2022 KAWASAKI KX85: FULL TEST

Kawasaki made some specific updates to the KX85 for 2022 that include a stronger 6-speed transmission, increased engine cooling, styling and new Dunlop MX33 tires at both ends. In recent years Kawasaki has renewed its dedication to small-bore two-stroke development by improving the 85cc model and releasing an all-new 112cc model as well. The question everyone is asking is, “Can it compete with the Euros, like KTM, Husky, GasGas and TM?”

THE GOODS
The Kawasaki KX85 hasn’t changed much—if at all—in recent years, receiving its last significant update in 2014. For 2022 it returns with the same steel-chromoly perimeter frame with the exact same geometry it was introduced with over a decade ago. Overall styling got an overhaul a few years back, and the radiator shroud was redesigned for 2022 to improve cooling. Kayaba suspension components are used on the KX85 up front—36mm inverted telescoping cartridge fork, and the shock features compression and rebound damping adjustment, along with spring preload adjustability.

Braking power is a combination of Nissin master cylinders and Tokico calipers. Kawasaki has six different handlebar mounting options, providing adjustability of the 7/8-inch steel bars to fit a variety of different-sized riders. Another update to the chassis package for 2022 is Dunlop’s new MX33 tires that utilize block-in-block technology to improve overall traction.

Big news in the engine department for 2022 is Kawasaki beefed up the 6-speed transmission for improved durability. The Kawasaki Integrated Power-valve System (KIPS) is still used inside the cylinder that was first introduced back in 2014 and has similar technology to the last-generation KX125 power-valve system. A Keihin 28mm carburetor feeds the 85cc water-cooled engine.

Test rider Jacob Tilley felt right at home aboard the 2022 KX85.

 

It’s surprising to see old-school steel handlebars on a modern-day MX bike.
Dunlop MX33 tires now come stock on the 85cc model.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE
Kawasaki has always had the middle-of-the-road mindset when it comes to the KX minibike models, and the 2022 KX85 continues that way of thinking. This machine is great for beginner or novice riders right off the showroom floor, because the power is smooth and usable throughout. Test riders commented that it might not come right off the bottom with as much power as a KTM, but has really good midrange pull and top-end revs.

Dyno numbers tell the same story and reinforce that a KTM will rev higher if the rider pushes it up top. The cable-operated clutch has a really easy and very smooth pull, making clutching out of corners a breeze if needed, but we have to admit the stock clutch-perch system reminds us of something out of the ’90s with zero chance of quick adjustments.

The 2022 Kawasaki KX85 is a great foundation for a variety of skill levels.
Kawasaki made major changes to the top-end configuration of the KX85 a few years back, and for 2022 they strengthened the 6-speed transmission. The left-hand-side exhaust takes a little getting used to, but make no mistake, this engine package has won a lot of amateur national championships.

Although there are multiple handlebar mounting options, taller riders can feel a little cramped compared to other 85cc machines. We are surprised that Kawasaki has old-school steel handlebars that have a swept-back feel on an MX bike in 2022. Our KYB connections say stock suspension is set up for riders in the 80–130-pound range. We firmed up the fork to get it to ride higher in the stroke while slowing the rebound down a couple of clicks in the rear between 103–105mm on the sag scale to balance everything out.

The KX85 corners really well, but still has straight-line stability that test riders say makes it feel light and very flickable in the air. Kawasaki might not change the KX85 very often, but we can’t really blame them, because the current overall package has everything the bulk of consumers are looking for. And for that small percentage of racers who are looking for more performance, there are tons of aftermarket companies ready to make it happen. An added bonus is Kawasaki’s Team Green race support program that not only offers a contingency program, but also has trackside support at all major amateur nationals.

 

Comments are closed.