2008 Dual-Sport Comparo Decision

Adam Waheed | 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.


Adam Waheed

Road Test Editor | Articles | Adam's insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

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