First ADV Bike: F800GS or KLR-650?

Discussion in 'Parallel Universe' started by loudmc, Jul 19, 2018.

  1. loudmc

    loudmc n00b

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    Looking for recommendations from more experienced riders than myself. I've only been riding street bikes for about a year, but I'd like to move into ADV riding and touring. I like the F800, but I'm only 5'9" with short legs. All the F800s I've sat on are too tall, and fairly expensive. I've also seen alot of users posting about the KLR-650, but that also looks pretty tall in the saddle. Anyone have any other ideas? Budget is flexible up to about $10K, but less would be ideal.
    #1
  2. BygDaddee

    BygDaddee Where do I get a pie

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    Check out the CB500X if your not trying to take it serious offroad

    You can even add the rallye stuff as you go or want to do more
    #2
  3. dpike

    dpike BeeKeeper Supporter

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    imo, the f8 is a big bike to get in your first year of riding. you'll develop on and off road skills much faster in something considerably smaller and lighter. might seem silly but i think the yamaha xt250 would be a great starter as a dual sport bike. they hold good value and can probably be flipped in a year or two for exactly what you paid for it.
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  4. Indy Unlimited

    Indy Unlimited Long timer

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  5. FredRydr

    FredRydr Danger: Keep Back 300 Ft.

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  6. DRZJayhawker

    DRZJayhawker Ride hard and drink beer

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    You are going to run into the trade off issues here low seat height usually equals decreased power so doing much pavement might be an issue. One low seat height bike which comes to mind is Kawasaki KLX 250 (27 inches). You could also take a look at the Yamaha WR250R it is in the 36 inch range, but there are lowering kits available. The KLR has been around of years and there are lots of used ones out there and I have seen them handle single track to the highway.

    Remember you are not going to find that perfect bike which will handle both off-road and paved, so you will have to make trade offs. Most of my riding buddies have a large ADV motorcycle like a F800 and a small dirt bike like a KTM 450 for more off-road orientated riding. Now I'm not say an F800 won't do off-road it will, but it is a lot easier to do off-road riding on a smaller dirt bike.

    Good luck with your choice and remember the most important thing is to get out there and ride.
    #6
  7. StumpyHamilton

    StumpyHamilton Adventurer

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    The KLR is tall, but can be lowered. The upside is that its cheap and reliable. If you drop it, its no big deal. The downside is they aren't setup real great from the factory: janky cooling system, the doohickey, mediocre suspension, etc. That can all be fixed for less than what you'd pay for a BMW though.

    I think if you're just trying to get into it, pick up a used KLR and ride it. Keep an eye on the other bikes you see out there, and if you end up really like touring and such, pick up a nicer bike.
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  8. Deek22

    Deek22 Adventurer

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    I've got an F700GS as my first bike and I'm only 5'7" and with the lowered kit I can put both balls of my feet on the pavement in my touring boots.
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  9. XRman

    XRman Long timer

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    Deek22 is on track. I know a rider of short stature who owned a Tiger 800, then a F700GS. He was much happier on the F700 and toured rough dirt road areas successfully.

    I sat on a KLR650 and thought it was tall in the saddle. I am taller than you by 3 inches. The previous owner traded it because he kept toppling over at traffic lights.

    You could also consider a Vstrom 650, which is equivalent to a F700 in size and performance. They are pretty good all rounders.

    The advice above to get a XT250 to hone your dirt riding skills is valid. Trying to learn on a big heavy bike will result in learning bad habits.
    #9
  10. Pilotuh1b

    Pilotuh1b Been here awhile

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    Have a look at the low options of the SWM650. New bike but good reviews. I’ve got a friend who is vertically challenged and has loved it.
    #10
  11. longbedbob

    longbedbob Been here awhile

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    If you check out Youtube, Everide is also 5'10" and manages a KLR off road among other bikes. He also has a good video on KLR's for new riders.




    So size isn't necessarily the end all be all. But I understand the size/ confidence ratio when transitioning to a new bike.

    Here are some thoughts. Maybe you'll find something helpful, maybe not.

    What kind of riding are you doing to do? Gravel roads and fire trails? Either would be fine, seat height or not. Technical? Maybe another type of bike altogether at this point?

    I have both a KLR and an F800GSA I had an XT250 until it was stolen. Although it sucked, the thief did me a favor. I "outgrew" the XT within a few months of buying it. Being 6' and 200 lbs meant that I kept the suspension pretty much fully compressed just by sitting on the bike. Being able to flat foot was nice, but it was also cramped even when sitting on the passenger seat.

    I took the insurance money and bought a new KLR. It took a while getting used to the weight and the suspension is still a bit limited but at least there is some travel. It's buzzy on the highway, but then so is my F800GSA above 5,000 RPM.

