Kawasaki KDX 200R
Kawasaki KDX 200R
Liquid cooled, single cylinder, two stroke
Bore x Stroke
66 x 58 mm
37 hp 27 kW @ 8000 rpm
34.3 Nm @ 7000 rpm
6 Speed / chain
Telescopic forks 20-way compression damping
290mm wheel travel
Single shock adjustable preload, 20-way compression damping
and 18-way rebound damping 300mm wheel travel
Single 250mm disc 2 piston caliper
Single 230mm disc 1 piston caliper
Kawasaki has a good thing going with
their KDX 200, a motorcycle they humbly refer to as "the greatest trailbike ever
made." But what do you do for an encore when your bike is already considered to
be the standard by which all others are judged?
A lack of significant changes can result in a loss of sales as
buyers flock to what's new from other manufacturers, but even worse is change
for change's sake that results in an inferior product.
Kawasaki solved this dilemma by introducing the new KDX220R
while still keeping the venerable 200 in the line up for those loyal to that
machine. Clearly the powers at Kawasaki were cautious of alienating faithful
customers with a "New Coke" version of their famous enduro.
We had a chance to test both bikes back to back along with the
new KLX300R which replaces last year's KLX250, at Kawasaki's ride introduction.
The three day event took place in a tiny mining town nestled deep within the
beautiful mountain ranges of central Idaho. Scenery was stunning with views
rivaling Switzerland and Austria's best. Sorry, but we're keeping the place a
secret as some things are better left undiscovered. Temperature was the only
downside to this spectacular locale as the mercury dropped to a bone-numbing
thirty degrees in the morning and only mustered fifty-five during the afternoon.
Kawasaki pulled out all the stops to make sure the test bikes
were properly presented to the press. The Team Green crew, complete with their
eighteen wheeled rolling workshop, had a fleet of KLX's and KDX's gassed up and
ready to go upon our arrival. Off-road heroes Ty Davis (two time ISDE top
American), and Larry Roeseler (winningest off-road rider to date) were on hand
to guide the group, lend their expertise and do what they do best for the
Over the next three days we rode all three models in a variety
of conditions. The trails were primarily single track loops joined by tracts of
dust, mud, technical rocky sections, rutted switchbacks, trees, logs and
considerable snow in the higher elevations.
Having personally owned nearly a half dozen KDX models over
the years I was anxious to climb aboard the new 220R to see what happens to "the
world's greatest trailbike" when it is improved.
This year's all new 220R has generated a great deal of
excitement amongst KDX diehards everywhere. Kawasaki claims that the 220R
"bridges the gap" between riders who feel a 200cc machine might be underpowered,
but consider a 250cc bike to be too much motorcycle. Both KDX models share an
identical chassis with the only differences being the motor and carb.
Kawasaki is presenting the 220R as the more race-worthy
version of the KDX family because of its engine modifications. The 220R comes on
strong off the bottom and builds smoothly until it's time to shift. However
compared to the 200 it seems to run out of steam quickly, almost as if it's
being held back. These type of power characteristics make the bike more suitable
for trail riding than serious competition. Maybe the altitude played with our
best judgement but the smaller 200 seems capable of generating power more
rapidly and for a longer duration than the 220R. Without a Dyno run we can't be
sure but a quick dissection of Kawasaki's new lime green Frankenstein might shed
It's rumored that the 220 engine is borrowed directly from a
domestic (Japanese) dual purpose unit. While the motor is virtually identical to
the 200 there are a few subtle differences which no doubt contribute to the
220R's tamer disposition. The cylinder bore is three millimeters larger yielding
an overall displacement of 216 cubic centimeters as opposed to the 200's 198
cubic centimeters. This looks like we're on the right track, however, from here
things go awry. Strangely, a carburetor that is a full two millimeters smaller
(PWK33) than the 200's provides the intake mixture. While theoretically this
would create improved low end response one would assume bumping the displacement
and leaving all things constant would accomplish the same end.
Kawasaki engineers cooked up further changes in their
cauldron. At idle both models report almost identical compression ratios but as
rpm builds the 200 comes out .7:1 higher. On the 220R both the transfer and
exhaust port timing has been ever so lightly tinkered with to produce smoother,
more tractable power. We would be interested to see the results of a carb swap
but time did not permit this.
We're looking forward to reviewing a 220R for an extended
period of time but at this zero hour we're hard pressed to recommend one model
over the other. Both KDX's are very good and very similar. With the 200
retailing a full $250 less it's difficult justifying the purchase of a 220R for
racing purposes. It makes more sense to buy a 200 and spend the savings on an
aftermarket 240cc kit, a pipe and maybe a port job. At least you'll be starting
out with a larger carburetor.
Kawasaki's KDX200 has experienced a strong following since its
inception in 1983 and the latest perimeter steel frame version (H model)is
probably the best ever.
While the only noteworthy refinement is the addition of 10%
stronger clutch springs the little 200 is still a very competitive mount, both
on the showroom floor as well as the trail.
A suggested retail price of just $4,299 makes the KDX a very
attractive package indeed.
Frankly, we did not expect any significant revelations from a
motorcycle who's powerplant is based on last year's borderline-anemic KLX250.
But after having ridden the package it's hard not to be excited about what we
discovered. Kawasaki has come up with a combination of engine and component
modifications that have made notable improvements in power and handling.
