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Traded in my first bike (a Cruiser) for a BMW 650 GS thumper last Wednesday, and am loving the hell out of it.
Now, I've only been riding for a year, so factor that in, but it's been a 16k year w/o major mishap (a loud thank you to the gods above on that one). I just finished the 600 mi. break-in period Friday (19 hours of secondary and dirt roads over 3 days), and had the Dealer sign off on it Saturday, and had them add a smaller front drive sprocket as well to lower the powerband. Now, especially, this thing is a real hoot to ride. The power may be low (50hp, 43#' of torque) but the thing is so light that it has the same power-to-weight ratio as the 1200cc Cruiser had. There are a lot of dirt/gravel roads around here, and my sportbike (see icon) just doesn't do dirt. This is great- I love aiming for potholes. Riding this thing is a casual affar, just like a cruiser- no pressure to push the speed envelope, no one-piece leathers, no checking the (adequate!) rearview mirrors for brake lights when an oncoming cop comes past you, no middle-finger salutes from some HD riders in response to your wave, no suprise swerving to avoid minor road irregularities.
There is also a clownish element to riding a 650 single that makes it hard to take yourself too seriously on the bike, and that's something that I think we could all use a lot more in our lives.

So, if you're thinking of getting a dual sport, I for one say it's a great idea, and a lot of fun if you live in an area where it's useful. The BMW idea of this kind of ride is also adequately powerful, handles pavement suprisingly well, and also is a speed demon on anything up to and including fire roads. A Supermoto it isn't, and a real dirt bike it ain't either. But it is great for an old man buzzing around the countryside exploreing. It has range, comfort, and great handling along with the security (and weight) of a parent company that favors durability. I've spent a lot of my life and a whole lot of cash modifying vehicles in the past, and therefore have spent a lot of time by the side of the road cursing and trying not to throw tools and parts onto the public roadways to the amusement of you and your children. Reliability and durability are things I'm willing to happily pay extra for.

I also looked at the Kawasaki KLR650, and the KTM Adventure. Both are seemingly excellent bikes, and the Kawasaki is Much Cheaper. Suzuki and Honda also make good candidates, but there were no examples to be seen locally. BMW also makes a slightly more dirt worthy version of the 650 GS, called the Dakar, but it's very colorful (and checkered), yet even more expensive, and not as good as the regular GS on the bits of road between the dirt parts. I guess it depends on the depth of your pockets and how much dirt you expect to do in relation to the amount of pavement.

I will be tweaking this bike, as I can't keep my stupid hands away from parts catalogs and my tools in spite of all the greif this kind of behavior has caused me.. I'll post them in the "modifications" subcatagory in this forum.
 
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