New Dual-Sport (14 highlights)
2020 Kawasaki KLX230 review:
On-road and off-road test
In the shadow of the venerable KLR650’s loss from its dual sport lineup, Kawasaki called on the new rider-friendly KLX230 to make amends. Although its displacement is close to the veteran KLX250, the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 is an entirely different motorcycle intended for a different type of rider. We tested the new KLX230 on the roads and in the hills of southern Oregon to find out exactly what Kawasaki’s smallest twin sport bike is all about.
- The 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 focuses on urban bikers who like the dual-sport style or really want to broaden their horizons to include off-road motorcycling. Weighing less than 300 pounds with the two gallon fuel tank filled, the KLX230 is a great city bike. With electric start and EFI, it’s ready to ride in seconds, and only the 34.8-inch seat height will give the new rider a break at all. The style will appeal to fans of the zombie apocalypse, as it signals that he’s ready to face any possible tear in the social fabric.
- The soft suspension makes the KLX230 a friendly commuter and city bike. Both ends are flexible and non-adjustable (save the mandatory spring preload for the assisted shock). Even with the lightweight damping and spring, you’ll be hard pressed to find a pothole that will confuse the KLX230 suspension. When you hit the irregularities of abandoned city streets, you will know they are there, but they will not disrupt the ride. With nearly nine inches of travel at both ends, the KLX230 has more suspension than it takes to ride on the street. You can ride with abandon and jump on sidewalks if necessary to get around traffic.
- A high saddle gives a good view of the competition. The advantage of a dual sport seat height is that you can see over cars and most SUVs. The KLX230 offers this experience, and it’s a big advantage in chaotic traffic – experts and novices alike benefit from this feature. The seat is narrow, but not particularly hard. You can run in the small tank without feeling the effects of the monkey butt. The seats are spartan for the passenger, but sufficient for short trips.
- The two-valve air-cooled engine has enough growl to fight around town. While 233cc is not much, especially with a base engine at low revs, power is concentrated in the lower and middle parts of the power range. This means you can get away with it smart when the light turns green, without worrying about the four-wheeled crowd chasing you. The Kawasaki KLX230 is even ready for some highway races, although you’ll want to keep them short and strive for a 55mph speed limit, even with its flawless six-speed transmission. Yes, the KLX230 will exceed this modest speed limit, but you will be swallowed up on freeways with faster speed limits and lots of impatient drivers.
- If you have urban trails, documented or not, the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 should be the perfect fit for them. Most of the city trails are generally neither technical nor demanding, although there are a few in Los Angeles if you know where to look. So if there’s a little off-road shortcut needed to get to your destination faster, the KLX230 does the job well. This is an 18/21 inch tire combo, so you’ll get over most obstacles, and the ground clearance is impressive at over 10 inches (unmanned). It’s quiet, which means passers-by will be less annoyed, although it does give the uninitiated a bit of an air of preparation for the race. Make rule-breaking getaways short and fun, and few people will notice or object.
- Runners with authentic off-road rides on their routes will need to keep their Walter Mitty cross-country racing dreams in check. While the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 is a wonderful relaxed trail bike, you have to ride within its limits. The suspension is extremely smooth in real off-road conditions, and the engine is cranky rather than crisp. You won’t go through any obstacles as there isn’t an abundance of keen torque, so choose lines wisely. From a practical standpoint, the smooth and stable engine harmonizes well with the forgiving chassis and plush suspension, making the KLX230 a deliciously balanced motorcycle.
- When we say the suspension is soft, we mean it is extremely soft. While the fork is soft without being crippling, the shock will blow through its stroke without much provocation. Even the slightest taste means the rear is at its lowest. On the plus side, the KLX230 gets a lot of traction, even with the compromised road / dirt IRC Trails tires.
