Few motorcycles have as long a lineage—or as loyal an owner base—as Kawasaki’s iconic KLR650 adventure bike. Introduced in 1984 as the KLR600, it stayed essentially frozen in the same form and specifications for almost four decades.
For 2022, Kawasaki introduced some welcome changes. These include fuel injection, an ABS option, an LCD instrument pod (sans tachometer), LED lighting, a strengthened frame, a modern style makeover, and reworked internals for the liquid-cooled engine.
Kawasaki’s Good Times Demo Tour recently visited the Pacific Northwest, opening up an opportunity to put the “new” KLR650 to the test. We jumped on a pair of $7,999 2022 KLR650 Adventure variants, which include the $300 ABS option, LED auxiliary lights, a pair of 21-liter hard plastic panniers, engine protection bars, and cockpit powerlets. Tires, exhaust, seat and so forth were all OEM spec.
Riding routes included open road highway miles, city streets, high-altitude forest roads, and some sand riding on an Oregon beach. Making good time on the curving, two-lane SR 6 west of Portland, the bikes easily climbed steep grades. We topped out at 1,600 feet in the Coast Range, and then descended to the Pacific beaches.
With panniers full of gear and six gallons in the gas tank, the 2022 KLR feels, performs, and operates very much like the older bikes. However, it offers improved throttle response, much better braking, more comfort, and better rider protection.
The 652cc single is as smooth as it ever was, while a touch more rake and wheelbase length add stability at higher speeds. The KLR’s power delivery is linear and friendly, and it can still just nudge triple digits in a straight line.
The reworked fairing with a larger, adjustable windscreen keeps the rider in a bigger pocket of calm air. Faced with a deep sand crossing to meet the ocean, the KLR churned forward slowly but inexorably, finally dipping its wheels into the Pacific. Some DOT knobbies would have made the deep sand sections a bit easier.
Back inland, rolling along Washington’s SR 14 as it curves along the Columbia River Gorge, the KLR650 was planted, placid, and surprisingly roomy. It felt very similar to Husqvarna’s new Norden 901 twin, just with less horsepower.
Crossing back into Oregon at Hood River, pavement gave way to gravel on Lolo Pass Rd on the flanks of 11,250-foot Mount Hood. The KLR’s suspension smoothed out the worst of it, and ex-racer Puetz expertly slid the back tire through a few corners.
A vintage Ford Bronco suddenly appeared around a tight corner and provided a pucker moment, but the always-on ABS brakes did their job and the KLR remained upright—and I avoided an impact. That’s $300 well spent.
The 2022 updates definitely improve the KLR650 experience, although I do miss a tachometer and the stock panniers are a bit on the small side. Otherwise, Kawasaki’s venerable KLR650 remains an affordable, capable platform for mounting adventures big or small.
+ all-day comfort, engine vibration is minimal for a single, EFI
– underperforming engine and suspension, new LCD instrumentation but no tach or GPI, paper-mache saddlebags
Distributor Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A
MSRP $ 7,699
Engine liquid-cooled, 1-cylinder, 4-valve, DOHC
Torque 39.1lb-ft @4,500rpm (claimed)
Transmission 5-speed, return shift,wet multi-disc manual clutch
Wet Weight 487lbs (claimed)
Seat Height 34.3in
Fuel Capacity 6.1gal
Fuel Consumption 41.7mpg (as tested)
Fuel Grade premium
Color Cypher Camo Gray