Kawasaki’s Small Green Do-It-All
The 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 is a small-sized dual-purpose machine. Bikes like this are a gateway bike for smaller riders getting into off-roading–or often returning riders not needing the size and performance they once did. Either way, a small motorcycle capable of taking the rider for a put-put (the opposite of a hardcore trailride) is a solid member in a manufacturer’s lineup. Being street legal has a lot of benefits but comes with some hurdles too. Even if it isn’t the most exciting to a serious motorcyclist, here is what Dirt Bike Test felt at the first introduction of the bike.
Test Rider Erica Muxlow was a perfect candidate to ride the new Kawasaki machines. At 5’2” 120lbs she is the ideal size and plenty skilled to ride the bike being novice racer as well. Riding in and around Jacksonville, Oregon, over the course of a day she got a feel for the newest KLX.
The 230 features a steel perimeter frame and has a six-speed transmission. Electric starting takes some of the pain out of the riding experience and a low seat height makes the bike reachable for many riders. Utilizing a fuel-injected air-cooled engine design with trail performance in mind, it is quiet, uncomplicated and runs clean, which also means the fuel economy will be excellent. Two versions are offered, one for $4599 and one equipped with a Bosch ABS system for $4899. We rode the non-ABS version.
The KLX230 is meant for riding around town, or directly from your front door to your closest trails. The most notable aspect of riding this dual sport was how stable it was at highway speeds. The bike felt smooth and stable at 70mph on the winding country roads. There was very little vibration and for those reasons it felt similar to riding a larger bike. Going slower it felt light, nimble. The power gets the bike going but it is not going to knock your socks off. The engine has enough low-end torque to pull you along and to go faster you’ll have to rev it out, very typical of bikes in this class. The gear ratios drew no complaints and the clutch action is pretty light (Much lighter than the KTMs Erica is use to.)
When leaving the pavement, the Kawasaki was great on fire roads, but performance is lacking as the terrain became more technical, especially by strict dirt bike standards. The minimally adjustable suspension (shock spring preload) takes the small imperfections out of a bumpy road but it isn’t something you’d want to be jumping waterbars on–it will bottom out. Yet it is comfortable for its intended purpose with the right sized rider on board. The stability we felt on-road continued off-road but here when the bike starts to move around–you get a little feeling for the weight. Good thing the seat height is low, it is easy to get a foot down in technical spots too.
In the power department, third gear was too tall for technical trail and in that gear there wasn’t enough torque to reasonably blip the throttle to negotiate rocks or ride smoothly over whoops. There was a lot of movement in the throttle, meaning Erica could really twist it and not get out of control. She said, “I could actually grab a handful of throttle and the bike wasn’t going to hurt me… but it couldn’t help me either.”
The pickup is not snappy or instantaneous which is great for a beginning or less skilled rider. Kawasaki has made some sacrifices in off-road performance in order to have the privilege of riding it on the road. Getting more aggressive in the dirt we felt the gear spacing may have been a little wide between gears. But the metering of the fuel injection was spot-on and allowed the bike to continue to pull and lug even when caught a gear high. The bike feels slim and compact and the rider compartment is comfortable for an average sized smaller rider.
There are a few choices in the small sized dual-purpose market and Kawasaki has a player in this game. Outright high-performance is not the target for this market. It is about price, giving a comfortable and enjoyable ride and establishing some brand loyalty, hopefully growing a buyer of future Kawasaki products the next time around. Or just having the best motorhome bumper bike out there. Look at the Kawasaki KLX history and you will find a huge following of happy and proud owners, thrifty we might add too. At under $5000, we feel Kawasaki has hit the mark.
For all the specifications and more click here: https://www.kawasaki.com/motorcycle/klr-klx/on-off-road/klx-230
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