Kawasaki KLX 300 Dual Sport and KLX 300 Supermotard review
Written by Jocelin Snow / Photos by Kevin Wing and Chris Scott. Posted in Bikes
Kawasaki has always sought to develop the sport by making affordable, reliable and efficient motorcycles. The latest offers are KLX300 and KLX300SM. In the lightweight bisport category, the KLX300 offers best-in-class displacement, longest front suspension travel and most adjustable rear suspension. The bike is designed to be light and affordable, while providing a similar experience to heavier and more expensive dual sports. The fact that they sell for less than $ 6,000 should pique any cyclist’s interest.
Mother often said, âYou can’t have your cake and eat it too. But, if I can have more than one at a time, it’s a sweeter cake!
For the past eight years, most of my riding has been devoted to mixed tourism and adventure. Riding both on-road and off-road, tackling any kind of terrain on one motorcycle is the best of both worlds. So when I was invited to Kawasaki KLX300 (dual sport) and KLX300SM launch (supermotard), I couldn’t get there fast enough. The event took place in Folsom, California, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, with some of the best back roads the state has to offer. Two full days of driving were planned, the first in bisport, the next in supermotard.
When I swung a leg, the smile was instantaneous. Obviously the KLX300 is available in Lime Green, but the model I rode was the stealthy Fragment Camo Gray, with a matching black frame and rims. I comfortably touched a toe on one side, despite my 28-inch crotch defying the height of the 35.2-inch seat.
The relaxed, upright riding position features a tall, wide handlebar. Switching the key illuminates an easy-to-read orange backlit digital dashboard which, while largely unchanged, is still a welcome improvement over the very basic and dated gauges often found on bikes of this size and price. .
We drove down a highway to get to the right things and I was immediately impressed with the power of the KLX300because I was able to keep pace with the traffic. Power returned smoothly and steadily, in part due to an engine larger than the outgoing 250. As we drove through twisty back roads I noticed the bike was lighter than the stated 302 lbs. And in the dirt, the KLX300 really surprised me. It absorbed rough terrain very well with its 21-inch front wheel and best-in-class 10-inch travel. We tackled a variety of terrain with sand, mud, rocks and gravel as well as lots of logs, ruts, water crossings and rock ledges.
The next day I had so much fun on the KLX300 supermoto like I did on the dual-sport, maybe more. Anyway supermoto style bikes, they bring out the hooligan in me. The KLX300SM It was great on the winding roads, but before we had time to look for some unique terrain we got to the track which doubled the fun.
Both days were a lot of fun. The KLX300 offers great versatility and will delight veterans and new riders, on or off road. The KLX300SM is masterful in canyons or on the trail – a great platform for shorter hikes and longer days of paved exploration. The combination of superb functionality, a large target market, and a low price is why dealers find it difficult to keep them in stock, and why both are worth a look.
â¢ Engine and power
Both models share the new 292cc powertrain, a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, four-stroke single-cylinder with DOHC and four valves per cylinder. The dual sport model has a shorter 14/40 gear ratio, providing better access to low torque where it’s needed off-road. As for the top end, the 14/37 gear ratio found on the street supermoto makes high-speed driving more enjoyable. Both are mated to a simple but functional six-speed transmission.
Power delivered to the updated engine is smooth but underwhelming compared to larger engines, so new drivers shouldn’t have to worry about accidental wheelies or the whiskey throttle. The vibrations were stronger on the dual sport, especially through the footrests, perhaps because the supermoto has rubber footrests.
Wide open I was able to hit 82mph on the KLX300 and 87 mph on the KLX300SM. Respectable for short stints on the highway, but don’t expect a lot of passing power. With this little 300 working so hard, they also updated the radiator for better cooling. Also, those of you who remember to ride Kawasaki carbide KLX 250 S, will be happy to learn that the FI system introduced a few years ago starts immediately.
â¢ Braking and suspension
Designed to be compact and responsive with light weight, the Dual Sport features a short 56.7-inch wheelbase and 10.8-inch ground clearance. The SM has a slightly shorter wheelbase of 56.5 inches and ground clearance probably less than 9.3 inches.
The front and rear brakes worked well in a variety of conditions and offered no surprises. The front brakes are slightly larger on the SM switch to a 300 mm rotor instead of 250 mm. For those who haven’t ridden a supermoto, they are a lot of fun to ride and the front braking performance will often leave a strong impression!
