is, of course, soft on any substantial bumps, and it dives
even in hard braking. The front isn’t adjustable, and even
though the rear has adjustable preload, it’s inaccessible
without removing some body work and emissions parts.
There are several companies that make shocks for the
Kawasaki, but the travel is still limited to around 8 inches.
We wouldn’t go crazy trying to make the KLR into a dirt
bike anyway. It is what it is. The Honda and Suzuki 650s
are always going to be better off-road; the Kawasaki is
always going to be better on the street.
WHAT MAKES IT A KLR
There aren’t many bikes that give you so much stuff
for the money. Several things make the KLR different
from any other bike. The first is the frame-mount fairing.
It’s amazing how much wind protection it provides. The
old fork-mounted one was too close to the rider to be of
much use, and if you try to put a windshield on a DR, XR
or Terra, you have the same problem; none are as good
screens that give you more protection yet.
That 6.1-gallon fuel tank is great, too. The bike just goes
and goes between gas stops, and often that makes the
KLR a fuel tanker for other machines. The old-fashioned
petcock (with a 1-gallon reserve) makes it easy to drain
fuel into a roadside Coke bottle to rescue other bikes.
Kawasaki also saw fit to give the bike one of the greatest
cargo racks in the business. It’s a solid platform in its own
right, and it makes a great mounting place for aftermarket
luggage. And that brings up the final piece of the puzzle.
The KLR has been around so long that there is a long,
long list of cool items available.
We like the KLR so much that we’re always scouring
Craigslist for one to keep after Kawasaki calls for the
return of the current test bike. They’re tough to find. A new
one sells for $6499, and you rarely see a 2008 or later version for less than $4000. Earlier models are around $3000
if they run. That means that a new KLR is still as good a
deal as it was 25 years ago. ;
The SW Motech on-/off-road pegs are
convertible, so you can have the rubber
cushion or not.
Kawasaki sells soft saddlebags that mount
easily on the KLR. The price is $180.
Most of Twisted Throttle’s business is
selling KLR parts to adventure riders. We
installed a set of their crash bars and footpegs. Go to www.twistedthrottle.com.
The greatest thing about the KLR is its price. There’s no
motorcycle that offers so much for so little. The problem is
that you can make that advantage null and void by spending
too much before you get the bike off the showroom floor. It’s
easy to do; with luggage and suspension modifications alone,
you can spend the purchase price of the bike all over again.
We addressed a few issues with our KLR. First, it needed
luggage. It turned out that the best deal was right in
Kawasaki’s own parts and accessories department. Soft sad-
dlebags from Kawasaki sell for $180. They are made from a
rubberized material that is somewhat waterproof and they
mount with Velcro straps. These aren’t heavyweight luggage
by any means. You can’t carry tools or anything big, but
clothing is no problem. Next, we went to Twisted Throttle for
a little crash protection. The KLR is a big motorcycle that can
destroy itself if you lay it down—even gently. Twisted Throttle
designs crash bars and engine protectors that are manufac-
tured by SW Motech. They sell for $239.99.
The most embarrassing stock parts on the KLR are the
footpegs. They aren’t much more than spikes. Again, we
looked to Twisted Throttle and got a set of SW Motech
on/off road pegs. These have a rubber center for road riding. Once you get to the dirt, the rubber pad can be
removed to reveal a motocross-style peg. The price: $159.
Then we installed a set of heated grips from A’ME.
The hardest thing about equipping the KLR is knowing
when to stop. There are a million items tested and ready to
go. In truth, most KLRs are a work in progress, being built
slowly from year to year. Somewhere out there, there’s
probably a 1987 model that’s almost finished by now.
THE WELL-DRESSED KLR A few items for the trip