Jeff SuperDork
4/27/17 2:17 p.m.

Anders Green posted on FB about being out riding today on a nice spring day and that you should be doing the same. I agree, I need a bike. I have not owned one in forever.

Would the Kawasaki KLR650 be a good choice for a cheap all a rounder at the $2500 price point? Any years better than others? Any better makes/models? I can already taste the bugs in my teeth.


¯\_(ツ)_/¯ SuperDork
4/27/17 2:25 p.m.

It depends what "all-a-round" means for you- lots of backroads, gravel, maybe a little offroad exploration? Great choice. Lots of highway or gnarly singletrack? Maybe less great.

singleslammer PowerDork
4/27/17 2:27 p.m.

If you want to got LITERALLY 'all around,' then yeah the KLR is great. Buy the nicest one you can, that is about all. They are the bike the never changed. Any of the ones from the last 15 years are fine.

If you are wanting to spend more time on pavement than gravel or dirt, I would suggest something with multiple pistons. There are tons of options that would work. For $2500, it is going to be more about the condition than the bike. I bought a REALLY sweet Triumph Tiger for $3k last year. There are deals like this for the Vstrom 650 and similar. Any of the japanese upright 'ADV' bikes are good choices.

Jeff SuperDork
4/27/17 2:32 p.m.

It will probably end up being more pavement than dirt gravel; I live and work in Toronto. But there are great non paved roads less than an hour from me that would be great to explore. But yeah, maybe something a little more road oriented would be better.

HappyAndy PowerDork
4/27/17 2:46 p.m.

I like KLRs, but wouldn't be quick to recommend one as your only bike if going highway speeds on pavement most of the time is the plan. They are also tall and top heavy, something to consider if your short or inexperienced.

If possible increase the budget a little and look for something with 2 cyls. Or, if your ok with a smaller DS, you might find some good 250s. Those would be great for everything but highway speed cruising.

singleslammer PowerDork
4/27/17 2:47 p.m.

The KLR is the most road oriented 'Dirt Bike.' I wouldn't want to use it to do anything more than fire trails and anything more than an hour on it on pavement is likely to get old. What about a smaller displacement road bike, like a Ninja 500 or similar Honda with 90% street/10% road tires? It would have better road manners than the KLR with decent gravel ability while still being light weight.

wide front tires are good for the street, narrow are better off road.

pres589 PowerDork
4/27/17 5:24 p.m.

I like singleslammer's suggestion. Maybe go looking for a good deal on an SV650; nice motor, lot of them out there, good cross-pollination of parts with other Suzuki's, not too heavy. $2k should buy a pretty decent one with enough left over for any maintenance and tires that fit the part.

p.s. Like this;

akamcfly Dork
4/27/17 7:27 p.m.
Jeff wrote: Anders Green posted on FB

I know an Anders Green - went to highschool with him and his brother Stuart.

Zomby Woof
Zomby Woof PowerDork
4/27/17 9:21 p.m.

Jeff, check out ODSC forum, you'll get some good local advice and info there

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
4/28/17 9:41 a.m.

How tall are you? The KLR 650 is a big bike--- If you have an inseam shorter than 32" it may be hard to get comfortable on one.

For a bike that is more nimble in the dirt, but still ok on the street for short trips, check out the DRZ 400. Both Kawi and Suzuki shared the design.

For something that is better on road, but still can be taken off road--- look for a Suzuki VStrom 650, Kawi Versys 650, or a BMW GS650.

ae86andkp61 HalfDork
4/28/17 2:24 p.m.

I'll second Joe Gearin's suggestion to consider your height and ergonomics. I'm not shy about swapping handlebars, moving footpegs, and reprofiling seat foam, and even so I find some bikes more comfortable than others...and the comfiest tend to stay in heavy rotation while the less comfy tend to languish in the back of the garage. Nobody wants to ride an uncomfortable bike, no matter how highly the collective internet recommends it.

It might be worth asking your buddies and/or posting on a local motorcycle forum, or your regional sub forum on to see if you can at least sit on a few of the contenders for a quick ballpark pass/no pass test.

I'm tall, so I tend to prefer a dual sport or supermoto even though much of my riding is urban or backroad twisties. It is hard to fold 6'2" onto some small sportbikes and standards. Yeah, yeah, I it comes...the inevitable, "so why don't you just get a 1200?" questions. I hate wrestling a 500-pound bike around the city, so a dual sport is comfy for me while being lightweight. Being able to dabble off-road is a nice bonus. I'm not riding much on the highway, so YMMV.

The good news with many bikes mentioned like KLRs, DRZs, SV650's, EX500s, etc is that the demand for good ones on the used market is pretty consistent. If you pick up a runner in good shape and end up not liking it, you can often get most or all of your money back out of it when reselling, especially if you detail it and sell in the spring.

Dogote New Reader
4/28/17 3:09 p.m.

