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2012 BMW ­­G 650 GS Sertão vs. 2012 Kawasaki KLR650 Comparison

These rugged, capable dual-sports will take you and your gear anywhere on the map, gates or snow notwithstanding.

These rugged, capable dual-sports will take you and your gear anywhere on the map, gates or snow notwithstanding.

Photo Credit: Greg Drevenstedt, Paul Drevenstedt & Kevin Wing

Greg Drevenstedt
June 4, 2012
Filed under BMW Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on BMW Motorcycles, Dual-Sport + Adventure Motorcycle Reviews, Kawasaki Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Kawasaki Motorcycles & Sportbikes, Road Tests

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What would you do with an extra $2,351? Even at today’s high prices, you could fill your gas tank hundreds of times. You could buy new gear from head to toe, a wish list of accessories, or you could fund an open-road odyssey for months. If you’re in the market for a new 650cc dual-sport single, would you use the money to buy a BMW G 650 GS Sertão ($8,650) instead of a Kawasaki KLR650 ($6,299)? Would it be money well spent?

To find out, my brother Paul joined me on a three-day exploratory ride in the southern Sierra Nevada. We’ve both owned dual-sport 650 singles, and we share a fondness for their long-travel suspension, upright seating and nimbleness on city streets and back roads. We also like that they’re usually tough-as-nails fuel-sippers, cheap to buy and cheap to maintain. With standard hand guards and skid plates, spoked wheels (21-inch front, 17-inch rear) shod with dual-sport tires and beefy luggage racks, the Sertão and KLR are ready to tackle almost anything. Before setting off, I used the Southern California edition of Butler Maps to plan our route, and we outfitted both bikes with taller windscreens and soft luggage (see sidebar on page 52).

Continuing the legacy of the F 650 GS Dakar, which BMW built for a decade, the new-for-2012 G 650 GS Sertão is a rugged entry-level model in BMW’s legendary GS line of adventure bikes. We ran a short evaluation of the Sertão in our April 2012 issue, praising its peppy motor, agile handling and good suspension compliance. Its counterbalanced, single-cylinder engine has a bore of 100mm, stroke of 83mm, and displaces 652cc. Dual overhead cams actuate four valves, and fuel is injected. The Sertão spun the drum on Jett Tuning’s dyno to the tune of 44.5 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 38.9 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm, with redline at 7,000 rpm.

In the canyons, the Sertão has sharper steering, the KLR more stability.

In the canyons, the Sertão has sharper steering, the KLR more stability.

The Kawasaki KLR650’s history extends back much further than the Sertão’s, all the way to 1987. The original KLR650A chugged along in Kawasaki’s lineup with few changes for 21 years, becoming America’s best-selling dual-sport. Its very existence launched countless around-the-world journeys, obsessive online forums (“Did you replace your doohickey?”) and innovative aftermarket suppliers. Debuting in 2008, the KLR650E addressed many of its predecessor’s limitations, with improvements to the engine, brakes, suspension, wind protection and more. Look at the spec charts and you’ll see many similarities between the BMW and Kawasaki. Their engines have the same oversquare bore and stroke (though Kawasaki says the KLR displaces 651cc; chalk it up to rounding), they have DOHC heads and four valves, and they have 5-speed transmissions, cable-actuated wet clutches and chain final drive. But the KLR has a much lower compression ratio (9.8:1 vs. 11.5:1) and it inhales fuel through a Keihin constant-velocity carburetor. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, the Kawasaki’s lower state of tune resulted in lower peak figures: 36.9 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 33.8 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm (redline is 7,500 rpm).

Paul and I slabbed it from coastal Ventura, California, to the small agricultural town of Arvin, in the southeast corner of the flat, dusty Central Valley. Both bikes cruised smoothly and steadily at 60-70 mph, with much less vibration than you’d normally expect from thumpers. Low temperatures over Tejon Pass made Paul glad he was on the Sertão, equipped with BMW’s $300 Standard Package (heated grips and 12V socket). We appreciated both bikes’ wind-blocking hand guards and taller accessory windscreens. After gassing up, we began our climb into the Sierra foothills via Caliente-Bodfish Road, one of Butler Maps’ designated Paved Mountain Trails described as, “Narrow ribbons of asphalt [with] no center stripe, no shoulder, tight turns and steep grades.” Add in rough pavement, dirty corners and an obstacle course of open-range cows and their chips, and you’ve got an ideal dual-sport road.

The tall, lithe BMW Sertão is more capable and confidence-inspiring off-road.

The tall, lithe BMW Sertão is more capable and confidence-inspiring off-road.

