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ADV NewsThe Legend Is Reborn: 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 First Ride Review

The Legend Is Reborn: 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 First Ride Review

Revamped after a short hiatus, is it now better than ever?

Published on 09.02.2021

How can you get all C’s on your report card and yet still make the honor roll?

Kawasaki has been doing just that for over 35 years with the KLR650. Back in 1984, when the KLR 600 first made its way into dealerships, Kawi didn’t really know they’d be creating a “cult classic” or the “KLR-Army,” but they did. As a result, the unbreakable dual-sport motorcycle has carved out a home in the hearts of many a rider who has owned, borrowed, or rented one. Just about anyone who’s been in the Adventure scene for a while has a “KLR” story of some sort, as did every moto journalist on the press launch in Northern New Mexico.

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“All-New” for 2022, the KLR650 gets a lot of upgrades and refinements that we’ve covered in detail in our initial announcement. So let’s go over the key changes and what stood out during two days of testing that covered roughly 450 miles. While some readers may scoff at those numbers, I can assure you it’s more miles than most press launches cover. When factoring in a group ride of more than 12 participants and photo and video stops, I spent 12 hour days on the bike and can confirm the seat is plenty comfy.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

What’s New


The bodywork, shrouds, and lighting cover of the KLR are all-new from tip to tail. Speaking of the “tip,” the front fender is very much a “take it or leave it” type unit. The side fairings, gas tank, and the rest of the bike look fantastic, especially in the orange color, which has metal flake in it. So does the Khaki-Tan unit but in a very understated KLR way. The flat graphite with camo graphics even has some sparkles but looks dusty quickly on the gravel two tracks of NM. 

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review
2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The new LED headlight and turn signals bring higher visibility and add a more modern feel to the 37 year legacy of the KLR, while the LCD Display (no TFT yet) is, unfortunately, an attempt at being modern. The dual analog speedo and tachometer dash on the outgoing model of the KLR just felt more at home on this “bare-bones” Adventure bike. It also gave more information than the new unit as it lacks a Tachometer, and other gauges like temperature are now just a warning light. Although, it does get a nice 1/2-inch bar above the dash for mounting a phone or GPS, and there is now 80 watts of additional power available to use for electronic accessories or heated gear.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

Wind Protection

Windscreens are such a touchy subject with Adventure Riders, and what might work for one person might not work for another. Out of the dozen or so testers of the KLR, no one complained about wind protection or buffeting from the 2-inch taller windscreen. The stock windscreen has two positions available. To change the position, you’ll need to remove the windscreen (4 bolts) and then move the mounting plates (another 4 bolts) to a higher position. Neither position caused any negative feedback from riders, and in that case, no news is good news. 

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

With large flap-type (not wrap around) handguards and my knees tucked in behind the fairing and reshaped 6.1-gallon gas tank (now with more usable volume), we all realized that the KLR650 is in a league of its own. It’s the only large single-cylinder Adventure Bike on the market with wind protection and long haul luggage capabilities, from the factory, available for 2022 (so far). A winning formula for Kawasaki that they were careful not to screw with too much.


2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The KLR650 was always a fairly comfortable machine with a seat that feels familiar, like your favorite couch cushion. A low seat height allowed most riders to get their feet on the ground and the handlebars were even tall enough that the KLR held onto its “C” grading for comfort. No, the new one doesn’t get a “B” on its report card, but maybe the outgoing model now receives a “C” minus. Rubber-mounted footpegs and handlebar clamps bring a new level of “smooth” to the 2022 KLR650 we didn’t know we were missing.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The footpegs get attached to the frame via a rubber damped bracket. This provides some serious vibration damping for your feet but at the cost of some rigidity to your footing. You can actually see them flex if you press on them with your foot. No doubt, the KLR gurus of the world may find this an excellent addition or a nuisance but customizing your KLR is part of owning one of these budget-friendly/hackable machines. The footpegs themselves are rubber topped and have a lot of cushion. A colossal drawback, though, is that the rubber is not removable. So if you’re the type to steer with your feet and stand a lot in the dirt, the rubber pegs will have to go.

