Kawasaki KLE 500


Make Model

Kawasaki KLE 500


1991 - 92


Four stroke, parallel twin Cylinder, DOHC, 4 Valves per cylinder


498 cc / 30.4 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 74 x 58 mm
Cooling System Liquid cooled
Compression Ratio 10.8:1


2x 34mm Keihin carburetors


Starting Electric

Max Power

44.8 hp / 33 kW @ 8500 rpm

Max Torque

41 Nm / 30.2 lb-ft @ 6500r pm


6 Speed 
Final lDrive Chain

Front Suspension

41mm Telescopic forks air assisted
Front Wheel Travel 220 mm / 8.6 in

Rear Suspension

Steal awing arm with preload adjustment
Rear Wheel Travel 220 mm / 8.6 in

Front Brakes

Single 300mm disc 2 piston caliper

Rear Brakes

Single 230mm disc 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre

90/90 VR21

Rear Tyre

130/80 VR17
Seat Height 105 mm / 4.1 in
Wheelbase 1510 mm / 59.4 in
Seat Height 850 mm / 33.5 in
  180 mm / 7.0 in

Dry Weight

178 kg  / 392 lbs
Wet Weight 192 kg / 423 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

15 Litres / 3.9 US gal

Consumption Average

18.2 km/lit

Braking 60 - 0 / 100 - 0

14.0 m / 40.2 m

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.4 sec / 152.8 km/h

Top Speed

190.7 km/h / 118.4 mph

Road Test

Motosprint Group Test 1992


So there I was, half underneath the bike, getting chain lube all over my boots and in a dicey situation - should I cry for help to the workmen who were within spitting distance? How on earth was I going to pick it up? How was I going to walk past these men every morning? Maybe they hadn't noticed. Within a trice I was up, and so was the bike.

Being a person of not small proportions I'd always believed neither the size, weight or height of a bike mattered. I also hate the 'pathetic girlie' image of not being able to cope with tall bikes.

Your Honour, I admit falling off the KLE at a standstill. If you get your balance wrong it's either both tiptoes down or one full foot with the other swinging around at footpeg level - tricky if you're parking. Hence a scratched knuckle guard, a scraped clutch cover and a bent rear brake lever.

I'd been riding the bike for a few weeks when this happened, so I was used to it. Now I'm much more wary and haven't done it again. The seat is 32.9 inches and I am five feet four.

My bike has a nauseating colour scheme with pathetic KLE and 'twin cylinder' stickers. Apparently you can get them off with a hair dryer. Dealing with the paintwork isn't so easy, so I'd buy the purple one if I were you.

My ride to work is a 30 mile hodge podge of long, straight A roads, twisty, winding B roads and a bit of dual carriageway. I bowl along at a fair whack having great fun. Any time I make up on the journey (about five minutes compared with a car) is lost during the metamorphosis into a smartish you'd-never-guess-I've-come-on-a-bike person. But whizzing past all those traffic jams I arrive calmer than if I'd ridden to work.

The KLE is the ideal transport for the journey. It's like travelling on a magic carpet. You zoom along, eating up the miles, overtaking everything you meet. The B road section of the journey is full of potholes and poorly repaired patches - a nightmare in a car, great fun on the KLE. The suspension is so good.

The detuned GPZ500S engine suits the KLE's chassis and riding position. It's the first bike I've ridden where you don't have to worry about the revs. Even if you're in the wrong gear the engine somehow bales you out. It's nothing like my old full-power KMX125, in fact I tend not to use the higher revs; there's more pull around 7,000rpm and from that platform the sky isn't quite the limit, but it's good enough for me.

I initially put the KLE's transmission jerkiness down to my bad riding; I now know the cush drive started collapsing before 1,000 miles and is completely knackered by now (3,000 miles). That's inexperience for you. Last year's ZZ-R600 did this too, and Kawasaki had to bring out a denser rubber for the shock absorber. Most KLEs haven't had this problem so far, so my bike's just getting a new cush drive rubber at the next service.

I'm not impressed by the fuel economy. The KLE does 44mpg getting me to work five minutes faster than my Peugeot 205, which averages 39mpg. Considering how heavy cars are the Kawasaki should be doing 144mpg. The tank holds a puny 125 miles' worth of petrol, so I have to go to the garage three-and-a-half times a week. And another thing. The fuel tap - a hinged, semicircular ring which you have to get your finger under to fold out - is preposterous. Thank God for summer, I say. You'd never turn the KLE onto reserve with a thick glove on.

I didn't think the brakes were any good until I realised I was having to brake much harder because I was riding faster than I'd ever gone before. I feel happier now but the front disc could have a bit more bite two-up. a. The steering is precise; I always feel I'm £< in control. Unlike a ZZ-R2501 rode for a 5 few days the KLE feels safe enough to take a nasty bumps fast. I just love that long-travel £ suspension.

In the dry the tyres (Dunlop Trailmax) are wonderfully grippy; in the wet they're good enough too. The rear was almost worn out at 2,500 miles, but I'll not be seeking a different make when the time comes.

I have tried the KLE off road for about three minutes, down a rutted green lane. It was long enough to convince me. If I couldn't hold it up at a standstill on a road then I was even less likely to do so standing on the pegs at lOmph. It is much too heavy at this game for the likes of me.

Most of the bikes I've tried (RGV250, TZR250, ZZ-R600, GSX-R1100L, RD350F) have been horribly uncomfortable on my hands, which are not as big as blokes' and find the stretch to brake and clutch levers painful. The KLE's riding position fits me much better. The four inch screen at the front may seem paltry, but it offers enough protection for short bursts of decent speed (95 plus) without doing a Quasimodo impression.

Two of us went to the TT on the KLE and really, it's bloody awful on the back. The seat slopes downwards so your nether regions are thrust onto the posterior of whoever is riding. You may enjoy this; on a 150 mile journey I didn't, but at least your feet are a decent distance from your torso. There are holding-on bits on the rack, but as soon as something is bungeed on, bang go your handles. The rear carrier's metallic paint has not proved resistant to scratches either. It's quicker to use a rucksack.

I past my test 18 months ago and for me the KLE is a great bike. It has enough power all over the rev range without the torture and discomfort of a sporty bike, and for someone just getting to grips with serious riding (3 - 400 miles a week) it's easy to chuck around. Meanwhile it really is surprising how many other people (John Robinson, Mark Forsyth, Kevin Raymond and Rupert Paul) have fallen off at a standstill too, so it really isn't such a big problem, is it?