Riding two motorcycles back-to-back, swapping multiple times over multiple days, brings their differences into sharp relief. Stopping to digitally capture the commanding view, Paul noted, “From my first few minutes on the KLR, I felt confident and comfortable, like riding a bike I’d owned for years. Not so with the Sertão, which seemed quirky.” The KLR is undoubtedly straightforward—easy to figure out, sensible, well sorted—qualities that have helped it remain a top-selling bike in Kawasaki’s lineup for 25 years. The KLR’s dual-counterbalanced engine is smoother than the Sertão’s, especially at low revs, with a very linear, predictable powerband. Its carburetor, choke lever and fuel petcock (on/off/reserve) are old-school, but they work. Same goes for the easy-to-read analog gauges and the round, functional mirrors.

From Caliente-Bodfish Road we turned onto Breckenridge Road, another Paved Mountain Trail, though a sign warned it was closed eight miles ahead—the first of many winter road closures we would encounter over the next few days. Climbing higher, dodging rockslide debris, patches of snow began to appear in shaded corners. Riding the Sertão, I felt reassured by its stronger brakes and ABS (which can be turned off), and the bike felt narrower between my knees, more frisky in and out of tight corners. Both bikes have single discs front and rear, with two-piston front calipers and one-piston rear calipers. But the BMW’s Brembo setup, which has a larger-diameter front disc (300mm vs. 280mm), has more initial bite and more stopping power. The KLR’s Nissin brakes are by far its weakest feature, with limited power and a wooden feel front and rear.

White stuff on Sherman Pass Road made for some dicey riding without studded tires.

White stuff on Sherman Pass Road made for some dicey riding without studded tires.

Ice on Breckenridge Road turned us back before the gate did. North of Kernville, we took Kern River Highway to Johnsondale, turned around at another road closed sign and backtracked to Sherman Pass Road. We passed a sign warning of closure 12 miles ahead, but after climbing 3,000 feet in eight miles we were turned back by a thick blanket of snow covering the road. We ended the day exploring a maze of dirt roads on the west side of Lake Isabella.

Logging 300 rough-n-tumble miles on our first day allowed us to draw some conclusions about comfort. As six-footers with long limbs, Paul and I both felt more cramped on the Sertão due to its higher pegs and lower seat (33.9 vs. 35 inches). The Sertão’s deeply dished seat also locks you into position, whereas the KLR’s long, narrow, flat saddle makes it easy to slide back and forth. More legroom is almost always better than less, but at the end of the first day it wasn’t my knees that ached but my butt. Despite having more room to move around on the KLR, I never felt uncomfortable on the Sertão; in fact, I grew fond of the compact, cozy cockpit and well-padded seat. The KLR’s hard saddle became more brick-like as the day wore on.

The BMW has more ground clearance, a beefier skid plate and less vulnerable bodywork than the Kawasaki.

The BMW has more ground clearance, a beefier skid plate and less vulnerable bodywork than the Kawasaki.

Another day, another dead end. After making our way up and over the Greenhorn Mountains at Alta Sierra, gingerly negotiating the steep, sand-covered up-and-down grades, we climbed back up into the Sierra Nevada on Sugarloaf Mountain Road. With snowmelt on the road and ice along the shoulder, we slowed our pace and soon came upon a sheet of ice covering the road. We turned around and blasted our way down Old Stage Road to the valley floor before heading back up into the mountains on CA 190 to Camp Nelson, where we encountered more skittish sand and eventually a gate. After backtracking to Kernville for a second night, we departed the Sierra Nevada on CA 178 through the deep, impressive Kern River canyon. We endured a long, flat ride across the Central Valley, past feedlots and crop fields, to the Traverse Ranges and a final run on our most familiar back roads toward home. After more than 800 miles of twists, climbs and descents, Paul and I had chosen our favorites.

Paul preferred the Kawasaki KLR650, which was “rock solid,” had the “best riding position” and was “easy to flick through the twisties” thanks to its wide handlebar. There was very little he didn’t like about the KLR. The Sertão, on the other hand, confused him. It didn’t fit him properly, it vibrated too much and it had idiosyncrasies that he couldn’t reconcile: the gearbox felt notchy (“Where’s neutral?”), the vertical bar graph tachometer was too hard to read, and, due to reversely stacked button positions, he honked the horn every time he wanted to cancel turn signals (“[EXPLETIVE!]”). Paul praised the BMW for having a more responsive engine, particularly at higher speeds and revs, and for being more visually appealing than the KLR thanks to its modern, aggressive styling.

On Caliente-Bodfish Road with California's Central Valley in the distance. Dual-sport heaven!

On Caliente-Bodfish Road with California’s Central Valley in the distance. Dual-sport heaven!

As brothers are wont to do, we agreed on some points but not on others. Our differences in opinion reflect, in part, different expectations. I ride offroad more than Paul does, and having ridden the KLR and Sertão extensively offroad, I appreciate the Sertão’s better suspension compliance (and additional travel), quicker handling, higher ground clearance and less susceptibility to damage in a crash compared to the KLR’s bulbous fairing panels. I prefer the Sertão’s stronger, ABS-equipped brakes, snappier throttle response and higher-quality radial Metzeler Tourance EXP tires (the KLR’s bias-ply Dunlop K750s don’t handle as well on- or offroad, and the rear tire on our test bike showed significant wear after only 1,000 miles). I’m willing to give up some legroom and endure some vibration for a bike that feels more compact and maneuverable.