The new specific handlebar bend is just a bit taller and broader, as many Adventure Riders prefer. The rubber-mounted bar clamps kill almost all of the vibrations in conjunction with big rubber-mounted bar ends. Only after you get done riding can you feel a little reminiscent of vibrations in your fingertips, and that’s me being picky. The bar clamps can also be rotated 180 degrees to move the bars forward 10mm and open up the cockpit for taller riders.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review
2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The seat is still the long-soft-single-piece unit KLR owners love to cover in beads or a sheepskin but it has a new shape and firmer foam in it. It’s still pretty soft by new bike standards, and after a long day on the bike, I was happy I could move around on it to alleviate some pressure on my backside.

Altogether, no one could complain about the rider triangle or comfort of the KLR650 as it’s everything we expected. One downside to the rubber-mounted footpegs is that they now position your feet further from the bike and add some noticeable width to the bike’s bottom. Dragging the footpegs on the ground as we rode down some rutted-out two-track lets you know the bike is low to the ground, especially when pushing the suspension to its limits.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review


Well, it’s reliable. There is no questioning that. The KLR650 has been forcefully updated to include fuel injection for 2022. I know the “OG” KLR guys will hate the idea of it, but it had to happen someday. Emissions and modernization have finally kicked the carburetor into a trash can behind the KLR assembly line plant. An all-new Keihin FI unit has taken on the job of fuel delivery. Testing these motorcycles at 6 to 9 thousand feet went better than planned. Not one single issue or even fussy moment from the entire test fleet.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

I know it hurts to hear because some guys will say,” I can fix a carburetor in the middle of nowhere,” and “I can tune it,” and “they always work.” Well, that’s great, but after 20 years of fuel-injected Adventure bikes and dirt bikes, I have never had a fuel injector, fuel pump, or fuel filter fail on me (literally knocking on wood as I type this.) But, on the other hand, I have had carb’s get clogged, run horribly, empty their float bowl in a parking lot, and have vacuum issues. So for the die-hard carburetor riders here, I hear you, but it’s time to move on.

The analog-loving type KLR650 owners will breathe a sigh of relief that the throttle is still cable actuated. No rider modes to fuss with. Heck, the KLR doesn’t even have traction control, let alone cruise control. So it’s still the barest of bones, and that’s the beauty of it…. to some people.

WATCH: First look at the KLR650 plus sneak peek of the engine braaping.

The “Doohickey,” aka the balancer chain adjuster lever, did not receive updates for 2022. Talking with Kawasaki’s quality assurance manager at the press launch, he attributes the “Doohickey” internet mass hysteria to precisely that — internet mass hysteria. The Gen 1 KLR’s did have issues due to their two-piece design. He then explained how Kawasaki logs failures of any part in or out of warranty, and then Kawi scrambles the engineering department, and issues get solved. It’s data-driven, and the data points to it not being an issue. The 2022 KLR650 did get stronger cam chain guide material and a new shape which will contribute to even better reliability.

New camshaft profiles and a smaller exhaust system diameter (7.1mm) are said to aid in mid-range torque, now rated at 39.1 ft-lbs. Kawasaki says the new fuel-injected 652cc single turns out 40 horsepower. Depending on where you get your information from on the internet, 40hp may be down just a smidge from the 2018 Carbureted model. Test riders couldn’t make a decision on whether the Carb’ed or FI bike would be quicker, and honestly, if you buy a KLR, you shouldn’t be concerned with drag times anyway.

Easy to start, always tuned properly, no fuel to shut off, and smoothness were the big talking points of the 650 lump, and I concur with all that. Some riders feel fuel injection can add harshness to on/off throttle inputs. I can assure you there is nothing harsh about the KLR650 in its entirety, let alone the fueling.


Some updates were made to the transmission to aid in shifting smoothness and reliability but no real difference was noticed in any scenario. It just works like it should. The armchair quarterbacks of the internet (as was I) were all hoping for a sixth gear with this update, but in the end, it would only result in more gear changes with a shorter run out in each gear. The first is plenty short, and the fifth is tall enough for highway duty at 80mph. What more could you ask for? Maybe a bit more feedback and more throw from the updated clutch as it’s vague, but one-finger actuation off-road is doable.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

One major flaw on the KLR650 is the shifter. It’s a very short reach from it to the footpeg, and in the stock position, the shifter is low, making changing gears while standing and even sitting difficult if you are wearing an off-road boot. No big deal, all motorcycles come with their shifters too low, so we Adventure Riders make an adjustment to the linkage or, in this case, remove the shifter and reinstall it one tooth up on the gear input shaft. Unfortunately, doing this on the KLR results in a bike that you can only shift down and not up because the lever hits a cover on the engine case. Most KLR owners will not have a problem removing some material from the top of the shifter lever, but it makes you wonder if anyone with a size 9 or larger boot test rode this thing.


