Kawasaki’s KLR650 is the crocodile of the motorcycle world. It survived motorcycling’s mass extinction
of the ’80s, endured the icy economy of the ’90s and
withstood financial upheaval in the 2000s. It was bullied by serious dirt bike riders, ignored by street guys
and abused by commuters. And it’s still here. What’s
more amazing, it’s having its own little renaissance. The
KLR650’s day has finally come, and it’s getting more
respect and more attention than ever. It is today’s best-selling dual-sport bike, and it’s about time.
The most popular adventure
bike in the world
We’re as guilty as anyone. Up until about 2008, we
ignored the bike like everyone else. It wasn’t a dirt bike
and had been around so long it was like wallpaper in
the Kawasaki line. Two things happened in ’08: The
KLR changed for the first time in decades. And then we
The arrival of big adventure bikes from BMW and KTM
suddenly made us look at the Kawasaki in a different light.
It really was a dirt bike by those standards. The redesign
in 2008 was certainly important, but the KLR’s place in the
market was much more significant.
In its soul the KLR is the same thing it’s always been—
it’s a mildly tuned, liquid-cooled, DOHC 650 with technology from the early ’80s. It was built on a budget with inexpensive bars, brakes and wheels. There’s no fuel injection,
no electronic suspension control, no anti-lock braking and
no traction control. But, it has four key features that make
First, there’s a frame-mount fairing that came along in
2008. Prior to that it had a much smaller fairing that wasn’t
half bad, either. Next, it has a 6.1-gallon fuel tank that can
carry you as far as 300 miles. Then there’s a big luggage
rack that provides a sturdy platform for luggage and accessories. And, most important of all, it has a $6499 price
tag—still. You can buy three KLRs and a used grand piano
for the price of a well-equipped BMW R1200GS Adventure.