Kawasaki Stockman 250 review
The Stockman 250 has very impressive specs on paper and includes some great features but Brent Lilley was keen to see how all it all stacked up out on the farm.
Having already tested two Kawasaki quad bikes from the brand's Brute Force range during our test day at Tapora in Northland, it was a nice change to see the Kawasaki Stockman 250 two-wheeler in the line-up.
As well as checking out this bike's performance and how the specs stack up, I was also interested to find out whether or not there still a place for the larger four-stroke two-wheelers on New Zealand farms - or has this market been taken over by the versatility of the quad bike?
Once again, I have Mike Wilkins from Kawasaki to thank for getting the bikes up north to our testing ground on a local dairy farm. Wilkins also managed to arrange for a few farmers from the region to be there to give their opinions.
Engine and transmission
The Stockman is powered by a brisk, reliable air-cooled four-stroke, single-cylinder engine, which delivers a smooth spread of responsive power right through the rev range and has plenty of on-call, get-up-and-go to race to the front of a herd of cattle or power up steep hills. This was the first thing everyone on the test day commented on. The amount of power it supplied for a bike of its size was impressive; it never seemed to struggle on even the steepest hills.
The engine is matched to a relatively smooth six-speed transmission that will allow riders to be in the right gear at the right time. Although the bike we tested never had any problems tackling the hills, it was probably geared a little too high for following along behind stock unless you're prepared to use the clutch regularly. However, Kawasaki is more than happy to change the sprockets and gear the bikes to match the customer's requirements when they are sold.
The engine uses an electric starter, and the Kawasaki Automatic Compression Release, which essentially opens a valve on the exhaust to lower compression enabling easier starting. The exhaust system on the bike is built from high grade stainless steel which is another great idea on the bike that will ensure a longer life in tough New Zealand conditions. Something I believe that is missing from the bike is a backup kick-start. Sooner or later you'll end up with a flat battery through human error and it's never at a convenient time or place.
Chassis and suspension
The bike is held in a semi double cradle frame which is built out of round high-tensile tube steel to provide a strong yet lightweight frame. There are steel guards on the front of the engine to protect it from rocks and stumps, and also aluminium guards on the handle bars to protect your hands and the levers from damage. The sturdy rack on the back can carry up to 20kg and gives protection to the brake light, a rack at the front of the bike is ideal for smaller items with a clip to secure them and provides some protection to the front headlight.
The Stockman uses Uni-Trak suspension at the rear which lowers the centre of gravity for better handling and a smoother, more controlled ride. This uses a single adjustable shock absorber that can be set to the load and riding conditions. At the front there are sturdy twin telescopic long travel forks.
A simplistic design for the brakes means that they are extremely low maintenance and will offer an exceptionally long wear-life. A dual-piston disc up front and single-piston disc at the rear are used to take care of braking and controlled stops on the Stockman.
Practicality and comfort
The attention to weight reduction and distribution that Kawasaki has shown gives the Stockman superb lightweight manoeuvrability and easy handling, meaning you can ride this bike all day on the farm without feeling beaten up and is very nimble whether going straight up or cutting across the side of a hill.
The carriers are positioned carefully to insure that even with a load on it, the bike still remains well balanced. Aluminium has also been used for the wheel rims and some of the guards to keep the weight down. The fuel tank has also been kept low and smaller to keep the balance right, although fuel capacity is about three to four litres less than other bikes this size, Kawasaki believes it is adequate to keep this bike on the move.
It was good to see dual side stands, something that should be included on any two-wheeler ever built in my opinion, and the lock on the clutch lever which is another tried and tested farm bike idea, that saves shifting down to neutral when jumping off to open gates. There is a digital display up on the centre of the handle bars that displays the speedo with a odometer, trip meter and a handy clock. Lights the display the Indicators, headlights and when the bike is in neutral are next to the speedo.
The Stockman is great to ride and very easy to handle on the hills even for someone like myself who is more at home riding a quad bike everyday on the farm. The thing that really stood out for me from other bikes I've ridden was the amount of power the 249cc engine delivers to this relatively lightweight bike and as I mentioned earlier, my thoughts on this were backed up by the others who rode the bike on the day.
Having seen the bike in action, I now firmly believe there is a place in the New Zealand market for this size of bike. It's not in the same class as the cheap and cheerful lower cc, two wheel bikes that are common place on a lot of farms, but for those who spend many hours a day on their bike covering rough terrain, should have a very good look at the Kawasaki Stockman when they are next looking to purchase a bike. The low maintenance and long lasting components such as the stainless steel exhaust system and aluminium rims, should offer an excellent lifespan and resale value of the bike.
After a full day testing Kawasaki's latest offerings, it was great to see that the build quality that Kawasaki is renowned for is consistent across all three vehicles I tested. I look forward to seeing what other bikes Kawasaki will offer to the market in the future.
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