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Kawasaki KLE500 Naked Motorbike Review

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Kawasaki KLE500 motorcycle review - Riding
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MCN overall verdict rating is 2

The original Kawasaki KLE500 was made from 1991-1998. Kawasaki’s idea of a parallel twin commuter-cum-trailie then lay dormant for a few years before being reanimated in 2005. It’s hard to see why Kawasaki bothered to be honest. The new KLE500 is uncomfortable, underpowered, uninspiring and uncommonly greedy. You’d be better off with the old Kawasaki KLE500.

Engine

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

The Kawasaki KLE500 DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin struggles to pump out 37bhp, even though it’s almost identical to the older model. That’s because the Kawasaki KLE500 has a battery of three catalysers that suck the life, as well as the emissions, from the motor. Consequently the Kawasaki KLE500 feels flat, lifeless and quite uninspiring. The KLE500 copes with town bound trips reasonably well, though, and the gearbox is unremarkable.

Ride and Handling

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

The standout feature of the Kawasaki KLE500’s handling is the seat. The Kawasaki KLE500 is so thin and so uncomfortable that it’s as if man had suddenly reverted to stone as his principle furniture. Thankfully an unhealthy appetite for petrol means you don’t have to suffer it long. Higher speed braking on the Kawasaki KLE500 provides unwelcome excitement by a combination of a weak single disc brake, the soft suspension and woeful tyres. Kawasaki KLE500 is good at U-turns and light trails, though.

Equipment

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 2.5

Handguards, a bash plate and a luggage rack come as standard on the Kawasaki KLE500, though a taller, aftermarket screen is most welcome should you press the KLE500 (unwillingly) into a touring or longer distance commuting role.

Kawasaki KLE500 (1991-current)

Detail Value
New price £3,995
Used price range View Kawasaki KLE500 bikes for sale to see current asking prices
Engine size 498 cc
Power 47 bhp
Top speed 105 mph
Insurance group 9 of 17
  MCN ratings Owners' ratings
Overall rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Engine rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Ride & Handling rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Equipment rating is 4 rating is 2.5
Quality & Reliability rating is 0 rating is 4
Value rating is 3 rating is 4.5

Quality and Reliability

MCN rating rating is 0
Owners' rating rating is 4

Kawasaki’s older KLE500 is poorly finished, though the new one looks somewhat better. The Kawasaki KLE500 brakes quickly go off if not kept clean and free of grit.

Value

MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 4.5

Suzuki’s DL650 V-Strom aces the Kawasaki KLE500 in terms on crucial criteria like refinement, performance and handling, as does BMW’s F650 and Honda’s XL650 Transalp. The Kawasaki KLE500 is much cheaper, but that doesn’t make it better value necessarily though as a city commuter it’s as good as any of the others. Find a Kawasaki KLE500 for sale.

Insurance

Insurance group: 9 of 17

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Model History

1991-1998: Kawasaki KLE500 made around 50bhp with its ex-GPZ500S motor. Amazingly uncomfortable seat.
2005: Kawasaki KLE500 reintroduced with a weaker performance and the same bone-like seat.

Other Versions

None.

Specifications

Top speed 105 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 15.2 secs
Max power 47 bhp
Max torque 32 ft-lb
Weight 195 kg
Seat height 850 mm
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Average fuel consumption 37 mpg
Tank range 150 miles
Annual road tax
Insurance group 9 of 17
Engine size 498 cc
Engine specification 8v parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Front suspension adjustment None
Rear suspension adjustment Preload
Front brakes 230mm disc
Rear brake 230mm disc
Front tyre size 90/90 x 21
Rear tyre size 140/80 x 17

See all Kawasaki KLE500 motorcycles for sale

Kawasaki
KLE500

10200 miles

£1,595

Kawasaki
KLE500

13461 miles

£1,599

Kawasaki
KLE500

21917 miles

£2,694

Owners' Overall Rating rating is 3.5(8 reviews)