New for 2022 is a revised double-cradle frame made with high-tensile steel. The new frame design now features an integrated sub-frame which offers improved rigidity and increases load carrying capacity. This also eliminates the need to check your sub-frame bolts regularly, which had a tendency to loosen up.

The Gen 2 KLR received new stiffer springs in the late half of 2014, also known as the “2014-and-a-half” model, and it made a substantial difference but still left us firmly or softly with a “C” on the report card. For 2022, the KLR gets even stiffer springs and has its valving massaged to increase stability and performance. Unfortunately, the conventional type forks are still in place and are still non-adjustable. However, the rear shock has preload and rebound adjustment capabilities, which did make a difference for one of the “heavier riders” of the group.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review
2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

A new 30mm longer swingarm with 2mm larger diameter pivot shaft, along with larger diameter wheel axles, are designed to increase stability. Although, suspension travel remains the same as the previous-gen KLR at 7.9 inches (200mm) upfront and 7.3 inches (185mm) at the rear, it keeps the seat height low enough for 5’9″ riders to get a foot down on both sides and keeps the center of gravity lower. Every scenario we put the 2022 KLR in was handled with just a bit more composure than the previous generation but it’s still unable to reward more skilled riders who can push the KLR.


Because the KLR650 has very few buttons and no modes to speak of, the stand-out for 2022 is the Optional ABS and even that is pretty simplistic. Should you opt for the ABS KLR650, you’ll be issued the “off-road-tuned” ABS with no switching or modes. So it’s not a sophisticated lean-angle sensing type and it works on intermittent pulses, which are delayed before they intervene. 

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

It’s more for “oh sh*t” moments than a safety net. You can still lock up the rear on or off-road initially and slide the bike, but it won’t let the engine stall because the ABS kicks and lets the rear wheel rotate at a much slower speed than the front. It keeps the rear wheel sliding but not entirely stopped, so you can initiate a slide while still having the safety net of ABS, especially when it comes to keeping the front wheel in line and spinning.

2022 Kawasaki KLR 650 Review
2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

With the Adventure and Travel trim levels, the KLR comes with a full-size 12-volt power outlet just like you get in a car and, surprisingly, a USB charger port built into the left-hand side of the dash. The cover that conceals the USB port looks like it could be a trailer hook-up socket cover at a campground. It’s also the worst-designed trim piece I have ever seen on a motorcycle as the soft rubber cover is meant to fit over a small lip, but instead, it comes loose and dangles from the dash at even the slightest bump in the road. Some things should never make it to production, and this detail will likely drive the OCD KLR owners mad.


The stoppers on the KLR650 have always been lackluster but for 2022 they have been upgraded. The rear brake rotor is thicker to handle more heat and help combat brake fade. As far as I’m concerned, the rear brake is just fine, if not touchy. The single front brake rotor has gotten larger, growing from 280mm to 300mm, but let’s also consider that the KLR650 has gained 24 pounds, primarily due to sub-frame bracing.

2022 Kawasaki KLR 650 Review

That puts its wet weight at 456 for the non-ABS model, or four pounds heavier than the Yamaha T7! The T7 comes with dual four-piston calipers up front. That’s eight brake pistons on the T7 vs. the KLR’s single floating caliper with only two pistons. Slowing down from 80 mph lacks any urgency but off-road at slower speeds, the lack of initial bite is not only adequate but user friendly.

The KLR650 Experience

On Road

Carving up a twisty-double-yellow-line mountain road on the KLR with other moto journalists can get dicey quickly. However, equally matched machines with only enough HP to barely nudge 100mph is a recipe for the “late brake championship of the universe,” and the 2022 KLR did not disappoint. Although not one mention of the footpeg feelers touching down means the KLR had more to give.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

Momentum is the name of the game if you want to ride quickly or keep up with larger Adventure Bikes on back roads. While some may not love the power of the KLR650, it’s really part of its charm as it never feels like you’re in a hurry. The updated suspension keeps the front end comfortable and planted, and the rear shock keeps the whole bike in check as you float over the asphalt. Should you ever feel squirming from the rear end, just increase the rear spring preload and dial in some more rebound damping.

