|My 2007 Kawasaki KLR650
1. Age Doesn't Matter. Introduced by Kawasaki in 1987, few modifications were made during the 20 year production run of the first generation KLR. An older bike is just as good as a newer one, assuming it's been well maintained.
2. It's Cheap. Bikes priced below $2,000 routinely pop up on Craigslist or online forums. Shop around and you can pick up a bargain. Few bikes provide as much bang for the buck.
3. Go Anywhere. This bike is a swiss army knife. You'll be hard pressed to have as much go-anywhere fun with a KLR, especially for so little money. It doesn't do anything particularly well, mind you, but you can ride everything from highway to single-track (and I did). And when you drop it on the trail (and you will), parts are inexpensive too.
3. Mods Galore. There are tons of aftermarket products available and like the KLR itself, most are reasonably priced. Mods range from making the engine more bullet-proof (doohickey), adding horsepower, adding luggage capacity, installing better lighting, or improving on-road or off-road manners. You name it, it's available.
4. An Global Community of Creative Owners. KLR owners love to maintain and modify their bikes. They also like to do it for as little as possible, and then tell you all about it. KLRWorld and KLR650.net are two popular online forums. (I'm guilty ).
5. Crude build quality. Everything is functional but build quality is crap. Yes, the KLR650 was designed for abuse. It was also conceived in the 1980's and built to a price point, and it shows in the form of cheap plastic switches and various bits that have a habit of rattling off (invest in a tube of low strength loctite).
6. It's a Big Pig. No fooling, this bike is a heavy and while porkiness poses few issues on-road, it can be handful on the trails. I'm 6'2", in reasonably good shape, and I weigh over 200lbs. Over the course of a long ride, the mass of a fully fueled and armored KLR would start to wear me down. If you're used to a light dirt-bike, you'll be surprised by the effort needed to ride the KLR off-road for long periods.
7. Surprisingly Thirsty. I routinely got mid 40mpg, which isn't particularly impressive for a 650. The bike could have used a sixth gear, I suppose. In contrast, BMW's much better built (and much more expensive) F650GS is reputed to get 60+ mpg. But then again, I think I care about fuel economy more than your typical rider.
8. Rugged Looks. I was pleasantly surprised how often I'd get compliments about the looks of my KLR. I think the black/silver color combination of the 2007 was particularly attractive. Perhaps the knobbies and a plethora of protective guards gave it a bit of Mad Max appeal.
9. Soft Suspension. Kawasaki seems to have designed this motorcycle for a rider who weighs about 160lbs. Sadly, people have gotten larger and heavier since the 1980s. The rear spring didn't hold up very well to a heavier rider, especially when weight was added for luggage and racks. The sagginess was a little disappointing and if I kept the bike, correcting this with either a stiffer spring or a custom shock/spring would have been an upcoming mod.
10. Deep Market. If you're concerned with a bike retaining value, consider depth of market. The more interest in a particular bike, the easier it will be to sell the bike down the road. One quick way to gauge depth of market is to count the number of advertisements on Craigslist. Keep an eye on how long it takes these ads to disappear. Around the front range of Colorado, the KLR is one of the most popular bikes around because a lot of people want to explore old fire roads or trails and camping off a bike. It's an easy bike to sell.
Overall, the KLR provided three years of reliable performance and many miles of dual-sport happiness. When I sold it, I also got a price near what I paid for it. Of course, I also maintained it religiously and added the most desirable farkles. The new owner got a very well cared-for machine and I hope it gives him many years of joy.