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ADV News6 Bargain Bombproof Dual Sports From The Early 2000s

6 Bargain Bombproof Dual Sports From The Early 2000s

Reliable, practical and fun dual sports that won't break the bank.

Published on 04.03.2024

Looking to do some dual-sport/light ADV riding, but not ready to drop the cash on a new bike? No worries; moto adventure doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are six used dual sports from the early 2000s that you should be able to find in decent condition for around $3,900 or less. They all have good-to-great fuel economy, they’re all reliable, and maintenance is minimal and simple to do yourself.

Kawasaki KLR650 (Gen 1.5 and Gen 2)

There are two different versions of the bike from the 2000s, with slightly different usage design intentions. And, both versions of the bike come with the same basic weakness. Thankfully, it is easily rectified.

The 2000-2007 models are the Gen 1.5 KLR, the most refined version of the born-in-1987 model. With e-start, Dual Overhead Cams and liquid cooling, it was the most advanced dual sport on the market when it was launched. When this version was canceled, it was still technologically on-par with many other dual sport singles. It was on the heavy side though, around 415 pounds fueled-up, but that was because it came with a massive 6.1-gallon fuel tank. You did not need all that fuel for bombing around on local fire roads, but it sure came in handy if you wanted to head to Alaska. The KLR quickly became a favorite machine for budget-minded adventure travelers.


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That theme continued with the Gen 2 model, which came out in 2008. It got even heavier, growing to almost 430 pounds, partially thanks to improved aerodynamic bodywork. The 2008 model also had reduced suspension travel from the first-generation machines, from 9.1 inches of travel fore and aft to 7.9 inches up front, and 7.3 inches in the rear. However, the newer bike did get beefier 41mm fork tubes and changes to the rear shock and linkage, which were designed to improve handling even if there was less suspension travel.

6 Bargain Bomb-Proof Dual Sports From The Early 2000s

The 2008 changes made it even more of an adventure bike than a dirt-friendly dual sport, although riders bought it for both purposes. The engine also got a minor makeover for the 2008 model, but it was not a complete redesign—more of a rethink of the old DOHC single. Owners often claim the newer design runs more smoothly and has better power delivery, but it was pretty much the same as the old model. 

With roughly 42 HP at the crank for either machine, you are a bit short on muscle considering the bikes’ weight. However, you can still wheelie a KLR with little stress and they have enough grunt to do highway speeds all day long fully loaded, despite not having a 6th gear. 

If the KLR has a chink in its armor, it’s the dreaded “doohickey.” This tensioner from the counterbalancer system is a potential failure point in higher-mileage bikes. Both the first- and second-generation models can have this problem.

But many older KLR650s have also had this problem fixed by now. If not, as you can see above, the parts are easy to find and not terribly hard to install if you’re mechanically minded.

The aftermarket doohickey is only one of a gazillion aftermarket parts once made for the KLR. Many are no longer in production, but they are often included on second-hand machines, and you can find them elsewhere if you know where and how to look (forum for-sale posts and Facebook groups are a good place to start).

BMW F650GS

BMW was long-known for making big bikes with flat twin engines, but in the mid-1990s, they contracted with Aprilia for the design and production of a lineup of liquid-cooled single-cylinder dual sports. By the 2000s, this was the F650GS lineup, and production had returned to Germany.

6 Bargain Bomb-Proof Dual Sports From The Early 2000s

These were one of the most technologically advanced single-cylinders of the 2000s, with fuel injection standard and ABS as an option. Their liquid-cooled engines (built by Rotax in Austria) were tuned to make more power than the KLR (about 50 HP at the crank), and these bikes weighed roughly the same, about 425 lb wet. However, their old-school telescopic fork was seen by some as inferior to the Japanese competition when it came to off-roading.

One big benefit of the BMW F650GS was excellent fuel economy. They have a reputation for one of the best fuel economy of all the large dual sports, 60 mpg or better. That’s important if you’re doing long distances.

At their price range, BMW’s 650 singles tended to be bought by older owners and used for commuting and travel rather than flogging through the mud holes of the local National Forest. But many of the adventure travelers who bought them did tend to take them through hard country, to places that would be difficult to reach on the bigger GS models. These bikes were known for long-term reliability, though, along the same lines as BMW’s larger machines. You can push the odometer well past 100,000 miles with proper care; the engines are very tough. See Rene Cormier’s University of Gravel Roads for a good look at long-term life on a BMW F650GS.

