KAWASAKI KLR650 (1987-2002) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Comfortable, grunty, quiet and reliable"

Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding

"Comfortable, grunty, quiet and reliable"

  • At a glance
  • 651cc  -  42 bhp
  • 53 mpg  -  160 miles range
  • Insurance group: 8 of 17
    Compare insurance quotes now
  • High seat height (870mm)
  • Suitable for A2 licence

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

There’s nothing quite so surprising as something utterly unremarkable. And so it is with the Kawasaki KLR650 – it’s comfortable, grunty, quiet and reliable. Forget your fancy-pants BMW R1200GS' - providing you can live with adjusting and lubing a chain the Kawasaki KLR650 is at least as good at overlanding and a mere fraction of the price.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki KLR650's suspension is soft and, typical of most trail-style motorcycles, colossal fork dive buggers up the braking. It’s nothing that can’t be assuaged with some stiffer fork springs and/or thicker oil, but fundamentally the suspension/braking package is budget that works better off-road. The Kawasaki KLR650's rear brake’s not quite ineffectual.

Engine 4 out of 5

There’s nothing particularly special about the Kawasaki KLR650's 4v DOHC motor; it feels lazy and doesn’t particularly care for speeds above 85mph. But the Kawasaki KLR650 is torquey, flexible, reasonably free of intrusive vibration and dependable. The ratios in five-speed gearbox are well-spaced, the action is smooth and it wears well.

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

Kawasaki KLR650 clutches are a bit weak and you’ll need to keep the switches doused in WD40 to prevent them corroding. Chain tensioners on the Kawasaki KLR650 are fragile and have been known to break – the aftermarket can supply more reliable kit. If you use the KLR650 to carry heavy luggage it’s worth replacing the subframe mountingbolts with high tensile steel items – the stock stuff is of very poor quality.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki KLR650 is excellent value and much cheaper than BMW’s comparable BMW F650GS. Find a Kawasaki KLR650 for sale.

Insurance group: 8 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki KLR650 underplays its hand as a round-the-world contender with no centrestand, fixed rubber blocks on the footpegs and no official hard luggage. All of which can be fixed on the aftermarket thankfully along with colossal 30-litre tanks. The Kawasaki KLR650's charging system is a bit weedy, throwing out around 12 amps, which will limit your ability to plumb in heated vests and a GPS.

Owners' Reviews

3 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI KLR650 (1987-2002) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KAWASAKI KLR650 (1987-2002)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.7 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.7 out of 5
Engine 4.7 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3.7 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.7 out of 5
Equipment 3.3 out of 5
4 out of 5

Just for me

23 January 2010 by jasukas

I was looking for a dual purpose with a very limited budget. Now I am a proud -97 KLR owner. Handling and engine are very nice. It is so narrow. Only things I don't like are difficulties with maintenance, take off the seat and petrol tank. However it... Read more is easier with KLR than with KLE. Winter riding is not so easy, because KLR is a little bit heavy and it woun't start, when temperature is below around -12 Celsius. I have spike tyres to make life a little bit easier (safer). Need to learn to ride too. Cheers Jyrki Finland

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
2 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

I know what I like

23 November 2008 by vitesse7749

Been in the saddle 44 years, I have toured, commuted, ran wild etc. After 38 bikes and my present rides I got hold of an 06. I've always loved the big single for it's simplicity and narrowness and flickability. This is a fabulous machine. No it... Read more won't do a ton comfortably. It will scoot at fun speed and with proper rubber will corner as well as most . The way the power comes on when held it torque through the cogs is very enjoyable. If you want one, ride it first, they are a cult bike because there is a distinct character to the beast. It is a machine that will handle off road for the mild to mid talented adventurer. I t is so easy to work on if it requires. It rarely does. Fill and go. Tour at LEGAL motorway speed, green lane at just up to the edge of grip envelope and pull off into that farm or forest road with aplumb. The problem with most bike reveiwers is that always compare unlike for unlike. This is not a VMax , an R1, VFR and on. It isn't even an F650. It fits in one catagory, the KLR650 one. All bike have their place and all riders have their bikes. Don't be put off by "it won't do this as good as...." It does everything as good as you'd like if you like it. Amen

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

I know what I like

23 November 2008 by vitesse7749

Been in the saddle 44 years, I have toured, commuted, ran wild etc. After 38 bikes and my present rides I got hold of an 06. I've always loved the big single for it's simplicity and narrowness and flickability. This is a fabulous machine. No it... Read more won't do a ton comfortably. It will scoot at fun speed and with proper rubber will corner as well as most . The way the power comes on when held it torque through the cogs is very enjoyable. If you want one, ride it first, they are a cult bike because there is a distinct character to the beast. It is a machine that will handle off road for the mild to mid talented adventurer. I t is so easy to work on if it requires. It rarely does. Fill and go. Tour at LEGAL motorway speed, green lane at just up to the edge of grip envelope and pull off into that farm or forest road with aplumb. The problem with most bike reveiwers is that always compare unlike for unlike. This is not a VMax , an R1, VFR and on. It isn't even an F650. It fits in one catagory, the KLR650 one. All bike have their place and all riders have their bikes. Don't be put off by "it won't do this as good as...." It does everything as good as you'd like if you like it. Amen

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
Read all 3 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1987
Year discontinued 2002
Original price -
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 8 of 17
Annual road tax £81
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 42 bhp
Max torque 45 ft-lb
Top speed 94 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 14.8 secs
Average fuel consumption 53 mpg
Tank range 160 miles
Specification
Engine size 651cc
Engine type 4v single, 6 gears
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 870mm
Bike weight 168kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Twin mm discs
Rear brake 220mm disc
Front tyre size 120/70 x 218
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 18

History & Versions

Model history

1987: Kawasaki KLR650 introduced.
1995: Kawasaki KLR650 gets improved front forks, engine, crank and clutch.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Engine
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Engine
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle review - Side view
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