The company known today as Kawasaki Heavy Industries was founded as a shipyard in Japan in 1878. Production quickly diversified into the train and airplane industries, and the company produced its first motorcycle in 1961.
The American division of Kawasaki Motors was established in early 1966 in a warehouse in Chicago. The first Kawasaki-made bikes sold in the United States carried the Omega brand name, followed by bikes called Samurai and Avenger, which were then branded as Kawasakis. Kawasaki opened an East Coast distribution company, which then relocated to California along with the Chicago branch in 1968. From there, the business took off in just a few short years.
Kawasaki sportbikes began to grow in popularity, along with other personal craft, such as ATVs and jet skis. Today, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. is based in Foothill Ranch, California, and has been producing bikes in the United States since the mid-1970s. Manufacturing facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska and Maryville, Missouri are credited as pioneers for international vehicle companies that manufacture locally for regional markets.
Types of Kawasaki Motorcycles
Kawasaki is primarily known for its sportbikes, and most of its current lineup consists of variants of the popular Ninja. For 2019, the brand also has a lineup of off-road bikes, as well as bikes suitable for use both on- and off-road. These lines are known as the KLX and KX, the latter of which is offered in a variety of youth sizes for aspiring motorsports champions.
For those who prefer cruiser style or touring style bikes, Kawasaki offers plenty of those, as well. Models include the Vulcan, available in sport, classic, touring, and bagger cruiser styles. The W cafe racer, which features eye-catching retro styling, is another option.
Kawasaki is known as a good brand for beginning riders, who should consider lightweight, easy-to-ride bikes with small displacement engines. These bikes are typically fairly inexpensive and are a great way to get a feel for the hobby before upgrading to something larger and more powerful. However, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of choices for new riders. Good options for new riders include Kawasaki’s Z125 Pro line, the nimble yet resilient KLX off-road line, and the lower-horsepower models in the Ninja lineup.
Kawasaki Motorcycle Prices
For 2019, Kawasaki’s motorcycle lineup ranges in price from about $2,300 to about $55,000, though most land far below that top-end threshold. The least expensive motorcycle in the lineup is the KLX 110 off-road bike, at $2,299 for 2019 and 2020 models. Overall, the off-road bikes are among the brand’s least expensive. The top-end Ninja, a track-only race bike called the H2 R, has an MSRP of $55,000, though the Ninja H2 Carbon, the next most expensive bike in the brand’s range, comes in at $32,500. This range of bikes and prices makes Kawasaki competitive across most of the industry. It’s worth mentioning that Kawasaki is still advertising old stock of certain models, some dating back as far as the 2016 model year. This can be a smart way to save some money on your next bike.
2019 Kawasaki Motorcycle Lineup
Kawasaki’s lineup for 2019 includes the following core models: Ninja for the street and track; Z, Versys, W, Concours, and Vulcan for street use; KLX for off-roading; and KX for motocross.
Kawasaki Ninjas range in price from about $5,000 for a basic entry-level sport bike to about $55,000 for a race-ready performance model. In the street range, the Z125 Pro mini naked bike starts things off with an MSRP of $3,199, and pricing goes up from there to the Versys 1000 SE LT+, an adventure touring bike with a price tag of $17,999. The KLX 110, the smallest model in the off-road range, starts at $2,299. For the KX motocross line, the 250 has a price tag of $7,799 and the 450 costs $9,299. Youth bikes in this line range from $3,699 to $4,599.
As for accessories and upgrades, Kawasaki offers plenty across the range for current and older bikes, going back decades. The list of available add-ons includes luggage and storage options, handlebar adjustment parts, carbon fiber body panels, performance upgrades such as sport exhaust systems, and comfort accessories such as grip heaters and audio system components. Prices range from under $100 for a top case to over $4,000 for a Ninja carbon fiber cowling.
Kawasaki Cruising Motorcycle
The Kawasaki brand’s current cruiser motorcycle is the Vulcan. However, according to Kawasaki, there are different Vulcan models for the sport cruiser, classic cruiser, bagger cruiser, and touring cruiser sub-segments.
