2015 Kawasaki KLR650

KLR_Opener
Greener Pastures: It might not have as many buttons as the Intergalactic Space Station but the Kawasaki KLR650 is a very worthy adventure bike.
Story & photography Matt Bernard

The adventure market is one that’s growing fast and highly populated with quality motorcycles. There are so many choices, most with bucketloads of bells and whistles, grip warmers and adjustable seats, it’s all-impressive and perfect for Joe the Gadget Man.

With so many bikes, sometimes it’s easy to forget the entry-level motorcycles in the market. One of them is the Kawasaki KLR650R, which isn’t the bells-and-whistles adventure machine but a solid motorcycle that gets the job done.

I live at the near the Blue Mountains and all around me is trail heaven. However, it’s also a very polite neighbourhood and I can’t imagine the locals being too stoked on me blasting the bush on a 450. But I fired up the quietly purring Kawasaki and cruised down my street with a wave to my neighbour — this is off-road motorcycle riding for the gentleman.

I pulled into the coffee shop just down the road for a quick latte before heading into the bush. The team at Kawasaki had fitted a tank bag to the bike — perfect for the phone and wallet — and I was able to strap my camera bag to the Kawasaki’s rear rack — plenty of room — for a few hours of adventure riding to test out the Kawasaki’s capabilities.

Adventure riding is all about the journey, not the destination. The overnight camps, amazing views, breathtaking trails and good ol’ mateship. The beauty of it is you don’t need to ride for days on end; some of the most amazing rides can be done in a day or two from your local city. So get out and get into it!

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Inside the KLR

The minute you sit on the Kawasaki, you’re presented with a very polite motorcycle. The seat is soft and for 2015 is narrowed towards the front and wide at the rear. This makes for a comfortable standing position without losing a plush seat.

Up front you’ll find 41mm front forks, which were updated in 2014 to include stiffer springs, increased oil height and revised settings. The 2014 revisions didn’t end at the front boingers — the rear shock also received a stiffer spring and strong damping, which help with carrying luggage and promote better off-road handling.

In front of your face is a fairly large screen, which is nice and wide but could be taller. Beneath are the analogue speedometer and tachometer, trip meter and water temperature gauge. It’s dated looking but fairly easy to read.

There’s no hiding the mega-tank on the KLR: its 22-litre capacity ensures you get a seriously long ride in before heading to the local BP, which makes this bike a very efficient tourer and commuter.

The Kawasaki KLR650R is powered by a reliable liquid-cooled 651cc four-stroke engine which is easy to ride and LAMS approved.

Let’s Ride

Now, before we go any further with this test ride. I need to make a point regarding the price of the KLR650R. You can pick one up for just over eight grand — $8099, to be exact — so, if you’re going to compare this bike to the likes of a BMW 1200GSA, you’re in the wrong ball park. It’s at the entry level of the spectrum, a competitor to the DR650 and V-Strom 650.

The engine itself is quite mild. It’s a chugger — quiet and smooth to shift. You get from A to B in a smooth fashion but not a fast one. Still, it’s plenty enough to get to 100km/h and sit at a pretty low rpm, making for a comfortable and smooth ride.

The suspension is still quite soft, especially when you get on the picks pretty hard. It dives initially but isn’t too unsettling nor unsafe.

The riding position is fairly cramped; it definitely needs a higher set of handlebars and some bar risers. The standing position had my hands pretty low and fatigued my back fairly quickly when hitting the dirt. The rubber-mounted foot pegs are OK on the tar but sketchy on the dirt — they need to go, for sure.

Overall, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about the KLR650 when you put it all into perspective. It’s a value-for-money machine and a great introduction to the world of adventure riding. Being LAMS approved as well, it makes a great commuter when first getting a road licence. With a few accessories and upgrades this bike will get you a long way off road.

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KLR Q&A

What changed in the 2014 41 mm fork settings?

Changes to the front suspension include the oil height, spring rate and stronger rebound damping.

What’s changed in the 2014 rear suspension shock absorber settings?

The Uni-Trak rear shock absorber has a stiffer spring and stronger rebound damping.

What’s the effect of these suspension changes?

Suspension changes to better suit on road riding situations as well as heavier loads also contribute to the increased ride comfort and improved handling.

What are the 2015 KLR650 colour options?

Metallic Flat Raw Graystone with Ebony or Candy Lime Green with Ebony.

What’s the size of the large rear rack?

The rear rack is approximately 305mm long and 297mm wide.

What type of swingarm is used on the KLR650?

Aluminium D-Section.

What are the 2015 KLR650 colour options?

Metallic Flat Raw Graystone with Ebony or Candy Lime Green with Ebony.

What is the curb mass?

194kg.

 

Specs: Kawasaki KLR650

Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, single-cylinder

Capacity: 651cc

Bore/stroke: 100mm×83mm

Compression ratio: 9.8:1

Fuel system: 40mm Keihin CV carburetor

Transmission: Five-speed

Final drive: Chain

Clutch: Wet

Frame type: Tubular steel semi-double cradle

Front suspension: Telescopic 41mm fork, non-adjustable, 200mm travel

Rear suspension: Uni-Track monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound, 185mm travel

Front brakes: Single 280mm petal disc with twin-piston caliper

Rear brake: Single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper

Wheels: Spoked

Tyres: Dunlop Trailmax

Sizes: Front 90/90-21, rear 130/80-17

Claimed kerb weight: 194kg

Seat height: 890mm

Wheelbase: 1480mm

Fuel capacity: 22.1L

Price: $8099

Warranty: 24 months, unlimited km

KLR-(4)

Damien Ashenhurst
About Damien Ashenhurst 1582 Articles
Damien is the editor who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty at the track and on the trails.