It’s one thing to prefer one bike over another, but putting your money on the line is something altogether different. The $2,351 price difference between the Sertão and the KLR tells only part of the story. Unlike Kawasaki, BMW charges another $495 for destination. The recommended valve adjustment interval for the Sertão is 6,000 miles; the KLR’s is 15,000 miles. That widens the gap even further, and other maintenance costs are likely to be higher with the BMW as well. The Sertão does have one fiscal trick up its sleeve: better fuel economy. Both bikes use regular unleaded fuel, and during this test the Sertão averaged 60.7 mpg to the KLR’s 47.2 mpg. As impressive as that difference is, the number that often matters most to touring riders—range per tank—is higher for the Kawasaki (288 miles) because it has a 6.1-gallon tank and the BMW (222 miles) has a 3.7-gallon tank.

Is the Sertão’s price premium worth it? Sure, if you want more power, fuel injection, stronger brakes with standard ABS, better suspension compliance with more travel, higher-quality tires, quicker handling and better fuel economy. Or, you could save a few grand with the KLR650 and also get a smoother engine, more legroom and more fuel capacity. Spend wisely, my friend.

2012 BMW G 650 GS Sertão

2012 BMW G 650 GS Sertão

2012 BMW G 650 GS Sertão
Base Price: $8,650
Price as Tested: $8,950 (heated grips, accessory socket)
Warranty: 3 yrs., 36,000 miles
Website: www.bmwmotorcycles.com

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled single
Displacement: 652cc
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves
Valve Adj. Interval: 6,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: BMS-CII EFI w/ 3-way closed-loop catalytic converter
Lubrication System: Dry sump, 2.4-qt. cap.
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Electrical
Ignition: BMS-CII Engine Management
Charging Output: 400 watts max.
Battery: 12V 12AH

Chassis
Frame: Box-section steel double cradle w/ bolt-on steel subframe & box-section steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 58.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 28.1 degrees/4.8 in.
Seat Height: 33.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 8.3-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload (remote), 8.3-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single floating 300mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Tube-type spoked aluminum, 1.60 x 21 in.
Rear: Tube-type spoked aluminum, 3.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 90/90-R21
Rear: 130/80-R17
Wet Weight: 432 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 406 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 838 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 87 PON min (high/avg/low) 66.2/60.1/54.4
Estimated Range: 222 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 4,000

2012 Kawasaki KLR650

2012 Kawasaki KLR650

2012 Kawasaki KLR650
Base Price: $6,299
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: www.kawasaki.com

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled single
Displacement: 651cc
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.8:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves
Valve Adj. Interval: 15,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: Keihin CVK40 carburetor
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 2.2-qt. cap.
Transmission: 5-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Electrical
Ignition: Electric CDI
Charging Output: 245 watts max.
Battery: 12V 14AH

Chassis
Frame: Steel semi-double cradle, steel D-section swingarm
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 28.0 degrees/4.4 in.
Seat Height: 35.0 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 7.9-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload & rebound damping, 7.3-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 280mm petal disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston pin-slide caliper
Wheels, Front: Tube-type spoked aluminum, 1.60 x 21 in.
Rear: Tube-type spoked aluminum, 2.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 90/90-R21
Rear: 130/80-R17
Wet Weight: 433 lbs.
Load Capacity: 355 lbs.
GVWR: 788 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gals., incl. 1.5-gal. res.
MPG: 87 PON min (high/avg/low) 49.7/47.2/45.4
Estimated Range: 288 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 4,100

Learn about the accessories we put on these bikes here: http://www.ridermagazine.com/gear/dual-sport-touring-accessories-review.htm

(This comparison was published in the June 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)

Kawasaki: Analog instrumentation is basic but easy to read. Single tripmeter only.

Kawasaki: Analog instrumentation is basic but easy to read. Single tripmeter only.

BMW: Analog speedo is paired with an LCD display; vertical bar tach is hard to read.

BMW: Analog speedo is paired with an LCD display; vertical bar tach is hard to read.

Kawasaki: Single front disc with two-piston caliper has marginal power. ABS is not available.

Kawasaki: Single front disc with two-piston caliper has marginal power. ABS is not available.

BMW: Brembo brakes offer good power and feel. Standard ABS can be turned off.

BMW: Brembo brakes offer good power and feel. Standard ABS can be turned off.

Kawasaki: The KLR's carbureted engine has been chugging along reliably since 1987.

Kawasaki: The KLR’s carbureted engine has been chugging along reliably since 1987.

BMW: BMW's fuel-injected single is more powerful and gets better gas mileage.