The cruiser motorcycle category is a comfortable and practical way to travel long distances, thanks to a relaxed and slightly reclined seating position and a handlebar height that enables the shoulders to remain relaxed. It’s a design made popular by American brands such as Harley-Davidson and Indian, but was adopted by many European and Japanese manufacturers several decades ago. According to Cycle World, cruisers are known for lots of bottom-end power and torque. Each of the Kawasaki Vulcan cruiser lines has different characteristics to suit different riding preferences.
Kawasaki Vulcan S
The Vulcan S line makes up Kawasaki’s sport cruiser options. The 2019 model without anti-lock brakes (ABS) starts at $7,099, while ABS brings the total MSRP to $7,499. There’s also a Vulcan S ABS Cafe, which adds cafe racer styling and comes in at $8,099. This Vulcan comes powered by a liquid-cooled 649 cubic centimeters (cc) parallel-twin engine borrowed from the Ninja lineup that makes 46.3 pound-feet of torque. This bike also features a six-speed transmission, twin-piston front brakes and single-piston rear brakes, an 18-inch front and 17-inch rear tire, and a 3.7-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Vulcan 900
The Vulcan 900 makes up Kawasaki’s classic cruiser segment, and it’s available in Classic ($7,999) and Custom ($8,499) trim levels. The Classic features a liquid-cooled 903 cc V-twin engine that makes 58.2 pound-feet of torque, with a five-speed transmission, front and rear hydraulic disc brakes, a 16-inch front and 15-inch rear tire, and a 5.3-gallon gas tank. For the extra money, the Custom includes styling details designed to make it look more like a customized bike, such as an upgraded seat and handlebars. Though the Custom shares most of the Classic’s specs, it does feature a 21-inch front tire, which changes the bike’s stance and overall look.
Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero
The Vulcan 1700 Vaquero ABS fills Kawasaki’s bagger cruiser role. This bike costs $16,799 and features a low-slung stance, built-in storage with hard-side saddlebags, and a large front housing for the lighting and gauges. A liquid-cooled 1,700 cc V-twin engine yields 107.6 pound-feet of torque. The Vulcan Vaquero comes with a six-speed transmission, anti-lock disc brakes with four-piston front and dual-piston rear calipers, 16-inch tires, and a 5.3-gallon fuel tank. Other features include electronic cruise control and iPod and satellite radio compatibility. The Vulcan Vaquero comes with a 36-month warranty.
Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager
Kawasaki’s touring cruiser is the Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS, priced at $17,499. It, too, features a liquid-cooled 1,700 cc V-twin engine rated for 107.6 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed transmission, anti-lock disc brakes with four-piston front and dual-piston rear calipers, 16-inch tires, a 5.3-gallon fuel tank, and electronic cruise control. Built-in storage abounds, and the audio system features intercom headset integration. The Vulcan Voyager is covered by a 36-month warranty.
Kawasaki Sport Motorcycle
A sport motorcycle is chosen for its performance, including speed, acceleration, braking, and handling abilities. They’re street legal, but often used for competition. For these reasons, they’re generally best left for experienced riders, although smaller-displacement sport bikes may be an option for new riders. The Ninja and the Z Motorcycle are Kawasaki’s primary sport motorcycle lineups.
Kawasaki breaks the Ninja line into Sport and Supersport sub-categories. With 13 distinct models in the 2019 Ninja lineup, and plenty more stock from 2017 and 2018, there are lots of choices. The Ninja Sport lineup is offered in 400, 650, and 1000 variants, plus special editions. The Supersport Ninja lineup for 2019 includes the Ninja ZX-6R, the ZX-10R, the ZX-10RR, the ZX-14RR ABS, and a few special edition variants.
The Z Motorcycle lineup features models in the Mini Naked, Super Naked, and Retro Sport sub-categories. The Z Motorcycle line features the Mini Naked Z125 Pro, and the Super Naked Z400 ABS, Z650, and Z900. The Retro Sport Z900RS finishes out the lineup. Some consumers might consider the Z models to be closer to a standard motorcycle than a sport motorcycle in terms of styling and purpose.
