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Before Kris – 1988 Kawasaki KR-1

Kawasaki had a tiger by the tale in 1988, and for a season or two the KR-1 bested every RGV, TZR and NSR.  Coming out of a collection, this KR-1 looks to have missed the scrapes most 250cc two-strokes got caught up in.

1988 Kawasaki KR-1 for sale on eBay

Kawasaki’s 249cc two-stroke might have been furthest from a real race bike, as there wasn’t a factory presence in the 250 category.  Still the snappy parallel twin, with balance shaft, was eminently tuneable and the package very light.  The 55 hp produced by the Integrated Power Valve System worked beautifully with just 271 lbs. of dry weight.  The frame looked overbuilt but was a light alloy, and 41mm forks were up front with dual discs.  Out back there was the Uni-Trak monoshock and an 18-inch rear wheel.  Pillion accommodations put the lie to racey looking bodywork.

This Seattle owner has a few classic sportbike auctions going, and goes into detail about their KR-1:

Recently completely serviced and detailed with clear Washington state title. The KR-1 is considered to be the fastest and more lively two stroke 250 sports bike compared to all the other models in its class. The model was never imported in to the USA and is probably the rarest model in the 250cc two stroke sports bike category around the world. This particular Kawasaki KR-1 has just 8,298 miles, the bike is mostly all original and in exceptional preserved condition.

The body work is all original and is in very good condition, there are absolutely no cracks on any of the body panels but there are some minor nicks and scrapes. The wheels are perfect with no rock chips or scratches anywhere. The frame and engine have no major corrosion and are nice and clean. Overall cosmetically this bike is in very nice condition.

The bike runs and rides great, and shifts smoothly through all 6 gears. The carburetors were recently ultrasonically cleaned and adjusted, and a full service tune-up was performed which included new spark plugs, chain, air filter, brake pads, oil change, new tires, and fluids flushed. All of the lighting, switches, and electrical components work as they should.

These bikes were never imported into the USA, and very few were exported outside of Japan to any other countries so this is a very rare  Kawasaki model. 

Kawi and Suzuki traded the “fastest 250” back and forth a few times, with the KR-1S snatching it back before the factory decided to focus on their four stroke offerings.  Though Suzuki had staying power, the KR-1 stole the moment in the very late -80’s.  Early interest in the auction says the hammer might fall at a high price, but the new owner will have a sparkling and rare example.



  • Practical superbike mag did a story on these a few years back and while they were a great handling powerful package the motors were known to be somewhat fragile when subjected to testosterone loaded teenagers.

  • That was supposed to read Practical Sportbike

  • Dude all of these 250 smokers where a bit fragile under teenage owners. It’s also no faster or slower than the other 250’s i have ridden a kr-1 a few times my friend i go riding with all the time has one of these.

  • KR-1 exists sorely because Kawasaki fans couldn’t be seen dead riding its rivals. It’s kind of true. You see, Honda and Yamaha were considered giants, but Suzuki and Kawasaki had very devoted fans, especially Kawasaki, they tended to be pretty fanatic. So when the fans wanted to take fight to TZR, NSR, and RGV, and Kawasaki didn’t have any answer (only completely outdated KR250, which was nowhere). Kawasaki really resisted going full on race replica with any of their line up, but there was a small but persistent demand, so when they did, they came out with the raciest of race replicas.

  • Smokin Joe I guess my impression from the article was they were a little more fragile than the other offerings of other makers.Ive been a 4 stroke guy my whole life so I’m far from knowledgeable.

  • For a 4 stroke guy any 2 stroke would be fragile I must say. Engine rebuilds are much more frequent.

    I think the magazine articles of the day still give horrible impressions of these bikes. Ones of the few head to heads of the 4 250 gp replicas they crashed the KR1S and said it was due to handling. Everyone I have talked to that has ridden one disputes this. There are size differences between the various makers, the TZR 2MA was a very small bike as was the KR1/s. Not to mention you go from a parallel twin to a V formation throughout the evolution.

  • And the blue goes so sweet with the green, and all…

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