2020 Kawasaki KLX230R First Ride Review

Kawasaki’s new 230cc trailbike provides fun for a variety of skill levels.

Riding the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230R on the trails near the Lily Prairie Staging Area in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Riding the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230R on the trails near the Lily Prairie Staging Area in Jacksonville, Oregon.Kevin Wing

One of Kawasaki's three new off-road and dual sport motorcycles in its KLX lineup for 2020 is the KLX230R. Kawasaki designed it to be both a capable, compact, lightweight playbike, and a recreational trailbike for off-road adventures, with usage being 60 percent easy dirt roads, 30 percent trails, and 10 percent technical trails.

According to Kawasaki, the target customers for the KLX230R include young adults who are outgrowing their 140cc playbikes, less experienced entry-level adult riders, experienced adult riders seeking value and a low-maintenance bike to ride with family and friends, and competitive brand owners shopping for a 230cc four-stroke.

Kawasaki introduced three new off-road and dual sport motorcycles in its KLX lineup for 2020, one of which is the KLX230R.
Kawasaki introduced three new off-road and dual sport motorcycles in its KLX lineup for 2020, one of which is the KLX230R.Kawasaki
According to Kawasaki, intended usage of the KLX230R is 60 percent easy dirt roads, 30 percent trails, and 10 percent technical trails.
According to Kawasaki, intended usage of the KLX230R is 60 percent easy dirt roads, 30 percent trails, and 10 percent technical trails.Kawasaki

We tested the 49-state model at the intro for the KLX230R in Jacksonville, Oregon, but it should be noted that Kawasaki also makes a California green sticker-eligible model, which has a few more features than the 49-state model in order to meet California's new emissions standards for off-highway vehicles including a steel fuel tank with a locking cap, a key-type ignition, and fuel injection (FI) indicator lamp in the engine kill switch to indicate any FI malfunction. The additional components on the California model add to the bike's overall weight. According to Kawasaki, the 49-state model weighs a claimed 254 pounds (wet), while the California model comes in at 258 pounds (wet).

2020 Kawasaki KLX230R Engine

Friendly for beginners but powerful enough for a more experienced adult rider to have fun on it during spirited riding, the KLX230R engine offers something for most who will swing a leg over it.
Friendly for beginners but powerful enough for a more experienced adult rider to have fun on it during spirited riding, the KLX230R engine offers something for most who will swing a leg over it.Kawasaki

With a smooth power delivery and an ideal amount of torque, the engine is one of the KLX230’s many attributes that makes it easy to ride. It pulls well throughout the rpm range, and the Keihin 32mm throttle body helps provide a consistent throttle response with no hiccups from bottom to top as well. The KLX230R’s predictable power delivery also makes it fun to ride as you can break the rear wheel loose into a slide and easily modulate it with the throttle. The engine is friendly for beginners, but powerful enough for a more experienced adult rider to have fun on it during spirited riding.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230R Suspension

The Showa suspension components have a good balance between offering comfort on bumps, but also being firm enough for slightly harder hits such as G-outs and small jump landings.
The Showa suspension components have a good balance between offering comfort on bumps, but also being firm enough for slightly harder hits such as G-outs and small jump landings.Kawasaki

A nonadjustable Showa 37mm telescopic fork is found at the front of the KLX230R, while out back is a Showa shock that is adjustable for spring preload, which offer 9.8 inches and 9.9 inches of travel, respectively. Both ends are sprung and valved appropriately for the target riders for the bike—either one who is moving up from a smaller-size playbike or is a less experienced, entry-level adult rider. The Showa components have a good balance between offering comfort on bumps, but also being firm enough for slightly harder hits such as G-outs and small jump landings. Both ends have noticeably more holdup and bottoming control than the KLX230 dual sport as well.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230R Chassis/Handling

Kawasaki’s agreeable ergonomics aren’t limited to its KX motocross models; the KLX bikes enjoy slim bodywork and are easy to move around on as well.
Kawasaki’s agreeable ergonomics aren’t limited to its KX motocross models; the KLX bikes enjoy slim bodywork and are easy to move around on as well.Kawasaki

Coming with a full-size 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel and having a claimed 36.2-inch seat height according to Kawasaki, the KLX230R has some similar specifications to a full-size dirt bike. However, it does not feel as significant in size as one either in height or length. It has a smaller overall feel that comes from its compact cockpit and rider triangle, along with its shorter 53.5-inch wheelbase, which is slightly more than 1 inch longer than the KLX140G trailbike.

The KLX230R has a very light and nimble feel on the trail along with intuitive, predictable handling. These qualities make it remarkably fun for an intermediate-level rider to throw it around and ride more aggressively, while at the same time being tame and user-friendly enough for a beginner rider to feel comfortable on and not be intimidated by it.

With bodywork that resembles the KX motocross bikes, the KLX230R features the same great narrow and agreeable qualities that the competition-oriented models have, which help make it easy to hop on, get used to quickly, and effortlessly maneuver back and forth on. The KLX230R is spec'd with Dunlop D952 tires, which provided ample traction in the dry, dusty conditions we tested in. The dash display is useful and informative with an on/off button, power indicator lamp, low-fuel warning lamp, and a fuel-injection warning lamp.

2020 Kawasaki KLX230R Overall Impression

The KLX230R is a bike that offers fun for riders of a variety of different skill levels. It can be a great playbike for new adult riders to learn on and also serve as a compact trailbike for an experienced rider to enjoy easily maneuvering it through fun, flowing trails. It also provides a great stepping-stone for new riders to transition from a smaller playbike up to a full-size trailbike or even a motocross bike. Regardless of where a rider falls on the aforementioned spectrum of rider types and skill levels, the KLX230R will undoubtedly provide countless hours of fun for them.

Gearbox

The KLX230R is a bike that offers fun for riders of a variety of different skill levels.
The KLX230R is a bike that offers fun for riders of a variety of different skill levels.Kawasaki
The KLX230R’s predictable power delivery makes it fun to ride as you can break the rear wheel loose into a slide and easily modulate it with the throttle.
The KLX230R’s predictable power delivery makes it fun to ride as you can break the rear wheel loose into a slide and easily modulate it with the throttle.Kawasaki

TECH SPEC

PRICE $4,399
ENGINE 233cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
MEASURED HORSEPOWER N/A
MEASURED TORQUE N/A
FRAME Steel perimeter
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 37mm telescopic fork; 9.8-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload; 9.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 240mm disc
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc
WHEELBASE 53.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 36.2 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 1.7 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 254 lb. (wet), 258 lb. CA model (wet)
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT kawasaki.com