6 Bargain Bomb-Proof Dual Sports From The Early 2000s

Over the years, there were various versions of BMW’s 650 adventure/dual sport models; the Dakar model came with a 21-inch front wheel, for better off-road capability and tire selection. The Dakar model also came with 8.3 inches of suspension travel front and back, compared to 6.7 inches in front and 6.5 inches in rear for the standard F650GS model, with its 19-inch front wheel (both models had a 17-inch rear wheel). Also note that many of the standard F650GS models came with cast rims, not spoked rims, and those wheels are best-suited to street riding and only easy off-roading.

 While the Dakar model was generally considered a good off-road bike, there are better options on this list if you are looking to spend significant time on challenging off-road trails. Smooth comfort on the highway is its biggest strength in this class. 

Used BMW singles tend to be slightly more expensive than their Japanese equivalent but they are also generally better-maintained. Aftermarket upgrades are hard to find now, unfortunately. If you can find a bike that comes with some accessories included, that is a bonus. If you’re a short rider, look for a standard GS with the factory lowered suspension; with an approachable 30.3-inch seat height, this is about as low as you can go on a 650-class dual sport.

Suzuki DR650

With a small 3.4-gallon gas tank and minimal bodywork, this simple, reliable, air/oil-cooled single-cylinder bike was much more dirt-friendly than the KLR and F650GS. Engine output was basically the same as the KLR, but with a wet weight around 365 pounds, the DR650 is a much snappier bike to ride. 

One of the reasons many riders prefer the DR, aside from the simpler design, is the ease of upgrading. That’s a good thing, because while riders get excited about improving their bike, Suzuki themselves haven’t really updated the machine since its launch in 1996 besides some minor tweaks.

The DR responds well to even simple and cheap DIY tweaks, but if you want to do more, the sky is the limit as far as possible upgrades. With no liquid cooling plumbing on the engine, it is easy to big-bore this bike all the way to 790cc. A simple cam-and-piston swap will significantly boost throttle response, especially if you also upgrade the carburetor with a jet kit or even a replacement pumper carb. The suspension, in stock form, is limiting, despite its generous 10.2 inches of travel, but it can be improved with cartridge emulators, or you can swap in all-new components.

One other cool feature of the DR650 is that it was designed to be lowered with stock parts. Flip a couple of fork internals upside-down; do the same for the rear shock linkage, and you drop seat height from 34.8 inches to 33 inches. You will need to cut down and re-weld the kickstand to fit, or buy a shorter kickstand, but that is it; a much easier process than any other dual sport on the market, and when you are done, you are still riding with factory-designed geometry.

The DR really is what you make it. Aside from the limited fuel range, it only has two real weaknesses in stock form. The neutral sending unit (NSU) behind the clutch can rattle loose and wreck your bottom end; if you buy a DR, make sure the NSU has been addressed, or plan to do it yourself. The other weakness is the uncomfortable stock saddle. Aftermarket seats are easy to find, or you can use a simple strap-on ATV seat pad to improve the comfort.

The model sold in the 2000s is almost identical to the version sold today, minus a handful of minor upgrades (metal base gasket, Loctite on the neutral sending unit screws), so current-production factory or aftermarket parts are easy to find. However, there are fewer deals on used 2000s-era DR650s, partly because they are more rare.

Kawasaki KLX250S

The KLX does not grab a lot of flashy headlines, but it has been around a long time, and the first-generation models from the mid-2000s are generally very affordable.

The early models (2006-2007) had more suspension than later machines that followed them in the lineup, along with more ground clearance. Suspension travel was decreased from 11.2 inches in front and 11.0 inches in the rear down to 10.0 and 9.1 inches respectively, in an effort to improve street stability and accessibility. They all came with a carburetor feeding their liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine though, not electronic fuel injection like the small-bore KLX models post 2018. While EFI is generally preferable to a carb for many reasons, a big-bore job is fairly easy on a carbureted bike—and you can really wake up a KLX250’s potential with some engine work, especially when you add a pumper carb as well.

6 Bargain Bomb-Proof Dual Sports From The Early 2000s

For years, Bill Blue and others have sold big bore kits along with other upgrades that take the KLX from mild to… maybe not wild, but a much more enjoyable off-road machine. While there have been a few different kits available over the years from various sources, the most popular option is probably Bill Blue’s 351 kit, which adds about 10 HP to the stock engine.

You could view the older KLX models as a 250 with almost the same upgradeability as a DR650, but smaller and better-suited for the trails. You won’t transform it to the capability of a Euro enduro, but you can make it a much better performer while still keeping Japanese reliability.

If you are buying an older KLX250S, take your time and shop around. You might even find a bike with the mods already done for you.

