The Kawasaki KLX250 Returns for 2018

It was just a few years ago when bigger was better and the hulking 1200cc adventure motorcycle reigned supreme. Not to say the big bike’s day is done, but the wee machine is certainly making a comeback. In the time since Kawasaki dropped their KLX250 from the lineup 3 years ago, a number of diminutive steeds have entered the market. Every brand from KTM to BMW has thrown their hat in the sub-500cc ring with Kawasaki introducing their brand new Versys-X 300 earlier this year. As great as that new platform is, it’s decidedly road-biased which opened the door for a reboot of the similarly sized KLX250.

The KLX250 has a long reputation as a fun-haver’s bike. Small and nibble, it’s also a great commuter and general tool-a-round for experienced riders. The size and modest power makes it approachable to the beginner and it’s as reliable as a hammer. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I think that applies to the KLX250. While many of us didn’t really miss it when it went away, I’m glad to see it come back.

In true Kawasaki fashion, updates to the proven design were modest and practical. The 2018 bike was fitted with new bodywork to recharge the styling, but most of the adjustments were more than just skin deep. The refreshed KLX250 has a new 10-nozzle fuel injection system and 43mm inverted forks with 16-way adjustments at both ends. Suspension travel is 255mm and 230mm front and rear with a gas-charged rear shock helping to refine responsiveness. The digi-camo color scheme which was so popular on the KLR is available on the KLX250 for a modest up charge. Adding to the refinements, the exhaust system is now made of stainless steel to cut weight and add durability and has been modified to meet stricter EPA standards.

With its 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear, the KLX250 is a traditional dirt-oriented dual sport with a narrow waist, high pegs, and a low center of gravity—thanks to the position of the engine which is set deep within the frame. The low 298-pound weight, short 56.3-inch wheelbase, and strong brakes lend the compact bike a high level of agility and the $5,350 entry point puts it within reach of most consumers.

Just a few years ago it would have been a hard sell for us to pitch a 249cc thumper with a 2-gallon tank as an adventure bike, but times are changing. The definition of adventure in itself is in a constant state of flux. For some riders the KLX250 is all they’ll ever need to disappear into their local hills for the weekend. Others might find the size and weight perfect for a bumper-mounted escape pod behind their van or camper. And it’s also easy to forget, for the millions of motorcyclists buzzing around Asia, Africa, and South America, a KLX250 is a big bike.

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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.