The KLR is not my dream bike…

Posted: June 30, 2011 in KLR650 2008+
Black 2011 KLR650…

When I decided to buy a new bike my first reaction was to get my dream bike – a BMW GS. So I started to check out the BMW F800GS. I’m in my 40’s and I’m not going to buy too many more bikes so I figured why not get my ultimate bike now?


I was a bit disappointed to find out that the F800GS had suspension issues that needed fixing out of the box, a narrow range gear box and a complex computer controlled engine. So not only was I going to have to spend $16K+ out the door [in Canada] I would have to dump $4K+ into getting the bike setup for me and even with $20K+ invested it still would have some issues I couldn’t fix [the transmission]. It’s funny how your dream bike looks so great until you spend some time doing some research about it.

So I went back to the drawing board checking out my out options:

  • BMW F650GS [less $$ than the F800GS]
  • KTM Adventure 990 [more $$ than F800GS, but everything was sorted from factory]
  • Kawasaki Versys 650 [great price, fun bike and might just be the ticket if I didn’t want to hit the dirt]
  • KLR650 [best price, known quantity for me and does everything I need]

KTM Adventure...

If money was no option the KTM Adventure 990 is an amazing bike that comes fully sorted out from the factory. I’m sure I would love it, but I’d be in well over $20K once I had it outfitted with accessories and luggage.

Kawasaki Versys

I was leaning pretty heavily towards the Versys. For 80% of my riding it would be perfect, but I want to ride dirt here on Vancouver Island and Baja to let me explore cool spots. I figured I’d avoid straying too far offroad with this bike due to its limited off pavement abilities. It’s possible I could have made a Versys work, but I know I can do everything with a KLR that I can do with a Versys [albeit not having as much fun on the street].
Kort Duce Photography – click on image to jump to original site…

After looking at all the options I gave the lastest generation KLR650 some more consideration:

  • low cost [~$7.4K out the door in Canada] for a new 2010
  • ~$10K fully equipped for my needs
  • having owned a ’97 KLR I understand what I am in for
  • KLR650 issues are well known and easily fixed without major $$$
  • easy for me to work on
  • will do everything I need to do – just not as well as some of the other bikes
  • not a high theft risk
  • not a bike I’ll feel bad getting dirty or banging up a bit
At the end of the day I’m not pretending that a KLR650 is the same bike as BMW F800GS or KTM Adventure 990. The KLR is a budget dualsport and it shows. Having said that there is nowhere I’d go on either of the more expensive dualsports that I wouldn’t go with the KLR and I have an extra $10K+ in my pocket to spend on gas/food/maintenance so I can take off on some adventures instead of working like crazy to pay for my motorcycle. I think when you look at it from a smiles/$ perspective the KLR650 is the best all around dualsport machine available today.
  1. KLR list eddie says:

    Having owned two Gold Wings, two XL600V Transalps, a DL1000 V-Strom and several other bikes, I tend to agree with you. A KLR650 is not the ultimate dream bike. But, it is a bike one can get along with esaily, cheaply and have a WHOLE lot of fun in the process. A KLR isn’t a fancy, techno-marvel. It’s old. It’s dated (even with the new plastics) and it’s rather tame. But, they will and have gone to the ends of the earth and back. For the same reason no one buys a Glock pistol because they are “pretty”. They get one because it will work every time.
    A KLR650 just plain works.

  2. worry wart says:

    I’m having the same trouble, Ive been debating the KLR650 or the F800GS. I’m still undecided. I love to ride in the rain and the muck. Ive been riding for 30 years and the ABS on wet Tarmac is a HUGE + for me and then theres the Fuel Injection for winter storage means i dont have to screw with a carb when April hits. But…10,000 will buy a TON of Carburators and Mods for the KLR. Again the F800GS i test drove in Wilkes-Barr did pull a wheelie on me in 6th gear at 70 mph..try that on a KLR??? Alas there is the wheight problem. I dont plan on taking these things to a Supercross track BUT…there will be some nice jeep trails where getting some air between the tires and Mother Earth would be fun as hell and when you think about a 700 pound $15,000 BMW and 5-15 feet of air your thinking is my health insurance gonna cover this?…on a KLR your going to say…wheres the next whoop-de-do?….and yes i do plan on seeing the dirt and not just some class B dirt roads that these mag writers take em out on.