    Even though on paper they share the same seat height, I'm able to flat foot the KLR and not the F800. The F800 also weighs 150 pounds more and you feel every ounce of it once it starts to tip over and/or you have to pick it back up. Trying to back up the F800 in rough stuff on your tippy toes? Good luck. Mounting is also a problem. With Sidi Crossfires and Pod knee braces, I can swing a leg over the KLR. The BMW requires more stretching and, often, I scuff the seat or right side of the gas tank. I don't know how I'll manage once I mount some loaded panniers.

    Whereas the KLR has soft brakes, I've found the BMW brakes almost too good by comparison. More than once I've tried to bleed off speed on a gravely descent and accidentally applied too much force and locked them up. Scarier still was using the front brake with ABS enabled under similar conditions and being met with the sensation that you're sliding on ice (ie. no braking).

    The throttle response on the KLR isn't as snappy as the F800. It can be improved with a quick mod, though. On the other hand, the warp speed electronic throttle of the F800 has gotten me in trouble a few times. More than once, I've lost my balance in rough conditions and "fell" on the handle bars causing an instantaneous surge in acceleration when it was the last thing I needed.

    Cost of ownership? Kawi hands down. Buy one, mod it up, then buy another for your buddy. You'll still have gas money to spare before you approach the MSRP of a fully farkled F800GSA. Repairing damage from drops and spills will also be easier and cheaper. And you will dump any bike you go with.

    Highway comfort - BMW. No question. Ditto acceleration, top speed, and on road handling. A comfort seat might help the 650, though.

    Offroad? Off the showroom floor it will the 800. However, drop a $1000 in custom suspension work on the KLR and the gap narrows significantly. BTW, an upgraded ESA shock runs about $1800 from Touratech. Ditto upgraded fork cartridges.

    Fuel economy and range? About the same for my laid back style of riding - 50 + mpg and 300ish mile range.

    Build quality? Others will not have this issue, but my F800 with only 1500 miles has been in the shop twice now for fuel leaks. I haven't ridden it in almost a month now due to the distances involved with getting it to and from a dealership. My KLR has never been to the dealer since I rode it off the lot. Sure, there are some mods to enhance longevity of the Kawi due to design oversights, but those are cheap and easy to do.

    Ease of maintenance? KLR. Keep the oil changed and chained tightened then ride it until it falls apart. Besides, it's a good idea to learn how your bike works and you won't get into too much trouble if you mess it up. Another thing to consider is the availability of parts and dealerships. Kawi dealers are pretty much everywhere. BMW? Not so much. I have to drive 3 hours and out of state to find the closest Ma Motorrad center.

    When I bought the F800, I initially thought it would be my go to dual purpose bike and I'd later sell the KLR in favor of a Honda CRF230 or similar trail bike. Now I'm not so sure. I'm more confident offroading the KLR even with it's limitations. The lower height, weight, and "tractor factor" suit my style of riding moreso than the taller Bavarian. I can also dab my foot when needed and assist with straightening up a squirrely bike. I've yet been able to catch the BMW before it fell. So, instead of selling it I think I will upgrade the suspension this winter and see what comes of it. Regardless, it will be some time, if ever, before I develop the confidence to take the F800 to the same places I can easily get my KLR.

    Either way you go, you will get a good bike. Only you can determine which is better. From my perspective, there's nothing wrong with the KLR that a few thousand dollars in farkles and mods can't fix including, in your case, a lower seat.
    #11
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  12. Tigershark48

    Tigershark48 My other BMW is a Roadster.

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    They don’t come a whole lot better than a lowered F700 for what you’re after. I have a standard height F700 and think it’s outstanding. Plenty of highway power, low cog, great mpg and can go off road if that’s what you want to do. I’m 5’11” and find the KLR and F800 too tall. You need to test drive a lowered F700. I think you’ll be very impressed.
    #12
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  13. Bhart89

    Bhart89 Long timer Supporter

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    The Suzuki DR650 has a pretty low seat height and a very forgiving motor.
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  14. XRman

    XRman Long timer

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    If the SWM 650 is imported into USA then, I would consider one of those. It is sort of like a modern DR650 with EFI, better suspension and less weight. I rode across OZ with 2 of the SWM650RS models with Safari tanks and small screens. They made it look pretty easy.

    If I could only have one bike, I would be buying a SWM ( ADV model, but with 21/18 wheels). Luckily I can have more than one bike and choose which one suits my intended ride. If it is mainly highway and some dirt road then the Tiger 800XCx gets to go. If it is rough and hard rocky hill terrain the Safari tanked DRZ400E is my choice.

