Kawasaki builds a serious playbike for us big kids
I’ve read it a thousand times and probably written it a few hundred: If you want to grow your motorcycle skills, get a dirtbike. Most people who aren’t so familiar with knobbies might think that means one of those $9,000 450cc monsters capable of leaping tall orthopedic wards in a single bound, but what you really want is a bike like the ones they train people on at Colin Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp, Rich Oliver’s Mystery School, and others. Okay, well, those happen to beYamaha TT-R125s, but now Kawasaki has a new competitor for that little beast in the form of its “all-new” KLX140G.
In fact it’s not all-new, but if Kawasaki wants us to come out and ride one morning at our local Wildomar OHV area, I’m more than happy to play along. They’ve already been cranking out the KLX140 and KLX140L for years; the new KLX140G is the all-new full-size version of that bike, with a 21-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear knobbie, which makes it easier – more stable and bump-absorbent – for full-size adults to roost.
Full-size though it might be, Kawasaki says the seat height is 33.9 inches. That makes it easy for normal-sized people to swing a leg over without dislocating a hip, and once my 160 pounds were on board I could almost flat-foot the thing on both sides at once. That low seat and low cg is a big part of what makes bikes like the KLX a blast to ride; everything about it is non-threatening, and so the abuse begins. Slide it into corners with the gas on, attempt to roost berms like the kids in the dirt magazines, etc… the KLX makes you think you can do it because the repercussions of getting it wrong seem much less severe than on a serious dirtbike: The ground is way closer and not coming at you nearly so fast.
I fell off on about the third turn that morning trying to keep up with a cute woman journalist in pink Shift gear, but it was no harm no foul (soft dirt thank God) and easy to pick the little KLX back up, get right back on and continue my futile pursuit of the fairer sex. Kawasaki says curb weight is 218 pounds, and the electric starter fired the little Single right back up. You probably can’t win the Erzberg Rodeo on this bike, but 7.5 inches of front-wheel travel via the old-fashioned 33mm fork, and 7.9 inches out back – via fully adjustable(!) remote-res shock – is plenty for play-riding.
Your 144cc air-cooled Single remains intact, complete with electric starter. Your basic two-valve thumper isn’t going to launch you over any triples, and that’s its appeal. It does begin churning out useable torque right off idle (once past one slight, occasional hiccup you probably could easily tune out in the 20mm Keihin carburetor) that lets you clamber up steeper grades than you might imagine. The five-speed gearbox works fine, and the bike’s light “progressive” clutch makes it easy to keep on the boil with one finger.
All I can tell you is that when my child graduated onto his KTM 50 SX, then KX65, and later a YZ and then an RM85, I had the most fun of my motorcycling life on the, ahem, blue version of this bike (a Yamaha TT-R125L). At first, I shepherded child around the vet tracks at various local MX parks. Later, I struggled to keep up. Finally I tired of eating RM85 roost, retired and became the “tuner”… but it was the most fun “racing” I ever did for sure and the cheapest.
And I hate to bring it up and put the mouth on myself, but I seem to not fall off of all motorcycles as much as I did before that experience. All that sliding and skidding around on the verge of disaster without quite falling off (most of the time) just does something to recalibrate your internal 6-axis IMU. This KLX is a more sophisticated, more powerful version of my old TT-R in every way, and no doubt just as robust. Change the oil now and then, add gas and go.
Not that the KLX probably needs it, but the (steel) handlebar is rubber-mounted in case you wind up riding it across the Gobi Desert, and a spark arrestor is standard so you don’t burn down the state. Speaking of which, Kawasaki encourages everyone to support the people who keep our OHV areas open. Frankly I’d forgotten about our own little local Wildomar area, which is in fact 360 acres, with 8 miles of great up-and-down trails and only a short drive from the Orange County megalopolis – an ideal place to ride trail bikes like the KLX.