Upgraded and Optimized: The 2023 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure Detailed Review


ADVRiderMag is the ultimate Australian dedicated adventure-riding journal.

Discover the enhanced features and performance of the 2023 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure, a durable and affordable adventure-touring motorcycle boasting an overhaul from its 2022 predecessor, complete with a review of its impressive ride experience and notable upgrades.

Overhauled for the 2022 model year is Kawasaki’s KLR650 Adventure ($7,899). This is an original adventure-touring motorcycle from Kawasaki Motors Corporation out of Japan that carries over for the 2023 model year (read the 2023 Kawasaki KLR650 First Look Preview). Manufactured out of Kawasaki’s Thailand factory, the KLR650 has been made since the mid-’80s. Fast-forward to today and the KLR650 most recently received a major overhaul last year outlined in the 2022 Kawasaki KLR650 First Look Preview article.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure riding on seaside dirt road
We go for a ride south of the border on Kawasaki’s affordable and capable KLR650 Adventure.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

During that update, Kawasaki engineers focused on boosting the bike’s already renowned durability and adding creature comforts. It receives new LED headlamps, bodywork, thicker axles, and the brake rotor is also thicker. There’s a longer swingarm and an enhanced frame with integrated subframe. Stability at speed was always a weak link in the previous version of the KLR650, so it’s nice that Kawasaki addressed this.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure parked on bluff overlooking ocean
LED headlights and accessory fog lights (included in the Adventure model) help the KLR rider stand out on the road and trail.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

The KLR is powered by Kawasaki’s liquid-cooled 652cc single-cylinder engine. It now benefits from digital fuel injection which replaces the mechanical carburetor. Digital fuel injection is so neat because it allows the engine to run optimally regardless of elevation and climate you’re riding in.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure parked on grassy bluff with rider standing in background
The KLR650 continues to impress with its capability and bang for the buck. Value-conscious ADV riders will appreciate its package. Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

This particular KLR650 is an adventure model, which commands a $1,000 up charge versus the base KLR650. For that extra thousand dollars you get bright fog lights which are manipulated via an integrated fog light button. It also includes hard case luggage that is easily removable, crashbars, an extra USB charging port, and a tank pad to keep the fuel tank from getting scratched with a belt buckle. There’s also a handy tool kit with some basic tools to fix your motorcycle or make adjustments, including the height of the windshield. This windscreen is adjustable in two positions but you have to remove four 6mm Allen bolts to do it. On-the-fly mechanical adjustment would have been better.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure riding on rough paved mountain road
The KLR650 excels at distance touring. It’s a very comfortable steed for extended highway riding.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

It’s worth mentioning that this ADV goes against the grain, at least in the modern adventure-touring bike world, with the use of a 21-inch front and a 17-inch rear. That’s a combination that we don’t see too often on new bikes (aside from BMW Motorrad’s finely tuned R 1250 GS/Adventure. Obviously, a 21-inch hoop is what you want to get over obstacles off-road. Despite the 17-inch wheel being more road friendly, considering the limited power of this vehicle and its tall tire sidewall it’s a formula Kawasaki knows well.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure cockpit view while riding uphill on dirt road
Travel-hungry riders will do well with the 2023 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure. It rides well over the rough stuff and is capable of taking you almost anywhere.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

For our evaluation we rode to Baja, California. When traveling into Mexico, it’s important to have a valid US passport. You also need a valid driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement and vehicle Insurance. It’s also wise to carry vehicle registration.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure rear hard case details
The lockable and removable hard cases are a must-have accessory for touring rides. These cases are included in the Adventure package for a $1,000 upcharge.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

We traveled through the Tecate, Mexico, border, which is just outside of Dulzura, California. This border is generally less busy than Tijuana, for instance. If you don’t have anything to declare, you typically breeze through.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure cockpit view while parked on side of road
The KLR650’s cockpit is a cozy place to be. We wish it offered a more premium aluminum handlebar and a top clamp with adjustable position mount.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

Considering the heavy rain season in the American Southwest and Baja road surfaces being extra dilapidated. So it sure is nice to be on a durable adventure-hardy steed like this 2023 KLR650 Adventure (more on that later).

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure footpeg details
While comfy for the road, the rubber-coated footpegs are slippery during off-road rides.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

Cruising on the highway, there’s no tachometer but the engine doesn’t feel like it’s revving too high at 75 mph. Despite the engine’s twin counterbalancers, you feel engine vibration through the rubber-coated footpegs and handlebar, but we wouldn’t say it’s excessive. Still it is definitely present and the KLR it’s not as vibration-free as other ADV bikes we’ve operated. To be fair, those rigs cost two and a half times, or more, than the Kawi.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure cockpit view while riding on country road
It isn’t the flashiest ADV motorcycle, nor the fastest, but the KLR650 is more than capable at getting you off the beaten path.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

Powerwise the fuel-injected single feels more peppy than before. At the business end of the Dunlop tire it makes nearly 37 hp and 35 lb.-ft. torque. That’s certainly not going to impress spec chart mavens, especially considering it weighs 483 pounds with a full tank of gas, but you’d be surprised at how effective this powertrain is at getting up to speed.

