Sometime in late 2007, I walked into a Kawasaki dealership and bought a 2008 KLR 650. The choice was based on unrivaled simplicity and a price tag less than that of a Vespa. All it would have to do was to take me to South America.
If it weren't for some of the new improvements like (finally) usable electrical power, decent headlight, and a stronger front brake, I wouldn't even have considered the KLR.
After traveling on it for 2 years and 42.000 miles, my impressions boil down to this:
- This is the most boring, yawner of a motorcycle I have ever ridden
- Although simplicity can keep it going forever, the build quality is astonishingly poor
Although I dread the thought of traveling to remote areas on a sophisticated, electronics infested machine, I now find myself dreading the KLR even more.
If you'd like to read my detailed observations, please take a look at my long-term ride report on the KLR, and feel free to chime in with your own.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Been riding for about 42 years. Owned about 14 different motorcycles. My favorites were the Yamaha Maxim 750,and the Honda Pacific coast 800. least liked were the BMW F 650, The kawasaki concours. Most boring was the BMW K 75. I also own a Goldwing 1200 for RVing in style and comfort only.
A month ago, I got a 1998 KLR 650 for $ 1500 with 8k miles. Thought I would get a dual purpose machine, since I now live in the Sierra Foothills, in California.
Holly Shhhhit !.... This has to be the most fun I have had on a bike. It is heavy enough for the freeway, lots of torque and fast enough to get away from any traffic.
In the twisties, it is a blast to ride. The enduro suspension absorbs any unexpected potholes or bumps, it is so easy to lean it in the curbs, and very well balanced, even with a full tank of gas.
The bike is completely stock. The only mod I made was to shave some of the foam on the seat, so it would be lower. Starts all the time, the brakes are adequate for any kind of riding, and the maintenance is so easy.
I leave the mechanic alone on all my bikes. Engineers have done their job, no need to reinvent the wheel and mess up a perfectly good running machine. I spend my time riding instead of monkeying, and try to improve my skills with each ride. Still learning at 61 years of age. I never owned a cruiser. These are not motorcycles. They are made for sissies with big butts and beer belleys trying to prove their masculinity on a large and loud machine.
My $ 1500 KLR leaves them in the dust everytime, and having much fun in the process.
I definitely recommend this machine.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
The KLR 650 is one of the most under rated Adventure bikes on the market.
I mean you can piss and moan about the indicator for half a page, but i'm guessing if little things like that can push your buttons then Adventure riding probably isn't your thing, unless you think Adventure riding is just riding up the highway for a couple hundred kay's. But i digress....
After looking around for the perfect adventure bike to do a trip across Australia, I finally came back to the KLR650, sure i test rode the KTM's, BMW's, Transalps, XR's and so on to get a feel for all of these bikes attributes, but the KLR650 always stuck in the back of my mind. There was 2 reasons for this:
1) The Price, very cheap compared to the competitors.
2)The off road handling. This was a large bike with a 21lt tank on the front which still felt like a dirt bike that could be thrown around when in the bush. The other bikes, especially the BMW's felt way to big, heavy an clumsy when it came to the trails.
Look i'm not saying that the KTM's and BMW's aren't great bikes, they are, but to me they just didn't fell right for my riding style.
Since then I have taken the KLR650 from the most eastern point of Australia to the most Western point, straight through the middle, which entailed crossing 3 separate hot and extremely remote deserts to make it across. The harshest environment Australia has to offer. I did this trip with a friend who also rode a KLR650, and we had no back up except for what we could carry on the 2 bikes.
At the start of the Simpson desert we met a guy who was on a DZr400 with all his gear on and he want to join up with us on the desert crossing. This was a last minute decision as he wasn't going to do the crossing alone. As we aproched the first sand dune (about 40ft high) we all decided we had to hit the bottom of the dune at about 100km/h to even come close to reaching the top. I went first hit is at around 110 and slipped an slided to the top, just. The Suzuki was next, a lighter bike but less torque, and she only made 2/3 of the way up, after 3 attempts, and being exhausted from pulling his bike out of the sand and back down, we all decided that it would be better if he didn't attempt the crossing. We did have 600km of desert and over 2500 sand dunes to cross. The Suzuki just didn't have the power to pull the rider and all the gear needed for the crossing, up the dune.
