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normw 30 Jul 2012 22:55

Kawasaki KLX250s As a D/S Tourer - My Report
I recently completed a trip of several thousand km. in the Yukon and Alaska on what was an experiment for me - a 2011 Kawasaki klx250s. The point of the exercise was to avoid using my 750 cc. street bike which has proved very incapable of dealing with gravel/dirt roads in the past and to have something which would be easy to pick up if necessary. So here are my impressions.


My friend (who was on a BMW 650 single) and I saw hundreds of bikes during the trip (the north is definitely a destination) and mine was the only bike under 650cc being used for serious travelling. There's much talk of going anywhere on anything but it's pretty rare for anyone to actually do it.

For those who care about such things, the klx, unlike some of the other 200 - 250cc dual sports available, has more of a big bike look, basically because it's tall and because the radiators add some bulk to the look of the mechanicals. Add racks and a windshield and at a distance it sometimes is mistaken for a KLR.

Highway Performance:

Absolutely no problem. Once broken in the klx could cruise without any strain at 110 - 115 kph (65 -68 mph) all day and exceed that if necessary. Hills rarely required shifting down more than one gear from 6th to 5th. Lots of torque relatively speaking.

Vibration was not an issue. There is some under acceleration but once settled in I had no complaints. Chip sealed pavement caused more vibration than the engine. The stock Dunlop knobbies were surprisingly pavement friendly.

Carrying Capacity:

I had the bike quite heavily loaded using luggage racks (top and side), soft bags, a large duffel, a small duffel, a small tank bag and a fender bag. The soft bags contained 10 extra litres of gas (more about that later). No issues. I barely knew the stuff was there.

Fuel Range:

The klx tank holds a miniscule 7.7 litres (2 U.S. gallons) including the reserve. There is no fuel gauge. At highway speeds, loaded down as I was, the entire range of a tank of gas was about 140 km. (85 miles). This is kind of crazy. I had a 5 litre container of gas in each soft bag and had to use them repeatedly which is messy and annoying. There is an after market larger tank available but I believe it only adds an extra US gallon which would not be all that helpful practically speaking.

Of course, at lower speeds the range is much greater. The engine is remarkably fuel efficient, but it still needs to eat.


I added a windscreen made by Turbocity which worked very well. In fact, out of ten bikes I've owned I had the quietest ride of all on the klx in terms of wind noise inside my modular helment. The screen does make the front wheel less solidly planted at speed due to sensitivity to any cross breeze but I got used to that quickly.


I added heated grips and used them constantly. No electrial issues. I had a plug in for a heated vest and never did use it but my research tells me that it would not have been possible to use the grips and the vest at the same time.

When I first saw the dirt bike type seat I instantly decided that it had to go. But as I rode around breaking the engine in I was astonished that it really was not bad at all and did not replace it. That was a mistake. Not bad at all for a hour or two turns into something of an ordeal for longer hours day after day. I used an Airhawk pad with an extra layer of corrugated foam in it and that definitely helped. But there's no substitute for width.

The ergonomics were fine for me at 5'10". I tried a DRZ 400 and everything seemed to be in the wrong place while the klx was the opposite.

The seat is high at 35 inches. I lowered it slightly by moving the fork clamps, softening the suspension and, of course, adding all the baggage. But the Airhawk and foam raised it right back up again. I've always dislked tall bikes but the lightness of the bike largely compensated and I never felt insecure.

Off Pavement:

This is basically a dirt bike with lights so you would expect stellar performance on dirt/gravel. My experience was oddly mixed and I've concluded that there are so many variables to this equation that it's difficult to generalize.

I could certainly blast along on some gravel portions and the geometry lent itself to standing up easily. And yet I was shocked by one stretch that I expected to sail through only to find that the front end was behaving worse than that of the street bike I'd left at home. Clearly it had to do with the interaction between the size of the knobs and the size of the stones that made up this particular patch.

On a rainy, muddy day on the Top of the World Highway the going was slow and cautious. My lack of confidence here seemed to relate to the slipperiness of the road surface with which the dirt bike genes of the klx did not seem to help much at all. And three Goldwings were on this road at the same time and seemed to be moving as fast as I was (what the ...?). On the other hand, one of them went down due to the mud. On another stretch of gravel we seemed to be progressing at a good pace but a BMW RT 1100 on street tires was travelling far faster.

