KX85 kicks butt

THERE'S something about old racers – the older they get, the better they think they were. That's partly true, because good riders learn most of what they need to know about going quickly in their developing years, and as time slips by they gradually start forgetting!

That's why the bikes we ride and race early on in our careers are so important – they stretch our abilities, nurture our talent and show us just how fast we can be when the bike is up for it.

Kawasaki's legendary KX85 has started many champions on the road to glory, because it's always been a bike you can win on, right out of the box – just add talent!

Let's start with the Kawasaki's new two-stroke engine. The engineers at the Akashi factory introduced electrofusion cylinder coating to reduce friction and heat while boosting power and durability for the 2014 model-year KX85.

Hand-in-glove with this came a new piston with a single compression ring instead of the previous pair, and a revised squish area in the cylinder head.

The big 28mm Keihin PWK semi-flat- slide carburettor has been fettled by locating the nozzle jet closer to the boiler room to improve response at any revs, and induction is now taken care of through new carbon-fibre reed valves with mesh oriented at 45 degrees.

Down in the basement the crankshaft has had resin blocks added to reduce crankcase volume and increase compression, while a 2mm larger diameter crankshaft offers even more rigidity and durability.

Kawasaki's KIPS (Kawasaki Integrated Power-Valve System) has had an overhaul for the '14 KX85, and now consists of two independent components rather than the three-piece construction of earlier models.

The cylinder's exhaust port has been enlarged and reshaped to work in conjunction with revised scavenger porting in the quest for more useful power anywhere across the rev range.

Because the new KX85 puts out 20% more power than its predecessor, it was obvious that the cooling system would have to work considerably harder, so the designers came up with a taller (by 40mm) and wider radiator for a 50% increase in cooling for 2014.

Added power means more potential for winning races, but that translates into trophies only if the rest of the bike can use it to improve lap times.

While the motorcycle's frame remains virtually unchanged, it has been strengthened in key areas, and mounting points for the new minimalistic bodywork altered.

The 2014 model's 36mm upside-down forks have been re-valved for improved damping and greater resistance to bottoming-out.

The rear shock has also been redesigned to allow compression damping force to be generated at slower stroke speeds for a more stable ride, and the shock is now 24-way adjustable for compression and 21-way adjustable for rebound damping.

The 2014 Kawasaki KX85 arrives in South Africa in November, just in time for Christmas. Pricing is likely to be very competitive.