After being eclipsed by Yamaha and KTM for several years, the Kawasaki KLX300R made a comeback with its EFI-fed engine and KX-inspired styling and ergonomics. Dirt bike riders regard it as one of the best two-wheelers in its category.
The Kawasaki KLX300R is a liquid-cooled 292cc dual-sport bike initially produced by Kawasaki from 1996 to 2007. The new 2020 model has extras to boast of – a DFI system, electric starter, MX-style midsection, and top-caliber performance.
It is a highly esteemed trail bike, and its resurgence is very timely. Riders love its linear engine, modern styling, and forgiving but plush suspension. It made quite a reputation for itself in the late 1990s to early 2000s and continues to do so with its current lineup. Let’s dive into more detail about the Kawasaki KLX300R.
About the Kawasaki KLX300R
The KLX300R is Kawasaki’s ultimate high-performance trail bike that intends to bridge the gap between a recreational bike and a full competition bike. As the KLX lineup leader, it offers superb handling and tractable power in a lightweight, fun off-road machine. The dirt bike features an eco-friendly Keihin power mill and a motocross-style chassis for great suspension and comfortable ergonomics for lengthy straightaways and technical trails.
It also has a headlight and taillight, odometer, side stand, handguards, a USFS-approved spark arrestor, a large fuel tank with reserve petcock, and snail-type chain adjusters for quick rear-wheel removal and O-ring chain adjustment.
Overall, the KLX300R succeeded in outperforming its 250-cc predecessor. It even managed to show fixes to some of the former’s pain points. The tough build makes for its enhanced reliability and ability to withstand hard trail riding. High ground clearance boosts rider confidence and enables riders to clear technical terrain more easily. However, it is not a machine built from the ground up. If you look at it closely, it borrowed a lot from Kawasaki’s KDX design. Some of these features include the high-tensile steel perimeter frame, Enduro styling, and four-valve cylinder head, to name a few. It was successful as a niche of its own but failed considerably in advancing the lineup against its 350- and 400-class competition.
The comeback of the KLX300R intends to put the off-road bike back on the map. The lime green bike now sports electronic fuel injection, and an electric start system replaces the old kick-start mechanism. Though these added features may seem conservative, they make riding and caring for the KLX300R effortless. Wheel travel has been evened out for both front and rear suspensions, and lighting has been taken out. With its introduction in Jacksonville, Oregon, riders, testers, and media came away impressed with its overall package.
Kawasaki KLX300R Specs & Features
- Engine: It uses a four-stroke, liquid-cooled DOHC V-Twin engine and has a bore-stroke ratio of 78 x 61.2 millimeters (3.07 x 2.41 inches). The engine’s displacement is 292 cubic centimeters. A constant-velocity 34-mm semi-flat side Keihin CVK34 carburetor handles the air-fuel mixture with a compression ratio of 11.0:1. Fuel tank capacity is 2.59 US gallons/9.8 liters but reduced to 2.1 US gallons/7.95 liters for the 2020 model, along with carburetion change to DFI with a 34-mm throttle body. The KLX300R has a decent fuel consumption of 3.92 liters for every 100 km (60 mpg). Fuel should be regular unleaded gasoline with a minimum pump Octane number of 87 and a research Octane number of 91 or higher. Experts advise a different brand of fuel if engine knocking or pinging occurs. Otherwise, it can cause severe engine damage. Be sure to also use fuel with less than 10% ethanol and less than 5% methanol. For engine oil, it requires 1.6 quarts/1.5 liters of engine oil (disassembled). Engine oil viscosity should be SAE 10W-40, 10W-50, 20W-40, or 20W-50 with an API classification of SE, SF, or SG (1997 to 2007 model years) should meet JASO MA standard.
- Drivetrain: Power travels via a six-speed, constant-mesh, manual transmission. The 520 O-ring-sealed chain (14T front and 50T rear sprockets) delivers the final drive. The primary reduction is 2.863 (63/22), while the final reduction is 3.571 (50/14). Maximum power output is 33 HP (24.6 KW) @ 8,500 RPM. Maximum torque is 28 ft-lbs (37.96 Nm) @ 7,500 RPM. KLX300Rs released in the U.S. have slightly lower ponies and torque.
