Story By Kris Keefer
Photos By Adam Campbell
For 2014 Kawasaki turned its attention to the KX85 and KX100 models. With only minor refinements on the bigger Kawasaki machines for the New Year the kids’ bikes got some long-awaited attention that included a whole host of revisions and updates. We’re not going to get into all of the revisions here (you can go to http://www.dirtrider.com/features/kawasaki-introduces-the-2014-kx100/ and http://www.dirtrider.com/features/kawasaki-introduces-the-2014-kx85/ for that.)We did, however, get a couple of our Mini Rider test riders to shred laps at Barona Oaks Raceway, where Kawasaki let us take the bikes out for a full day of testing. We came away from our first day of testing with ten important things you need to know about the KX85 and KX100. Look for a more in-depth feature on both bikes in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rider Magazine.
1. Motor. The KX 85 feels more responsive than the previous model. Both test riders felt crisper throttle response coming out of corners with huge mid-range pull on the KX85. Rolling corners in second gear and fanning the clutch a little, the bike screamed out with no problem, getting over obstacles at Barona Oaks. Top end is where the little test dudes really smiled. One of our test riders mentioned that the 2014 KX85 was better on top than his modified 2013 version.
1b. Motor. The KX100 feels like it has more torque out of corners than the KX85. Throttle response wasn’t quite as good on the 100 but it seemed to pull out of loamy berms and deep, ripped sections of the track better than the 85. Top end was plentiful for each test rider and both could clear a sizeable 70 ft. double in third gear where the 85 was in fourth.
2. Forks. Our test riders varied from 110 to 145 lbs. and both felt that the KYB 36mm fork on both bikes held up well. Our lighter guy preferred a standard setting and surprisingly there was enough adjustment in the fork spring to please our heavier test guy as well. That’s quite a wide range of adjustment on the fork! Our lighter tester was also impressed with how well the fork soaked up hard landings. It used its travel but was never harsh for him anywhere on the track. Our bigger test rider said he could have used a stiffer end stroke at the end of the day when he was hitting the track a little harder.
3. The shock has great adjustability. Both riders managed to get the recommended setting of 90mm out of the 85 and 100 shock. That’s hard to do with such a huge gap between the riders’ weights. Our lighter rider thought the shock could have been better coming out of choppy corners, as the shock wasn’t squatting enough in the rear. Our heavier rider praised the shock and its ability to hit square edges and keep traction and move forward.
4. Adjustable bar positions. Both riders thought that the adjustability of the bar was very cool. Neither of them previously had the opportunity to change their bar position unless they went to an aftermarket top clamp. There were a few inches difference between our test riders and both found a bar position comfortable for them. They also agreed on the stock bar bend. The higher bend seemed to be a hit with more aggressive riders.
5. Handling. The KX85 corners a little better in the tighter corners and the KX100 was more stable at high speeds. Both test riders agreed that the KX85 was easier to get into corners and to change directions on the track.
6. Brakes. Both test riders felt the brakes were on par for their liking. However, the brakes did seem to squeak as the day wore on. This could have been from heat as we basically kept the bike in rotation and it didn’t get to cool down for about six hours. The brakes work well and one test rider thought they were only as good as his 2013’s brakes – it seems that they’re not any better on the 2014 models.
7. Jetting. This is worth mentioning because one of our test riders felt like his 2013 KX 85, even with attempts at cleaning it up, never jetted as cleanly as the new models do. Stock jetting was clean and crisp on both bikes (we were at sea level at 90 degrees Fahrenheit) and popping was non-existent throughout the day.
8. Ergonomics. Both riders loved the narrow feel of the 2014 KX85 and 100. It feels like you can get your leg up easier in deep ruts and also move up on the tank better. This allows the rider to get more comfortable on the track.
9. Looks. Yes, kids do care about looks more than us older folk. With the new KX85 and KX100 receiving modern lines and looks like their older brothers, the kids felt like they were riding a scaled-down version of Ryan Villopoto’s bike (even if it does sound funny and smoke more!)
10. Support/Contingency. It’s hard not to notice Team Green when you go to a big amateur national. Team Green support has been around for many years and they offer free technical support at over 100 events per year. You might as well get some money back if you’re racing those amateur nationals and Kawasaki still offers contingency for the little guy and gals out there.
With riders like Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Villopoto coming from a Kawasaki mini bike background it’s hard to deny these bikes’ track record of success. We have to give kudos to Kawasaki for giving the KX85 and KX100 a rebirth and for not losing track of the brand’s heritage and roots. It’s also great to see them investing in two-strokes. The new models are a huge improvement from last year and having two sizes available makes it that much easier for the parents.
Stay tuned to the November 2013 issue of Dirt Rider for the full test!