The Kawasaki KLR has been kicking around since its first 600cc iteration in 1984. Despite being a strong seller for Team Green and developing a cult following over the decades, Kawasaki announced in 2018 that the old workhorse was being put out to pasture. Likely due to tightening emissions standards and other modern regulations, the KLR was put to rest briefly, only to be resurrected for the 2022 model year. With more than a handful of updates and welcome changes, the KLR 650 is back like it never left and will still occupy the simple, affordable adventure niche it had dug out for itself over the years.
Oh, look, there was a new Kawasaki KLR650 ten years ago, too. Okay, the big redesign was in 2008, but MO didn’t get around to testing one ’til ten years ago. Anyway, they built the first one in 1987, which has to make the Killer one of the longest-running models in Kawasaki’s line-up, even if it was missing for a couple years. Kudos is one of our go-to words, and in this case it actually fits… Kudos, big K, on Donner, on Blitzen, on KLR.
Good news, dual-sport fans; the Kawasaki KLR650 is back. One of Kawasaki’s most popular models since its introduction in 1987, the return of the KLR650 for the 2022 model year (to be released in the 2021 calendar year – yeah, we know it’s confusing) is sure to bring a huge smile on the faces of those who are intrigued by the rise of adventure bikes lately, but want something more… utilitarian.
The last time I rode a Kawasaki KLR650 was fifteen years ago, in San Francisco as a photo op for a story about the Motorcycle Emergency Response Corps. MERC was a non-profit organization composed of motorcyclists volunteering their skills to provide mobility, rescue, and communications during a disaster. Sadly, the MERC website now leads to a health blog, and any search I conducted didn’t turn up recent MERC information, so I must assume the organization has disbanded. But, the threat of disaster looms as large now as it did back then. Whether it be an earthquake, tornado, tsunami or zombie apocalypse the KLR650 remains the ultimate get-the-hell-outta-Dodge machine.