So I just convinced my wife that a motorcycle would be an efficient means of commuting to work but i have really no experience with them. I had a dirt bike when i was 10 and that was 20 years ago. I would like to find something that is more suited for highway riding and highway speeds that is an upright bike but can handle itself on gravel when we go camping. Im looking for a smaller bike, 650ish, I liked the bmw g650 GS but if there is another good choice out there i would love to hear about it. My budget is around $4000 or so. Any help would be appreciated.


Expedition Leader
I second Jame's recommendation. It's hard to find a lighter dual sport bike with enough fuel capacity and comfort to handle daily commuting, and anything much bigger than a KLR will do less well when off pavement.

And as an example, I just spent time a NW Mogfest with two longtime friends who rode down from Calgary (1500 km), him on a Ducati ST3 and she on her KLR. They carried all their camping gear with them.

The KLR has been made forever and it will seem old fashioned, but won't cost the same as something more exotic like a KTM. Even better, though, is the enormous amount of support for the KLR . . . all problems have been identified and documented and the aftermarket has provided hundreds of useful modifications. If you want to farkle your own bike as a hobby, buy the basic bike and have at it. There are, however, a whole bunch of KLRs that have lots of very nice modifications that have already been paid for and installed. Check or the classified section at ADVRider for some of the best:

Nothing wrong with a 650gs. It won't be as good in the dirt, but would probably be better for commuting. It won't, however, be as cheap for any given model year, and it won't have the level of support that exists for the KLR. (I suppose you make anything for 25 years and they'll be support and a following.)

Recommended books for Overlanding


Funny enough, I got on a Kawasaki today. I have to be honest, I liked it a lot more than I thought that I would. The height of the 650 was perfect. It was used with 4000 miles on it with a few extra goodies for 4100 from a dealer. I was very impressed. Thanks for the suggestions.


First, if you haven't done so already, I would HIGHLY recommend you take the MSF Basic course.

Most of the major players in the 650 thumper category (KLR, F650/G650, DR650) make great commuters. The DR is perhaps the most dirt worthy and the KLR and F/G650 are probably a bit better on the highway. But it is really splitting hairs. The KLR and BMW come stock with good fuel range and decent seats. Only the BMW has FI. For $4k, I don't think you will find the newer G650GS. You're probably going to be looking at an F650 prior to 2005 or so. (For reasons known only to BMW, they changed the name of the F650 single to the G650 when the F650 twin came out. And of course the F650 twin is 800 cc. I dunno - ask BMW!)

But if your idea of "offroad" is gravel and forest roads, I would also look into a Suzuki DL650 (aka V-Strom) or even a Kawasaki Versys. These are twin cylinder 650s that would be much more highway friendly and much better 2 up. Both are also fuel injected.

But here's the good news - all the bikes listed above are nothing short of GREAT. Find the one you like (that's been well maintained) and get it. You will find lots of people who have bought one and feel the need the criticize the others. But the fact is they are all great bikes in their own way and it is hard to go wrong if you buy a well taken care of example. You can always sell it after a season for very little loss if you find you want something else (which very well may happen).


I agree with the training first. We have lots of places locally that are practically walk in. Over a weekend it can be wrapped up.

The dealer will sell me the bike without an M license but I can't test drive it or drive it off the lot. Although they will deliver it.
I just got a KLR650 and love it. It's my second bike my first was a Sportster 883. I actually like the KLR better, mostly because it can do more. Definitely take a course I'm actually looking for one near me that does the dirt course. Dirt is more forgiving than asphalt though. The street class has literally saved my life a few times. I've had a few close calls with people pulling out in front of me and trying to share my lane. I'm sure if it had not been for the stuff I learnt in the class I would have had a bad case of bike vs car. It saves on your insurance a good bit too.

The Raven

What is your idea of gravel roads, and how much will you be doing on them? If your use will be 90% commuting and the rest local with maybe 1% per year camping on gravel...I would honestly say an only k75. They go forever, great for commuting and can be had cheap. I don't like oilhead BMWs but you might find an r1100gs for a decent price. On EBay now the is an airhead r80g/s around your range and it beats my KLR hands down in power, comfort and speed.

It might be older, but that means nothing when they are maintained, or a better name like BMW, Ducati, etc

Might I also recommend an MSF course to get yourself back into the saddle. Safe insurance and well worth it


Director of Adventure Management Operations
MSF course + underpowered beater bike until you learn what you are doing.

The Raven

Yes and no on the underpowered thing. Yes if you are naturally cautious and understand power is occasionally needed, no if you are a risk taker. I had the same advice given to me....I got the 1100gs and didn't get killed.
Update on the KLR.

I love this bike. I'll put a little bit of work into it and if there's not ice on the roads I've been riding it. Compared to my land rover I will save enough in gas to pay for the bike and new tires, maintenance, etc after about 18,000mi. After that it's all money back in my pocket and I bought it new for 6,500.
I put race tech cartridge emulators, and straight rate springs in the front end and it feels a hundred times better. New more aggressive foot pegs, oxford heated grips, highway dirt bike next gen handgaurds, moose racing pannier rack, and pelican cases.
I use it for everything to help save money, even laundry when our washing machine broke yesterday.

One should not sacrifice liberty, for a false sense of security.

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Beginners Bike

My 2 cents worth...

It's easy to listen to people's input. Don't get me wrong here. The good folks here recommend a good motorcycle. A KLR650 KAW or DL 650 Suzuki are tuff to beat. You say you are going to use it on the street as well. There are a number of Dual-sport alternatives you may consider. KLR650's are very common and you might find one for under <$4000.00 in fairly good shape. I have seen used dual-sports that you should consider that are in the $4000.00 ball-park as well. Triumph Tigers, Buells, KTM 560. The weight of the machine is likely the most important thing to consider when getting back into riding. Until you get some time in the saddle, you may even consider the Japanese-band 450cc. If you are using it to commute short-distances and intend to ride off-road in between. Start light. Start with a good used one. But buy good riding equipment first, then the machine. The most dangerous time for a motorcyle rider is in the first six-months. Statistically things get much better after that. The thinking goes that by the six-month period the rider has experimented with death several times and has learned where his/her limits are and are still able to walk and talk about them. So my rant is buy good riding equipment first, then a used motorcycle of your choice. Ride for six-months. By then you will have a much better understanding what you want in a bike and what kind of riding you want to do more of. This way there is less buyer frustration in buying something that in 6-months doesn't fit you. Remember there are tons of used bikes out there with little use. Check-out trade-ins at your local dealership. At least there a mechanic has given it the once over.

Have fun, ride safe


having owned the, KLR650, BMW F650GS and a DR650 - I agree with the view of the first two as the best on road with the BMW hedging first place with fuel injection heated grips and all around comfort - that being said it's a pig in anything soft. The KLR is a good compromise between the both - oodles of farkles etc. I currently own an 06 DR650 and I prefer it over the other two - nimble, easy to maintain, lightest of all three pretty much bullet proof. It's old school simple and it's the bike I should have bought and kept - I kicked myself after buying the KLR, the BMW was a project - got it broken and it was a labor of love - restored to factory ... still all in all the DR is simple fun with a bit of hooligan dirt action - and they look good in SuperMotard - quick change and all dirt...
I'll throw one more in the fray Honda's XR650L... the most dirt worthy of them all - liquid cooled = weight and fragile radiators - I prefer oil and air on the DR
just my 2 cents...

insurance is cheap - they're frugal on gas and not a target for the cops

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