1985 Kawasaki KLR600 from Australia


A do everything bike that can commute, tour, dirt road explore etc etc


Broken 2 shift levers. Got the last one welded and has been good since.

Cam chain tensioner can be a problem, but that is not unique to Kawasakis or indeed many other Japanese bikes.

The balancer chain and its tensioning needs to be monitored, but are fairly easy to get to.

Split a diaphragm on the carby CV piston, easy to fix.

Water pump seal eventually leaked, but was fairly easy to fix. It leaked again some time later, so maybe the balancer shaft bearings are getting loose (water pump shaft is in the end of the lower balance shaft).

Replaced a starter one-way clutch, but due to my stupidity I didn't use thread lock on the bolts and they backed out and wiped out the alternator. When the shop manual says use thread lock, believe it.

Bent the right-hand radiator when I crashed in the bush. The air scoop that holds the radiator digs into soft ground easily. On the other hand, the aluminium radiator didn't leak and I got home.

Instruments came loose after I collided with a wombat at 80kmh on a dirt road in the bush at night. A forgivable issue seeing how I and the bike were airborne for a while and the bike had slid down the road upside down a bit. And I got home without a tow or a lift.

General Comments:

The electric start got me hooked. That was a new thing for big trail bikes in 1985. You can still kick start a KLR600. The auto decompressor is effective enough for a determined person to use the kick start lever by hand (with a little practice). It makes for a good party trick.

The water cooling is very effective, it probably has more cooling capacity in its twin radiators than the later single radiator in the KLR650. The 600 shrugs off hot weather, whether doing fast or very slow riding.

The gear ratios are useful, but I always wanted an extra (6th) gear for touring (been to Queensland from Melbourne a couple of times).

The suspension is soft, and just as well, because the seat is a thinly disguised plank. The suspension soaks up potholes and kerbs, but you pay for it with front end dive under braking.

Braking? Don't expect a lot. It is set up not to be overbraked on dirt, which means it is somewhat underbraked on road.

I've ridden it around race tracks for fun. One big hard slow down from 170 km/h is enough to fade the front pads such that at the next corner you have no front braking at all. People who have ridden Calder Park will know what I mean. If you do a track day, take off the front fender and mirrors for improved aerodynamics.

When you fit good road tyres, such as Metzeler ME33 front and ME55 rear, you can scrape the pegs in the corners, which helps when you can't brake and accelerate like bigger bikes. Yes, it's not a sports bike or a track bike, but it's a do everything bike.

The small fuel tank keep the weight down, but limits touring range. At around 1.5 to 2 hours on the highway between stops, fueling is a welcome chance to get off that seat.

Adventure tourers are probably better served by the KLR650, which has a much bigger following and vastly more accessories available, helped by its much longer production run.

The KLR600 is a fairly simple single cylinder bike, and maintenance is only complicated by the bucket-and-shim valve clearance adjustment.

For such a simple bike, the dealer servicing has been spotty at best. It was rare to get the bike back without new faults introduced, so that is why I marked down the Dealer Service marks.

The KLR600 looks like a dirt bike, but it's really an "all-road" bike. Any kind of made road, dirt or bitumen, or exploring easy trails, and the KLR is at home.

The KLR600 is too heavy and soft to keep up with a KX250 in the dirt, and probably equal to a GPX250 on the road (except for the braking).

The KLR600 does nothing really, really well, but it does EVERYTHING sort of OK within its limits. If you want just one bike for everything, a KLR is worth looking at.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th July, 2015

30th Jan 2018, 11:24

Well, that's a great review of that old bike. My first real motorcycle, and that's pretty much how I remember it. Never managed to kick start it, and I pity people who have to kick start 600cc 4T machines. Thanks for a great write-up.

20th May 2021, 08:18

Very well written and has me laughing out loud, thanks!

1982 Kawasaki KLR600 from Australia


A money-pit


Bought it from a mate as a "Needs some repairs" - Ignition computer needed replacing and the front disc brake needed work - even though the bike was only 22000km old.

Never got the front brake to work until I fitted a master cylinder from a KX250.

Balance shaft drive chain tensioner spring broke at 25000km, so that when I adjusted the chain tension, it actually loosened it, not tightened it, resulting in all sorts of damage internally.

Side stand mount broke off (in all fairness this was probably the fault of the previous owner who had the habit of kick starting it while it was on the side-stand).

Very difficult to start when the engine was cold, either lean or flooded, until I worked out a starting method.

Diaphragm in the carburettor split.

Engine completely rebuilt by the dealer (at great expense to myself) and no improvement in performance/starting. As the dealer stripped the motor, there were more and more problems, and parts to be replaced, including corrosion on the water-pump driveshaft, and a variety of seals and bearings that were in need of replacement.

Diaphragm in the carburettor was replaced, instant performance and starting improvements!

General Comments:

This was the first model of the water-cooled KLR-600 (actually 564 cc), and obviously there were a number of problems, hopefully sorted in later models.

I was intending to build a side-car for this and use it in the Kapunda 24 Hour Road-Trial, but sold it and bought a Tenere already with a side-car.

I never really got to like the handling of this bike on the dirt, although it was capable of 165kph (red-lining in top), it just felt too heavy to really throw around much, and the handling on the blacktop was compromised by the long travel suspension and the dirt tyres.

It certainly had more poke than the XT600Z Tenere (with the side car off), but really didn't inspire much confidence when off-road.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 14th March, 2006