Street tires on an award-winning quarter liter Dual-Sport means extraordinary handling, outstanding fuel economy and exceptional fun!
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Jan. 19, 2010
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF on I-5 nearing LA – $5,599 to start and rated at 71 mpg unadjusted City.
While planning a recent road trip to LA, why not also include a Kawasaki motorcycle review in the mix? A number of emails and phone calls put me in touch with Kawasaki’s Senior Media Relations Coordinator Jeff Herzog. With introductions and media verifications complete, bike specification details mailed and an itinerary setup, it was only a matter of picking up the bike from Kawasaki's headquarters in Irvine, California... And as we drove into the LA basin, traffic congestion increased to beyond heavy. Little did I realize this was only a taste of what was to come while riding one of the premiere quarter liter bikes on the “Mean Streets of LA
Quarter liter bikes – Can it be legal to have this much fun
Thanks to their light weight, easy to master control and handling, low upfront and total cost of ownership, low insurance rates and better than Insight-I fuel economy in a stop and crawl, there is simply no better machine for a daily grind today. Better yet, exultation cannot come close to describing the ability to make progress through traffic that would frustrate even the most patient of drivers gridlocked on 4 wheels amongst a sea of other 4-wheelers.
In 2008, Kawasaki released their 50 state emissions-compliant 2009 KLX250S dual-purpose bike. This 250S quickly became one of the most dominant bikes in its class thanks in part to its excellent handling, well balanced nature both on and off the road, and a good low-rpm pulling engine. This package provided an ease of use beginners crave while offering enough top end to get an expert into trouble in short order. Well, maybe not that much trouble
The KLX250S offered both beginner and advanced riders “Fun” with a capital “F” while keeping the pain at the pump to an absolute minimum.
Given these accolades, the SF with its road-only additions was sure to carry over the 250S’s excellent attributes, right?
Meet the Kawasaki KLX250SF Supermoto.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF - First ride
A few minutes of instruction on the bikes control with Jeff and it was time to take the KLX250SF for a ride. Donning my Aerostich Darien gear, BMW Rallye GS2 boots and Arai XD-3, off I rode heading toward the “Concrete Jungle
” of downtown LA.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF – Instrumentation and Specifications as tested
Its modern digital instrument package includes two trip meters, odometer,
speedometer, a sweeping digital tach, and a much-desired clock.
The KLX SF’s full spec’s can be viewed at the following: 2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF Specifications
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF - Performance
The KLX250SF, like all modern supermotos, looks race ready even when standing still. With its new-for-2010 blue anodized aluminum rims accenting the new blue plastic bodywork, aggressive-looking front headlight lens, fascia, and front fender, plus unique hexagonal mirrors, it would be difficult to find a more attractive ride.
- To become 50 state-complaint (meeting California’s CARB was the 50 state-compliance hurdle), the KLX250SF incorporates an evaporative emissions control system that includes a steel fuel tank and charcoal canister eliminating most evaporative emissions. In addition, the bike is equipped with a US Forestry Service-approved spark arrestor and a catalytic convertor with a secondary air injection system to help minimize its exhaust emissions. Although it is not an O2 feedback-based system and is not regulated to the level an automobile, NOx emissions are reduced dramatically once its CAT is lit off.
- The KLX250SF’s 249 cc engine is capable of a touch over 20 HP which sounds feeble at first glance. But when mated to a bike weighing just 302 pounds, it provides plenty of acceleration to tackle anything you may encounter on any street or highway in America. It will not win a drag race against the smallest sportbikes but that is not its purpose. Think of its output more along the line of something we are all familiar with, the Prius. The KLX250SF’s 20 HP is able to propel 500 pounds of bike and rider with approximately the same power to weight ratio as that of the 2010 Toyota Prius-III.
- With a single 300 mm dual-caliper disc up front and a 240 mm single-caliper disc in the rear, it has powerful stopping power. Grab the binders hard and you can induce a front tire skid. That is not a recommendation but simply a heads up. The only thing missing is an ABS system. Unfortunately, it will be some time before we see a 250cc general purpose bike equipped with this highly regarded safety feature.
