The debate between the klr650 Gen1 (2007 and older) and the Gen2 (2008 and newer) has been long debated and hashed over by many reviewers, experts and riders. Many of these reviews and comparisons have valuable information, but most simply give raw data and leave the reader to choose their next motorcycle. I am not going to bore you with comparisons on fork oil height, wind protection or false claims of hidden horsepower.
In 2008 when the Gen2 was released it was clear that Kawasaki had its eye on street riders. And based on the actual miles that people were putting on the KLR they were right to give it a street bias on the new generation. Most riders who purchase Dual sport or Adventure bikes ride the pavement much more than they do the dirt.
What Kawasaki did was ingenious; change the bike just enough to bring in new buyers, while not loosing existing fans. The new KLR was a great seller for them. But it had its problems. Many 2008 and early 2009 bikes burn oil, a problem that Kawasaki never placed a recall on.
Now that we have had the Gen2 out for 6 years Kawasaki has now dubbed the 2014.5 bike the “new edition” and changed virtually nothing. Slightly different seat, slightly different spring rates and some color options. Nothing to get excited about in the “new edition” but still it will bring in some new buyers.
The great thing about the KLR is that it has changed very little in the last 30 years. This has helped to hold prices on used bikes and drive the price of new bikes down. This is a great thing for a used seller, not that great for a dealer with a sales floor full of new bikes. This 30 years of mostly unchanged bikes means that manufacturers of aftermarket products have to change their products very little. An existing product can be adapted to the new model quickly. The amount of aftermarket support for the KLR is incredible!
That brings us to the question of what bike is better than the other. This is a simple answer for me to give. I tell anyone who asks to simply purchase the bike they can get the best deal on. Any year KLR can be molded into the perfect motorcycle for your exact riding habits. If you like to ride more highway, the Gen2 bike might be a slightly better starting point, but not by enough that I would spend a lot more money to get one. People have been riding the Gen1 KLR all over the world for 25 years before the Gen2 came along, a simple change in fairing doesn't make it that different.
The KLR is the AR-15 of motorcycles. It can be built and adapted to be exactly the bike you want.
Written by Jacob Roby (OklahomaKLR), Contributing Editor for Spirit Strike.