No matter how capable or how much fun the side-by-side vehicles and ATVs are, they still can't go many places. One place they can't go is on the pavement. Another is any national park and many state parks and roads in national forests. The powers that be have mandated that all motorized vehicles in the parks have to be plated, or, in other words, be licensed. This mandate makes true dual-sport vehicles very attractive to those who like to go exploring. For example, making the 95-mile dirt road trip through the Arizona Strip to Toroweap Point on the north rim of the Grand Canyon would be a bust if you couldn't drive or ride the last section of the road to the rim because your vehicle wasn't licensed.
We've built all of our project trucks and Jeeps to be street-legal and wanted a dual-sport motorcycle too. There are a number of these bikes out there, ranging from motocross bikes with a license plate to street bikes with aggressive tires. We have known the Kawasaki KLR650 for many years, as it's been around with few changes since 1987. It's a true dual-purpose bike that's been all over the world with people riding them from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, all over Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. While no dual-sport vehicle works as well as its specialized counterparts on the medium they're designed for, the big KLR works adequately well on the pavement and pretty well in the dirt, probably the best 50-50 bike available today.
We decided to purchase a new '07 KLR650. Kawasaki is finally changing the '08 KLR650, and while it looks to be another great bike, it is slanted just a bit more toward street use. The brand-new, black and silver '07 KLR650 was sitting at our dealer, Renegade Motorsports in Logan, Utah, and had been marked down to a price we couldn't refuse.
Our KLR impressed us from the very first ride. On pavement, the bike is very smooth and responsive. Even at higher speeds, the bike felt surprisingly stable for a dual-sport machine. The 651cc four-stroke DOHC water-cooled single responds well. In the dirt, the bike soaks up ruts and bumps easily. With a full 6.1-gallon factory gas tank, the KLR650 is a little hard to wheelie or jump, but we'll take the range afforded by the big tank.
With that long-range capability, some additions were needed to make the KLR650 work for our adventures. First, we went to Arrowhead Motorsports in Moab, Utah, where Fred fixed us up with new pegs, bark buster hand guards, and a radiator guard (not installed yet) for when we fall off. We then went to our dealer and purchased a Kawasaki tailbag, soft saddlebags, tankbag, and a Kawasaki KLR windshield. The windshield is 4 inches taller than the stock model and cuts down the wind at high speeds on the road. All the Kawasaki parts fit as if they were designed for the bike (they were).
Our KLR650 takes us where we want. We can quickly explore off-road to see if dirt destinations are magazine-feature-worthy. The emphasis here is on quickly. We had forgotten how much territory you can cover on a motorcycle when you want to. It's also nice to slow down and enjoy the scenery in the mountains and desert. When we get tired of the dirt, we can shoot home on the pavement. It's easy. It's a dual-sport. Watch for more on our adventures with the Kawasaki KLR650.
|ENGINE TYPE ||: ||651cc, liquid-cooled, dohc, four-stroke, four-valve single |
|BORE X STROKE ||: ||100.0mm x 83.0mm |
|COMPRESSION RATIO ||: ||9.5:1 |
|CARBURETION ||: ||keihin cvk40 |
|IGNITION ||: ||electronic cdi |
|TRANSMISSION ||: ||five-speed |
|FINAL DRIVE ||: ||chain |
|FRAME ||: ||semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel |
|RAKE/TRAIL ||: ||28 degrees/4.4 in |
|FRONT SUSPENSION/WHEEL TRAVEL ||: ||38mm leading axle, air-adjustable preload/9.1 in |
|REAR SUSPENSION/WHEEL TRAVEL ||: ||uni-trak single-shock system with five-way preload and four-way |
| ||rebound damping/9.1 in |
|FRONT TIRE ||: ||90/90x21 |
|REAR TIRE ||: ||130/80x17 |
|FRONT BRAKE/REAR BRAKE ||: ||hydraulic disc/disc |
|OVERALL LENGTH ||: ||86.8 in |
|OVERALL WIDTH ||: ||37.0 in |
|OVERALL HEIGHT ||: ||53.0 in |
|SEAT HEIGHT ||: ||35.0 in |
|GROUND CLEARANCE ||: ||9.4 in |
|WHEELBASE ||: ||58.9 in |
|DRY WEIGHT ||: ||337 lbs |
|FUEL CAPACITY ||: ||6.1 gal |
|COLORS ||: ||ebony or aztec red |
|GOOD TIMES PROTECTION PLAN ||: ||12, 24, 36, or 48 months |
|WARRANTY ||: ||12 months |
While it's aimed a bit more at the street rider, the new '08 KLR650 can still get after it in the dirt.
The KLR650 may be the best true 50-50 dual-sport available today. The water-cooled 651cc four-stroke DOHC four-valve single provides plenty of horsepower and torque for the street or the dirt. The suspension is very good on the street and adequate in the dirt. We plan on changing the fork springs in the future for a little less droop up front. The 6.1-gallon gas tank allows us to ride long distances, especially with the 50 mpg we're averaging.
We went to Arrowhead Motorsports in Moab, Utah, for some new pegs and other parts. We purchased Kawasaki soft luggage, including the tailbag and tankbag you see here.
The tankbag has a clear map pocket on top. Both bags attach easily since they were designed for the KLR650. We also have a pair of soft Kawasaki saddlebags but hadn't installed them yet when we were writing this.
The OE tires work surprisingly well on the pavement and in the dirt. Highway twisties like these are a lot of fun on the KLR650.
The Kawasaki bags expand for more room when needed.
The KLR comes with a tach, speedo, odometer, resettable trip meter, and a temperature gauge protected by a mini fairing.
The rack has a toolkit pocket with a complete toolkit and lots of tie-down spots for carrying different gear.