ADVENTURE TOURING ABOARD THE KAWASAKI KLR650
The classic question is: "If you could have only one motorcycle what would it be?" The answer is actually very easy because almost all of the manufacturers make a bike that solves the riddle. They're called Dual Purpose or Dual Sport motorcycles, and they're made to be equally capable of handling dirt or pavement.
That's the theory, but obviously the results are a compromise to function, weight, pricing, etc. So, in an effort to build consumer-friendly machines the manufacturers make a line of Dual Purpose bikes — some of which lean more towards the road and some of which lean more towards the off-road. This bring up another question. That is, "What is more important, a Dual Purpose bike's roadability or off-roadability?"
Much like a philosophical debate, each question can lead to more questions, but if we stick to the basic "only one bike" idea Kawasaki has a pretty good answer in the form of the KLR650. The Kawasaki KLR650 is a Dual-Purpose motorcycle that has been around a long time and its longevity is due to its outstanding all-around performance.
First of all, Kawasaki defines the KLR650 as a "two-wheeled adventure touring machine for dirt, street, or the open road." The adventure touring aspect of the KLR650 adds a third dimension to the Dual-Purpose motorcycle. Kawasaki accomplishes this with a large displacement engine which is comfortable cruising at highway speeds, a specially-padded wide seat for extended saddle time, a large 6.1 gallon fuel tank for long distances between fill-ups, and a mini fairing and hand-guards to help block the rider from the wind.
A strong dual overhead cam, four-valve 651cc liquid-cooled engine supplies the KLR650 power. The heavy flywheel helps smooth out the big single's pulse to produce a very tractable ride while dual counterbalancers quell vibration. This motor is mated to a five-speed gearbox. On the highway the KLR has more then enough power to cruise along at speed or accelerate away from trouble. Off-road, that same power is delivered to the ground over a wide band that is easily controlled.
The ergonomics of this bike are exceptional. The wide seat is extremely comfortable even during a long ride. The foot pegs and bars allow the rider to relax on the road, much like a cruiser motorcycle, but also function well off-road when the rider is in the attack position in rough terrain. Plus, the mini fairing is amazing on the highway, as the chest and head of the rider simply do not get any buffeting by the wind even at high speeds.
The KLR650 sports the Kawasaki UNI-TRAK rear suspension which applies progressive force on the single adjustable shock. The operator can tune the ride to match the load and riding conditions via five preload settings and four rebound damping adjustments. Air-adjustable forks do the duty up front.
The big news of the KLR is the 6.1-gallon fuel tank. Face it, 6.1 gallons is a lot of gas for a single cylinder motorcycle and that large tank gives the KLR650 a lot of range. This bike can travel longer and farther on a tank of gas then most mid-sized cars.
Riding the KLR650 on the street is a lot of fun. The rider has plenty of power, wind protection, and comfort. The bike has long legs, good stoppers and is extremely nimble through traffic or a twisting road. Most riders would assume that this is one Dual-Purpose bike that was made to lean towards roadability.
However, the KLR650 is a wonderful off-road machine as well. The big power plant provides gobs of low-end torque for hill climbs sand or muck. The KLR650 is even fairly nimble through the trees. Due to its large size and weight, the KLR650 isn't much of a jumper, but it rules the fire roads. And that big gas tank makes it an ideal mount for long excursions away from gas stations and civilization.
So, to get back to the original question, "If you could have only one bike what would it be?" A good answer that would provide enjoyment both on and off-road would be the Kawasaki KLR650.