- Ignition: It has an electronic CDI ignition with a kick-start system and an auxiliary mechanical recoil backup. The bike has an NGK CR8E or U24ESR-N spark plug, a 12V battery, and has a three-phase AC generator. The starting system has changed to electric for the 2020 KLX300R.
- Tires: Front tubular wheels use Dunlop K490J 80/100-21 51M tires, while the rear wheels use Dunlop K695 100/100-18 59M tires. For 2020, the bike gets Dunlop Geomax MX52 knobbies, which has Dunlop’s racing-adapted Block-In-A-Block tread technology suited for intermediate-to-hard terrain.
- Brakes: 220-mm front disc brakes equipped with dual-piston calipers and 202-mm rear disc brakes provide stopping power. The front and rear disc brakes have increased to 270 mm and 240 mm in size, respectively, for current year models.
- Suspension: The Kawasaki KLX300R features a 20-way compression-damping and spring-preload adjustable inverted 43-mm cartridge fork/telescopic fork that allows 11.2 inches of travel. The rear suspension utilizes a Uni-Trak® linkage-assisted fully adjustable shock with 20-way compression damping and 18-way rebound damping and 11 inches of travel. This long travel suspension handles the demands of aggressive off-road riding.
- Dimensions: The overall dimension is 83.27 x 35.83 x 48.03 inches (2,115 x 910 x 1,220 millimeters – L x W x H). Road clearance is 12.6 inches; seat height is 36.4 inches. The wheelbase is 56.5 inches. Dry weight is 105 Kg/231 lbs, while curb weight is 114.8 Kg/253.1 lbs. There are slight differences in the dimension between the KLX300R-A/B (produced from 1996 to 2007) and the revamped version produced this year – KLX300R-C.
- Exterior: It has a semi-double-cradle tubular steel frame (with a 26.5° caster angle and 107-mm trail) and plastic body material. ERGO-FIT® four-way adjustable handlebar, grips, a high-impact plastic skid plate, and a buzzard beak front fender are standard. Apparent changes include the 2020 KLX300R exhaust changing to a larger muffler and USFS-approved spark arrestor and previously slanted rear fenders being straightened out. The bike also came with lighting for the 2007 and older model years but dropped it for the 2020 model.
Cost of a Kawasaki KLX300R
The Kawasaki KLX300R price ranges from $4,500 to $5,000, depending on model year, with barely any price difference across 1997 to 2008 versions. For extra, you can get a high-performance exhaust and an oil cooler. The 2020 KLX300R costs $5,499 and includes a USFS-approved spark arrestor. For the money that you save with its list price (which is barely $600 from its ’07 model), you can spend on custom or aftermarket 2020 KLX300R accessories and parts.
Trade-in values for ’97 to ’07 models range from $1,200 to $2,000. These units typically have good mileage and are in excellent working condition. Others are being sold for dirt cheap at $250 but are rare. For the most part, there are hardly any resold KLX300R bikes, even if you look at auction listings and trader sites. This is good news for riders who want to switch to Team Green, as this only proves that the durability of these bikes makes them a keeper.
Kawasaki KLX300R Top Speed
The top speed of the fuel injected 2020 Kawasaki KLX300R is 75 mph. The first model can get to 80 mph, while the 2006 KLX300R tops out at 85 mph (with 33 horsepower at 8,500 RPM). With mods, you may be able to hit 100 mph or higher. Despite upgrades, the bike will pull hard but will be easy to lift in 1st and 2nd gear. A DRZ400 will still make it eat dust in straight acceleration. It will at least be on par (if not better than) when comparing the KLX300R vs CRF250F.
Bear in mind that KLX300R was never designed for the racetrack. But suppose you want to convert this Enduro bike into the closest thing to a speed demon. In that case, you can add a power commander (check if compatible with a ’20 model) and change the exhaust, seek professional help in setting up your suspension, get lighter wheels and aftermarket brakes, or get a built motor.