  • KLE 2009

    Anonymous

    Average rating rating is 3.5

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    I've just rode around the UK coastline for charity, 3820 miles roughly in two weeks. There were three of us; the others had a Suzuki Bandit and a new 2013 Triumph Sprint GT both with panniers. Whilst they have a quick pick up on the open roads the KLE smashed them on all other roads from twistys to narrow B-roads, it loved Applecross pass in the highlands, I had to keep slowing down for the others to catch up lol. I didn’t have panniers, just a bag strapped to the back which helped me whip through tight spaces, i.e. hedges and cars around corners!. We were also accompanied by other riders along the way, one had a new Triumph Tiger, I kept up with him without any effort. When I bought it 3 months ago the first thing I did with it was to get an OS map and find some green lanes to see what it was capable off, an hour later I was climbing a muddy hill the local farmer said 'you'll never get up there with that thing snigger' ha! Proved him wrong didn’t I. First time off-road too. It’s simple, no gimmicks like abs blah blah blah, you can make this bike what you want. I'm thinking about Africa at the moment and would be very comfortable taking around the world. I do totally recommend upgrading the lights and reupholstering the seat for long days in the saddle. The trip I've just done, I did drop it a lot due to being knackered but it’s tough as old boots and nothing’s scratched or broke, fitted crash bars but that’s it, awesome bike. See Zen Overland for your Ali panniers, getting my own design made for £250 a pair, yes please.

    20 September 2013

  • 2008 KLE 500

    kevberlin

    Average rating rating is 3.5

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    I nearly dismissed the KLE as a bike option because of the MCN review. I am glad I did not. An old codger told me they were cracking bikes available at sensible money. As soon as I saw one, I liked it as it was different, and to my mind, quite handsome. It stands out from the crowd you might say. I had tried the g650gs and the v strom. The Beemer disappointed while the v strom was good, but somewhat boring. When I rode the Kwak, it's 500 engine reminded of the v strom. There is no clock, centre stand or petrol gauge. The standard seat is awful as it continually threw me forwards into the tank and compromised the otherwise commanding riding position. Other than that I found it be be a little stunner. Great riding position with wide bars. Plenty of go for my needs and easy to ride and steer. It's one of those bikes you should never want to put your feet down at low speed. Handling is fun and the motor sounds great if you open it up. Maintenance is easy and cheap. Mine returns an average of 70mpg. It's good for motorway and local town riding. While he tank is small, I can still do over 200 miles before hitting reserve. Friends have been surprised by it and it has many admirers when I park up. Fifty pounds spent on resulting the seat has sorted that little issue easily. In summary, a cracking bike for very sensible money. Its a bit like owning a grown up CG 125. Cheap transport with plenty of fun. Don't be put off by the MCN review. I think it is nonsense!

    24 September 2012

  • tHUMPERACE

    tHUMPERACE

    Average rating rating is 4

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    I have done 123000km on my KLE500 (1994 model) in Africa,tank is a bit small for the long haul but still over 200km comfortably. It is NOT an uncomfortable bike, in fact I think very comfortable!Smooth and fast enough for touring, but also reasonable in the dirt.Certainly knocks the shit out of a BMW GS650 AND a lot cheaper!

