Good family fun. That’s what I hear over and over when I hear people talk about the KLX 140 and its big brother, the KLX 140L, from Kawasaki. Recreational off-road riding is what it’s all about in the KLX line, but recreational doesn’t mean less attention to detail.

For an affordable price, the KLX 140 and KLX 140L comes with front and rear disc brakes — something you don’t usually see in this size and price range — and a 144 cc four-stroke engine with a close-gear-ratio tranny for fun in the dirt.

Continue reading for my review of the 2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 and KLXC 140L.

  • 2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 / KLX 140L
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Engine:
    inline-1
  • Displacement:
    144 cc
  • Price:
    3099

Design

2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 / KLX 140L
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So what’s the difference between the 140 and the 140L? Think of the KLX 140 as the base model and the 140L as the more performance-oriented version — more on that later in the Chassis and Drivetrain. With larger wheels that contribute to a higher seat height, the 140L also fits a rider that’s a little taller, so the pair makes a good father-son or daughter match up or a match up for younger and older siblings.

I talk sometimes about whether a particular bike is suited for beginners and the KLX 140 and 140L are about as perfect as you can get for new riders. The 144 cc engine is fun, but not too big to really get into trouble with. The bikes are small and lightweight so you can focus on the "riding" part of the skillset and not have to worry about the "handling" part yet.

The bikes have a manual transmission and unlinked brakes so you’ll learn how to use the clutch and shift as well as learn the finesse of separate front and rear brakes in a low-stress setting, off road where you don’t have the pressure of hard pavement and traffic. Let’s face it; as a new rider, wouldn’t you rather drop the bike in a grassy field instead of on the road with traffic coming at you? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

Once you are confident with your skillset, move up to a "big" bike where you’ll then have to learn how to handle the size and weight of the bigger, street-legal machine, but keep the KLX 140 for those times you just want to have fun zipping through the dirt. It’s small enough to not take up much space in the garage, the maintenance is easy, and it’s a perfect hand-me-down bike for the up-and-coming little peg-dragger larvae.

Chassis

2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 / KLX 140L
- image 641496

The KLX siblings start out strong and light with a steel, box-section perimeter frame that stiffens the assembly and protects the engine somewhat. An aluminum swingarm completes the skeleton, and keeps unsprung weight low on the rear tire. Kawi’s Uni-Trak rear linkage works with an adjustable monoshock, though the level of adjustability depends on the trim level.

The KLX 140 comes with the standard, five-way preload adjustment, but the L model monoshock boasts a remote reservoir with 14 compression-damping settings and 22 rebound settings for complete control over the ride. Both models run on 33 mm, right side up front forks complete with gaiters to protect the fork tube seal.

The suspension components provide 7.1 inches of travel at both ends. The base 140 is set up for smaller riders with its 30.7-inch seat height, 17-inch front wheel and 14-inch rear, versus the “big-boy-bike” L model on 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheels.
Dual-pot calipers bind the 220 mm, “petal-cut” front brake disc, and a single-pot caliper binds the 186 mm disc in back for plenty of stopping power, and a typical layout that keeps unsprung weight contribution from the calipers low.

Aluminum rims and hubs likewise add the minimum to the unsprung mass, and the laced construction provides that little bit of give that off-road riders have long depended on.

Drivetrain

2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 / KLX 140L
- image 641502

Both models share the same four-cycle, one-lung mill. At only 144 cc, the engine defines the intended role for the KLX 140 family, and it certainly ain’t racing. Kawi holds the actual numbers close to the vest, but there can be no doubt that these rides are more like a gentle, old rental mare than a hot-blooded stallion like its racing kin, making it ideal for casual trail riding and general outdoor shenanigannery.

The factory saved some weight by sticking with electric-start only, and leaving off the backup kickstarter. While I do like the comfort of a kickstarter, I have to ask; at 144 cc how hard could it be to pop-start it in an emergency? Oh well, can’t have everything, and it went to a good cause by keeping the drivetrain weight down. Exhaust components follow the lightweight theme, with a near-direct shot from the head to the central-mounted muffler up under the subframe – a design that protects the muffler and keeps the weight toward center mass.

Kawi shunned liquid-cooling on this one, and instead went with good, old-fashioned air cooling that keeps the bike clean and simple, with no vulnerable radiators or hoses to worry about. The engine management components are likewise simple, with a digital, DC-CDI ignition and Keihin PB20, side-draft carburetor. This makes for low maintenance, and simple diagnoses and repairs when things go wrong. A five-speed transmission, wet clutch and chain final drive rounds out the drivetrain.

Pricing

2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 / KLX 140L
- image 641500

MSRP on the 2016 KLX 140 is $3,099 and the KLX 140L is $3,399. Both come with a six-month warranty that you can extend to 12, 24, or 36 months under Kawasaki’s Protection Plus. If you like the lime green and white color combo, you’re in luck. If you don’t, oh well.

