The Kawasaki KLR650 Can't Be Killed

Illustration for article titled The Kawasaki KLR650 Can't Be Killed
Screenshot: FortNine on YouTube

Kawasaki’s KLR650 is dead some 32 years after its initial launch. The big thumper just couldn’t economically meet emissions standards anymore, and other new bike designs are a bit better at, well, everything. It’s an old design that soldiered on well past its use-by date, but served competently for the price. The market finally killed the KLR, but can the elements?

“The KLR feels like an anvil at everything, but it will keep doing those things forever.”

In order to find out, the dudes at FortNine decided to treat an original high-kilometer 1987 example of the pack mule bike to a torture test.

For hours, it was subjected to standing starts and quarter-mile drag race runs. A full fuel tank’s worth of quarter mile runs. This should have been taxing on not only the engine, but the clutch, the transmission, the hubs, the chain, any number of components.


It was used to tow hundreds of pounds. It was left in a lake overnight. It was crashed. It was jumped. It was treated like it owed Ryan F9 a not insubstantial quantity of money.

Sure, it burned oil. Sure, it fell over a lot. Sure, it was hardly comfortable. But it came back wanting more. Even after a crash that should have been debilitating, well, you’ll see.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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Before the KLR 650 was the KLR 600, which was new for the 1984 model year.

Suzuki introduced the DR 500 in 1981.

Then the DR 600 for 1985.

Which was followed by the DR 650 in 1990 - present.

Honda introduced the XL500S in 1979.

Then the pro-link rear suspension XL500R in 1981.

The XL600R came along in 1983 with the RFVC engine.

The XR650L came next, 1992- present.

My point being, these old Honda and Suzuki big air cooled thumpers are still in production, meeting Federal and California emissions with carbureted engines. So how is it that the Kawasaki is not able to do the same. My personal opinion is that it can, but Kawasaki is planning to go upmarket with it’s replacement. I hope they keep it simple, air cooled and affordable.