With Suzuki unloading non-currents and Honda out of the 85cc two-stroke business, it is refreshing to see Kawasaki up the ante in the mini cycle
marketplace. The all-new Kawasaki KX85 was a long time
coming, but we’re glad it made it to the party.
WHAT WAS GOOD? For starters, Kawasaki pumped
money into developing the 2014 KX85. It was about time.
The 2014 model is far better than its predecessor in every
way. Our mini cycle test riders raved about the balanced
chassis feel, forgiving suspension, crisp jetting and four-way adjustable bar mounts. Even though they detested
the handlebar bend, the KX85 ergonomics were a fan
favorite. Also interesting is that the mini groms preferred
the Kawasaki brakes over the more powerful Husqvarna
and KTM units. Why? Younger riders don’t like a front
brake that is sensitive and unforgiving. The KX85 brakes
were like baby bear’s porridge. As for the powerband, it
did a crackerjack job of catering to a wide range of skill
levels. It can overpower the KTM/Husqvarna on the bottom end and keep up through the midrange. It falls short
at high rpm ( 10,000 to 12,000), but it is a race rocket in
the hands of most riders.
WHAT WAS BAD? Kawasaki made a host of improvements to the KX85, but they failed to fully commit. How
so? The Kayaba forks don’t have adjustable rebound. It
was a cost-versus-benefit decision that didn’t make sense.
The KX85 won the suspension category, but that’s because
it’s up against stiff WP forks and archaic YZ85 units.
Imagine how good the KX85 forks would be with rebound
adjustment. Also, every tester complained about how
bad the handlebars were. The sweep was rolled back too
much. It’s also important to note that the faster the rider,
the more he wanted improved top-end power.
WHAT’S THE FINAL WORD? Three out of four MXA
testers chose the Husqvarna and KTM over the Kawasaki
KX85 for one reason—horsepower. They were willing to
adjust to the shortcomings of the TC85 and 85SX
(suspension and handling) to get their hands on that
amazing engine. That doesn’t mean that every test rider
drank the orange Kool-Aid, though, because a small minority voted for the KX85 because of its usable powerband,
plush suspension, smaller ergonomics, metered front brake
and four-position bar mounts. The KX85 is a sweet ride
that’s a few horsepower short of taking the cake.