We took the reigning 650cc dual-sport champion, the 2008 Kawasaki KLR60, and pitted it against an able challenger in the 2008 Suzuki DR650SE.
Being an early-release model, the 2008 Kawasaki KLR650 has stood up to everything we’ve thrown at it thus far. Since we missed the Suzuki during our 2008 650 Dual-sport Comparo, we thought it only fair to give the DR650 a shot at the top dog.
There are so many great dual-sporting opportunities at our disposal in the Northwest, but we wanted to go about this two-bike challenge properly. What better place to test a pair of dual-sport machines than at one of the AMA National series events in Central Oregon? As it turned out, the organizer wasn’t lying when he said it was “mostly” dirt. We only hit about 20 miles of pavement in two days, so we packed up and headed out along the twisty back roads to the Pacific coastline in Gold Beach.
Just how remote were the roads? It was the same winding highway that the Kim family was snowbound and stranded on in 2006, ultimately leading to the death of 35-year-old James Kim. The tragedy was swept from our minds in a rush of endorphins as soon as we turned onto the infamous highway. Bear Camp Road and others in the mountains between the I-5 corridor and the Pacific Ocean are perfect for these bikes, and the trip to Bend for the AMA event pushed them to their off-road limits as well.
“By looking solely at the specs of each bike you may assume that they are fairly similar, but this would be a gross misjudgment,” says one of our test riders.
The main differences between the two are in the bodywork arrangement and motor. Kawasaki uses a water-cooled DOHC mill while Suzuki still employs a reliable SOHC air/oil-cooled powerplant. Still, since they compete directly in the marketplace, it was off to the road and trails to let ’em scrap it out.