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Kawasaki KLR650 returns (but probably not in the UK!)

For many of us, Kawasaki’s KLR650 is a long forgotten relic of the 1980s.

Introduced in 1987, it shared showroom space with the likes of the jellymould Honda CBR600, the first ‘oil head’ BMW R1100s and Suzuki’s monsterous GSX-R1100. It was a year in which Wayne Gardner became Australia’s first 500cc Grand Prix motorcycle world champion, Livin’ On A Prayer was the song of the year and Platoon won the year’s Best Picture at the Oscars. Back in the world of motorbikes, no one outside of a select number of John Bloor’s inner circle was even aware of the revival that awaited Triumph and the British bike industry. It was a lifetime ago…

Even back then, the Kawasaki KLR650 was a fairly anonymous machine. In itself it was a replacement for the KLR600, which had been introduced three years earlier, and although the concept we know today as an adventure bike had yet to really take off, it was a solid seller that stayed in the Kawasaki range for almost three decades with just a solitary update.

And what’s this got to do with anything? Well Kawasaki has announced that the KLR650 is being revived this year, albeit only for some markets, including Australia and America. It feels like a strange move, to be reviving a 35 year old design in 2021, but they clearly feel that there is demand for a simple single with go anywhere capability.

The latest KLR is far from an all-new model. The KLR actually remained on sale in the US for longer than it did in Europe, dropping out of the Stateside range in 2018, but the basic frame and engine design remained more or less the same over those decades.

The 652cc single cylinder motor is mated to a (modified) five-speed gearbox and is now fuel injected. No power output is listed (previous versions made a modest 37bhp) and it’s very possible that the ‘new’ version has been detuned to meet emissions regulations.

Brakes on the 2021 KLR (although its actually listed as an early model year 2022) have been upgraded with bigger discs and now have an ABS option (which is a mandatory inclusion for bikes to be sold in Europe). These technological advancements may make the KLR650 more difficult to repair/bodge if stuck in the desert, but the truth is that electronic fuel injection is so reliable it’s hard to imagine any issues occurring.

Other changes include an LCD dashboard, new handlebars and a slight restyle. That’s it, a simple dual purpose motorcycle retailing for less than $7000 (£5000). Kawasaki is also making ‘Traveller’ and ‘Adventure’ spec variants, with luggage and added off-road protection.

Will we see them reach the UK? Probably not, but (assuming it meets our emissions regulations) if a KLR650 tickles your fancy it is probably worth dropping Kawasaki UK a line to ‘express an interest’ and let them know demand is out there.

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