KLR650 SIMPLICITY IN AN ADVMOTO WORLD
It has been said, “The KLR 650 is a dichotomy”! It is in the mid-range of all of the other Adventure bikes in the ADVMoto spectrum. I would not even lump it in with the dual-sport category because their are much better bikes out there that fit that purpose specifically. For example! For a road-riding enthusiast the KLR may be considerably lighter and less powerful than other rides. A Sport-touring bike would be much more suited for that single purpose but, you can still have a lot of fun carving up some twisty’s on a KLR.
For a single-track dirt enthusiast, it's too big, and if that is all you are going to do then buy a dirt bike! Somewhere in the middle of the dichotomy, the KLR has a broad range of use that is well suited for commuting to work on one end and dusting off large chunks of backcountry roads right down to the two track jeep roads that haven’t been maintained since their conception.
What makes the KLR so attractive is not that it goes head to head with a more dual-sport oriented bike in the dirt or, that it will keep up with the heavy, big bore, sport-touring bikes like the GS on the highways. What makes it attractive is that it does everything on some level! It has been designed in such a way that it can be fitted to accomplish a broad array of individual riding styles and interests at a bargain price. It is my opinion that this bike has been mis-stated as being and entry level bike for those who are new to the sport. I am a seasoned veteran in many styles of motorcycle riding with most of my life spent in the dirt and it still is a very sensible choice for me! So, I would say rather than categorizing it as an entry level bike, that by design it has been engineered to keep things simple for the everyday adventure rider who will ride it to work one day and turn around and traverse large chunks of back country the next!
All that being said it is essential for a rider to be honest about his/ her expectations before considering the bike. Are you a dirt-rider only interested in single track and ruff terrain? Maybe you're a street-rider and for the first time you are wanting to get away from all the traffic to explore the backcountry. Or, perhaps you're thinking of this machine as a first time motorcycle (in this last case, get some off-road training).
As generic as this adventure bike seems, the KLR is commonly described as a bike that "... doesn't do any one thing very well, but rather many things quite acceptably." In a practical sense, it is like a Leatherman Tool and requires consideration and training for real off-roading while at the same time it will withstand considerable amount of abuse and is highly adaptable.
A bit of a paradox, it is many things at once. Depending on one's experience or expectations the bike may be variously viewed as: preferred for street, preferred for long distance, or preferred for versatile on and off-road riding. Several aspects of the machine are viewed as lacking. Two in particular are overall suspension, and power to weight ratio. Personally, I have adapted my KLR to my particular wants and needs. I wanted a bike that was inexpensive, and capable, long-range, and fitted with the right gear. I wanted a bike that I could see the out of reach places on, capable of hauling my lard butt and all my favorite camping gear! So, I upgraded my suspension.
Cogent Dynamics custom made suspension that was tuned to the weight of my individual needs and riding style. On the issue of power, there are tweaks that can be made in jetting and carb mods, air filters, and air box modifications, along with other tricks that have been learned buy a cult like following of adventure enthusiasts and it won’t break the bank. All of these modifications can be done in the garage by an average mechanic, and help keep you knowledgable about fixing and maintaining your ride. As far as more horse power, The bike will still pull the hills and steep grades at Hwy speed and when in the back country exploring, even if you are a good rider, you will probably only average 25-30 mph. How fast do you need to go? Most of us are out there to discover and that is hard to do at 75 mph in the backcountry!
If you are looking to be sensible in your choices for an ADV bike and with all of the new technological advances, I am convinced that the KLR will continue to hold an attractive spot in the market place. Let’s face it. Even if I had the money to put down on a new bike with everything I wanted on it, I would have dropped over 20k and would still be dropping that new bike in the backcountry like I do my KLR! For under 7K I have a bike that meets all my needs, with all of the gear, that does everything I need it to. With the 13k that I have saved. I will ride for free for the next 10 years at least!
Making sensible choices in the Adventure Touring Market is hard these days! With so many choices on the market and new ones arriving every day along with the inability of the middle and lower class to just drop 20k at every turn for adventure, and then the industries barrage of bigger and better offerings to tantalize our senses. I am content to go with what is tried and true! When the rubber meets the road, we all end up in camp about the same time!
John Fairrington is the Owner of IRR - I Ride Rogue in Jacksonville, Oregon. www.iriderogue.com
He loves KTM 1090,1190,1290, The Africa Twin and rides a KLR650!