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Kawasaki’s new KX’s keep the good times rolling for ’03

Published May 3rd, 2002





(Click on the thumbnails below to view the larger images.)



I’ve actually ridden Kawasaki’s before. In 1982 I rode Jeff Ward’s factory 125, 250, and 500 at a secret test track, as I was being courted by different factories for the 1983 season.



I did a lot of testing throughout my racing career, and I always enjoyed defining where the problems were, and trying to make the bikes better. Everyone is always striving to make a better motorcycle.



I started testing when I was 13 with Ed Schneidler, Don Dudek, Mark Porter, and the crew at Yamaha. Then I rode for Honda and tested with Brian Lunniss, Dave Arnold, and Roger De Coster.



In working with Japanese factories over the years, a very important question is asked ‘After you ride the bike for the first time, what is your first impression?’



In my first evaluation for our web-site, I am trying to be quick and to the point. And that’s because when testing for a factory or race team, you can’t waste any time. Nor can you second-guess. As a test rider, you are constantly questioning yourself, and trying to be consistent in how you ride.



My first impression of the new KX’s: They are fun, easy to ride, and great bikes for both supercross and motocross.



Both bikes are brand-new designs. Much like a domino effect, a lot small modifications that add up to big overall performance gains. On both bikes I could go as fast as I wanted to easily. You never get a second chance for a first impression, and Kawasaki has made a strong first impression with their 2003 models.



The front end on both bikes felt light and agile. It most cases, that translates into a bike not being able to find the right rut you are looking for in corners, an overall problem with cornering, and a ‘nervous’ feeling. It can also have the feeling of the bike wanting to loop out. But not with these bikes, you can find the berm and stay in it. I could change my line in the middle of a corner with ease. You can attack jumps harder, and get over the front end more. And you can float the front end over bumps and whoops with confidence.



The carburetor on both bikes was spot-on. Don’t over-rev the 250 though. My recommendation is to stay right in the meat of the power band. The KIPS system works great, both bikes are very responsive, and very consistent. Good acceleration right from the first opening of the throttle. Good power for everyone from beginners to pros.



I was pleasantly surprised at how balanced both bikes feel. Easy to corner. Easy to jump. Forgiving on landings.



250: When I first took off at really slow speed, the bike seemed rigid and stiff. But as soon as I picked up the pace only a bit, the suspension smoothed out. The next thought I had was ‘Will this be too soft for me? What’s going to happen if I over-jump something? Will the suspension bottom out?’ But big jumps turned out to be no problem. It handled them very well.



The suspension feels great at cornering, both high speed and low speed. Even with my weight (207 lbs. Darn, I need to lose some weight!) being a bit heavy for stock suspension, I only bottomed once on the track at my best speed when I over jumped a big downhill jump.



The bike responded very well to small changes on the suspension. After the first ride, I went two clicks in on the compression of the rear shock. That made it feel a bit twitchy and nervous. Then I went the other direction, going two clicks past the stock setting to make it softer. The back end settled down, got better traction, but I felt the ‘ride height’ was too low.



After the second session on the 250, we made an adjustment of one and a half turns on the sag. I had it between 105 mm and 108 mm, but that’s too much. The technicians recommended 93 to 95 mm. That was optimal. The front and back ends of the motorcycle work very well together.



The motor on the 250 is very linear and strong. The new design combination of carburetor, crank, and power valve makes it very rider-friendly. I’ve always felt that power valves had too strong of a hit when they open, but this one is very smooth.



125: On the 125, keep it rolling with the rpm up like on any 125. Don’t stop mid-corner and expect any 125 to pull you out strong. Keep your momentum, and the rpm up, and you’ll rock. The 125 has a nice, smooth, and long power band. Power is very usable, and wide for a 125. Top end was good too.



On the 125, a 207 lb. man is not the ideal set-up for stock suspension. But I found the same characteristics on the 250 applying to the 125. Smooth, well-balanced, easy to ride, and easy to make adjustments. The suspension is one step lighter on both ends compared to the 250. I kept it at the stock settings, and it worked great.



What is in it for the motocross rider of today? Both bikes are lighter, and have more power. The brakes are smooth, and I could get by with using only one finger on the front brake. Clutch engagement is smooth, and good for starts. Suspension responds well to change. These bikes are very well balanced and fun to ride.



As I said before, you never get a second chance for a first impression, and Kawasaki has made a strong first impression with their 2003 models.





RJ





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Side bar: I was a factory rider for a day – by ‘Vet Beginner’




It was like a dream come true. Brand new bikes. Perfectly prepared track. Big race truck semi. Technicians on hand to make adjustments. I was a factory rider! (For a day.)



I got to ride the new Kawasaki 125 and 250!



The first bike I rode was the 250. It feels good from the moment you sit on it. Everything was comfortable – seat, handlebars, grips, levers, foot pegs, shifter, and brakes.



Once I got rolling, the next thing I noticed was the power. Very smooth. No glitches in the power band. You want more, just turn the throttle!



It is easy to move around on the bike. You didn’t really have to think, it just comes naturally. The brakes are smooth too. No binding or grabbing, just nice, smooth, progressive stopping.



The suspension was like ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ – just right! It was so good, I didn’t even notice it. That’s the best compliment I can give. You don’t notice either end. Small bumps, big bumps, it makes no difference – it just works!



Next I rode the 125. Equally impressive. It felt really light. What I found out later is that it’s not only because 125′s are lighter in weight, but it’s also the inertia of the crank and motor. It’s less with the 125. (Learn something new every day!)



Everything was very comfortable on the 125 as well. Wide and smooth power band that was surprisingly easy to ride. Excellent ergonomics, great brakes. The suspension was the same as the 250 – you don’t even have to think about it because it works so well!



It was a dream come true. Both of these bikes work very well. Smooth, well-balanced, easy to ride. So good in fact, you don’t have to think about anything, just concentrate on riding and having fun!



Now if I can get James to give me some riding tips, and score me a trophy girl ….





Lex

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Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 1 of 14

This is the 250

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Jeff Emig was there too

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Nice track huh?

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 4 of 14

‘Vet Beginner’ really was a factory rider for a day

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 5 of 14

RJ corners the 250

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 6 of 14

Same corner on the 125

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Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 8 of 14

Big ‘ski-jump’ downhill

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 9 of 14

Same jump, different angle

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 10 of 14
Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 11 of 14

Start on the 125

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Start on the 250

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 13 of 14

There have only been 18 SX Champions in the history of the sport – here are two of them

Kawasaki's new KX's keep the good times rolling for '03 - Photo 14 of 14

Fro and RJ



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