The Kawasaki Mojave ATV quickly became a hit with off-road riders in the nascent all-terrain vehicle world of the mid- to late-1980s — and the quad’s legacy continues today years after its last new model was sold. Known as extremely durable, it also packed enough punch in its 250cc engine to support its “sport” classification.
Reliability and comfort seem to be the attributes most commonly applied to what is commonly called the Mojave 250. The ATV line was well-designed from the start, and became a mainstay during a period when all-terrain riding blossomed in popularity. It was just big enough for powerful riding and to haul around, but not too big or complicated to overwhelm beginning riders.
Specifications and Features
Riders reported a top speed for the Kawasaki Mojave ATV at around 55 mph, though engine modifications could bump that upward by a few miles per hour. The Kawasaki Mojave is not a 2-stroke like many of today’s super-fast 4-wheelers, but a 4-stroke that ultimately held its ground against other ATVs in its class while on the market from 1987 to 2004.
Named for the huge Southern California desert renowned for off-roading adventures, the Mojave 250 followed Kawasaki’s first foray into the ATV market with the Bayou 185 in 1985, followed by the 250’s predecessors, the Kawasaki Mojave 110 and 110E. It is a single-operator vehicle.
Officially the engine of the Kawasaki Mojave has a displacement of 249cc, in a liquid-cooled single-cylinder format with dual overhead cams. For fine details, the engine has a cylinder bore of 74mm, with a 58 mm piston stroke.
The compression ratio 11:1 compares well with off-road vehicles of its time, on the border of low-stress “cruising” motorcycles, and the 12.0-plus of street motorcycles. (Some Mojave owners prefer modifications to boost the compression ratio to 12.5:1 or a bit higher).
The Mojave’s four-stroke engine provides good fuel efficiency compared with the 2-strokers, with a fuel tank capacity of 2.2 gallons (8.3 liters), driven by a Keihin CVK34 carburetor. All told, the engine, fuel tank and fuel efficiency were built well for long trail rides.
Its power comes from a 5-speed transmission that includes a reverse gear, something uncommon today, all managed manually through a multi-disc clutch. It’s electronic ignition with a kick-starter also is no longer standard nowadays, but some loyal Mojave racers over the years came to appreciate better control that came with the clutch.
Tires, Brakes and Suspension
Underneath, the front wheels are typically tubeless, and the wheelbase is 44.3 inches. Overall the Mojave 250 weighs 379 lbs. without any modifications, not overly large for truck bed hauling.
Standard brakes dual-disc in front, enclosed wet disc brakes in the rear. The front suspension features double A-arms, along with shock absorbers allowing 6.9 inches of give preferred for high-speed riding. The all-steel rear suspension has one shock absorber allowing 8.5 inches of travel.
Overall the length is 68.28 inches, the width 42.9 inches. From the ground, seat height is 29.7 inches, with a 4.6-inch ground clearance and 8.5 inches at the chassis’ center.
It’s important to note the steel frame of the Kawasaki Mojave, which helped maintain the model’s longevity out on the trails and rocky open spaces. That is covered by the typical plastic material to maintain the lightest weight possible, overall.
Model Years Available
The Kawasaki Mojave was on the market from 1987 to 2004, with few notable modifications. This was the Little ATV That Could, a model so well-designed from the start that Kawasaki didn’t feel a need for major adjustments. The lack of big changes and continued use of the same parts over the years make used or older Kawasaki Mojaves popular for off-roading to this day.
Pros of the Kawasaki Mojave
Longtime riders of the Kawasaki Mojave will mostly rave about how rugged, tough and long-lasting the old green beast is for serious riding. While originally the Mojave was designed with the 4-stroke for farmers or hunters, the 250cc engine proved plenty powerful enough and the design comfortable enough for sporting and serious trail riding. Should engine trouble arise, parts are not difficult to find and they should apply to almost any model year.
Overall, the Mojave’s engine is more durable over rigorous riding than ATVs with 2-stroke engines and gets better fuel efficiency to boot. It runs quieter than its contemporaries, and the good suspension allows for exceptionally comfortable riding, especially for long hauls like on flat dirt fire roads. Those who tend to get stuck in situations could come to appreciate the reverse gear, hardly found on today’s newfangled models.
Cons of the Kawasaki Mojave
While the Kawasaki Mojave 250 is a preferred “small racing” ATV, it can be overlooked for more modern ATVs with more powerful engine capacities. While the Mojave is known to perform even better with upgrades, modifications can only get you so far when it comes to competing with ever-advancing modern engine technology.
Officially the Kawasaki Mojave was aimed at riders age 16 and older, but some say even younger off-roaders can enjoy it. Well, not all: today’s beginners may struggle with the manual transmission combined with the kick-start, or with the clutch system. While the reverse gear is nice, having to engage it with a manual clutch could frustrate beginning riders. Also, while parts may be easily attainable, they could prove more costly than those for the 2-stroke engines.
That the Kawasaki Mojave 250 ATV remained in production so long is a testament to its reputation for toughness, reliability, and just-fast-enough engine power. The fact that Kawasaki rarely changed or added parts made the Mojave 250 a favorite of riders old and new alike, to this day. It was a solid model and wonderful Kawasaki model line addition during an important period of transition from 3-wheeled to quad ATVs.
Overall, the Kawasaki Mojave continues to get positive opinions about its fast trail-riding ability, better-than-average suspension, durability, and general user-friendliness especially for beginners and off-highway hobbyists. Some old-timers would simply call it a “classic” all-terrain vehicle.