There are so many potential variations in bike geometry, centre of gravity, tires, tire pressue, road surface, dry vs. wet etc. and of course the rider's skills or risk taking propensity. It's difficult to predict how a particular combination of variables will work out. I was reading a claim that a Harley fitted with Ural side car tires on it was better suited for gnarly dirt roads in Africa than a GSA and, for a particular rider, I tend to believe that this sort of clam can be correct. It all depends.


Not a single problem. But it is a new Japanese bike.

Conclusion - klx250s:

Change the seat (easily done), solve the fuel issue (not that easily done)
and you have a perfectly good d/s touring bike. And it's fun.

At one stop I was looking at a GSA and a Super Tenere, both fully kitted out, and the comparison with the klx was so striking given that they really all do the same thing. All that money and weight just seemed so manifestly unnecessay. Yet if I owned one of those large machines I'd probably see it differently.

Hope this is useful.


markharf 30 Jul 2012 23:20

Interesting. A good report on a choice which is often contemplated (including by me), but seldom accomplished.

I'm particularly interested in the mileage issue, since what you describe is a 250 getting just 42 miles per gallon. My KLR 650 normally gets 50 fully loaded unless I'm riding fast or against head or side winds. I'm trying to piece this together in a way which makes sense. Does the 250 have a tachometer? Is it continually wound out at highway speeds?

Thanks for the report, and thanks in advance for anything further.


normw 31 Jul 2012 00:50

Fuel Efficiency
While riding around town with a bit of freeway thrown in, no windshield and no luggage the klx achieved close to 3.4 litres per 100 km. (roughly 70 miles per U.S. gallon) which is extraordinary.

Fully packed with the relatively large and relatively flat windshield at highway speeds (with the grips on if that matters) fuel efficiency drops precipitously. There is a tach and typically the rpms were in the 7000 - 8000 range at 65 mph. That little engine works hard but seems content to do it.

normw 31 Jul 2012 01:13

More on Comfort
One thing I neglected to mention is that all the suspension travel on the klx makes for an excellent ride over all the frost heaves, corrugations and other bumps and lumps found on northern roads; more comfortable I believe than on more street oriented d/s bikes.

At one point I unfortunately accomplished a head on, speedy hit on a deep pot hole the size of Albania. I shudder to think what it would have done to my street bike. The klx shrugged it off like it was nothing.

Hustler 31 Jul 2012 09:27


Originally Posted by normw (Post 387694)
..............Hope this is useful.

Thanks for taking the time to write this up Norm.
Interesting, and useful.
Thank you.

markharf 1 Aug 2012 21:46

An interesting report, which I'm still digesting.

The mileage puzzle is certainly connected to the rpm's you report. My 650 turns 5000-5500 rpm's at indicated 70 mph (which is more like 65 mph actual). It gets 45-50 miles per US gallon, depending on load. Your 250 is turning over a lot faster ("7000-8000") at that speed, which would concern me in the long term. Maybe it shouldn't.

As I just wrote on another thread, I've had mileage from mid-twenties (fully loaded, very strong headwinds, bad gas in Patagonia) to mid-seventies (very sedate pace, no baggage, calm winds, flat gravel road in B.C,). From your description, the 250 does better, but not really that much better. Purchased new, it costs about the same, but I wouldn't expect it to last as long in high-mileage touring due to the rpm issue--my 650 has 95,000 miles on it.

I assume the 250 is far superior away from pavement or in true off-road situations, but again I'm not sure from your report whether this is much of an issue once you're heavily loaded, therefore somewhat insecure no matter what you do. It remains intriguing, particularly since I think I'm through with 6 month and yearlong trips for a while. On shorter trips with minimal baggage it would sure be nice to lose a hundred pounds of machinery.

Thanks again for the report. If you're ever down this way maybe we could do a trade.....?


normw 2 Aug 2012 01:56

Thanks for the additional thoughts Mark.

I have to admit that, in retrospect, I wonder about the point of the whole experiment. There is not a substantial cost saving over a KLR either in the purchase price (at least in Canada) or operation expense. The limited range on a tank of gas is a pain and I'm no dirt rider in any event. It may simplly come down to the pleasure of riding something so light and yet so capable.


fredsuleman 2 Aug 2012 05:45

Thanks for the report. There are a few who continue to advance the idea of smaller bikes for long distance travel. My wife and I have been on 250s since 2006, first on Ninja 250s and now on Super Sherpas, with a total of 120,000 km traveled--70,000 currently on the Sherpas--which is much the same engine as the KLX250, but air cooled and with a single carburetor.

I fully agree with your point that it is not necessary, nor particularly advantageous, to have the big behemoth bike fully kitted with the bling to travel successfully for long distances, but the myth and mystique goes on.