    As Tiger Shark has said elsewhere, you need to get a bike that suits your size and strength levels. For touring I would also consider a low seat version of the Tiger800XCx or XR model if you can find one in your price range. The cruise control makes touring much more pleasant and the triple motor is smooth.
    #14
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  15. Tigershark48

    Tigershark48 My other BMW is a Roadster.

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  16. WesF

    WesF Been here awhile

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  17. BMW-K

    BMW-K F800GS FTW!

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    Hello LoudMC, welcome to the F800GS forum! There's a lot of really good commentary going on already and kudos to you for asking about.

    I'm 5'8" with a 30" inseam and I ride an F800GS on Touratech Suspension. It's a darn tall bike (9"+ of suspension) but I do love it. And I'm also here to tell you that you can get used to the tall bike - being short, I haven't flatfooted a bike in 150,000 miles. I get a toe down at lights. It does however require a little bit of planning at stoplights (which foot down, etc.). There's no way I can walk the bike backwards while sitting on it, so side - walking is the norm. It's easy enough to learn how to work around the height...but as pointed out earlier, you can develop bad habits if you don't have the experience.

    So here's the question I want to pose to you. When you say Adventure Riding, what do you mean? Do you mean traveling to Alaska and Prudhoe Bay and using the dirt highways out there? Or do you mean gnarly single-track way the heck out there that some of our more intrepid members manage? If it's the former, you could be fine with just a couple bike modifications (lower the suspension and low seat can get you 2" of height). If it's the later, well, that's going to be a real challenge as the GS is really not a good 500# dirt bike. Or, more accurately, 500# is beastly in the off-road stuff.

    What I do like about the F800GS is that it is such an easy bike to ride and there are a lot of great deals out there. The motor is a peach, power is adequate and very linear, steering is light and faithful. Parts are sure to be available for decades and the bike is a very reliable machine on the whole. I'd suggest trying to find a lowered F800GS and to spend some money (they aren't cheap) on a legitimate ADV off-road training course.

    Peace!
    #17
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  18. XRman

    XRman Long timer

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    It will sit at highway speeds all day long too. In Oz they also offer 21/18 wheels as an option.
    It would not be as comfortable as a multi cylinder bike on the highway, but once on dirt it would shine!

    As BMW-K wrote, it all depends on what the OP wants to do with the bike. For a first ADV bike that it cost effective , reliable and with a good dealer net work, I found the Suzuki V-strom 650 a good starting point. With some 50-50 tyres fitted ( Mitas E07) that bike went a lot of places a road bike had no right to do. Being from a dirt bike background I wanted more from the suspension, so I didn't have to be so selective of my speed and line on rough roads. That is why I traded up to a '15 model Tiger with the improved suspension.

    My opinion for ADV riding the OP should look for a bike that has had suspension work done to improve its handling over rougher dirt roads. As a learner on dirt the suspension can save your butt if it copes with sudden hits well. Having a bike with overly soft suspension is comfy on road, but it soon finds its limits when touring on rough dirt roads. An unexpected pothole, a cattle grid or even corrugations on a blind corner can put you into trouble if the suspension uses all its travel too quickly. The weight of the ADV bike + luggage makes it harder to make corrections once the bike is out of control and heading off track on a tangent. Even my mate who has years of riding experience ( but not a lot in recent years) lost control of his V-Strom on a few bumpy bits and ended up in the bush. We laughed and pulled it back onto the road twice in about 100 m of track, but at speed it would have been a different outcome.

    His V-Strom had stock suspension. Mine had stiffer front springs and Cogent DDC valving and it coped way better. Adding good suspension to a bike after purchase can be expensive. In my experience on re-sale you don't make that money back. It does make your bike stand out from the crowd and make it more attractive to potential purchasers. If the OP is looking at a F800/700 or a Tiger 800 11-14 models, ask what has been done to the suspension.
    #18
  19. skysailor

    skysailor Rat Rider Supporter

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    Lots of ideas. Lots of choices. But, it’s really your call. Couple of points. You will drop it. New will hurt more than used. $$$$ will hurt more than $$! I bought a very used DR650. But hey, that’s me. Somebody mentioned an XT 250. Yup. That’d work. Want to upgrade in a year? Won’t lose a penny. Enjoy....that’s the main thing.
    #19
  20. 9Realms

    9Realms Drawn in by the complex plot

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    A KLR is cheap and satisfying, and you won't spend all your time sitting in a dealership waiting for recalls and odd repairs requiring diagnostic devices, you can do them yourself. Or as the tale goes, if you break down on the side of the road in some third-world country on a KLR, walk to the other side of the road and look in the ditch. You might find a donor-bike you can harvest what parts you need to get back into the game ...... :lol3

    Get a Sargent "low" seat, and the height problem is tackled, done, non-factor. A KLR is also cheap to insure. Some art for inspiration....

    klr-gal.jpg
    #20
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