Kawasaki Ninja 400
The Ninja 400 ($4,999 for the standard model or $5,299 with ABS) features a liquid-cooled 399 cc engine that makes 28 pound-feet of torque, along with a six-speed transmission, 17-inch tires, disc brakes, and a 3.7-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Ninja 650
The 650 ($7,399 for the standard model or $7,799 with ABS) has a liquid-cooled 649 cc engine putting out 48.5 pound-feet of torque. Standard equipment includes a six-speed transmission, 17-inch tires, disc brakes with dual-piston calipers up front and a single-piston caliper in the rear, and a 4.0-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Ninja 1000
The Ninja 1000 ($12,199) gets a liquid-cooled 1,043 cc engine that makes 81.7 pound-feet of torque, along with a six-speed transmission, anti-lock brakes, traction control, 17-inch tires, disc brakes with four-piston calipers up front and a single-piston caliper in the rear, and a 5.0-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
The Ninja ZX-6R (non-ABS $9,999, ABS $10,999) features a 636 cc liquid-cooled engine making 52.1 pound-feet of torque. This bike comes with a six-speed transmission, traction control, an adjustable sport suspension system, 17-inch tires, brakes with four-piston Nissin calipers in front and a single-piston caliper in rear, and a 4.5-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
The ZX-10R (non-ABS $15,099, ABS $16,099) gets a liquid-cooled 998 cc engine that puts out 84.6 pound-feet of torque. Standard equipment includes a six-speed transmission, launch control, traction control, an adjustable sport suspension system, 17-inch tires, brakes with four-piston Brembo calipers in front and a single-piston caliper in rear, and a 4.5-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R
Finally, the ZX-14RR ($14,999) has a liquid-cooled 1,441 cc engine making 116.5 pound-feet of torque, along with a six-speed transmission, anti-lock brakes, traction control, a heavy-duty suspension system, 17-inch tires, brakes with four-piston Brembo calipers in front and twin-piston calipers in rear, and a 5.8-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki Z125 Pro
The Z125 Pro ($3,199) gets an air-cooled 125 cc engine rated for 7.1 pound-feet of torque, a four-speed transmission, 12-inch tires, disc brakes, and a 2.0-gallon fuel tank.
The Z400 ($4,799) features a 399 cc liquid-cooled engine with 28 pound-feet of torque, along with a six-speed transmission, 17-inch tires, disc brakes, and a 3.7-gallon fuel tank.
The Z650 ($6,999 non-ABS and $7,399 ABS) upgrades to a 649 cc engine with 48.5 pound-feet of torque, dual-piston front brake calipers and a single-piston rear caliper, and a 4.0-gallon fuel tank.
The Z900 ($8,399 non-ABS and $8,799 ABS) follows the Z400 and Z650 with a larger 948 cc liquid-cooled engine that puts out 73.4 pound-feet of torque. It has a slightly different suspension setup and a larger 4.5-gallon fuel tank.
The Retro Sport model is the Z900RS ABS ($11,199), and there is a Cafe Racer variant with upgraded styling ($11,699). This bike is technologically like the Z900, though its retro styling is much different.
Kawasaki Touring Motorcycle
Kawasaki’s touring motorcycle models include the Concours line, for supersport touring, and the Versys line, designed for adventure cruising.
Some consumers may not understand the difference between touring motorcycles and cruiser motorcycles, which is understandable since they are both large, powerful bikes. However, touring bikes are better suited to long trips than cruisers, with more comfort features and more capability to carry cargo. Some touring bikes are also specifically designed to carry passengers, with tweaks to their overall engineering and design, rather than simply featuring a bigger seat.