Highway use is pretty unremarkable, but isn’t that a sign that you’re doing your job correctly if no one notices? A big part of the KLR’s weight gain happened for the sake of stability on-road with a reinforced sub-frame and the heavier axles and swingarm pivot. Just remember that the initial bite from the single front rotor at 80 mph feels like two blocks of wood on a dinner plate, and you’ll be fine.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The fifth gear in the KLR keeps the RPMs low enough on the highway that you’ll never need to shift into a sixth. Although without a tachometer, I can’t factually confirm that, and the lack of a gear indicator means you’ll still try to shift to sixth. In town, the first gear is low enough to putt around without fear of stalling. It’s also so smooth at low RPM’s that the on/off throttle inputs in first or second are nothing to complain about.


Sliding on gravel and riding within close proximity to friends is where my idea of fun starts. The KLR650, though, has other ideas about fun. While 150-plus horsepower high-tech Adventure Bikes telepathically break the rear end loose and make long sweeping corners feel tight, the KLR is the opposite kind of fun.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

Cruising along gravel high-desert mountain roads is the way it needs to be done with the big 650 thumper. Spread out a bit and stay out of each other’s dust. Sitting or standing, the KLR chugs along at a smooth clip. Ham-fisted throttle inputs are not rewarded with anything other than some noise from the motor and a little slide from the rear (maybe).

Sitting on the KLR650 feels just fine and stable offroad, where the larger and taller ADV bikes might wash the front end out if you were lazy in a sandier section. That’s because the KLR has an extra-long swingarm and 30 degrees of rake up front (previously 28 degrees). Both of these contribute to an anchored and forgiving off-road ride.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The shortcoming of the KLR (as tested) in muddy or sandy conditions could be easily improved. It lacks some confidence in the front end due to the stock tires. The Factory OEM Dunlop K750’s are an OK 50/50 tire but many new KLR owners who ride a lot of dirt will want to replace these after they wear out. 

My other little niggle is testing motorcycles offroad with hard saddlebags installed on the bike. All the KLR’s used during the test were the Adventure trim level ($7,999 with ABS) that come with upper and lower crash bars, LED AUX lights, charger ports, and of course, the hard cases. They open and remove easily with the ignition key, but the idea of 24 or so hard bags bouncing around in a Kawasaki support truck seemed like a bad idea so I didn’t even want to suggest it.


Getting into some more technical and rocky sections, and it’s time to stand up on those rubber pegs. The front suspension gives a “squish” sound to let you know it’s working. Both ends feel as if their travel is longer than what’s on the spec sheet. With its stiffer suspension, you get a more plush ride as the spring is able to operate properly. It also needs less preload, and the KLR is happy to ride in a higher portion of the stroke. To counteract the bounce of stiffer springs, Kawi has re-valved the suspension with more damping and the result is plush but not too soft even for me at 220 pounds. 

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The KLR returns to a level state quickly and without drama. The front fork has a firm feeling at the very beginning of the stroke, then has a plusher feeling for the remainder. We couldn’t really feel any hard bottoming out as we blasted over whooped out two-track roads, but our footpegs and heels touched down quite easily for the more aggressive of the bunch. Both ends want to return to the top of the stroke quickly, and comfort over rocks is dramatically affected by rebound speed. With its shorter travel than top-tier ADV Bikes, the KLR does a fantastic job of balancing comfort and performance with an emphasis on comfort. 

Bottom Line

The 2022 KLR650 is still on the honor roll. It’s a motorcycle I suggest often to less experienced riders looking to get into the sport of Adventure Riding or even people looking for a good commuter bike. I would never recommend the KLR650 to someone coming from a motocross or enduro racing background because they will find it as exciting as a John Deer tractor.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

The KLR sits all alone, making it hard to compare to other bikes but let’s give it a try. The Ducati Desert Sled has more suspension travel than the KLR but it’s not easy to ride off-road in stock form. The BMW F750GS is going to be more fragile with its cast wheels off-road and complex engineering but is arguably a better all-around motorcycle at nearly twice the price. 

How about the KTM 690 Enduro? It’s really a different animal — a higher-performance machine that makes almost double the horsepower of the KLR and weighs over 110 pounds less. It’s also a lot more aggressive and can be overpowering to newer riders. Plus there is no wind protection, half the fuel capacity and it costs more than twice as much once you get a comfortable seat and a rear rack to strap a gas can to it. Dual Sports like the DR650S and XR650L are in the same price range as the KLR and are better off-road but require a lot of farkling to make them as versatile.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

What about the Yamaha T7? Yeah, it’s an option and one you could easily make an argument for, on both performance and price. On the other hand, your financing payment on the T7 will be about 33% more each month over the course of four years, and for some people, the buck stops there.

