2013 BMW G650GS or Suzuki DR650SE or KLR 650 or something else

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by bonnyc, May 19, 2013.

  1. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    Background:
    * I took an MSF class and got an M endorsement last year Dec. Have been trying to decide on my first bike since.
    * A few thousand miles of experience with step through scooters from 10 years ago in pretty inhospitable conditions. I think I've forgotten most of it though. I ride road bicycles though.
    * 32, male, 5ft 10.5in, 30in inseam.
    * Reasonably athletic - marathoner and can bench my body weight (170lbs).
    * I live in Manhattan, NYC.
    * Intended purpose: Riding to some places I go for running in, in and around the city. Occasionally riding to Jersey City across the river. Taking a long vacation trip on the bike once a year with my wife/kid/friends in the wife's car, potentially with the wife on pillion at times if we can get a friend to drive her car. Back roads to the extent possible but you cannot really avoid the highways here. There don't seem to be any trails around here.
    * Budget around USD 9k for the bike. Already have bought all gear.
    * Don't want to buy used. Just averse to the risk of owning someone else's problems, especially at a high speed on two wheels.
    * Don't want to spend more than $500/yr on insurance. The parking I've scoped out is expensive as is.
    * Don't want a bike that will need TLC frequently. I have very little time outside work and family and in that time I would just want to go out and ride.
    * Safety is very important to me. 2yr old at home that I want to see grow up (and ride with!).

    I had started out thinking I will limit my search to ABS equipped bikes.
    Had settled on a Honda CB500F but the damned bike with ABS is just not coming into the shops here. And I didn't like it that much anyway, it was more of a compromise "first bike."

    So I went and sat on a BMW G650GS at a local BMW dealership. LOVED the bike. They quoted me $9k OTD which seemed reasonable, though not overly so. I came back to think it over and saw all sorts of reliability concerns and a general consensus that BMW quality control is shot.

    Researching the BMW led to threads about the DR650SE and KLR650 and Wee-Strom 650. Of those only the Wee has ABS. The summary is:

    1. Honda CB500F: Cheaper than my budget (less than $7k OTD), cheap to insure ($460/yr), sat on a non-ABS model and it was okay. Nothing great but okay.
    2. BMW G650GS: Right on budget, cheap to insure, sat on one and it felt just right, LOVED the idea of it. But reports on the post-2009 bikes on the forums are TERRIBLE. Looks like I should exclude this on reliability grounds alone.
    3. Wee-strom: Right on budget (will be less than $9k OTD), EXPENSIVE to insure ($780/yr), sat on one and it felt TALL - I was on tiptoes. Excluding this due to cost-of-insurance.
    4. DR650SE: Under my budget, cheap to insure ($470/yr), no FI, tubes instead of tubeless, no ABS (!!), have NOT sat on it but like it on paper. Talked to someone who said they can do more than tiptoe it at a 5'9in height, so maybe it sags enough for me to mostly flat-foot it.

    Options are to:
    1. Wait indefinitely for the Honda. The last I heard was end of May, but then that has been a moving deadline since mid-April. I'm frustrated with the wait!
    1.5 Buy the CBR5000R - the UGLY faired and clip-on'd version of the CB500F for $500 more - which I CAN get in the ABS version right now.
    2. Buy the BMW and hope that all the problems that have plagued others will not affect me.
    3. Give up the ABS and buy a DR650SE. In the process also give up FI, tubeless tires.

    Questions:
    1. What do you think of the reliability and cost-of-ownership concerns of the BMW vs. the DR650SE?

    2. But how easy is it to lock the front/rear wheel on a DR650SE? Does the longer wheelbase make locking and sliding on paved street less likely? I don't want to start an ABS debate - I have seen people are pretty passionate about that topic on forums - so I am wording this question very carefully.

    3. What do you think of the street-safety of the BMW vs the DR650SE? Is a newbie rider more likely to crash one vs. the other?

    4. Wildcard question: What would you have done if you were in my shoes?
    #1
  2. Tiago

    Tiago Been here awhile

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    Well, I'll throw in my €0.02

    I own a G650GS, bought brand new last October. Although I miss my old bikes, this one ticks all the boxes for me.

    Its fast enough (I rarely go above 100 km/h, 60 mph, too many cops with radars going around, plus I don't like riding on highways), fairly comfortable as far as suspension goes, so stupidly easy to ride that I probably push it a bit more than I should, sips gas, plus it fits my 6'1" frame perfectly.

