2018 was a dark year for Kawasaki KLR650 enthusiasts. It was the last year of the much-loved venerable big-bore dual-sport model that debuted in 1987. Many fingers were crossed and spells cast, hoping to bring the KLR650 back to life; they have been successful. The 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 will be in dealers this summer. During its absence, Kawasaki massaged the KLR650 to upgrade it to 2022 tastes, while not losing the essence of this legendary icon. Let’s see what changed, and what stayed the same.
There are four 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 variants. In addition to the standard version, there is the ABS, the Traveler (top case, ABS, power outlets), and the Adventure (side cases, ABS, auxiliary lights, engine guard, tank pad, power outlets, and exclusive Cypher Camo Gray color).
The liquid-cooled DOHC motor is now fuel-injected. This will undoubtedly cause teeth-gnashing among the Luddites. However, Keihin EFI is a proven technology, so we welcome this update with open arms—bye-bye, choke and petcock. The KLR650 gets a 10-hole fine-atomizing injector and 40mm throttle body to feed the 652cc combustion chamber.
The big thumper is massaged for increased midrange power. The KLR650 has new cam timing and a narrower exhaust diameter. There’s an oxygen sensor to improve fuel consumption and reduce emissions. A honeycomb catalyzer keeps the KLR650 on the right side of the government tailpipe-sniffers.
Kawasaki is sticking with a five-speed transmission for the KLR650. There are a few mechanical changes inside the transmission, however. Third gear gets a new shift fork and gear dogs, while fourth and fifth gears get a new finishing treatment. Thrust-needle bearings are now used for the clutch release, replacing ball bearings.
The 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 gets a new swingarm and rear frame. The swingarm is 1.2 inches longer than before, giving the KLR more stability. Matching the longer swingarm is a 2mm-larger swingarm pivot shaft. The rear frame is part of the main frame with the same goal—increased stability.
Suspension settings have been updated, though adjustability remains limited. The KLR650 retains a traditional fork with no adjustments. Springing has been firmed up at both ends, with suspension travel reflecting the ADV shading of the KLR650, rather than dual-sport numbers. The shock is adjustable for spring-preload and rebound damping.
A 300mm front disc is now found on the front wheels. The rear disc is 1mm thicker to improve heat dissipation. There’s a standard KLR650 without ABS—the other three models are ABS-equipped from the factory. The ABS is non-adjustable and non-defeatable.
The Dunlop K750 tires return to action on the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650, with wire-spoke tube-type wheels. They split the difference between ADV and dual-sport. The 17-/21-inch tire combination allows for plenty of options if the K750s don’t suit your style. Kawasaki beefed up the rear rim material, and both axles are larger diameter.
Improving rider comfort is addressed in various ways. The handlebar is 0.4 inches wider, and the footpegs are pushed outboard by 0.4 inches, and they are all rubber mounted. The fuel tank, which carried 6.1 gallons, is new and has increased knee friendliness. The windshield is two inches taller, and can be repositioned another 1.2 inches higher for Interstate runs. Your passenger will notice reshaped grab bars.
The fairing, side cover, tail cowling, taillight, and turn signals are upgraded to modern tastes. LEDs light the way after dark.
The instrument panel is now digital. Dials are gone, and replaced by LCD-displayed numbers.
If someone is coming up behind you, the longer mirror arms will allow you to notice the pursuer sooner.
Kawasaki paid attention to the electrical system. Three’s a new, lighter battery, along with a much stronger generator output—now 26 amps, up from 17. With the new LED headlight, up to 80 watts are available for accessories. The ignition coil is lighter, as is the starter.
The updates to the Kawasaki KLR650 carefully balanced a goal of a low price, while offering noticeable improvements to the motorcycle. Taken as a whole, the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 moves slightly in the direction of ADV over dual sport. That’s perfectly in line with the times, yet the KLR650 remains a genre unto itself, and that’s enough to celebrate its return.
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.