Comparison test of travel enduros, BMW F 650 GS, Honda Transalp, Kawasaki Versys 650, Suzuki V-Strom 650 / XT
We are out
Tow path instead of the Way of St. James, motorcycle instead of walking stick. Four agile travel enduros dive into the world of the lonely paths along the Doubs in search of the purpose of their existence.
The weather often does not make testing easy. It is only in the south of France that ideal conditions can be found to get to grips with motorcycles. The way there is nothing but stubborn highway driving. Karlsruhe, Muhlhausen, Montbeliard, Dole, Lyon, Marseille are reduced to fixed points that you can follow along the shortest route to the south.
This time it’s already over in Montbeliard shortly after the French border. Because now spring is also arriving further north. Honda’s new Transalp, Suzuki V-Strom 650 and Kawasaki Versys say goodbye to the tedium of monotonous, straight asphalt strips. With the BMW F 650 GS, which is also new, they prefer to seek their fortune on small, winding roads, sometimes randomly determining the direction on gravel roads, their low weight, their lightness and the controllable power of their high-torque two-cylinder engines without strenuous behavior Implement locomotion.
Comparison test of travel enduros
We are out
Equipment and comfort
Between the Rhône and the Rhine, the Doubs with its 113 locks supplies the water for the Rhine-Rhône Canal. The one at Roche-lès-Clerval is one of them.
Now the journey of the four really begins. Just in time for the start of the season, Kawasaki upgraded the Versys with ABS as a Travel Edition. With two 32-liter suitcases and a spoiler screen, the mixture of fun bike and travel enduro goes on a long journey at a low price of 7695 euros. But Honda also offers useful travel accessories at a package price. The Comfort version for 8,360 euros includes a narrow, high windshield, heated grips, main stand, a 45-liter top case and ABS. You would have to order two suitable suitcases separately and pay an additional 600 euros for them. But the luggage for a few days can easily be accommodated in the spacious top case. Really annoying, however, are the thick, short heated grips, on which the Honda can be gripped a bit tight.
With Suzuki’s V-Strom 650, everything has to be ordered separately: the large cases with carriers and top case, the high spoiler screen that makes the already bulky travel enduro appear even bigger, and a main stand, a helpful tool for lubricating the chain. Makes 8362 euros including standard ABS. This makes the V-Strom an attractive offer.
The BMW F 650 GS is significantly more expensive. An ABS that can be turned off, two suitcases nestling close to the rear, the capacity of which is variable, the suitcase being keyed alike with the ignition lock, main stand, heated grips and a very useful on-board computer add up to 9,755 euros. If you also order the recommended, larger disc, you have to add another 160 euros. With the small sign, the wind blows really well around your nose above 130 km / h. On the other hand, you hardly feel any wind or weather behind the V-Strom or Transalp cladding. Even the smaller vario shield on the Versys is okay because it greatly reduces the turbulence in the helmet area. When rain or cold is involved, the hand protectors of the Transalp prove to be a godsend ?? as the testers can report from their own experience.
BMW F 650 GS with original accessories: ABS that can be switched off, heated grips, on-board computer, white flashing lights, main stand and set of Vario cases with case holders.
The Hotel de la Marine in L’Isle-sur-le-Doubs by the lock is past its prime. Michele hands the travelers a pack of room keys. ?? Choose something ??, he says. The selection is not great. But pizza, red wine and pastis can convince.
Over dinner you can review the impressions of the day. Almost 500 kilometers in nasty weather have already been covered. That saps your strength. It pays to sit well and comfortably. Like on the Honda. Although the handlebars are a bit narrow, everything actually fits: the tight knee, the moderate knee angle, the slightly bent upper body. You can endure it for a long time. Likewise on the V-Strom. The strongly cranked handlebar ends, however, in conjunction with the soft, wide seat lead to an inactive posture. The Kawa is completely different. With her, the handlebars literally stretch out towards the pilot, thus ensuring an upright posture on the comfortably firm seat. The knee angle is a little narrower than the others, but not annoying and in no way detrimental to long tours. Gerry, 1.90 meters, copes well with it despite his long legs. The BMW fits like a glove. The handlebars are perfectly at hand, the seat height and footrest position are right, indicating an active posture. The arrangement is complemented by a well-padded, narrow bench – nothing pinches or pinches. great!
