After chugging along with few changes and a distinctive tweet from its exhaust pipe for 21 years, Kawasaki’s legendary KLR650 dual-sport got a major update for 2008. Engine tweaks, suspension improvements, stronger brakes, new styling with better aerodynamics and a comfier seat are the major items on an even longer list of changes that improved the KLR’s on-road manners at the expense of some off-road worthiness. Though updated, the KLR650, which still uses a Keihin CVK-40 constant-velocity carburetor, has remained fairly old-school, with a low price to match.
Quietly, with little fanfare, Kawasaki slipped a mid-year addition into its lineup. The 2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition has more robust suspension and a better seat, and it comes in two new colors: Metallic Flat Raw Graystone/Ebony and Pearl Stardust White/Ebony. Comparing specs side-by-side for the KLR650 and KLR650 New Edition, they’re virtually identical. Same liquid-cooled 651cc single-cylinder DOHC 4-valve engine, same claimed curb weight (432 pounds), same fuel capacity (6.1 gallons), same seat height (35 inches) and so on.
One of the KLR650’s weakest links has been its too-soft suspension, which reflects the bike’s old design and low price. The New Edition attempts to remedy the situation with a 41mm fork—in the same size and with the same 7.9 inches of travel as the base model—that’s filled with 40-percent firmer springs and has 28-percent firmer rebound damping rates. The Uni-Trak linkage-equipped rear shock still has 7.3 inches of travel, but the New Edition has a 63-percent higher spring rate and 83-percent firmer rebound damping. All that extra firmness should reduce brake dive, sag (especially when loaded) and overall mushiness, offering better control in most riding conditions. As with the base model, the fork offers no adjustment but the shock has five-level spring preload and four-level rebound adjustment.
Even after its 2008 update, the KLR’s seat remained a sore point, literally. The foam is too soft and crushes down easily, leaving the rider’s bum on the seat pan. The New Edition’s seat features a narrower front section with a more rounded profile that Kawasaki says will make it easier to reach the ground and enhance off-road maneuverability. It is more than an inch wider and features a flatter, less tapered profile, offering a more stable and comfortable platform. Whether it offers more support is an open question.
MSRP for the 2014 Kawasaki KLR650 New Edition is $6,599—just a Ben Franklin more than the base model gets you better suspension, a better seat and more color options with revised graphics. The KLR has long been one of the best deals on two wheels, and the New Edition is even better. We’ll get a chance to ride the new KLR soon, and they should be arriving at dealerships any day now.