2011 Kawasaki KLR650

The latest 2011 Kawasaki KLR650's black with green highlights model has certainly been blessed with the most attractive paint scheme in recent memory on the model, keeping in mind that earlier iterations such as the Tengai special edition were white with atrocious baby blue and huge Japanese kanji characters emblazoned on the side of the tank / fairing. In most other respects, the KLR650 continues to run on autopilot as it is essentially unchanged since big hair and shoulder pads ruled the fashion runways and we all hurried home to watch B.A. Baracus pity some fool or another.

This is not to say that the dated KLR650 is an inept or incompetent motorcycle. In fact, the very opposite is true. The KLR650 can easily replace an entire garage full of specifically dedicated motorcycles, as it is an adequate trail machine, a superlative fire roader, a passable supermotard, an awe inspiring adventure tourer, a magnificent commuter, a borderline-reasonable highway cruiser, and an acceptable canyon carver. There you go: Seven bikes for the cost of one. And while on the subject of cost, Kawasaki is to be commended for keeping the first digit of the MSRP as a 5, ensuring that in a world of crazily overpriced two wheeled hardware, the KLR650 is still a decent all-round value.

Your under six grand buys you a 651cc four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve thumper fed by Keihin CVK 40 mm carbs, sparked by new fully transistorized CDI ignition and cooled by a relatively lightweight Denso rad. Surprisingly, the huge 6.1 gallon fuel tank on the KLR650 is almost a full gallon larger than Kawi's top maxi-tourer, the 2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS! Since tall tales abound that if you baby the KLR650's throttle you can see the high side of 60 mpg, you should be able to limit your gas pump visits to equinoxes alone.

The KLR650's 41mm front fork with 7.9 inches of suspension travel front, and a Uni-Trak linkage system allowing 7.3 inches of wheel travel in the rear combine to provide a reasonable ride in virtually any condition, but keep in mind that it's only reasonable and not stellar. Any motorcycle such as the KLR650 is by its very nature compromised, thus you can't legitimately expect for it to handle like a slot car on mountain twisties and take the bermy jumps like a supercrosser.

The essence of the 2011 Kawasaki KLR650 is a bike that can do just about everything competently and as such it's been a smashing success for nearly a quarter of a century. It would, however, be nice if Kawi spruced it up just a little bit more for the second decade of the new millennium.

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    2011 Kawasaki KLR650 At A Glance

    Base MSRP: $7,149
    Engine Displacement: 651 cc
    Engine Type: 4-stroke, single
    Bore & Stroke: 100.0 x 83.0 mm
    Ignition Type: Digital CDI
    Compression Ratio: 9.8:1
    Valve Train Type: DOHC, 4 valves
    Transmission Type: 5-speed, return
    Final Drive Type: Sealed Chain
    Front Tire: 90/90-21 (54S)
    Rear Tire: 130/80-17 (65S)
    Wheelbase: 1480 mm
    Saddle Height: 890 mm
    Curb Dry Weight: 196 kg
    Fuel Capacity (US): 23 litres
    * Specs/pix apply to 2010 model, updates as released

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