Displacement was increased by boring the cylinder an
additional six millimeters to bring total size to 292cc. A Keihin CVK34
(Constant Velocity) carburetor is fitted and performed without hesitation or
error during our evaluation although we did experience some minor backfiring
during high speed runs when the throttle was abruptly chopped. This did not seem
to affect performance, although it did scare off nearby wildlife.
Starting the bike hot or cold is easy thanks to Kawasaki's
Automatic Compression Release (KACR) system while last year's rough idling has
been eliminated by advancing the ignition five degrees. Modifications were also
made to fifth and sixth gears to improve transmission performance while
attempting to reduce overall gear noise.
However, during our test the KLX jumped out of gear on two
separate occasions, both while under load. This problem wasn't unique to our
bike either as several members of the press were able to duplicate this
Kawasaki is aware of the problem and says it will be fixed.
Smaller detail changes include a repositioned oil filter for easier access and
larger radiator shrouds that are fastened via a plastic "pop-in" tab rather than
the traditional bolt-on design. One rider managed to pop one out during a crash
but the piece was undamaged and quickly snapped back into place. Very nice.
Front forks are 43mm upside-down cartridge units with 16-way
adjustable compression damping. A rear shock with piggyback reservoir and 16
compression and rebound damping adjustments rides on Kawasaki's patented
Uni-Trak linkage system. Kawasaki claims that both front and rear suspension
spring rates have been slightly increased to suit faster riders. With stock
settings at both ends the suspension did a good job of keeping the machine on
its intended course and only a few unexpected drop-offs and some large jumps
resulted in light bottoming.
The plastic engine coolant reservoir shares the same
under-the-seat left side positioning as older KDX models. It's easily
accessible, or rather would be if the KLX came with a toolbag like it's KDX
cousin. In the event that the KLX requires any sort of trailside maintenance
necessitating tools you're out of luck. Although there's plenty of room on the
rear fender you'll have to shell out the extra cash for a KDX or aftermarket
toolbag in order to enjoy the comfort of having tools.
The KLX's exhaust canister has a removable baffle assembly for
competition riding. While this does not compromise the function of the
mechanical spark arrestor it does, obviously, result in a louder exhaust note
that might be offensive in some parts of the world. Sound levels were not overly
obnoxious in the wide open areas we traversed but you should use your own
judgment based on the situation.
Both front and rear brakes are the same as last years KX250
and are very capable of hauling the bike down from speed. We were less pleased
with the routing of the front brake line which hangs below the front left fork
leg inviting possible failure in the event of a severe enough hit. While we did
not experience any troubles we would anxiously keep an eye on this.
The KLX has .8 inches less ground clearance than the KDX
although its seat is .2 inches taller. Despite the numbers, riding the KLX gives
the pilot an impression of sitting very close to the ground with ergonomics
reminiscent of the older KDX175, albeit superior in design. Whether it's the
seat's slimness or perhaps the positioning of the low footpeg, the layout works
well as the KLX inspired confidence in nasty mud and snow-covered terrain. It is
a very easy bike to ride and worked well in technical situations that required
frequent touching down to stay upright.
With a claimed weight of only 231.5 pounds dry the KLX weighs
just 8.5 pounds more than both KDX200's and a full 25.5 pounds less than the
1997 Honda XR400R. Having ridden both machines it's clear that Kawasaki has
jumped into the ring with a viable open class contender that can go head-to-head
with the XR. Perhaps putting the KLX over the top is that performance gains are
easily achieved by installing a steel sleeve and 340cc piston. Larry Roeseler
(714-528-1448) claims 375cc is attainable with a bored and stroked motor which,
with a different carburetor, would give much more horsepower.
As mentioned earlier both KDX models are identical in every
way except for their engines. Both share the same steel perimeter frame based on
the KX125 and 250 designs. Both are fitted with conventional 43mm cartridge
forks, with 16-way compression damping, and a nitrogen-filled aluminum body rear
shock. The rear unit supports 16-way compression and rebound damping as well as
a spring pre-load adjustment and uses a remote reservoir to avoid shock
overheating. Stock suspension settings produced some rear wheel hop and some
front end deflection but worked quite well overall.
"Kawasaki should be applauded for
their continuing efforts to produce high quality two-stroke motorcycles for
recreational off-road enthusiasts -- an off-road segment that is under heavy
scrutiny due to ever-tightening emission regulations."
All three models mentioned here utilize a special
Electrofusion cylinder bore. This is a process that leaves a porous hard coating
of molybdenum and steel permanently secured to an aluminum bore by using high
voltage during manufacture. While such cylinders can't be bored in the same
manner as steel units the benefits of the design are a resistance to wear and
the ability to transfer heat more efficiently.
An O-ring chain, quick release rear wheel, snail cam chain
adjustment, head and taillight assembly, U.S. Forestry-approved spark arrester
and a resettable tripmeter come standard on each model.
Each machine comes stock with flimsy plastic handguards
designed to protect you from bugs, small branches, the cold and little else.
Toss them in favor of some good aftermarket aluminum or sturdy plastic
wrap-around pieces. The psychological effects of real protection will do wonders
for your riding confidence.
Kawasaki should be applauded for their continuing efforts to
produce high quality two-stroke motorcycles for recreational off-road
enthusiasts -- an off-road segment that is under heavy scrutiny due to
ever-tightening emission regulations. It would seem that producing four-stroke
motorcycles is not only the politically correct thing to do but they are also
easier to market. With impending CARB regulations we're not sure how much longer
you'll be able to purchase new KDX's in California but consider this model the
last of a dying breed. Two-stroke off-road machines may soon join their street
siblings as classic heirlooms to remember.
Get 'em while you can