Kawasaki KLR650 Motorcycle


matthew vandyke with his kawasaki klr650 motorcycle and ak-47 in iraq

Matthew VanDyke with his Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle and an AK-47 in Iraq (2008)


Matthew VanDyke's 2007 Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle, "Layla," saved his life. 

From 2007-2009 VanDyke traveled across the Arab world on a KLR650, having extreme adventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan:

  • VanDyke suffered a serious motorcycle accident in the Rif Mountains of Morocco and broke his collarbone.  Six weeks later when he returned to Morocco to resume his travels, he feared the worst but found that his KLR650 started with no mechanical problems and had no significant physical damage as a result of the accident.
  • Mauritania - The KLR650 performed extremely well off-road in the vast reaches of the Sahara desert.  Even in deep, soft sand and with temperatures far exceeding 100 degrees fahrenheit the KLR650 had no problems with overheating, sand, etc.  The only mechanical problem was a burned out clutch that occurred when VanDyke allowed a friend to drive his motorcycle (the clutch problem was most likely caused by human error when the friend didn't know how to drive in sand).
  • Tunisia - The KLR650 proved reliable at critical times, especially when attempting to sneak across the border into Algeria and being forced to retreat when spotted and pursued by a Tunisian border patrol jeep.
  • Libya - VanDyke was the only American in history to cross Libya by motorcycle while Muammar Gaddafi was in power, and he did it on a KLR650. After being kicked out of the country by Muammar Gaddafi's regime he was given just 48 hours to leave Libya, requiring a 1,500 kilometer drive from Tripoli to Tobruk in one day.  The KLR650's good highway speed, reliability and comfortable ride allowed him to accomplish this without incident.

matthew vandyke with his kawasaki klr650 motorcycle in front of a muammar gaddafi billboard in tripoli libya

Matthew VanDyke with his Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle in Tripoli, Libya (2008)


  • Egypt - While in Egypt VanDyke was hit by 3 vehicles, with no damage to the KLR650. In 2009 he drove the 1,200 kilometers from Aswan to Nuweiba virtually non-stop; over 24 hours of nearly continuous driving due to mandatory police escorts in the Nile River Valley and checkpoints along the route.  The KLR650's highway speed and comfortable ride made this possible.  VanDyke also filmed off-road driving extensively in Egypt and was able to power through sand dunes with his KLR650 fully loaded without even having to air down the tires.

matthew vandyke with his kawasaki klr650 motorcycle in front of a pyramid in giza egypt

Matthew VanDyke with his Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle at the pyramids in Giza, Egypt (2009)


  • Jordan - VanDyke toured the Jordanian desert with two Portugese motorcyclists, one on a KTM 940 Adventure and the other on a BMW R 1200 GS.  Fully loaded with gear, VanDyke's KLR650 had no problem keeping pace and was far more manueverable than the larger motorcycles.
  • Syria - During VanDyke's 3 trips to Syria he once spent a couple of days exploring the dangerous Syria-Iraq border region on his KLR650, a transit area for terrorists entering Iraq.  He was confident that the KLR650 would reliably get him out of danger if he had any problems.  In 2009 his KLR650 was stolen in Hama, Syria but recovered the same day.
  • Iraq - VanDyke was the first American to enter Iraq by motorcycle and did so on a KLR650. He was the first foreign motorcyclist to travel to the city of Kirkuk and the Salahaddin and Diyala Provinces in Iraq, also on his KLR650.  In 2009 he tried to reach Baghdad by KLR650 a few times but was arrested by Iraqi security forces.  A breakdown on these dangerous routes could easily have resulted in kidnapping or death, especially following overnight detainments by the Iraqi security forces when terrorists in the area would have heard about VanDyke and be watching and waiting for him on the roads.  The KLR650's good highway speed allowed him to move quickly along the route, reducing the ability of insurgents and terrorists to communicate his location in time to intercept him. The reliability of the KLR650 meant that he didn't have any breakdowns that would leave him stranded in dangerous territory.

matthew vandyke with his kawasaki klr650 motorcycle and ak-47 in iraq

Matthew VanDyke with his Kawasaki KLR650 motorcycle and an AK-47 in Iraq


  • Size - The KLR650 is a medium-sized motorcycle, easy to manuever both in traffic and in challenging off-road environments
  • Weight - The KLR650 is not heavy, which is especially important for adventure touring where every pound counts when carrying gear.  The KLR650 is light enough to be lifted upright quickly after being dropped, even with gear.  This is especially important off-road, when digging out of sand, or when fatigued.
  • Power - There has been no terrain that VanDyke's KLR650 wasn't able to handle, except for deep mud.  He was able to drive the KLR650 in the Sahara desert, on sand dunes and sand tracks, without having to unload the motorcycle or even let air out of the tires.
  • Durability - VanDyke crashed his KLR650 dozens of times off-road with no damage to the motorcycle.
  • Simplicity - The KLR650 is a single cylinder, carbureted motorcycle that is fairly basic in design, meaning that most Third World mechanics can find a way to fix it if something does break.
  • Reliability - VanDyke had no significant mechanical problems with his KLR650 that weren't the result of human error.  The KLR650 proved extremely reliable.
  • Parts - The Kawasaki KLR650 has been around since 1987, meaning that there are an abundance of parts available for it at competitive prices.
  • Accessories - There are a multitude of after-market parts and accessories to customize the KLR650 for virtually any type of adventure touring.
  • Community - There is a vibrant and active community of KLR650 owners on- and off-line.
  • Price - At $6,299 MSRP the KLR650 is affordable and, for those who want to travel abroad with their KLR650, is low enough to obtain a carnet de passage at a reasonable cost.


"I trust my bike with my life. I recommend the KLR650 over any other adventure touring or dual-sport motorcycle on the market." - Matthew VanDyke


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Kawasaki has sponsored Matthew VanDyke with free parts and personalized technical support since 2007.