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Review of: 2009 Kawasaki KLX250S
 
Year, Brand, Model: 2009 Kawasaki KLX250S
Submitted By: BC-Rider
All reviews by BC-Rider
Review Created: Feb 21, 2012
Last Update: Mar 13, 2012
 
Vehicle Type: Dual Sport
Vehicle Subtype(s): All Around DS Under 401cc
Engine Displacement (cc): 250
 
Ownership: Previously
Evaluation Period: 6 months
Evaluation Distance / Hours: 2200 km
 
Rider Details
Height: 175 cm
Inseam: 81 cm
Weight: 68 kg
Same Type Vehicles Owned: 2
Years Riding Vehicle Type: 5

Pros:
suspension, smooth motor, decent top-end power, instruments, good value

Cons:
weak bottom end, hot starting problem, weak battery

Comments:
I was primarily interested in a Suzuki DRZ400S when I found a good deal on a new 2009 KLX250S. That was October 2009. If I had ridden a KLX250S previously, I likely would have bought a DRZ400S instead. The KLX250S is not a bad bike, in fact it’s quite good in some aspects, but I found it lacking in some areas. I put 2200 km on the bike before I sold it.

I chose to stick with the recommended break-in procedure that was stipulated in the owner’s manual. This was a tedious process (keep it below 4000 rpm for the first 800 km and below 6000 rpm for the next 800 km). The bike has such a weak bottom end that you can’t keep the engine speed below 4000 rpm when accelerating. If you do, especially on any type of incline, you’ll end up lugging the engine. I would rev it to about 5000 rpm before up shifting. 4000 rpm in top gear is only an indicated 65 km/h, or so. The second half of the break-in period isn’t too bad.

When I rode the bike the first time, I was surprised at how weak the low end was. I was expecting it to have similar performance to my old 1992 DR350S which was air cooled, but it didn’t. The weak low end power was what I disliked most about this bike. Unless you use the clutch you can pretty much forget about getting the front wheel up off the ground (even with a bump and tugging on the bars). In my search on various forums, I learned that this bike is apparently one of the most difficult bikes to get the front wheel up to clear obstacles on the trail. Even with air box modifications, re-jetting and a smaller front sprocket, it is difficult to loft the wheel (forget about power wheelies). I left my bike stock, as from what I read, modifying the carb (jetting, slide spring) and the air box didn’t really increase the bottom end although throttle response was supposedly a little better. I didn’t change (lower) the gearing because I was riding mostly a mix of street, faster trails and forest service roads. It constantly bugged me that I couldn’t loft the front wheel over rocks and bumps as easily as I could on my old DR350S (completely stock except for tires – MT21s).

I found the top end power adequate. The bike will cruise on the highway at 100 km/h, but unless I paid attention to the speedometer, I found my speed dropping off at times. I had the bike up to 130 km/h, and I could have gone faster. Acceleration is adequate up to 110 km/h, but it’s not exciting, but then, this is only a 250. I would think twice about passing another vehicle on the highway unless it’s going very slow or you have a lot of passing room. It was reasonably stable on the highway, but it is a light bike with quick steering, and as such, it is subject to being blown around some, but it was never scary. You do have to pay attention to your lines (and lane position). This is not a comfortable bike to ride on the street, although the engine is very smooth. The seat is very uncomfortable for more than 30 minutes of sit-down riding; the bike is fine for trail riding where you are standing on the foot pegs a lot. This is a trail bike that works okay for short runs on the street. Oh sure, you could ride it across the country if you wanted to, but there are a lot more suitable bikes for that kind of trip. If you want to use it for extended riding, you’ll likely want to replace or modify the seat, and you may want a larger fuel tank. I was getting about 165 km of mixed riding (easy trails and street) before I hit reserve. I was getting about 32 km / l (completely stock bike) during mixed trail and street riding. That works out to almost 250 km out of the 7.8 liter tank, but I wouldn’t try pushing it that far. I would count on a range of about 200 km of mixed, easy riding.

The bike is very cold blooded. It needs to be warmed for about 5 minutes before you can ride it without it bogging. I never had a problem starting the bike with a cold engine (outside temp > 18C), but hot starting was problem, though. If the bike sat for a couple of minutes with a hot engine, it was very difficult to re-start with the electric starter. Using the choke helped some, so I’m guessing the bike is just too lean with stock jetting. I sold the bike before I got this sorted out. The bike was easy to bump start when hot. Perhaps it was a combination of lean jetting and a low capacity battery (weak spark when cranking?). Speaking of the battery, it’s a weak link in this bike in my opinion. When making a few attempts at starting the bike, you can detect that the battery is running down. Also, after I let the bike sit for 2.5 weeks the battery was essentially dead. Not impressed. I thought that the battery was defective, so I took it to the Kawasaki shop to have it tested. It was within specifications, so likely there was a drain on the battery while in the bike (the instruments?).

