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2012 Kawasaki KLR650 Project Part 3

Friday, October 19, 2012
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2012 Kawasaki KLR650 Project Bike Part 3 Video
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Watch our Kawasaki KLR650 project get performance upgrades from LeoVince and Progressive Suspension in the Kawasaki KLR650 Project Bike Part 3 video.
The first installations to our KLR650 project have improved rider comfort and bolstered its adventure-touring capabilities. This time around performance upgrades are on the docket, as we bolt on some aftermarket kit from LeoVince and Progressive Suspension.

LeoVince X3 Slip-on Exhaust

LeoVince sent its X3 Slip-on exhaust for evaluation, and the Italian-designed pipe shows its advantage straight out of the package. The brushed aluminum silencer and stainless steel connector pipe look the part of high-performance gear, while the clunky stock canister sports all the refinement of a cast iron skillet. The heft of the bulky stock exhaust feels like cast iron too, with the the seven pound 11.8 ounce LeoVince unit a four-pound weight reduction compared to the 11-pound 9.2 ounce stock pipe.

The LeoVince X3 exhaust delivers a 10  boost in horsepower  with a the top-end benefiting the most from the Italian aftermarket kit.
The LeoVince X3 exhaust delivers a 10% power boost with the top-end benefiting the most from the Italian pipe.
Installation requires simple tools and takes only a few minutes. The KLR’s seat, side panel and rear brake reservoir must first be removed to access the exhaust parts. Once the exhaust coupling is loosened (behind the brake reservoir), and the mounting bolts are removed, the stock canister slides off easily. In turn the X3 slip-on connector pipe slides, excuse us, slips onto the header without issue. New mounting brackets and bolts ratchet down the shiny new can in style to complete the install.

The front half of the silencer fits snugly beneath the rear underseat bodywork. And despite its close proximity to the bodywork, the silencer has yet to melt the nearby plastics. This is even more surprising considering the stock exhaust sources a shield to buffer the radiant heat, while the LeoVince does not. However, the stainless steel connector pipe did melt a nearby part, in our case a small section of the rear mudguard – without serious damage.

Fire up the KLR and the X3 personality change asserts itself. Hey, what was that? Sounds like a big thumping Single now… The auditory improvement of the LeoVince is dramatic, with the pop-pop-pop cadence beefed up from the stocker’s demure sound signature. And while it’s loud, the X3 is not obnoxiously so. Our sound tests measured 87 dB at idle, with 93 at half-redline (3750 rpm) – compared to 75/88 in stock trim. Various sound inserts are offered, including a muted version.

The LeoVince X3 Slip-on adds more power throughout the KLR650 rev range  with the best advantage coming through mid to top.
The LeoVince X3 Slip-on exhibits its best advantage over the KLR650's stock exhaust on the top-end.
The Italian pipe delivers sensory enhancements, visual and audio, but engine power benefits as well. The gains are noticeable from the seat of the pants dyno, where the boost makes an already user-friendly powerband more robust. The KLR tractors along with a little more grunt down low, but it’s mid- and top-end power that gains the biggest advantage.

Runs on the dyno confirm the riding impression, as the KLR enjoys an extra 2-3 ponies throughout the rev range. Peak horsepower is 37.88, compared with the stock bike’s 34.68. Three HP is a modest increase, to be sure, and more than a hundred bucks per pony, but it is a 10% increase from stock.

The extra HP is appreciated, but it’s the KLR’s livelier throttle that we like most with the addition of the X3. That the pipe makes the bike sound faster may contribute to our estimation… but the power delivery feels crisper and more immediate. The only hiccups from the new pipe are irregular barks on deceleration, and the carbureted KLR remains sluggish on cold starts.


The X3 earns its $349 asking price as much from its aesthetic appeal and exhaust tones, as it does from raw performance. The LeoVince pipe looks the part and sounds fantastic. Its greatest accomplishment is giving the bland KLR an immediately noticeable aftermarket accent.

Progressive Suspension Monotube Fork Kit & 465 Series Shock

We found the KLR’s stock suspension capable enough during our 650 ADV comparison, where it proved a fair compromise of street and dirt versatility. That said the Kawasaki can benefit from a stiffer setup. Thankfully, the KLR-obsessed folks at Progressive Suspension has developed the Monotube Fork Kit and 465 Series Shock with remote adjustable preload (RAP).

