After three years of big changes, Kawasaki made few revisions to the 2014 KX250F. Photography By Adam Campbell

Kawasaki could’ve reintroduced the 2013 KX250F for 2014 and we would not have been disappointed one bit. After giving the KX250F a complete overhaul in 2011, followed by a fairly significant upgrade in 2012 and further improvements last year, Kawasaki has already developed a pretty darn good all-around package. At least we thought so. It was our 250F motocross shootout winner for the 2013 model year.

So Kawasaki could have easily gone the leave-well-enough-alone route for 2014 and gotten away with it. And they almost did just that.

The 2014 KX250F is pretty much the same bike as last year’s but with a few minor changes, though one of them really isn’t minor. The KX250F was already noted for its powerful (especially from bottom to mid) and useable four-valve, DOHC motor, so the complaint box was empty at Kawasaki’s R&D department, so no real changes were needed or performed to the KX’s motor. But grumbling from Kawasaki’s race division suggested that shifting could be a little better. With that, Kawasaki engineers went to work on the KX’s five-speed transmission, adding an additional dog (from three to four) and reworking the grooves on the shift-drum to make things all jive just a little better and more efficiently when tapping on the lever with your left foot. The result? Smoother shifting, especially under a heavy load, Kawasaki says. Did it work? Sure.

We really didn’t have any shifting issues with last year’s bike (a few years ago, maybe, but not lately). What Blake Baggett might have detected with last year’s bike, well, we didn’t really notice. All we know is that the KX250F shifted well last year and it still shifts well this year (2014), but we’ve only have one day on the 2014 KX250F, so we’ll see if it stays that way. But for now, all is good in the shifting department.

Kawasaki left well enough alone with the KX250F’s motor, but don’t worry, it still rips. Photography By Adam Campbell

The biggest news about the 2014 KX250F concerns the motor. It’s now been fitted with Launch Control Mode (LCM), something the KX450F got in 2012. As you probably know by now, Launch Control Mode involves a button on the left handlebar that, when pushed, alters mapping (retarding the ignition) and ultimately mellowing out the power a bit so it doesn’t hit so hard when you first grab a handful of throttle when the starting gate drops. You know how it is, you’re amped up, the adrenaline is flowing, you want to get to racing, and sometimes all that throttle/clutch technique that you just learned at the Donnie Hansen Motocross Academy goes out the window and you end up botching the start. Now you’re midpack or worse just one turn into the race and that just plain sucks.

Launch Control helps prevent that from happening by thwarting unwanted rear wheelspin and sideslipping, and front-end wheelying. And it works - probably more dramatically on the more powerful 450 than it does on the 250, but in certain situations it does help on the 250 quite a bit. It can be very useful when the ground is hard-packed and dry, or anytime when the ground is slippery and lacking grip. And certainly on concrete.

  The KX250F gets Launch Control Mode likes its big brother has had since 2012.

The KX250F gets Launch Control Mode likes its big brother has had since 2012. Photography By Adam Campbell

We must’ve tried at least 10 starts on the new KX with and without the LCM activated and about half of them on concrete, and the Launch Control certainly makes a difference, most of the time for the better. (We practiced all our starts in second gear, which is usually the gear of choice for even 250s, unless your local track is Thunder Valley in Colorado.) With good traction, we had good success either with or without the LCM activated. You can go either way really; it just depends on the riding surface and how you feel that day. LCM automatically turns off and everything goes back to normal as soon as you click into third gear. Careful, though, the KX can still wheelie at that point since there’s tons of power on tap in all gears.

Some changes were made to the KX’s suspension but mostly up front. In the past, the Showa SFF forks, as good as they are, were a bit harsh in the initial part of the stroke, which is especially noticeable over braking bumps as more weight is transferred onto the front wheel. That’s when the bike had a bit of a nervous and busy feel, so there were times that the KX just never really felt as planted as some of the other bikes on the track. The new setting, however, gives the bike a plusher, more confident, feel as you set up for the turns. Kawasaki also changed the front motor mounts – they’re now thinner - for rigidity purposes, which might have helped in giving the KX that improved feel. But whatever it is, you can now attack the turns a bit harder than before. Otherwise, the fork feels pretty similar to last year’s fork around the rest of the track, and that’s a compliment.

New fork settings help stabilize things as you enter the turns. Photography By Adam Campbell

The only other thing you might feel a little different on the 2014 KX over the 2013 KX250F is the grips. Compound is softer and they’re a little shorter. We’re stoked with the softer compound but not completely sold on the shorter design; it just makes things feel a little cramped. One of these days, Kawasaki will get the grip thing figured out. Not sure why it’s taking so long, though.

Otherwise, the new KX250F feels very similar to last year’s but a little better, mainly because of the addition of Launch Control Mode. The new fork offers improved performance in certain areas, and shifting is at least as good, if not a little better.

Everything else about the bike is pretty much how we remembered. It still retains it powerful and robust motor, solid chassis and stout suspension. Turning, however, still isn’t one of its strongest points, but it still gets the job done in that department. The 250mm disc brake up front is strong and effective, as is the 240mm disc in the back. The bike is as comfortable as ever, maybe even more so thanks to its improved grips.

From what we could tell from our one-day introduction ride, the KX250F is improved – albeit slightly – over the 2013 model. But with an all-new YZ250F from Yamaha and updated CRF250R from Honda coming down the pike, our 2013 shootout winner will no doubt have a fight on its hands, but it’s a fight the new KX250F is certainly ready for.

The new white rear fender gives away its 2014 identity. Photography By Adam Campbell

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 Kawasaki KX250F

ENGINE: Liquid-cooled 4-stroke Single w/DOHC and 4-valve cylinder head

DISPLACEMENT: 249cc

BORE X STROKE: 77.0 x 53.6mm

FUELING: DFI with 43mm Keihin throttle body and dual injectors

COMPRESSION RATIO: 13.8:1

IGNITION: Digital CDI

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed with wet multi-disc manual clutch

FINAL DRIVE: Chain

FRAME: Aluminum perimeter

RAKE/TRAIL: 28.7 degrees / 5.0 inches

FRONT SUSPENSION: 48mm inverted Showa SFF telescopic fork with 40-way spring preload adjustability and 22 position compression and 20 position rebound damping adjustability. 12.4 inches travel

REAR SUSPENSION: Uni-Trak linkage system and Showa shock with 9 position low-speed and stepless high-speed compression damping, 22 position rebound damping and fully adjustable spring preload. 12.2 inches travel

FRONT TIRE: 80/100-21in.

REAR TIRE: 100/90-19 in.

FRONT BRAKE: Single semi-floating 250mm petal disc with dual piston caliper

REAR BRAKE: Single 240mm petal disc with single-piston caliper

WHEELBASE: 58.1 in.

GROUND CLEARANCE: 13.0 in.

SEAT HEIGHT: 37.2 in.

CURB WEIGHT: 233.6 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY: 1.61 gallons

COLOR: Lime Green

MSRP: TBA

 

Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.

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