Words by Jeff Ware Photography by Heather Ware
Kawasaki re-joined the supermoto class in Australia in early 2023 with the KLX230SM. Based on the KLX230S, the LAMS approved SM has has 17in wheels and tyres, a larger front brake rotor, slightly taller final gearing, revised suspension settings with reduced travel at both ends, slightly different engine mapping for more torque, rubber footpegs, and plenty of blacked out parts including the engine.
The wheelbase is short, the seat height is not crazy tall but it is 845mm, the reach to the handlebars is short, the steering lock good and it weighs in at 135kg. Parking is a cinch, so is getting it off the stand and the electric start works first pop. Great for newbies.
Powered by a 233cc 14kW/19Nm SOHC air-cooled engine with EFI and a six-speed gearbox, the KLX230SM is about as basic as you will see these days. The frame is a steel cradle design and suspension is basic at both ends. It’s a no frills yet stylish package from Kawasaki…
The first tick is how well a tall rider like myself can fit on the KLX. At 187cm, I actually fit the bike! I would not be able to take a pillion far, to be honest, as I needed all of the seat. The mirrors are clear and vibe free in most rpm, the switches are basic and intuitive, the dash much the same. Front brake and clutch levers are fixed. The clutch is smooth and light, fuelling predictable and turning circle tight so it’s great in town all up. The only issue I noticed is a low-speed weave below 40km/h.
The KLX is happy at medium speeds and really capable at running between 70 and 90km/h, but from 90km/h you are really stretching the throttle cable and it won’t stay with traffic on a 110km/h motorway unless the road is dead flat. Top speed is 120km/h.
The gearbox action is light and smooth, the ratios good and the gearing spot on. It’s a pleasant engine. It is also super frugal on the fuel, averaging 3.5L/100km but with only a 7.5L tank, range is limited to around the 200km distance maximum. Still, filling up was only around $14 on the most expensive day.
Hitting the twisties was next. The IRC tyres are sticky and grip well. The SHOWA forks are supportive even on the brakes, but the compression damping makes sudden bumps a bit of a jolt through the handlebars. It’s a compromise.
Up front there is also a single 300mm rotor, with an unbranded two-piston sliding caliper fitted. The front brakes perform well, good feel, power and modulation. The rear single-piston sliding caliper is great, both ends work well…
The shock is basic and has preload only but it does the job and to be honest, it gives a smooth ride over bumps and enough rear control. The seat is comfy, too, but of course it is narrow so I found one hour at a time.
Being so light, the KLX is really good fun to flick around the corners. I rolled the handlebars back a few degrees, then tilted the levers down and adjusted the mirrors and found the seating position better for fanging after that.
The KLX has endless potential for customising. I’d love to see one with a full system, filter, billet anodised parts, suspension tune, sticky tyres and a graphics kit. It could be such a cool little machine…
Price: From $8,839 R/A
Claimed Power: 14kW
Claimed Torque: 19.8Nm
Wet Weight: 135kg
Fuel capacity: 7.5L
Engine: Four-stroke, single-cylinder, SOHC, two-valve, air-cooled
Chassis: Tubular, semi-double cradle
Seat height: 845mm
Instruments & Electronics: Digital LCD display, ABS