The bikes are mounted on a 43mm inverted cartridge type 16-way adjustable front fork. The KLX300 provides 10 inches of travel, while the street oriented SM has 9.1 inches. Both come with a gas shock absorber at the rear, with 20-way compression and 30-way rebound damping adjustment, and 9.1 and 8.1 inches of travel, respectively.
While the stock adjustable suspension has certainly become a welcome trend over the years, that’s a lot of tuning for a bike at this price point. I was pleasantly surprised at how well these bikes absorb bumps including rocks and potholes. Any experienced or new rider could have fun on the KLX300 with a target weight typically around 140-160 lbs. Again, the SM version increases spring rates for a firmer ride, typically on smoother surfaces. Heavier, more technical riders may like the firmer ride. We were very lucky to turn a KLX250SF in a double sport 19/17 years ago and loved the result.
â¢ Instruments and style:
Not much has changed in terms of style. Both feature a simple yet effective instrument cluster displaying all the information you might expect in an easy-to-read digital format. The KLX300 gets an orange backlight, the SM blue. Both feature aggressive styling in the headlight and front hood, with the supermoto being a bit more aggressive with its shorter and wider front fender.
Both enter Kawasaki lime green, while the supermoto is also available in “Oriental Blue” and the dual-sport in “Fragment Camo”. The nature of a dual sport allows for many different tasks for different types of runners. Kawasaki indicated that their primary target market is experienced riders looking for affordable, high-performance road bikes. The design team also focused on the features that would make these models attractive to new riders and commuters.
Ultimatley, this turned out to be a nice update to what was already a capable bike. We don’t hear much about it, but it’s a tough competitor for bikes like Honda CRF250L and may be more consistent with by Yamaha venerable WR250R which could be replaced soon. Hardly anyone is complaining about a little more horsepower at this displacement level, so if you were curious to downsize or get into bisport driving for the first time, be sure to check out the latest version of the KLX300. Between the standard and supermoto versions, you are bound to find something that will make you smile!
For more information visit the Kawasaki KLX300 page! Kawasaki.com
MSRP: KLX300 – $ 5,599 (lime green) or $ 5,799 (fragment camouflage) | Supermoto – $ 5,999.00 (either color)
- Excellent value
- Adjustable suspension with plenty of travel
- Electric start
- Confidence-inspiring seat height
- Seat pull strap placement is uncomfortable
- The dashboard display is not LED, causing the battery to die if the key is left in the on position for a while
- No hazard lights
â¢ Kawasaki KLX 300 and 300 SM 2021 specifications:
|MOTOR:||4 stroke, 1 cylinder, DOHC, 4 valve, liquid cooled|
|BORE X STROKE:||78.0 x 61.2 mm|
|COMPRESSION RATIO:||11.1: 1|
|FUEL SYSTEM:||DFIÂ® with 34mm throttle body|
|FINAL TRANSMISSION:||chain 520|
|RAKE / TRAIL:||26.7 Â° / 4.2 in|
|FRONT SUSPENSION:||USD 43mm cartridge fork, 16-way compression adjustment with 10 inches of travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION:||Uni-Trak with Adj. 16-way preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment with 9.1 stroke|
|FRONT BRAKE:||Single 250mm disc|
|REAR BRAKE:||240mm single disc|
|FUEL CAPACITY:||2.0 gallons|
|GROUND CLEARANCE :||10.8 inch|
|SEAT HEIGHT :||35.2 inch|
|UNLOADED WEIGHT :||304.3 lb|
â¢ 2021 KLX 300 and 300 SM Comparison of models:
|FRONT TIRE:||3.0×21||110 / 70-17|
|REAR WHEEL:||4.6×18||130 / 70-17|
|RAKE:||26.7 degrees||25 degrees|
|TRACK:||4.2 inch||2.8 inch|
|WHEELBASE:||56.7 inch||56.5 inch|
|SEAT HEIGHT :||35.2 inch||33.9 inch|
|GROUND CLEARANCE :||10.8 inch||9.3 inch|
|TRIP BEFORE:||10 inch||9.1 inch|
|REVERSE STROKE:||9.1 inch||8.1 inch|
|FORK SPRINGS:||7.8 N / mm||10.8 N / mm|
|SHOCK SPRINGS:||54 N / mm||66.5 N / mm|