Other problems or complaints: the bike would weave at low speeds (under 40 km/h) on pavement. This improved with more km on the bike. I suspect that the steering head bearings were a bit tight from the factory. Gas dripped out of the carb drain tube when the bike was new. It once left a puddle of gas under the bike. Likely the floats were sticking. This problem resolved itself. Oil leaked out of the oil filler hole. Either the oil filler hole neck (where the o-ring seats) was machined too deep or the wrong o-ring was installed. This was fixed with a thicker o-ring from an auto parts store. The machining of the oil filler hole was poor. It was rough, and there was a very sharp protrusion of casting material next to the hole (like a knife edge that stuck up about 4mm).

The stock fork compression damping was too much for my weight (150 pounds without gear) for riding on rough, rocky trails. After a short distance my arms were getting itchy from the pounding and vibration. The problem was easily solved by reducing the amount compression damping. I found the stock suspension springing okay most of the time. I did bottom the front end a couple of times when hitting runoff diversion ditches cutting across the trails. I rode the bike at a moderate pace on the trails (double track). The bike is good on the trails, thanks, mainly, to the fully adjustable suspension. It would be better with lower gearing and more aggressive knobbies. As I already mentioned, it is difficult to loft the wheel over trail obstacles. The bike just crashes into them. I do find that a bike is more entertaining to ride off road if you can get the front wheel up in the air without too much difficulty. The KLX250S doesn’t fit that criterion. The bike is suitable for riding single track trails, but it is quite a bit heavier than a number of pure dirt bikes.

I think that the bike looks good (stylish), but I don’t think that the fit and finish on the bike is as good as that of, say, a DRZ400S or a CRF230L. A number of mounting brackets on the frame look like they were added on as an after-thought. Some of the welds are rough. The rear tail light assembly rattles quite loudly (knocking / smacking) on the trails. The frame looks like a low budget item, as do some other bolted on items.

I liked the suspension. I liked the digital instruments. I liked the looks. I liked riding it on the trails, but you have to keep the motor revved to get any performance out of it. I didn’t find it particularly heavy (297 lbs claimed curb weight) or tall (34.8 inch seat height). The stock tires are decent on pavement, gravel, dirt and rocky trails. They’re not so good when the trails are muddy. The bike needed only basic routine maintenance. The chain didn’t need adjustment until about 2000 km. I had a brief on road ride on a CRF230L. The KLX250S has a lot more power on the highway; the CRF230L was straining. The CRF230L seemed to be a bit stronger at lower revs, and has a lower seat and bit lower weight.

I sold the bike almost a year after buying it. The bike was nicer to ride after putting about 2200 km on it. I was somewhat reluctant to sell it, and there have been times when I wished I had kept it. If I could of justified owning two dual sport bikes at the time, then I might have kept the KLX250S. If I have more disposable income in the future and more time for riding, then I might consider buying another one. I would put D606s or MT21s on it and lower the final gearing to make it more fun to ride off road. I would likely re-jet (richen) it too. If I buy a truck again one day, I may opt for a pure dirt bike instead another small dual sport bike. I sold the KLX because I wanted a dual sport that’s not bad on the easier trails and is more suitable for some extended highway riding (to get to the trails further away) and to do some back road exploring and some multi-day trips. I wanted a bike that had some decent low end power. After debating about either a Suzuki DRZ400S or a DR650 for quite a while, I ended up buying a DR650.

Would I recommend the bike? Yes and no. It really depends on what you want and / or need in a dual sport bike. The seat height is going to put some people off as it’s about three inches taller than that of a CRF230L, DR200 or XT250, and the KLX250S is a bit heavier. I think the KLX250S is a better value and offers more performance and has better suspension than the CRF230L or XT250, but some riders may like the Honda or Yamaha better. The Yamaha WR250R has higher specifications and looks to be better made than the KLX250S, but it does cost quite a bit more. The Suzuki DRZ400S costs about the same as the WR250R, but it is a bit heavier and is even taller. If you want good value, and you intend to mostly ride trails including single track, and the seat height isn’t a problem, and a strong low end isn’t a requirement, then I would recommend the KLX250S. If you have more money to spend then you might want to take a look at a WR250R before making a final decision. I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the other brands (KTM, etc), and I’ve never ridden any of them except for a short street ride on a Husqvarna TE250 (which wasn’t running quite right), so I don’t feel qualified to comment much about them. They do seem to offer higher performance, have higher end components and cost more. They’re also more dirt oriented (street legal dirt bikes), which may or may not be what you’re after.