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2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition First Look Review

Greg Drevenstedt
January 31, 2014
Filed under Dual-Sport + Adventure Motorcycle Reviews, Kawasaki Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Kawasaki Motorcycles & Sportbikes, Road Tests, Top Stories

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2014.5 Kawasaki KLR650

2014.5 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition in Candy Lime Green/Ebony

After chugging along with few changes and a distinctive tweet from its exhaust pipe for 21 years, Kawasaki’s legendary KLR650 dual-sport got a major update for 2008. Engine tweaks, suspension improvements, stronger brakes, new styling with better aerodynamics and a comfier seat are the major items on an even longer list of changes that improved the KLR’s on-road manners at the expense of some off-road worthiness. Though updated, the KLR650, which still uses a Keihin CVK-40 constant-velocity carburetor, has remained fairly old-school, with a low price to match.

Read our 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 road test

KLR650 New Edition_Front_Fork_R

41mm fork has 40% firmer springs and 28% firmer rebound damping.


Rumors have been circulating for a while about a larger-displacement, fully modernized KLR, perhaps a fuel-injected 800cc twin to compete with BMW’s F 800 GS and Triumph Tiger 800. When Kawasaki unveiled its 2014 lineup last fall, the KLR650 returned with the same specs and the same price ($6,499) as in 2013, but with color selection limited to Candy Lime Green/Ebony, the Ebony and Pearl Solar Yellow colors having been dropped.

Quietly, with little fanfare, Kawasaki slipped a mid-year addition into its lineup. The 2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition has more robust suspension and a better seat, and it comes in two new colors: Metallic Flat Raw Graystone/Ebony and Pearl Stardust White/Ebony. Comparing specs side-by-side for the KLR650 and KLR650 New Edition, they’re virtually identical. Same liquid-cooled 651cc single-cylinder DOHC 4-valve engine, same claimed curb weight (432 pounds), same fuel capacity (6.1 gallons), same seat height (35 inches) and so on.

One of the KLR650′s weakest links has been its too-soft suspension, which reflects the bike’s old design and low price. The New Edition attempts to remedy the situation with a 41mm fork—in the same size and with the same 7.9 inches of travel as the base model—that’s filled with 40-percent firmer springs and has 28-percent firmer rebound damping rates. The Uni-Trak linkage-equipped rear shock still has 7.3 inches of travel, but the New Edition has a 63-percent higher spring rate and 83-percent firmer rebound damping. All that extra firmness should reduce brake dive, sag (especially when loaded) and overall mushiness, offering better control in most riding conditions. As with the base model, the fork offers no adjustment but the shock has five-level spring preload and four-level rebound adjustment.

 

KLR650 New Edition

The KLR650 New Edition’s seat is still 35 inches high, but it is narrower in front for an easier reach to the ground.

Even after its 2008 update, the KLR’s seat remained a sore point, literally. The foam is too soft and crushes down easily, leaving the rider’s bum on the seat pan. The New Edition’s seat features a narrower front section with a more rounded profile that Kawasaki says will make it easier to reach the ground and enhance off-road maneuverability. It is more than an inch wider and features a flatter, less tapered profile, offering a more stable and comfortable platform. Whether it offers more support is an open question.

MSRP for the 2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition is $6,599—just a Ben Franklin more than the base model gets you better suspension, a better seat and more color options with revised graphics. The KLR has long been one of the best deals on two wheels, and the New Edition is even better. We’ll get a chance to ride the new KLR soon, and they should be arriving at dealerships any day now.

The KLR650 New Edition's seat is an inch wider and has a dimpled cover.

The KLR650 New Edition’s seat is an inch wider and has a dimpled cover.

Uni-Trak linkage-equipped rear shock has a 63% higher spring rate and 83% firmer rebound damping.

Uni-Trak linkage-equipped rear shock has a 63% higher spring rate and 83% firmer rebound damping.

KLR650 New Edition

The KLR650 New Edition features stiffer suspension, a new seat and more color options with new graphics.

KLR650 New Edition

MSRP for the 2014.5 KLR650 New Edition is $6,599, just $100 more than the base model.

2014.5 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition in Metallic Flat Raw Graystone/Ebony

2014.5 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition in Metallic Flat Raw Graystone/Ebony

2014.5 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition in Pearl Stardust White/Ebony

2014.5 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition in Pearl Stardust White/Ebony

Comments

4 Responses to “2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition First Look Review”

  1. Clarke Johnston on February 17th, 2014 4:22 pm

    Hum. How about a melding of the KLR with the non-US larger Versys? The adventure bike niche is booming, and one would expect the new V-Strom Adventure to do well for Suzuki. Perhaps Kawasaki can do a cross-platform design, since the KHI doesn’t have a large vertical or v-twin to use? It’s not unheard of. The Mean Streak and Marauder shared platforms.

    [Reply]

    Jim Price Reply:

    I thought the same thing about adding parts from the Verysys. The six speed trans would lower the rpm on the hwy, and the tubeless tires and wheels would be a plus also.

    [Reply]

  2. Isaac on March 3rd, 2014 9:59 am

    I’ve seen a few posts on ADV Rider and other sites where people took a 2008+ KLR frame and swapped in a Versys engine to make a really damn good adventure bike. If people can hack that together in their garage and have it be reliable, I’m sure Kawasaki could figure out a way to do it in their factories. The KLR has awesome wind protection, highway manners, and handling. With the Versys/Ninja 650R engine in there, it really has the power to get out and pass people on the highway and gets way better highway mileage.

    [Reply]

  3. Jim Oliver on March 15th, 2014 6:04 pm

    I’m riding a 2013 KLR 650, my second E bike. I love the bike and have nothing but praise for it, but, if Kawasaki came out with a KLR 800 – I would be first in line. Make heated grips standard and offer ABS as an option (I’ll buy it). I think it would be hot hot hot in the sales department. A 1200cc is more than we need out in the sticks – 800cc is the perfect size. Get with it, Kawasaki, come up to the 21st century.

    [Reply]

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