Kawasaki have updated their legendary two-wheeled farm hand and it’s really hit the mark. We test the 2023 Kawasaki Stockman.
In 2023 there are plenty of competent farm hands from horses to buggies and quads to dogs, but none in my opinion are as handy as a dirtbike like the 2023 Kawasaki Stockman. For the price, they’re the best bang for buck farmhand a farmer could ask for.
They’re cheaper than a horse, quad or buggy and don’t require two years of training and testing your patience like a dog. The mighty ag bike has been a mainstay on Aussie farms for decades and the 2023 Kawasaki Stockman is the duck’s nuts again. All-new for MY23, the Stockman boasts a bunch of upgrades that bring this trusty farmhand into the 20th century.
Up to spec!
Fuel injection is just one upgrade that brings this ag bike into the 20th century. While it’s not ground-breaking new tech, it’s the only ag bike with fuel injection. The benefit is precise fuelling every time you open the throttle, a more linear throttle curve much better fuel economy, which is exactly how this fuel-injected 233cc, air-cooled, four-stroke single cylinder motor performed. Not to mention it starts first go every time you hit the button with no need for the choke regardless of how cold it is! The 2023 Kawasaki Stockman feels like the most powerful ag bike we’ve ridden and it’s incredibly smooth and easy to handle.
The compact perimeter frame remains on the Stockman and the slim ergonomics contribute to the compact, rider-friendly package. It still has all the essential agricultural features like rugged lever guards and frame sliders, front and rear racks, a clutch lever lock, dual side stands, and a wide rear flap but it now gets all-digital instrumentation with a fuel gauge and a larger, brighter headlamp.
Why it works
Ag bikes are different to enduro and trailbikes. There are some things that need to exist on an ag bike to make it an ag bike.
Air-cooling – Air-cooling and a simple SOHC single-cylinder configuration are essential. It means the engine is not only easy to ride but durable and reliable too. The change to fuel-injection brings no-fuss starting while also contributing to precise throttle response that facilitates control.
Slim Bodywork and Flat Seat Design – These are also new for 2023 and the slim bodywork contributes to the Stockman’s overall compact package, while making it easier to fit through narrow spaces and trails. A flat-style seat design has plenty of room to move around when carrying dogs or other farm animals like lambs. The seat is low enough for more people to get their feet on the ground.
Front & Rear Carriers – Sturdy front and rear carriers offer 2 kg and 20 kg of carrying capacity respectively. I was able to easily get my dog on the back for transport legs and carry a few tools up the front. If not carrying the dog, I could strap on a milk crate and load it with fencing gear.
Dual Side Stands – Side stands on both sides of the bike mean that you don’t have to think about what side of the hill you’re on when parking.
21-inch and 18-inch Wheels with Enduro Tyres – Our farm is pretty rugged and we need plenty of off-road capability. Full-size wheels fitted with knobby enduro-type tyres deliver excellent traction and performance across rocky paddocks and creeks.
Aluminium Lever Guards – You simply have to have lever guards on an ag bike.
Electric Start – Electric start is almost a necessity on an ag bike. No more fiddling with a choke or spending time maintaining carburettors. Together with fuel injection, electric start offers hassle-free starting.
Clutch Lever Lock – Probably the most important aspect of an ag bike. Being able to hop off the bike and not have to find neutral is essential and what I liked most about the Stockman clutch lever lock was that you could pull the lever in while pulling the clutch to lock it rather than have to push the clutch lock with your index finger while pulling in the clutch lever like some other bikes.
Large, Bright Headlight – Farmers often work into the night so a light is handy. The new headlamp has a large 60/55 W lamp which offers excellent illumination when working in the pre-dawn hours or past sunset.
Large-Diameter Disc Brakes – 265mm front and 220mm rear petal disc brakes are a welcome change to the standard drum brakes found on other ag bikes. If you’re worried about bending a disc you could be easily worried about killing drum brakes in river crossings and wet conditions. The disc brakes were excellent.
Modern day hero
The 2023 Kawasaki Stockman is a fresh take on the classic ag bike. It gets all the modern-day goodies but hardly compromises on ag performance. The only thing I didn’t like was the gearing which was way too tall for farming but a bigger rear sprocket or smaller counter shaft sprocket will fix that.
I think the peeps over at Heathfield Poll Merinos summed up the mighty ag bike best when they said this:
“Years ago ag bikes were a revolution in moving stock. Then came the quads and like most vehicles, they got bigger heavier and more powerful so as people couldn’t handle them and ended up hurting themselves.
“Then we went side-by-sides which were all good until you find out that expensive bit of gear goes through fuel like it’s going out of fashion, service costs are huge and nothing in the way of bearings or bushes etc are built strong enough to survive farm life.
We went with an electric bike for a while which was great for getting around lambing ewes but then we found out it too wasn’t built to last.
“So now we’re back to two-wheels [petrol-powered] and with the overseer [and ag bike] helping so much with sheep work we now have two. Moral of the story is that farming goes in cycles and we always seem to come round to the start again”.
Check out the full feature in issue #532.
Words | Mitch Lees
Photos | Bernie den Hertog