The 2020 Kawasaki KLX230R is aimed toward beginner riders or those who are moving up in bike size hopefully from a Kawasaki KLX140! Riders who are not quite ready for a full-size bike or anything with a competition background. The small size, light handling, and no surprises from the throttle make the 230R a great choice for those new to the dirt of those wanting something smaller than most of the off-road offerings. It is based off or shares the same basic components as the street-legal dual-purpose version the KLX230 and you can see a review of that bike by clicking here.
At $4399 the sticker price is about half of most current dirt bikes. Most of the KLX technology and parts are not top-of-the-line but that does not mean they are not durable and capable of getting the job done. This KLX has the same frame as the 230 dual-sport, but behaves very differently in the dirt primarily due to gearing and suspension settings. It has a little more ground clearance, increased suspension travel and a slightly shorter wheelbase.
The 230cc air-cooled fuel-injected four-stroke puts out smooth and predictable power. Electric-starting is awesome and the bike fires right up. It is a slower revving traditional kind of four-stroke power. Since the gearing is a little closer than the 230 dual-sport we rode earlier, it was easy to stay in the power band. It is not an aggressive power delivery by any means, but you can rev it out and ride it hard. Coming from a KTM 250cc it is really tame and since I never really use all the power my KTM has, it was refreshing to be able to ride a bike I could really use all the available power and stay in control. The clutch action was consistent and easy to use but since the motor is chuggy, I didn’t have to use it much. And the bike is very quiet too!
The suspension is pretty basic with the forks having 9.8 inches of suspension travel and the rear shock is adjustable for preload.The suspension was good for small jumps and bumpy trails, but definitely felt too soft for motocross jumps. (Some hare scrambles include motocross jumps, so that might be a point to consider, yet this is not a race bike by any means). When trail gets a little bit more technical, the bike is easy to set in the corners, take tight turns or negotiate rocks and sand. And if it gets technical enough to have to put a foot down, the 36.2 inch seat height isn’t a limiting factor even at my 5’2” stature.
The Kawasaki has disc brakes at both ends and they performed up to the task with great feel in the back compared to some bikes I’ve ridden with drum rear brakes. And this KLX felt a lot lighter off-road than the dual-purpose version so that helped in the slowing feeling too. Overall this bike was nimble and easy to feel comfortable with right from my first moment on it.
As a beginner bike or a stepping stone for larger bikes to come, the KLX is a great choice. It has all the bases covered for trail riding and playing around in a package that should be very reliable and easy to take care of.
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