Here is a question for you. List all of the off-road motorcycles on the market today that feature (1) a smooth, wide powerband with enough torque down low to make a good, tractable trail bike, (2) state-of-the-art suspension, (3) extremely light weight and (4) a seat height low enough for shorter riders (i.e., under 5’6″) to touch the ground on? Give up? OK, here is the complete list: The Kawasaki KX100 … and … the … well, uh — I guess that’s the whole list!
The KX100 is versatile enough to rip the motocross track one minute (just look at the photos of young, hot-shot Skylar Crowley) in the hands of an experienced rider, and cruise the trails the next minute in the hands of a beginner/novice. Coming from a 100cc two-stroke bike, this is simply amazing.
Motocross racers can change the powerband into the old-style, hard-hitting, 80cc-like rev monster (little-to-no low-end, and a sudden rush on top) with a simple pipe change. As delivered, however, the KX100 does it all.
Young Skylar wasn’t our only test rider. Kimberly Edge, a 5’3″ novice trail rider rode the KX100 and loved it. In addition to the shorter seat height, Kimberly loved the smooth, controllable motor and the light, balanced feel. At 130 pounds, the suspension worked well for her on the trail, as well.
Skylar is lighter and faster (sorry, Kimberly), and the KX100 offered a plush, yet controlled ride on the track. Skylar could land from large jumps without bottoming the fork or shock.
The KX100 turned and handled well for both riders.
About the only thing we could complain about was the oil that would appear on the silencer (and swingarm) after a long ride. Although jetted correctly by Kawasaki (we tried to lean out the carb, but Kawasaki’s as-delivered jetting was the best), some pre-mix oil would nevertheless work its way through the exhaust system.
Frankly, the KX100 is one of the best kept secrets in motorcycling. Although well known as a good stepping stone for a young motocrosser that is too big for an 80 (or 85), but too short (or too inexperienced) for a 125, the KX100 is also the answer to that burning question raised at the beginning of this article. Sure, there are excellent four-stroke trail bikes for shorter riders, such as Yamaha’s TTR125 and Honda’s XR100, that have smooth, tractable power, but they don’t offer anywhere near the engine or suspension performance of the KX100.
Why did we test a 2001 model, when the 2002 model KX100 will soon be in your local dealerships. Two reasons. First, we had been thinking about the unique nature of the KX100, and the gap it fills in the market, i.e., a versatile, state-of-the-art machine for shorter riders. We thought about this article late in the 2001 model year. Second, this review isn’t time sensitive, because the 2002 model remains a virtual class of one — with no competition. No other mass-produced 100cc two stroke with modern suspension is marketed to our knowledge.
The 2002 model (whose graphics are pictured in the studio photo in this article) does feature some chassis and engine refinements that you can read about on Kawasaki’s web site. The U.S. MSRP of the 2002 KX100 is $3,449.