Suzuki DR-Z400S/Kawasaki KLX400

The DR-Z400S is a bit of a weird bike, in that it’s a lot better than its predecessor, the DR350 in most ways, but the older machine has the edge in a couple of areas that would have been simple fixes—namely, seat height and the gearbox. Maybe that’s because it comes from an odd point in history, when Kawasaki and Suzuki collaborated on a bunch of design work. Kawasaki’s take on the bike, the KLX400 (only difference was in bodywork/graphics), did not last long in production, but the DR-Z400S is still with us today, in basically the same form that it debuted in 2000.

Compared to the DR650, the DR-Z400 offers improved suspension (fully adjustable, 11.3 inches of travel) and less weight (just under 320 lb wet, partly due to a small 2.6-gallon fuel tank). However, many users feel the 400’s taller seat height of 36.8 inches, not to mention the drop in power make the 650 a more enjoyable ride. The 400 does not lose much horsepower, with 39 horsepower at the crank, but it loses about 15 lb-ft of torque (to 29ish lb-ft, instead of the 650’s 44 lb-ft). 

That is a very noticeable drop, and if you rev out the liquid-cooled DOHC 400 to compensate, it is buzzy—partly because it only has a five-speed gearbox with close ratios, whereas most smaller dual-sports come with a six-speed. The 400’s lower fifth gear forces your RPM higher at faster speeds. The DR-Z is reckoned to be unpleasant on the highway as a result, although it’s certainly doable. Riders can swap out the rear sprocket to change final gearing, but that leaves their first gear fairly tall for off-road fun.

But, like the DR650, the DR-Z is highly customizable; you can even buy a wide-ratio gearset to address the transmission range complaints, if you want to spend the money. You cannot boost power as much as you can with its bigger brother, but you can still put on a pumper carb and big-bore kit. The stock suspension is better than its big brother, but there’s still a lot of room to improve the 400 as well. The dirt-only version of the Dizzer shares the same suspension components, but there are replacement fork internals and many other options to upgrade the fork and shock.

Unlike the KLR with its doohickey or the DR650 with its NSU bolts, there are not really any must-fix-at-once issues with the DR-Z400, except for the first couple years’ production—you should upgrade the camchain tensioner on 00-01 models. Otherwise, you could buy one and just put oil and gas in it, and address the valve clearances occasionally. It is a very practical and easy bike to live with. Despite the limitations of its engine and its jacked-up ergonomics, a lot of riders love the DR-Z400.

One last note: Along with a dirt-only version that isn’t street-legal in stock form, Suzuki also sells a supermoto version of the DR-Z400. With its 17-inch wheels, this is not a great off-road machine, although some riders do put on more-aggressive tires and make it work in the dirt.

Honda XR650L

Like the BMW F650GS, expect to pay more for the Honda than you will for the Kawasaki or Suzuki equivalent. The Honda is probably better-built than the Kawi, but you will likely see no difference versus the DR650 as far as quality. Where the Honda excels is its off-road capability. At 320 lb wet, it is light, and the jacked-up suspension (adjustable Showa fork and shock, with 11.6 inches of travel up front, 11 in rear) is truly made for dirt riding, unlike the KLR and DR fork and shock.

That means a sky-high 37-inch seat height, but for taller riders, that may actually be a benefit; the added ground clearance is something that everyone can benefit from, while off-roading.

Original 1985 Honda XR600R platform that went on to win multiple Baja titles and spawned the XR650L street-legal version.
The original 1985 Honda XR600R platform that went on to win multiple Baja titles and spawned the XR650L street-legal version.

The XR650L is based on the XR600R released in 1985 and has remained basically unchanged since 1992. It’s essentially the same platform that won the Baja 1000 multiple times and its reputation for reliability is solid. However, it lacks even an oil cooler. The basic air-cooled engine makes about 40 horsepower at the crank, less than its competitors, and the dry sump design can be frustrating to live with, as it is hard to always know what your oil level is. Furthermore, do some digging and you will find complaints from XR-L owners, talking about excessive oil consumption after hours of droning out highway miles.

Those stories seem to be relatively rare, though—especially because of the dirt bike-style seat and small 2.8-gallon gas tank. You will have to invest money into comfort and fuel capacity if you want to do big distances on these bikes, although they are certainly capable of it.

Many older XR650Ls will come with a lot of farkles pre-installed, due to the bike’s stripped-down nature. Consider this when you see their slightly higher asking price. Perhaps it’s worth paying more to have another gallon of gas on-board, a plush seat, an oil cooler and other aftermarket bits.