I am curious about your fuel consumption issue. Our Sherpas average 30-32 km per liter, which is roughly 3.3 L per 100 km or 70+ mpg. This is consistent loaded or unloaded, with larger main jets installed and with a smaller front sprocket for added low end grunt. With a 9 liter tank this gives us a range of nearly 300 km. We can cruise 90+ km/h if we have to and comfortably ride at 60-80 all day long. We avoid motorways and major highways like the plague.

We were at the first Greece HUBB meet last week where the predominant moto was the popular beast. Few could believe we have traveled so far on small bikes. Once again, as at all the other HUBB meetings we have been to, we observed a number of people struggling on excessively heavy bikes which were too big for them. Big and tall people would obviously not fit on a 250, and it is not for 2up, but many people could benefit from considering a smaller bike--but to each his/her own desire.

Go small or go home.

Joel and Taz--somewhere in Greece.

Jeremie 22 Feb 2013 10:40

Just found this thread. I live in Thailand and have recently picked up a KLX250SF (FI) in part due to the lack of other affordable, practical options here. I have put about 5k kilometers on it in the last couple months and am considering a trip around India and back. I am also a little concerned about the limited range--I've been getting about ~110 miles out of a tank. Considering the BMW 650GS (FI) I had years ago which got me around 70mpg loaded, this little bike seems to gulp it down.
Anyone know how to squeeze more mpg's out of one of these--different fuel injector, chip, etc.?

Walkabout 22 Feb 2013 11:35


Originally Posted by Jeremie (Post 412711)
Anyone know how to squeeze more mpg's out of one of these--different fuel injector, chip, etc.?

As discussed in this thread back in summer 2012, it's all in your right wrist, although you could play around with the sprockets.

I used to ride a twin spark F650GS also, and the 70 MPG was easily achieved, but that engine was turning over, at 70 MPH say, far slower than a 250cc engine doing the same road speed.
The same goes for my XT225 which won't even/ever get up to 70 MPH with it's standard gearing.

Walkabout 22 Feb 2013 11:45


Originally Posted by markharf (Post 387922)

The mileage puzzle is certainly connected to the rpm's you report. My 650 turns 5000-5500 rpm's at indicated 70 mph (which is more like 65 mph actual). It gets 45-50 miles per US gallon, depending on load. Your 250 is turning over a lot faster ("7000-8000") at that speed, which would concern me in the long term. Maybe it shouldn't.

It would concern me also, in the long term for the overall life of the engine and in the day to day running for the oil level; my Yam XT225 has less than 1 litre of oil in the sump and it needs a watchful eye on the level therefore.
I guess a KLX carries "not much oil" in the engine.

normw 24 Feb 2013 05:45

On an oil change the KLX engine takes only 1.0 litre of oil (filter in), 1.3 litres when the engine is completely dry. So, right, the level needs watching.

The KLX250s sold in North America is carburated and a fuel injected variant only appears to be available in some parts of Asia. The carburated version can be a moody starter and needs much warming up. This apparently has to do with pollution control issues. I assume that FI has solved that problem.

I had my KLX out for a cold but sunny city ride today and was reminded what a treat it is to handle. I'd say that's the best thing about going light.


beat_ 28 Feb 2013 16:47

the klx250 has fi in europe as well

normw 16 Jul 2013 07:35

End of the Experiment
Thought I'd briefly relate the end of my experiment with a 250 as a dual purpose touring bike.

I came to the realization that what I enjoyed most about it, its lightness and tossability, really only came into play during city riding and on the occassional gravel/dirt road that I encounter. 98% of my travelling does not take place under those conditions so my attraction to going light was really about the small spaces in between the type of riding I really do.

Therefore, the klx250s was sold and replaced by a 2012 V-strom 650. The Wee feels top heavy and clumsy around town compared to the 250 but once underway on good paved highways it is, I must admit, a much more comfortable and relaxed experience than a strung out small engine can deliver.

In my original post I suggested that the 250 (with a better seat and a bigger tank) was a "perfectly good" d/s tourer. I still think that's sort of true but perhaps "adequate" would be a better description for long distance riding. I guess I craved more than adequate.

JillGat 13 Mar 2014 23:00

Norm, you went back to a big bike? What a sell-out! :scooter: I'm on my way from a Tiger 800 to a Kawi 250. That being said, I love my Tiger and would keep both if I could.

What seat upgrades have people done on the Kawasaki KLX?

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