BMW: BMW’s fuel-injected single is more powerful and gets better gas mileage.

Both bikes have very useful luggage racks.

Both bikes have very useful luggage racks.

Comments

44 Responses to “2012 BMW ­­G 650 GS Sertão vs. 2012 Kawasaki KLR650 Comparison”

  1. Dual-Sport Touring Accessories Review | Rider Magazine on June 4th, 2012 4:26 pm

    [...] Read our comparison of the Kawasaki KLR650 and BMW G 650 GS Sertão here: http://www.ridermagazine.com/road-tests/2012-bmw-%C2%AD%C2%ADg-650-gs-sertao-vs-2012-kawasaki-klr650… [...]

  2. ron on June 4th, 2012 4:59 pm

    Most klrs can b had new in the $5k range. Bought mine from a wanna be 3months from new for 3.5K with less than 1k mi. now thats value!

    [Reply]

  3. SkeeFoo on June 12th, 2012 3:27 pm

    I was thinking seriously about getting a Sertao,but after reading this,Im still content with my KLR,and will continue to build it into a Works bike,a little at a time,and save lots of coinage in the process,Why pay more for the BMW/when the KLR can be outfitted for less coin?and do everything the Sertao can do,(slower,Maybe) but I dont mind it at all.

    [Reply]

  4. David Spight on June 17th, 2012 6:40 am

    Have only test ridden the beemer, but after 750 miles in 3 days in the Colorado rockies, can attest that the KLR can do all, and was quite impressive at highway speeds. Was thinking of trading up to a BMW 800GS or a Triumph Tiger, but now I ask myself why? Try a KLR, you will not be disappointed.

    [Reply]

  5. SRG on June 20th, 2012 5:51 pm

    Here in Mexico, the price difference i about $1,200 more or less. I’m not sure of which bike yet. I mean imagine that in Mexico city the roads arent’ as straight or smooth as in the US. So imagine with a lot of bumps , roads in bad shape, rock roads, a lot of steep slopes, rain, cero respect for the motorcycle driver,etc

    Which one do you think it would fit perfectly to this concerns??? By the way great review. Like it so much

    [Reply]

    Rider Magazine Reply:

    Either the KLR or the Sertao will handle rough roads; in fact, both are better at the bumpy, rocky stuff than they are at cruising on the highway. Both are tough motorcycles that can be outfitted for all types of touring and travel, on- and off-road. The KLR has been around for much longer, so there are many more aftermarket accessory options for it. Also, not only is the price cheaper than the Sertao, the costs of maintenance and parts is likely to be cheaper.

    [Reply]

  6. Navythomas8 youtube on June 22nd, 2012 6:13 am

    I now own both. My klr is fully built. The sertao is in progress. Leg room is key. I purchased the taller seat. Problem solved. The blinker horn thing is quite irritating. Your article is spot on! However i really enjoy the sertao more. Currently. The klr feels fat and slow. The sertao feels like a teenager! I will be posting video’s on the sertao build. Nice job guys!

    [Reply]

  7. Doc Stickel on June 25th, 2012 9:29 am

    Having owned both, currently owning the Sertao, will take ABS, longer warranty, fuel injection, and-much higher resale value any day! As the article indicated, spend wisely! The Sertao smoothes out considerably with miles, and my usual MPG is more likely to be in the 70 range than 60.

    [Reply]

  8. Jeff on June 29th, 2012 12:22 pm

    Some thoughts:

    KLR valve adjustment at 15K miles- not if you know what is good for you- more like 600 miles for the first adjustment.

    MPG- I average between 52 – 54 mpg- does not matter if on road or off road.

    The best feature= that BIG fuel tank- makes riding back roads fun since I do not have to worry about having enough fuel.

    Also the real world price difference is more like $3K after taxes and license are taken into consideration.

    [Reply]

    Fernando Reply:

    Good points Jeff. I was happy to read that this brothers are as tall as I am and considering that I most likely would drive 99.9999% on road, the KLR would do the shopping list for me. True, resale value might be a consideration for some, but I am not planing on own to sale but own to enjoy until end of days (the bike or mine) so, there it goes, Kawasaki here I come!!!

