I love riding off-road. You are able to cut loose without having to worry about getting a ticket and generally, not getting hurt. Now, I know the KLR650 is not supposed to be an enduro weapon, but what happens when you push it to its limits? Does the suspension hold up? How is that new ABS? Is it too heavy? Let’s find out. For my first proper off-road outing, I headed out to Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland. It is a mix of fire trails, forestry, single track and rutted out hill climbs. Pretty much you name it, Glasshouse has it. We started out on some rutted out fire roads, nothing too extreme, but it was a great chance to get a feel for the bike. Immediately, the KLR just feels like a big dirt bike to me, that’s the beauty of a big single. The ABS brakes aren’t an issue, even with a mix of loose rocks. I found I was able to comfortably ride quite quickly and when the road turned to a smoother mix of dirt and gravel, I was easily able to cruise at higher speeds. Me, having a dangerous combination of childlike tendencies and being a rev head, tested out whether or not the KLR is able to do fish tails and get sideways. I’m happy to report that she does so very nicely with a generous twist of the throttle.
Next we moved on to whooped out single track. I was able to ride the KLR a LOT faster than I thought possible through this section. Jumping and lofting the front over whoops was no problem. It wasn’t until you got into enduro bike speeds that the suspension would bottom out (especially the forks). It is a shame the forks don’t have any adjustment; looks like harder springs are in order. I deliberately tested out the ABS on a steep slippery hill. No issues and a lot better than I expected. The ABS does deactivate at slow speeds, which is good for technical riding. Still, I’d rather the ability to turn it off. My next challenge was going down some technical trails that the normal KLR650 rider generally wouldn’t go. But hey, only one way to find out how capable she is right? First up was a very steep, rutted out hill. The front tyre could be a more aggressive off road pattern, but I was pleasantly suprised! Onto the rutted out single track, and my first off… This one was on me; I was being too tentative and went down at slow speed. Much to my happiness, I only real damage I got was to my left rear indicator. The bike fell on her left side and the bars and front fairing took the brunt of the hit. The fairing just got some very minor scratches, the handlebars bent straight away. The bars are made of marshmallow it seems. Picking the bike up, yeah, she is heavy. Most of the time, the Kwaka feels pretty light. It’s only in really tight terrain (and picking it up) that I noticed the weight. I soldiered on and found the foot peg ground clearance to be an issue in ruts. The lack of engine protection was also concerning! Through some red dirt/sandy single track, the tyres start to struggle. They are great on the road and decent for basic off road riding, but limiting when the going gets tough. Overall, not too bad for a stock tyre, but don’t expect the world. The engine was torquey and responsive off-road. The top end isn’t mind blowing, but she gets along more than fast enough the bush! I found myself in a mid-range more often than not. First gear is a bit tall for the tight stuff. You could lower the gearing, but then you are losing out on highway ability. That’s tricky compromise and it really depends on what riding you are going to be doing At the end of my ride, I’d gone down a few times, but overall had an absolute blast. The KLR is WAY more capable than it looks on paper. With some mods, this would be an off road/adventure weapon. A good set of tyres, decent hand guards, engine protection and harder springs…there wouldn’t be many places I wouldn’t take this. Oh, the stock hand guards are terrible btw. Consider them wind protection and nothing more. So overall, this is a very capable off-road bike. I’m impressed! That’s it from me; make sure you check out my other content and YouTube channel. Keep it OnTheBackWheel.