After dropping it from the lineup for three model years, Kawasaki brings back the wildly popular KLR650 for 2022. Kawasaki introduced the KLR650 in 1987 and last updated it in 2008. This much-loved mid-sized, single-cylinder dual-sport motorcycle receives many improvements and certainly satisfies a renewed interest in affordable, multi-purpose motorcycles with ADV styling. It’s back in three flavors—the standard KLR650, the KLR650 Traveler, and KLR650 Adventure.
We tested the 2022 KLR650 Adventure, not the standard KLR. The Adventure model gets hard Shad side cases, engine guards, LED fog lights, and two powered sockets (DC and USB) that put out a total of 80 watts.
The most noticeable change is to the venerable liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, dual-counterbalanced 652cc engine is the move to EFI. Yes, the 40mm Keihin constant velocity carburetor is history. Adding EFI required a fuel pump located at the bottom of the tank, an oxygen sensor mounted in the exhaust pipe, and an ECU to precisely control the fuel delivery to pass emissions standards. The changes haven’t made the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650’s motor any faster, but it could provide a basis for the development of aftermarket ECU map modifications—you know, for closed course use only.
The transmission is a lightly upgraded version of the five-speed it has had for 35 years. Shifting is smooth, with improvements in the gear dogs and shift fork. The clutch bearings are changed from ball to thrust-needle. In technical off-road sections, you’ll feel a wide gap between first and second gear. On the pavement, the gear spacing is just right.
The new 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 is nearly 25 pounds heavier than its predecessor, and that isn’t solely due to the EFI system. The KLR650 gained a few pounds to increase swingarm and frame rigidity. The frame has more gusseting, the swingarm is extended 1.2 inches and strengthened, the swingarm pivot shaft is larger, the axles are beefed up, the brake discs are larger, and the subframe is no longer removable.
The result is a 456-pound standard non-ABS KLR650 with its 6.1-gallon fuel tank topped off. I tested the 487-pound Adventure edition, which adds the weight of the 21-liter Shad hard saddlebags and frame mount, frame sliders (engine guards), LED fog lights, and tank pad. You won’t notice the added poundage until you are picking the motorcycle up from a spill.
The extra chassis weight pays off in a more-stable KLR650. The 2022 feels much steadier on both street and dirt, which is well worth the additional weight.
In addition to gusseting the frame, Kawasaki kicked out the KLR’s rake by two degrees to 30 degrees and lengthened the trail by 0.4 inches. Additionally, the wheelbase is 2.3 inches longer than the previous KLR, and now measures a roomy 60.6 inches. The result is a much more confident motorcycle in a straight line, on- and off-road.
Suspension remains basic on the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650. The non-adjustable 41mm fork offers nearly eight inches of travel, and the rear wheel has a bit over seven inches of linkage-assisted travel. The shock is adjustable for rebound damping and spring-preload, which will help compensate for a passenger and loaded bags. Fortunately, Kawasaki engineers got the base settings right, and both ends absorb hits on the tarmac and fireroads well—natural places to ride the KLR650.
The shortcomings of the suspension will show up if you push too hard off-road. The rear shock will bottom out first in g-out. The rear can shutter under acceleration in stutter bumps, and you can’t adjust that out.
The Dunlop K750 tires are an ancient design dating back to the 1900s, and unique to the KLR650. All things considered, the K750s are a decent compromise between street and dirt. However, if you hit wet or muddy terrain, the gaps between the knobs are quickly filled. The best strategy is to remove the bias-ply tube tires before riding the bike and install modern rubber that meets your specific needs. Street guys will look closely at the ADV-style Shinko 705 rubber, while off-roaders will be attracted to the classic Dunlop D606. You can either sell the K750s right away, or hold them until you sell the bike. The latter isn’t a great plan if you’re planning on keeping your KLR for a decade or two, which you might end up doing.
Even with the stock tires, the KLR650 is an able canyon companion. It takes a bit of bravery and exploration to find the limits in the corners, as the tall KLR has plenty of cornering clearance. For causal riding through the twisties, there’s no drama, and the KLR’s handling is intuitive. The increased stability of the chassis adds confidence in corners, as well as on straights.
