Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Kawasaki KLR650 Tengai

Fri, August 26th, 2011

1990-1991 Kawasaki KLR650B Tengai
The KLR motor was one of the first water-cooled big-bore thumpers. Compared to other singles, the KLR650 is strong, reliable and smooth. Compared with mutli-cylinder 650s, the KLR is pokey but torquey, reliable, and a bit of a shaker. The stock exhaust strangles the power and exhaust note.
The minor changes made to the 'B-model' Paris-Dakar(-ish) Tengai traded a slight bit of the standard KLR's dirt ability for a strictly theoretical enhancement of street handling.
The Tengai's big, slab-sided P-D fairing seemed radical for a dualsport bike at the time, but it doesn't look so dramatic today. The fairing, low fender and over-the-top graphics only blunted the standard KLR's visual appeal.
The basic KLR is pretty rock-solid, but the fancy Tengai bodywork turned out to be much too fragile for dirt duty. Any number of more recent, standard-model KLR650As can likely be purchased in better shape for a better relative price.
The standard KLR650 is a very versatile, practical motorcycle. Everything that was changed on the Tengai stole a measure of flexibility.
Other than the fact that it is rare and somewhat forgotten, there's nothing about the Tengai that makes me want one over a standard KLR650A.
'Tengai-izing' the KLR650 hurt it in the dirt, didn't really help it on the street, and made it dated and ugly.