Kawasaki revives the KLR650 and it’s better than ever

In the world of dual-sport motorcycles, no machine rivals the end-of-world reliability and fix-it-with-a-stone reputation of the Kawasaki KLR650. The 650cc thumper kept to tried-and-true technology as long as it could, and that was two years ago when Kawi announced the KLR would be discontinued. Now the bike has returned for the 2022 model year and, despite a multitude of changes, we think it might just be better than ever.

At first glance, you might not notice any changes to the bike, but a tweaked external appearance wasn’t what riders coveted. Underneath the familiar plastic fairings and long seat is bolted a 650cc single-cylinder engine, which now sports fuel injection and an updated timing chain guide—or, as the faithful call it, “the doohickey.” That change was what KLR riders craved. They are also getting new cam profiles and slightly smaller exhaust pipe; Kawasaki claims that, together, these updates will maximize midrange torque.

Kawasaki KLR650 frame

The transmission carries the classic five cogs, with particular attention given to shift quality and durability. Third gear receives updated shift dogs, and fourth and fifth gear get a new finish treatment to help keep riders on the road rather than in the shop. To reign in the big adventure machine, Kawasaki added optional ABS that it claims will give additional confidence both on and off road.

Another welcome change is the metallurgic combination of the main frame with the rear subframe. With the whole frame comprised of one, unified piece, the 2022 KLR650 should be a slightly more durable machine—packing the optional luggage also becomes less of a worry. The rest of the chassis carries minor updates that would be all but regressive on most new machines but, on the KLR, are noteworthy changes. Items like slightly firmer springs front and rear, larger axles for a more predictable handling, and rubber mounted foot pegs and handlebars would not be discussion points on many other modern machines.

We’re glad to see the KLR return, especially with a $6700 base price. If you want to go exploring and have time to get wherever you want to go, this machine is hard to beat. True Luddites might be turned off by the modern amenities integrated into this time-proven machine, but Kawasaki hasn’t simply pursued change for the sake of change—the ’22 KLR650 represents real improvement.

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