RIP Kawasaki KLR650: 1987-2018

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

The end is nigh for the venerable Kawasaki KLR650, as the long-running dual-sport is reportedly being discontinued, ending a production run that traces back to 1987.

Reports of the KLR650’s demise first popped up last month ( Australian Dirt Bike was one of the earliest to report it) based on a leaked memo dated Sept. 14 allegedly sent to dealers from the executive vice president of sales of Kawasaki U.S.A. Most of the letter was redacted in the leak except for a paragraph about factory-to-dealer incentives reading:

“’Factory-to-Dealer’ incentives will remain strong to ensure we keep the retail momentum going. There is one exception to this: the KLR650. Model year 2018 will be the final year for this iconic motorcycle. On October 1, 2018 we will discontinue all incentives on KLR650s. Why? Dealer inventory is LOW and KMC has a small supply of 2018s available for dealer orders. MSRP is only $6,999 on 2018 models… a great value! We are sorry for this news but we thought it best to let you know in advance.”

The news was confirmed today, with Brad Goodbody, Canadian Kawasaki Motors’ assistant manager of marketing and PR, telling the 2018 model year will indeed be the last for the KLR650.

One of our favorite dual-sports here at MO, the KLR650 was first introduced in 1987 as a replacement for the KLR600. The KLR650 remained in production for decades, receiving only minor changes, maintaining the same 651cc water-cooled DOHC four-valve Single.

In the early ’90s, Kawasaki produced the KLR650-B or Tengai, featuring Dakar-influenced styling.

The first significant update came in 2008, with Kawasaki claiming more than 50 changes including a more contemporary design, new instrumentation, a thicker 41mm fork, new brakes and some engine revisions (though still eschewing fuel injection and staying with a Keihin CVK-40 carburetor).

The redesign kept the KLR going for another decade but its time is coming to an end. Modern emissions regulations no doubt played a large role. The KLR650 hasn’t been sold in Europe for some time now due to tightening emissions and noise restrictions. The lack of ABS and other modern electronics may have played a role in the decision as well.

The question now is if Kawasaki will replace the KLR650 with a new model. The KLR occupied a unique spot in Kawasaki’s lineup as a middleweight that can handle on- and off-road duties. The KLX250 and Versys-X 300 slide in as lower-displacement options while the Versys 650 and Versys 1000 are definitely more comfortable on paved surfaces than off. A potential Versys-X 650 using the fuel-injected parallel-Twin of the Versys 650 makes the most sense. Could we see such a bike at EICMA? The timing would be perfect, and there are indications the Versys 1000 is due for an update as well. Kawasaki USA is currently teasing four bikes for the Milan Show, and a KLR650 replacement might be one of them.

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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2 of 41 comments
  • RandleMcMurphy RandleMcMurphy on Jan 20, 2019

    Hopefully a diesel KLR 650. Screw electric. Diesel is the future. Kawasaki would rock the MC world with a factory diesel thumper and they’d sell every single one of them.

  • KLRJUNE . KLRJUNE . on Jun 02, 2019

    It's June 2019 and Kawasaki is still trying to sell the leftover models at the same inflated price they've been asking for years. 1980s tech should not be selling at cutting edge prices. Kaw probably will sell all the leftovers at the inflated price but not to me.