Husqvarna TR650 Terra vs. Kawasaki KLR650 vs. KTM 690 Enduro R | Singles Club

One Bike, Any Road

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

What if there was one motorcycle that did everything you wanted to do on two wheels? You could strafe sweeping corners, traverse scabby pavement without concern, fly down a gravel two-track, or creep up a rock garden to the top of the mountain. With this versatility, a world of adventure, limited only by your imagination, is instantly open to you. We’re talking dual sport here.

Depending on your zip code, adding dirt to your diet may expand your riding options substantially. Even here in Los Angeles, the opportunities for off-road fun are enticing. You can easily string together a fantastic multi-surface day ride that will make downtown gridlock a distant memory. It’s truly therapy.

The desire for one bike to do everything gives us motorcycles as varied as the terrain they’re intended to tackle. Take these three machines. Kawasaki’s KLR650 is the fundamental dual sport, if not by design then by duration—it’s been in production for a quarter of a century and continues to be a best seller thanks to its versatility and low price. KTM’s 690 Enduro R resides at the other end of the spectrum. Built to serve as a platform for KTM’s Dakar rally efforts, the Enduro is a high-strung performance piece with a high seat and a price tag to match. Then there’s the new Husqvarna Terra, the off-road version of Husky’s two new TR650s.

While the KLR and Enduro clearly bookend this club of multi-use singles, the Terra’s position on the grid has yet to be determined. Will it capture the KLR’s do-everything attitude in a modern package? Can it achieve even a fraction of the KTM’s proven off-road capabilities in an overall less-aggressive package? These questions, and others, are precisely why we brought these three machines together.


Road-To-Dirt Ratio

75:25


Ride It To

Key West,
Newfoundland,
Anchorage,
and then
Ensenada.

Kawasaki KLR650

Kawasaki first sold the KLR in 1987 for the meager price of $2999. Today the KLR costs $6499, meaning it’s just barely outpaced inflation. How has Kawasaki done it? Autopilot. Save for a few very minor updates along the way and one pretty significant one in 2008, the KLR is essentially the same sledgehammer of a motorcycle that it was 26 years ago. But the bike just plain works. Make no bones about it; on the route from Fairbanks to Tierra del Fuego, you’ll see just as many KLRs as BMW GSs.

Closer to home, the Kawasaki is perfectly at ease during the daily commute. Ample legroom, a soft seat, compliant suspension, a luggage rack, and a tall stance that lets you see over traffic make the KLR a good commuter. Beneath the 6.1-gallon gas tank, a fairly ancient 651cc single thumps away with all the charm of a Briggs & Stratton. There’s no powerband to speak of, just a mild stream of torque that pushes you off the line with the pace and resoluteness of a Greyhound bus. At least the Kawi crushes the competition in terms of range. While the Husky and KTM are sucking at the pump after 120 miles or so, the KLR will cover 200 miles before you need to flip the petcock (yes, petcock) to reserve. The Kawasaki is also the most comfortable. Wind protection is excellent thanks to that funky fairing and hand guards, and vibration is reduced to mild reverberations thanks to dual balance shafts.

At speeds below 15 mph, the front end feels heavy and vague, but steering effort decreases with speed and the Dunlop K750s proved plenty grippy while connecting corners above Castaic Lake. A 36-inch-wide handlebar offers plenty of leverage for cranking the 433-pound rig through turns, but soft suspension demands smooth brake and steering inputs if you don’t want to get seasick. The only thing you can get away with using lots of all at once is throttle, since the Kawasaki’s maximum output is just 35.3 bhp at 6200 rpm. We only had one serious functional complaint about the KLR, and that was its habit of dropping out of second gear and into neutral while decelerating, which was more of a problem in the dirt than on the street.

The KLR worked well on the highway and back roads, but nobody expected much of it in the dirt. We were surprised. The chassis is predictable and extremely forgiving, and since the motor makes so little power, the rear Dunlop is more likely to dig in and thrust you forward than spin and step out. Relaxed geometry means the front wheel is less likely to push. When it does, the event happens slowly and is easy to recover from, just open the throttle. The engine is happy to lug and nearly impossible to stall. The KLR’s suspension has sufficient damping in both directions to keep the bike’s movements fluid and relatively in control. You can cover some pretty tricky terrain on the big KLR, but don’t expect to keep pace with the Husky or the KTM.

