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2022 Kawasaki KLR 650: The Legendary Thumper Returns

The Original Budget Adventure Motorcycle is Back

2022 KLR 650 render

Many practical and budget-conscious ADV fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief as Kawasaki reintroduced one of the original players into the burgeoning adventure (ADV) motorcycle market with the launch of the 2022 KLR650. While several improvements grace the familiar-looking machine, Kawasaki retained the simplicity, thriftiness, and friendly nature of one of the most trusted ADV bikes to ever ramble into the horizon.

Chassis Changes on The KLR650

2022 KLR 650 FrameSuspension lies at the top of my personal list when reviewing any bike that treads off-road; Kawasaki mildly altered front and rear boingers and improved the chassis on the new KLR. The forks still retain the “old school” upper stanchion tube configuration, but Kawasaki stiffened the action overall. At the back, the swingarm is 30mm longer with a 2mm longer pivot shaft, which should lend more stability—both on and off-highway.

The tensile steel frame and rear subframe are now integrated, and footpegs and handlebars reach outwards an additional 10mm. The pegs and bars are both rubber-mounted to ease the pavement road buzz between stints on the dirty good stuff.

2022 KLR 650 ABS
2022 KLR 650 ABS

Motor Massage

Rather than drop in a twin from a current Kawasaki to run with the current ADV trend, engineers adopted the “if it works, don’t fix it” adage and added fuel injection (DFI) to the loved and honored 652cc liquid-cooled single from prior models. But, along with it came the 5-speed transmission, albeit with revised third gear dogs and an improved finishing process on fourth and fifth gears.

The clutch received some love with a new thrust needle release bearing to smooth out the action and improve reliability when the going gets rough.

2022 KLR 650 Adventure
2022 KLR 650 Adventure

Better Brakes

A new ABS is a headline grabber on the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650. Kawasaki tagged the system “dual-purpose ABS,” which they developed with Bosch. Marketing copy claims more natural braking feel on dirt due to purposeful wheel slippage, while road manners are said to mimic normal ABS on a less sensitive setting. What isn’t clear is whether the ABS can be disabled. But old-schoolers remain calm – ABS is an option to the standard steed.

The front disc is 20mm larger, at 300mm, and the 240mm rear disc gains a millimeter of thickness to better handle heat.

2022 KLR 650 Traveler
2022 KLR 650 Traveler

The Finishing Touches

Kawasaki graced the new KLR with a few niceties without dismantling the charming character of its predecessors.

A new LCD instrument panel thankfully includes a gas gauge and dual trip meters. It also has a clock, but curiously, no tachometer. Two power sockets are included on higher trim models (Advetnrure and Travel) and are optional otherwise. A new LED headlight is a welcome improvement.

Riders can adjust the taller windscreen to one of two positions, and the mirrors are wider. The gas tank is still large, at 6.1-gallons, but is more svelte for a more comfortable fit between the legs.

One ding: ADV riders love electronics; GPS, smartphones, satellite messengers, heated grips, and auxiliary lights are common additions for aspiring cross country travelers. But the 2022 KLR only manages to put out 80-watts of power. So KLR owners will have to be miserly with power management.

Kawasaki offers a standard 2022 KLR650 model with ABS and one without. An “Adventure” model adds LED auxiliary lights, a 21L top-loading hard case, a standard cigarette lighter power socket, and a powered USB port. The “Traveler” version gets two power sockets and a 42L top case (large enough for a helmet).

2022 KLR Conclusions

Kawasaki polished an incredibly functional, affordable, and reliable world traveler with this new release. And younger, newer, and thrifty riders alike surely rejoice with the return of one of the most trusted and simple motorcycles ever to exist. And, in an age of ever-increasing feature lists with matching price hikes, the KLR650 helps keep the cost of entry into ADV manageable for many, making the standard $6,699 non-ABS / $6,999 ABS MSRPs the most impressive specifications of all.

To find your local dealer and find out more on the new KLR click on Kawaski’s website HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much horsepower does the 2022 KLR 650 have?

Kawasaki has released no official power numbers, but the engine is nearly identical to the old model, so we’ll assume it will put out similar power.

The 2018 Kawasaki KLR 650 put out 43.99 hp at 4,500 rpm and 36.88 ft.-lb. at 5,500 rpm.

What is the price of the 2022 Kawasaki KLR 650?


KLR 650 – $6,699

KLR650 ABS – $6,999

KLR650 TRAVELER – $7,399

KLR650 ADVENTURE – $7,999

What colors are available on the 2022 KLR 650?

The 2022 KLR650 is available in Pearl Sand Khaki and Pearl Lava Orange.

The KLR650 ABS is available in Pearl Sand Khaki.

The KLR650 ADVENTURE model is available in Cypher Camo Gray.

The KLR650 TRAVELER model is available in Pearl Lava Orange.

What size wheels are on the 2022 KLR 650?

The 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 comes equipped with a 21-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear.

What is the top speed of the 2022 KLR 650?

No top speed has been announced for the 2022 KLR 650 yet, but it carries over the same gearbox and nearly the same engine as the previous model. The 2018 KLR 650 tops out at 93 mph and we’d expect the 2022 KLR 650 to have a just slightly higher top speed, but still under 100 mph.

Seiji Ishii
About Seiji Ishii

Seiji Ishii has enjoyed a lifetime of outdoor adventure and sports, from participant and competitor to coach and trainer, and finally as an editorial contributor. His interests have spanned cycling, climbing, motorcycling, overlanding, backpacking, trail running, and the training involved for all of it. He has also designed outdoor and off-road motorcycling gear. He lives in a wildlife refuge in Wimberley, Texas, with his daughter, itinerant dirtbags, a dog, and a cat. Read more of his musings at seijisays.com.