As most owners and reviewers are quick to illustrate, the KLR is not the prettiest motorcycle of them all, nor the fastest, lightest, or most technologically advanced, but the bike, having changed little from its 1980s inception, continues to receive high praise (I think it has something to do with Kawasaki walking away from the Barbie colors of the early 90s. See below).
At the end of 2012, Motorcycle-USA presented us with their year end best-of list and named the 2012 KLR650 the dual sport of the year and most recently again, in the April 2013 issue, Cycle World placed the KLR up against some serious competition, and in some way or another, the stout, Japanese 650 single came out on top. I was surprised given the trend in off-road riding heading more in the direction of ‘Adventure‘ bikes like the 1200GS. The KTM 990A and Super Tenere are more directly competitive with the 1200GS than ever to the KLR, and yet the reasons given in the Cycle World shoot-out rely on the simplicity of design. In some ways it is the simplicity of design that drew me to the KLR. And it’s not just me, either; the USMC has employed highly modified, diesel-fueled KLRs because of the simple mechanics, large fuel tank, and ability to go long distances and be flogged.
One potential setback with owning a KLR is that the simplicity includes a lack of ‘features’. It is the proverbial blank slate of the motorcycle world and so one part of KLR ownership is the inevitable farkle-madness. Some modifications are somewhat critical due to Kawasaki’s failure to address one or two small problems (read: doohickey), but not all KLRs suffer here. Most modifications made to the KLR are purely for enjoyment, which I don’t separate from functionality. After all it isn’t enjoyable to be in the middle of some national forest without cell service on a bike that isn’t moving.
Perhaps the best reason for this bike, as with other dual sport motorcycles, is that when these signs appear, we don’t hesitate.