Written By: MnKDX'er (Joe Berscheid)
Welcome to the 200 vs. 220 KDX Show Down. This is a comparison between the two bikes in both stock and modified. With this article, I hope to share my own experiences with these two bikes, and help you decide which bike is the best choice for you.
I have either personally owned the described bike as equipped, or have ridden that particular set-up for long enough to collect a lasting impression. For your reference, I am a middle-of-the-pack Vet A tight-woods rider, 5'-11" and 180#.
At the dealer
The retail price is higher for the 220. For this higher price, you basically get an o-ring chain, and a larger bore engine. All other transmission, chassis, and suspension features are the same. The following is part of the Kawasaki spec sheet with differences highlighted in blue.
You want to race?
Both bikes can be competitive in various forms of modification. Of course, the 200 will be legal for the 200cc class, which sometimes is not as competitive. However, the 220 will be either in the 250cc, or age (Vet, Senior, etc.) classes only. On a horsepower course, the 220 might have trouble against a 250cc bike. However, if the terrain tightens up, or as the rider becomes tired, the 220's manageable power will become an advantage over the typical MX bike. Keep in mind that few riders actually use the full power of a 250 MX bike, so the 220 is not necessarily outgunned.
The two bikes will handle very similar. The suspension settings will have the greatest effect on ride and handling. However, in some specific situations which I will note, one power delivery will have an advantage compared to the other.
Start 'em up. Stock vs. Stock
Noise level: Both bikes are stealth quiet. If you have a riding area that demands quiet, either of these two bikes are the ticket. The only dirt bike in modern existence that is quieter would probably be a stock 1992 YamahaWR200.
Engine Power in Bone-Stock Tune
200: If you plan to leave your bike absolutely stock, the 200 is the better all around terrain bike. Nice wide power spread with ample low end power and some upper rpm power available if you want to scream it out. Note that by "scream it", I mean relative to the 220. Compared to a typical 125, both the 200 and the 220 are low rpm torquers.
220: The 220 is a complete torque monster in stock form. It is the king of tight sections, the master of nasty conditions. If you want low end power, this baby has it, and lots of it. Probably an ideal bike for tight, rocky, hilly, terrain. The engine is so strong down low, it can be tough to stall. To pull a wheelie, shift up a gear. The 220 will easily pull a gear higher than the 200 in the same conditions, and probably needs to, as it does not turn nearly the revs as the stock 200.
Bring on the pipes and wake those KDX's up
(Note that all bikes described are with the stock porting.)
200 w/ Torque pipe w/ stock silencer. Instant improvement across the powerband with a nice upper rpm power boost, as well as extra rpms to the top of the powerband. By far, the best bang for the buck to get the 200 powered up. Bike retains most of its stealthness with a mild exhaust note from the single wall pipe.
Note- Adding a pipe to either the 200 or the 220 will help the rider to better deal with the soft front suspension as the bike will loft the front wheel much easier.
200 w/ torque pipe w/ aftermarket silencer. Same benefits as pipe only, but w/ a noticeable power increase at mid rpm, and slightly more on top. The mid rpm increase can be a mixed blessing; sometimes this extra power boost can actually make the bike harder to control in tight riding situations. Noise level depends on choice of silencer, which will be covered later.
200's Powerband w/ these mods- Strong off idle, then a little flat until a nice healthy mid range boost which transitions into a strong top end pull that flattens out almost a little early. An aftermarket silencer will add to the mid range boost and a bit to the top end power.
Gearing Changes- With the stock gearing, the piped 200 will seem to be a bit touchy about what gear it can pull. With a 50T or 51T rear, or a 12T front, the bike can be shifted early, and yet pull the next gear. Note that with a 49T, or larger, rear sprocket the chain will need to be lengthened, but the 12T can use the stock length 108 link chain. If you do use the 12T front, watch for swing arm buffer pad wear.
Now the KDX220's turn
220 w/ torque pipe, stock carb, and aftermarket silencer- Nice power increase across the powerband similar to the 200, however the 220 still does not turn the revs that a 200 will spin happily. A good choice for a person who craves stump pulling power with a smooth transition to a strong midrange, but doesn't want yee-haw top end kick.
220 w/ torque pipe, bored carb, Reeds, and aftermarket silencer- Now we're talking a really nice wide-wide powerband! This is my own bike's set up, and I must admit that Ireally like the bike. The powerband begins considerably lower than a 200 w/similar mods, and yet will spin out to about the same top rpm levels as the 200. Although, it may feel like it could turn a few more revs, the powerband is so wide that you can shift early and still easily pull the next gear. Think of this set up as a 200 with a powerband that is twice as wide. This extra powerband width is most appreciated in tight woods sections, but is useful on an MX track as well. Note- Plan on adding the reeds if you bore the carb, or else the engine will lose the wonderful low end, right off idle, snap. However, with the reeds the low end power will be almost the same as with a 33mm carb.
220 (w/ bored carb, Reeds, and aftermarket silencer) Rev pipe, vs. Torque pipe- Comparing the rev pipe to the torque pipe, on this bike shows the rev pipe with a definite loss of low end power and a small increase in top end power. The engine will even sound different- it is quicker revving, and has much less throaty sounds at lower rpms. On the track, it is instantly noticed that the engine has lost some of its wonderful low end chug, but it does have a slightly increased and extended top end power. My opinion is that the small gain of top end power was not a good trade off for the loss of low end power. I would reccomend the torque pipe as the best all around pipe for a stock ported 220 w/ the mods described.
220 w/ Stock carb and Rev Pipe- I have not ridden an actual 220 w/ the rev pipe and the stock carb to speak with experience. However, based on the 220's powerband increase with the 35mm carb, I conclude that the 220 needs more airflow, not a higher rpm design pipe. Therefore, I would predict- with the stock carb, the torque pipe would produce more low end power, and comparable top end power to the rev pipe. My reasoning is that the engine has run out of air long before the torque pipe reaches the limit of its dynamics.
Gearing Changes- With the stock gearing, the 220 will pull each gear compentently, but the ratios will seem a bit too far apart under some conditions. With a 49T or 50T rear, the bike can be shifted early, and will easily pull the next gear. Note that with a 49T, or larger, rear sprocket the chain will need to be lengthened. I would avoid using the 12T front sprocket because the 220's strong low end power will put additional stress on the drive chain and chain life will suffer.
200 and 220 Silencers' noise levels
If I were to rank the available SA silencers by noise level, they would be from quietest to loudest- Stock (quietest by far, but also the heaviest), Answer Qualifier (discontinued, but available), Pro Circuit SA, FMF PowerCoreII, and the loudest silencer is the (now discontinued) FMF ISDE. The Answer Qualifier has a strange attachment angle which reduces the clearance between the fender and the silencer, making it more difficult to lift the rear of the bike. Also, the Acerbis 035 is claimed to be a quiet muffler, but I have never seen or heard one, and Acerbis may have discontinued the production of the KDX application..
Good luck with your decision, if it says KDX you cant go too wrong!!
MN KDXer (Joe Berscheid)