Project Bike: 2014.5 KLR650 “Sick Fiddy”
The ubiquitous Kawasaki KLR650 is as popular as it is polarizing. Comparing it to other machines in the ADV category can be a bit of a challenge. This relic from a bygone era is uniquely simple and pleasantly unrefined. If the KTM 1190 Adventure is a scalpel the KLR would be a bludgeon. What’s that old saying about walk softly and carry a big stick? The introduction of the 2014.5 KLR 650 New Edition (NE) was a huge improvement. But did the updates make it the sharpest tool in the shed? Well no... but that’s not to say it isn’t better in every way. A new saddle and stiffer suspension make it the best KLR yet and the perfect starting point for an ADVMoto project bike.
Warp 9 Racing Wheels
Form need not always follow function. The Warp 9 rims and green anodized hubs look slick on our white, black and green machine. And they come with an oversized 320mm front brake rotor that measurably improves the stopping power and feel on the front end. This is by far one of the most confidence-inspiring upgrades you can make to the KLR. Long downhills used to noticeably tax the stock 280mm front rotor. With its extra surface area and cooling capabilities, the Warp 9 rotor has yet to get squeamish under extreme conditions.
The aggressive E-09 tires from Mitas perfectly complement the abilities of the KLR. Combine the bike’s stump-pulling low end torque with these bad boys and you have to get truly rambunctious to even break the rear loose. It makes for truly enjoyable trail riding. Their wide tread blocks are stable and surefooted in everything except the deepest sand or mud. When riding on the road they remain stable and rather comfortable until you hit about 70 mph. Faster than this and the front end gets uncomfortably squirrelly, but even on the stock tires 70 mph isn’t the best place to spend your time on a KLR. Sixty-five mph is easily achievable and essentially the sweet spot between eating up miles, keeping the wind bearable, and preventing the single cylinder from vibrating the teeth out of your head.
Protection and Comfort
Ever since the 2008 redesign the KLR has sported rather good wind protection. Although this highway comfort comes with the risk of more plastics to bust up off road, it’s more than worth it if you plan on spending any appreciable time on the tarmac. A complementary upgrade to the KLR cockpit is the Bajaworx Dakar windscreen. Not only does it punch a gigantic hole through the wind, it gives the bike an aggressive appearance that any enthusiast can appreciate, not to mention the added space for mounting GPS navigation or roll charts.
A Seat Concepts foam saddle was installed to make longer highway rides a bit more tolerable. Although the New Edition saddle has a more forgiving shape than those of KLRs past, it was still lacking on those days of riding six hours or more. It should be noted that I weigh 170 lbs. and your mileage with the stock seat may vary. For me, the Seat Concepts saddle does an excellent job minimizing some of the buzzy thumper vibes at highway speeds. That said, the saddle was one of the last modifications we made.
Foot pegs provide a great opportunity to personalize the off-road feel of your bike. The more time you spend standing on the pegs the skimpier the small stock pieces seem. Anodized pegs from Warp 9 were chosen for their wider and more durable platform. Installation is the same as the stockers and, for the price, there is no better way to transform the way your bike feels on the trail.
Crash bars from SW-MOTECH keep the KLR from getting too banged up when you inevitably drop it on a trail too ambitious for your skill level. This is a common experience with the New Edition as the suspension tweaks, combined with the thumper’s low end torque, urge you forward. The ’MOTECH bars do an excellent job of protecting the fairing of the 2008-and-up KLR. After a few drops our pretty white plastics were still good as new.
If you plan on doing any real off-road riding a skid plate is an absolute necessity. We cannot understand why Kawasaki continues to ship a bike of the KLR’s capabilities with a flimsy plastic skid plate. The beefy 4mm aluminum skid plate from SW-MOTECH provides additional rear coverage and even more stump-jumping clearance.
The DR1 LEDs from Twisted Throttle are installed using a simple heavy-duty cast steel bracket that mounts between the front fender and fork stabilizer. It positions the lights at an optimal height for the tightly focused DR1 beams. The DR1s transform the KLR lighting from “adequate” to “lighthouse.” On trails it is nearly impossible to “outrun” your lighting. On pavement you will need much more than the KLR’s 35 hp to find the limits of the DR1. Yellow covers add to the bikes conspicuity on the tarmac, and are quickly and easily removed when you hit the trail.
The BRE slider rack adds a beefy mounting point for soft luggage, a RotopaX, or in this case a waterproof Pelican hard case. Perfect for commuting and short excursions, the Pelican top case functions as an easily removable travel trunk. Side cases and mounts are by GIVI. The black tubular racks of the PL448 system are light but robust. They mount using the front triangle and rear subframe, and tie together neatly behind the license plate to form a very solid mount. GIVI’s Outback series side cases are cavernous, durable and stylish. My only gripe with the Outbacks is the need for the key to open or remove the side cases. It is nice to have them on lockdown but it can be tedious when routinely accessing gear.
The New Edition is certainly the best in a long line of KLRs. The improvements out of the box provide a solid foundation on which to begin some serious riding. The Kawi is easily accessible, easy to ride, and just as simple to maintain as the 1987. With simple comfort, lighting, luggage, and tire changes this KLR is no longer “just a 650.” Now it’s a go-anywhere thumper that’s affectionately known around ADVMoto headquarters as the “Sick Fiddy.”
OBR High Basin Tank Bag - OBRAdvGear.com $90.00
BRE Slider Rack + Quick Release - BackRoadEquipment.com $149.95
Bajaworx Dakar Windscreen - BajaWorx.com $89.95
Seat Concepts Saddle - SeatConcepts.com $159.99
Battery Tender Lithium Battery - BatteryTender.com $99.95
Warp 9 ADV Footpegs - Warp9Racing.com $199.00
Warp 9 Racing Wheels - Warp9Racing.com $779.00
SW Motech Skidplate - TwistedThrottle.com $154.99
SW-Motech Crash Bars - TwistedThrottle.com $239.95
Mitas E-09 Tires - TwistedThrottle.com $289.00
Denali Mounting Bracket - TwistedThrottle.com $80.99
Denali DR1 LED Lights - TwistedThrottle.com $349.99
Givi Luggage Racks - GiviUSA.com $200.00
Givi Outback Panniers - GiviUSA.com $980.00