Kawasaki’s KX250F has enjoyed the glow of success for a number of years. Since it came out 11 years ago, it has won more pro races than any other bike. It was the springboard for riders like James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Adam Cianciarulo. If any bike has come to define the 250F class, it’s the Kawasaki.
But is that glow finally fading? In the current landscape of the 250 class, the Kawasaki has gone a long time without major changes. In pro racing, the once-unbeatable KX hasn’t won a championship—and not many races—since 2012. What’s going on?


Kawasaki devoted most of its research and development efforts for the 2016 model year to the KX450F. The 250 is next on the list, but that doesn’t mean its time is up. The KX is still slightly ahead of the technology curve in the 250 class. The current motor came out in 2011 and was the last of the 250s to get fuel injection. The next year Kawasaki went one step beyond what any other company was doing with its Dual Fuel Injection system. With this setup the primary injector is located in the throttle body, and a secondary injector is positioned upstream in the boot between the air filter and the throttle body. The secondary injector delivers fuel from 7000 rpm up. In fact, the primary injector actually shuts down at full throttle, leaving the upstream injector as the only source of fuel. This is technology that Kawasaki had already incorporated on several street bikes with great success, and it really brought the KX to life in 2012. In 2013 the chassis was narrowed, and the KX was really in its prime, even though pro racing results didn’t show it.
Kawasaki was the first company to come out with Launch Control. This is an ignition mode that alters the fuel and spark advance map for more traction off the starting line. The Kawasaki also remains the only bike in the 250 class to offer an adjustable footpeg height. This works with the four handlebar positions to make the bike very adaptable for different riders. The KX also has three color-coded couplers that allow you to change the EFI map between motos. The ECU has three different curves preprogrammed in that can be selected by plugging these couplers into the system. The big news for 2016 is that Kawasaki is offering an easy way to customize your own EFI map. The FI calibration kit is sold through Kawasaki dealers and is a handheld electronic tool that can alter the mapping in seconds. It’s sort of like the Yamaha Power Tuner but more elaborate. It has seven preset maps for different conditions, and there’s a slot for an SD card so you can transfer maps from one device to another. It will sell for $700.


The 2016 KX250F has only the slightest changes from 2015. The fender is green. There are some bearing retainer screws somewhere in the motor that are longer and so forth. But even if the bike hasn’t changed, the 250 class has, so here’s what you should know about the KX in the present world.
The motor is still pretty good. It isn’t the fastest bike in the class anymore. It isn’t the second or third fastest, either. But, the KX’s power is easy to use, and it’s strong right where you need it to be. Kawasaki was way out in front in one area where everyone else has been struggling. The motor has a certain willingness to run. It free-revs very easily, and while that might not translate to any more horsepower on the dyno or any more holeshots, it does make the bike more fun to ride and mistakes easier to correct.
In peak power the KX will suffer somewhat in 2016. The Yamaha has more power everywhere, and the KTM has more on top. We already saw that in 2015, and the differences will only be greater in 2016. It will still out-pull the Honda and, on a good day, the Suzuki.
It’s really hard to take issue with the Kawasaki’s handling. It turns well, it’s reasonably stable, and it’s a comfortable bike. A few years ago it was fairly light too; now it’s the heaviest bike in the class. It isn’t that the KX250F gained weight; it’s just that the other bikes lost weight. The Kawasaki is 229 pounds without fuel. The KTM, Honda and Yamaha all are 222 pounds, and the Husky and Suzuki fall somewhere in between. But here’s a reality check: just because your girlfriend weighs more than Katy Perry doesn’t mean she’s fat.
Kawasaki still uses a Showa SFF2 fork, which has the spring in one side and the damping in the other. This fork is unbelievably simple to set up. It has one rebound clicker, one compression clicker (both on the left leg) and a preload adjuster (on the right). This is in contrast to the Showa Triple Air, which has three Schrader valves and two clickers—or the KYB PSF2, which has four clickers and two Schrader valves. The good news is that you can get on the Kawasaki and the fork will work pretty well. But a perfectly setup air fork can be spectacular. The Kawasaki SFF fork is never spectacular. Just good.
The brakes are also good but not spectacular. Are we sensing a pattern here? Last year the front rotor was upsized to a 270mm unit made by Braking, which was welcome and overdue, but it didn’t bridge the gap to the powerful Brembo brakes found on the KTM and Husky.
We like the idea of Launch Control on a 450, but haven’t had much need for it on any 250. Maybe it’s just us, and maybe someone uses it. It’s there if you want it.
The best thing about having a bike that’s been out for two or three years is that you know exactly what to expect. The KX250 is a very reliable bike. The clutch is probably its weakest feature—you’ll replace the plates every few races unless you beef up the clutch springs. The 7/8-inch handlebar will eventually bend. The chainguide will wear out, and the grips will wear out your hands. All normal stuff.
At the end of the day, the Kawasaki is a great bike, just like it has been for years. It proved itself a long time ago. But by the same token, some of the newer bikes in the class are proving themselves very rapidly, and Kawasaki can’t stand still any longer.

 At $7599, the Kawasaki is priced about the same as the Yamaha and Honda 250s, but $900 less than the Husqvarna.

At $7599, the Kawasaki is priced about the same as the Yamaha and Honda 250s, but $900 less than the Husqvarna.





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