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Old 2 Weeks Ago
mr bergman mr bergman is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 2,817
Suzuki DR650 Kawasaki KLR650 Honda XR650L comparison & known issues

These bikes are probably the pick of the bunch when it comes to cheap light 650 adventure bikes (haven't ridden a KTM 640 so left that out). There are plenty of reviews claiming that one bike is the best, but I reckon it's more about each is suited for different styles of riding. But there's certainly overlap, as I've tried to show in the video preview pic below...

In their wisdom (or lack thereof) Honda stopped selling these in Oz years ago, but you can still get used ones. Why is this probably best for offroad riding? It's the lightest by a long shot. It has the best suspension, and the longest travel. Which also means great ground clearance too. A shorter wheelbase makes it very nimble in the dirt. And a wide ratio gearbox gives you a low first gear, and a fifth gear that's not too bad for the highway (although some complain the gaps between certain XR650L gears are too wide). Unlike the 17 inch rear wheel on the others, the Honda has an 18 inch rear wheel, giving you a huge variety of tyres.

But in stock form the Honda XR650L isn't great for long distance. With no oil cooler it can run hot when pushed hard for extended periods, and wrecking valves has happened. It has the least oil capacity, the smallest fuel tank, and that very high seat height. Also there's no cush drive hub so it's not smooth on the road and the gearbox will probably wear faster with big mileage.

Known issues: CDI modules tend to burn out easily so carry a spare. Lean jetting and no oil cooler have seen riders blow their valves. Rejet and fit an oil cooler. The stock front sprocket does not fit correctly, causing the countershaft to wear - install a Fritzco brand or a sprocket from an XR650R to prevent this. No cush drive hub can lead to premature countershaft spline wearing and the transmission too. Fit a cush hub if doing long distance.

The Suzuki DR650. It's not great off road. It's not on road. But it's a good compromise and various mods will help with either. It's weight is between the other two bikes. As is the fuel tank size. The Suzuki DR650's oil cooler and larger oil capacity work well for long distance. First gear is too high for slow dirt riding but fine for general dual sport work. The mediocre suspension is okay as long as you are a gentle rider and not overweight. The Suzuki DR650 has the lowest seat of all three bikes, plus a further lowering option at the rear linkage. It's main drawbacks on the highway compared to the KLR are the lack of fairing, a hard narrow seat and the small fuel tank.

Known issues: There's a small chance the NSU bolts can work loose and destroy the gearbox. The countershaft seal can pop out on pre-2013 models, and there's a very small number of third gear failures. See our DR650 known issues vid for more details.

It's the heaviest by far, the suspension wallows if pushed hard, and there are big repair bills if you crash and damage that fairing! But the weight makes it stable on the highway and smooth dirt roads. You'll love the fairing especially in poor weather. Your ass will love that comfy seat, as will any pillion passengers. You even get a rear rack with the Kawasaki KLR650! Plus it's water cooled which is great if pulling high speeds for hours on end.

Known issues: The pre-2010 models were known for using excessive oil. A weak weld on gear shift lever breaks very easily. Use stronger sub-frame bolts if loading up the rear rack. Don't overtighten oil drain plug - the thread strips very easily. Most importantly fix the 'doohickey' problem before it destroys your engine! This is very important, google it or see the relevant part of the video.
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