It has been a while since the production cease of the Kawasaki KLR 250. But consumers seem to have only recently gotten wind of how capable this machine is. Introduced to the market as a dual-sport bike, it laid the groundwork for succeeding 250-cc Kawie motorcycles that have since taken the motorcycling industry by storm. This guide talks more about this classic lightweight wheeler and how to maximize what it has to offer.
The Kawasaki KLR 250 is a liquid-cooled, 249-cm3 dual-sport bike produced by Kawasaki from 1978 to 2005 and predecessor to the Kawasaki KLX250S. It features a Keihin CVK34 carburetor, 86-mph top-speed rating, and bottom-link Uni-Trak rear swingarm that make for its agility and charm.
Like Kawasaki’s KLX300R, the KLR250 is also an esteemed trail bike – one highly respected by enthusiasts who knew and understood its history and function. It may not have gone through much of any mechanical or cosmetic upgrades during its lifetime. However, the lack of enhancement should not deter you from first-hand experiencing its prowess on trails or the road. Continue reading and discover more about this simplistic but standout trailer.
About the Kawasaki KLR 250
Most riders agree that the Kawasaki KLR 250 is the ultimate trail rider or a trusty green laner. For others, it is a highly reliable all-around motorcycle. But in truth, its functionality and history go beyond these so-called monikers. Despite the bike’s seemingly unestablished target niche, what is certain is that the KLR 250 was once extensively a part of the Carabineros de Chile or Chilean National Police and the U.S. Military – used for messenger and surveying duties.
A Bit of History
Kawasaki KLR 250 is a series of 249-cm3 motorbikes produced between 1978 and 2005. This 28-year production run had the first half-decade dedicated to the KL250-A, followed by the KL250-C from 1983 to 1984. Then in November of the same year, Kawasaki launched the KL250-D lineup to the public, which lasted until 2005. Out of all three lineups, the first two were marketed only in North America.
As a dual-sport bike, it is more efficient on trails than on the highway or tarmac. Many users find it performs better as a touring or adventure bike more than as an urban commuter. Performance-enhancing parts are aplenty for this bike – thanks to interchangeable components with the KSF250 Mojave. Likewise, it is relatively easy to convert it into a street-legal ride (it is not set up to legally hit the road from the factory). Overall, it is a user-friendly wheeler with tons of low-end power that continues to charm beginners and the riding community as a whole.
Kawasaki KLR 250 Specs & Features
It is powered by a 4-stroke, liquid-cooled DOHC four-valve powerplant with double engine balancers and has a bore-stroke ratio of 74 x 58 mm (2.91 x 2.28 inches). Engine displacement is 249 cm3 (15.2 in3). A constant-velocity 34-mm semi-flat slide Keihin CVK34 carburetor with a compression ratio of 11.0:1 handles air-fuel mixture. The dirt bike received changes to the jetting settings for post-1989 models. California and U.S. releases retained a #118 main jet from 1985 to 1990.
Overall, the above configuration lends to a pretty decent gas mileage range of 50 – 65 mpg (3.62 – 4.70 L/100 km), not to mention a KLR 250 top speed of 86 mph (138 km/h). Horsepower and torque are also hefty at 23 – 28 PS (16.9 – 20.6 kW) @ 9,000 RPM and 19.5 – 23 Nm (1.95 – 2.30 kgf-m, 14 – 16.5 ft-lb), respectively. However, Swiss and West German models (and later-year iterations) have slightly lower power and torque outputs.
Fuel & Lubrication
Recommended fuel is 11 L/2.9 USgal of unleaded gasoline with a minimum PON 87/RON 91 rating. Lubrication-wise, the KLR250 has a Forced lubrication (wet sump) system that requires 1.2 – 2.0 L/0.3 – 0.5 USgal of SAE 10W-40 4-stroke engine oil or its equivalent, depending on whether the filter is or is not changed. Other viscosity grades like SAE 10W-50, 20W-40, or 20W-50 are okay for use following ambient temperature. Either way, engine oil should meet a minimum API grade of SJ+ and JASO T903 MA standards.