Honda Transalp with Comfort equipment package: ABS, high windshield, main stand and top case.
The light green on the trees is like a three-day beard. Spring hasn’t quite caught on yet. But there is hope. In the morning there is thick fog over the Vallee Doubs, but a little later the first rays of sun penetrate, warm the ground and dry the ruby asphalt. Quickly up on the bikes and away.
But wait! The Transalp first needs fuel supplies. At 17 liters, it has one liter more tank capacity than the BMW, but because of the highest consumption in the quartet, it has the lowest range. Whereby an average of 4.6 liters is okay. The V-Strom could give itself some refueling stops. Like the Versys, it gets by on the country road with just under four liters. In combination with the 22 liter tank, this results in an unbelievable range of a good 560 kilometers.
Chaux, Hyevre, Ougny, Laissey, Osse, Vaire-Arcier are now the names of the towns that can only be found as small dots on the map. The roads that connect them rarely take the shortest route, but rather make lively swings to the right and left. And sometimes the Doubs comes threateningly close to them with its spring floods. Test driver Lukas, who privately drives a sports motorcycle, gets to the point. ?? I don’t miss any of the many horsepower of my four-cylinder. I don’t need any more here. He chose the Transalp as his personal favorite, whose 52-degree V-two-cylinder with measured 62 hp is even the weakest of the quartet. The 680 cc four-valve engine is precisely attached to the gas and delivers its power very evenly over almost the entire engine speed range. However, the performance curve flattens out significantly at 7000 rpm, and even in real life the twin looks a bit tough and less lively than the other units.
The well-coordinated five-speed gearbox can be shifted inconspicuously and the clutch is playfully operated. Load change reactions are almost alien to the Honda. In addition, it sounds nice and entertaining from the muffler, while the engine stamps soulfully, in no way intrusive, to the beat of the music. The predecessor of the new Transalp looked much paler and more indifferent. Still, the Honda carries the red lantern when accelerating.
Kawasaki Versys as a Travel Edition: luggage set in vehicle color with luggage holder and spoiler screen Vario.
The V-Strom is completely different. Its measured 69 hp 90-degree V-engine revs up powerfully like a turbine, has pressure at any speed. The brilliant, low-vibration running culture is inspiring. The gears slide precisely and easily. When there is a car to overtake, V-Strom is right at the front. On the other hand, it is also good for strolling gently through the villages.
In contrast to the Versys. At 2000 rpm, the 68 hp two-cylinder hacks the chain somewhat unwillingly, in order to develop its power more and more silky with increasing speed. Despite the slightest stroke and enormous revving, the engine does not need to be squeezed out in order to move forward with smack. You can safely shift up earlier to find a good connection up a gear. And when it comes to performance, you can not only leave the V-Strom behind. However, the hooked gear is not fun.
Although the model name suggests otherwise, the F 650 GS is the displacement queen of this comparison. Like the F 800 GS, it has 798 cm3, its peak performance has only been reduced from 85 to 71 hp. The test bench even attested only 68 hp. But the 650 GS cannot take the lead despite its enormous displacement advantage and the resulting voluminous torque curve, which clearly stands out from the others. The gearbox, which is geared to 240 km / h, robs the twin, which sounds so typical like a boxer, vigor. Not only in acceleration, but also in pulling power, it is inferior to the Kawasaki in all speed ranges, although at 215 kilograms it is the lightest of them all.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 with original accessories: smoky gray touring screen, main stand, top case with carrier and set of side cases with case holders.