The KlR650, in our mind was the right choice. Reliable, easy to ride, strong and most of all took every thing we could throw at it, and took it well within its stride.
I have also taken this bike on several trail rides with mates and different groups of trail riders who all ride high performance MX bikes. On each occasion I get the usual jokes and laughs as i roll the bike off, "sure you will be able to keep up" "if we loose you, just come back an put the kettle on for us" " are you sure you will be able to ride that where we're going"
But when we get back and after not only keeping up, but staying at the front of the pack, the boys are all extremely impressed that a bike that size can actually be ridden hard, in hard country.
I have taken this bike place I know no BMW would go. As for the Honda 450 or the Suzuki DZ, i agree they are both great bikes and awesome to ride, and would go anywhere the KLR650 would go and you might do it a little easier at times.....
That is until you start putting extra weight on the bike. Unfortunately thats what starts to let these smaller bikes down. You see "Gracie" it's not all about going quick and chucking mono's anymore, in Adventure riding its about torque. Torque to carry you and your camping gear, water, food, tools up sharp 40ft sand dunes, steep lose hill climbs, running river crossings. As well as having the legs to sit comfortable on the highway at 110km/h for hours on end with all that extra gear.
As for the technology, once again I agree with "Gracie" it's no the newest design on the block with the latest tweeked parts... Instead Kawasaki have stuck with the reliable choice, the one that they know works and works well, and because it isn't full of all the latest bells and whistles, it is a lot easier to work on and maintain on the side of the track when there is only you to get yourself back on the road...This is a very important thing to consider when doing long trips in remote areas, you have to use what you have out there and be able to clean fuel blockages and change tyres in the bush. Sometimes more isn't always better.
Thats why the KLR650 is a true Adventure bike in my eyes. It is reliable, it's comfortable taking all your gear, sitting on the highway for thousands of Kilometer's and then still getting off road and going pretty much anywhere you want to take it. Now thats how you define Adventure!!
Over-rated commuter somehow labelled as an Adventu
The KLR is a bike which was dated some time before it was built. Therefore the engine barely develops enough power to drag its flimsy chassis along but if you're willing to plan ahead with a view to getting anywhere then maybe it's not the worse bike in the world.
My biggest gripe is the indicator switch for reason which will become apparent when I explain this apparently odd statement. The indicator switch is a rocker you have to push to the way you want to turn and then push it back to the middle. This is the worst arrangement I have ever seen on a bike not made in America. Why they did this is a mystery when every other contemporary motorcycle has a push to cancel button. It makes the bike awkward to control and while cornering. This always struck me as a half-arsed cobbled together arrangement which is a feeling i got about every are of the bike and this is why I hated the indicator switch most.
The bike is a typically Kawasaki machine in that it fills a gap in the market that everyone else is doing better. None of the parts are built to do this job, they just seem to be borrowed from other bikes and it's enough for Kawasaki that they have a bike to sell and it's nothing that anyone can be truly proud of. Off road as on road it's functional enough but underpowered and unsatisfying and does what it does just barely well enough to call it competent, never good, just indifferent.
I strongly recommend never doing anything remotely out of the realms of mundane as a single stair climb in the woods shredded my chain and sprockets and tore the underside of the frame to bits. The frame finish is wafer thin and once its gone the metal dissolves away underneath so paint damage is a big deal.
Add to this the choice of colours that go from bad to worse and this adds up to a bike that should be bought only if found very cheap. There are better bikes, the DR range and Honda XR are better for the money and more modern machines outpower, outhandle and bring a bigger smile. A lot of people swear by these but people are odd things. I would not bother if I were you. Save your money and buy something better.