Kawasaki KLX300 Dual Sport Review | The Unicorn We’ve Been Waiting for?


If you saw my article on the KLX300 announcement, I was a bit off the KLX300 dual sport. Why? Well I thought Kawasaki should have done more changes, more akin to the Kawasaki’s rival, the CRF300L. But I still wanted to ride the thing! So, what did I do? I hit up Kawasaki, wrangled in a mate to help, flew to Los Angeles and gave it a good work out. Let’s get into it.

When I picked the bike up, I was lucky enough to get the camo colour. If I was to buy one, this is the colour I would get, I think it looks great. The frame, rims, swing arm and forks are all blacked out. On top of this, the plastics are camouflage coloured. It costs a couple of hundred dollars more, but I’d fork out for it. In terms of changes to the bike, bar the larger capacity engine, there isn’t a lot. The radiators are slimmer, and the suspension has different…settings. What are the different settings? Well not even the guys at Kawasaki know for sure, but Japan said it’s been revised. More on that later.

Fresh from Kawasaki. I really like the camo colour scheme.

Riding wise on the first day we pottered around town doing some errands, the second day we rode nearly all off-road on Santiago Peak and finally on the third day we hit up the canyons, highway work and city cruising.

Since there isn’t a ton of changes to talk about, I’ll concentrate on how she rides.

Engine

The big question everyone wants to know is, how much better is the new engine? The short answer? A little. The engine has slightly more bottom end and midrange punch than the previous 250. Where the KLX250 is linear, this has some shove in the mid-range. The top end is very similar. Is it exciting? No. Does it work well off road? Most definitely.

The fueling is perfect and there is no on/off throttle jerkiness (a pet hate of mine). There are no flat spots, and the engine is extremely hard to stall. This makes it fantastic for slow speed work and hill climbs, it simply refuses to flame out.

Would I like a bit more power? Yep. You could open up the airbox (or just pull out the stupidly restrictive airbox snorkel), put on a free-flowing exhaust and a tune. I’d generally do this straight away but the KLX is so darn quiet you can ride it anywhere without annoying people, a characteristic that is often underrated.

I found the engine to be extremely smooth for a thumper. This engine is just so refined that its almost electric. Its only in the higher revs that things start to get vibey.

On the road, the bike will comfortably cruise at 60-65mph (100-110kmh). We did some higher speed work on 70mph motorways, but I wouldn’t want to do it consistently. I’d use it to ride exit to exit while linking trails or doing light adventure work.

Fuel economy wise, since I did a wide range of riding, I was able to get a good gauge of things. The first fill up was a bit less than I would have liked, 1.829 gallons for 87 miles of riding. But, that was a LOT of slow speed work mixed in with a spirited highway stint home. Oh yeah, she maxed out at 87mph on that highway ride home. Yes, the KLX isn’t designed for top speeds, but it gives you a good idea of how much you have left if you need to overtake someone. On the second day we were able to get a better range as it was all road work. The same 87 miles was about 1.5 gallons.

Suspension

I’ll start by saying this, the suspension on the KLX300 is VERY good for the price. I haven’t ridden the CRF300L, but early footage and reviews show it is EXTREMELY soft and needs work. On the KLX300, a ton of riders will be able to just get on the thing and ride without changing a thing or spending any money.

The suspension soaks up the rocky stuff and still has the bottoming resistance to take smaller jumps easily. Will you be slaying your mates on their latest enduro bikes in the desert? Probably not, but you’ll certainly be able to keep up. And guess what? You’ll be comfortable. The 300 is just so easy to ride and doesn’t knock you around.

The stock Dunlop 605 tyres aren’t too bad. The front has a tendency to wash out but I’d happily leave them on.

For the riding we did on Santiago Peak it was perfect (check out my video see the type or riding we did). You could take the rocky roads easily, push on the single track and it would still take jumps over erosion mounds at speed comfortably. Don’t get me wrong, this is no top-of-the-line KYB suspension and it will bottom out when pushed. But for the price? Yeah, it’s good.

On the road I did find it was a little divey under brakes, but completely tolerable. I didn’t touch any of the clickers, they are completely stock settings. If I was to fiddle with it, I’d put a couple of clicks in to firm it up. That’s the beauty of adjustable suspension *cough, Honda, cough*.

Brakes and Running Gear

I found the brakes to be good off road, but lacking on the street. Honestly, no issues at all while dirt bike riding, but if you need to pull up quickly in traffic, they lack power.

Compared to my KLX250S, I found the front brake to be squishy and it needed a fair pull. Was this because they weren’t bled properly? They certainly weren’t as firm as mine so that could have been the issue. The lack of power is simply because they are built to a price. Put some braided lines on or just some better pads when it’s time to change and that would help.

We rode the KLX300 in all conditions. A shame we didn’t sneak it onto the beach though…

The rear brake was solid. I particularly liked where it was positioned. On a ton of dirt bikes I find the rear brake lever can be too high and hard to reach. On the 300, it was spot on.

The lights carry straight over from the previous 250 and honestly, I wish it they had went to an LED unit. The current one is adequate, but could be so much better, especially for a dual purpose bike. The switch gear and everything else is nothing flashy but good quality.

The indicators are standard fair and we did lose one with a minor off, so be wary. They are a simple design and should be easy to replace.

The stock tyres are the Dunlop 605’s. I didn’t mind them at all, in fact I ended up putting a set on my KLX300. They last a long time both on and off the road. The front does have a tendency to wash out off road, so you have to be wary of your body positioning. The rear slides feels slightly more aggressive than the front. On the road they are very good. Overall, I’d just leave them until you needed to change them.

The KLX after a big day off road. The build quality is top notch.

Oh yeah, the KLX300 is built like a tank. The KLX300’s have legendary reliability and nothing will change here. The build quality on a whole is top notch, typical Kawasaki.

Conclusion

When reviewing a motorcycle, my main consideration is, would I buy one? And for me, yes I would buy the KLX300. It isn’t flashy, it isn’t going to rip your arms off, but it is such a solid bike. It is the kind of bike you can count on to start every time, you don’t have to do much maintenance and it does everything well. Would I have liked this bike to have been a 350? Bloody oath. The KLX300 still isn’t quite the unicorn everyone is crying out for. But the 300 is a great base. You could easily turn this into a light adventure bike. With some mods you could extract some more power and shorten the gearing to make it a dedicated dirt bike. You could even use it as a cheap run about. Or, you could just leave it how it is and ride the bloody thing.

Keep it OnTheBackWheel.

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