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ADV ProductsSW-Motech’s KLR 650 Crash Bars and Guards Review

SW-Motech’s KLR 650 Crash Bars and Guards Review

Beef up your KLR's toughness with precision engineered crash protection.

Published on 05.01.2015

People often praise the Kawasaki KLR 650 for being a versatile Adventure Bike with better than average off-road performance. But there’s a caveat: The second-generation KLRs have fragile plastic bodywork and minimal off-road protection.

Sure, the stock KLR 650 goes pretty good in the dirt but one light fall can quickly result in a broken lever, hanging turn signals and cracked bodywork. You need to ride with caution in rocky terrain as well, because a solidly planted rock can penetrate the flimsy plastic skid plate and end your day with a cracked case.

Getting your beloved KLR 650 crash bars, wrap-around handguards and an aluminum skid plate is a must if you have any intentions of going off-road. These essential off-road accessories allow you to ride with confidence, in harsh terrain far from home, without worrying about seriously damaging your bike. It’s also nice not having to come home from every ride with body parts dangling off your bike in need of repair.


Having had good experiences with SW-Motech’s line of off-road accessories in the past, we decided to give them a try on our KLR 650 test bike. We liked the heavy-duty design of their KLR 650 crash bars and we were intrigued by their Kobra hand guards with integrated LED turn signals. SW-Motech’s KLR 650 skid plate, with it’s tough 4mm aluminum welded plating, appeared more than capable of guarding our KLR’s vulnerable cases and sump.

KLR 650 sw motech crash bars
The SW-Motech crash bars, handguards and skid plate offer essential protection for your Kawasaki KLR 650.


SW-Motech Handguards with Integrated LED Turn Signals:
Assembling the handguards revealed the precision craftsmanship SW-Motech is known for. Every screw and bolt lined up perfectly and the handguards were installed on the handlebars without any modification. The mounting points on the handlebars have a secure fit that keeps the handguards solidly in place during falls.

Our KLR650 test bike already had a set of oversized 1-1/8″ diameter handlebars which required us to use an oversized handlebar mounting kit to install the handguards. These mounting brackets have an u-shaped channel that allows throttle, clutch and brake cables to be routed unimpeded.

We also installed the optional integrated LED turn signals. The plastic turn signals are well protected with a durable plastic housing, and the LED bulbs don’t use filaments, so they are able to handle big impacts as well. The wiring comes with connectors already attached to make it a plug and play operation. However, LED indicators have a lower wattage than conventional halogen bulbs. Your flashers will flash at a faster rate than usual unless you install a resistor on each turn signal. Our 2008 KLR 650 used the 21w resistor but older KLR’s use the 10w resistor. A simple check of your turn signal bulb’s wattage will tell you which resistors to order.

KLR 650 handguards with blinkers
LED turn signals are integrated into the handlebars with an extremely durable housing.

One issue we encountered with our installation was caused by our previously installed aftermarket rear LED turn signals. If you run LEDs turn signals front and back, the wattage is much lower than the stock halogen bulbs and the flashers pick up interference from the dashboard turns signal indicator bulb. This causes all four turn signals to flash at once.

An easy fix is to remove the indicator bulb on the dash (not the safest) or install a diode on the dash indicator light’s wiring. Check out the forum for more details on the diode installation. Also note that if you run the stock rear turn signals, you will not encounter the problem with all four flashers blinking at the same time.

SW-Motech Skid Plate:
Installing the skid plate was a breeze. We really liked the rubber grommets on each attachment point that help isolate vibration. The skid plate is installed quickly with just four screws. We were impressed with how every bolt lined up perfectly for a precise fit.

The 4mm welded-aluminum skid plate wraps completely around the engine and has the strength to protect against frontal or side impacts. There is also plenty of protection underneath and an oil drain plug hole for easy oil changes.

KLR 650 skidplate
The full wrap-around skid plate provides complete protection from roots, rocks and flying debris. (Photo courtesy SW-Motech)

SW-Motech Crash Bars:
The SW-Motech crash bars are robust. One look at the 27mm steel tubing and you can tell they mean business. There are a total of three mounting points on the frame to help spread the load more evenly and the lower crash bar tubes provide additional protection for the engine side cases. Just like the skid plate and handguards, the SW-Motech instructions were clear and all bolts lined up perfectly.