    [Reply]

  9. Phil on July 4th, 2012 1:37 am

    Very nice comparison.
    I just rode 5 days in May through Southern Utah and Colorado on my 2012 KLR650 with two friends, one riding a KTM 990, the other A Yamaha Tenere. The best 5 days of 2012. Fantastic!
    A few observations:
    - The KLR stock Seat is awful, I put on a Corbin seat and was comfortable the whole trip.
    - Power at high altitude was a challenge. The bike was fully loaded camping gear. The 990 and Tenere could pass traffic at will, I had to plan carefully.
    - Averaged 42MPG: These guys would go 80 when on pavement plus I’m, 230Lbs, the bike had loaded SW Motech Trax boxes and KLR tail bag. Oxford heated grips (we spent a lot of time above 8000FT)
    - SW Motech crash bars protected the vulnerable radiator. (Untested fortunately.)
    - Tall Kawasaki shield. Worked great, however you do get a vacum that sucks air up from the forks through the inside of the fairing, along the front of the fairing and up your helmet. I did not not figure this out until I took a bug strike on the inside of my helmet face shield while it was closed.
    - Garmin 265T: I have to put in a good word here. This is not a motorcycle GPS but I had it on a ball mount on my handlebar. I now understand why it got so dirty. See previous item. The unit worked great. I blew out the dust and its working great today. Definitely abused but kept on ticking.
    - The rear tire. We watched in amazement as this tire wore significantly each day. I started the trip with 1200 miles on the bike, returned with 3000 and a bald rear tire. Any longer of a trip, I would of had to replace it. I pushed it as it was. I’ve since installed Heidenau K60 Scouts front and rear (Which my friend on the KTM got 8000+ miles out of). Tires feel great and I expect good wear.
    -In conclusion: I enjoyed the KLR. The only time I could not do 70 was approaching the Eisenhower Tunnel on I70 west (11K +feet) and driving out of Grand Junction Colorado into a severe headwind. Both the KTM and Yamaha did not struggle. They did wait for me.

    - On the upside, I can pick up the KLR by myself (did not have to!)
    - With a six gallon tank, I never had to worry about gas. Both the KTM and Tenere were frantic for gas, I never hit reserve.
    - The bike was comfortable, predictable, run reasonable hard but not abused. Not a protest from the engine. Out of 1800 miles, we probably did 600 off road.

    [Reply]

  10. Clark Rup on July 17th, 2012 2:53 pm

    I have 33K miles on my 08 KLR. Its a complete compromise motorcycle. It does nothing well – other than the fact it can do it all acceptably. I increased countershaft tooth count by one to reduce 75 – 80 MPH cruising speeds by @500 rpm. If I know I’m going to be in the mountains on woodsy fire roads for any amount of time I drop the countershaft sprocket one below stock to give me some more low end grunt. The stock 15T is a good compromise and no chain mods need to be done by moving the countershaft sprockets up or down by 1T. The suspension is too soft for single track riding at any kind of speed at all – perfect for fire roads and horrible asphalt roads – another compromise. I’ve settled in on the Kenda K761′s – cheap, reliable and consistently yield 8K miles. Biggest issue is a big enough issue is not made about manually adjusting the countershaft balancer chain tensioner (doohicky). I just wish Kawasaki used this model as an entry level bike and then had a really cool true adventure bike. Imagine the KX450 mill mated as a V-twin (or parallel), true off road suspension components, heated grips and standard luggage – a GS killer of sorts…….

    [Reply]

    Donnie MacKenzie Reply:

    Hey Mr. Rupp! Very objective write up on your KLR! I like your idea of a KX450GS!

    [Reply]

  11. Arden Kysely on July 18th, 2012 12:53 pm

    Clark, I hear ya. I rode KLRs (an ’87 and a ’97) for many years while waiting for someone to build a slightly larger dual-sport/adventure bike that would take me down the freeway faster and more comfortably so I could get to unexplored areas easier, then exit onto the ‘good stuff’ and get lost for a couple of days. I thought Kawi might do with their 650 twin, but all we got was the Versys. Yamaha’s XT600Z was looking good too, if you lived in Europe. So, when the F 800 GS came out, I bought the first one at my dealer and haven’t looked back. Now Triumph has their own version. The market’s heating up, so maybe you’ll see your dream bike some day. I’m riding mine!

    [Reply]

  12. MewZiKat (aka Kathleen Cleary) on July 31st, 2012 10:08 am

    I would love to hear from some women on the subject! I cover an average of 7,500-10,000 miles per year on the street but find myself drawn to the dirt so I would love some feedback from female riders on dual sport bikes. No doubt the KLR is THE bike to beat for true Dual Purpose riding but for my stature (and that of many other women) I have found it to be too tall and too top heavy. I do NOT want to trailer my bike–I want a true dual sport capable of getting me to the trails in relative comfort so I have been leaning toward the F650GS on which the gas sits under the seat for better balance thanks to the lower center of gravity.

    I am a rather leggy 5’7″ woman and find the Kawi Super Sherpa to be the ‘almost perfect’ bike for me: decent, comfy seat, nimble and capable both on-and-off road BUT the 250 engine size and tiny fuel tank are a deal breaker.

    I am open to all makes and models and would love some feedback from Rider Readers and Writers. Thanks, y’all–from a South Eastern USA Wanna-Be Adventure Tourer

    [Reply]

    Rider Magazine Reply:

    Yes, in terms of seat height, the BMW F 650 GS and G 650 GS are the two of the best options for middleweight dual-sports. They have optional low seats and low suspensions kits as well. —GD

    [Reply]

  13. Rodger Terry on August 1st, 2012 12:31 pm

    When do you expect that I can buy a 2013 KLR in California?

