KAWASAKI KLE500 (1991 - 2007) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
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.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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 vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
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.
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.
|Engine type||8v parallel twin, 6 gears|
|Frame type||Tubular steel cradle|
|Fuel capacity||15 litres|
|Front brake||230mm disc|
|Rear brake||230mm disc|
|Front tyre size||90/90 x 21|
|Rear tyre size||140/80 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||37 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£69|
|Annual service cost||£200|
9 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||47 bhp|
|Max torque||32 ft-lb|
|Top speed||105 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||15.2 secs|
|Tank range||150 miles|
Model history & versions
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.
Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI KLE500 (1991 - 2007)
15 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI KLE500 (1991 - 2007) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Brilliant small engined tourer and easy going. Easy to ride for all skill levels. Good tyres allow the bike to be pushed and can upset a lot of faster bikes when the going gets twisty. Comfortable max cruising speed 80mph at me being 1.73m
Cheap suspension is obvious if going fast. Braking is only just acceptable for fast road riding but perfect for greenlaning.
Bullet proof. Fast enough. Vibe free. Bit thirsty over 75mph.
Nothing breaks and very easy to maintain. Frame has started showing some rust at 13yo and 30k.
I do all my own maintenance so costs are not relative to shop prices.
Absolute basics. But it all works and does not break. Better handlebars are recommended. Better footpegs if you are greenlaning. Plastics are not enduro type so break easily off road.
Buying experience: Private purchase. £1500 advertised. Paid 1500 in 2018.
The best quality: Do-it-all daily ride and occasional weekend green laning. The worst quality: The seat is only good for about 25min of riding.The original handlebars are too rigid. fit braceless bars and remove the buzz from motorway speeds.
Front brake is too weak. Ride quality is very good except for the original seat.
Fast, torquey. Power tails off after 85mph.
After 27.000mls corrosion is showing on the frame and had 2 flat tyres. Nothing else has gone wrong at all.
Home servicing only. Thirsty on fuel when ridden with gusto.
As basic as you can get. Favourite tyres: Heidenau K60 Long life, grippy and genuinely off road capable
Buying experience: Private buy. £1250 in 2017
The most fun you can have on or off-road on a small bike.
Only 4 stars because the front brake is not up to much but the handling is superb, especially if you fit anchee tyres. Regularly scrape bits off the centre stand!
So much better than the big singles, average circa 60+mpg on the original full power bike. Easily able to keep up with sports bikes through the twisties. Later bikes with detuned engine will do up to 75mpg but have less grunt.
Two faults with a KLE: The magnets come off the rotors, but a replacement is available from Electrex. Second, the swing arms rot from the inside, no paint.
Needs a centre stand which you can buy as an extra from Motorrad.
Buying experience: Crap MCN review means the bikes are seriously underrated and thus cheaper to buy. A good early KLE500 with full power can be picked up for under £1k.
Annual servicing cost: £60
The engine is rather dull and the off road capabilities mostly limited, but it's an honest bike that is supposed to perform fairly to all conditions
Vibration prevents long distance trips
The engine is quite dull
Some tiny rust spots appeared in exhaust, in just after two years, apart from tha,t no burden.
Buying experience: I bought it when local dealership offered it as a promotion 30% lower than the new at the time Versys.
Annual servicing cost: £200
very nice bike. value for money
Annual servicing cost: £150
Hugely underrated. I sold a 2004 VStrom 650 to buy my 1991 KLE500 and it's better in every respect. It's lighter and much simpler and just as quick.
Rides very well, long travel suspension and 21" front wheel soak up the potholes and it goes pretty well off road to. Could be viewed as a tad underbraked if ridden hard.
A little gem.
No problems, fit and finish about on par for 1990's give it a going over with the ACF50 and it'll be fine. I've knocked one star off for the mild steel exhaust which needs bi-annual welding to the collector. But to be fair most 1990s bikes had mild steel exhausts.
Absolute peanuts to run. A spin on oil filter is £7, the air filter is washable and screw and locknut tappets can be adjusted in your garage with no need for shims or special tools. There's no need to ever take the KLE to a dealer for service.
One star off because I'd like a temperature gauge, rather than just a warning light.
Annual servicing cost: £400
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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...?
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.