- Actual top speed vs. displayed - To calibrate the KLX250SF’s speedometer/odometer, I paced the HS 250h that brought us out West while recording both speed and distance. We found the KLX250SF’s displayed speed was 2 mph over the HS at 50 mph. Rolling the throttle to its stops while in a tuck on flat interstate yielded an indicated 85 mph for an 82 mph actual. In an upright position, the 250SF reached an indicated 80 mph and 77 mph actual. This proves the SF has more than enough oomph to stay legal on every road in America and, in a standard cruise, a somewhat comfortable and relaxed ride at a more normal 55 to 65 mph. That takes some doing on a bike with just 249 cc’s!
- Usually missing from the quarter liter crowd is an engine powerful enough to take you down the Interstate at speeds just north of the PSL. Not that we condone that practice but if a bike can top 80 mph, it is surely more comfortable and possibly more fuel efficient at 65 mph then a bike that tops out at 70 mph doing the same.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF Ride and Handling
- The SF’s suspension carryover from the S includes the same 43mm inverted front fork with 16-way adjustable compression damping. The SF has 9.1 inches of travel vs. the S’s 10.0 inches. The rear suspension includes the same 16-way adjustable compression and rebound damping system, with 8.1 inches of wheel travel vs. the S’s 9.1 inches. The real difference, however, is far less dive or lift when you grab the binders or throttle thanks in part to a stiffer setup. With a lowered height and street-tuned suspension, the KLX250SF Supermoto was not designed to just comingle with everything on the asphalt but best it as traffic conditions build. And it does so with confidence and composure few bikes of any size have demonstrated to date within the confines of the traffic snarls and tie-ups that those riding in a large inner city have experienced firsthand.
And then we have the seat... Unfortunately - and just like most dual-sport and Supermoto bikes we have ridden - the 250SF is equipped with a very hard and narrow seat. Over a long distance you will be wondering if there is a more comfortable aftermarket seat. I certainly was.
- By using the dual purpose KLX250S’s superlative rigid frame construction and quick handling geometry, reducing wheel travel at both ends by approximately an inch, adding 17” bias-ply IRC Road Winner tires front and rear, Kawasaki was able to lower the all-new 250SF’s seat height and ground clearance by 1.1 and 2.3 inches respectively. This in turn lowered the bike's center of gravity. With the somewhat sticky street tires, a vast improvement in road handling and straight-line stability was achieved. The tighter the turn or the heavier the traffic to maneuver in and around, the more impressive the 250SF becomes. The bike proved to be exceptionally stable and easy to ride in both the heavy traffic conditions of downtown LA, Hollywood and Beverly Hills as it was on the I-5 highway ride between Irvine, downtown LA and back.
When lane splitting during LA gridlock, I left the bars alone for the most part and instead, used slight weight shifts to keep the bike moving effortlessly through the stop and crawl, bumper to bumper nightmares. The bike is light enough and handles so well that I did not have to stand on the pegs but simply shifted my knees and it would track where I wanted it to. During an emergency avoidance maneuver to miss debris on I-5, I added a small amount of counter-steer and the bike tracked over and back again without much more than a thought.
Highway rain grooves and bridge decks are the nemesis of effortless freeway motorcycle rides, due to motorcycles' lighter weight and much smaller tire footprint than an automobile. The KLX250SF tracked grooves with the usual out-of-touch road feel and slight shimmy. Not a “Rip the bars out of your hands” loss of control but like most quick handlers, you have to pay attention and shift your weight as necessary to make the KLX250SF track where you want it to track on these types of road surfaces.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF Ergonomics
- Its low seat height means that it is tailor made for shorter riders, far better than most bikes offering over 8 inches of suspension front and rear. While sitting, the bars were not too wide and only a little low for my 6 ft frame. For most, it should offer a reasonably comfortable upright riding position.
