mostly to the graphics. It is the kind of bike that does not need them. The duty list of the bike calls for it to be fun and durable and Kawasaki has that covered. The engine is an air-cooled two-valve Single for simplicity and good old fashion torquey power. Electric starting is a big plus yet there is no back-up kick starter. The ignition is an electronic CDI for simplicity and maintenance free use. About all a rider would have to do to keep this bike running forever is to change the oil every once in awhile and keep the air filter clean.

The chassis is a perimeter design just like the larger KX motocrossers but it is made of steel. Luckily Kawasaki has used some better than average suspension components on the KLX. The conventional fork and piggyback reservoir equipped rear shock provides 7.1-inches of wheel travel with the shock having 22-position adjustability for compression as well as spring preload.

"The duty list of the bike calls for it to be fun and durable and Kawasaki has that covered."

Power

  • Smooth and torquey power for beginners that still revs out for more fun.
  • Quiet exhaust note!

The KLX will usually fire right up but it likes to have the choke used and is pretty cold blooded. But once warm the bike has peppy throttle response for a very simple non-racing engine. The exhaust note is very toned down, which is good and we would not expect much improvement from just a muffler replacement since the intake is also very limited. The clutch pull is easy for smaller hands and beginners but the pull is a little stiff for such a small bike. The five-speed transmission is activated through a shift linkage mechanism to get the traditional one down, five up shifting pattern indicating that Kawasaki sourced this engine from another application. This linkage was never an issue and shifting was good for all of our testers.

The power is very linear and smooth with a really chunky chug on the bottom for such a small bike. It resists stalling with what feels like a heavy flywheel. The power didn't fall off as quick compared to other bikes in its class, so it was able to carry more speed going up the silty loose  terrain and technical trails, even at altitude.  This is the strong point of the engine for sure, the fact that it has low end torque but still revs up top. This power spread is not only useful but more fun when compared to some of the other playbikes that fall flat and do not pull when revved. There was enough power to start climbing steep hills in a lower gear, and then be able to up shift into a taller gear in order to build more speed. The clutch was extremely useful when you need a quick burst of acceleration to ride over obstacles. Stalling was never an issue, and the electric start is definitely a plus when you do, or just for stopping in general.

In our time with the bike the KLX never missed a beat and ran strong and consistent the whole time. The air filter is in a restrictive air box so even in very dusty conditions the filter didn’t get very dirty. The clutch held up to abuse from tough trails and large adults punishing the bike playing around.

"The strong point of the engine it that it has low end torque but still revs up top."

Suspension

  • The suspension isn't junk like on a lot of play bikes.
  • Some adjustability but stock it is just fine for the intended purpose.

Usually in this category, suspension, play bikes are pretty much horrible. The suspension goes up and down and bottoms out with a clank, even for kids. Because they will jump the bike no matter what. Well Kawasaki must have watched the kids because they nailed it with the suspension setup for what they are working with. There is nothing really special about the components but the spring rates and the valving inside are doing the job correctly.

On the trails the KLX goes well over the rocky and rooted sections and is able to absorb impacts without hard jolts. The bike holds up well over whoops and jumps out on the track and rarely bottoms out with a small adult beginner on it. Put a lighter kid on the bike and with the faster speed the suspension keeps working well. And let that kid go hit some jumps and again the bike doesn’t bottom too much, especially if you add some compression damping to the rear shock. Even adding a little oil to the front fork can yield increased bottoming control in the front.

"There is nothing really special about the components but the spring rates and the valving inside are doing the job correctly."

Chassis - Handling

  • The ride is planted and confidence inspiring for beginners.
  • IRC tires hook up and have decent life.
  • The brakes are class leading in a class that forgets about how important brakes are.

The riding position on the 140L was very comfortable - adjusting positions was smooth from standing to sitting and in between for our main tester,a 5’1” beginner rider. The seat height at 31-inches was low enough for putting two feet flat on the ground and the layout is also very narrow without anything to catch and hang up on. The steel footpegs are sizeable enough and resisted bending, a common problem on some play bikes, especially brands you have a hard time pronouncing the name of or are buying from a lawnmower shop. The handlebar bend is perfect but the steel bars will bend easily compared to the aluminum bars we are used too.

Getting technical with the handling the KLX has a very planted ride, due largely to the weight of the bike, but it does not act heavy. It is a good compromise siding on the more stable side of the fence. Turning is a little sluggish if compared to a more race bike but it is on par, if not a little better than average in the play bike world.

The disc brakes in the front and rear provided for stability and quick braking ability into the corners, a high mark in a class that suffers from sub-par binders.With some minor falls, the frame tubes/engine guards held up nicely especially on the rocky trails when we may have tipped it over a few times. Since the bike is a small bike the weight is also a nice feature when compared to any full-sized or lowered bike, even if it is 209 lbs. full of gas. The grab handle by the seat was a nice touch whenever we needed to pick the KLX up off the ground, there was never an issue.

The bike sips gas and will pretty much run all day on a tank. Oil changes are simple and that and air filter cleanings are about all you'd ever have to worry about in maintenance.

"The riding position on the 140L was very comfortable - adjusting positions was smooth from standing to sitting and in between for our main tester,a 5’1” beginner rider."

Conclusion

  • This could be the best 125-150cc play bike on the market.
  • It is excellent for a new rider and those small adults looking for an unintimidating trial bike.

The KLX is a perfect beginner bike or a play bike for a small adult. It is very simple but complete and it does not skimp when it comes to some important features like brakes and suspension. The motor has a long pull so it makes the bike fun to ride as much as it is easy to ride. Our bike got beat on and it proved durable. This is the kind of bike that will keep the kids happy because it doesn’t break or require maintenance, teaches them to ride and can get passed along from kid to kid. Small novice adults are not intimidated by the bike because of the small size, yet it also has enough power and comfortable suspension to get them back into the trails. If these sound like the needs you have for a bike, the KLX140L is a worthy choice.

"It is very simple but complete and it does not skimp when it comes to some important features like brakes and suspension."

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What Others Said

Here is what Kawasaki tells you about their little KLX140L and the 2016 model is identical save for some minimal graphics changes.
https://www.kawasaki.com/Products/2016-KLX140L
Ultimate Motorcycling has a very similar take from a smaller rider too.
https://ultimatemotorcycling.com/2014/11/18/kawasaki-klx140l-trail-bike-test/
Want to listen to lame dance music and see pictures of a KLX140L?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVirxqlifWk