Gunnies review of the KLR 650
Hi all, I'm Terry, a retired Marine Corps GySgt. My first experience with the KLR was in 1987, the Marine Corps had bought them and we had seen them tooling around Camp Lejeune, of course they wouldn't let you ride them unless you were in 8th comm Bn, but we saw them a lot. My first actual experience riding one was in 1988, a buddy bought an 88 KLR 650 and we went out on the tank trails to ride, I had an XL 600 at the time. I was so suprised at the differences between the 2 bikes, I loved that handa, but the KLR just rode circles around me on the trails, and on the road. Fast forward to 2005, I bought my KLR from Ithaca Rec sports, a screaming deal on a big dualsport as my last, a '93 XR 650L was stolen :evil: I spent a lot of time woods riding one the XR, and took the KLR on the same trails. I was impressed with the KLR in a lot of ways, and disappointed in others. The trail manners were quite different than the XR, but the KLR seemed to be a more well rounded ride than the XR, at least for my use. I ride a lot of highway, and at times trails, but I don't trailer a bike, I ride the thing. So road manners is also important for me. I learned early on that the plate needs to be relocated as I had to replace my tag 3 times the first month I had the KLR. The mistake was largely in that I had put a set of lowering links on the beast. I got my corbin and put the stock links back on and haven't had a problem keeping a license plate on it. I find that the KLR is a more comfortable ride all the way around as compared to the XR, the suspension is a bit softer, which on the highway is really nice, but you lose a little on the trail . As long as your not going wfo on the trails, it is a very comfortable ride and the suspension works nicely. The added fuel capacity was one of the main things I really liked about the KLR, Very nice to go 240 + miles without fear of getting stranded. It does make the KLR a bit top heavy, but with practice, it is manageable. The ride height is something I didn't like on either the XR or the KLR, but since both had electric start, it really wasn't an issue and they both did well in that aspect. I like the fact that the KLR is water cooled. That point alone was a big selling factor, sure it adds weight, but it also substancially adds engine longevity. With the air cooleds you were always worrying about hot start issues, overheating on the tight slow trails, with the water cooled, thats never an issue, the engine stays at a constant temperature, which helps everything from fuel mileage to bearing wear. In that note, the KLR does have a weak point in that the radiator does need a bit more protection than what it has, in the event of a hard lowside, you stand to crush the radiator. But I choose to take that chance and just put a set of nerf bars on and deal wiuth the added weight. The other really weak point, one that has been the subject of many forums, from here to ADV is the doohickey, a weak stamped and welded piece used to adjust the counter balancer chain tension. The stampings are in my opinion, inadequate. They can and do break, some have said it's just a myth perpetuated by a couple of custom part manufacturers, but I know I've seen enough broken, including mine, and I do not ride hard, that I would just change it for piece of mind, it's only $40, do the doo.
In closing, my opinions are just that, mine, read the forum and draw your own conclusions, I will say this, because of the type and nature of such a tall bike, I don't think it's a good choice for new riders with no experience. It can be twitchy on the highways at highway speeds, and if you don't know how to handle it, like anything else, it can hurt you. For riders with seat time, it's a great bike, not over powered, very managable, and great fuel mileage. The maintenance is easy as long as you at least have a little experience around a tool box. My experience has been largely trouble free, with the exception of the doo being broken.
As far as price goes, you will have a very hard time finding a better bike at twice the price, sure some are better off road like the Xr, and some are better on road like the F650, but none are better at doing it both like the time proven KLR 650
2002 KLR 650
1978 RD 400 vintage racer
"I'm flat out like a lizard drinking"
Thanks Steve, you will be missed.