The throttle, starter button, On/Off kill switch, turn signal controls, Hi-Lo beam switch, horn, clutch and front brake lever are all properly positioned so that manipulation is effortless and quick. The clutch pull is light, adding to the KLX250SF’s easy-to-control nature.
The only item that was not properly fitted was the gear shift lever. I had trouble getting my left boot underneath the lever to upshift smoothly. Two minutes with a wrench to rotate the shift lever on its splined shaft is all it would have taken. I did not and paid the price for the rest of my time with the KLX250SF.
Although my left boot and shift lever angle was a continual annoyance, with a few adjustments I could always get my foot under the lever when needed. That issue aside, when stopped at a light in a FAS, I found it sometimes tough to find and engage neutral.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF – Ergonomics pictured
Improperly adjusted shift lever for my left boot.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF Miscellaneous
The KLX250SF's basic additions include an On/Off/Reserve fuel petcock, rubber covered foot pegs, onboard toolkit, and helmet lock.
To produce a useable amount of power out of a quarter liter bike, higher RPM’s are sometimes required, with higher NVH as a result. The KLX250SF's vibration was reasonable from 3,000 to about 7,000 RPM before what I felt too much vibration was felt through both the grips and the rubber-capped pegs.
In a slow speed city riding environment, the KLX has trouble pulling below 2,750 rpm, requiring a downshift. Not anything out of the ordinary but you will feel it lug excessively near the bottom of its torque curve.
Because the KLX250SF is carbureted, it is necessary to use the choke from an initial start cold. Unfortunately, the choke plunger is under the tank and is difficult to find once on the bike and under way. Like all chokes, it induces a 3,000 + RPM warm up vs. its 1,350 RPM warm idle spec. I suspect the next generation KLX250SF will include fuel-injection for a better warm-up experience, no choke, more performance, even better fuel economy and lower emissions.
FAS-ing to a stop while on the move is easy and I had no problem bump-starting it. During my first mile after warm up while shut down at a light or sign, I found that if I added a significant amount or blipped the throttle while the starter spun the engine over, approximately 50% of the time the bike would not restart. By restarting from the button with only a small amount or no throttle applied, the bike fired up when warm 100% of the time. Becoming proficient in restarting the bike quickly from a stop is mandatory and after doing so, added FAS’ing at a stop to the bike's fuel saving repertoire.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF Fuel Economy Results
- With a long three days of driving cross country behind us and still over 50 miles to the hotel, we immediately left Irvine for downtown LA. A few hours rest and it was time to hit the street. I purposely left at 01:30 PM believing I would be back by 04:00 PM; missing most of the heaviest traffic and congestion LA had to offer.
Initial Top off and press up of the tires just a few blocks from downtown LA.
Little did I know that the schools were let out on this day at 01:45 PM and I was stuck in a monumental gridlocked mess with countless school busses, children crossing the main arterials and side streets anywhere they pleased, and cars filled with students attempting to leave. This traffic slowed my planned progress from 3rd and Figueroa, up to Western, over to Santa Monica, Hollywood and Sunset and then up into the Beverly Hills area. What a way to start a ride as I was circling neighborhoods attempting to make my way out of downtown. Even up in Beverly Hills, there were two lights to clear a light type bumper to bumper afternoon traffic mess
I have to wonder why everyone in LA does not ride a bike [MOTORCYCLE OR BICYCLE?] given the mostly great weather and the terrible traffic conditions?
It took almost an hour to reach Hollywood’s Walk of Fame where LA Police were arresting people right across the street from where I took a break... At least I enjoyed a few of the sights along the famous Walk of Fame
Enjoying the sights and sounds of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California
From Hollywood to the Beverly Hills Hotel entrance, the KLX250SF fit the conditions like a worn leather glove.
On the way back from Beverly Hills, more police had roads blocked and were in the process of marking where shell casings were lying on the pavement near a Burger King
After covering a roughly 40 mile round trip over an approximately 3 hour period including a few stops to “Enjoy the show”, it was time to put the first days ride behind me.
