Back In Green
Story and Photos by Trevor Hunter
The 2022 KX250X saw one change from 2021 – bold new graphics. With a new platform last year, we weren’t expecting many changes from the green machine this year and quite frankly, there weren’t a ton of changes we were hoping for either. We really came to like this bike in a race setting last year, and everything would translate over to the new model year being there were no changes in store. For the full 2021 Bike Test, click HERE.
The all-important motor in the 250F class is just as critical off-road as it is on the moto tracks, but this KX is a screamer. To put it simply, it likes to be revved. The top end on this bike is one of, if not the best in its class. The bottom to mid range power is acceptable and there is enough to get by, but once you get in the upper RPMs, the bike takes off. The power feels similar to a KTM/Husky/GasGas in that way, but this bike is easy to ride revved out. It isn’t a chore to rev and the handling doesn’t suffer much when ridden hard.
When riding “real off-road” terrain that gets tight, awkward, and a “slower is faster” approach is needed, this bike’s MX roots start to show and it can be tougher to ride in these conditions. The KX250X is the closest in resemblance to a standard “MX” bike in its class with very minimal changes designating it as their off-road bike. An 18” rear wheel, slightly softer suspension, and the “mellow” mapping coupler coming stock are all the performance changes here. While the coupler does help add a little torque and smooth power down low, it still is far from class-leading in that area. In short, this motor is a purebred race motor that likes to go fast. You can be “lazy” and not shift, instead just revving it out, or as the kids like to say, you can be “aggressive” with the power.
The transmission is short and sweet as is any MX transmission. It works pretty good, but as we said last year, an added 6th gear would complete the package. For trail riding and some racing conditions, the 6th would help you cruise at a lower RPM or just give you that little extra speed to keep up with some of the other six-speed, wide-ratio transmissions in the class. The Nissin hydraulic clutch has a good feel and has the largest engagement window of the hydraulic clutches. Riders who are used to cable clutches barely even noticed that it was a hydraulic clutch in terms of feel which to us is a good thing.
Suspension wise, it suits the motor well with a stiffer setting overall that is made to charge hard. Like many of the other off-road race 250F’s, it has more of a motocross characteristic than ever before and is designed well for faster, west coast off-road type terrain and speeds. With a couple of Pro level riders on board, we left the clickers mostly stock, and played with softening the forks up a click or two depending on the terrain.
Handling, the KX is good, but we remember it being better last year and we feel the lack of an oversized tank actually hurts the handling on this bike. The front end is pretty light on this bike, and it can be difficult to turn as the front gets vague about midway through the corner. When riding this bike with a larger 2.8 gallon IMS tank last year, that added weight helped put more emphasis on the front tire and helped cornering and keeped the bike planted in rougher terrain. The bike is still light feeling, thin, and easy to maneuver upon corner entrance, but it has more of a rear wheel steering characteristic compared to some of its other competitors for 2022.
While Kawasaki didn’t make any changes for 2022, there are still a few grips we have that carry over from last year that wouldn’t be too difficult to change. First, a larger gas tank would be nice. It’s tough to go race or trail ride this bike anywhere off-road since range is limited to about 50-55 minutes of high-speed racing/riding on one tank of gas. Also, a better skid plate and some handguards would help complete the overall package and make it a little more “off-road ready” out of the gate.
However, all of these things are changes people usually make themselves even when they come standard on an off-road bike, so we don’t fault Kawasaki entirely for not making these changes on the showroom floor. Lastly, the grips, front brake lever, and kickstand all need a revamp. The grips are tough on our hands and impossible to remove, something we aren’t fond of. Also, the front brake lever is very skinny and kind of hurts to use fully. Lastly, the kickstand is big and bulky and we regularly caught our foot/leg on it while riding.
The KX250X is a true race bike off the showroom floor and is a FUN bike to ride. It likes to be ridden hard and aggressive, yet it invites and inspires that kind of riding style when you jump on it. The motor is fast on top and is very motocross, while the suspension matches that characteristic. The handling is stable and light feeling and feels comfortable at speed. This bike is more than competitive on performance and is certainly a contender in the off-road realm.