The Progressive Suspension Monotube Fork Kit gives the KLR a more stable and taut front end.
The $339.95 Progressive Suspension Monotube Fork Kit fits into the stock fork tubes and delivers a more stable front end.
We called in our standby wrenching pro, a certified suspension tech, for the Progressive install. He got the job done in a couple of hours, with a good portion of the job time spent fabricating a custom bracket for the shock’s remote preload adjuster, as the stock mounting point was blocked by the Givi engine guards we bolted on in a previous installation.

The Progressive Suspension fork inserts replace almost all of the OE fork internals. The stock damper rod assembly is swapped for a single monotube assembly, which slides into the fork tubes. The only internal parts that carry over from the stock unit are the top-out springs. The main benefit of the Progressive inserts come from the gas-charged cartridge that keeps fork oil under pressure for more consistent damping properties.

Out back the rear shock presented the aforementioned installation challenges, so our trusty mechanic relocated the RAP mount underneath the seat on the left side of the engine. The OE shock allows preload adjustment out back, but requires tools to fiddle with ramp-up settings. The RAP system, however, allows for fine-tuned hydraulic preload adjustment via easy twist of the hand knob. The Progressive 465 shock also offers five-position rebound damping.

Hopping onto the bike with Progressive Suspension components and the change is dramatic. Straight out of the garage we were ran up a familiar dirt road and down some curvy asphalt byways. Even without tinkering with the RAP settings, the change was eye-opening – and for the better. No, the KLR doesn’t magically transform into a canyon carver, per se, but it hustles along in a far more composed manner. The Progressive components are taut, without being overly stiff, delivering more precise damping.

465-Series-Shock-RAP.jpg
The Progressive Suspension 465 Series
Shock with RAP gives the KLR a more
refined  feel and offers the convenience of
quick preload adjustment.
The front end, in particular, profits from the upgrades. The $339.95 Progressive Suspension fork inserts replace the spongy feedback of the OE fork with a more stable, planted feel. Fork preload can be stiffened up inside the cartridge assembly with a series of three spacers, for more aggressive riders. However, installation instructions suggested no spacers “should be optimum in most cases” and we were more than happy with the result. It is worth noting that the new fork also exhibits a significant reduction of front end dive.

The 465 Series Shock is not cheap at $749.95, but like the fork it delivers a more refined feel. The biggest convenience upgrade is, of course, the RAP adjuster, which proves quite handy when dialing in changes in the laden weight, like a passenger, or in our case touring luggage and camping gear. We are still fiddling with the suspension tuning out back, including the five-position rebound damping, as our project bike continues.

We have yet to challenge the suspension with truly rugged off-road terrain, but easy dirt and gravel roads exhibit the same improvement as those found on the street – the chassis more composed and better at transmitting road input to the rider.

These latest performance enhancements from LeoVince and Progressive Suspension for our Kawasaki KLR650 Project Bike represent a sizable investment, but the bike greatly benefits from them. Now it’s back to the testing grounds to sample more touring amenities and bike controls. No backwoods byway is off-limits as we keep exploring KLR country.

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Comments
Poncho167   November 2, 2012 04:30 PM
Verge, that Progressive spring update is what I plan on doing. It is the Mark Barnett package and last I saw it was $85 or so. My use is for the street and there is a little bit too much diving during braking and harsh hits with irregular road bumps.

The seat upholstry is a cheap fix. I like the stock seat but maybe I broke it in or my backside is used to it. I am not sure if you have new or old generation KLR because the new one is a big improvement for road touring. I rode several says of 600 + miles on my bike with a couple over 650. The sheepskin didn't help much and I got a little burn.
Verge   October 31, 2012 09:24 AM
My KLR was very hard to ride in the sand. I put Progresive fork springs in it and its a whole new bike now. I'm happy with it and I mostly ride some pretty technical dirt. I took my stock seat to the local upolstry shop and had them lower the height and add a layer of 1/2" softer foam. It cost $35 and I have put 400 mile days on it and it's comfortable. Add some Kenda 270 dual sport tires and you have a pretty nice bike for not much money.
MCUSA Bart   October 25, 2012 08:55 AM
No worries Poncho. I just saw the previous posts and it's good information for the MotoUSA readers. I don't disagree with what you're critique about affordability - that's a prime concern, particularly on a budget bike like the KLR.