Kawasaki Concours 14
For 2019, the Concours comes in one model, the 14 ABS ($15,599). It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 1,352 cc engine rated for 100.5 pound-feet of torque. Features include a six-speed transmission, 17-inch tires, disc brakes with four-piston front calipers and a single-piston rear caliper, and a 5.8-gallon fuel tank. The Concours also comes standard with lockable hard saddlebags to stow your gear as well as an adjustable windshield. Kawasaki covers this model with a 36-month warranty.
Kawasaki Versys-X 300
For adventuring, there’s the Versys-X 300 ($5,499 for non-ABS and $5,799 for ABS). This model gets a liquid-cooled 296 cc engine with 19.2 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed transmission, 19-inch front and 17-inch rear tires, disc brakes, and a 4.5-gallon gas tank.
Kawasaki Versys 650
The midrange Versys 650 ($8,299) is powered by a 649 cc liquid-cooled engine that makes 47 pound-feet of torque. It's equipped with a six-speed transmission, 17-inch tires, anti-lock brakes, dual-piston front brake calipers and single-piston rear calipers, adjustable suspension, and a 5.5-gallong fuel tank.
Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+
The Versys 1000 SE LT+ ($17,999) is a special edition for this year. It features a liquid-cooled 1043 cc engine with 75.2 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed transmission, a color display screen, smartphone connectivity, heated grips, 17-inch tires, adaptive suspension, traction control, cruise control, LED cornering lights, anti-lock brakes, disc brakes with four-piston front and single-piston rear calipers, and a 5.5-gallon gas tank.
Kawasaki Off-Road Motorcycle
The KLX models are Kawasaki’s off-road motorcycles. Some KLX bikes are dual-purpose (suited for on- and off-road use) and others are off-road-only. For these lines, we’ll be using 2020 model specs and pricing. Some of these bikes are all new models for 2020, though for others, 2019 models are still available.
Off-road motorcycles, also known as dirt bikes, are designed to handle rough terrain on trails, beaches, and sometimes even race tracks. Large, knobby tires provide plenty of traction on a variety of surfaces and conditions, and the suspension is designed to withstand jumps, tricks, and hard landings. Keep in mind as you’re shopping for an off-road motorcycle that some are not road legal.
Kawasaki KLX 230
For on- and off-road use, start with the KLX 230 (non-ABS $4,599, ABS $4,899). It features an air-cooled 233 cc engine with a six-speed transmission, 21-inch front and 18-inch rear tires, disc brakes with dual front and single rear pistons, and a 2.0-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki KLX 250
The KLX 250 ($5,399) is also a dual-purpose bike, and has similar specs to the KLX 230, but instead features a liquid-cooled 249 cc engine.
Kawasaki KLX 110
For off-road-only use, check out the KLX 110 ($2,299), also offered as the KLX 110L with larger wheels for $200 more. The KLX 110 gets an air-cooled 112 cc engine with a four-speed transmission, 14-inch front and 12-inch rear tires, drum brakes, and a 1.0-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki KLX 140
The KLX 140 ($3,099) is also offered in 140L and 140G variants, with larger wheels and slightly higher prices. The base bike features an air-cooled 144 cc engine, a five-speed transmission, 17-inch front and 14-inch rear tires, disc brakes with dual-piston front and single-piston rear calipers, and a 1.5-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki KLX 230R
Then comes the KLX 230R ($4,399), with an air-cooled 233 cc engine, a six-speed transmission, 21-inch front and 18-inch rear tires, disc brakes with dual-piston front and single-piston rear calipers, and a 1.7-gallon gas tank.
Kawasaki KLX 300R
Finally, the KLX 300R ($5,499), with a liquid-cooled 292 cc engine, a six-speed transmission, 21-inch front and 18-inch rear tires, disc brakes with dual-piston front and single-piston rear calipers, and a 2.1-gallon gas tank.
Kawasaki Motocross Motorcycle
Kawasaki’s motocross lineup is called the KX line, and includes bikes in youth size as well as full size. The line includes the youth KX 65, KX 85, and KX 100, and the full size KX 250 and KX 450. Since the 2020 models are available for this line, we’ll show those prices and specs, though the 2019 models are still available and, in some cases, have slightly lower prices.