KLR 650 Crash Bars
The SW-Motech KLR 650 crash bars are solidly mounted to the frame at three points and extend down to the bottom of the bike for added protection from rocks.

Trail Tests

We’ve been testing the SW-Motech crash bars, skid plate and handguards over the last six months under harsh conditions. We started by sending our cameraman to off-road school where the SW-Motech protectors came in handy during countless falls and tip overs. The bike was then put to the test over 2-days of torturous trail riding in the Mojave Desert on the LA-Barstow to Vegas ride. Our KLR 650 also made it through the rocky trails of the Taste of Dakar without issue and many more photo shoot rides over months of testing.

After all the abuse, the handguards, skid plate and crash bars have only minor scratches to show for it. The top crash bar tubing is high enough to protect the upper plastics and strong enough to resist bending inward on impact. The bike still looks great and the LED turn signals continue to work flawlessly with excellent brightness and visibility, day or night.

klr 650 sw motech protection
After six months of abuse, the SW-Motech KLR 650 crash bars, skid plate and handguards had no significant damage other than a few minor scratches.

Product List

Product  Purchase Options  Price $USD
 SW-Motech Skid Plate Twisted Throttle Revzilla $154.99
 SW-Motech Crash Bars Twisted Throttle Revzilla $239.95
 SW-Motech Kobra Handguards Twisted Throttle Revzilla $153.95
 SW-Motech Kobra Handguard LED indicators* Twisted Throttle Revzilla $69.95
 SW-Motech 21W LED Resistors (x 2)* Twisted Throttle Revzilla $20.95
 1-1/8″ Handlbar Mounting Kit* Twisted Throttle $57.95
 Indicator Light Diode* $2.29  
* Optional equipment.

Photo by Bill Lieras

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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Stephen Ogilvie
Stephen Ogilvie
May 3, 2015 8:18 pm

The Sw Motech Engine crash bars I bought for my 2003 KLR were pure crap. The bolts did not line up perfectly and in a less then 10 km/hr fall up hill the left side bar buckled at one joint and tore in half at another. Pure crap, I do not recommend buying these other than for their beefy appearance.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
May 13, 2015 11:19 am

Hi Stephen.

Surprised to hear about your bad experience with the SW-Motech crash bars on the 2003 KLR 650. Our experience was far different with the Second Gen (2008+) KLR 650 crash bars, which have a different design. Was this a recent install? I would expect SW-Motech would offer a refund or replacement if you contact them.

Alec Whitelaw
Alec Whitelaw
May 9, 2015 5:02 pm

Hi, I`m new to your site. However I have a new `14 KLR now with 12000kms. I replaced the std. plastic bash plate with an Oz “B&B”(6mm) one. There are no holes or slots in it as are with the plastic. These I found on forest tracks picked up every twig and branch in sight. I thought of replacing the plastic fairing, partly because I questioned the strength and I think it looks like a pregnant cow from behind. However it does shed rain letting only below the knees get wet. I`m off in two days for something like 14k kms here through the Gibson & Gt. Vic deserts, then north to Arnhem Land. My mate (with a DR650), was with “Norforce” and adopted by an Indigenous family, so we get in where others can`t. It`ll be a once in a lifetime trip. So, the plastic will be sorely tried and we`ll find out if it`s up to it.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
May 13, 2015 11:04 am
Reply to  Alec Whitelaw

Welcome to the website Alec. Sounds like an amazing ride you are going on. Let us know how your new bash plate holds up.

Mike Thompson
Mike Thompson
May 12, 2015 7:40 pm

Got the handguards and crashbars on my KLR 2012. Have taken many hard falls and they’re still going with only a few scratches. Love them!

Lawritz Mann
Lawritz Mann
May 20, 2015 5:41 am

I have the crash bars on my 2011 and they have saved my bike many times. The bars have some scratches in the paint now, but they have stood up to a lot of punishment. I would buy them again.

July 18, 2021 11:09 pm

Hi Mr.Dabney,
Nicely done and written. We’re looking for automotive LED lights dealers, Let me know if you’re interested:
Best regard,
Herman Leung


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