In these days of fancy $20,000 high-tech motorcycles, there is a refreshing alternative for those seeking simplicity and time-tested reliability: the Kawasaki KLR 650. Kawasaki started making this dual sport bike in 1984 and in twenty years has made only minor modifications, other than changing color schemes every four years or so.
There are no computer chips to melt down. Just one carburetor and one piston to maintain. The components are as accessible as on a old tractor. The US military recently converted the KLR to diesel, fulfilling their goal of having all their vehicles consume one fuel.
What sold me on this bike is the community support. Over 3,000 feisty members on a Yahoo group can provide you with anything you want to know (and sometimes more than you want to know). Local groups around the planet get together for rides and maintenance sessions. A long list of web sites show you in full detail any repair or modification you can think of. A former Midwestern corn farmer will overnight parts from his shed in Moab, Utah to anywhere you might be waiting.
Many call this one of the best ‘value bikes’ you can find. It is certainly one of the top adventure motorcycles, with a huge variety of aftermarket options catering to the countless people who have traveled to every corner of the planet on the KLR.
One advantage for a vehicle that’s been around for twenty years is that you can find old ones dirt cheap and easily resuscitate them. New ones are a bit over $4,000.
Maybe you can find a cheaper bike out there, but with the KLR you’ve got a bullet proof bike you can fix yourself with a network of support. You can comfortably take it back country in rough terrain, use it around town as reliable transportation or head out on a global adventure.
— Jonathan Foust
Kawasaki KLR 650
Manufactured by Kawasaki
The famed KLR FAQ
A popular site offering detailed instructions for a variety of repairs and modifications