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Kawasaki KLX300R Review: [Specs, History & Comparison]

Are you considering purchasing a Kawasaki KLX300R but not sure if it’s the right bike? Whether you’re looking for your first dirt bike or wanting to get a new one, you’re in the right place.

I’ve owned and trail ridden a KLX300, so in this article I’ll show you what kind of bike it is, why it may or may not be right for you, and what to expect when buying and owning one to save you time and money!

What is the Kawasaki KLX300?

It’s a 300cc (292cc technically) liquid-cooled 4 stroke trail bike that is designed for beginner to intermediate riders. It’s a better version of the older style air-cooled 4 strokes, such as the XR250.

KLX300R model year changes

Kawasaki has been making the liquid-cooled KLX300R trail bike since 1997, but in 2003 it got a nice face-lift with new cosmetics. Kawasaki stopped making it in 2007…

But wait, it came back for 2020 with some fairly big updates! It now has fuel injection and electric start. This makes it a frustration-free trail bike for beginners or if you just want to have fun riding trails at any elevation.

2003 KLX300R 5 Kawasaki KLX300R Review: [Specs, History & Comparison]
Stock 2003 KLX300 I took to the Black Hills

Is the KLX300R any good?

Is the KLX300R fast? No, at least not compared to an mx or high performance enduro bike.

Is it lightweight? The 2020 is a little on the heavier side, but it’s not too heavy for trail riding.

Does it have good suspension?

So, is the KLX300R any good? I say yes for a number of reasons. For one, the combination of smooth torque, plush suspension and a lower seat height make this a killer trail bike for low to moderate speeds.

It doesn’t have mega horsepower, but what it does do, is put all of the power to the ground. This not only makes it easy to ride, but it makes you look like a better rider because you can get up more technical hills and over obstacles.

The lower center of gravity makes it handle better in the woods, especially when you’re weaving between and around trees at low speeds.

For more detail on each area of the KLX300R, keep reading.

Suspension and Handling

One of the first things I noticed about this bike is that it has mx-style inverted forks, unlike its XR competitor. This makes it feel and ride more like a motocross bike, but with really plush springs.

Handling is surprisingly good on the KLX300. It’s easy to turn and will go where you want it to. It does get a little twitchy going fast over rough ground, but it handled every terrain I rode on excellently.

Good but not great forks

Although the KLX300R has motocross-style suspension, it does not perform exactly like it. It’s a smaller and cheaper version of it. You can’t tune the forks and shock as you would be able to on a race bike. With that said, many KLX owners have swapped out the stock forks for a pair from an older KX250 (there may be a future article on how to do this if I get enough responses).

With some adjusting of what clickers I had, the bike was finally riding like it should. I’m a light rider, and I had to have the clickers almost all the way in for it to be stiff enough. I do occasionally jump the bike, but its main use was riding single track trails, so the suspension couldn’t be too harsh. If you weigh over 170 lbs (80kg) you’ll probably need to get stiffer springs, and it will be well worth it once the bike is set-up the way you want.

Low seat height for beginners & short adults

The bike doesn’t feel too bulky, and the seat is low and comfortable; perfect for my short frame and legs. It’s easy to squeeze your legs right up against the frame and let the bike do most of the work. Although, hanging on with your arms is awkward at first.

I’m not really sure what Kawasaki was trying to do when they made the handlebars. They are really wide, low, and weak. Unless you’re an odd-ball that likes the fit of the bars, they would be the first thing to go.

Lightweight for the win

Weighing in at 260lbs (wet) makes it the lightest bike in its class. This is a huge bonus because you definitely feel the extra weight on heavier bikes when shifting around on the trails, or when you are picking the bike up after a spill.

It’s not as light as a 2-stroke, but definitely lighter than a 450cc off-road dirt bike.

Unfortunately, the 2020 and newer models have added some weight with the electric start and fuel injection. It’s up to around 280 lbs. ready to ride, so you’ll notice it a little more at extremely low speeds or if you have to pick it up off the ground. Once you get moving, though, it’s not as noticeable.

Is the KLX300R reliable?

As far as reliability goes, the KLX300 is as close to bullet-proof as you can get. There was one minor issue in the engine, and that was the cam/timing chain tensioner. After a few thousand miles or so of wear it would get caulked down, causing the chain to be loose and make noise.

Many new KLX owners get frightened by this because it often makes a loud knocking noise. The same thing happened to my 300R, and I thought for sure it was piston-slap since the noise was really loud and would go away once the bike was hot.

No more piston-slapping noise!

I eventually bought a new tensioner just for the sake of it. When I removed the original one, it didn’t even look crooked or broken. I was hoping that it would still somehow be the problem, and I was right. I started up the bike with the new one in and it purred like a kitten.

Other that, I haven’t a problem with this bike. As long as you change the oil/filter, clean the air filter, lube chain, etc. when you should, this bike will last a long time. Check the valves and timing chain every year or two, as well to make sure they aren’t worn or have moved.

Engine characteristics

Lastly, when I said power was just a bonus on a trail bike, I didn’t exactly mean that power doesn’t matter, because it does…. From some help of the extra 50cc’s, the KLX300 is the most powerful in its class. More horsepower and torque than the XR250R and DR250.