- For the second day's ride, I left after 06:00 PM thinking I would miss the brunt of the “Escape from LA” - rush hour commute with a little evening/night riding. Little did I know!!!
Accidents and heavy traffic appeared to be the cause for the gridlock: I encountered two ambulance and LA police officers at two different accident scenes. I ended up paralleling the jammed 101 but rode up into several local neighborhoods to maintain a semblance of forward progress.
Like any tourist without NAVI trying to get back home, I was lost and crossed Hollywood and Vine four times attempting to get back downtown. A frustrating traffic-marred 2 days' ride, yet unexpectedly exhilarating thanks to the need to plan escape routes on an almost continuous basis. I also thought that these two rides had eliminated any chance of the KLX coming anywhere near 100 MPG as the KLX250SF spent more time in neutral, first, second and third gears than the fuel-saving fifth and sixth gears. I was FAS’ing at every stop of course but the continuous slow downs, stops and reacceleration’s caused me to wonder.
- On our final morning, it was time to fill within a few miles of downtown and calculate the KLX250SF’s city fuel economy results. Despite three rough riding segments including three warm-up hits, I had the following surprise:
First measured fill
Top off to Top off - 73.4 miles on .720 gallons = 101.944 mpgUS
This bike is “HOT”
For the highway portion, I figured the KLX was going to fall back into the high 80 to low 90 mpg range and ruin the chance for a 100 MPG review. Just before dropping the bike off, we pulled into a Shell and the KLX250SF gave me yet another surprise. Top off to top off yielded almost 111 mpgUS, far more than I would have guessed given the mostly 5,000 to 6,000 RPM ride. Three lengthy stop and crawls along the way slowed us but thanks to lane splitting, at least I was able to continue at slow speeds until I could pull over on the shoulder and wait for the HS 250h to catch up a few miles later.
Second fill - Pleasant all-highway surprise
Top off to Top off - 46.0 miles on .415 gallons = 110.843 mpgUS
Kawasaki KLX250SF FE Data
|FE Rating Origin||EPA Rating||CleanMPG Observed FE|
|US||71 mpgUS||105.2 mpgUS|
|British Imperial||85.2 mpgIMP||126.2 mpgIMP|
|European Metric||3.313 L/100 k||2.236 L/100 km|
Review MPG data: 119.4 miles on 1.135 gallons = 105.2 mpgUS.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF - Competitive Comparisons
As a class leading Supermoto derived from a company that is far better known for their all-out performance Ninja Sport bikes, Kawasaki tamed the streets by designing the KLX250SF to do just about everything well. Below is list of comparable Supermoto’s.
2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF Conclusions
|Model||Disp. cc||HP||Lbs. Wet||Fuel Cap. (US gallons)||MPG||Price ($USD) w/ABS*|
|Honda CRF230M||223||14||267||2.3||80 est.||$5,399|
|Yamaha WR250X||250||27||302||2.0||71||$6,490 |
With a decent top end, excellent handling and exemplary fuel economy (its advertised 71-mpg rating is just a reminder of what the Kawasaki KLX250SF is worth when ridden roughly
), the KLX250SF was ridden through some of the worst city traffic imaginable yet yielded a very acceptable 102 mpg over 73 + miles and almost 111 mpg on a 46 mile all-highway segment. I cannot find any reason to complain given the conditions. Adding to its capabilities, the KLX250SF Supermoto can arguably be called the best-handling bike in its class. Thanks to its light weight and low center of gravity, it offers handling that much larger and better known supermoto’s would have difficulty achieving. Adding the ability to ride any highway in the nation without concern, we have one of the best all-around vehicles of any type in our hands. I hope you discover the same during your ride of the 2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF.
Individual behind the scenes
Jeff Herzog (Center) standing directly behind the 2010 Kawasaki KLX250SF while at Kawasaki’s Irvine, California Headquarters.
I want to thank Jeff Herzog for his time, effort and patience in setting up one of CleanMPG’s most successful reviews to date. And of course Kawasaki for designing such a fantastic quarter-liter supermoto.