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The Kawasaki KLR650 Returns With EFI, ABS and More

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

The Kawasaki KLR650 returns as a 2022 model with a host of updates to keep the legendary Kawasaki traveller around for a long time yet.

It’s long been rumoured to be in the works, and now Kawasaki has finally revealed the long-awaited new KLR650 as a 2022 model.

New Zealand is in line to receive the new ABS-equipped KLR650 in mid-2021 in the cool looking "Pearl Sand Khaki" colour scheme, while the up-specced Adventure variant (which adds panniers, fog lamps, frame sliders, tank pad, and DC and USB sockets from the factory) is due to arrive later this year.

Pricing for the new KLR is yet to be confirmed, but Kawasaki NZ told the motoring press in an email that "the 2022MY overhaul ticks the all-important emissions and ABS boxes all while keeping an extremely competitive price point."

Those upgrades build upon the solid base that is the previous second-generation KRL650 and drag it kicking and screaming into this millennium.

Starting with the engine, Kawasaki has bucked the industry trend of moving to a parallel-twin engine and kept the 652cc single-cylinder heart of the KLR. However, the engine has been heavily upgraded and retuned for the addition of EFI.

A 10-hole fine-atomizing injector sprays 60 µm droplets, which contributes to efficient air-fuel mixing for efficient combustion. Revised intake and exhaust cam profiles improve mid-range power and torque characteristics. A stronger cam chain guide material and shape add to the increased reliability.

Kawasaki has also reduced the exhaust pipe diameter by 7.7 mm to improve mid-range torque characteristics to better suit everyday riding.

Incredibly, the 5-speed gearbox remains but Kawasaki says they have also made refinements to improve shifting feel and reduce weight. In the clutch and transmission, the clutch release bearings were changed from ball to thrust-needle bearings, the gear dogs and shift fork have been revised on third gear, and a new finishing treatment is now used for fourth and fifth gears.

The overall weight of the KLR650 is still on the heavy side with the bike tipping the scales at 210kg in its base trim, while the KLR650 Adventure with its added crash protection and luggage tips the scales at 222kg.

Pulling all that to a stop is an updated brake system which will feature ABS in most markets, however, it is not yet clear whether this is a switchable system or Kawasaki's "off-road ABS" as seen in the KLX230.

Now measuring 300mm, the front brake disc is promised to deliver more substantial braking power. The disc shape has been changed from a petal-type disc to a round disc, seemingly as an aesthetic choice by Kawasaki. On the rear brakes, the disc has been thickened to provide better heat dissipation when under heavy braking. Similar to the front, the back disc shape is now round.

Wheel size remains the same 21 and 17-inch combo as before, with larger-diameter front and rear wheel axles the only substantial change compared to the old bike.

While the frame remains the tried and true unit of ages past, the subframe has been integrated with the frame to increase torsional rigidity for a more composed ride. A new and 30mm longer swingarm with a 2mm larger diameter swingarm pivot shaft that also contributes to better handling.

In order to meet the demands of both on and off-road riding, 41 mm front forks with 200 mm of suspension travel handle the suspension duties up front and add the rigidity needed for superb performance. Firm fork springs provide bump compliance and bottoming resistance while also reducing front-end dive under heavy braking.

An adjustable Uni-Trak system with 185 mm of suspension travel can be found on the rear and complements the front fork settings, offering progressive rear suspension action while contributing to a low centre of gravity. Firm rear shock settings help resist bottoming in rough terrain and accommodate heavy loads. Rear spring preload and rebound damping adjustments allow riders to fine-tune suspension settings to suit the riding conditions and rider’s preference.

Kawasaki says they have worked on vibration dampening to improve comfort on the new KLR. This includes rubber mounting the handlebar and pegs which have also had their positions moved 10 mm outwards to provide adjustability and put the rider in a slightly more relaxed position, to support longer hours in the saddle.

A new fuel tank design has been fitted to the KLR650 chassis (which now features a revised subframe design), with Kawasaki saying the new tank fits better with the rider’s knees for comfort and increased controllability. While the volume of the new fuel tank remains the same at 23-litres, the useable volume has been increased through redesign and a new fuel pump that draws from the very bottom of the tank, contributing to a longer range.

Aesthetically the KLR650 leaps forward with a new LED headlight and forward fairing, however, from the seat back the bike looks very similar to the previous model.

Included in the aesthetic changes are a new talker windscreen, which is now 50 mm taller for better wind protection and features two-position bolt-on adjustability that allows windshield height to be increased a further 30 mm.

The seat shape and cover have been revised and the optimized urethane thickness and firmness all contribute to increased ride comfort. Under the seat, rubber dampers have been added to further aid in rider comfort. The pillion grab bars have been reshaped, improving passenger comfort while the side stand has been shortened by 30 mm, making it easier to deploy when on the bike.

The analogue dash cluster has also been replaced, with a simple LCD unit. The instrument panel adds plenty of features the KLR hasn’t had before with its speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, fuel gauge, clock, and indicator lamps. The narrowed-down display list prioritizes visibility of the speedometer and the much-needed fuel gauge.

While pricing for the NZ market hasn’t been released, the US pricing for the ABS model of $6999 puts the pricing of the new model in the region of $10,000 which will be a major selling point in the hot adventure segment.


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