Don’t get too excited, though, because the 24 ponies it puts out makes a very smooth and linear power curve. This is mainly thanks to the Keihin CVK 34mm constant velocity carburetor. It uses the pull of vacuum to move the slide up, which takes away any “snap” the bike would have had. It simply robs torque and horsepower that this bike could’ve had.

Broad power makes it easy to ride

On the flip-side, having a very mellow power-band makes the bike extremely easy to use and allows it to putt up steep hills with ease. You shouldn’t have trouble going through tight trails, no matter the conditions, because it will put what power it has to the ground with a good rear tire on.

All-in-all, there are ups and downs to the Kawasaki KLX300R, but most of the flaws are easily fixable. I wouldn’t mind getting another one of these in the future for going on long trail rides. So, let’s review what this bike has to offer…

KLX300R vs CRF250F

Kawasaki and Honda have updated their 4 stroke trail bike lineup, and the KLX300R is closest to the CRF250F, so how do they stack up?

They both have fuel injection and electric start, so there’s not much to compare there (durability won’t be known for a couple of years).

The biggest areas to consider are: Weight, power, seat height, and suspension.

The KLX300R is the winner when it comes to power and suspension. Not by a large margin, but the bigger engine gives you more torque, especially since it can be better tuned with liquid-cooling.

The CRF250F is about 20lbs lighter, and is about 1 inch shorter in seat height.

So, if you’re just getting into dirt biking and are considering the KLX300R and CRF250F, it really comes down to how big you are. If the KLX300R is too big or you don’t need the extra power, then get the CRF250F.

What’s good?

  • Fuel injection (2020)
  • Electric start (2020)
  • Lightest 4 stroke in its class (2007 & older)
  • Very easy to ride
  • Motocross-style features (inverted forks, liquid-cooling)
  • Smooth power-curve to putt up hills
  • Sips on gas
  • Reliable
  • 36 in. seat height
  • Very quiet for riding in people-dense areas

What’s not?

  • No electric-start (2007 & older)
  • No hot-start (sometimes the engine gets flooded if you stall, making it harder to start)
  • Low, wide, and weak stock handlebars
  • Inverted forks are not fully-adjustable
  • Throttle requires you to turn it too far
  • Engine is choked up with the small carb. and exhaust

Will the KLX300 make you a better rider?

The KLX300 is a good off-road trail bike if you can handle a little extra weight, and combining that with proper riding technique will make you a safe and confident rider. Want to learn all the basic techniques in just a few minutes? Tap here to get my free training guide.

Matt Young

Tuesday 21st of November 2023

Kelley, this was a good review. I just purchased a '24 KLX300R and a '21 KX250X and I must say that I love the 300. I've owned many motocross bikes over the years. 125s, 450s and everything in-between and this bike is one of the funnest I've ever rode. I would love more information on swapping the suspension from a KX.

Thanks for the review.

Kelley Fager

Wednesday 22nd of November 2023

Thanks for reading, Matt! I haven't personally done the KX suspension swap, but a quick search shows that forks from a 91-95 KX125/250/500 should fit with little modification. You might be able to fit modern forks on with a complete front-end swap, but I haven't done enough research on it.


Friday 10th of March 2023

Ugggh, probably overthinking this and already know the answer but here goes. I'm a big guy that road dirt probably 20 years ago, on an XR400R, then went to street then sold everything when I had kids. Fast forward and I want to get back into the sport with my 15 and 12 year old kids. I'm a bigger guy, 5'10" but 225 lbs and have ridden LOTS of downhill mountain bike in the last 5-6 years. Local dealer has two used bikes (couple years old) a KLX300R and a Sherco 300 SEF, he's saying the mountain bike experience will translate over and I should consider the Sherco, but based on your website I'm thinking something like the KLX will be better to get back into it. Thoughts? With my (cough cough) higher weight class I have discounted a CRF250F due to what you've mentioned about suspension.

Kelley Fager

Friday 10th of March 2023

Hey Scott, yes it does sound like you know what my answer will be. While you might be able to handle the Sherco, the KLX300R would be much easier to ride, especially if you're just getting back into it with your teenage kids. You can always sell it and upgrade in a year or two if you get tired of it. I like the saying: "It's more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow." Thanks for reading my articles - I'd really appreciate you sharing them with a friend that wants to get into dirt biking too!


Wednesday 31st of August 2022

Sigh....another Mediavine marketing garbage blog.

Kelley Fager

Friday 2nd of September 2022

Hey Larry, thanks for your comment. Are you saying that my articles are garbage information, or you don't like Mediavine?

cody orr

Friday 14th of September 2012

i love my 03 klx 300 just got it last night and have nothing bad to say about,its my daily driver to work only thing i wanna do is put the super moto set up on it

Alan Burroughs

Friday 17th of February 2012

Just picked up a 1998 klx 250e {20.000 miles} has anyone changed a cam chain tensioner and what is involved my mate said this is a common fault? should i bother if i have no excessive noise? MANY THANKS

Kelley Fager

Saturday 18th of February 2012

Yes, I changed one on mine. It's really simple. If I remember correctly, you just have to take out the two bolts that hold it on and swap it out. There should be an o-ring with it as well. If you can barely hear it, I wouldn't worry about it.