Off The Record
Weight: 185 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.
Just like Ari explained, choosing a dual-sport bike is all about weighing your intentions. I’ve got a soft spot for KTMs, being an owner already, but this 690 Enduro R is a little too hard-edged for me. I’m not a good enough off-road rider to make it worth suffering through on the street. Kawasaki’s KLR is the opposite, lumbering through terrain (any terrain, mind you) like a trusty steed that’s too old to care. I appreciate the longevity of the KLR, but that strength only replaces so much excitement. For me, Husqvarna’s TR650 Terra is a terrific dual-sport compromise. It’s agile, powerful, capable, and fun—on road or off. I had a blast commuting across West LA, but it’s equally at home on fire roads and even single-track trails. Much more mature than the rowdy KTM, but light years ahead of the KLR—and only $500 more than the Kawasaki. I’d take two, but I only need one.
Weight: 195 lbs.
Inseam: 32 in.
Some time ago, I got saddled with an unfortunate nickname: The Voice of Reason. (It wasn’t like I was so reasonable, only that those around me were not.) So if my strenuously practical bent indicates that I’d raise my hand for the stalwart KLR then maybe I’ve lost a bit of that reason. See, the Kawi just doesn’t do it for me. I totally respect what it’s capable of, and appreciate how many owners have seen amazing things in faraway places from the safety of its saddle. But then there’s the Terra. For my needs, it’s the perfect compromise. Not super agile off road, but confidence inspiring. Not amazing on the road, but completely acceptable and much better than you’d expect. The Terra is also affordable and good looking, which completes the sale right there.
Weight: 177 lbs.
Inseam: 33 in.
When I see these bikes’ big wheels, I have visions of heading to the Arctic Circle for the summer equinox or cruising down to Costa Rica to visit friends on surf safari. That being the case, only the KLR will do. It’s a beast of burden with a big gas tank and a rudimentary but stone-reliable engine. And if my big-trip dreams never come to be, the clunky old KLR is great around town, at home on the freeway, and works well enough off road to keep me satisfied. Husqvarna’s new Terra is a hoot, but that off-idle stalling issue is a safety concern, and who’s to say the bike will remain around now that KTM’s owner just bought Husky? And I’m not too proud to admit that the Enduro is just too intense for me. For my goals, simplicity reigns supreme.
Husqavarna did a tremendous job with the bones of the G650GS engine. The Terra makes nearly 5 lb.-ft. more torque than the others off idle and closely follows the KTM’s curves through the upper register. The KTM’s extra displacement doesn’t make itself apparent until after 6500 rpm, but lighter internals mean it spins up faster and feels much more powerful than the competition. Kawasaki’s under-stressed single favors smooth delivery over peak output.
Kawasaki, Husqvarna, and KTM’s design teams all think they’ve created the best dual sport on the market. And depending on your needs and expectations, they have.
If your cash flow is low but your travel goals are grand, Kawasaki’s legendary KLR650 makes the most sense. The big KLR will go anywhere the other two bikes will, and makes up for its size and slowness with massive range, more comfort, and relentless reliability. If all you’re after is something with a license plate so you can get from home to the trail head, KTM’s feisty 690 Enduro R is the clear choice. It may put your hands to sleep and strain your neck on pavement, but off road it’s light, agile, powerful, and unstoppable. Just ask five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres. These conclusions will surprise no one.
So, where does the new Terra fit in? For the average rider looking for all-surface transportation—us included—Husqvarna’s TR650 Terra strikes the best balance of on- and off-road performance. The Terra is an undeniably good deal, reasonably sized, respectably appointed, and attractively styled. And it’s as close to a winner as this type of exploratory comparison is going to get.