2014 Kawasaki KX85

Amped Up

Words: Olly Ayre  Pics: Callum

From world champions like Ben Townley to icons like Ricky Carmichael and, yes, even the team here at DRD, the KX85 has been part of almost every young motocrosser’s life. Now, with the first major overhaul in a long, long time, the green machine is ready to cement its place in motocross history… again!

Just like every test, it started with Callum rolling the 2014 Kawasaki KX85 Big Wheel out of the back of the DRD van, which is always exciting. But, really, I don’t know who was more excited: me, Dad or Callum! It’s no secret that Dad has had a real interest in the all-new Green Meanie since it was announced in 2012. And Callum, well, he said he grew up riding KX80, so he was amped to see the next generation of junior motocross.
I stopped him there, though, and asked, “Don’t you mean a KX85?” Nope, back in his day, all junior bikes were 80s, not 85.
He also said that the last generation of KX85 wasn’t all that different from the bikes he rode in the early ‘90s.
Anyway, old people, right?
But this generation, which has been available to riders since 2013, is for my generation. I guess that’s why I was enlisted to test this machine…

With the bike on its stand, we all circled the wee beastie, where we all commented, at different times, just how much it looks just like a smaller version of the very staunch KX250F and KX450F – that is not a bad thing! It wasn’t just the aggressive cut of the fenders and plastics, nor the green and black colourway, but the detailing, too. Yup, this was one trick machine. But looking trick is one thing, being trick and living up to its looks is another…


Ngaruroro Raceway, in Hawke’s Bay, is the private – but soon to be public – track where we’ve been testing these 85s. I think it is good and fair to them all on the same track, since it gives me the opportunity to compare one thing against another, given that the track doesn’t change its conditions over the summer. I was pretty curious as to how my lap times would compare to my track record, along with seeing how the KX85 would handle through the same parts of the track, especially the fast-flowing rollers and the stutters. Since the bike was run-in, we checked the fluids, topped up the fuel and I was off…


Within a lap, I was comfortable on this bike, which was definitely a good thing. The first thing I noticed was that it felt like I was above and over the bike, as opposed to in the bike, helping keep the pilot in an aggressive riding position.
Yes, at first, it felt a little off. But the feeling passed and it started to feel more natural as the day went on.
But ergos aside, I know you all want to know about one thing: the power.
In short, the bike delivered smooth power through the whole range. The KX85 is noticeably smooth down low, all due do the new developments in the engine, especially that power valve that is attached to the side of the cylinder. Now, I am no gearhead, but it was obvious to me that the power valve and the jetting, which was perfect for this test, made for real manageable power. I noticed this as I came ‘round a sweeping right-hander, which had soft but deep ruts, into the aforementioned fast flowing set of rollers. The sand, which is actually silt, can suck power – especially on the smaller bores. But I still was able to carry my speed around the corner on middle line, exit with even more speed, thanks to rolling the throttle on. I didn’t have to ‘clutch it’ for more power. I tell you, this was a good thing, as I was just about to hit a big set of rollers that can eat the smaller bikes alive (and even the big bikes, too). The 2014 KX85 has power to spare for a junior rider.
When it came to the clutch, well, I really liked it. It had good feel, thanks to being cable-activated, which I still prefer over a hydraulic. Although, one thing I did notice was that the lever felt like it could snap, even with the slightest touch to the ground. As a tried and true test pilot, I kept the thing upright, so the levers never touched the dirt – except when I was dragging ‘em through berms!
It was the same with the kickstart, too. Yeah, that’s pretty minor, but still worth commenting. Even the way it sat against the frame, almost poking out instead of in, was a bit curious. Still, it’s not a big deal.
The wheels are also pretty standard, but that’s a factor on most bikes, no matter who makes them. For the faster riders, it would make sense to upgrade the wheelsets with some tougher hubs, rims and spokes. Saying that, I was hucking the 100-footer, the six-pack and our hip jump, all at speed, with no problem.


We did nothing to the bike before testing – we didn’t set the sag, nor adjust one clicker, nothing – yet it still felt plush. Sure, this will change from rider to rider, but the fact it held up to some pretty fast laps, on a professional track, speaks volumes about the springers. As I said earlier, Dad was really excited about seeing how this bike held up out of the box, which is why we didn’t touch the suspension before the test. For this pilot, who weighs 43kg, but rides pretty aggressively, it felt really good, easily handling the big jumps and the chopped-out stutters.
One thing I did notice was that the bike did feel a little low in the front, but this was because the forks were pulled right through the yokes, which made it tuck into the tighter corners a little too much (Dad saw that once the test had finished, mind you.)


All in all, I think the bike is an all-round a great bike, especially when Dad told me the price. When it comes to value for money, he thinks it is probably one of the best bikes on the market, something I would have to agree with. But as a kid who just wants to ride his dirt bike – and ride it fast – I don’t care about what it costs, I just want it to perform, which it does… it’s pretty obvious why this bike is seen at the sharp-end of the pack!


PRICE: $6,695.00 (BW & SW)


Design: Single-cylinder two-stroke engine, water-cooled, with reed intake and exhaust control
Displacement 84cc
Bore x stroke: 48.5 x 45.8mm
Starting: Kickstarter
Transmission: 6-gear
Engine lubrication: Mixture oil lubrication (40:1)
Clutch: Wet multi-disc clutch


Frame: Perimeter, high-tensile steel
Forks: Kayaba 36mm inverted telescopic with 275mm of travel
Shock: Uni-Trak with 24-way compression with 275mm of travel
Front Brakes: Single 220 mm petal disc
Rear Brakes: Single 220 mm petal disc


Length: 1920mm
Width: 765mm
Height: 1150
Wheelbase: 1310mm
Seat height (unloaded): 870mm
Total fuel tank capacity: 5L
Wet weight: 77kg


A veritable who’s who of motocross grew up racing the KX85, from Ricky Carmichael, Ben Townley and the newest kid on the block, Adam Cianciarulo, who could become the next great… time will tell.