    [Reply]

  14. Robert Johnson on August 3rd, 2012 6:08 pm

    Thank you so much for the article, very insightful. Looking for my next dual purpose bike and i am doing my research now. Very helpful, my last two bikes were a Yamaha Xt350 and the old Honda XL 600, and both these bikes sound like a serious upgrade!! Very much appreciative, and I am leaning toward the KLR, right now!!
    Rob

    [Reply]

  15. Dimelo on August 13th, 2012 4:27 am

    Thank you for the article; it was very informative. Nevertheless, I am working and living in Japan and the KLR is an item made for the north american market. Bikes here are very expensive and the price tag for a new G650gs is about $12000 with the current exchange rate. The Sertao is about $600.00 more that the GS. I own a Kawasaki SuperSherpa that has served me well and I love to death; however, I need a bigger bike for longer trips and have been doing lots of research on several bikes. I like Japanese bikes due to the maintenance cost but the prices here in Japan between foreign and domestic bikes are very similar. Example: 2012 V-strom 650: about $13000 with current exchange rate. That is the same price for the F650 GS and you get a little bit more on the bike. Not to mention, BMW 3.9 interest on a loan vs. Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha 5.9 to 7.00 interest rate.

    [Reply]

  16. andy on August 25th, 2012 4:51 pm

    Hey, nice review. What I’m trying to figure out and could not gather from the article is which bike is going to be better for a multi-month tour? I’ve always assumed the BMW would be much more comfortable for long days in the saddle but it seems that it may not be that straightforward. I would definitely swap out the stock seat on the KLR but I’m going to be on the bike for months and need to make the right call. Riding for a day is different than riding for a month (and carrying gear) so any insights would be appreciated.

    [Reply]

    dan voykin Reply:

    I own a 08 klr650,which I love. I use an automotive seat pad from Canadian tire over the gel stock seat it transforms the seat from a 1 hour seat to a 5 hour seat. .At $10 each on sale we both have happy butts. .its amazing how much it helps prevent numbum and for $20 its the best modification .Solo riding I like the flat klr seat,as I can vary my position as needed as opposed to being stuck in a cup of a seat ,however the bmw pillion might be more comfy for her.

    [Reply]

  17. sam on September 25th, 2012 11:31 pm

    I bought my 2008 Klr for $2800. with 59,000 miles it was a commuters bike but he was meticulous with service. The 08′s burned oil so he went with big bore 687 kit at 7500 miles still does not burn a drop. I t also had steel brake lies and thermobob and doohickey. I added a Seargent seat, extensive suspension upgrades, cams, full pipe and jetting. plus a bunch of little stuff and I have less than MSRP invested. I am over 300 pounds and I ride with and keep up with guys on GSA’s and KTM 990′s not to mention the lesser BMW’s. I ride it like I stole it, it never breaks ( not the case with hte bmw’s and ktm’s), I am pushing 70,000 miles, and I still have fuel range on the KTM 990′s. I have had a blast working, riding, and improving my KLR all for 1/4 the price of a GSA!

    [Reply]

  18. Danny on October 6th, 2012 7:32 am

    After six years waiting for the M1030 to be civilian legal, I have decided to go with a KLR. I am in Afghanistan and have the time to research and found this very helpful. It’s settled

    [Reply]

  19. Keith on October 25th, 2012 4:22 pm

    A really great review, just what I was looking for.
    I ride a 2000 1150GS 177 000km no frills BMW (Bring More Wallet) & it’s going to bike heaven with me, but —- at 65 years young I have been researching alternatives & that KLR keeps on coming to the fore. It’s got the range of the 1150 & simple to maintain. New price here in South Africa
    $6 700 & best of all — I can pick it up. (The sands of Namibia, Botswana, the Kalahari have taken their toll, that GS is too heavy!)
    My only concern is the comfort over long distance. We do an annual trip of +/-10 000km & like Andy (Aug 25th) comfortable riding is paramount in getting to the rough stuff.

    [Reply]

  20. Kevin on November 2nd, 2012 9:09 am

    The KLR is very inexpensive. Always has been. And if that’s your primary bike buying concern, then get a KLR. But there is value in the extra $2k for the Sertao. Fuel injection as you ride in altitude makes a huge difference in performance, not to mention cold starts. A KLR would cost more if it had EFI. ABS Brakes is a great safety feature on-road. It would cost about $1000 to add as an option on most Japanese bikes. Heated grips are a wonderful convenience feature that would cost a few hundred to add to the KLR after-market. BMW has a 3yr Factory Warranty. To extend the 1yr Warranty on the KLR would cost another few hundred bucks. Factor in the Sertao’s much better MPG and Resale, and you have to ask yourself if value is only dictated by the selling price. Like the article says, “Spend wisely.” Cheap doesn’t always mean value.

