Tapping my fingers, I sat patiently. Phone calls had been made, and now it was simply a waiting game. Ordering up a previously unavailable 2009 model when it’s still 2008 isn’t always easy. What’s all the waiting over? Possibly one of the most exciting bikes for the 2009 model year, and that bike is the Kawasaki KLX250SF – Kawasaki’s entry into the Supermotard market.
To lay our hands on this new machine, we traveled North of the border – not too far north, but far North enough to need some warm weather gear from Alpinestars. Wintery clothing and our Arai XD3 helmet in hand, we crossed the border into Canada and headed down to Burnaby Kawasaki where fresh off the boat one of the first, if not the first retail KLX250SF in North America sits, in the crate.
After some assembly, the new 2009 Motard was ready, and we immediately hauled it away to see what it could do.
Thumbing the starter on this carburated, liquid cooled bike brings the 250 single to life.
On the dash, you’re presented with a pretty cool looking LCD display that's back lit blue, sporting a digital tachometer that reads up
to a prohibitive & piston launching 10,500 RPM redline. The engine’s miniature toy exhaust header leads to a large canister which features an exhaust exit hole that's just about big enough to sharpen a pencil with. There’s no doubt that there’s power to be uncorked from this bike.
Twist the throttle and the KLX spins up to speed with ease, but there’s no grunt and if you’re a power junkie, in stock form this bike will disappoint. With some jetting changes, a few modifications and the addition of a different sprocket the KLX will be in proper form to put a smile on your face.
The peanut sized 2.04 gallon gas tank fuels up for just a couple of bucks (now that peak-oil is just a myth again) and thrashing the 250SF still easily nets you Prius-destroying fuel economy, and best of all you’re not
in a Prius.
A featherweight, the 250 tipped our incredibly inaccurate Sunbeam bathroom scales (purchased at our local Walmart) at a wet/curb weight of 258 pounds, and that includes the little tool kit strapped to the back of the bike.
The suspension is responsive and provides decent feedback even for my 6’4”, 200lb + body… The “16-way adjustable compression and rebound damping on both the 43mm inverted cartridge-style front forks” hailed in Kawasaki’s press material
seems to have been replaced with a ghetto, dumbed down inverted front fork that only features a 12-way adjustment for compression damping . At first we thought this was only a feature of the Canookian model, however the bike on display at the IMS shows sports the non-adjustable suspension, while Kawasaki's own website still states it's fully adjustable.
. We even spotted a few SF's parked here and there in SoCal, all minus the promised adjustable forks. The rear shock still lives up to its promise and is fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound.
Clearly I’m on the larger side as a pilot for this bike, but the SF still carries me with ease. The front brakes are a spongy disappointment, though they have bite, they are in desperate need of braided lines. Grabbing a handful of front brake easily drags the motard to a stop, but you can actually see the brake hose routed over the handlebars flex and torque as you engage the brake. Acceptable for an entry-level rider, but anyone serious about Supermoto would have to deal with this immediately.
The aggressive styling of the 250SF is fantastic, and the bike looks just as good as any of its Euro counterparts. The pointy mirrors give a clear, unobstructed view from behind and the lower seat height makes this bike easy to ride even for shorter riders. The SF turns quickly, and handling is razor sharp. The six-speed transmission is un-Kawasaki-like smooth and shifting is easy. Seating position, like any dual sport or dirtbike, is vertical and you have no wind protection. Though the 250 can easily top 80 to 90mph, traveling on the Interstate isn’t this bike’s strong point. A few short hops on and off the freeway can be handled with ease, however it's in an urban setting that the 250SF excels – this bike would be at home battling traffic in Manhattan or getting around the side streets in your local town.
At $5299 the KLX250SF sits square in the middle of the big four Japanese Supermoto offerings. Yamaha’s fuel injected WR250X sits at the top of the price range, ringing up a whopping $6199 MSRP, in fact exactly the same MSRP as Suzuki’s proven, but aging DRZ400SM. Bringing up the bottom is the new, though plain looking Honda CRF230M at $4749.
250 isn’t enough, you say?
Well, I suppose that’s a reasonable question, isn’t it?
This begs the question, why not a 450? We still can’t figure this out since all the OEMs make stomping 450s that dominate in racing and in the Supercross series, but after chatting with our friends at the various manufacturers, we did gain some insight. Simply put, the 250 class is red-hot. According to American Honda, the 250 class is big in Japan, and it’s easy for any of the big four to transition and homologate pre-existing Japanese models and bring them to North America, as is the case with Honda’s 2009 CRF230M. KMC told Bikeland in August that for every ten 250Ninjas made, nine were pre-sold. Even in this recession, 250s are flying off the shelves. Burnaby Kawasaki can’t keep 250s in stock, and even with the down economy this year’s fall was one of their busiest for sales ever –bolstered by sales of 250s. Low insurance and licensing fees, easy for pretty much anyone to ride and delivering stunning fuel mileage, it’s hard to argue against these smaller rides.
If you’re new to motorcycling, there’s no denying that the 2009 KLX250SF is one of the coolest options available to you today. If you’re a Supermoto junkie, you’ll likely be let down by the stocker’s anemic power and the mushy brakes – however, if you’re a Supermoto junkie you’ll also know that for a few bucks you can easily get this 250 into proper form.
That’s it for our first impressions - as the months progress we’ll update you, and keep all of you posted about our modifications to this bike.
The 2009 Kawasaki KLX250SF retails for $5299 and you can find more information, details and specifications online here at Kawasaki.com
Keeping us safe, warm and dry in this review are the following bits of riding gear... (because it got damn cold once we started to ride!!)
Arai's XD3 helmet
Alpinestars Ricard Drystar Jacket
Alpinestars Street Cargo pants
Alpinestars Thermal Tech shirt