This is where performance expectations, cost, value, and ease of use intersect. The KLR650’s performance has always been in the “C” range, but that’s right where it needs to be. The other factors are never brought up on the “report card,” but that’s exactly where and how the KLR650 always makes the Honor Roll. 

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Review

Riding the KLR on long, dusty two-track, winding through New Mexico’s landscape, gave me the feeling most aspirational Adventure Riders are looking for. That calm and centered feeling knowing that no matter what we come across, the bike can handle it. And knowing I had the option to leave society behind and never look back.

Of course, that’s not what I did, but I could have. Imagine getting that feeling for $6,699 without ABS! That’s the authentic charm of the KLR650. It’s what makes KLR riders smirk at each other as they pass and give a slight head nod as if to say, “Yeah, we get it.” The 2022 KLR650 may be in the “C” league, but it is in a league of its own. To the people who really enjoy these machines, “I get it too.”

2022 KLR650 Specs

ENGINE TYPE:4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4-Valve, Single
BORE & STROKE:100 x 83 mm
FUEL SYSTEM:DFI with 40mm Throttle Body
RAKE/TRAIL:30°/4.8 in.
REAR TIRE SIZE:130/80-17
FRONT SUSPENSION:41mm Leading Axle Hydraulic Telescopic Fork
REAR SUSPENSION:Uni-Trak® with 5-Way Adjustable Preload and Stepless Rebound Damping
WHEELBASE:60.6 in.
SEAT HEIGHT:34.3 in.
CURB WEIGHT (LBS.):456.2 (Non-ABS), 460.6 (ABS), 487.1 (ADVENTURE), 471.7 (TRAVELER)
WARRANTY:12 months

Photos: Drew Ruiz and Steve Kamrad

Author: Steve Kamrad

Steve has been labeled as a “Hired Gun” by one of the largest special interest publishing groups in America. His main focus now is video content creation as a “Shreditor” (thats shooter, producer, editor all in one nice, neat, run and gun package). If he’s not out competing in a NASA Rally Race you can find him on the East Coast leading around a rowdy group of ADV riders. Some say Steve_Kamrad has the best job in the world but he’s not in it for the money. He’s a gun for hire that can’t be bought and that’s the way we like him.

Author: Steve Kamrad

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53 thoughts on “The Legend Is Reborn: 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 First Ride Review

  1. While all other manufactures focus on smaller, lighter motorcycles, Kawasaki makes theirs bigger and heavier without increasing the power. Questionable business model in my opinion. They should have focused on building out a dual sport machine with the versys 650 parallel twin that could compete with the T7 at a more reasonable price point. I know the KLR fanboys don’t want to hear it but come on, this is ridiculous.

  2. hat baffles me is that Kawasaki didn’t install a stabilizer on the forks. There’s always a bit of twisting when braking with a single disk brake and a stabilizer neutralises that. It also makes the steering more direct and it stiffens up the front axle.
    Other than that, it sure looks great, especially in orange!

    • Hey man, if you want to spend 8k on technology that peaked in the 80’s I say go for it. Why do you think Kawasaki can keep trotting out this rotten corpse of a motorcycle?

      • Agreed, an absolute crap bike. I have a riding buddy that had one and I rode. Worst bike I’ve ever ridden. Terrible suspension, crap brakes and no power while being as heavy as a T7 or 790/890. THE recipe for a crap bike.

        • I guess the same could be said about the t7 or 790 when compared to Ducati. Not everyone is about speed. Not everyone is about technical riding. And it’s not a matter of money. Just a great bike for someone getting into the off road community. All the electronically adjusted ride modes…unless your riding the majority of time on a slab somewhere.,do no good off road.

  3. “I have never had a fuel injector, fuel pump, or fuel filter fail on me”. The author has obviously never owned a Yamaha WR 250R!

    • This was a good tip, so I looked into this motorcycle.

      I saw one of these in Prescott AZ last week while visiting, but I did not know what I was looking at. All I could tell was “Italian”, not “Chinese” at the time. It was a red / white paint SuperDual “T” model, I think. (Not sure, again did not know the moto).

      I looked today at the USA distributor list today and there are now many dealers, and Prescott has one in stock.