Frills are nearly non-existent. The all-analog gauges, carburetor, and simple suspension are so 1987, but the KLR’s abilities belie its size and age every step of the way. It’s still one of Kawasaki’s best-selling bikes—and a top choice for intercontinental dual-sport riding on a budget—for damn good reasons. Its place on the street-biased end of the dual-sport spectrum is secure.


Road-To-Dirt Ratio
60:40

Ride It To

Work,
that OHV park in
the next
state over.

Husqvarna TR650 Terra

If you think the KLR is too big or too old, Husqvarna’s TR650 Terra may be more your flavor. At $6999 the Terra is only five bills dearer than the KLR, yet it’s totally modern and equipped with appealing features like fuel injection, Brembo brakes, and an inverted (albeit non-adjustable) fork. It’s also more approachable for average-size humans, with a lower seat and a narrower bar. The 408-lb. Terra undercuts the KLR by 25 lbs. and its mass is more centralized, so it’s significantly easier to wield. Legroom is less than ideal for taller riders—pull the rubber pads off the footpegs to reveal metal cleats and add half an inch to the seat-to-peg measurement.

The Terra’s motor is based on that of BMW’s G650GS, but you’d never guess that from twisting the throttle. The Husky has a more fervent personality, and its peak output of 48.2 bhp at 7100 rpm is just a breath away from the KTM’s figure. Not only is it strong, it’s incredibly smooth and relaxed, spinning just 4300 rpm in top gear with 70 mph on the digital readout. Powerful but not without flaws: Finicky off-idle fueling occasionally stalls the bike just as you get rolling, and the very soft initial throttle response takes some getting used to. Husqvarna updated our bike’s injection software and reset the throttle-position sensor, but those steps didn’t completely eliminate the stalling problem.

Ride quality on the open road is smooth. Soft springs with light damping suck up pavement ripples and cracks. The only thing that limits the Husky’s long-haul capability is a lack of wind protection and a modest 3.6-gal. fuel capacity. Husqvarna’s accessory catalog can fix the former, but you’re stuck with the latter—unless you want to carry external fuel. As a back-road scrapper, the Husky takes the lead. Lighter and more powerful than the KLR and on better footing than the sometimes flighty KTM, it feels right at home scampering up a mountain road.

Our testers were eager to take the Terra off road, where we expected its manageable size and peppy motor to make it as agile as a billy goat. The Husky is a victim of high expectations—it’s a better off road than the KLR, but it’s still not a pure dirtbike, even if it is a Husqvanra! The stock Metzeler Saharas struggle to find grip on loose terrain and the soft suspension lets it bottom frequently. At speed on a sandy fire road, the front end feels flighty, is prone to slides, and not particularly easy to pick up with throttle since the rear tire spins so readily under the Terra’s superior horsepower. Slow your pace a bit and the Husky will dispatch a steep climb, river crossing, or rocky trail with ease—and a wheelie just for fun.

This new addition to the dual-sport segment is an appealing option, whatever surface you envision yourself enjoying. What’s most appealing is it’s positioning: The Terra balances near the center of the road vs. dirt scale, and should prove very responsive to modifications. With better tires and some suspension work, the Terra could be an outstanding all-terrain weapon.


Road-To-Dirt Ratio


30:70


Ride It To

Any double black
diamond trail,
the local MX track,
the Baja 1000.

KTM 690 Enduro R

KTM’s 690 Enduro R isn’t so much a dual sport as an oversize dirtbike with lights and a place for a license plate. At $10,299, the Enduro is certainly expensive compared to the KLR and Terra, but the extra money isn’t wasted. The Enduro R embodies KTM’s “ready to race” mantra with fully adjustable suspension, top-notch brakes, real off-road rubber, a hydraulically actuated slipper clutch, variable engine maps, and oh so much style. For 2012, KTM increased the LC4’s stroke by 4.5mm, pushing displacement from 654 to a full 690cc. The Enduro also got a restyled tank and radiator shrouds and a lower, flatter seat. It’s still a board compared to the KLR and Terra perches, though, and at 3 feet off the ground even our tallest rider (at 6-foot-2) struggled to get both boots flat on the ground at stops.