- Fun and smooth trails are a joy on the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230. The engineers got the chassis set right on the first try, which isn’t bad for a brand new bike. The front doesn’t push or oversteer, and it all works together. Power is slowly increasing, which fits the requirements of the likely KLX230 pilot well. A new rider doesn’t need a quick throttle response: controllability and predictability should prevail, and that’s how the little mill works. The EFI is flawless and so is the clutch, so the KLX230 can be used slowly on technical trail sections, and it’s even a good climber when traction is plentiful. If you’re really going to drive the KLX230 off-road a bit, opting for something like the Dunlop D606 will enhance the experience without ruining the quality of the street – save the IRCs for resale.
- Two-sport driving often means tying trails with twisty roads, and the KLX230 appreciates that duty. You might expect the soft suspension to mean the KLX230 will be vague in the corners. Well, that might be true if he had more power, but it doesn’t. With the power available, the KLX230’s chassis responds predictably and confidently. The sidewalk stretches will certainly be part of the fun.
- Braking works well on the road and in dirt. The unnamed rotors and calipers at both ends work with both good power and feel. ABS is a $ 300 option, although we would go without ABS if we spend a lot of time on the dirt. Those looking to drive the KLX230 on the streets most of the time should definitely look to ABS, especially with the stock IRC tires.
- Everything is simple on the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230, and that will be a relief for new riders. Don’t worry about power modes, traction control, ABS levels or anything else. You get on the KLX230 and set off on horseback. There is a horn, a switch for the turn signals, high beam and low beam for the headlight, a kill switch and a start button, that’s it. The LCD dashboard is minimal too – it has a fuel gauge and clock, but no gear position indicator (something experts and novices alike often love).
- The interview will not take you a long time. Change the oil regularly. Inspect the drive chain, although it rarely requires special attention. Clean the air filter every time you venture into the dirt. There are probably a few other things in the manual, and you should pay attention to them, but we’ve just covered about 99% of what you need to do in the real world.
- The styling is inspired by the KX450 ridden by three-time and current AMA Pro motocross champion Eli Tomac. The KLX230 is a nice motorcycle, although we would like to see the bulbous headlight replaced by something more stylish with LED lighting. The turn signals are discreet and durable in drops.
- Motorcycling is continually looking to hire new riders, and the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 does just that. The KLX230 has enough performance to get a new rider started without anyone feeling intimidated. It’s a true dual-sport bike that’s happy in the dirt, as long as you’re not irrationally rambunctious. Entry-level motorcycles are the foundation of the sport, and the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230 is a welcome addition to this sector.
Photograph by Kevin Wing
Helmet: Alpinestars Supertech M10
Glasses: Nenki Motocross
Pants + Jersey: Alpinestars Techstar Factory
Gloves: Alpinestars Techstar
Backpack: Alpinestars Tech Aero
Body Armor: Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt XV
Knee pads: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon
Socks: Fly Racing Knee Pad
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro
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2020 Kawasaki KLX230 and KLX230 ABS Specifications
Type: Four-stroke single cylinder
Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 66.0 mm
Compression ratio: 9.4: 1
Valve system: SOHC; 2 valves
Refueling: EFI with 32mm throttle body
Transmission: 6 speed
Final drive: chain
Front suspension; travel: 37 mm non-adjustable fork; 8.7 inch
Rear suspension; travel: shock absorber adjustable in preload with spring assisted by linkage; 8.8 inch
Front tire: 2.75 x 21; IRC GP-21F Trails
Rear tire: 4.10 x 18; IRC GP-22R Trails
Front brake: 240mm petal disc with dual piston caliper (ABS: 265mm)
Rear brake: 220mm petal disc with single piston caliper
ABS: optional ($ 300)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 54.3 inches
Rake: 27.5 degrees
Trail: 4.6 inches
Seat height: 34.8 inches
Ground clearance: 10.4 inches
Fuel tank capacity: 2.0 gallons
Curb Weight: 291 lbs (ABS: 293 lbs)
Color: lime green
2020 Kawasaki KLX230 Price: $ 4,599 MSRP
2020 Kawasaki KLX230 ABS Price: $ 4,899 MSRP
2020 Kawasaki KLX230 photo gallery