The next update I'll focus on the touring upgrades, with the Giant Loop bags. And, who knows, this KLR may develop into a more or less permanent ADV project at MCUSA - so we may get to sample even more products for it.

Thanks for the feedback.
Poncho167   October 24, 2012 04:40 PM
Sorry that I picked your project apart.

I know the project bike is all in good fun, but sometimes I over analyze. I am very practical minded and that is why I bought the KLR in the first place. My 2008 will be turning over 32,000 miles this week. I have ridden it from Illinois to Texas and back so I know it's capabilities. That is one of the reasons that I bought it.

Your project bike would truely be a fun bike with all those items if I was still 20-years old, but being in my 40's I can't see putting that kind of money on an already economically priced bike when new.

Take care
Poncho167   October 24, 2012 04:15 PM
"The heft of the bulky stock exhaust feels like cast iron too, with the the seven pound 11.8 ounce LeoVince unit a four-pound weight reduction compared to the 11-pound 9.2 ounce stock pipe."

Yes, you can get lighter weight and more power out of an aftermarket pipe, but what you give up is a quiet ride, higher exhaust emissions, and over $350. The stock exhaust has a built in catalytic converter which gives it most of the bulk weight.

As far as the Progressive front suspension I would go with the Mark Burnett front spring kit before that monotube setup. The Mark Burnett springs may not be as trick as the monotube setup, but it costs less than $100 and will get rid of that front fork dive and harsh stutter bump feel found on rough roads. I plan to go with the Burnett setup myself for next season.

The rear shock is nice but one can get a descent shock setup from Fox or others for under $500. If fact, a rebuild of the current shock by Sasquatch suspension is a cheap worth option.

As far as the seat goes the stock is fine but for those seeking better the Sergent seat is probably the best out there with a heated option as well. Corbin was the first to offer a KLR seat and some swear by them. I stock with stock and got and Alaskan sheepskin for about $35 instead.

Sorry, I don't mean to knock/disagree with your story because the bike has some good components its just that most seem unnecessary and expensive for the average rider who can get by with a lot of money saved if they do their homework.

I know manufactures give you products to try for marketing purposes, and create interest in the use of their products for future sales. It makes sense, but I am just giving you my opinion having a similar bike with what I call more common sense mods including Givi luggage, and other low cost parts.
MCUSA Bart   October 23, 2012 02:07 PM
edits... not well enough. Sorry, for the slop.
ABN2nds   October 23, 2012 12:54 PM
Does anyone do any editing for these stories?! Noticed many errors in just a few paragraphs. Installation requires simple "stools" and takes only a few minutes. The KLR’s seat, side panel and rear brake reservoir must first be removed to access the exhaust parts. Once the exhaust coupling is loosened (behind the brake reservoir), and the mounting bolts are removed, the stock canister slides off easily. In turn the X3 slip-on connector pipe slides, excuse us, slips onto the header without issue. New mounting brackets and bolts ratchet down the shiny new can in style to complete the install. The front half of the silencer fits "snuggly" beneath the rear underseat bodywork. And despite its close proximity to the bodywork, the silencer has yet to melt the nearby plastics. This is even more surprising considering the stock exhaust sources a "sheild" to buffer the radiant heat,
MCUSA Bart   October 23, 2012 08:31 AM
It looks like our KLR650 project bike might be a longer term addition to our test bike pool, so we may be able to test multiple components. In the meantime, we've got evaluation of Giant Loop bags on the way.
royalman   October 23, 2012 06:02 AM
Bart, great article and video. No other luggage for this Project Bike?

MCUSA Bart   October 19, 2012 02:39 PM
neo, the next installment will be a touring recap, as I did about 750 miles last month on a three-day route through the Lost Coast and the Redwood forest. I'll give a full update then, but the seat is a mixed report for me. For medium distances I think its solid, but after a lot of consecutive touring miles I found the raised seat humps caused some discomfort. That said I've heard from other riders who swear by them and think its really great.
neo1piv014   October 19, 2012 01:37 PM
I'm kind of curious to know, how is that Saddleman seat breaking in? It's still one of the crazier designs I've seen on a bike seat, so I'd be interested to know how well it's holding up.