Project Team Green Revival
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Mark Kariya/Photos Project 395
Kawasaki and its Team Green program once ruled the roost in off-road racing, and desert racing in particular, nearly 30 years ago with a host of its factory and support riders along with an impressive contingency program offered to the common folk. Flash forward to 2024 and Kawasaki is trending in that direction once again, boosting its Team Green Racer Rewards program heavily by pumping in contingency dollars to race series’ around the country. The program is so high, I went out and bought a KX myself to try and earn a share of the money on the table. Thanks to Del Amo Motorsports of Orange County, we picked up a 2024 Kawasaki KX250 just a few days before the first round of the AMA National Hare and Hound Championship which will be our main focus with this KX for the year.
With very minimal parts or testing time on this bike over the last couple of years, and a last minute decision to go racing on the KX, we gathered up a few essential parts, threw what we could at the bike in the few days we had, then headed to Johnson Valley, CA for the opening round of the championship where we’ll be chasing the Pro 250 championship. So, what exactly did we do to get the bike race ready? Not much! And there is still a lot to do to fully dial it in, but most all of these mods improved the bike for a desert racing application.
Taking a motocross bike and turning it into an off-road bike can be a tough haul, but the stock KX250 offers a solid base with a well handling chassis, a strong motor, and capable suspension components out of the crate. Thus, our first step to get this bike ready to race was to throw a set of 2023 KX450X suspension on the bike (yes, the Showa components bolt right on including the 49mm Showa forks). While this suspension was much improved over the overly stiff KX250 forks and firmer shock out back, we were still much too stiff for the technical trails that graced the second 40 mile loop of the 80 mile hare and hound. In the fast terrain, the bike worked really well and we learned we could hit just about anything as hard as we’d like and the suspension would soak it up. However, even then we never touched the bottom ~2-3 inches of travel the entire race and that was noticeably felt in the slow speed rocks. We struggled with a lot of deflection and lack of traction due to the lack of movement in the forks — something we knew could be the case by bolting on 450 GP suspension but the lack of prep time left us with this as the best option.
We ran sag ~106mm, forks flush in the clamps, and the rear wheel pretty far back in the swingarm (further than in the photos as we switched to a longer chain with the 14/50 combo). All three of these changes help tremendously in improving stability on the green machine. With another two months before the next race, and a lot less technical terrain in the upcoming races, we’ll be able to fine tune and dial this in more for the rest of the races.
In the engine department, the 250F powerplant was virtually stock. We started with 14/48 gearing, up from 13/50 stock, but quickly found it to be a tad tall everywhere. In the fast terrain, it made it pretty tough to pull each gear, and in the rocks we found it to be very tough to ride without completely abusing the clutch. From there, we regeared it to 14/50 and found this to be a good combo. It had enough top end to be sitting on the rev limiter in the valleys, but just low enough that it could tackle some rocks and singletrack without hammering the clutch. Overall, this will likely be our final gearing setup as we look to improve the power delivery in other areas. Precision Concepts remapped our stock ECU to give it better power across the range, and while it made a big help, the bike doesn’t have the torque to chug through technical terrain like some other 250F’s offer. The lack of torque matched with the stiff suspension made for a very tough second loop full of first gear rocks and tight singletrack. We found that if we bobble or made one mistake in the rocks (which happened often with stiff suspension), it was tough to recover as we were already on the edge of pulling first gear without abusing the clutch. We’ll work on trying to find added torque for low rpm pulling power with some more ECU tuning, an exhaust system, and possibly some other minor parts without having to dig down deep into the engine internals. With how much we struggled on the lowend, the bike is an abolsute rocketship on the top end, passing quite a few 250cc two-strokes and even some 450’s in the open valleys and faster roads — something that will be important as we move to some of the faster rounds ahead.
Handling wise, the KX chassis is very good for this kind of racing/riding. It’s a stable chassis that soaks up hits well, inspiring confidence in the fastest and roughest terrain. Overall, it offers a lot of comfort which helps relax the body for the 2.5+ hours of racing we’d encounter, and when dropped into the tighter terrain, it’s has enough nimbleness to not be a chore to navigate.
It’s all in the details…
Stay tuned as we continue to evolve and build this bike into what we feel will be a very competitive, overall off-road motorcycle that will be better in the desert, as well as in technical terrain that can apply to GNCC/woods riding and racing.