Sam gets a new ride: 1995 Kawasaki KLR 650

Sam's "new" Kawasaki KLR 650

Sam's "new" Kawasaki KLR 650

Sam has been working hard on his custom Honda CB 350, and has posted some great progress reports here.  But sometimes we get the itch.  A bike that’s more or less modern, sleek, powerful, or just plain different.  This time he opted for a 1995 Kawasaki KLR 650, the ‘workhorse’ of the motorcycle world.  Read his full review…

In the last year or so, my Honda CB 350 has spent more time on the lift than on the road.  There hasn’t ever been anything horribly wrong with it, I just couldn’t ever stop tinkering.  I wanted desperately to take it completely apart and do a café racer build with it, but money was scarce, as was time and shop space, and, most importantly, I wanted to be able to ride!  So instead of digging in and just doing it, or settling with doing whatever little tasks it needed to keep it on the road, I just let it sit there, paralyzed by indecision.  Well, this winter I finally took the plunge and started the complete custom rebuild that I’d been wanting so badly.  It’s moving along, slowly (got the bike running last weekend with all it’s new parts for the first time – stay tuned for an update on that!).  The problem is, now the weather is beautiful and I’ve nothing to ride!

Solution: buy an ugly but reliable motorcycle.  You won’t be (as) tempted to tear into it and ‘fix’ things; instead, you’ll just ride.  Enter this charmer: a 1995 Kawasaki KLR 650 with 25k miles, bone stock except for the paint scheme.  Fortunately the previous owner dutifully removed all the plastics and rattle canned over the horrifying neon green graphics that blights these bikes.  Here she is, in all her dual sport glory:

Maybe you’ve heard of the (in)famous doohickey replacement on these bikes.  I ordered the kit, and intend to replace it, but for the time being I’m just enjoying riding.  I must say that after several years riding nothing but a Honda CB 350, this thing feels like a ruddy Cadillac!  It’s not the most refined of motorcycles, and it’s not going to win any races (or beauty pageants), but the thing works, and works well.  There are about a billion and a half reviews of the KLR out there, thanks to the fact that it has remained almost completely unchanged in the 25 years since it was introduced, so I’ll refrain from a blow by blow and stick to what strikes me most about the bike.

Mainly, this: a lot of advancement was made between 1973, when my Honda was manufactured, and 1995 (or even ’87, when the KLR was first released).  It’s a single cylinder 650 (a thumper, if you will), and yet is sooo much smoother than my CB.  It has a lot more power, which I’m sure is obvious to everyone, but I didn’t realize just how much of a difference it would make.  Whereas the stock CB topped out at 80mph downhill with a tailwind, the KLR still has plenty of throttle left at that speed (not that I’ve tried it out, of course).

There’s plenty more to be said about the KLR, for and against, but I don’t have time – I have to get out and ride it right now!  And that’s what it all comes down to: after years of agonizing about the reliability of my bike, whether it would stall at the next light, whether it would get me to the party, how frequently I’d have to stop on a long trip to nurse my aching back, etc., etc., I’m finally able to be out and riding everytime the weather is good and I’ve a mind to be on two wheels.  I don’t get as many nods from hipsters as I do on the CB, but to me, it’s worth it!