First Impression: 2011 Kawasaki KX250F

Cycle News Staff | June 25, 2010

We saw the plans for the radically new KX250F not too long ago, and we were recently treated to our first taste of the 2011 motocross machine. This wasn’t your ordinary ride day at Glen Helen – in keeping with the grand scale of the little KX’s re-vamping, Kawasaki introduced the fuel-injected 250 at Budds Creek MX in Mechanicsville, Maryland only days after the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross National. It was on the exact same fast, rough and sweeping track (and in the exact same sweltering humidity) that we got to climb aboard the ground-breaking 2011 KX250F and spin a few laps.

New on the latest KX250F is fuel injection (of course). The battery-less DFI system incorporates a 43mm throttle body and aluminum fuel pump (same as the 2010 KX450F). Like it’s larger-bore sibling, the KX250F has an optional FI tuning kit with seven pre-set maps, custom-tuning capabilities and data logging software.

The motor also receives a share of updates including a new piston, higher compression, a revised crankshaft, transmission and cylinder. The motor also receives a new exhaust system which Kawi claims is designed to meet the new lower sound output of 94 decibels. (We say “claims” because the KX sounds quite a bit louder and raspier than we remember. It may meet 94 decibels on paper, but on the track, it doesn’t sound any easier on the ears.)

The biggest news on the ’11 KX, however, is the radically new SFF (Separate Function Fork) front suspension. Built by Showa, the all-new fork houses the spring in one tube (right) and the entire damping function in the other (left). As a result of this design, the fork also has spring preload/ride height adjustability.

The characteristic of this all-new fork had our interest piqued heading into our first day of testing on the KX250F, although the most notable change to the ’11 machine is the power characteristic. Kawasaki gave the KX an admittedly much more linear power delivery with the DFI system. Like the KX450F, the power feels noticeably more reactive than its predecessors and has an instant response at the rear wheel. And as promised, it delivers torque in a very linear – and dare we say it… electric – fashion pulling steadily from bottom to top.

The revised motor puts out crisp, clean power everywhere and feels like it has a heartier bottom end than the ’10. By virtue of being a Lites-class machine, it doesn’t exactly pull from any point like the KX450F can, but a little coaxing from the clutch will draw power from just about anywhere. The steady build of power doesn’t have the mid- to high-range snap like the carbureted Kawi had, but still feels like it puts down more ponies across the board.

In the suspension department, right off we can tell you that we’ll definitely need much more time on the KX250F to give a well-rounded report. Dialing things in is both easier and more complicated with the SFF fork – there are half as many clickers to turn, but the added aspect of ride height adjustability gives the rider more to consider. It took our expert tester a bit more time and thought to find the ideal balance, but once he found it, that same incredible stability that we’ve grown to love about the KX250F began to shine through. 

A steeper off-set (23.5 to 22.5mm) and some minor chassis alterations (steel instead of aluminum motor mounts for more flexibility) could very well make this KX the most quick-handling yet. Like we said, it will take quite a bit more track time to say that with certainty, but with the responsive power and improved agility, so far this feels like a very tight, flickable overall package.

Watch the pages of Cycle News for our first test of the 2011 Kawasaki KX250F coming soon.