2011 Kawasaki KLR Review


The 2011 Kawasaki KLR has been the top-selling dual sport bike for a lot of years now, and it has been a favorite among adventure riders, trail riders, and urban commuters. It is even used in by the U.S. Marines, which says a lot about the build quality and ruggedness of the bike. The KLR has grown from rather humble roots to a competent yet old-school motorcycle. Other dual-sport bike makers opt for high-tech solutions, but Kawasaki has been providing the same simple and proven solution because it works so well. Of course, the 2011 Kawasaki KLR has an updated look with new fairing that works great when cruising on the highway and does little else while on trails. The fenders keep the rider clean, and the bike looks a little too big for a trail bike but not so much that it deters people. The seat is soft but wide for keeping the rider comfortable, and the standing ergonomics are very similar to those of a standard dirt bike. The old-school steel motocross handlebars offer great bend and height, but the rubber footpegs should be carefully used because they get slippery when wet.

The 2011 Kawasaki KLR is not a pure trail bike, but it is remarkably adept off the road despite being able to cruise nicely on asphalt at 75 miles per hour. The bike remains carbureted, but it has a sharp throttle response and starts quickly. The clutch feels light and engages smoothly, and although the five-speed transmission feels a bit bumpy it has great gear ratio. The engine itself offers a great amount of torque but only from 2000 rpm or so, so the bike starts off flat and lazy and picks up quickly to reach its 7500 rpm redline. In other words, the bike is neither slow nor fast; it does moderately well on trails and is equally at home blasting down the highway without shaking the rider up.

The suspension of the 2011 Kawasaki KLR, which was updated last year, has a conventional fork up front and a shock at the back with damping and preload adjustors. The big gas tank makes a huge difference in the suspension performance and handling characteristics of the bike. The suspension works best when the tank is half full, especially on the highway. Off the road, the tires and body of the 2011 Kawasaki KLR are what impacts the performance most. The heavy curb weight of the bike makes it difficult for the suspension to their job. On the streets and around the city, the suspension does a well enough job with the fork avoiding too much dive. However, stiffer springs and a low-speed compression damping could have helped make the bike easier to drive on trails. The same can be said for the rear suspension too; it works great around the city, but it gives the bike a stance that is comfortable for short riders and uncomfortable for tall ones. Considering the mass and limited wheel travel, the rear suspension does a great job on the trails, but it could use the same improvements as the front suspension. Overall, the 2011 Kawasaki KLR is a big motorcycle that does not feel too big, steers with decent precision at low speeds, and stays stable at high speeds.

New For 2011

  • Comfortable wind protection and large fuel tank allows for long-range adventure touring
  • Adjustable Uni-Trak rear suspension for a smooth and controlled ride
  • Aluminum rear cargo rack for plenty of storage space
  • Twin-piston front disc brake and single-piston rear disc brake for excellent stopping power

2011 Kawasaki KLR Specs

  • Model: Kawasaki KLR 650
  • Engine Type: 651-cc, single-cylinder
  • Bore and Stroke: 3.94 inches and 3.27 inches
  • Compression ratio: 9.81:1
  • Valve Train: Dual overhead cam
  • Induction: Liquid
  • Ignition: Electric
  • Transmission: Manual
  • Final Drive: Chain
  • Fuel Capacity: 5.8 gallons
  • Estimated Fuel Economy: 50 mpgv
  • Brakes (Front): 11-inch Hydraulic disc
  • Brakes (Rear): 9.5-inch Hydraulic disc
  • Suspension (Front): 1.6-inch telescopic fork adjustable for fork preload and rebound damping
  • Suspension (Rear): UNI-TRAK twin-sided swing arm adjustable for rebound damping and shock/spring preload
  • Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
  • Rake: N/A
  • Trail: N/A
  • Seat Height: 35 inches
  • Curb Weight: 432 pounds
  • Tires (Front): 90/90 R21
  • Tires (Rear): 130/80 R17


  • Gel seal kit
  • Handlebar bag
  • Saddlebags
  • Tail bag and trunk
  • Tall windshield
  • Tank bag

Key Competitors For The 2011 Kawasaki KLR

  • Yamaha TW200
  • Yamaha XT250