    28 March 2012

  • Great dual purpose bike

    Throttled

    Average rating rating is 4

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    MCN's terrible review of the KLE500 meant I dismissed it as a possible first big bike. That was until I saw one in the flesh and had a chance to ride it. The ride is soft, but I find that very comfortable. I find the handling is fine, but it is not a sports bike and I am not a speed freak. The brakes are not brilliant, MCN got that right. It will sit at 70mph on the motorwway perfectly happily. What it beats many other bikes hands down is coping with bad weather. Its low centre of gravity, wide handlebars and big wheels with dual purpose tyres mean you can ride in rain like there is none there. It is well equiped. I disagree about the discomfort of the saddle, it is not as bad as MCN make out, but I have added a gel seat pad. I am tall, so will eventually get the bigger screen as the standard one puts the air right into my face. Mine is 6 years old and apart from some pitting on the spokes people think it is brand new. There is no doubt that this bike, with a coat of protectorant spray will last for a long time. As a second hand bike it is very good value indeed. The engine is nosy and vibrates a lot and has limited performance. But it is in a lower tax band than most and by reputation is very reliable. I have no idea how MCN only got 35mpg out of it. I can only assume they drove it like it is a sports bike and want it to be a sports bike. Without trying I get 55mpg around town. I love its road presence due to its height and mean looking headlights. I have had cars pull in to let me passed where on the other bikes I have ridden they would have ignored me. Overall, as an analogy I would say that as the the BMW GS1200 is the Landrover Discovery of dual purpose bikes, the KLE500 is the Suzuki Jimny. Tough, cheap, characterful and capable of embarrassing much more exotic competition.

    11 August 2011

  • KLE A1-A5

    sdv9r

    Average rating rating is 3.5

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    I have two of these kle's and one is standard, it's soft and bouncy with a crap front brake very low rear end and not the best thing to ride but not unpleasant. Now the other is completely different and has re-worked suspension front and rear, with gpz 500 wheels and good brakes but it keeps its standard looks as well as engine and exhaust and in this format makes riding a kle so much fun but i digress . It's engine is heavy for a twin but very reliable, this year i have covered 22.000 miles without a hick-up. Seating position is good but the seat can be bum numbing on motorways, with heated grips and a rack to boot value for money it's right in the ball park although it's big downfall for me is the finish, over time it starts to look tatty.If you are tall'ish and want good mpg bike that's a bit different (looks like it can do more than it can)this is for you. A word of warning don't travel over soft ground as the ground clearance is bad and if they get stuck they are heavy to drag out. Have fun.

    04 November 2009

  • Budget bike but so uncomfortable

    paulwt

    Average rating rating is 3.5

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    I purchased the KLE 500 as my return to biking. I was attracted by the size (I am quite tall) and price (£2,750 new). I found the bike a little top heavy but soon got used to that. It was certainly powerful enough for me and the styling was great but that is a personal thing. On the downside the seat wasn't long enough for a pillion and I ended up placing a pad onto the rack for the pillion to move back onto slightly. Also the front brake was very poor and caused a few heart stopping moments. But what finally did it for me was the seat. I could not believe how uncomfortable it could get. I tried cushions and pads to no avail and after one 4 day tour of the UK I eventually gave up and sold the bike. Shame really as other than the seat I would proably have liked the bike a lot. I am sure sintered pads and new brake hoses would ahve cured the front brake problem.

    29 September 2008

  • Budget Big Bike

    turneri

    Average rating rating is 3

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    I have to say that the KLE500 is a reasonable tool for commuting and Sunday rides into the country, and for the price it does what it says on the tin. However, it does have soggy front suspension that dives dramatically under braking, the brakes are a little too weak and unresponsive... and as for the seat, well I last about an hour on it before my bum goes to sleep and I have to get off an walk around a bit! I've found the performance to be adequate for my needs (I'm only a nervous newbie) and the economy is actually very good, as is the rediculously cheap insurance! So in summary, a great bike for those new to bigger bikes or those who want a general hack that does all the things you need it to in a reliable manner. Certainly no superbike, but you wouldn't want a trailie in that case anyway would you...?

    29 March 2007

  • Reliable and fun

    muthaf9cka

    Average rating rating is 3.5

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    This bike may not be to everyone's taste, but it's cheap, reliable and can be good fun if you wring it's neck. Naturally, if you're used to Fireblades and ZZR1400s, then 47 bhp isn't going to set the world alight, but if you live in London and only get outside of London occasionally, then it's near perfect. I travelled to Monza and back on mine and it never missed a bit or let me down. Good for pillions and the seat actually softens up considerably after a few thousand miles. Also, the wide bars mean you can just chuck around corners. The only criticisms I have are the crappy front brakes, the stock tyres and it's a bit thirsty. Other than that, a pretty good bike.

    10 March 2007

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