A 6-speed constant-mesh manual transmission with a return-shift system and a wet, multi-disc clutch assembly delivers power to the ground. An endless EK520 L-O Enuma chain (104 links + joint) final drive handles wheel spin and can be replaced with a D.I.D. DKK-004 520VX2 Chain and 15/43T Sprocket Kit (view on Amazon) that would warrant stock gearing adjustment. These powertrain components make for superb, predictable handling no matter the road conditions.
For reference, the stock gear ratios are below:
|Primary Reduction Ratio||2.913 (67/23)|
|Final Reduction Ratio||2.933 (44/15)|
|Transmission Gear Ratio (1st)||3.000 (30/10)|
|Transmission Gear Ratio (2nd)||2.000 (30/15)|
|Transmission Gear Ratio (3rd)||1.500 (27/18)|
|Transmission Gear Ratio (4th)||1.250 (25/20)|
|Transmission Gear Ratio (5th)||1.050 (21/20)|
|Transmission Gear Ratio (6th)||0.904 (19/21)|
|Overall Drive Ratio||7.731 @ Top gear|
An electronically advanced CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) and primary kick-start system breathe life into the 250-cc dirt bike. Ignition timing is 10° BTDC @ 1,300 RPM (at idle) and 35° BTDC @ 3,000 RPM (fully advanced). A single-phase A.C. alternator with a rated output of 14V 10.5 A @ 8,000 RPM powers up the bike and any electronic accessories. Additionally, the Kawasaki Automatic Compression Release (KACR) helps ensure quick and convenient starts.
Furthermore, it requires an NGK DPR9EA-9 or Nippon Denso X27EPR-U9 spark plug with a 0.8 – 0.9 mm (0.031 – 0.035 inch) gap. Australian, Californian, and U.S. releases require an NGK DPR9EA-9 or Nippon Denso X27EPR-U9 spark plug with the same dimensions as the above. Stock battery is a 12V 4Ah/(10 HR) YB4L-B battery format with assembled dimensions of 120 x 70 x 92 mm (4.75 x 2.75 x 3.62 inches).
Tires & Brakes
Front wheels are equipped with 3.00-21 4PR Dunlop® K750A and 4.60-17 Dunlop® K750A/K150 front and rear tires. Australian releases had same-size Dunlop® Trail Max tires beginning in 1989. Recommended cold-tire pressure is 147 kPa (1.50 kgf/cm2, 21 psi) in normal conditions and 172 kPa (1.75 kgf/cm2, 25 psi) when maximum load capacity reaches 97.5 – 150 Kg/215 – 331 lbs. A front single disc and back drum brakes provide the KLR 250 stopping power.
Enclosed in a tubular semi-double steel frame (28.5° caster angle, 117 mm/4.6 inches trail) are 43-mm front pneumatic telescopic forks and a Uni-Trak® rear swingarm with damper adjustment. This long-travel suspension setup provides a front/rear-wheel travel of 230 mm (9.0 inches), which keeps the dirt bike firmly planted on the ground and prevents it from bottoming out on more technical terrain. Travel increased by a mere 0.1 inch at the front and by 1.2 inches at the rear in the last two years of the two-wheeler.
For most KLR250 bikes, overall dimensions are 86.6 x 33.7 x 47.6 inches (2,200 x 855 x 1,210 mm – L x W x H). Road clearance is 270 mm/10.6 inches; seat height is 855 mm/33.7 inches. The wheelbase is 1,415 mm/55.7 inches. Dry weight is 118 Kg/260 lbs. while curb weight is 134 Kg/295.4 lbs. Units released in Canada, South Africa, and the U.S. are slightly shorter at 2,140 mm/84.25 inches – not to mention a tad lighter at 117.5 Kg/259 lbs. (dry) and 133 Kg/293.2 lbs. (curb).
