Off-Road Motorcycle (9 Fast Facts)

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2020 Kawasaki KLX300R Review:
Single-track to Jeep-trail Tested

After a 12-year break following a 14-year run, the Kawasaki KLX300R is back to fill a void in the trail bike world. Not a rehash from the 1990s, the 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R has been freshened up to modern standards, with EFI being the most important upgrade. It is the largest displacement trail bike available from a major manufacturer, carving out its own niche in the off-road motorcycle marketplace with an approachable price of $5499. Plus, it meets the standards for Green Sticker registration in California. Let’s see how the newest iteration of the Kawasaki KLX300R performs in the dirt.

  1. The 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R is not a racer, despite its competition-styling. Weighing in at 282 pounds and displacing 292cc, the KLX300R is not about riding as hard and fast as possible. Instead, it’s a next step for riders graduating from trail bikes such as the Honda CRF250F, Yamaha TT-R230, and Kawasaki’s own KLX230R, and are not ready or desirous of a full-on competition quarter-liter off-road motorcycle. The KLX300R offers more performance, handling, and suspension than the motorcycles in the 250/230 trail bike range. Another potential KLX300R rider is a vet who is tiring of the tall seat heights and more intensive maintenance schedules of higher-performance dirt bikes, yet still wants a capable off-road mount.
  1. The well oversquare KLX300R powerplant is friendly, torquey, and capable of providing plenty of fun. The use of EFI on the DOHC liquid-cooled KLX300R improves rideability in every way for the motor. With electric start, it fires up effortlessly and takes no time to warm up. Power is produced from idle and right on up to the rev-limiter. You will likely shift well before the redline—a counterbalancer keeps things smooth and reduces fatigue. There’s no particular place the power surges or flags, though it is a bit flat at higher rpm, so you can be relatively casual about which of the six gears you choose. The KLX300R is always ready to pull and help you through technical sections without drama. It has enough power to entertain experienced riders, while not being the least bit intimidating to those who haven’t been riding for years.
  1. Kawasaki perfectly balanced the chassis with the motor. The handling is an ideal match for the friendly KLX300R engine. Its entirely neutral geometry does not favor agility at the expense of stability within its capabilities. Yes, you will want to scoot up on the seat on flat turns to improve cornering. Otherwise, the KLX300R is an uncomplicated motorcycle to ride. It goes where you point it without complaint, and it doesn’t over-respond to input. Credit is definitely due to the Dunlop Geomax MX52 tires—a good choice of rubber for intermediate-to-hard terrain. This is a forgiving chassis that makes trail riding fun. Sure, 282 pounds means the KLX300R is not a lightweight off-road motorcycle; fortunately, it hides its weight well when underway.
  1. The 2020 Kawasaki’s KLX300R’s compact chassis does a lot of favors for the rider. The combination of 12 inches of ground clearance, a seat height of 36.4 inches, over 11 inches of wheel travel, and compact 56.5-inch wheelbase all work together to keep the KLX300R unintimidating. You won’t be hitting rocks and logs unexpectedly, and it’s easy to work your way through tight, technical trails with terra firma accessible to your boots. It won’t be particularly well-suited to wide-open desert riding or getting big air, but it will do fine almost everywhere else.
  1. Although it’s basic, the suspension on the 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R is up to the demands of the motor. Lacking a hard-hitting power delivery or arm-stretching horsepower, the suspension on the KLX300R is about comfort for the rider while maintaining composure on rougher trails. With 11.2 inches of travel at each end, the piggyback-reservoir shock is fully adjustable while the cartridge fork is non-adjustable. Really, Kawasaki could have gotten away with only spring-preload adjustment on the shock, as the stock settings are spot-on for trail riding, be it slow or somewhat aggressive. Yes, there will be some outliers who might feel the need to fine-tune the shock (plenty of clicks are available), though a wide variety of riders will not feel compelled to improve on the as-delivered suspension setup.
  1. The ergonomics on the KLX300R are just what you would expect from a modern trail bike. All the controls fall naturally to your feet and hands, and the chassis is pleasantly narrow. The grips/pegs/seat triangle is a bit on the compact side, so the KLX300R does not intimidate smaller riders. Nothing gets in the way when moving around on the motorcycle, and transitions between seating and standing are easy. KLX300R owners with specific ergonomic demands can customize the handlebar position, as the bar clamp has four positions—two forward from stock, and one rearward. The only gripes we have with the ergonomics are the undersized 1990s-era footpegs and lack of handguards. We would go with something like IMS’s beefy Super Stock pegs and Kawasaki’s own handguards. Each upgrade will run you about $80.
  1. Braking is sure and predictable. With a soft bite and plenty of power, once the adjustable lever is squeezed sufficiently, the KLX300R has the right braking feel at both ends. Keep in mind that’s a large 270mm disc in the front. The brake pedal is adjustable, which is a good thing considering the wide variety of boots and sizes that will be pressing down on it. The discs are the cool-looking petal design—another part of its competition styling.
  1. Importantly for the casual (or serious) trail rider, the 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R is low-maintenance and rugged. As long as you keep up on oil changes and air filter cleanings, your KLX300R should enjoy a long life. Yes, Kawasaki will want you to check valve clearance now and then—don’t expect to make an adjustment when you do. Keep an eye on the chain, of course—adjusting it is accomplished easily at the end of the aluminum swingarm.
  1. The 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R makes it very easy to know if it is the right motorcycle for you. If you have outgrown the performance of the 230-/250-class trail bikes, and you aren’t ready for the jump to the relatively expensive competition-oriented 250 four-stroke off-road bikes, the Kawasaki KLX300R gives you a great middle ground. On the other side, if you’ve grown weary of using an expensive competition motorcycle as a trail bike, the wallet-friendly KLX300R is your best bet. As a bonus, the 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R is an incredibly fun-to-ride off-road motorcycle that will likely surprise you with its capabilities.

Photography by Kevin Wing

RIDING STYLE
Helmet: Alpinestars Supertech M10
Goggles: Thor Combat
Body Armor: Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V
Jersey + pants: Thor Spector Blade Navy/Acid
Gloves: Thor Sector Flo Acid
Knee braces: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon
Socks: Fly Racing Knee Brace
Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro

2020 Kawasaki KLX300R Specs
ENGINE
Type: Single-cylinder 4-stroke
Displacement: 292cc
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 61.2mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 valves
Fueling: EFI w/ 34mm throttle body
Transmission: 6-speed
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS
Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable inverted 43mm cartridge fork; 11.2 inches
Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable piggyback-reservoir shock; 11.2 inches
Tires: Dunlop Geomax MX52
Front tire: 80/100 x 21
Rear tire: 100/100 x 18
Front brake: 270mm petal disc
Rear brake: 240mm petal disc
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 56.5 inches
Rake: 26.5 degrees
Trail: 4.3 inches
Seat height: 36.4 inches
Ground clearance: 12.0 inches
Fuel tank capacity: 2.1 gallons
Curb weight: 282 pounds
Color: Lime Green
2020 Kawasaki KLX300R Price: $5499 MSRP

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