Choosing a DR Long Haul test bike is always a fun process, but scoring the 250F shootout winner is a double whammy in my book. I was super excited to acquire the ’09 KX250F for the duration of the testing season, and was equally stoked when the bike carried its high-performance shootout momentum straight into an enjoyable, problem-free year.The first 15 hours on this machine were clicked off in our shootout gauntlet, after which the bike received a good bath and a solid overall checkup. Shortly thereafter, I began to log more time on the bike and noticed a few small issues emerge: the graphics fell off, the brake fluid became critically low and the stock chain guide was as worn out as a supercross podium speech. I ran the shrouds sticker-less for a while until I got a new set from Factory Effex, but the chain guide was a different story altogether. Luckily, T.M. Designworks’ Chain Slide-N-Guide Kit fixed the problem for good. Following that, the bike got another good prep during which the brake fluid was topped off, new Kenda tires were tossed on and nearly everything on the bike was either torqued to spec or slathered in Loctite. At this point I also added some Works Connection guards for good measure.Right around the 26-hour mark on the hourmeter, I noticed the stock Kawasaki silencer began to get much louder and more blown-out sounding. Additionally, the shock began to blow through the stroke with increased frequency and at lower speeds. To combat the suspension issue, Fox Shox took delivery of the bike and installed one of its Podium RC3 shocks, which originally offered much better bottoming resistance than stock. In the sound department, a Leo Vince X3 stainless system replaced the stock unit and gave the bike smoother delivery, stronger low-end power and a much more pleasant exhaust note.
Per Kawasaki’s recommendations, we opened up the top end at 30 hours and installed a new piston, though from the fresh look of the motor I’m pretty confident the bike could have gone another 30 hours on the stock setup. The valves checked out well within spec, only on the loose side, so we shimmed them to one-size-thicker shim upon reassembly. We compression-tested the top end, replaced the spark plug, installed a new clutch and generally inspected everything. Even after 30 long hours of shootout abuse and testing, the innards of the motor looked great and the bike was ready to rip once we got it all buttoned up.As soon as the new piston broke in, the Kawasaki was as barky as it ever had been. Even with just an exhaust pipe and no motor modifications, the KX250F truly feels like a race bike. On the track, the 250F continued to shine in the power department, but roughly five hours after the top end rebuild I noticed the bike became slightly more difficult to shift. Although the oil still looked good and the transmission wasn’t grinding or making similar bad noises, there were around half a dozen instances where the bike popped out of gear for seemingly no reason at all. (In hindsight, it’s clear that this wasn’t just a problem with our test unit, as the 2010 KX250F comes with a revised transmission that boasts increased durability, so you can surmise that someone else had this issue as well.) The shifting issue was disconcerting, but the problem wasn’t serious enough to warrant a complete bottom end teardown. At this time, the stock chain and sprockets were completely trashed, so we replaced them with an EK chain and Sunstar sprockets, along with some Braking brake pads that greatly elevated the braking control back to-even above-stock standards. For looks, a Boyesen clutch cover was bolted on, and some fresh Kenda Triple tires were slapped onto the wheels.Apart from the transmission, the next major upgrade came in the form of the Fox Shox Podium RC3 unit, which began to fade and feel blown out as soon as the shock became too hot. We tried to tune this feeling out and to get used to it, but the problem persisted and grew worse over time. The ultimate test for the shock (and the rest of the bike, for that matter) came around 40 hours when the KX250F took part in the notorious Glen Helen 12-Hour Endurance Race, a grueling half-day chop fest centered on the famous motocross circuit. With Ricky Yorks, Chris Barrett, Kevin Dejoung and Ryan Hanna at the helm, the Kawasaki ran a great race and managed to finish over a lap ahead of second place in the 125-250 Expert class. Afterward, the shock was toast and the bike looked roached, but the motor still started on the first kick. Additionally, the transmission held up well enough.As we near the introduction of the 2010 KX250F and, subsequently, the end of the road for the ’09 Long Haul, our trusty old Kawasaki is still going through the paces. The shock has been refurbished by Fox, and the tired fork has seen a new set of stock seals, although a full top and bottom end rebuild, looking closely at the shifting parts, would be in order if we were keeping the bike any longer. The stock handlebar, grips, levers and plastic are still on the bike, though the seat was replaced with a new stock unit after a hard 12-hour crash and the machine as a whole looks fairly tired (something that seems to happen to Kawasakis much more quickly than other models). As far as the durability of everything else, this bike was as impressive at the end of the year as it was at the beginning, save for the transmission gremlins. I’d need to get the shift action ironed out, freshen up the aesthetics and service the fork to get this Kawasaki back up to a raceable condition, but beyond those things I can tell it’s still hungry for more.www.boyesen.com