A light flywheel gives the KTM a much more aggressive personality than its companions, with a big hit off the bottom and strong top-end carry. The KTM isn’t remotely as good a commuter as the KLR and Terra, but it is fun. Twist the throttle and it’ll either wheelie or spin the rear tire, depending on where you’re positioned on the seat. Its Pirelli Rallycross tires have surprisingly good traction considering how intermittent the knobbies’ contact patches are, and the handling is light thanks no doubt to that wide bar and the bike’s 308-lb. wet weight, which undercuts the KLR’s figure by a massive 125 lbs. The engine has three power modes: normal, hard, and soft. We preferred soft since on/off response is smoother and the engine doesn’t hunt as much at constant throttle. The 3.2-gal. underseat fuel tank requires frequent refilling, but be careful not to overfill it or you may saturate the charcoal canister and pop the throttle body off the intake flange with a 690cc backfire. Don’t ask us how we know.

Big surprise: The KTM falls behind on the freeway. Not for lack of power—the 690 is the most powerful bike here with 48.9 bhp at 7100 rpm—but because anything above 65 mph makes holding the Enduro’s grips feel like you’re grasping a pair of palm sanders. There’s no wind protection for your torso, and since it’s so light, tall, and rolling on knobbies, the KTM sways and shimmies as it sails down the road. It’s actually amusing—for the guy following you.

But nobody would ever look at the Enduro R and expect it to excel as a long-hauler, at least not on pavement. Off road is where the KTM shines, and the faster, steeper, and more technical the terrain, the more you’ll appreciate this bike’s poise and power. The KTM encourages you to turn every pile of dirt into a jump and berm-shot every embankment. The fully adjustable WP fork and shock feel firm but never harsh, even when slamming through rocky sections at speed. KTM’s Enduro R is definitely exciting, but requires some focus to ride since it is so high-strung and sharp-handling. Steering is sensitive. Throttle response immediate. Power prodigious.

The KTM demands—and deserves—to be ridden aggressively, and we’re not too proud to admit that the 690’s off-road abilities surpass our own. This is a serious and uncompromising dual sport, best suited to the committed rider who wants to spend the majority of his time in the woods or desert. If you live at the foot of a trail-streaked mountain range, the 690 Enduro R is the dual sport for you.

Off The Record

Zack Courts
Age: 29
Height: 6’2”
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.


Marc Cook
Age: 49
Height: 5’9”
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.


Ari Henning
Age: 28
Height: 5’10”
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.

Conclusion


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.

Ergos

You want comfort? Go with the KLR. A softer seat, plenty of legroom, and ample wind protection make the KLR the best spot to sit through 100 miles of freeway. The seat is high, but the suspension compresses quite a bit under load. Short of inseam? The Husqvarna has the lowest seat height, but also the least legroom. Factor in a smooth motor and cushy suspension and the Husky’s scooped seat is the second best option here. The KTM’s ultra-upright riding position sacrifices comfort for function. The seat is high and hard, but if you’re riding it right you’ll be up on the pegs anyway.

Tech Spec

Husqvarna TR650 Terra | Price $6999

Engine type: l-c single

Valve train: DOHC, 4v

Displacement: 652cc

Bore x stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm

Compression: 12.3:1

Fuel system: EFI

Clutch: Wet, multi-plate

Transmission: 5-speed

Frame: Tubular-steel split-backbone

Front suspension: Sachs 46mm fork

Rear suspension: Sacks shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping

Front brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 300mm disc

Rear brake: Brembo one-piston caliper, 240mm disc

Front tire: 90/90-21 Metzeler Sahara Enduro 3

Rear tire: 140/80-18 Metzeler Sahara Enduro 3

Rake/trail: 27.0°/4.4 in.

Seat height: 34.4 in.

Wheelbase: 59.1 in.

Fuel capacity: 3.6 gal.

Weight (tank full/empty): 408/384 lbs.

Measured horsepower: 48.2 bhp @ 7100 rpm

Measured torque: 38.4 lb.-ft. @ 5800 rpm

Fuel mileage (hi/low/avg.): 50/39/45 mpg

Colors: Red/white

Available: Now

Warranty: 12 mo., unlimited mi.