    I did buy it when they knocked 20% off the price, so it jumped immediately to the top of my list, knocking off the new Strom, the Versys and what could have been a second Sportster in my hands.

    I almost went for the Sertão, although I'm very glad I chose the regular version (with ABS, heated grips [best invention ever]). I ride it whenever I can, and in any weather as long as ice is not involved.

    I've had no problems with it, and the dealer is pretty damn good as far as support goes, but then again, I'm on another country entirely.

    I ride it to work, to errands and whenever I'm in the mood for light offroad duty, it does it effortlessly (well, as far as those tires allow it to).

    For the record, my previous experience was with a CB500 (previous EU model), XR600R (loved it and was scared s***less of it at the same time), a 1200 Sportster and now this one.
    #2
  3. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    Wow! You cram a lot into a post. If you were just going solo, I'd suggest the DR, but it's not as good for 2up as the KLR650, G650GS, or the Wee. All of those bikes can seem a bit heavy to a noob though, with the BMW having a lower seat and COG than the others.

    What's your weight and what are your wife's dimensions?

    We're 5'8/200lb/30"inseam and 5'4"/petite/30"inseam, and the DR is do-able for us, but not very spacious at all if we have luggage. I lowered the rider pegs 1", the passenger pegs 2", and installed touring pegs on the skid. I also installed a Seat Concepts seat. The main issue left is that the seat isn't very long with a tankbag and a topcase installed. Phreaky Phil addressed this by making a longer seat, and rode the TAT 2up with his wife. He's 5'10, so he's roughly your size. Foregoing the tankbag would probably help.

    All that said, the DR is the simplest and easiest to maintain. The BMW has the most power and best MPG. The KLR will probably be the easiest to find at a low price, new or used.

    I wouldn't worry about ABS with a DR, although you may choose to upgrade the braking feel and power with a braided stainless hose or two. Larger rotors and various pads are also available. As for locking the brakes, the 367lb (curb) DR can be flung around like a mtn bike compared to most 500cc+ streetbikes. I purposely lock the brakes all the time and haven't dumped it because of that yet, as opposed to the many OTHER reasons that I dump it regularly in the dirt. :lol3

    EFI is nice in some ways. It can be a bear to repair, even for dealer techs. BMW and Triumph have both confounded dealers at times. Single-carb thumpers aren't bad at all, IMO, to even fix in the middle of BFE with just a few simple spares. The DR's BST40 is simple. I don't even have to remove it from the bike to make adjustments if I swap exhausts. It fires up every morning without issue. So does my 4-carbed YX600. I rode that to work in Chicago winters even.

    Regardless of what bike you choose, CONTINUE to develop your riding skills (counter-steering, stopping, looking where you want to go, etc.) and your attention to SEEing and BEing SEEN. Wear gear too...helmet, armored gloves, ankle-protective boots, chest/back/shoulder/elbow/forearm/knee/shin/kidney/hip/coccyx protection. A decent set of helmet, gloves, jacket, pants, and boots can cover most of that and be easy to get on/off. Carry a term life policy that's 10x your gross annual (as a replacement income for your family, that they can typically draw 8% from annually without depleting an annuity), and that your medical policy covers moto injuries.

    Enough on all that. If you want simple to maintain, the DR is tough to beat. The KLR isn't far behind in that regard either. The BMW can be very reliable too, but if something DOES go wrong, it can be costly to correct, especially if you aren't repairing it yourself. Thinking now as a starter bike...As a starter bike, I'd go DR or even smaller. Ride as much dirt as you can, and learn how to handle the bike when traction gets kinda crazy. Save the long-distance 2up travel for after you've got several thousand miles of moto experience under your belt. By then, Honda should be shipping that CB500X with reliable and inexpensive ABS and EFI, and a Wee will seem pretty manageable on pavement.
    #3
  4. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    I'm 170 lbs. My wife is 5ft 8in tall and 130lbs.
    #4
  5. huguesfrederic

    huguesfrederic HF

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    +1
    #5
  6. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    You're likely going to want a fairly spacious bike for much 2up with a passenger that tall. I'd master skills on a smaller bike first though.
    #6
  7. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    I'd say "something else"

    Go and sit on a lot more bikes. Test ride some if you can.

    You are going to need a bike with more room for two people and have the passenger happy.