Don't try to modify a street bike into a dirt bike, it never works out well unless you have a lot of time, money, fabrication skills, and time and money. Believe me, I invented turning street bikes into dirt bikes, jst not worth the trouble.

As far as good beginner bikes:

KLR Minuses = heavy, slow, not great on the street, not great in the dirt. Pluses = Cheap to buy and own, hard to break, and can do a lot of things, just none of them well.

BMW F650, early fuel injected models (stay away from carbed ones, if there are any left) Minuses = Heavy in the dirt, slowish, BMW parts may sometimes cost more, you may only find ones with a lot of miles in your price range.

Pluses = Best single cylinder engine on the road, almost no vibration. Best street handling "dual sport" bike for the money, relatively trouble free, super internet support, dealers generally will get you the right parts the first try, if you need to take it for service, BMW techs usually know what they are doing. Can be ridden 2 up in relative comfort, has many hard bag options, easy to work on. ABS is nice to have.

DRZ 400

Minuses = It is a dirt bike, its heavy for a dirt bike, it way slower than a street legal 250 KTM dirt bike and weights probably 100 pounds more.

Pluses: Its a dirt bike, it is low performance/low maintenance, it can do most things a dirt bike can do. It's cheap. Also comes in supermoto version for having way too much fun in town.

V-Strom 650:

Minuses: It is pretty much a road bike, and by road, I mean road regardless of surface. Beginners will want to ride it carefully on gravel.


A reliable middle weight bike that can do more than most "street" bikes. Can tour with luggage and even two up in some amount of comfort, can pass cars while going up hill, cheap to own.

V-Strom 1000:

See V-Strom 650, but it's not nearly as good. Don't know why, they just aren't.

Ducati Multistrada 620:

Street bike, handles rough roads in urban or rural setting with ease. Fast for a little bike. I have personally drug my knee through a corner while passing sportbikes (on the track) numerous times on a Multistrada 620. My wife currently has one for touring.

Minuses = you must be somewhat committed to maintenance and TLC to be happy with an Italian motorcycle.

I can go on and on, if you want to know any specifics about various different bikes, I can probably answer them. I owned a Ducati dealership for 10 years, Master BMW, Ducati tech.

I currently own:

KTM 1190 ADV R Ducati Sport Classic 1000 Moto Guzzi 750 Ambassador Ducati 800 Monster (wifes) Ducati 620 Multistrada (wifes) Moto Guzzi 500 Monza (wifes) Ducati 160 Monza (wifes) 1973 Honda CT70 (wifes) and a pile of 1960's Ducati project bikes (1/2 wifes)

We're kind of into bikes at my house. Wife has 2 in the dinning room right now because we can't afford to buy any actual art.

akamcfly Dork
4/29/17 5:45 p.m.
Dogote wrote: Don't try to modify a street bike into a dirt bike, it never works out well unless you have a lot of time, money, fabrication skills, and time and money. Believe me, I invented turning street bikes into dirt bikes, jst not worth the trouble.

What if one wanted to make their street bike more gravel road friendly? There are more unpaved than paved roads around here and I may or may not one day want to explore some of them. I figure if a Versys or Wee Strom can handle a little off-road use, why couldn't my ER6N be fine on a gravel road with some more appropriate tires and a skid plate?

Huckleberry MegaDork
5/1/17 9:54 a.m.
akamcfly wrote: I figure if a Versys or Wee Strom can handle a little off-road use, why couldn't my ER6N be fine on a gravel road with some more appropriate tires and a skid plate?

Street bikes that excel at that sort of thing should have decent suspension travel and an upright seating position. Wide, smooth torque curves. No dangly bits like oil coolers or radiators vulnerable to rocks (so guards or skidplates if they do). They should not have a lot of expensive plastic to replace if you tip over going 10mph. Having some sort of 90/10% tire available in the rim size is probably the biggest single thing though.

My bike is none of those things... but yet here it is... at the top of a muddy mountain garnering sneers from the folks who brought thumpers

And here it is... again, not quite being appropriate and needing a little assistance

This is what the tire looked like at the end of the day:

So, yeah, you can ride anything anywhere if you want to. People will chime in to tell you you can't or you shouldn't but... you only probably should know what you are getting into... then do it anyway :)

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
5/1/17 9:54 a.m.

I own a 2015 Versys 650, and it's much more of a street bike than an off-road bike. With a set of more dirt-friendly tires and a skid plate, it would likely be fine for very light off-road use, but it will never have the abilities of a DRZ400 in the soft stuff. It's fine on gravel roads, and does exceptionally well on nasty pavement, but it's no motocross bike.

That said, the Versys is a ton of fun on pavement---- it's nearly as nimble as a sport bike, but way more comfortable. Also, with the factory hard-bags, it's pretty damn practical too. It's quick enough to keep me entertained, fast enough for long-haul travel, and I'm getting about 50mpg out of it. For me, it's the perfect all-around bike (besides the kinda-weird looks).

I was seriously considering a WeeStrom before I bought the Versys--- but the redesign of the Kawasaki won me over.

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