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure riding through shallow water crossing
The KLR650’s secret sauce is in its versatility. It is a capable all-arounder.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

Of course, when passing slower traffic, you have to plan overtakes versus a multicylinder bike, but you’d be surprised how effective this powerband is. It’s capable of cruising at 90 mph, and with its updated chassis, it’s far less weebly-wobbly feeling as the KLR of old. We only wished it had cruise control (available as an OE accessory).

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure tool kit
As usual, the KLR includes a handy tool kit for trailside repairs.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

Ergonomically, the KLR is set up well for highway riding. The footpegs are a little bit farther forward than you would expect on an ADV, or conventional streetbike. They’re not quite mid-controls, but they aren’t traditionally placed footpegs either—but it is well suited to cruising down the highway. Off-road, however, that’s another story, but we’ll get to that in a minute…

2023 Kawasaki K L R 650 Adventure U S B charging port details
A handy USB charging port is included as part of the “Adventure” package.Jon Beck and Adam Waheed

Despite a generous 6.1-gallon capacity, the fuel tank is shaped well and does a nice job blocking wind. It would have been nice if Kawasaki would have fitted an aluminum Renthal or ProTaper-style handlebar versus the cheap-feeling steel bar… Got to leave something for the aftermarket, right?

Typically Kawasaki is big on customizable ergonomics and it would have been neat if it included an upper triple clamp with handlebar position adjustment. Instead, adjustment is limited to rolling the handlebar fore or aft via the 10mm socket head bolts.

In addition to a 12-volt power plug, the KLR650 Adventure is equipped with a USB port with an extra cavity so you can roll up the cord nicely and have it neatly tucked away. Problem is the cover doesn’t stay on very well.

LCD instrumentation is basic and it would have been nice if there was a gear position indicator. We’d also like to see a mile-per-gallon and ambient air temperature reading. But we do appreciate the clock and that it includes a fuel gauge so you can keep tabs on the fuel capacity of the 6.1-gallon tank. Another gripe is that the fuel gauge has a tendency to register “low fuel” even when there are a couple of gallons remaining. A more accurate fuel gauge would be a worthwhile improvement.

For a nearly 500-pound bike the KLR is very nimble, but we’d be lying if we didn’t note that the tires and the overall suspension when leaning it over in a corner is mushy-feeling. On the flip side, the suspension does a nice job of soaking up road imperfections and generally delivers a comfy ride, especially over beat-up roads. That’s the beauty of the KLR: Although it lacks the precise handling of a high-performance ADV, it gets the job done and is capable of carrying you to all the same spots you’d ride on a more capable ADV. You’ll just get there a little slower.

The KLR is happy being ridden through rough stuff in the seated position. It’s almost easier to ride seated rather than standing due to the curiously far-forward foot controls and the slippery footpegs. We do appreciate the KLR’s heavy-duty Japanese-made wheelset that looks more premium than some motorcycles that cost more than double the price!

In terms of maintenance after the 600-mile initial service Kawasaki says the engine oil should be swapped every 7,600 miles. Kawasaki says you should also check the air filter. Valve adjustment interval is listed at 15,200 miles. That’s a tad short, especially compared to modern multicylinder bikes from the Tuning Fork brand.

During the course of our ride we recorded 43 mpg average. That’s low among the KLR community, but to be fair we covered highway miles quicker than most.

Aside from the curiously far-forward footpegs (and slippery for off-road riding footpegs) and the often low-reading fuel gauge, if you’re up for an adventure and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the $7,900 KLR650 Adventure is money well spent. With its touring-friendly equipment the Adventure specification is absolutely worth the up charge. Still if you want to save some money, the $6,900 base KLR is always a solid option.

Gear Box

Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2

Jacket: Rev’It Stratum GTX

Gloves: Rev’It Kryptonite 2 GTX

Pant: Rev’It Stratum GTX

Boots: Alpinestars Tech 7 Drystar

2023 Kawasaki KLR650 Adventure Technical Specifications and Price

PRICE $7,899
ENGINE 652cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled single; 4-valve
BORE x STROKE 100.0 x 83.0mm
FUEL DELIVERY Fuel injection w/ 40mm throttle body
CLUTCH Wet, multiplate slipper; cable actuated
FRAME Semi-double cradle steel
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm fork; 7.9 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Hydraulic shock, spring preload, rebound damping adjustable; 8.0 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Axial-mount 2-piston caliper, 300mm disc
REAR BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 240mm disc
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Aluminum; 21 x 2.0 in. / 17 x 3.0 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR 90/90-21 / 130/80-17
RAKE/TRAIL 30.0°/4.8 in.
WHEELBASE 60.6 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 34.3 in.
CONTACT kawasaki.com


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