2005 Kawasaki KX125

Could you imagine lining up on the start gate next to 39 of the fastest 125cc racers in the world on a bike with half the cubic centimeters of motor? Better yet; could you imagine lining up next to those 39 racers on bigger bikes, knowing that you are still going to win by at least 20 seconds? Well, neither could we. In fact, James Stewart is the only rider in the world who can understand that feeling.

Unless you’ve been locked in a closet for the past six months, you already know that Bubba has dominated the 125cc National Championship series on a two-stroke KX125-winning all but one moto against a field comprised of mostly 250cc four-strokes. Watching Bubba in action on any track would lead a casual observer to assume that the KX125 he is riding is the fastest bike on the planet. Of course, we realize that the bike he is on is a full-blown works bike, but oftentimes technology crosses over from “works” development to the production bike the following year. That said, we were anxious to throw a leg over the 2005 Bubba Scrubber…

CHANGES?

At first glance we immediately noticed the new graphics and the taller, all-black gripper seat and seat cover, but the rest of the changes are all internal. Internal or not, however, they are hardly worth getting riled up about, as the 2005 model is basically the same machine we tested last year. The KX125 motor enjoys better lubrication through the left crankcase to the input shaft bearing, and it also has improved waterproofing around the ignition coil. The reeds are now more rigid to help prevent heat deformation, and the input shaft was beefed up to help with transmission durability. The front forks received new low-friction oil seals, and the front brakes have new pad material for greater durability. And that’s about the extent of the changes…

ON TRACK

It’s been a long time since the KX125 held the title of being the powerhouse of the 125 class, but it’s always had an easy-to-ride feel-just with moderate overall horsepower. In 2005, the song remains the same. The KX is super fun to ride, but you would be hard pressed to compete against the 250cc four-strokes or some of the faster 125s aboard the green machine in stock condition. What the KX125 is especially good at, though, is getting in and out of turns. The power is very crisp and snappy, allowing you to rip out of corners with ease because the motor is so easy to keep on the pipe down low. Unfortunately, this is the only area in which the KX125 powerplant excels. Mid-range power is strong, but the motor falls a bit flat on top. We thought short-shifting the bike would keep the motor in the meat, but there is a small gap between second and third that allows the rpms to drop, and it had us desperately abusing the clutch to keep things going. Some gearing changes, however, may be the simple remedy.

For 80cc riders making the transition to a full-sized bike, this is a great motor, as it will allow them to feel the power of a 125 while not getting them into too much trouble. Serious racers, however, will need to massage the KX125’s powerplant to get good results.

The KX125 suspension has always been one of our favorites when it comes to handling, and this year is not much different. The new and improved “slicker” oil seals might help the initial plushness of the fork slightly, but the forks do seem to work a bit better than last year on the small chop. Our faster pro riders had some complaints with the forks blowing through the stroke on G-outs and big hits (as they’re sprung for the lightweight, average rider), but overall the forks were not talked about that much. The shock, on the other hand, works well everywhere. It is especially good in acceleration bumps, as it has a plush feel and allows the bike to enjoy excellent traction. It also blew through the stroke a bit for our faster and heavier riders, but it wasn’t a big complaint of our test staff. As in years past, we think the suspension on the KX is one of itts best qualities.

Overall, the handling characteristics of the Kawi are exactly as you’d wish for, as we’ve found it to be stable at speed, and equally adept in corners. The bike has a light feathery feel in the air, and it rarely allows the rider to get out of shape. The ergonomics have most riders feeling right at home, and the new taller seat was a big hit with our entire test staff. The turning prowess of the bike had our staff spinning countless laps on our private SX track. The crispness of the power along with the light flickable feel of the chassis made the bike a blast on the tighter track. We did feel some headshake on the faster, rougher sections of our outdoor track, but we were able to tune it out with some clicker adjustments. The handling of the KX is very predictable and there are never any surprises. It’s quite easy to feel right at home on the new Kawi, and riders raved about the amount of confidence they felt while on the bike. Overall, this is one of the best-handling machines we have ridden this year.

IN A WORD?

If we had to choose one word to describe the KX125, it would be fun. It isn’t the fastest 125 we have ridden, but it is one of the most enjoyable to ride. The crisp throttle response and the great handling chassis and suspension allow you to feel like a hero. Whether or not you possess enough talent and speed to overcome its overall lack of brute power, however, is another thing altogether. If you’re serious about racing, you may look to do some massaging to the KX powerplant, but if you’re riding simply to have fun, the KX125 is a superb choice.