Trail Bike Makeover
People consider the KLX300R as somewhere in between a trail bike and a full race bike. And rightfully so, as the two-wheeler feels a bit choked up from the factory. While this is of little concern for trail riders, off-roaders find the bike’s restricted performance quite annoying. Here are some tips to rectify the problem:
- Vent crankcase correctly – You can do this by removing the stock hose and replacing it with a high-performance one.
- Remove the airbox lid and other intake obstructions – This will aid in getting air into the machine.
- Re-jet your carburetor – Either purchase a jet kit or drill your own 1/16 or a 160 primary jet size, then change the pilot jet to a 45.
- Get a Stroker idler gear and shift kit fixes.
- Install a pumper carb like a 33-mm Mikuni and oversized head pipe, and stiffer front and rear springs.
With these few inexpensive mods, the performance of the KLX300R will become surprisingly good. It will also improve your riding experience but will not entirely fix the hesitation issue. Usually, you would move the needle on the carb to richen the fuel mixture and eradicate any throttle hesitation. You cannot do this with a 2007 KLX300R or older, as the needle on the emissions-compliant Keihin carb cannot adjust.
Kawasaki fans are not too sold on the bike’s eco-friendly carburetor. A gentle twist of the throttle at idle causes severe hesitation due to the slow vacuum buildup. While this has earned the KLX300R its green CARB sticker, it does not help the rider at all off-road. Hesitation happening during acceleration or in the middle of jumps could cause significant problems.
Another issue for Team Green is the idler gear. It is weaker than it should be but can improve with a Stroker kit. Enthusiasts are quite perplexed as the Stroker kit makes the bike’s shift star look like that of the KX models. If that were the case, Kawasaki should have never deviated from that gear layout in the first place. Both local and racing outfitters have told Kawasaki about this problem years ago. But much to their dismay, the manufacturer continued to release bikes with this same weakness. This is great business for parts dealers, but it just makes you wonder.
For the 2020 KLX300R, the distance between the shift lever and footpegs tend to cause accidental upshifts or downshifts. Accidental shifting often occurs in the most unfortunate timing for riders. This problem creates the need for an aftermarket purchase of a new gearshift lever. There is also the lack of bike staples like OE-equipped handguards.
Shape-wise, the 2020 KLX300R looks better, but the older models had better finish and branding. While some like the green/black/gold throwback graphics on the current model, many prefer the retro styling of the 1996-2007 versions. Kawasaki dropping the lighting off the KLX300R also upset some consumers.
Many were unwilling to spend another $300 to $500 to add lights, which should be standard to make their KLX300R street legal. Some find the new exhaust too noisy to their liking, even after fitting their bikes with silencer caps. Enthusiasts also feel that suspension can improve. It still misses rebound damping on the fork, similar to its earlier versions.
Another KLX300R drawback is that it is not ADR-compliant. The restrictions placed on manufacturers can be quite ridiculous. If Kawasaki were to comply with all that is required (again), it would result in no one buying the bike. The rest of the U.S. understands the same. While it has a green CARB sticker, the dirt bike is not meant for registration.
Other than these minor flaws, the KLX300R is a great steal and a decent performer. A lot of them race in the Texas cross country series (four-stroke expert class). They make top 10 finishes against YZ426s and KTM 520s just with bolt-on KLX300R parts. They are straightforward to ride and perform well in challenging sections. Pre-loved KLX300Rs also sell very reasonably.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. is the maker of Kawasaki KLX300R and is widely known for its ATVs, side x sides, and watercraft. The Japanese firm has been off the Enduro motorcycle scene for quite some time. But with its recent comeback, the riding community expects great things from its product lineup. The company is a leader in aerospace and energy systems, hydraulic machinery, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, transit, and personal watercraft.
Conclusion – Kawasaki KLX300R Review
The Kawasaki KLX300R has had a long reputation of being a rock-solid platform. And now, its comeback has only proven this further. If you have outgrown 250-cc bikes, it makes perfect sense to go for a purpose-built motorcycle. One that revs like a diesel tractor, flicks like an Enduro, and offers better performance overall. This bike never feels overly intimidating, can handle technical trails, and will not break the bank. It is an excellent performance trail bike both beginners and experienced riders can enjoy.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.