Long-distance touring riders will be kept aware of the big single’s limitations. Passing on high-speed two-lane highways requires planning. You won’t just twist the throttle and fly by the cars. Top speed is maybe 90 mph, and it takes a while to get there. Also, mileage plummets when cruising at 80 mph on an upright, as there’s plenty of wind resistance, even with the new fairing and windscreen.
Kawasaki has improved the braking on the 2022 KLR650 to handle its increased weight. The front disc is 20mm larger—now a full 300mm disc—and the rear is 1mm thicker to prevent overheating. The Adventure and standard versions are available with or without ABS, with ABS standard on the Traveler. I tested both the ABS and non-ABS versions, and the ABS system is not intrusive—primarily on-road riders should spend the extra $300.
The ergonomics on the new KLR650 have been updated to 2022 standards. The new seat is comfy and wide for adventure riding, thanks to a new shape, a more pliant seat cover, and new foam. Bars, grips, and footpegs are isolated in vibration-eliminating rubber—even the seat is rubber-damped to keep frame vibrations from reaching the rider.
The Adventure model’s Shad hard(ish) plastic 21-liter side cases are slim, yet large enough for weekend excursions. Due to their flexibility, there’s a bit of a learning curve to open, close, remove, and install the side cases—the hinges could be more rigid. However, once past that, they’re easy to use. They’re also durable—one survived an off-road crash and detachment. Annoyingly, a one-key system for the bags and ignition is a $50 option, rather than being part of the Adventure package. Add the rear-rack mounted 43-liter Shad top case, top case panel, fitting kit, and one-key system ($325 total) for those longer expeditions. The rear case is standard on the Traveler version, which lacks the side cases.
Kawasaki updated the dash, though not quite to the latest standards. There’s no fancy color TFT screen. Still, the new LCD screen provides a speedometer, odometer, the essential fuel gauge, clock, and dual trip meters, though no tachometer. You even get a smaller, lighter, and more compact sealed 8Ah battery. The generator now produces an improved 26 amps.
The Cypher Camo Gray graphic treatment looks mean, is exclusive to the Adventure edition, and is one of the better styles in years. The Pearl Sand Khaki (standard KLR only) and Pearl Lava Orange (standard and Traveler editions) also look great.
The price for the non-ABS base 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 is $6699. That’s a good price for an entry-level adventure bike. Quick big-singles comparisons are the Honda XR650L ($6999), Suzuki DR650S ($6799), and KTM 690 Enduro R ($11,999), though these three models and the KLR650 are all definitely distinctive and not chasing identical buyers. The KLR650 Adventure in this test has an MSRP of $7999. If you don’t want ABS, knock $300 off the price.
Kawasaki’s “Escape. Explore. Envy.” motto for the KLR650 tells the story. The 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 lets you escape and explore, with the Envy created by impressing others when you take it where many others don’t. It’s been working since 1987, and works better than ever 35 years later.
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast — Motos and Friends. My name is Arthur Coldwells.
Motos and Friends is brought to you by the 2023 Suzuki Hayabusa. This legendary Sportbike is the quickest, most technologically advanced and aerodynamic Hayabusa ever. Head into your local Suzuki dealer now, or visit suzukicycles.com to learn more.
In this week’s first segment, Associate Editors Kelly Callan and Teejay Adams discuss the new Kawasaki KLX 230 … but with a slightly different twist. This dual-sport actually comes in 2 other flavors than just the standard, neat trail bike we’ve seen before. Kelly has ridden the KLX230SM (Supermoto version), while Teejay got her first taste of off-road riding on the KLX230S model—that’s the one with the shorter seat height. There’s not much to dislike on these bikes, but the ladies discovered there are some differences that might intrigue you.
In our second segment, Teejay chats with a good friend—Gary Pattee. This multi-talented father of five, worked as a top-level orthopedic surgeon for around 30 years until he stepped away recently. But there’s waaaay more to him than “just” that. As if that wasn’t enough, Gary is an artist, a motorcycle aficionado who coaches at the Reg Pridmore Riding School, he’s a magician, and even a drummer.
Teejay’s chat with him covers a whole spectrum. It’s a fascinating insight into a truly accomplished man who has seemingly endless drive to excel at everything he turns his hand to. He’s one of the good guys who manages to be modest and fun to be around too. Impressive stuff.
So from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling and Motos & Friends, we hope you enjoy this episode.