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ADV BikesResults From First Reviews of the KLR650 New Edition

Results From First Reviews of the KLR650 New Edition

 An aging Adventure Bike receives a much needed breath of life.

Published on 04.29.2014
The 2014 KLR650 New Edition gets trail tested in Death Valley.

When the mid-year release 2014 KLR650 New Edition model was announced in December of last year, it generated a lot of buzz and excitement. The “New Edition” name implied revolutionary changes, but the updates turned out to be fairly mild. Improvements to the bike consisted of a stiffer suspension, a better seat and new color choices.

Why all the excitement? When a motorcycle hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years, even small changes can be considered revolutionary. The bike has been the top-selling 650cc dual-sport in the U.S. for years now, so Kawasaki is understandably careful not to mess with their winning formula; and why should they when their primary competition is the Honda XR650L and Suzuki DR650SE, two air-cooled bikes with technology rooted in the early 90’s?

The KLR650 is already the best value in its class with good off-road capability, decent highway comfort, excellent reliability, low cost of maintenance and a low price tag. It’s the hard-working, understated, overachiever, with all the qualities you’d want in a prom date for your daughter.


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Most loyal KLR650 owners are pretty happy with the bike the way it is, so they are on the alert when any “so called” improvements are planned. Any changes made to the bike that might increase the price, require more frequent maintenance or make it harder to work on, could cause the KLR650 faithful to riot in the streets.

Luckily, the changes to the KLR650 New Edition only increased the price by $100 and potentially offer a lot of value for the small increase. Kawasaki also hedged their bets by keeping the standard KLR650 in the line-up.

Now that the KLR650 New Edition has been tested by several motorcycle magazines, we can see if the changes have been well received. Kawasaki invited several journalists to sample the bike on a recent three-day test ride in Death Valley area. Total trip distance was around 500 miles, about half of which was off-road. Below are some of the quotes from their reviews.

KLR650 New Edition Testing Feedback

Rider Magazine
“I can say without reservation that the upgraded suspension has transformed the bike… The stiffer suspension better supports heavy loads and improves the bike’s stability at speed and through fast corners, with much less wallowing, fork dive under braking and squat under acceleration.”

“Although it still towers 35 inches above the pavement, the new seat is slimmer in front for an easier reach to the ground… The internal foam is more supportive and the cover material is new. What used to be a sore spot on the KLR650 is now perfectly fine in stock form.”

“It handles much better and is all-day comfortable. That’s $100 well spent.”

Cycle World
“On the slow and rocky climb, the back end of the KLR bounces around a lot, as if the springing is overcoming the damping. If I’m Larry Roeseler, I suspect full stiff might make sense, but a rider of my abilities would likely benefit from a bit less preload.”

“Racetrack Road, which heads south, is so washboarded that I want to stop on the spot and dial back the rear preload.”

“If you could own only one motorcycle, the Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition makes a great choice.”

Motorcyclist
“The KLR works just as well off-road, and better than ever thanks to its revised fork and shock. The stiffer springs and firmer damping soak up bumps big and small, with only high-speed g-outs using up the 7-plus inches of travel… The only time I wished for softer settings was on the washboard dirt road to Death Valley’s so-called Racetrack.”

“I appreciated the narrower seat front, which made it easier to dab”

“More than any other machine, the KLR650 perfectly bridges the gap between dual-sport and adventure-tourer.”

A lot of value for only $100, or is it?
The typical KLR650 purchaser is interested in riding off-road and will likely ignore the tester comments about a slightly harsher suspension. They will probably value the improved off-road performance that comes with the New Edition model. For $100 they get a seat and suspension upgrade, without having to go through the hassle of an aftermarket purchase and installation. This perceived value could drive up demand for the New Edition, reducing inventory and making it harder to negotiate deals.

The standard 2014 KLR650’s (and left over 2013’s) may have more inventory and more room for negotiation. This could cause the difference in price between the Standard and New Edition models to end up being much more than $100, possibly enough to cover the cost of an even better aftermarket seat and suspension upgrade.

Overall, the KLR650 New Edition release has been a brilliant marketing strategy from Kawasaki. They’ve reinvigorated sales (and potentially margins) of an aging model at very little cost. This should buy them some time while they decide whether or not to improve the “Next Generation” KLR650 with modern conveniences like fuel injection, 6-speed transmission and ABS.

Author: Rob Dabney
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One thought on “Results From First Reviews of the KLR650 New Edition

  1. Dear Kawasaki, please fix the doo-hickey (see Eagle Mike) and start equipping the KLR with a real skid plate (see JNS Engineering). You can then announce the release of the New Common Sense Edition! 🙂