First Impression: 2021 Kawasaki KX250X

2021 KX250X First Impression

Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Scott Hoffman

The 2021 Kawasaki KX250X is an all-new model in the KX lineup.

It’s been a big year for Team Green as they’ve heavily updated their KX250, along with introduced X models based on the KX450 and KX250 MX models. We spent the day out at Cahuilla Creek MX to get a quick feel for the bike on both motocross terrain and in the off-road arena. This is a brief impression as we didn’t dive into too much testing just yet, but we’ll have a full bike test and even some comparisons against its competitors in the near future.

The new KX boasts a seemingly all-new platform, even after its MX brother received quite a few updates for the 2020 model year. The engine updates were mainly focused in the top end, where a longer connecting rod can be found inside the crankcase. Additionally, a new frame that resembles the KX450 and the KX450X houses the updated engine with electric starter and new bodywork. KYB components handle the bump absorption on the 250 while a new linkage has been developed for 2021. 

What differentiates the moto model from the off-road bike? The obvious 18-inch rear wheel, a kickstand, softer front fork springs and slightly softer fork valving (shock spring and valving are said to be identical between KX and KX XC), one tooth larger rear sprocket, and a skid plate standard. Power wise, the bike is delivered with the black, or less aggressive coupler installed, but it still comes with the standard and aggressive couplers. 

How does the bike perform out on the trail? Well, we’d say it performs a lot like the motocross bike. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Truth is, in West Coast Off-Road racing, using a moto bike as the initial platform and adding off-road goodies is what many racers do, especially those that are faster and more aggressive riders. That is the route Kawasaki took with this all-new bike.

The KX250X performs very well as a GP race bike where speeds are higher and terrain resembles a motocross track more than the desert or the woods. The bike has a lot of power, especially as you climb the RPMs, making it fast and fun to ride. However, if you dip into single track or tighter terrain, covering the clutch is needed to help prevent stalling and keep the RPMs up. The stock XC coupler (Black) has good bottom end and torque, and works really well in low traction situations. It puts power to the ground without spinning up the rear wheel, and can be noted as “faster” when traction is at a premium. Pair this coupler with the 51T rear sprocket and slow speed situations and bottom end grunt is improved over the MX model, but not what most hard core off-road riders are used to. We liked the White and Aggressive coupler when we hit the MX tracks as it revs out a little quicker and pulls harder than the mellow setting. 

The suspension on the KX feels on the stiff side for off-road, but it can transition to the motocross track fairly easily and safely. The softer setting offers a more planted feel, which is welcomed in smaller chop and dry conditions. Still, bottoming resistance is maintained from the MX bike, just with a little added compliance and comfort. With just one softer spring rate and similar valving as the moto bike, this is what we expected. Higher-level riders will appreciate this as most XC bikes come suspended for woods riding/racing, and a suspension revalve is almost a necessity for West Coast applications. 

Handling wise, the KX feels very narrow and lightweight. The nimble chassis boasts an MX feel, not an off-road bike feel, which in part is due to having a smaller gas tank (1.64 Gal) standard whereas most other off-road offerings come equipped with 2+ Gal gas tanks. With limited time on the trails, we feel the bike has good bump compliance and stability, yet it attacks tighter terrain with ease. Changing directions and pivoting is quick and easy.

This was a quick initial impression on the new XC model offered by Team Green. We’re planning on putting some miles in on and off the track to get the most out of the new KX250X, and maybe even get a project build out of it to make it more “off-road ready.” Oh, and we plan on comparing to the likes of some of the other XC models as sort of a mini shootout so stay tuned as we dive into the new green machine!

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