aka Enduro or Dual Sport motorcycle

When I was fifteen or so, I fell in love with a then-new Honda motorcycle: the XL250 (it is no longer made). At the time it was full of innovative technology: a big 23in front wheel, engine counterbalancers to reduce vibration (this is a one-cylinder engine – a “thumper” – after all), etc. Cycle World loved it. So did I. I used to lie on our blue bean-bag chair listening to Deep Purple’s album Machine Head and fantasizing about zipping around on my big red bike. Going anywhere I wanted.

My brother was the one who realized the motorcycle fantasy. He got a blue Honda CB360 twin, then a green Honda CB550K (four-cylinder), then a full-dress 60s Harley, then a newer red Harley FXSB (in 1985). He is now sort of motorcycle-free: his “dresser” is in pieces, in boxes in his garage.

Maybe now it’s my turn. I’m looking at the Kawasaki KLR650. (I would link directly to the page, but because of their lame use of frames, I cannot. I linked to the sidebar menu.) Some pics:

KLR650 back

KLR650 left side

KLR650 right side

It’ll go anywhere and do almost anything. People have ridden these things across continents – including riding “the Road” – a 2200km length of road-in-process in Russia that has been known to destroy vehicles that attempt it.

Suzuki make a similar bike, but it lacks the water-cooled engine, rear rack, and large fuel tank of the KLR. Suzuki’s DR650 looks like this:

Suzuki DR650 blue

Cool looking bikes, no?

The KLR650 is also a thumper. There are BMW twins and a Suzuki twin (the DL650 V-strom), and in Europe the Kawasaki KLE500 (a DP version of the venerable EX500 “Ninja”), that claim to be DP bikes, but all the really go-anywhere, true dual-purpose bikes are thumpers.

The KLR650 is just a bigger and badder version of the KLR250. Its gas tank is about twenty times bigger than the 250’s, so you can actually go places. It’s faster on the freeway (and therefore safer), and it’s not that much heavier than the 250. Trust me, I checked. Remember: it was a Honda 250 that I was drooling over in my youth. ;-)

Check out the Adventure Rider discussion site. It’s heavily focussed on the BMWs (650/1150/1200GS), but they have an active thumpers forum as well. And, to clarify, the BMW 650GS is itself a thumper. ;-)

There is a KLR650 FAQ, and a KLR650 discussion site. And to add even more excitement to the world of thumpers, there is the supermotard, aka supermoto, craze. Check this out:

Suzuki DRZ400SM


Two examples of the “supermotard” – basically a dirt racing bike with street tires on smaller (street-sized) wheels. Apparently hella fun: light, nimble, drive over curbs, etc. Urban assault vehicles. Of course, the KTM directly above is not street legal, lacking lights and mirrors. Apparently you can turn a KLR into a nice motard...

Just for fun I thought I’d put a flickr badge on this page.