Contact: Husqvarna USA
300 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677
866.236.8026 www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com


Kawasaki KLR650 | Price $6499

Engine type: l-c single

Valve train: DOHC, 4v

Displacement: 651cc

Bore x stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm

Compression: 9.8:1

Fuel system: Keihin CVK40 carburetor

Clutch: Wet, multi-plate

Transmission: 5-speed

Frame: Steel semi-double cradle

Front suspension: Kayaba 41mm fork

Rear suspension: Kayaba shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping

Front brake: Nissin two-piston caliper, 280mm disc

Rear brake: Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc

Front tire: 90/90-21 Dunlop K750

Rear tire: 130/80-17 Dunlop K750

Rake/trail: 28.0°/4.4 in.

Seat height: 35.0 in.

Wheelbase: 58.3 in.

Fuel capacity: 6.1 gal.

Weight (tank full/empty): 433/396 lbs.

Measured horsepower: 35.3 bhp @ 6200 rpm

Measured torque: 32.1 lb.-ft. @ 4900 rpm

Fuel mileage (hi/low/avg.): 50/42/45 mpg

Colors: Candy Lime Green/Ebony, Ebony, Pearl Solar Yellow

Available: Now

Warranty : 12 mo., unlimited mi.

Contact: Kawasaki Motor Corp.
9950 Jeronimo Road
Irvine, CA 92618
949.770.0400
www.kawasaki.com


KTM 690 Enduro | Price $10,299

Engine type: l-c single

Valve train: DOHC, 4v

Displacement: 690cc

Bore x stroke: 102.0 x 84.5mm

Compression: 12.5:1

Fuel system: EFI

Clutch: Wet, multi-plate slipper

Transmission: 6-speed

Frame: Tubular-steel trellis

Front suspension: WP 48mm fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: WP shock with adjustable spring preload, high/low speed compression, and rebound damping

Front brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 300mm disc

Rear brake: Brembo one-piston caliper, 240mm disc

Front tire: 90/90-21 Pirelli Rallycross

Rear tire: 140/80-18 Pirelli Rallycross

Rake/trail: 27.0°/4.7 in.

Seat height: 35.8 in.

Wheelbase: 59.2 in.

Fuel capacity: 3.2 gal.

Weight (tank full/empty): 308/289 lbs.

Measured horsepower: 48.9 bhp @ 7100 rpm

Measured torque: 38.3 lb.-ft. @ 5800 rpm

Fuel mileage (hi/low/avg.): 47/39/44 mpg

Colors: Orange/black

Available: Now

Warranty : 12 mo., 12,000 mi.

Contact: KTM North America Inc.
1119 Milan Ave.
Amherst, OH 44001
440.985.355
www.ktm.com

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kujo411
I mean Honda and Suzuki are too lazy to even put a liquid cooled engine on them.  MSRP on the Xr is $6700.  The msrp on the terra was 6999 for a fuel injected engine with liquid cooling.  I got my strada for 6k and that has switchable abs.  Get in the game japan!
kujo411
I mean Honda and Suzuki are too lazy to even put a liquid cooled engine on them.  MSRP on the Xr is $6700.  The msrp on the terra was 6999 for a fuel injected engine with liquid cooling.  I got my strada for 6k and that has switchable abs.  Get in the game japan!
kujo411
My question is why include the KLR?  You can test that machine against the xr and dr and other carbureted machines designed 30+ years ago but since the Japanese have gotten so lazy in design but lets keep apples to apples.  Maybe a gs or something that actually has a fuel injected engine.  It's not like you can't create a fuel injected engine 650 bike that isn't reliable.  The klr is a total pig and you can get a FI husky for less. It blows my mind that KTM discontinued the TR650 for the exact reasons outlined in this article.
kujo411
My question is why include the KLR?  You can test that machine against the xr and dr and other carbureted machines designed 30+ years ago but since the Japanese have gotten so lazy in design but lets keep apples to apples.  Maybe a gs or something that actually has a fuel injected engine.  It's not like you can't create a fuel injected engine 650 bike that isn't reliable.  The klr is a total pig and you can get a FI husky for less. It blows my mind that KTM discontinued the TR650 for the exact reasons outlined in this article.
Ohenry
I don't understand why you people are failing so bad on reviews these days!
This years 250 dual sport comparo was a Honda love fest with hardly and real tests.
In that test you include the out classed DR200 and make fun of it? Here you don't include the DR650 or XR650 and include the discontinues TR650.
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