    • thelazyrando says:

      What really sold me on a KLR was reading all the BMW travel stories that ened due to mechanicals or the tours from one BMW dealership to the other to fix problems. The KLR doesn’t have the potential performance of the F800GS, but it delivers what it does offer reliably.

      • rashid says:

        I agree with you and BMW travel stories. Ride Reports on that involve a BMW always seem to have a major dealer interface along the way. And the pics are gears and other engine innards, not tires or fork seals. But BMW owners don’t seem to mind. In that sense, they’re alot like Harley owners with brand loyalty. I don’t mean that in a bad way either.

  3. mroddis says:

    I’m in the same boat right now – deciding between the BMW and the KLR. I’m about 85% KLR for exactly the same reasons you mention, but there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ll be rattling my teeth loose riding the KLR on highways. Planning a drip up the Dempster in 2013 and looking for something to get me there (and back!). I’m riding with 2 others likely on BMWs but I am still leaning towards the KLR – I don’t need to win any speed records, the price is right (new are $5399 here) and there’s a large sense of comfort over the tank size and the fact that I could likely fix any problems with a coat hanger and piece of gum…..just about……

    • thelazyrando says:

      The BMW F800GS will be a nicer smoother ride on the highway, but at 2-3 times the cost. I’ll be riding my KLR to Baja this winter 8000 kms round trip. I’ve done 4000kms trips with my previous KLR no problem. A 16T cog drops the vibes/RPM and gas consumption for long highway trips without much loss of low end torque for gravel road riding.

      If you can afford a F800GS + $5K of farckles you’d have a sweet bike.

      BTW – I’ve seen the big BMWs struggle on the Dempster and being traillered home when it rained. Best thing you can do for the Dempster Highway is an aggressive tire and as little gear as possible.

  4. Danny D says:

    Well said. I bought a KLR to replace a GS that died 6k miles into a 10k mile ride. The dealer estimates were over $5k. I was angry, frustrated and hungry.

    I sold the GS as-is and bought a 2011 KLR.

    Not my dream bike either. But I’m liking it more every day.

  5. kyle says:

    My dad gave me his 07 KLR for my first bike when i was 16. I am 18 now and the only thing that i hated about it was its gutless i just recently put aftermarket cams, jet kit, CDI box, pipe, and header. it made a huge difference in the acceleration and top end for 1,200 (USD). im looking into a kit to make it into a 705cc for about 500 (cheaper sense i already have a cam). There are also suspension kits for it that i am getting after i get the head kit. For about 2,500 total, i will have a bike that performs almost as well as any other dual sport, and something i can work on.

  6. Dan says:

    I’ve had a 2007 BMW 1200GS, a 2009 BMW 1200GSA and a 2007 BMW F650 Dakar. I loved them all, the 2007 1200GS was my least favorite only because the range was not that great. I rode the GSA extensively and loved it, especially two up. I like to motorcycle camp and bought the GSA to do two up camping but it was to heavy with all the gear and unsafe to go offload like that so I sold it and bought the Dakar. I really liked the Dakar especially for MPG, I’ve got 70 on a number of tanks. That being said the BMW maintenance is expensive, repairs are expensive and it is more of a target for theft (I personally didn’t have any theft issues and did my own maintenance primary due to cost and it’s not the easiest bike to work on).

    I debated long and hard about my next bike and I’m literally getting up at 5am tomorrow morning to go pick up a 2014 KLR 650. I like the fact the bike is well priced, will go around the world if desired and will do anything. I’ll probably put another $3,000 into outfitting it and will drive it until the wheels fall off. I’ve ridden my Dakar 9000 miles all over the US and frankly prefer taking the back highways and seeing what’s off the beaten path. Riding back roads at 55 is perfect for me, I think slowing down and smelling the roses is what most people miss on bigger bikes speeding down the highway missing all the good stuff 2 miles over.

    Although I like saving money when I can, my decision is not based on cost, that’s just a kicker. I had a decked out Harley with all the Farkles and I always had to worry about it getting stolen which took a lot of the fun out of it. I sold it and bought a 650 Vstar and loved beeing able to ride it in any weather and never had to worry about it getting stolen.

    Check out youtube and you can find some really great adventures people made on KLR’s and to me they look more like really adventures, not high dollar excursions to say I’ve been here and here when in reality they rode right through never really taking it in. I’ll be taking mine to Alaska and South America in the next two years.

    Hope this long posts helps someone, ride safe!

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