    [Reply]

    Dave Reply:

    Heated grips are a $25 and about 45 min to install. Cheap doesn’t always mean value but in the case of the KLR it most certainly does.

    [Reply]

  21. Glenn on November 4th, 2012 11:13 am

    May seem odd but I am interested in pillion comfort ,the KLR looks like a divorce in progress if I make my wife sit there for any period of time but the Serau looks like it may have a chance.My wife is only little about 5’1 and 110 pounds can any one give some real world experience with pillion comfort?

    [Reply]

    MadDogXR Reply:

    I have a GS650F which I believe is the same seat as the new Sertao. My wife thinks it is just fine for 100 mile days (50/50 on/off-road). In fact, that’s why she let me get the bike. She thought 13 bikes was too many, but she made an exception for number 14 because she could ride on it.

    [Reply]

    Jackie Mayson Reply:

    Pillion? Awful! She’d be happier on her own bike! I recommend the BMW 650GS.

    [Reply]

  22. Mark on November 5th, 2012 7:33 pm

    After owning many different motorcycles(all japaneese)I ended up wit a 2001KLR,after 4000 miles I am happy with the KLR,as was said before it is not the perfect bike but it does well enough on the street and will go anywhere I want to go off road,and I can pick it up after a fall(this I have tested)and if anything does break its very cheap to fix,parts are easy to get,and the internet support is unbelievable,anything that can ever happen to this bike and how to fix it is on the net.The KLR is cheap enough to purchase and easy enough to sell that its hard to go wrong with just getting 1 and answering the questions for yourself.

    [Reply]

  23. Bill Eakins on November 6th, 2012 12:06 pm

    How about adding the Husky TR650 Terra to the mix? That bike is the game changer for the price.

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  24. Chappy on November 18th, 2012 4:19 am

    If made 5k miles / 7.5k km with my Sertao on all grounds from highway to almost level 4 (Denzel). The bike is very easy to ride, but has some (as always) + and -.

    + Switchable ABS / low fuel consumption (403 km to the last drop) / comfortable bench for long rides (600 km with on short break)
    - No adjustable foot break lever (if you are tall, a major pain) / the tank bay is badly shaped and therefore you cannot properly close your legs / the handle bar is not adjustable (if you have long arms and legs, you have to bend down a lot if you are upright on rough grounds)

    Greetings from Switzerland
    Marc

    [Reply]

  25. john hooper on November 18th, 2012 12:57 pm

    I’ve owned the standard single F650GS, the F650GS Dakar and after a venture into much more powerful bikes, back to the Sertao. I had doubts about the quality from Asia but should’nt have worried, as it is well put together. In my opinion it is worth the extra money over its competitors. If you are tall you might want to change the seat. The standard position is poor for me, I bought the Dakar seat and then added more foam to make it dead level from the ‘tank’ backwards. This makes it very tall to climb aboard, but the ride comfort is well worth it. The engine feels smoother than the Dakar (which was pretty good anyway). This bike is so economical, I reckon I’ve saved a good 30 quid on petrol in the 3 months that I have owned it.

    [Reply]

  26. Rider Magazine's Top 10 Motorcycle Stories of 2012 | Rider Magazine on January 2nd, 2013 4:42 pm

    [...] 2012 BMW G 650 GS Sertão vs. 2012 Kawasaki KLR650 Comparison Those looking for a new 650cc dual-sport single might consider one of these two motorcycles. Our [...]

  27. BMW f650 vs KLR 650 ?? - Page 8 - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB on February 26th, 2013 8:23 am

    [...] Same comparison but for 2012 models Interesting read… 2012 BMW G 650 GS Sertão vs. 2012 Kawasaki KLR650 Comparison | Rider Magazine [...]

  28. Gilly on April 6th, 2013 10:45 am

    I rode sportbikes for years- then decided to switch to a dual- I got a 08 KLR and l love it. Where are you going to want to do more than 120-130 kms/hr on a dual? You’ll either get huge fines (as my sportbike provided) or get hit by a texting 16 yr old. I found the acceleration more than enough and I’m 220lbs.

    I did a full pipe/ better pegs/ engine guard/new seat for about 1000 total- aftermarket KLR is cheap- plus I can actually learn and work on it myself.

    I love that its industrial and bombproof.

    [Reply]

  29. Nick Abes on April 20th, 2013 3:56 am

    I wanted a road warrier/desert weapon and the KLR with a 40L IMS tank has no equivalent. Pootling around at 80-100 k/hr I get 62mpg and the bike is very user friendly. Would love a ktm or tenere but on me it would be like feeding strawberries to pigs. It’s the everyman bike

    Greetings from oz

    [Reply]

    Mike Dawson Reply:

    Nick,
    I’m interested in the fact that you get approx. 60 mpg on the KLR. Did you do anything to the KLR to boost the fuel economy? I’m planning a trip through parts of Africa etc, and am looking at purchasing this bike for the trip. Also, it seems as though you’ve swapped the standard tank for a 40L version. I thought a tank this size however, might make it too top- heavy. I may still consider this conversion nevertheless. What’s the ground clearance like for the off-road stuff? Also from Oz. Cheers.