    Look at a Harley Sportster or a smaller Metric Cruiser

    Open up your options a tad more. An ADVstyle bike is generally not designed for two people unless it's a big cc machine.
    #7
  8. greer

    greer Long timer

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    What's the price on that Honda NC700X? Folks seem to love that bike.

    Sarah
    #8
  9. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    The only way to get an ABS on the NC700x in the US is to also get the DCT. And if one is to forego the ABS then there are many more things to consider...
    #9
  10. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    Thanks everyone for the replies. I am always amazed by how helpful these forums are.

    My replies so far have been short because I was on baby-sitting duty while the wife was traveling for work. Time for a detailed reply before I head out to work today!

    Kommando - :bow many many times to you. That was one comprehensive reply.

    I don't know if it was clear from my post or not, but two-up riding will probably be at most 20% of the use of the bike.

    Kommando - you were the only one to hit the question about ABS and DR-style bikes. I would have thought that the DR650 with its thin front wheel would be *quicker* in losing traction than say a street bike with more rubber touching the street. Is it the geometry that saves the slips? Or is it just that the bike is more easy to control *when* it skids?

    My view of ABS is just this: riding is inherently risky. I've looked through numbers and statistics. It is a common cognitive bias to think that statistics don't apply to you. So I am fighting against that bias. ABS takes one risk - skidding when panic braking - out of the equation. I am not going to find that many corrugated/bumpy roads, I am not off-roading that much. I want to take out as many risk factors as I can *both understand and afford to take out*.

    For those of you that talked about opening up the choices - they are open! I started with a street-naked (CB500F), and considering compromising for a street faired (CBR500R) and only happened to sit on a BMW G650GS (and loved it enough to get this alternate chain of thought started).
    #10
  11. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    TUCKERS - I do indeed like the Bonneville and the Harley, the former more than the latter. They fit within my budget and are cheap to insure. But neither has ABS available.
    #11
  12. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    One last question - I have never worked on any complicated mechanical machinery before. Do you think the bombproof comments on bikes like the DR are more more in the vein

    (A) "yeah they may break down but if you can heave a wrench they are easy to fix"

    or

    (B) "they rarely break down at all"

    In particular, do you guys think the mean time between show stopping failures on the BMW G550GS is shorter than those between say the DR650SE?
    #12
  13. Davidc83

    Davidc83 Been here awhile

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    BonnyC: dont know what forums you are seeing your information about the g650gs, but the problem the post 2009 (actually post 2011- the 2010 is the exact same model, and the 2011 had a different instrument cluster installed) models (and mostly the Serteaos) is the hot start issue, which is a decompression level issue, which BMW has recognized as a problem and has released a service bulletin for the problem. As long as the dealer has corrected the issue before you ride home with the g650gs, you should not have this issue.
    I have a 2009 (with 0 issues by the way :clap) g650gs, but if I was going to buy a new bike today, I would probably buy the Honda NC700 or the Honda cb500x (when they arrive sometime in July-the cb500x ergonomics are simliar to the g650gs); and that is because I no longer like the sound of a thumper and enjoy the sound of a quiet twin more.
    The Wee-Stroms are more top-heavy then the g650gs (g650gs gas tank in under the seat-thus lower cog); from what I have read the g650gs is more road worthy than a KLR, but the KLR is better on non-asphalt roads than the g650gs.
    #13
  14. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    I'll post links to the forums I read after work. But the primary issues I read about are indeed the hot start, fork failures (an maybe a rear swing arm failure).
    #14
  15. trainman

    trainman Been here awhile

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    As I have owned all of the four bikes that you have looked at, KLR 650, DR 650, BMW 650, and the 650 V-Strom. Which bike would I pick over the other for what you described how you are going to ride it, the 650 V-Strom. The KLR 650 and the DR 650 are great bikes, but they are carbureted and todays fuels with ethanol really suck and storing the bike for weeks on end will cause these bikes carburetor problem if you don't run the fuel out of the carburetor after each ride, ethanol fuel is the problem. The BMW 650 and the V-Strom are fuel injected which really helps with todays fuels and the problems that they create, but still you will have to take some precautions with these bikes to. I would make sure that I us a product like StaBil Fuel Stabilizer and StaBil Ethanol Conditioner in each bike before I put it up and not going to ride it again for several weeks. You don't need to use it with each tank of fuel, but I would make sure my last tank of fuel has it in there and run though the system, that is put the StaBil in and run the bike a mile or two. Your biggest problem is not the bike choice as much as how often will it be ridden. Plus I always use the top octane fuel when storing my bikes, but on a ride I might switch to regular, but make sure my last fill up is the highest octane. My second choice would be the 650 BMW, fuel injected, 65-70 mpg, ABS, Heated Grips, and the smoothest running of the singles, but dealership service departments love to see you, they want your $$$$$'s. The V-Strom goes 15,000 before the first valve adjustment, all the others around 600 miles. I now buy all my bikes used, your theory on someone else's problems is pretty much just a theory, most sell to buy something else, or just because they don't ride it, I like to buy bikes where the owner shows me the service records, it's really nice to have them pay for valve adjustment, etc. There is really no bad choice here, like I said, I would buy any of them again.

