Test ride: KLR650

Day 14, Monday 4 September 2017

My bike is a sports-tourer. I like it, but I thought about buying a second bike more suitable for gravel roads. Such a bike still needs to be comfortable on the open road to get to those gravel roads. I’ve heard good things about Kawasaki’s KLR650. It’s a big single-cylinder bike quite capable of the sort of gravel roads I’m interested in, and it’s said to be much more comfortable than other similar bikes.

I picked one up from Spectrum Motorcycles on Barry’s Point Road in Takapuna. I have a standard test route from here. I take the motorway to the Albany Expressway, and turn right at the Albany shopping centre onto Gills Road. Gills Road is a twisty road but in a limited speed area, and this gives a feeling for the handling of the bike I’m riding in a relatively safe place. At the top of Gills Road I turn left onto Albany Heights, then right onto Wright Road, which is a twisty country road where I can test the handling at higher speeds. From Wright Road I turn right into Awanohi Road, then left on East Coast Bays Road. This is a straight road with an open speed limit, and it usually has no traffic on it, so I use it to test raw acceleration and braking. Finally, I take the motorway back to Takapuna. This route doesn’t test off-road ability; my experience of off-road riding isn’t sufficient for me to evaluate this aspect of a bike.

My first impression sitting on the KLR was its height. I could barely touch the ground on tiptoes. A bike can be lowered, so this wasn’t a deal killer. The instrumentation was very basic; a tachometer, speedometer and temperature gauge, and lights for blinkers and high beam. No fuel gauge or even fuel warning light. I can live with this. It has no ABS or traction control. I can learn to cope with this.

As soon as I started moving, I found the vibration intrusive. I wasn’t expecting it to be as smooth as my own bike, but this was really uncomfortable. I didn’t expect it to be particularly powerful, and it wasn’t, but it was very capable of cruising at the motorway speed limit. I decided that I couldn’t see myself riding this bike long distance, and there was no point in continuing the test ride. I exited the motorway at Albany and got straight back on heading the other way.

As I approached the exit ramp for Takapuna, the KLR started surging under me, a classic symptom of fuel starvation. Before I could find the fuel tap, the motor cut out and I came to a stop at the end of the off ramp. A quick twist of the fuel tap onto reserve, and a few seconds of cranking, and it burst back into life. I returned it to the dealer, my ambition of owning an off-road bike thwarted.

Distance travelled: 44 km. Total distance so far: 1807 km

One thought on “Test ride: KLR650

  1. Pingback: Test ride: DL650 | Motorcycling Streak

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