Test rider Gavin Valdez couldn’t get enough of the KX100. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KINNEY JONES

Unlike the bigger KX250 and 450F motocrossers, the “little” bikes – KX85 and KX100 – in Kawasaki’s lineup got all the loving for 2014. For the first time in over 10 years, the popular KX85, a long-time major player in the amateur motocross scene, took on many changes for 2014, and many of those changes carried over to the nearly identical but larger (mainly wheels, wheelbase, seat height and cylinder bore) KX100, a bike designed to bridge the gap between the 85s and 250Fs for the growing racers.

For years, the 85cc two-stroke class has remained fairly stagnant as far as new machinery. The main players – Yamaha YZ85, Suzuki RM85 and the Kawasaki KX85 – having been relying on old technology for quite some time now, but with KTM coming on strong with its high-tech and, most importantly, very fast 85 SXs, Kawasaki, at least, thought it was about time to get with the times and update its two-stroke small-bore motocrossers. 

The 2014 KX85 is pretty much an all-new machine, but some of the things that made the KX85 so popular in the first place hasn’t been lost. For example, the six-speed transmission has the same ratios as before, and Dad will be quite familiar with the four-spring clutch. Engine cases haven’t changed nor has the KX’s steel perimeter frame, which retains the same geometry as before. Bracket placement, however, is different to accommodate a much larger radiator, new bodywork and whatever else needed relocating, and Kawasaki says certain key areas of the frame have been strengthened.

Both the KX85 and 100 are noticeably more powerful than before. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KINNEY JONES

The 28mm Keihin PWK carburetor is the same, as well, but has updated jetting.

Even the exhaust pipe is the same.

Obviously, Kawasaki knew what already worked with the KX85 and left well enough alone but improved on just everything else, like much of the motor. Porting has been significantly updated, and it got a new cylinder head and gasket, and a crank that is now larger and filled in with a resin material to increase engine compression. There is also a new single-ring piston. But one of the most notable updates to the KX’s motor is the all-new and more efficient guillotine-type Kawasaki Integrated Power-Valve System (KIPS), which we were told is similar in design to Kawasaki’s last-generation KX125 two-stroke motor.

Suspension has been upgraded, as well. The 36mm KYB inverted fork now features shim-type valving and firmer damping settings, and the rear shock now has a compression clicker for more adjustment.

Kawasaki felt it was important not to increase the 85’s seat height and actually reduced it slightly. There’s also more handlebar adjustability thanks to new three-position risers and two-position handlebar clamps for a total of six different handlebar positions. The handlebar themselves are also wider and taller.

But perhaps the longest overdue change was cosmetics – that’s quite important to the kids. Finally, the little KX has all-new plastic and graphics, giving it a more modern and refreshing look.

The KX100, which is fitted with two-inch larger wheels front (19-in.) and rear (16 in.) and has a 4mm larger bore, takes on pretty much the same changes as the KX85, though it retains its previous cylinder head.

New plastic gives the KX85 (pictured) and KX100 a more modern and fresher look. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KINNEY JONES

Kawasaki introduced the new KX85 and 100 at a track well known for its minibike hospitality, Barona Oaks Raceway, located near San Diego, California. Our factory test rider for the day, 12-year-old Gavin Valdez, a “seasoned” SoCal Novice motocrosser whose own motorcycle is a Suzuki RM85, absolutely loved both bikes. He spent the first half of the day concentrating on the 85 and was extremely impressed with its motor, saying it had excellent bottom-end, making it easy for him to get out of the corners quickly, and was very fast from midrange on up. He talked a lot about how easy the motor is to use in general (a reputation that the previous KX85 had) and how “fast” it is. Other test riders already familiar with the older KX85 also said that the new KX is fast, and definitely faster than before – a lot faster, but is still easy to handle.

Gavin also felt that jetting was perfect. He didn’t feel any bogging or hesitation when opening up the throttle.

Gavin was also impressed with the KX85’s suspension, especially when it came to the breaking bumps. He said the bike felt very solid and stable, and that is soaked up the landings from the big jumps “really well.” He added that the bike just felt very controllable around the entire track. He came back in from the track once saying the front end felt a little on the soft side for his 112 pounds, but a couple of clicks on the compression made him happy. He had no complaints with the back end at all.

Valdez was impressed with the KX85’s suspension. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KINNEY JONES

But what made Gavin happy most was the KX100. He loved it. He felt that it was noticeably faster than the 85 and that he didn’t have to work as hard on it as he did on the 85, because the 100 pulled better and longer out of the turns, reducing his gear-shifting workload. Overall, he felt the motor was just as, if not a little more, controllable as the 85.

Compared to the KX85, the KX100 (shown) has two-inch larger wheels, 4mm larger bore, a slightly longer wheelbase and a taller seat height. PHOTOGRAPHY BY KINNEY JONES

Gavin also liked the KX100’s larger stature, which he said fit his 5’4” frame a little better than the 85’s. This, he said, made him feel more comfortable on the bike, which boosted his confidence level significantly. Jumps he was barely clearing on the 85 was a breeze for him on the 100.

Overall, though, Gavin loved both bikes but seemed to be more of a candidate for the KX100. He was the perfect example of why the KX100 exists. Gavin has almost outgrown the KX85, but isn’t ready to handle a 250F yet. No even close. So the KX100 is that perfect steppingstone for him. And I bet Dad might even have some fun on it, too.

At the end of the day, it was safe to say that both bikes are improved in just about every area. The KX85 having tons more power, improved suspension, more adjustability and better looks. Ditto with the KX100.

It’s pretty much safe to say that this new-generation KX85 and 100 will again help produce a new generation of star motocrossers.

By Cycle News Staff

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