Our testers had a serious love/hate relationship with this quad. Beginners didn't like the combination of no electric start and manual transmission. More advanced riders liked the control the clutch gave and figured kickstarting was a fair trade-off for better suspension.
At the start of this test, the Mojave was a ringer for dead last. It was tough to kick and stalled easily, creating quite a few frustrated testers. Two-finger clutch users also had problems shifting from first to second, as the machine would slip into neutral on occasion. Ironically, finding neutral was no piece of cake when trying to do it on purpose.
Most of these quirks disappeared as we got to know the machine. The idle, adjusted with a knurled thumbscrew on the side of the carb, made for easier starts and better idling. On the downside, it needed to be changed for different elevations, while the other quads were just fine. And the transmission has a neutral indicator on the side of the motor near the shifter, to take the guesswork out of finding it.
For riders experienced in clutches or kickstarters--or who are just plain aggressive--there was no equal for the fleet Kawasaki on any sort of fast trail. The stout, water-cooled 250 makes most of its power on top but still has a respectable powerband. Like its cousin, the Lakota (which has an autoclutch but with a similar powerband), the Mojave displays a slight peakiness, which is fine--access to the upper reaches is just a slip of the clutch away. The suspension is built for the aggressive rider; featuring long travel and relatively well damped, it helps keep the quad in control at higher speeds. Whoops? No sweat. High-speed fire roads? It's the best, with a low CG helping to keep it planted.
Only in slower terrain--or with slower riders--does the Mojave show a bit too much compression damping for a less-than-plush ride. In tight situations the reverse gear was a plus, but the addition of a clutch control to the equation was enough to complicate things for some riders.
In the dunes, this quad was clearly runner-up to the Blaster, but the engine that impressed us so much on the trail seemed overtaxed in the sand, though less so than the newer models.
Price, though only a couple hundred more than the Suzuki and Honda, may have been a deciding factor in many testers' minds. It seems silly to pay extra for this model and not get an electric start. It is definitely not a race machine, so why no starter? A starter would eliminate complaints of hard starting and subdue the low-idle accusations. But with just a little less standard equipment than the newer models, the Mojave is relegated to second place.
The reverse mechanism was...
The reverse mechanism was an obvious afterthought--but a good one.
The Kawi was the only liquid-cooled...
The Kawi was the only liquid-cooled unit in our test--and it showed. It flat smoked the other four-strokes...
...and, thanks to better suspension...
...and, thanks to better suspension and chassis, will wax the Blaster any time the trail isn't smooth, straight or flat.
+ Good suspension
+ Fastest trail rider
- Priciest quad here
= If you're willing to go the extra mile, so will it.