Author: ADV Pulse Staff
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Jw Heywood
Jw Heywood
April 3, 2024 2:03 pm

I own a ’95 klr 250, now 300. Six speeds, 220 pds dry, street legal and great fun on trails, gravel roads, etc. Super reliable. Also a ’05 650l all tricked out as a (adv bike). I’ve thought about getting one bike a euro 500 like a ktm500 ex-something, the initial cost and the the pricey bits needed just don’t seem worth it (6″2 220) to do another bike suspension,, etc If I really want to rip, I ride my ’16 kx4450,. Selling all three still wouldn’t come close to a Euro unicorn! Thanks for reminding me that I’ve made good choices, lol

J L
J L
April 3, 2024 8:27 pm
Reply to  Jw Heywood

Hey Jw, I’m in the dual/adv market with a +/- 10k budget. And I too am 6’2″ 220. From what i understand, stock seat height and suspension considerations come first for big guys. Out the door/off the lot, any recommendations? In terms of modifications, whats a ball park figure for parts and labor? Can it be done DIY with basic tool knowledge? Thanks bro.

Jw Heywood
Jw Heywood
April 4, 2024 12:59 pm
Reply to  J L

My kx450 is very adjustable,pegs,bars,etc.and most tests I’ve read seem to verify that it’s a bike well suited to larger framed riders compared to similar Enduro/mx models. Mine is set up, as street legal (WA) ,reklulse clutch, trail mapping, ims tank, cam throttle and spal 4″ fan. It’s my altl time favorite as I can go mellow or hard, dunes, trails or Backcountry roads. Longer wheel base than my others for a aggressive stance. That makes it tougher in the tight. I’ve beat the hell out of it, run it dry of coolant in the desert, never let me down but limited in range for gear and oil capacity. The 650l is the best all around, mods definitely needed for big guys, but inexpensive ( bought mine do 4k, w/ 11k miles, was already set up- big bore, hot cams, oil cooler, all the good bits! Great BDR bike and the best over all of you have just one. Might also check out Yamaha wr450
.

Shayne
Shayne
April 4, 2024 3:07 pm
Reply to  J L

I have a 2001 Triumph Tiger 955 and it is made for a tall person. I’m 5’11 and I definitely could use a few more inches. But 54000+ miles on her she’s worked out okay! I live on the coast of California and this bike has been too Alaska twice and Sturgis once! …..it is British however so there are electrical issues on occasion

Joe John
Joe John
April 5, 2024 6:04 am

I think a big miss was not putting the WR250R on the list. It is arguably better than any of these bikes. Maybe it came a little later (2008) but it is still a great bargain bike.

Jon White
Jon White
April 6, 2024 10:49 am
Reply to  Joe John

Yep. I have a 2009 WR250R. I think it’s a terrific little bike. It has 6 gears and fuel injection, which are upgrades over most on this list.
Previous owner had already ditched the stock exhaust system, with all its associated heavy gubbins and fitted an FMF system. Air intake had also been opened up. I have returned it to stock gearing and fitted a Booster Plug, which has smoothed out the throttle response.
I have further modified it with bar risers, lowered foot-pegs and extra padding in the seat. These are already pretty tall bikes, but I’m 6’4”, with very lanky legs. It fits me perfectly, although anyone much shorter will struggle to even get aboard now!
I don’t actually do any off-roading myself, I got it because I like the size and the fact that it’s lightweight and very importantly, it’s ULEZ compliant. I use it in town (London) and short jaunts, mostly A or B roads, in the nearby countryside.
I have watched lots of YouTubers ragging their WR250R’s around in the dirt and the woods, they all seem to love ‘em. I’m 73, I don’t need any more broken bones!

Andreas
Andreas
April 10, 2024 4:38 pm
Reply to  Joe John

The article focuses on bikes that came out in the early 2000s. The WRR came out in the late 2000s (2008). That said, I have one and it is far superior to the DRZ400E I had before it. I just replaced my wife’s KLX250S with one too.

Tom MeyerD
Tom Meyer
April 10, 2024 6:24 pm

I’ve owned three of these bikes, and still have the DR650. The KLX, even with Bill’s 351cc top end, FMF pipe and Mikuni pumper, is not really a bike I’d like to ride more than 100 miles on the road. But on gravel, it’s a joy. I sure would like to have it back. The BMW just wasn’t the off road bike I wanted, and I was put off by the ridiculous maintenance procedures it required.You have to take off a turn signal to change the oil. Nope. For a hot minute I had a 1990 TransAlp XL600v. That’s the one I miss the most, even though it was a heavy beast. I’d like it back mostly for the aesthetics and comfort… it sounded great, looked great and was a plush ride on the street. But truthfully, I don’t think I’ll ever need another bike. The DR does just what I need it to do and keeping it in optimum shape is easy for me, a very amateur, late to the game rider mechanic.I love it.

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