The KLR250’s framework (excluding its detachable aluminum rear sub-frame) is the same high-tensile steel used in Team Green’s own award-winning KX motocross machines. Its high-impact factory skid plate (view on Amazon) is comprised of aluminum. Other standard inclusions are street-legal lighting with turn signals, a USFS-approved spark arrestor, and a rear fender tool pouch for small miscellaneous items or riding accessories. Additionally, its production year can be easily identified through its body color or finish.
|Year – Trim – Model Number||Color/s|
|1985 – 1986 Kawasaki KL250D2/D3||Dark Blue, Lime Green, Polar White, Sunbeam Red, Red, Dark Blue (non-US)|
|1987 Kawasaki KL250D4 KLR||Lime Green, Polar White, Sunbeam Red with Blue/Red tank decal (patriotic year)|
|1988 – 1989 Kawasaki KL250D5/D6 KLR||Ebony, Polar White, Brilliant Blue, Polar White, Half Blue/Half White with Green Stripes|
|1990 – 1992 Kawasaki KL250D7/D8/D9 KLR||White, Light Blue, Brilliant Blue, Polar White, Ebony, Brilliant Blue/Polar White|
|1994 – 1996 Kawasaki KL250D11/D12/D13 KLR||Ebony, Teal, Purple (often referred to as Barbie years) Seafoam/Black (1995, Spain only)|
|1997 – 1999 Kawasaki KL250D14/D15/D16 KLR 250||Dark Blue, Forest Bluish Green|
|2000 Kawasaki KL250D17 KLR 250||Olive Green, Black tank decal|
|2001 – 2002 Kawasaki KL250D18/D19 KLR 250||Galaxy Silver, Olive|
|2003 Kawasaki KL250D20 KLR 250||Black, Olive|
|2004 – 2005 Kawasaki KL250D21/D22 KLR 250||Black, Aztec Red|
|Unspecified||Black/Black with Purple tank decal, Black, Dark Blue|
Cost of a Kawasaki KLR250
The MSRP for a standard KLR 250 ranges from $1,999 to $4,149 – depending on the dirt bike’s year of release. The first nine (9) years saw a combined $1,000-raise from the ’85 model, with succeeding installments increasing list price in increments of $300 tops each year. ’01 and ’02 models were the most expensive of the lot at $4,149, followed by the 2000 KLR 250.
A fully-equipped KLR250 – replete with a high-performance exhaust, full fairing, saddlebags, utility trailer, and an oil cooler – would cost an extra $1,700 (at least) through dealerships. This additional expense could be higher, depending on your choice of aftermarket KLR 250 parts and where you source it.
|Year – Trim – Model Number||List Price||Retail/Trade-In Values|
|1985 Kawasaki KL250D2||$1,999||$470 – $2,555|
|1986 Kawasaki KL250D3||$2,149||$200 – $975|
|1987 Kawasaki KL250D4 KLR||$2,299||$200 – $975|
|1988 Kawasaki KL250D5 KLR||$2,699||$225 – $1,110|
|1989 Kawasaki KL250D6 KLR||$2,799||$225 – $1,185|
|1990 Kawasaki KL250D7 KLR||$2,899||$225 – $1,220|
|1991 Kawasaki KL250D8 KLR||$2,949||$250 – $1,495|
|1992 Kawasaki KL250D9 KLR||$2,999||$250 – $1,550|
|1993 Kawasaki KL250D10 KLR||$3,149||$295 – $1,830|
|1994 Kawasaki KL250D11 KLR||$3,399||$295 – $1,905|
|1995 Kawasaki KL250D12||$3,699||$250 – $1,550|
|1996 Kawasaki KL250D13||N/A||$290 – $1,660|
|1997 Kawasaki KL250D14 KLR 250||$3,949||$240 – $1,540|
|1998 Kawasaki KL250D15 KLR 250||$3,949||$265 – $1,690|
|1999 Kawasaki KL250D16 KLR 250||$3,949||$290 – $1,720|
|2000 Kawasaki KL250D17 KLR 250||$4,099||$350 – $2,055|
|2001 Kawasaki KL250D18 KLR 250||$4,149||$525 – $2,280|
|2002 Kawasaki KL250D19 KLR 250||$4,149||$1,115 – $1,465|
|2003 Kawasaki KL250D20 KLR 250||$3,999||$1,225 – $1,615|
|2004 Kawasaki KL250D21 KLR 250||$3,999||$1,295 – $1,705|
|2005 Kawasaki KL250D22 KLR 250||$4,099||$1,330 – $1,750|
Most resale and auction listings are between $577.75 and $3,755.38. Some of these wheelers are being sold by their owners due to disuse, while others are due to out-of-state moves or plans to upgrade to a higher-displacement dirt bike. Units used on pavement are in better overall condition than those used for off-roading or on sticky mud.
