The Honda XR650L is a benchmark for the dual-sport class as it eats Baja races for breakfast and yet chooses to take its act on the streets, dirt roads, remote trails and forgotten byways. For 2009, Honda continues production relying on a powerful, electrically started motor and on a rigid, but versatile chassis, ending into the most notorious do-it-all motorcycle out there.
It may not look like the most attractive motorbike you’ve seen and it actually isn’t. Instead, what’s interesting about the XR is the always successful combination of power, torque and handling on virtually all riding surfaces possible. The engine is a potent air-cooled, 644cc, dry-sump, four-stroke single with SOHC, Radial Four-Valve Combustion Chamber. This unit provides excellent grunt at all rpm levels without the implicit vibrations and bringing the comfort of an electric start system on work horses such as this one.
Meeting the engine’s demands in what concerns stability, practicability and ease of handling is the semi-double-cradle steel frame working closely together with the long travel (11.6 inches front and 11.0 inches rear) Showa suspension. Also, with a 27 degree rake and 13 inches of ground clearance, you know that this is serious business underneath you and must be treated as such.
Having created the XR650L as a winning combination from the very beginning, Honda rarely reconsiders the approach towards its dual-sport banger.
The Honda XR650L would have first made an entry on the incredibly demanding market in 1993 and it was derived from the XR600R model which made serious impression all through the 1990s when it was produced and successfully raced in Baja 1000. The engine on the XR650L was an air-cooled, 644cc, dry sump, single-cylinder, SOHC, RFVC which transmitted the best of power and torque through a five-speed gearbox. Although the engine on the XR650R would have been liquid-cooled, the “L” model’s 40 horsepower and 105 mph top speed seemed more than enough for the streets and dirt roads despite the fact it reached a 350 lbs wet weight because of the addition of an electric starter, headlight, taillight, turn signals and mirrors.
With those pieces mounted on the bike, Honda pretty much figured out how their new race-derived model will look like and it did so all through the 1990s with only color scheme changes. For 1993, they had it Shasta White with Rainbow Blue colored. 1994 brought the Shasta White with Capri Blue scheme. This was to be changed in Shasta White with Uranus Violet for 1995 and 1996. Finally, they went for the simple Shasta White color scheme starting with 1997.
The new millennium lined up the XR with the rest of Honda’s off-road bikes. This meant adding the Red and White color scheme which is kept until this day.
2009 Suzuki DR650SE
Suzuki seems to be keen on getting a slice of the pie and the 2009 DR650SE is the model helping them achieve that. Like the Honda, this Suzi combines off- with on-road performance with the help of an air-cooled 644cc, four-stroke single, SOHC engine that had proven its efficiency in both environments. In this category, the five-speed tranny is a must and the Suzuki DR650SE sure has it, as it has the electronic ignition and the Mikuni carburetor. With rigid steel frame and suspensions, 1.6-inch adjustable seat height and only 10.7 inches of ground clearance, the 2009 Suzuki DR650SE is a decent alternative to the XR. MSRP is $5,299.
2009 Kawasaki KLR650
Probably the best looking 650cc dual-purpose motorcycle in 2009 is the Kawasaki KLR650. This bike is so into wind protection and comfort that it features a massive half fairing with implemented headlight as well as a plush seat for those day-long rides. It sure looks like the adequate bike to make an impression against the Honda so let’s see what backs it up. Ouch! The engine is a liquid-cooled 651cc, four-stroke, DOHC, four-stroke single fed through a Keihin carburetor so it seems that Kawi went all the way when creating this KLR model. It is strongly recommended that you don’t confuse it with a sport-touring motorcycle as it is far from being that and the $5,599 MSRP confirms.