Competitors

2016 Kawasaki KLX 140 / KLX 140L
- image 653624
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- image 653625

For this type of bike, I needed another casual trail rider with a comparable engine, and I found it in the CRF 150F from Honda. Both lines are set up for user-friendly, low-maintenance operation, and neither are any sort of race machine. Well, technically you could race any two similarly-powered machines, couldn’t you?

Honda squeaks out a win with five extra cubes for a total of 149 cc over the Kawi at 144 cc. That’s not a big difference and certainly not a deal breaker. Both bikes run nearly square, air-cooled, four-stroke engines, and both keep it simple with CDI ignition and carburetor induction. Honestly, other than brand loyalty, there is very little to choose between the two.

This changes a bit with the rider triangle and such. The CRF comes with a fixed, 32-inch seat height and 52.3-inch wheelbase, where the KLX 140 runs a 30.7-inch seat and 49.6-inch wheelbase and the L model runs with a 31.5-inch seat and 50.6-inch wheelbase. Honda comes out taller and longer overall, and though this is no competition bike so it doesn’t matter much, it will certainly surrender some agility to the Kawi.

Honda comes off just a skosh on the proud side at $3,699, where the KLX rolls for $3,099 and the L model just $300 more at $3,399. As with the engine, brand loyalty may carry the day, but those six bills may sway some people on the fence.

He Said

My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “It’s refreshing to see a plain-old fun bike for trail and general off-road riding. Unintimidating, and light enough to easily pick up when dropped, the KLX family looks to fill a niche that caters to the family-outing style rider, as opposed to any sort of high-flying shenanigannery. Simple rides, for simple pleasures.”

She Said

"I had fun. Everyone who I saw ride the KLX 140 or the KLX 140L had fun. This is a really nice recreational dirt bike and they’re so reasonably priced, you can have two or three and make it a family activity. The bikes are small and will fit in the back of a pickup truck for easy transport to and from the riding area."

Specifications

Model: KLX140 KLX140L
Drivetrain:
Engine: Four-stroke, single-cylinder, two-valve, SOHC, Air-cooled Four-stroke, single-cylinder, two-valve, SOHC, Air-cooled
Displacement: 144 cc 144 cc
Bore: 58.0 mm 58.0 mm
Stroke: 54.4 mm 54.4 mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1 9.5:1
Fuel System: Keihin PB20 Keihin PB20
Ignition: Digital DC-CDI Digital DC-CDI
Starting System: Electric Starter, Primary Kick Electric Starter, Primary Kick
Transmission: Five-speed with wet multi-disc manual clutch Five-speed with wet multi-disc manual clutch
Clutch: Wet, multidisc Wet, multidisc
Final Drive: Chain Chain
Chassis:
Frame Type: High-Tensile steel, box-section perimeter High-Tensile steel, box-section perimeter
Rake: 27 degrees 27 degrees
Trail: 3.3 inches 3.8 inches
Steering Angle, Right: 41 degrees 41 degrees
Steering Angle, Left: 41 degrees 41 degrees
Suspension, Front / Wheel Travel: 33 mm telescopic fork / 7.1 inches 33 mm telescopic fork / 7.1 inches
Suspension, Rear / Wheel Travel: Uni-Trak® linkage system and single shock with Five-way preload adjustability / 7.1 inches Uni-Trak® linkage system and single shock with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload and 22-way rebound damping
Wheel, Front: 17 x 1.40 19 x 1.40
Wheel, Rear: 14 x 1.60 16 x 1.85
Tire, Front: 70/100-17 70/100-19
Tire, Rear: 90/100-14 90/100-16
Brake, Front: Single 220 mm petal disc with a dual-piston caliper Single 220 mm petal disc with a dual-piston caliper
Brake, Rear: Single 186 mm petal disc with single-piston caliper Single 186 mm petal disc with single-piston caliper
Dimensions:
Length: 71.7 inches 74.6 inches
Width: 31.1 inches 31.1 inches
Height: 41.3 inches 42.3 inches
Ground Clearance: 9.3 inches 10.0 inches
Seat Height: 30.7 inches 31.5 inches
Wheelbase: 49.6 inches 50.6 inches
Details:
Curb Weight: 205.0 Pounds 209.4 Pounds
Fuel Capacity: 1.5 gallons 1.5 gallons
Recommended Fuel: Regular Unleaded Regular Unleaded
Warranty: Six Months Six Months
Kawasaki Protection Plus™ (optional): 12, 24, or 36 months 12, 24, or 36 months
Color: Lime Green Lime Green
Price: $3,099 $3,399
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