Trek the world for fewer bucks and headaches
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.