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.
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!