The BMW offers amenities not found on the Kawasaki, including a trip computer, emergency flashers and heated grips. The BMW's shock-spring-preload handwheel is great for dialing in sag on the fly. Kawasaki owners might want to use the KLR's luggage platform to carry a tool kit. At first glance, the KLR's internals seem complicated, but the carbureted bike is pretty basic when it comes to roadside repairs.
BMW recently released the G650GS, which is essentially the single-cylinder F650GS of yore with a few minor tweaks. Not least are some timely economic incentives, such as the inclusion of BMW's new-generation ABS and heated handgrips in the bike's $7670 base price. G now describes all single-cylinder models, while F is for the parallel-twins, R for opposed-twins, K for multis, etc. For beginning riders, the G also offers one of the lowest standard seat heights in dual-sport history at 30.7 inches. Order it with the factory-installed low suspension for an additional $175 and seat height drops further, to a squat 29.5 inches. Conversely, you can order the bike with a high seat and raise it to 32.2 inches
Kawasaki's august KLR650 needs no rambling introduction. In stature, it's Lerch-like next to the BMW, its 35-inch-high seat more on par with trailbikes. If you're tall, that aggressive posture is a call to serious adventure riding. On that playing field, the Kawi is more comparable to BMW's trail-ready F800GS. Apart from the ABS element, the KLR's brakes to offer slightly stronger feel.
The BMW is more like huevos rancheros with a side of guacamole. Kawasaki doesn't offer accessory panniers for the KLR, but there are a number available from the aftermarket.
Ironically, the stock hand guards on the bare-bones KLR actually kept our paws warmer than the G650's fancy heated grips. Both bikes come with short windscreens and luggage racks. Both luggage racks are useful, though the BMW's actually enhances the look of the bike and features a convenient, lockable stash box. As for fuel efficiency, the injected BMW offers substantially higher mpg, but holds only 4.0 gallons of fuel to the Kawasaki's 6.1 gallons.
The BMW's seat is unfortunately canted so that it pushes the rider's hips toward the tank, making even our shortest tester feel cramped. It's also perhaps the easiest BMW in history to ride.
Despite identical bore and stroke figures, the G650 stomps the KLR, pumping out 9 more horsepower in a smoother, friendlier manner. Despite its dual-sport intentions, the GS's ergonomics are street-biased, with a short peg-to-seat distance and long seat-to-bars reach. If you're vertically challenged, the GS is for you: Its seat is 5 inches lower than the KLR's.
Power isn't the KLR's forte, but it is sufficient to get the job done. The KLR delivers with a lofty 35-inch-high seat and high, wide handlebar. If you're shorter than 5-foot-10, you'll need a stepladder.