      I also looked at the specs for the X model. Nicely spec’ed! 56 HP, 438 lbs dry.

      The info that was missing was electrical in nature. They spec a 14 AH battery, and halogen lamps, and that is all there is. There is no generator output listed, so no way to tell if the system will support “extras”, like heated grips or clothing.

      The maintenance intervals indicate a race spec: Short intervals on the valve inspection and oil changes. I’m pretty sure the valves are shim under bucket, so if you desire to follow the stated maintenance intervals, be prepared for some effort for it.

      The price is right for an Italian motorcycle, too.

  4. Good review Steve. That shifter clearance issue is one of those things that ticks you off. I get big D/S thumpers as I have a nicely modded DR650. I had looked at the KLR and Honda when shopping 5 years ago but the DR ticked more boxes for me. As you say: “Yeah, we get it.” The 2022 KLR650 may be in the “C” league, but it is in a league of its own. To the people who really enjoy these machines, “I get it too.” Same for the DR and XR.

    • Thanks bud, yeah the xr and dr need liquid cooling to really begin to be in the same class but they really are in the same class. Cheers in the cheap but fun angle

  5. I’m on on a 2nd gen KLR and it’s quite amazing to hear Steve state that the 3rd gen doesn’t need a 6th gear. The lack of 6 gears and the lack of tight piston rings are my 2 greatest problems. The two problems amplify each other because excess oil consumption occurs at high RPMs which occurs at highway speeds. So I really need a 6th speed on the highway and anyway 5 speed transmissions went the way of polyester leisure suits.

    I can make the argument that every mc needs 6 speeds because lower revs at say 70 mph means less wear on every moving engine part, and who doesn’t want that? Heck, less piston travel at the very least means less wear on the piston rings and cylinder wall.

      • Couldn’t they get 8 more h.p. by upping the comrpession ratio like the BMW single? I think the BMW also tolerated regular gas. Maybe the timing changes to prevent ping with regular gas.

  6. Any info direct from Kawi when the ABS bikes will ship? They are not now because of the chip shortage. As for the Dohickey most will opt to upgrade to the Eagle Mike unit anyway.

  7. I think they’re lying about the doohickey. Mine failed on my ’01 during the 12k service and the piston met the valves on my ride to work the following day. Glad I had let the dealer do that service because they rebuilt the top end on their dime… and installed an Eagle Mike doo that I supplied them as part of the process.

    But it’s just internet lore, and the pictures I have are just photoshopped. Yup.

  8. Many end up buying the klr because of price…..knowing what I know now after buying a new klr back in 2009, I’d say spend more and buy a better bike!
    My klr had many issues , sure, you can upgrade parts, fix the doohickey, install the 685 kit to stop the severe oil burning problem (in my case)
    But really…… why should anyone need to spend potentially thousands on something the factory should have done in the first place! Kawasaki , get your s**t together !!

    • Yeah I always say if you want a faster car or faster bike, buy the faster one. Sure you could make a Honda civic faster than a Ferrari but you’ll never have the Ferrari. It’s strictly a budget thing

  9. The opening sentence of this article is chuckle-worthy and dead-on. I’ve owned a lot of bikes, including a used ’16 KLR that I rode for a little less than a year while I impatiently waited with thumbs twiddling and toes tapping for the T7 to make an appearance. (Mine was delivered in early June 2020) It was far from a horrible experience. I dubbed it: “The Fun Tractor”. I get the appeal. A reliable, unfussy machine that you can have a blast upgrading and customizing, and ride for a long, long time if you so choose.

  10. Well… Internet hysteria made me do the Doohikey mod at 10,000 Km on my 2016 KLR. Did the job myself. The spring was just hanging loose serving no other purpose than to be ready to fall somewhere in the bottom of the engine and destroy everything. I was luckyer then the 2 other local guys that had their engine destroyed at less than 25,000 km after their Doohickey failed and sent parts in their engines.

    That was quite bad for a one guy statistical opinion… Hope others will be more lucky than me.

