Kawasaki’s KLR650 has been around in one form or another for longer than many of you reading this have been alive.
It’s not the best off-road, dual-sport bike out there, but it has an endearing quality about it that has earned it cult status and a long life—it simply won’t cease.
As long as patience is on your side, your buddies with fancier, more expensive bikes might get there first, but the trusty KLR will get there eventually.
Add to that a huge aftermarket following, and basically anything you want to do to the KLR, you can, including making the seat height lower.
There are many ways to bring the seat closer to the ground. Instead of turning to the aftermarket, in 2023, Kawasaki has decided to introduce the KLR650 S, a model specifically with low seat height in mind.
Look around Kawasaki’s model lineup, and you’ll see that accommodating different body types is something Kawasaki is embracing. There are S versions for various models across Kawasaki’s range, with tweaks to make them more comfortable for the tall, short, and everything in between.
As far as the KLR goes, from a mechanical standpoint, it’s the same KLR650 we’ve all come to know and love, but with a few little changes to help shorter riders touch the ground.
The easiest way to bring down the seat height on most bikes is just to give it a new seat with re-shaped internal foam. The overall thickness of the foam has gone down 1.37 inches (35mm), but Kawasaki is quick to note that overall comfort hasn’t gone down—the padding that’s still there has been strategically placed for comfort on long hauls.
In addition to the lower, reshaped seat, Kawasaki also changed the suspension settings to bring the bike down. For many vertically challenged, a reshaped seat can bring the feet close to or on the ground comfortably. This is good because the bike’s suspension settings don’t need to be changed.
However, if a scalloped seat isn’t enough, altering the suspension is another option to bring things down some more. With the KLR650 S, the fork now has 6.7 inches of travel, down from 7.9 inches on the standard model.
To accommodate, the fork springs and internal valving have been changed to handle bumps with the same compliance you’re used to and still resist excess dive when braking. The rear suspension travel is down 0.3 inches to 7.0 inches.
Kawasaki’s Uni-Trak rear suspension tie rod length increases 0.16 inches (4mm) for a better swingarm angle. Like the front, the shock gets different spring rates and internal valving to compensate for the shorter travel.
When you combine the reshaped seat with the reworked suspension, the overall seat height drops a total of 2.3 inches compared to the standard model. This is a huge difference for anyone who struggles to reach the ground on the normal KLR.
As far as bringing the bike down closer to the ground, that wraps up the changes. Now, Kawasaki also did little things like shortening the side stand to accommodate and increasing the distance from the peg to the shifter, but otherwise, the KLR is the same bike it has been for decades.
The 652cc single-cylinder engine is still here, unchanged, and it’s fuel injected – a switch that happened with its latest redesign a few years ago.
Regarding fuel, the tank shape keeps the rider’s knees in mind in both the sitting and standing positions. Also, the fuel pump’s location is at the lowest point of the tank, so the last bits of gas can be used up before needing to refill.
Opening up the KLR’s appeal to a broader audience simply by lowering the seat height is a brilliant move on Kawasaki’s part. The changes needed are relatively minor and shouldn’t take away from the KLR experience in the slightest.
Plus, Kawasaki has been able to do this without changing the price of the bike compared to the standard model—$6,899 for the non-ABS model, and $7,199 with ABS in the USA. Pearl Storm Gray will be available on both versions, and Candy Lime Green is only available on non-ABS versions (we don’t know why).