rear suspension still had a rocker arm on top. These were
glory days for the KDX. Kawasaki was alone in the 200
class and virtually alone as a Japanese company offering
a two-stroke enduro bike. The price was $1899.
1989: This was the biggest redesign in the long history
of the 200. The bike became larger, faster and heavier,
which was well received by some, but alienated the beginners who loved the old bike. The motor finally took its own
path, diverging from the KX125 of the day. It got liquid
cooling and a heavier crank. The frame was based on the
1987 KX125, which had modern-style linkage. The tank
capacity was an impressive 3. 3 gallons, which added to
the bike’s mass. It tipped the scales at 232 pounds without fuel— 8 pounds heavier than its previous year.
1991: The KDX was a hit, but it was under fire. Yamaha
and Suzuki had 250cc two-strokes, so Kawasaki introduced the KDX250 to take the pressure off the 200 as a
first-line enduro winner. But one thing didn’t go according
to plan; almost everyone liked the 200 better than the 250.
1995: Kawasaki dropped the 250 and brought the 200
up to date with a new chassis and a new look. This is the
form that the KDX would keep for the rest of its days—
gone were the bulky tank and fat bodywork. The 1995
model got a perimeter frame and big changes to the suspension. The motor was unchanged for the most part. By
this time, the 200 was being measured against more effective competition and clearly needed more motor to maintain its role as an eastern enduro contender. It did, however, regain some of its following among beginners.
1997: After failing to get buyers excited about the
KDX250, Kawasaki tentatively stuck its big toe back into
the bigger-than-a-200 class by offering a KDX220, in addition to the 200. It had a bigger bore and a smaller carb in
an effort to gain torque. The 220 was priced $250 higher
than the 200 at $4549. It sold in decent numbers and
coexisted with the 200 until both machines were dropped
in ’06 due to the coming of more stringent federal emission standards.
The racing history of the KDX200 can be summed up
with one name: Jeff Fredette. Let’s be clear; Jeff wasn’t
the only one racing the KDX. There were literally thousands of them in enduros all over the country. But Jeff
Fredette did things on the KDX that no one else matched
on any other motorcycle.
The original 1983 model was the product of Kawasaki’s
race effort with Jack Penton and his cousin Dane
Leimbach. But Jack and Dane moved on, and Jones
Goggles put together a race team that featured Kawasakis
for 1983. Fredette had just wrapped up a successful four-year stint on the Suzuki PE175, and he was hired along
with Fritz Kadlec. Thus began a string of successes that
came to define the KDX. Jeff raced the KDX200 (and later
the 220) in the ISDT/ISDE 22 times from 1983 to 2006, finishing every one. That finishing record has never been
matched by any other bike or rider. Actually, Jeff’s personal record started on the Suzuki and continues to this day
on four-strokes—a total of 31 starts and finishes. On the
KDX, he earned seven gold medals and was top American
The first run of the KDX200 went mostly unchanged between
1983 and 1985. It was good, but not yet great.
From 1986 to 1988, the Kawasaki KDX was in its prime.
When the ’DX was redesigned for 1989, it gained weight and
power. It was designed to compete with the 250s of the day.