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2008 Dual-Sport Comparo Decision

Friday, November 2, 2007
Though it s not a pure MX bike doesn t mean that you can t enjoy a little air time on the KLR.
The 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 is the epitome of dual-sport, handling both the street and dirt well enough to be declared our 2008 Dual-sport Comparo winner.
The Decision

All three of these machines are great rides and all bring something different to the table.

In stock form the Honda is a good all-around machine and at $5949 it won't break your pocketbook either. It's entertaining enough on the city streets and can mix it up with bigger more street-oriented machines in the canyons. It can hold its own when the going gets rough and with minor modifications you've got a bike that is capable of racing across the desert. But at the same time, it is the most dated design and a bit rough around the edges.

There is no denying the Kawasaki's overall versatility. It does everything right and almost nothing wrong. It feels at home on all aspects of the street-from the freeways to the canyons. And yet it can hold its own well against the more dirt-oriented Honda. Its huge gas tank, comfy ergos, protective windscreen and large luggage platform make it perfectly suited for touring. A dirt bike, street bike, and touring bike all in one for just $5349 makes the KLR one of the best values in motorcycling.

However, we can't forget the Beemer. The BMW oozes both style and character. And if the streets are your addiction than the Beemer is your fix. On the streets it's an absolute blast to ride yet it's still capable of taking you to that special spot beyond the end of the road. It's the smallest and most high-performance of the three and is lavishly adorned in quality components. But performance has its price and for the Xcountry is a hefty $9345, which makes it over $3000 more expensive than either Japanese bike.

No two ways about it, all of these machines have their niche. The BMW rules the road - it's light, powerful and has trickness oozing from its German pores. The Honda on the other hand thrives both in the canyons and off the beaten path. But when it comes to all around, if the road and the trail both equally float your boat, you should be sailing with the Kawasaki. No two ways around it, the Kawasaki KLR650 does it all, and does it with style and grace.
Another dirt complaint was the unusually low-slung handlebars. Although  they are pretty comfortable while seated  when the trail gets rough and the rider needs to stand up  the low bars become a limiting factor.
The XR650L didn't take top honors in our test but is a solid all-around machine with a reasonable MSRP.

For My Money

Alec Dare
5'6", 135 Lbs
12 years riding experience

Being a small dude, it's not always easy to find things your size. Especially here in the good ol' USA, where bigger definitely seems to be better. Cars, houses, Super-Mex burritos-everywhere you go there always seem to be something ridiculously large. In the dual-sport world that size is represented by the KLR. Everything about it is big.and big bikes and little guys don't mix like two cocks and no hen. The BMW is the fastest, looks the best and is the most nimble. Sure, it isn't the most versatile machine but I don't care. If I'm buying a bike, I buy it because it works for me and the BMW definitely foots the bill.

Justin Frye
5'10", 175 lbs
7 years riding experience

The Metzeler Tourance tires gave riders great confidence on the road but on the dirt they felt a little sketchy.
When it came time to judging looks, our testers felt the retro yet
contemporary style of the 2007
BMW G 650 Xcountry took top
Until this test, I had never ridden a proper dual-sport bike and I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty impressed. I would never have thought that dual-sports can actually perform so well on the street yet still get it on, when the pavement ends. The three bikes we tested are all good bikes but overall if I had to go to drop down greenbacks on one of these steeds it would have to be the Kawasaki. The KLR is like vanilla ice cream. It might not be your absolute favorite, but it works and it's inexpensive.

Adam Waheed
6'0, 175 lbs
12 years riding experience

When it comes down to buying a bike I'm pretty frugal. Sure, I want performance, looks and comfort but it all has to be had for a decent price. The only thing the Kawi is lacking in that equation is in the styling department. Your definitely not going to impress any chicks on the awkward looking Kawi, but then again with the money you save you can bone up for a couple bottles of Grey Goose at the club and soon the babes will be flocking your way like the Swallows of Capistrano.

