KAWASAKI GIVES THE KLR 650 A TIMELY MAKEOVER

Kawasaki KLR650 with fog lights and crash bars in camo finish
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Kawasaki elects to refine instead of redesign the KLR 650

The epitome of a successful model, Kawasaki’s KLR650 was born to the world in 1984 and has seen little attention from the engineers that birthed it since that time.

In 2008, Kawi decided to give the KLR a little love and made some changes to the engine, the forks jumped from 38mm to 41mm units, a new swingarm was fitted and dual-piston brakes were fitted both front and back. A new seat and fairing plus an improved headlight rounded the modest but appreciated updates to a bike that was already 21 years old. 

WHAT’S NEW IN THE ENGINE?

A fair bit, but it’s still very much the same engine. Fuel injection is the big shift here but interestingly, Kawasaki claims the bike meets Euro4 emission standards but doesn’t mention Euro5, which is very much a concern for current model bikes coming out of all major factories right now.     

  • A 10-hole fine-atomizing fuel injector sprays 60 µm droplets, which contributes to efficient air-fuel mixing for efficient combustion.
  • Both intake and outlet cam profiles have been revised, improving midrange torque characteristics.
  • Exhaust pipe diameter reduced from ø42.7 mm to ø35 mm, contributing to improved mid-range torque characteristics in the speed range used in everyday riding.
  • Updates to the clutch (clutch release bearings have been changed from ball bearings to thrust-needle bearings) and transmission (revised 3rd gear dogs (and shift fork), change from hob finishing to shaved finishing for 4th and 5th gears) offer increased reliability.
  • The electrical output has been increased from 17 A to 26 A. With the new LED headlight drawing less power, a total capacity of 80 W is available to power accessories (depending on usage).
  • A maintenance-free battery adds to the convenience and weighs significantly less (4.7 kg >> 3 kg).
  • Revised starter, ignition coil and evaporator canister are all lighter.
  • The newly added honeycomb catalyzer ensures Euro4 exhaust emissions and noise regulation requirements are met.

WHAT’S NEW WITH THE CHASSIS?

Integrating the subframe with the main frame is an interesting move. It will be stronger than the old set-up but if you do damage it, then it can’t be easily replaced like most modern subframes. That said, the chance of a KLR loop-out is somewhat slim. Extending the swingarm by 30mm will change the way the bike feels over the previous model.

  • Rear frame is now integrated with the main frame.
  • Swingarm was extended by 30 mm.
  • Swingarm pivot shaft diameter was increased from ø15 mm to ø17 mm

WHAT’S NEW WITH THE SUSPENSION?

KLR suspension is what it is. It’s not terrible but it’s not great. It’s done so many miles that there are plenty of guys with tuning tricks up their sleeve. 

  • Front and rear suspension settings have been revised to match the frame changes.

WHAT’S NEW WITH THE BRAKES, WHEELS AND TYRES?

It’s worth reminding ourselves here that the KLR runs a 21/17” wheel set and having that 21” front is a bonus in the dirt. 

  • A larger (ø280 mm >> 2 ø300 mm) front brake disc delivers stronger braking power. A change from petal disc to round disc
  • ø240 mm rear brake 3-disc is 1 mm thicker, offering increased heat dissipation under braking. Matching the front, it too is now a round disc,
  • Models now fitted with ABS.
  • Stronger material for rear-wheel rim delivers improved torsional rigidity and increased durability.
  • Larger-diameter axle shafts (front: ø15 mm >> ø17 mm; rear: ø17 mm >> ø20 mm

WHAT’S NEW WITH THE ERGOS?

The old seat wasn’t as bad as the DR650s is, but a more comfortable perch is always appreciated.

  • Fine-tuned handlebar and footpeg positions (each move 10 mm outwards) put the rider in slightly more relaxed position.
  • Handlebar and footpegs are now rubber-mounted, reducing vibration.
  • The new, 23-litre, large-volume fuel tank offers a more natural fit with the rider’s knees.
  • The new windshield is 50 mm taller and now features two-position, bolt-on adjustability that allows the height to be increased a further 30 mm.
  • Revised seat shape, suppler seat leather, and urethane optimised for thickness and firmness all contribute to increased ride comfort. Rubber dampers added under the seat further contribute to ride comfort.
  • Pillion grab bars have been reshaped for an easier hold.
  • Side stand shortened by 30 mm, making it easier to deploy when sitting on the bike.

WHAT’S NEW WITH THE BODY?

Out with the analogue and in with the LCD. It’s not fancy but it’s a decent looking unit and goes a long way to modernising the bike’s appeal.

  • All-digital instrument 17 panel offers at-a-glance information care of a large display easy-to-read LCD screen with white backlighting.
  • Rearward field of vision improved thanks to longer mirror arms.
  • Revised, upright-style rear flap adds to the adventure image while catching spray coming off the rear wheel.
  • Pearl Sand Khaki and Cypher Camo Gray colours were purposely selected to highlight the machine’s toughness.
  • Black coated rims contribute further to resilient styling.
  • Textured graphics on plastic parts add a modern taste.

WHAT DO YOU GET ON THE ADVENTURE MODEL?

Kawasaki is offering an Adventure model with a few more bits and pieces fitted and a groovy camo graphics kit. The Fog lamps and accessories sockets are always handy too.

Fog lamps

Panniers

Frame sliders

DC and USB sockets.

ACCESSORY CHECK

Kawasaki is offering a decent array of optional extras for the KLR, some of which appear as standard on the Adventure model.

Exclusive luggage

Grip warmers

LED fog lights

Low seat

Frame sliders

DC socket

USB socket

DID THEY GET IT RIGHT?

Yes and no. It weighs more than the previous model. Like…up to 20 kilos more. That’s a lot of weight to put on a bike that isn’t gifted any significant power gain from an already modest horsepower base.  The ABS is not switchable and it still doesn’t have a sixth gear.

But, Kawasaki has elected to keep a reliable and it must be remembered, successful recipe intact. If it were to build a modern adventure bike, then the KLR is far too antiquated a base to start from so why try to morph it into something completely different?  The Versys package is a better base, but they sell too so why mess with them? Well, because a lot of us want to ride a Kawi off into the dusty sunset with our mates who are on KTMs and Yamahas and Hondas and BMWs and so on. If you’re a Kawi fan, that’s the dream. The KLR 650 is a capable bike, it’s just a little mellow and a little docile. It’s now heavier and doesn’t that highway gear. But it is comfortable and reliable and extremely good value. Kawi hasn’t gifted the world a new adventure bike, just freshened up an old favourite. The 2022 model will arrive sometime in mid-2021. Cost is yet to be announced. In the meantime, we like the look of that Adventure package.