In 1984 the dual-purpose Kawasaki KLR250 and Kawasaki KLR600 were introduced to the motorcycle public. As dual-sport bikes, the Kawasaki KLRs were both street-legal, but with long-travel suspension and semi-knobby tires, they were also capable of tackling unpaved riding much better than purpose-built road bikes, but not as effectively as off-road-specific models.
The original Kawasaki KLR600 was powered by a four-stroke, DOHC, liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine that produced 42 horsepower. Panned by enthusiast publications for being underpowered, Kawasaki increased the engine’s displacement to 651cc for the 1987 model year, which bumped horsepower to 44. After which, besides minor changes, the Kawasaki KLR650 remained the same bike until it received a makeover for the 2008 model year. Because of the similarities of each model, aftermarket products are abundant for the Kawasaki KLR650.
The 2008 KLR650 was visually different from the previous Kawasaki KLR, which helped signify a change in a bike that hadn’t been changed in 20 years, but the abundance of new bodywork meant more to fix/replace in the event of an accident, which is a common occurrence on heavier dual-purpose bikes. Besides cosmetics, the new KLR featured a host of upgrades/changes including a revised 651cc engine, tweaked suspension, a new swingarm, increased radiator capacity, a new instrument panel, a larger diameter fork and more. In 1984 the Kawasaki KLR600 retailed for $2,999, the 2011 KLR650 retailed for $6,149.
The 1984 Kawasaki KLR250 remained the same motorcycle for its entire product life, not even receiving an engine upgrade like the KLR600. The last official year of the Kawasaki KLR250 in the United States was 2005.
In 2006 Kawasaki introduced the KLX250S. Unlike other KLX models, which are for off-road riding only, the KLX250S was street legal. The KLX250S is a more dirt-oriented dual-purpose bike than the Kawasaki KLR250. The Kawasaki KLX250S remains street legal but its long-travel suspension and other qualities of the bike could be tuned for better off-road performance than the KLR250’s compromise between street and off-road riding.
In 2009, the Kawasaki KLX250S was upgraded with a new chassis and better brakes, and in the process spawned the Kawasaki KLX250SF, a supermoto machine with less travel in the suspension and wearing more appropriate 17-inch rims for a better selection of street tires, compared to the KLX250S’s 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels.
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