  11. Laughing out loud great article. Now it’s your turn to laugh I’m 65 looking to get into this thing . comfortable not to aggressive , durable and affordable sounds great to me.i have a mudmaster watch I do not put it in the mud I love it it’s beautiful I baby it. Probably the same with this bike it’s Art the most it’ll see is spray polish and chain oil. Thank you

  12. Fantastic write up, thanks a lot, I feel like getting a KLR as a second bike and maybe make it my ONLY BIKE…I ride a H.D. Pan America S, and yes TONS OF POWER, but very unreliable in terms of engine electronics…always something going on…SAD.
    Cheers and keep it up.
    Thanks a lot

  13. I had a green 2000 KLR650. I had a bottom-end failure when steel scraped off of the inside cylinder walls got into the main bearings and it sounded like a washing machine full of gravel. I had to split the engine to understand what went wrong. I put a later model 2008 bottom-end into the bike (from another poor guy’s engine who had a retention saddle on the cam fail which destroyed his top-end) and kept my top-end. I had to keep the flywheel from the old engine to match ignition timing to the cylinder head (magneto) otherwise it would run absolutely horrible! After rebuild the piston rings lasted 5000 miles. Another top-end rebuild got me 5000 miles further again. I have not known a less reliable motorcycle. If you buy a KLR I would suggest that you immediately do the Doohickey mod and then replace the piston rings with EJ25 2nd oversize Subaru rings. These will fit the piston and cylinder stock size. KLR piston rings are, …well, …ever so slightly better than running without rings.

  14. “Talking with Kawasaki’s quality assurance manager at the press launch, he attributes the “Doohickey” internet mass hysteria to precisely that — internet mass hysteria.”

    That statement alone is enough to dissuade me from this bike. If they think the “doohickey” problem was ‘perception’ rather than reality…they’re delusional.

    What an opportunity KHI missed here.

    • Absolutely agree.
      I am not swallowing Kawas pitch about the doohickey ‘hysteria’.
      Their’s is almost an arrogant stance.
      Kawa have had years to properly fix this long-standing issue.

  15. The author makes a brief comparison between the capabilities of this KLR650 and Ducati Desert Sled, but I can’t find a review on this site for the Desert Sled? Would be great to read an in-depth article here, for a clearer comparison.

    • Hey Bud, so I haven’t officially reviewed a desert sled but I’m sure there’s an article out there but no comparisons. I have riden fully built desert sleds. Ohlines front and back, earl swing arm extensions and woodys 21/18 wheel sets. The DS is much better than the klr ar that point but a good idea would be to buy a T7 over the KLR ar that point

  16. As the owner of a 2010 KLR w/nearly 50 K miles of mostly dirt riding, I feel that you captured the essence of the machine. There is something lovable about a low compression single, especially here in the tight Northeast woods.
    However, I was disappointed that Kawasaki did not widen the gear ratio spread. To have a low first gear for muddy streambeds, it’s tough to also have a comfortable gear for the highway.
    Put a 16t c/s sprkt (std is 15) to make 70 mph more comfortable, but have to slip the clutch and tight stuff, more than I’d like. For a long flat ride across the TLH in Labrador, fitted a 17t to get maximum mileage and comfort. Pulled it OK, but it felt like “Daytona gearing” and changed back to 16 later.
    The Kawasaki rep was a little optimistic about the Doohickey. Mine was shot at 15 K miles, with the spring dangling loose, fortunately it didn’t get sucked into the gearbox.
    Above 5000rpm, a stock KLR does suck oil. Reading the KLR forums shows this a known problem. Feeding the Eagle Mike 685 piston solved it for me, and made the bike run smoother (because the 685 piston is lighter than stock, restoring the original balance which was lost when KHI (crudely) boosted the engine from 600 to 650cc.)
    Long story short, the KLR becomes lovable when a diligent owner does all the little fixes and customizes the bike to one’s own needs.

  17. Mr. Kamrad,
    I enjoyed reading your honest thoughts on the KLR. I owned one many years ago. It never let me down. I’m buying the 2022 model. One thing I won’t miss is having to choke the carburetor.

  18. I have owned five KLRs. The last one was a 2015. I loved every minute of riding. I am an experienced rider who has done enduros and trials and ten years of road racing. You can ride the KLR fast if you want to. Friends were always commenting that they could not get over how fast I rode it. Comfort is an important issue for me. I bought a KTM 690 Enduro R and sold it after a few thousand miles. Great bike but it did not make me happy. I bought another KLR. Riding fast in comfort is rare. I even liked the stock tires but I wore them out very quickly. I wouldn’t ride the KLR on difficult trails but on a dirt road it’s a ton of fun.

  19. I did the same thing had a KTM 690 Enduro R and it did not impress me at all. The most uncomfortable seat on any bike I have ridden and blown around on the highway by every truck passing ! Did not own it very long….. Lol….


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