In the biking world, type distinction can be stark. No one would ever mistake a cruiser for a trail bike or a street bike for a scooter. On the other hand, there are bikes that blur the lines, dual-sport bikes that are designed for on-road comfort and off-road capability. Among these, the Kawasaki KLR650 stands out with an exceptionally long history. Introduced in 1987, the KLR650 is going on thirty years of age!
Perhaps the secret to the KLR650’s longevity and popularity is not messing with a good thing every year, that is, not adding a new feature to every new model year when it comes out. Indeed, if there’s one thing that some might sigh about regarding the Kawasaki KLR650, it would have to be that it’s so outdated, at least stylistically. In fact, Kawasaki didn’t really change anything for two decades after introducing the bike – 2008 was the first time that any major changes were made.
For some, this has a sort of retro appeal, though others are dissuaded from seriously considering it. Looks aside, however, actually putting the Kawasaki KLR650 through its paces seems to be the convincing factor, because Kawasaki absolutely nailed “dual-sport” with the KLR650.
Adventure Bike, World-Tourer
A true dual-sport bike, the Kawasaki KLR650 is both on- and off-road capable. It does not excel at either, but neither does it fail. Equipped with a four-stroke 651-cc single-cylinder engine equipped with dual counterbalance shafts, dual overhead cams, and four valves, both the original and 2008-restyled engines aren’t particularly powerful, but smooth and efficient.
Topping out at 37 hp for the newer version, it still lacks power for highway overtaking, but then this isn’t a crotch rocket. Off-road, the soft suspension returns a comfortable ride, and the pre-2008 version will bottom out on technical terrain, but then this isn’t a dirt bike.
Other things seem to be lacking, such as fuel injection and anti-lock brakes, but this simplicity also has its benefits. With a 300-mile range per tank, can you imagine trying to diagnose and repair a faulty fuel injector in the middle of nowhere? On the other hand, with a few hand tools and a spray can, you can put a KLR650 back on the trail in no time at all.
Another consideration that some overlook is cost. A new KLR650 will only set you back $7,000, and a used one – they last forever anyway – might only run you a couple thousand.
Could this be the perfect balance? Judging by some blog postings of globe-trotting adventurers on Kawasaki KLR650s, we’d say so! One particularly famous KLR650 road-tripper, Dr. Gregory Frazier, been all over and all around the world. His 2009 KLR650’s got over 50,000 miles on it.
What about you? are you ready to put some miles on? A road-tripping dual-sport adventure bike can do it, and the Kawasaki KLR650 is probably your two-wheel ticket.