When Kawasaki added another 25 or so pounds to the front of the already heavy KLR 650 in 2008, it ostensibly became an ADV bike (a sports-tourer equipped with semi-knobbies). Many who understood the negative effects caused by excessive unsprung and overall weight looked for a more dirt friendly big single. Some have turned to the venerable DR650SE, which has been built by Suzuki since 1996.
Although my tandem partner and wife Pauline Read and I have put tens of thousands of off-road miles on our very special 1993 KL650A, we have been forced by advancing age (87 and 80 respectively) to move to a lighter and lower off-road capable motorcycle. So I have converted one of my DR650’s, which I have been riding solo on and off-road since 2002, into a tandem bike for Pauline and me. The combination of a lower center of gravity and less weight has made a huge difference and should allow us to continue our off-road Baja adventures for a few more years. (Todd’s note – Although both of us are taller than 6’, Elden and I both prefer to lower our DR’s; the loss of ground clearance puts you in the range of the 08+ KLR – more than enough for two-track dirt – yet the benefits of lowered center of gravity and better fork action pay dividends both off-road and on.)
Even though I didn’t need to be convinced just how good a multisurface motorcycle the DR650SE is, two Kiwis proved me right. Just recently Kevin Quine and Annette “Chicken” Thompson flew in from New Zealand for a motorcycling vacation. Kevin purchased a used 2011 DR650SE with only 16 miles on the clock and after installing a “Nomad” rear rack on the bike, they loaded up and headed north from Los Angeles on a western tour. By the time Kevin and “Chicken” had arrived at our house in La Mesa, California 37 days later, the two had traveled tandem 5,657 miles between the Canadian and Mexican borders. Their ride took them through the states of California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. However, the most astounding thing about the trip was not the miles they traveled on a 644 cc “big single,” but the fact that they did it on a very uncomfortable factory seat. Kevin was crowded to the front narrow part of the seat and Annette was left with the back of the seat, an area only 9 inches long by 9 inches wide and 2 to 3 inches thick. I have to admit that in my 60 year riding experience, I’ve never seen anything quite like what Kevin and “Chicken” accomplished.
Both could qualify for AARP membership but they have proven once and for all that 20 year olds are not the only ones who have hard butts and plenty of endurance. We at Top Gun Motorcycles salute two super Kiwis, Kevin and “Chicken.”