5th Place of the 2018 250F MX Shootout: Kawasaki KX250F

A well-rounded, thin machine

Andrew Oldar
“The Kawasaki feels like the thinnest bike in the class, partially due to its slim radiator shrouds and number plates.” —Andrew OldarJeff Allen

After a complete overhaul in 2017, the Kawasaki KX250F returns in 2018 with a number of engine and suspension changes. In the motor department, Kawasaki added a new throttle body with a shallower injector angle, a new fuel pump, a revised intake duct and shorter intake funnel, a new cylinder head design, a new intake camshaft, revised ECU settings, and a new header pipe. They also made a few minor changes to the suspension in both the front and rear; the Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF) has a softer spring and added preload in the right leg, while the left fork leg receives new compression and rebound settings. In the rear, the shock has revised damping settings.

Dyno Chart
2018 Kawasaki KX250F | Dyno ChartDirt Rider Staff

Engine

The Kawasaki engine revs quickly and has a crisp throttle response. The powerband feels very linear, which makes it easy to ride the bike in any part of the powerband comfortably. On the dyno, the KX250F makes 34.8 hp at 11,850 rpm, and even though it ranked fifth in the horsepower category, many test riders listed it as one of their favorite engines due to how user-friendly the powerband was.

The KX250F comes with three coupler options: stock (green), black (mellow), and white (lean). The different maps don’t significantly change any part of the power curve, but most test riders preferred the lean coupler, as it provided a more instantaneous throttle response throughout the rpm range. While the KX250F makes decent power across the rev range, it doesn’t feel especially strong in one particular area, and some testers felt that overall it felt less powerful than some of its competition.

Michael Wicker
“The Kawasaki is comfortable because of how slim it is.” —Michael WickerJeff Allen

Suspension

The suspension on the Kawasaki blends a combination of performance and comfort in the front and rear, respectively. The Showa SFF fork has more of a performance-based feel to it. Most riders less than 160 pounds and of varying skill levels felt that the fork gave some harsh feeling in the palms on small chop but were able to, for the most part, alleviate it with some clicker adjustments. On the other hand, the fork had great bottoming resistance and had no issues soaking up bigger impacts. The shock has a much plusher feel than the fork and does a great job of absorbing both braking and acceleration bumps. Similar to the engine, while most test riders were able to find a comfortable setting with a few or more clicker adjustments, the general consensus was that the suspension is good but not great, especially in comparison to the suspension components on the four machines that finished in front of it in the shootout rankings.

Steve Boniface
“The Kawasaki is the most neutral bike in the class.” —Steve BonifaceJeff Allen

Handling

The KX250F is one of the most neutral-handling bikes in the class. The bike feels small in a positive way. A few test riders commented that it feels a bit long but is very well planted. The Kawasaki feels very thin from front to rear, which is partially due to how tight the radiator shrouds are tucked in and how slim the number plates feel between the rider’s legs. The bike corners well and accommodates both front- and rear-end steering riders. Rear-end steering riders will find it easy to flat track the bike and/or find a wide line and hit a berm with ease. At the same time, the bike also settles and tracks very well in ruts without trying to climb out or do anything out of the ordinary.

Another notable and praiseworthy trait of the KX250F is that it’s very easy to throw around in the air. One complaint that a couple of test riders had was that the height difference from the seat to the handlebar seemed bigger than all of the other bikes, with both of them stating they would prefer a lower-bend bar to get rid of this sensation.

Cody Johnston
“The Kawasaki has a fast-revving engine and excellent suspension, both of which make it a great racebike.” —Cody JohnstonJeff Allen

Why It Should Have Won

The Kawasaki KX250F is a well-rounded bike with a very comfortable chassis and agreeable ergonomics. It does everything well but nothing great, which is what held it back in many of the test riders’ overall rankings.

Bradley Lionnet
“Everything on the Kawasaki is good—nothing stands out.” —Bradley LionnetJeff Allen

Why It Didn't Win

The engine isn’t as powerful as the four bikes that finished ahead of it in the rankings, and the fork lacks comfort in stock form.

2018 Kawasaki KX250F
“The slim design of the Kawasaki makes it feel very light.” —Cody JohnstonPete Peterson
KX250F Settings Stock Best
Fork Compression 8 6
Fork Rebound 16 16
Fork Spring Preload 11 19
Shock Low-Speed Compression 11 9
Shock High-Speed Compression 2.25 2.25
Shock Rebound 12 12
Shock Sag (mm) 102-105 105