Let us know what you think about this comparo in the MCUSA Forum.

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Steve W -KLR for me  April 12, 2010 01:33 AM
I havn't ridden these bikes yet, my past is in sports bikes, but I am older and (possibly) wiser now and no longer have the need for speed on a bike. I like the KLR. Personally I think it looks better than the Honda or the BMW. If you like the Beemer, then perhaps you should just grab a sports / tourer instead .. it seems to be in no mans land to me. The Honda is fine, if you are after something more dirt oriented, but for highway touring, there is no protection from the elements (neither is there on the beemer) It also looks .. plain.

On the KLR, if you replace that bent looking front fender with an aftermarkter dropped fender (mounted close to the tyre), then pull the tacky stickers off, maybe extend the windsheild, then it is a very nice looking bike that can take you almost anyway and you can do the highway runs with some protection from the elements.

KLR in 2010 for me I think.
Baxter -KLR  March 30, 2010 08:16 AM
I have been riding for 80 years. And I say the KLR 650 is the best bang for your buck. Wait, 82 years! I can't remember...
Allan Ross -nevada dirt  March 23, 2010 08:20 PM
I own two honda 650L's. I ride with a group of guys that ride Beemers,husq, KTM. I have never been on a trip that I could not keep up with the group or where I couldn't manuever or climb anything they could. Fact is my two hondas cost less than some of their single bikes. Besides getting anywhere they can go when I do crash the honda doesn't break like the others. Ride Red thumpers!
Rod Ellis -KLR 650  September 24, 2009 03:00 PM
I've been riding over 50 years now, over a 100k in the dirt and a million on the street. I owned an 04 KLR and it was fine except for keeping up with my son in the dirt. He was riding a 450 KTM, I purchase a 450 KTM and we were back even. But I've tired of loading and unloading to go for a ride, so its back to 2010 KLR. They do it all just a little slower and its about time to slow up a little.
LeRoy Knight -Dual sports  March 3, 2009 07:52 PM
I'm 69 yrs old and have been riding for 60 yrs. I ride a KTM 300, street bikes, quads and dual purpose bikes 3 to 4 days a week. I have 93 KLR 650 which has been a great bike. I just bought a G650 Xcountry. At my age the weight and seat heigth of the KLR was becoming a bit of a problem. The BMW is better suitede to my 29 inch legs, less weight doesn.t hurt either. The comparison of the BMW KLR and the Honda seem very accurate and quite fair.
WD DAVIDSON -Dual Sport  December 27, 2008 12:32 PM
I have just completed a 9100 mile trip to the Arctic Circle and back on a 2008 RED KLR650, and must say after 40+ years of riding both dirt/road this bike can do it all. The only thing that I changed on the bike was to add a Corbin seat and some .75 risers to the stock bars. the bike now has 13k on the odo and still looks like new, well except for the Dalton Hwy. mudd that has not come off, yet. JMHO-WD
Simon Moore -RoadTrail  December 21, 2008 04:33 PM
The problem with this type of motorcycle set is they tend to fall in to two camps, either more off roads or more road based. Throw in the possible passenger option & this get a little tricky. I own a Suzuki V-Strom 650. Mainly because I need the better engine & two up + luggage (Givi) Other I would have gone the BMW. Its pricey but worth it in the long run as they will out last most jab bikes.
Bob Billen -Daul sports  December 8, 2008 05:27 PM
I am riding my second Kawi KLR now which is a 06, I think I would be hard pressed to consider any other dual sport bike. Considering cost and the how far you can go on a singal tank of gas in my opinion there are no comparisons. You can almost buy two KLRs for the price of one beemer also think about the cost of repairs and parts. The Kawi really makes a lot of sence. I ride with my son who has a 06 Dakar and my bike is quicker than his and lighter and his cost over $8000 big ones. Let the good times roll Oh yes I am 69 years old and plan to ride many more years