Smart Money

Trek the world for fewer bucks and headaches

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Mitch Boehm

IN AN ISSUE de­voted to chal­leng­ing one’s lim­its, tak­ing a closer look at smart used buys that will ac­tu­ally help gen­er­ate those ad­ven­tures makes sense. Long-haulers and sport-tour­ers can do the job, of course, but more and more, es­pe­cially with baby boomers who revel in re­call­ing their off-road roots, dual-sport and ad­ven­ture bikes are the two-wheel­ers of choice when it comes to get­ting out of town. The roots of the ad­ven­ture bough of this tree are formed, of course, by BMW’S leg­endary GS line, the first of which was the 1981 R80 G/S. A shot-in-the-dark ex­per­i­ment, that first G/S ig­nited a move­ment that to­day is mo­tor­cy­cling’s hottest seg­ment and sin­gle­hand­edly saved BMW’S two-wheel di­vi­sion from ex­tinc­tion. To­day, one-third of BMW sales carry the GS moniker, with more than 600,000 sold since ’81.

First-gen­er­a­tion G/SS (1981–’87) are func­tional and durable but also rare and can be quite pricey, es­pe­cially the lim­ited Paris-dakar edi­tion. The sec­ond-gen R100GS (1987–’94) fea­tured a re­vised Par­alever swingarm/suspension, which was some­what prob­lem plagued. The to­tally re­vised R1100GS (1994–’99) was a break­through ad­ven­ture bike fea­tur­ing BMW’S “Oil­head” en­gine and Telelever front end, tech­nol­ogy found on the GS to this day. Well-main­tained ex­am­ples of the lat­ter are great ad­ven­ture val­ues, with prices rang­ing from $3,500 to $6,000, de­pend­ing on mileage and con­di­tion. In 2000, the re­vised R1150GS (2000–’03) came with a bit more power, six trans­mis­sion speeds, and slightly re­vised styling. Ex­pect to pay a bit more for the 1150, but in the end this is a great bike for not a lot of Ben­jamins. (Of course, any used R1200GS is also a su­perb choice.)

Noth­ing com­pares to the GS line in terms of legacy and long-stand­ing per­for­mance, but Suzuki’s V-strom 650 is one ex­am­ple of a model that’s try­ing like hell. Her­alded by many as one of the best all-around mo­tor­cy­cles on earth since its in­tro­duc­tion, the do-ev­ery­thing V- Strom 650 (2004–’11) has be­come the Ja­panese al­ter­na­tive to the GS, of­fer­ing ex­cep­tional per­for­mance and value when new and even more bang for the buck on the used mar­ket. (A sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion ver­sion de­buted in 2012, and was up­dated again in 2017.) Prices for even medium-mileage first- and sec­ond­gen ma­chines in good me­chan­i­cal shape are very af­ford­able, rang­ing from $3,000 to $5,000 de­pend­ing on con­di­tion and mileage. Fun to ride, plenty fast, and ca­pa­ble of go­ing to Alaska and back with­out com­plaint, the V-strom 650 is a bona fide ad­ven­ture-class star.

Mov­ing in a more dual-sport di­rec­tion, no dis­cus­sion of this genre would be com­plete with­out a men­tion of Kawasaki’s ven­er­a­ble KLR650. In­tro­duced in 1987, the KLR quickly be­came the ad­ven­ture-tourer of the sin­gle-cylin­der set, of­fer­ing per­for­mance, range, dura­bil­ity, and value for both on- and off-road treks. The KLR con­tin­ued with only mi­nor tweaks un­til 2007, when it was re­placed by a full-model-change ’08 model, which con­tin­ues to this day. Prices are ridicu­lously low, from as lit­tle as $999 for a late ’80s run­ner to $2,100 for a clean mid-’90s ex­am­ple with 22K on the clock, to just over $3,000 for a very nice 2004 model with 18K miles show­ing. You won’t find more bang for the buck than that.

If your vi­sion of used dual-sport fun is clouded by a bit more dust and mud, Honda’s XR650L must be con­sid­ered. Af­ter all, it’s been an open-class du­al­sport sta­ple for two and a half decades. While the XR-L is no longer the best off-roader in the street-le­gal cat­e­gory, it’s still pretty close, and be­cause the bike has been in Honda’s lineup since its in­tro­duc­tion in 1992, you know it’s re­li­able—a good thing when you’re con­sid­er­ing buy­ing used. Again, prices are gen­er­ally low, with rough run­ners go­ing for a grand, mid-level con­di­tion bikes priced at $2,000 to $2,500 and clean ex­am­ples from the last 10 years go­ing for $3,500 to $4,000, de­pend­ing on mileage and ac­ces­sories. It’s not a tourer like the KLR, but it will run down the free­way drama free and de­liver you to jeep trails and sin­gle-tracks in fine shape for off-road grins.

A lit­tle lighter than the XR650L ( but just as tall), Suzuki’s DR-Z400S is ba­si­cally a street-le­gal ver­sion of the DR-Z400E off-roader. The re­sult is very close to a true dirt bike with lights. While that con­cept has been re­al­ized to­day by KTM and oth­ers, those bikes cost nearly twice as much as a new DR-Z and three times more than a used model. Built since 2000, the DR-Z400S is ham­mer re­li­able, and there is a ton of hop-up and main­te­nance info on the in­ter­net. Ex­pect to pay any­where from a grand for a well-used ex­am­ple to $4,000 for a lowmileage later model. Even on the higher end of the pric­ing scale, you still get a lot of off-road, street-le­gal, trekking per­for­mance for your money. And that’s the point of all this, right?

Three decades of do-it-all on- and off-road­per­for­mance and the KLR still hangs tough.

The poor man’s GS? You betcha. And noth­ing at all wrong with that idea.

From Baja to Boston, Honda’s leg­endary XR650L dual-sport is ready to go.

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