    John
    #15
  16. trainman

    trainman Been here awhile

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    When I posted my post I see you mentioned about hot starts, I guess you are talking about the BMW 650, true, if you don't want these problems use the ethanol additives that I talked about, hey this ethanol fuel of today is a problem and the BMW 650 are more sensitive to it. The V-Strom is the most forgiving of the fuel injected bikes that I have ever owned. As far a swingarm and fork failures you need to get past it, reading all these fourm posting on each bike and what some post, you won't ever buy any bike. These fourms are good and bad and go from one extreme to the other on each post, you picked four of the top selling bikes in the world, I'm sure some have had a problem somewhere along the line.

    John
    #16
  17. bigdon

    bigdon Long timer

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    My view on the reliability of the bikes on your list.

    If buying the BMW buy extended warranty !

    If going with the DL ,Dr, or KLR don't worry about buying the extended warranty. IMO

    I will second trainmans comment about the ethanol gas. The carbonated bikes will clog up fast with no use. My DR and DRZ seem particularly prone to the carbs clogging.
    #17
  18. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    So, any takers on my question as to whether it is easier or harder to lock the front wheel or the rear wheel on a DR650 or a KLR than say on a street bike like a Honda CB500F?

    Also - how much time do you think I would end up spending fiddling with the carbs if I go the DR650 or KLR route?
    #18
  19. bonnyc

    bonnyc Adventurer

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    John/trainman - thank you for your super informative replies. To the extent that I can tell the hot-start issue in the G650GS comes from an engine compression bar, not from FI problems. The sources are, besides the forums, the two BMW dealers I talked to. However, both dealers claimed that the issue affected only Sertao models, which doesn't really make sense to me or agree with forums, so... what do I know..
    #19
  20. _ransom_

    _ransom_ Adventurer

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    <o:p></o:p>

    I think the wheel locking, wet riding, traction issues, etc that you are asking about depend more on riding ability and environment than the bike.<o:p></o:p>
    I had the Honda 599 (CB600F or Hornet) and locked the rear tire more than I have on my KLR. However, that is probably because I drove it differently. My KLR is fun and it is basically a dirt bike on the road so I drive it as such. I don't drive like a grandpa, but I don't race it from traffic light to traffic light like I did the 599. You can and probably will, at least once, lock a tire on almost any bike. If you drive the way you should based on the bike you are on, I don't think you will have a big issue with a non-ABS model.

    I agree that the carb issue is important. I haven't spent much time fiddling with carbs in any motorcycles, 4-wheelers, or dirt bikes, but I never let one sit for more than a week or two without riding it for at least a few minutes. Carb bikes sitting for long periods (months), hands down, is not a good thing. The other issue is drivability. Having ridden the BMW 650 (fuel injected) and the KLR 650 (carb'd) back to back, I noticed a big difference in throttle response and low RPM acceleration.<o:p></o:p>

    Overall, owning a motorcycle takes mental and time commitment. If you are ready to pull the trigger and you do some homework you can enjoy a variety of bikes. I picked the KLR because it just fit, not size wise, but it just fit me. I kept test driving bikes, when it came to the KLR I drove it a 1/4 mile turned around and signed the papers with a big smile on my face. If you go bike shopping and don't walk out with a smile on your face... keep looking.<o:p></o:p>

    True story...I have a buddy that is floating around this forum somewhere named "Goldburg." I don't think I met anyone who love riding more. You know what he started with, a Burgman 650 (scooter). We gave him all kinds of crap about riding a scooter and he would just smile, load it up and head off to the mountains or on some other trip. He now has a BMW1200 which gets a lot less grief. Point being he started on a bike that he was comfortable with and that allowed him to ride with a smile on his face.
    #20