First Impression: 2006 Kawasaki KX250

We recently took delivery of our ’06 KX250 test unit, and were immediately excited to get her out to the track. Why, you might ask? Well, the 2005 version of Kawi’s two-stroke 250cc was one of our favorites to ride. In fact, after our first impression test this same time last year, a couple of our test riders even proclaimed the ’05 KX as the early leader heading into the 250cc two-stroke shootout. In the end, however, the KX didn’t end up on the top of our shootout charts, but it was still widely appreciated as being one of the great all-around two-strokes in our fleet of test bikes. Add to the mix the fact that James Stewart convincingly piloted his KX250 to some wins after returning to the ’05 Supercross series late in the season, a number of refinement updates from the engineers at Kawasaki, and hence, we were pumped to throw a leg over the new green machine to see how she’d fare in ’06.

It’s no secret that Kawasaki is getting ready to release two brand new four-stroke MXers to the market, including the much anticipated KX450F, so it makes sense that only minor changes would be present on the new two-stroke. And while it’s sometimes difficult to improve on an already great machine, Kawasaki continued to put efforts into making the KX250 even better for 2006 by fine-tuning the engine, suspension and brakes. To make their 250cc Supercross race winner even quieter in order to meet the modern noise emissions standards, a new piston profile and muffler design were utilized to reduce mechanical and overall noise. A new reed valve stopper now features a new shape to improve low-rpm response, as well as improves scavenging efficiency by facilitating airflow through the third scavenging port. In addition, a new water-pump impeller was installed to increases coolant circulation for improved high-rpm and over-rev performance.

On the chassis side of things, Kawasaki finally got with the times and threw on a set of Renthal aluminum handlebars for improved strength and feel. New petal-shaped brake discs were added to help clean the brake pads for more efficient braking performance, a new rear shock now features dual compression adjustability so riders have more tuning options for both low-speed and high-speed compression damping, and fine-tuning to the Kayaba AOS (Air-Oil-Separate) fork via a new one-piece plastic sleeve inside the fork inner tubes improves suspension action at full compression.

To finish her off, Kawasaki swapped out the graphics and seat cover for a new and improved design, and they added a new magnesium-looking finish to the triple clamps to give it that factory look.

On the track, the 2006 KX250 feels nearly identical to last year’s bike. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, keeping in mind that we haven’t ridden all of the ’06 250cc two-strokes head to head yet, we’re guessing that the changes made to the KX aren’t enough to bump it up into the top spot in the class. However, it is still a great, well-rounded bike that produces great power, handles smooth and consistently, and is a ton of fun to ride. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait for the shootout…