2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure Review

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure Review

Since its introduction in 1987, Kawasaki’s KLR650 has provided a gateway to adventure seeking riders via a comfortable, capable, and inexpensive way to explore the world on two wheels. Billed as a “Triple Threat”, Kawi’s original KLR650 packed a then-impressive feature set – disc brakes, adjustable suspension, push button electric start and liquid-cooling –all for a mere three-thousand dollars.

For thirty-two model years and over 150-thousand units sold, very little changed. As such the KLR went from being a performance bargain to, well, just a bargain. And while those basic provisions can still deliver thrills “on the trail, on tour or out on the town”, the expectations of today’s riders have evolved. To make a splash these days you need cruise control, a quickshifter, ride modes, integrated infotainment and GPS systems and lean-sensitive safety nets. These are all pretty much standard fare in the genre now, and the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 has none of them. Heck, it doesn’t even have a sixth gear.

So the question is: Is the new KLR650 modern enough to catch and maintain the attention of the new generation of adventure riders?

What’s New

First things first, the KLR is now a fuel injected bike. By ditching its tried and true carburetor for a fuel-pump and fine-atomizing injector, this new bike runs leaner and cleaner. That means its 652cc single-cylinder meets emissions standards but also, thanks to revised camshaft profiles, creates more power in the midrange.

The chassis is also a completely new design. Where the old recipe called for some bolts to hold the subframe on, the new KLR gets a one-piece unit which increases stiffness to improve on-road manners. Rake and trail have also been increased. This, combined with a lengthened swingarm, adds even further to the stability of the KLR.

ABS is available as an option (our tester was not equipped) and it has been “optimised” for off-road use. What this means is that it will allow for some mild slippage before the sensors will cause the system to pulse. I’ve had some experience with this system before on Kawasaki’s KLX230 and I found it to work quite well. If you’re looking at the KLR as a newer rider, I’d opt for the ABS option. If you’re a seasoned veteran, looking to stick mostly to off-piste routes, you may want to ignore it as it can’t be defeated at the flick of a switch.

On the aesthetic side, the KLR’s new plastics give the bike a decidedly modern look. LED headlights and an adjustable windshield get the headlines, but it must be said that I found the wind/weather protection of the new bike to be better all around. The camo-look of the Adventure model is ruggedly decent but my eyes prefer the Pearl Sand Khaki on the base model. In top trim, the Adventure also comes with a set of 21-litre side cases, auxiliary lighting and both USB and DC charging outlets.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure

The seat has been massaged to fit the new chassis and while still firm, it’s nice and wide to allow for all kinds of movement on the bike. Throw in the fact that the bars, that seat and pegs are rubber mounted now, and the KLR is indeed a comfortable bike. I wouldn’t hesitate to hop on one for days or weeks on end.

What’s Old

Fire up the 2022 KLR650 and you’ll be greeted by the familiar thumping of its large and busy piston. To the uninitiated the sound from the exhaust probably isn’t much to write home about – it kinda sounds like a weakly mechanised water bong (at least, so I’m told) – but to those in the know it immediately conjures memories and dreams of far off lands.

As mentioned above the transmission still has only five cogs to shuffle. There have been some internal tweaks to bolster its reliability, but it’s largely the same unit as ever before. Shifting action is fairly crisp and accurate and the foot lever is well positioned for use both seated and standing. Clutch pull is light – adjustability would be appreciated – and neutral is easy to find.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure

The brakes still consist of a set of dual-piston callipers, one front and one rear. They do their job just fine in bringing all 219 kg of bike to a halt.

While I’m sure I’d gush about a sixth gear and twin front discs were they added, the KLR really doesn’t need either. This bike will cruise at beyond highway speeds all-day long and there’s plenty of power to pass when you need it and it doesn’t feel underbraked at all. If anything, the longer gearing and less aggressive binders lend themselves to the KLR’s legendary ease of riding in an off-road environment.

The Verdict

My first experience with a KLR650 came a half-dozen years ago. A group of us were riding from Kawasaki’s US headquarters in California down through a northern chunk of the Baja Peninsula. That bike handled all of the punishment my not-so-savvy off-road riding style could dish out. It hustled down Highway 1, split lanes through border crossings in Tijuana and Tecate and tractored over and through sections of the Baja 1000 that I still have visions about: all with nary a niggle. It was proof positive that you didn’t need to spend a fortune on a machine to find yourself while getting lost.

2022 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure

Now I know that the streets of the GTA are no comparison for Baja, (although some may argue that Toronto’s potholes are worse than the rutted out rally routes), but this new KLR handled everything I could throw at it. From hours long rides to commuter hell in the heat of summer to a bit of dirt tossed in for good measure, the 2022 KLR650 remained a comfortable, confident bike.

The injected fuelling was spot on – and I didn’t stall this one out after neglecting to turn on a petcock, like on the old one – and the ergonomic changes we appreciated. I didn’t long for selectable ride modes, electronic suspension or a full colour TFT dash. The KLR650 has long been a no-frills gateway to exploration – an inexpensive reason and means to go farther – and the new one hasn’t lost sight of that. It simply refined the process. And in doing so, it reminds that sometimes all that you really need is a reason and a means.

2022 Kawasaki KLR 650


ENGINE: 652cc, Four-stroke single; Power: 40 hp; 39 lb-ft torque

TRANSMISSION : Five-speed manual

PANNIER CAPACITY: 42 litres (21 litres each)

WEIGHT: 207 kg (wet)

PRICE: $7,499 (base) $10,368 (as tested incl. Heated grips and top case)

Website: Canadian Kawasaki Motors Inc.


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