Motocross motorcycles are a sub-segment of dirt bikes, in that they need the same pliant suspension and aggressive tires to handle the tricky terrain of a dirt track. Motocross bikes need to be manageable on dirt and mud surfaces, lightweight for easy maneuvering and jumping, and capable of taking hard landings.
Kawasaki KX 65
The KX 65 youth motocross bike ($3,699) has a modest liquid-cooled 64 cc engine, a six-speed transmission, 14-inch front and 12-inch rear tires, disc brakes with single-piston calipers, and a 1.0-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki KX 85
The KX 85 ($4,349) has a liquid-cooled 84 cc engine, a six-speed transmission, 17-inch front and 14-inch rear tires, disc brakes with single-piston calipers, and a 1.32-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki KX 100
The KX 100 ($4,599) has similar specs, though the engine checks in at 99 cc and the tires measure 19 inches in front, 16 in rear.
Kawasaki KX 250
Moving up to the full size bikes in this line, the KX 250 ($7,799) has a 249 cc liquid-cooled engine, a five-speed transmission, 21-inch front and 19-inch rear tires, disc brakes with dual-piston front and single-piston rear calipers, and a 1.69-gallon fuel tank.
Kawasaki KX 450
At the top of the line, the KX 450 ($9,299) steps up the engine displacement to 449 cc, but is otherwise similarly equipped as the KX 250.
Kawasaki Motorcycle Warranty
Most Kawasaki models are covered by a one-year limited warranty. However, some models (namely off-road models) are covered only for six months, and a few other higher-end models get two- or three-year limited warranties.
Kawasaki vs Honda
Honda and Kawasaki are pretty well matched in terms of motorcycle pricing and variety, though Honda does offer some types of bikes that Kawasaki does not, including standard bikes, mini bikes, and scooters. Though there should be no problem finding good motorcycles in the Kawasaki range for every type of rider and experience, Honda’s variety is just as good, if not better.
These two brands are also fairly well matched in terms of price. Kawasaki’s lineup starts at $2,300 for the KLX 100, but this is a small off-road bike with little mainstream appeal. Adding a couple thousand dollars to the budget brings you within range of Honda’s entry-level Rebel 300, at $4,499, as well as many comparable Kawasaki models. As you move through both brands’ lineups, they’re fairly well matched in terms of pricing for similar styles and specs.
Finally, let’s take a look at warranty coverage, which is another area in which these competitors are on the same page. Most Honda motorcycles are backed by a one-year/unlimited-mileage warranty that is on par with Kawasaki’s one-year limited warranty coverage. Honda does offer better warranty coverage on certain models, most notably the Gold Wing range, and certain Kawasaki models carry two- or three-year warranty policies, as well.
Kawasaki vs Yamaha
Kawasaki and Yamaha also seem pretty well matched in terms of product offerings. Though Yamaha uses different names for some of their products (“trail” instead of “off-road,” for example), the only significant difference is that Yamaha offers scooters, which Kawasaki does not.
Yamaha’s bikes start at $2,599 for the entry-level Zuma scooter, and the lineup tops out at $26,999 for the Star Venture. The average comes in at $11,264, not too far off from Kawasaki’s average of $12,137.
Kawasaki vs Indian
In general, Indian is a better choice for established riders who have experience and already know what they like – especially if what they like is street riding. Indian’s lineup is focused on standards, cruisers, and tourers, so it’s not as good of a brand for novice riders or those interested in motorsports.
Indian’s bikes are also more expensive, with a starting price of $8,999 for the Scout Sixty cruising motorcycle. Indian’s most expensive model, the Roadmaster Elite, starts at $36,999. Though Kawasaki does have some pricey bikes at the top end of the range, Indian’s average price is much higher, coming in at $20,789.
Indian’s warranty coverage is superior to Kawasaki’s, with a two-year/unlimited-mileage policy across the range. Though select Kawasaki models get a three-year limited warranty, most of the brand’s bikes get only one year of coverage.