The Kawasaki KLR650 is returning to showroom floors, after being discontinued in 2018. And, Kawasaki’s not bringing the same old bike back; while it’s obviously a descendant of the previous model, the new machine has several key updates for 2022.
First off, the engine is similar to the older model, but with one major upgrade: From what we’ve heard, the infamous “doohickey” has been updated. This was the non-technical term for the Balancer Chain Adjuster Lever, part of the chain balancer assembly that was notorious for breaking, even after fairly low mileage. Savvy riders always replaced Kawasaki’s original welded-together design with an updated part from Eagle Mike or other aftermarket manufacturer (read more about the “doohickey” here). It was the greatest weakness of the original 1987-2007 KLR design, and riders even complained about breakdowns on the 2008-2018 updated model. Now, it’s supposedly fixed.
The single-cylinder engine still uses a four-valve DOHC design, with liquid-cooling. It’s fuel-injected now (the previous generation used a carburetor), and Kawasaki says it makes 40 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 39 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. That’s roughly the same as the old model, and we’d guess it’s basically the same unit, especially as a five-speed gearbox is still standard.
There’s nothing wrong with that; the old KLR wasn’t easily hot-rodded, but that bit thumper still got the job done, hauling riders all over the world at reasonable speeds (and prices!). Supposedly, the new engine has more mid-range grunt thanks to some top-end revisions. It also has a new 26-amp charging system, providing more power for electronic accessories, stuff like foglamps, heated gear, or even just charging mobile phones and other electronics on the road.
The old KLR always had more bodywork than the 650 competition from Suzuki and Honda, and that trend continues. The new KLR650 gets a rally-styled fairing, with modern, angular design. It’s similar to the old Tengai sub-model, and Kawasaki says the new fuel tank underneath that fairing has 23-litre capacity, roughly the same as the old model. The new KLR has an adjustable windscreen; it’s two inches taller than the glass on the 2008-2018 models, and riders can raise it another inch for more wind protection on the highway.
Tucked away inside that fairing, there’s a new LCD speedometer assembly, with fuel gauge, odometer, and trip meters—but no tachometer. The previous version had old-school gauges, and the LCD is a cheap way to look modern, without the expense of a TFT screen. Kawasaki also includes a USB charging port and cigarette plug-style power outlet on the up-specced Adventure model.
The Adventure model also gets auxiliary lighting added as standard, and luggage, crash bars, and a tricked-out camo paint job.
The KLR comes with an LED headlight now. Both versions of the bike get updated handlebars that are a bit wider than the previous model, with new mirror mounts for better visibility. The footpegs are slightly wider as well.
The front brake on previous versions of the KLR was notoriously weak. Kawasaki updated to a 300 mm front brake disc on the new model, with two-piston caliper. There’s a 245 mm disc in back, also with a two-piston caliper. The larger front disc should be an improvement on its own, but Kawasaki also teamed up with Bosch to include a new offroad-friendly ABS system. We haven’t seen anything from Kawasaki that mentions whether or not the ABS can be switched off; it probably can’t, but if it works as well as the Bosch ABS on the smaller KLX230 model, it should be OK for most riders, long as they aren’t doing anything too silly. Otherwise, no doubt the inmates on here will figure a workaround, that lets you hack into the ABS system and disable it …
Kawasaki continues to use a steel dual-cradle frame, but now the subframe is welded on. You can consider this a bad thing, as a welded subframe is expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to repair. Or you can consider it a good thing, considering how many KLR riders broke the subframe mounting bolts in the old two-piece design. That won’t be a problem anymore; again, Kawasaki improved a lot of the little things on this bike with this upgrade. Kawi also put a longer swingarm on the bike, to stabilize handling.
There’s a set of non-adjustable 41 mm telescopic forks, with a Uni Trak-style rear shock, adjustable for preload and compression. Front suspension travel is 200 mm (7.9 in.), rear suspension travel is 185 mm (7.3 in.).
Elsewhere on the bike, Kawasaki put new rubber mounts under the handlebar and footpegs, updated the seat, and made a shorter sidestand so the bike’s easier to mount. Now, seat height is 34 in (870 mm).
In non-ABS trim, the new KLR weighs 456 lb (207) kg at the curb; the ABS version weighs 460 lb (209) kg) at the curb. The Adventure version (crash bars, side cases, power outlets, and foglamps added as standard) weighs 487 lb (221 kg). The US also gets a Travel version, but we haven’t seen a weight for that bike; it’s heavier than the Adventure, though, as it comes with a top case as well.
Kawasaki sells the new KLR650 without ABS for $6,699 in the US, $7,499 in Canada. Add ABS, and you’ll pay $6,999 in the US, or $7,799 in Canada. The Traveler version costs $7,399 in the US and is not available in Canada. The Adventure version costs $7,999 in the US and $9,999 in Canada. Expect to see it in North American showrooms by mid-spring.