KAWASAKI KR1S (1990 - 1992) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Power: 53 bhp
Seat height: Low (29.7 in / 755 mm)
Weight: Low (289 lbs / 131 kg)

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
5 out of 5 (5/5)

Kawasaki’s KR-1S was the quickest mass-produced, 250 two-stroke ever (139mph being recorded in a 1990 speed test), being quicker than both Suzuki’s RGV and even Aprilia’s later (but RGV-powered) RS250. On the downside it came with slightly questionable reliability and handling that could tank slap you into casualty. Dangerous, but hugely addictive.

Buying a used KR-1S can be a bit of a gamble. Many have been raced and had modifications to the engine, which can make for a hard-to-ride and unreliable road bike. A bike that has been used solely on the road is an ideal buy; you want something that's low mileage with relatively few owners in an unrestored original condition.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Again, the Kawasaki KR-1S is very ying-yang. On the one hand it’s very light, flickable and tiny, like riding a mini race bike. But on the flip side it’s capable of sending the bars into a mighty tank-slapper. The rear shock is on the soft side, and the suspension basic, and you were stuck with a 18inch rear wheel.  But once set up with a good steering damper the Kawasaki KR-1S was a flier and rewarding to ride fast.


Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

In many ways you could be very mean and rate the Kawasaki KR-1S’s engine as poor. The preceding KR-1 suffered from iffy reliability, and KR-1S got nickel plated cylinders which are expensive to re-bore or replace. That said, if you service the engine regularly and use quality two-stroke oil, you have the quickest 250 two-stroke out there. Open the throttle and the revs soar freely to 12,000rpm - the KR-1S feels raw, zingy and quick.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The KR-1S was never known for its reliability, as it was a model plagued with issues when new. Although time, recalls and upgrades will have sorted those teething problems., a 26-year-old, lightweight two-stroke sportsbike is never going to be the most robust - so you'll have to enjoy maintenance as much as you enjoy riding.

The KIPS valve linkages on the cylinder head are notoriously fragile and prone to breaking, likewise the valves themselves are prone to coking up.

Away from the engine look out for fragile bodywork - the sides of the fairings around the mounting bracket are especially prone to damage from the rider's legs.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Kawasaki’s KR-1S seem to be increasing in price consistently as good examples become rarer. Early models at less than £1500 might seem attractive but you’ll be buying problems. Instead, find a low mileage, well looked after, late model and it’s sure to go up in value. You’ll have a bargain, true mini race bike that can still cut it on track today, with a true two stroke race engine – just be sure to cover that clutch! Find a Kawasaki KR-1S for sale.


3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Kawasaki KR-1S never had the mouth-watering appeal of the RGV or RS 250 from Aprilia which copied the lines of their 250GP bike relatives, so, looks-wise, the KR-1S is slightly disappointing. Nor are there any special parts, like the sculpted swing arm of the Suzuki or twin high race exhausts of the Priller. That said, the KR-1S’s brakes are not half bad. Compare and buy parts for the KR-1S in the MCN Shop.


Engine size 249cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled two-stroke parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame type Aluminium twin beam
Fuel capacity 16 litres
Seat height 755mm
Bike weight 131kg
Front suspension pre-load only
Rear suspension Single shock fully adjustable
Front brake 2 x discs, four piston calipers
Rear brake Single disc, twin piston caliper
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 140/60 x 18

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 38 mpg
Annual road tax £55
Annual service cost -
New price -
Used price -
Insurance group 10 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 53 bhp
Max torque 25 ft-lb
Top speed 139 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 38 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

1990: Kawasaki KR-1S introduced
1992: Model deleted

Other versions

KR-1 (1988-90)

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI KR1S (1990 - 1992)

2 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI KR1S (1990 - 1992) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KAWASAKI KR1S (1990 - 1992)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Equipment: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
5 out of 5 Best 250 race rep ever
03 November 2019 by Pops

Version: B

Year: 1990

Rating it for what it is - a proper race replica - its a 5/5. Gossamer light, awesome engine and mega brakes. Totally focused on what it’s intended for

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Rear suspension very stiff - I went aftermarket with Nitron - brilliant. Front end good but not in the ZXR400 USD league- none of this matters as this bike is still way more capable than its rider! Brakes awesome

Engine 5 out of 5

Not overly complex but incredibly powerful for a 250 and such a blast to ride in the power band.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

It’s reliable - 2 kicks cold, 1 kick hot. But - it does need proper maintenance (especially those kips valves) and a 60 bhp 2 stroke will need regular rebuilds - who cares!

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Purchase prices getting a bit high now - but I bought at top of market and don’t regret a penny. There is just no better way to enjoy £5k...

Equipment 4 out of 5

Throttle, brakes, gearbox, revcounter. Anything else would add weight and miss the point ......

Buying experience: Dealer PX purchase - sorted out the kips linkages and timing and fixed the neutral switch (affects the side stand starting safety system - known issue and easy fixed) then just rode it for last 2 summers

5 out of 5
13 December 2015 by mattsta

Year: 1990

Was fantastic to ride, it seduced you into riding it fast, got me a lot of tickets. Would tank slap in a straight line over bumps at any speed (really scary) but i couldn't stay off it. Brakes were awesome. After a couple years of ownership i sadly traded it in on a RGV250p to race, should have raced the KR1S instead.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Wrists would ache after 5 minutes, pillion no way.

Engine 5 out of 5

Ring a ding ding, all or nothing loved it.

Reliability & build quality 3 out of 5

Needed a new power valves and crankshaft at 27,000km

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

Get a steering damper.

Buying experience: Bought new.

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