Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Kawasaki KS-II

Wed, June 29th, 2011

The street-legal KMX80A was never imported in the United States, but a nearly identical dirt-only version with knobby tires and no lights, called the KD80X, was imported instead. [Link to KD80X photo]

1988–89 Kawasaki KMX80A KS-II
The willing and tractable 80cc two-stroke is a version of the engine originally developed for the AR80 street bike. Despite being re-tuned for more mid-range power and having significantly lower, more dirt-oriented gearing, the KS-II can exceed 50 MPH with a full-sized adult on board.
The KS-II's small wheels and tiny size makes the steering twitchy at all speeds, but due to its light weight the bike easily handled and never scary. Ground clearance is better than many larger bikes, but the suspension doesn't handle off-road bumps well. Tight back-alley and trail maneuvers are a breeze at any speed the bike is capable of, as long as the surface is relatively smooth. The disc brake is a remarkable addition.
Kawasaki did a good job of making the KS-II stand out among the many small 'monkey bikes' out there, but the big slab-sized tank shrouds are ugly and make no sense on an air-cooled bike.
The engine stands up to abuse well, considering that these little critters run wide open most of the time.
'Practical for what?' is the question. For nearly all U.S. roads, or for traveling any distance, the KS-II would be horrible. For short-statured people winding their way through Asian back-alleys, it's a very practical vehicle, indeed.
The American KD80X version I've ridden is a fun, mild-mannered mini-trail-bike. The KS-II's more proper dual-sport rubber would make it a fun play toy for parking lots, go-kart tracks, or any other twisty paved track as well.
The KS-II (and its KSR-II successor) is a perfect example of why these sort of tiny bikes are wildly popular in Asia and make no sense at all in the States.