The Beginner’s Guide to the Kawasaki Bayou 220

The Kawasaki Bayou 220 is one of the most beloved all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) out there. Introduced way back in 1988, this little workhorse enjoyed a remarkable 15-year production run and helped define recreational quad riding for an entire generation.

In this post, we’ll take a nostalgic but in-depth look at the Kawasaki Bayou 220: Its history, specs, common upgrades, and why it remains popular with vintage riding enthusiasts today. Grab your helmet and let’s hit the trails!

A Brief History of the Kawasaki Bayou 220

The Bayou 220 debuted at a pivotal time when ATVs were just transitioning from utility vehicles to recreational machines built for fun. Kawasaki designed it from the ground up to excel at both worlds.

  • The Bayou 220 was one of the first quads with an automatic clutch for easy shifting.
  • It had independent front suspension and a plush ride quality closer to a sofa than a farm implement.
  • The compact yet torquey 215cc engine delivered usable power paired with excellent fuel efficiency.
  • It even included reverse gear—a big deal back then!

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With this revolutionary feature set for the late ’80s, it’s no wonder the Bayou 220 struck a chord with recreational riders and remained essentially unchanged for 15 model years spanning 1988-2002.

Over its impressive production run, the evergreen Bayou cemented itself as one of Kawasaki’s best-selling quads ever next to the legendary KFX400.

Kawasaki Bayou 220 Specs and Features

Let’s talk details! Here are the factory vitals for this beloved machine:


  • Displacement: 215cc air-cooled single-cylinder
  • Bore x stroke: 67 mm x 61 mm
  • Compression ratio: 9.3:1
  • Starting: Electric & kickstart
  • Fuel capacity: 10 liters
  • Top speed: 72 km/h (45 mph)


  • Transmission: 5-speed manual with reverse
  • Final drive: Shaft
  • Front suspension: Single A-arm with 114 mm travel
  • Rear suspension: Quad link with 124.5 mm travel

Brakes and Tires

  • Front brakes: Mechanical drum
  • Rear brakes: Mechanical drum
  • Front tire: AT21 x 8-9
  • Rear tire: AT22 x 10-10

Dimensions and Capacity

  • Wheelbase: 1,115 mm
  • Seat height: 730 mm
  • Dry weight: 183 kg
  • Rack capacity: 44 kg front / 66 kg rear

No wonder the Bayou became a farm and ranch favorite with its beefy racks!


  • Classic Kawasaki green and red color scheme
  • Chrome front and rear racks
  • Proven ergonomics ideal for recreation or utility use

Common Kawasaki Bayou 220 Upgrades

One reason the Bayou 220 remains popular today is its immense customization potential. Here are some common upgrades owners install:

  • Suspension: Stiffer shocks and springs tailor the plush ride for aggressive riding.
  • Tires: More aggressive tread patterns enhance traction in mud and sand.
  • Intake + exhaust: Aftermarket slip-ons & filters add torque for dune running.
  • Throttle stop: Opens the throttle for higher top speed.
  • Override switch: Allow starting in gear when winch loading onto trailers.

And while they’re at it, many owners add modern features too:

  • LED headlights for improved night vision
  • GPS mounts, phone chargers and Bluetooth receivers for tunes on the trails!

Why Riders Still Love the Bayou 220 Today

With literally decades of ongoing support from the vibrant ATV community, the Bayou continues pleasing both vintage enthusiasts and younger novice riders looking for an easy-to-handle starter quad today.

Here’s why this old classic still hits the sweet spot for so many riders:

  • Proven reliability: The dead-simple engine and drivetrain just won’t quit after proper maintenance
  • Light and nimble: Weighing under 400 lbs, the Bayou handles trails incredibly well
  • Affordable: Used prices are low compared to modern sport quads
  • User friendly: Smooth automatic clutch is perfect for beginner riders

And most importantly, it’s still an absolute joy to ride nearly 40 years later! Suffice to say, the iconic Bayou has rightfully earned its place among the pantheon of classic ATVs.

So there you have it – everything you could want to know about the legendary Kawasaki Bayou 220. This quad defined an entire generation of riding, and its lasting influence lives on today. Cowabunga dude…let’s ride!

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