Secondhand KLR250s could have up to 30,000 miles and at least three previous owners. You would rarely find units with less than 5,000 miles on them. But if you do, be prepared to spend up to $6,000.
Kawasaki KLR 250 Reviews
Intrinsically, the Kawasaki KLR 250 is robust and dependable. Its framework and overall design are straightforward and one of the most reliable in its segment. Power build-up is smooth and reaches up the red line without major hiccups. Universal tires allow for a wide range of applications, but replacement is highly advised for specific designations or recreational activities. Furthermore, the KLR 250 has been reported by some UK owners to have a record-high fuel mileage of 79 mpg (2.96 L/100 km) on open touring.
Rarely does the dirt bike get feedback for being top-heavy, but that is out there. Also, many have observed that it starts to struggle at 8,000 RPM. And as opposed to the red-line RPM of 9,000, the bike only tops out at 8,800 RPM (some speculate this is due to early valve bounce). Off-roaders wish for improved top-end RPMs/revving ability, as top gearing feels too low and dampens the bike’s supposed optimal sustained limit.
These issues can be traced back to changes in the camshaft with the KL250D6 models onward. Inlet and exhaust open BTDC have been altered, adversely affecting ignition timing and, ultimately, horsepower. While marketing claims ranged from 23-28 hp, the actual output some owners got was reportedly around 20 hp or less – especially for later-year KLR 250 models. Moreover, the camshafts were rendered less aggressive and unable to keep the valves open in the amount of time it usually does.
Other Popular Choices
It is for these reasons that some riders prefer other two-wheelers over the lime green bike. Kawasaki’s KLX250, KLR650, and Honda’s XR250L are among popular choices. Others even advise prospective KLR 250 buyers to ditch 250-cc bikes altogether and go for a mid-displacement KLX400 or a DRZ400 for the right balance between agility, acceleration, and top-end power.
Owners’ claims for handling will always be subjective and largely dependent on performance-enhancing parts added to the stock bike. As secondhand units are expectedly over-exhausted (given their age), a used KLR 250 is best given fresh oil, new fork springs, greased linkages, and upgraded shocks – to name a few. Also, the wheeler is better off with a complete overhaul of its stock braking system, identified as one of its biggest pain points.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. is a world-renowned manufacturer in side x sides, watercraft, motorcycles, and off-road vehicles. Founded in 1878, the Japanese firm has evolved from a shipbuilding parts supplier to a global leader in the powersports landscape. Since it produced the KLR 250 in the early ’80s, the company has laid low for a while. However, it made a comeback with its top-notch product offerings and innovations in hydraulic machinery, transit, aerospace, and energy systems.
Conclusion – Kawasaki KLR 250 Review
In truth, there are mixed reviews about the Kawasaki KLR 250’s capabilities as a dual-sport motorcycle. Its reported flaws are, in part or full, based on owner experience and issues identified with the factory setup of the bike. However, they do not necessarily demean the value and fun factor of the two-wheeler. The fact that the dirt bike is great to ride on trails (not abused off-road), easily customizable, and novice-friendly is more than enough to retain its loyal following and satisfy more people who would like to pursue their long-forgotten hobby or are new to the sport.
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.