WHY A KDX?
There was never a bike like the Kawasaki KDX200. You
can point to other 200s, but nothing was so sweet, so ver-
satile or such an invisible assassin. It had a reputation as
a family kind of bike for wives and kids to ride around the
campground, but it was developed by a hard-core group
of off-road purists like Jack Penton, Kevin Lavoie and Jeff
Fredette who secretly injected the bike with hard-core
enduro capabilities. Then, of course, there was Fredette’s
incredible streak. From 1983 to 2006 he started and fin-
ished 22 ISDE events for Team USA on the KDX. That
would have been a record on its own, but Jeff actually
completed 33 of them in his career, which started
before he joined Kawasaki and ended after the
KDX was discontinued.
The reason, I figured, that the KDX
was a perfect bike for my purposes
was because the proposed rules
for the class called for a bike that was
30 years old. The KDX went through a number
of redesigns in its run, but the one from 1986 to
1988 was one I particularly liked. It was the only air-cooled
bike that I know of that had a power valve. It also had
Kawasaki’s version of Nikasil cylinder coating. It had a disc
front brake and what I consider fairly modern ergonomics.
If you ride a bike that’s older, you have odd seating positions and some truly archaic designs. KTMs and Huskys
were more competitive at the high-end of off-road racing
in 1986, but getting one running 30 years later is a big job.
Rebuilding a KDX, I thought, would be cake.
Any bike from the late ’80s and early ’90s is from the
forgotten era of dirt bikes. Earlier bikes are relentlessly
hunted by collectors and AHRMA racers. Bikes that are
20 to 30 years old, on the other hand, tend to be worn
out, neglected and cheap. People are reluctant to invest
in them because they think it’s easy to spend more than
a bike’s retail value. But that’s a fallacy. In truth, you can
have a great motorcycle from this era running for a fraction
of the cost of a new bike. It might not be cost-effective
if you think you’re going to build it, then sell it and make
money, but it makes perfect sense if you plan on riding the
bike. That was my plan.
Bud Matto of Matto Cycles
was a great source of motor
information. He transcends
old and new eras. Most of the
motor parts and cables are
available from Pro-X.