    [Reply]

    john pepper Reply:

    I have an 09 KLR, and I average 58 mpg combined city/highway. If I stay at 65 mph or below indicated I get better than 60 mpg. Over 70 it drops back to 52 mpg. Wind resistance is exponential. Most magazine writers ride the bikes hard and fast which explains the low mpg for the KLR, Fuel injected bike usually always get better mpg at higher altitudes. Unless you rejet the carb, you will suffer at altitude.

    [Reply]

    john schroeder Reply:

    I have a 2008 KLR, I drilled holes in the air box cover and added a K & N filter, along with an aftermarket Jardine exhaust system I added at least 5 miles per gallon, I live in Colorado at 5,000 feet and often go to 11,000 feet on trips, my mileage actually improves at lower elevations, I rarely get less than 55 MPG, and often 62+

  30. High Sierra Adventure Weekend | Rider Magazine on May 3rd, 2013 11:31 am

    [...] Sierra Nevada mountain range. We were there in March of last year for a comparison test of the Kawasaki KLR650 and BMW G 650 GS Sertão, and we had no choice but to backtrack to a lower [...]

  31. HMH on June 28th, 2013 2:22 pm

    Hopefully, BMW will put the same effort into the G650GS/Sertao (I really hope they rename it G650GS Adventure) that they have in the other GS lineups.

    The Sertao is a GS/Dakar w/updated plastics, lighting, etc but not a completely updated bike.

    What the bike needs is a new lighter/stronger tubular frame, single exhaust w/expanded gas capacity on the non exhaust side, G650X Engine, and fully adjustable/tunable forks/shocks. Drop in that package and even an Adventure package w/either the above or w/the protection and larger tank on the other GS’s and it’s a showstopper. Build the engine and suspension to compete w/KTM and the ergonomics, fuel capacity and durabiity of the KLR.

    [Reply]

  32. Jon on September 21st, 2013 9:26 am

    I bought the Sertao and have put 19,000 miles on it since last May, good bike, but if I had it to do again I would have bought a KTM, or if I was low on cash the KLR. Once you put $5000 worth of Touratech stuff on a bike you kinda need to use it for a few years to get your money out of it. So I am stuck with the Sertao until I have 100,000 miles on it then I will give it to someone. It is a good bike but expensive to maintain and has left me stranded multiple times. starting issues when new, battery is cheap. cooling fan broke in desert. This bike will not run without a fan. Front beak, fender broke off, I have never crashed the bike, it just broke off. The seat is short and uncomfortable fixed with a Air Hawk pad. Bottom line buyer beware, not worth $9,000.

    [Reply]

  33. Blueroach on October 22nd, 2013 12:27 pm

    Last february, I took a round trip of 5000 miles from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Cusco, Perú, riding a 2012 NX4, with my friend riding a 2011 KLR 650 alongside me. KLR had only 12000 miles on it, while my little Honda only had around 4000, but still, it managed to cover the whole trip enduring only my stop light going bad and burning just shy of half a gallon of motor oil. However, the KLR burnt over 2 gallons of motor oil, and had us stopping after just 1000 miles to change the drive chain and adapting some nuts to the chain tensioner because it ketp on tightening it and making the o-rings pop out. After that, everything went on alright (sort of). The KLRs brakes faded so quickly that going down the Andes’ mountains was a matter of dropping gears and hopping for the best. Altitude wasn´t an issue at all, since it always managed to go at least 70mph, even at 15000 feet (my nx4 wouldn’t go past 50 in 5th no matter how hard I pushed it). The seat was hard on my friend, even with extra padding being added on top of it, meaning the larger fuel tank wasn’t really a benefit since we still had to stop every 120 miles for him to stretch his legs. On our way back, the 15T original sprocket showed so much wearing that he had to stop in a small town and have it replaced since it was not going to make it. Even so, kawasaki’s parts and accessories are scarce over here, since honda has always been the most popular, durable riders around, so he had to go for a used sprocket that only lasted 500 miles before forcing him to stop and call an insurance tow truck. All in all, I had a much better experience with my underpowered, half-as-expensive Honda: I had more fun going up and down the mountains, (because my brakes and my riding position were way better), and I never had to worry about my bike leaving me stranded by the road. I know KLRs are affordable, but I’d rather spend my extra cash in a G650 or even a Transalp. Meanwhile, I just traded in my 2012 NX4 and got a brand new one, which I intend to enjoy until I can finally get my G650. B.

    [Reply]

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