Pros: Extremely reliable liquid cooled engine, GO ANYWHERE bike, Great MPG, Large tank, Real Bargain
Cons: Buzzy mirrors, wimpy front brake, a few rattles
Finally! Kawasaki produces a 2-tone color scheme that I like again. This is my third KLR. My first was a 1986 600 which was put through hell, has over 60,000 miles on it and looks like hell. I see it every week or so as my friend still owns it. In 1993 I bought a '93 KLR 650, blue and white color scheme, and rode it all over the country with me racking up 30,000 miles on her before I traded her in on a 1997 ZX9R.
Now it is 2001, and I sold my Ninja and now have an old friend back, the KLR650 which is EXACTLY the same bike I had in 1993 minus the new colors and 2 subtle improvements. In 1996 Kawasaki upgraded the clutch and counter-balancer system to slightly heavier units. Unfortunately, the front brake is still very weak feeling but adequate, and the mirrors are buzzy while accelerating. These are minor quirks though as the overall package is impeccable.
If your looking for a true dirt-bike, this isn't it. If your looking for a crotch-rocket, again, this isn't it. But, if your looking for a no-nonsense motorcycle that will take you to all the corners of the earth, then this IS IT. If you live in an area where the roads are rough or barely maintained the KLR will definitely tame them. Speed humps mean nothing to it as well, in fact, they can be fun to jump at times (just don't run over any kids, please). There is one word that sums up what the KLR is: FUN! It's down to the basics of what makes riding so fun. Yet, it can be as boring as you want it to be (all depends on where you have the guts to go) as it'll probably outlast you!
Insurance is dirt cheap on a KLR compared to nearly every other motorcycle I've cared to own. I've never heard of anyone stealing a KLR nor have I met a KLR owner that didn't just love his. I get 55 mpg average on my KLR which puts me at about 300 miles per gas station visit. I've gone 360 miles once on a tank while on a trip through the National Forest bordering Oklahoma and Arkansas. Bottom line is, it's at the minimum "nice" to have 6.1 gallons of fuel capacity, and in my case a life-saver.
I got my 2001 KLR650 for $4546 drive out brand-new at Good Times Kawasaki in Tyler, TX. Most dealers were quoting me $4999 drive-out which isn't bad either. There are very few 2001 models left, if any now. Don't worry though, 2002's are already being built and your local Kawasaki dealer should have them by August.
12 Month Follow Up
It's been a whole year now, and I'm officially out of the original warranty. Based on my previous experience with a KLR650 and that of friends and my brother who all own one, I feel quite confident that I will not have a need for an extended warranty and thus never bought it. When you consider that I've put over 10,000 miles on it with ZERO problems, it's a pretty good sign that the I've got a good, well-built bike.
I "upgraded" the front fork springs with Progressive units which seem to be an improvement but not anything stellar as I expected from all the posts on Progressive springs.
Easily the most "bang for the buck" improvement I made to the bike was the stainless braided front brake line which improved the feel and strength of the braking considerably.
The jury is still out on my K&N air filter and the necessary jetting changes required to use it. My gas mileage has dropped to approx. 40 mpg since I've rejetted for the K&N (from an easy 50 mpg prior) BUT the engine is running A LOT cooler now. So, overall, I'll trade a little MPG for a cooler engine which should theoretically make it that much more reliable. Also, after reading some nightmare posts on newsgroups and such about K&N filters, I have been monitoring it closely for signs of improper filtering. So far I'd have to say it is performing as claimed by K&N as there are no signs of crud in the carb, even after a full day roosting off road. I haven't had to clean the filter yet but I don't think I'll go 50,000 miles before doing so.
I'm still on the stock front tire but only got 4000 miles on the stock rear. I replaced it with an IRC and it has lasted 6000 miles and other than a little "4X4" drone going down the highway it is just as sticky as the stock unit was, and obviously superior in durability.
The seat can become a real issue on day-long rides. I haven't gotten to the point where I'm ready to drop the big bucks on a custom seat but I'm close. I'm going to try the low-tech approach first of losing the 30 extra lbs I'm carrying and spending lots of time on a stair stepper to get those buns of steel back. If this doesn't help then I'll be calling Mike for a really cushy custom seat.
Cobra Pipes are CRAP!
Yep, I 'had' to get a pipe, primarily to be heard more than for a pittance of performance gain. After 2 Cobra pipes melted through (the first replaced under warranty) in less than 2000 miles what can I say? The Cobra techs admit that they have a problem with the "tough hot exhaust" of the KLR's. I should send them the bill for my rear fender that was partially melted when the last pipe melted through and directed this jet exhaust onto my plastic... bastards.
This bike is as tough as they come. I have taken it on 105 degree days through the desert for over 8 hours stopping only for fuel and water(for me), ridden up to 11,000 foot altitude in the mountains of New Mexico, drove the entire length of Mustang Island on the sand (180 very sandy miles round trip) on one tank, attempted to stay up with my superbike buddies at my top speed of 115 mph for nearly an hour, and much, much more. If only it could fly! I would never come home!
Overall I'm very very satisfied with this bike. No regrets at all.