However, it does not make sense to limit yourself to the driving performance offered. An engine is as good as it feels. And therein lies the strength of the F 650 GS. The often quoted electric motor fits her like a fist in the eye. From idling speed, the twin pulls up as smooth as silk, does not jerk, and does not even show load change reactions when switching gas. And after the apex of a curve, accelerates as smooth as silk, gets the load going without cunning or trickery. Behavior that’s especially reassuring when the streets are still damp. You can see that the engine tends to vibrate in the last third of its speed range. Nobody wants to drive it that far anyway. Far before that, you tend to shift up at least one gear because the two-cylinder does not run out of power even at medium speeds.
France’s money for road construction is limited to the main arteries, one might think. The rural idyll between Besançon and Dole has obviously not received any financial support for a long time. The four are hardly impressed by it. Least of all the BMW. The fork and shock absorber respond sensitively, and the GS hovers over the undulating asphalt like an airboat. Punch through? Nothing. Not even with large holes and heavy loads. The F 650 its sweaters race confidently, swings along a clean line through all the curves. Not super handy, but not exhausting either. No fuss, just like that. Even the one brake disc in the front wheel is not a problem. It does its job well, delays when you reach in so hard that the fork twists a little.
Suzuki’s V-Strom finds its way just as comfortably. Although the fork looks a bit chunky, like the shock absorber, it easily handles every pothole. Both spring elements still have reserves. Despite its massive appearance, the V-Strom is much more manageable than the BMW. This also applies to the Transalp. But neither of them come close to the driving stability of the F 650. In return, the double disc brake decelerates the V-Strom very well with little manual force.
Small places that can hardly be found on the map form the pretty backdrop of a wonderful canal trip.
The Versys has proven to be a true dribble artist all day long, she is so light-footed on the Jura streets. However, it lacks a bit of comfort due to the tighter suspension setup. Sometimes the somewhat insensitive fork rattles ugly over asphalt faults. The small 17-inch front wheel and the wide 160 mm rubber at the rear also ensure that the Versys tilts up when braking. In addition, the pressure point of the front brake system is a bit spongy.
The good-natured Transalp, on the other hand, struggles with a badly tuned, heavily overdamped shock absorber that does not rebound quickly enough on bumpy stretches. There can be no talk of comfort. As a consolation, it comes up with a compound brake that, with moderate actuation force, a crisp pressure point and sensitive ABS control, is among the finest currently available.
Further south-west, in Dole, spring has already taken over the direction. The street cafes are open, hustle and bustle everywhere, the houseboats are being cleaned out in the harbor. Pierre, a sprightly pensioner, is fond of the four travel enduros. But he doesn’t want to trade his small, agile cabin boat for one of them. It should be the ideal companion for him on his planned journey through the narrow French canals. We can understand.
It has the most powerful engine, but the Versys does not win this chapter because the two-cylinder lacks smoothness and the hooked transmission leads to points being deducted. The BMW is top: its high-torque engine impresses with its silky smooth response, minimal load changes and proper running smoothness. The performance could have been much better if the gearbox, which had too long a ratio, hadn’t thwarted your plans. The Transalp, on the other hand, is perfectly geared, and has an easily shiftable gearbox, but suffers from a weak engine. The vital, smooth-running engine of the V-Strom can inspire, although the last gear, which is a little too long, primarily prevents better pulling power.
Winner engine: BMW
It is not the handiest, but you feel in good hands on the BMW. Sensitively appealing spring elements with a wide range of uses and high suspension comfort, plus neutral, targeted driving behavior. The super-handy Kawa, like the others, can hardly keep up. Their chunky, more tightly coordinated spring elements reduce comfort. The same applies at least to the fork of the V-Strom, while otherwise it comes up with a very comfortable chassis that is suitable for two people. The Honda, which has a properly tuned fork, but struggles a lot with the damping adjustment of the shock absorber, is also refreshingly handy. Bad roads are not for the Transalp.
Chassis winner: BMW
Once on the road, you don’t want to stop again so quickly? This is the motto of the Suzuki. The V-Strom scores above average with its enormous range, good wind protection and passenger comfort. Only the Transalp can stand on the same level as the V-Strom when it comes to wind protection because of the additional hand protectors. In contrast, she has to accept compromises when it comes to passenger comfort. The F 650 GS is effortlessly comfortable, also for the pillion passenger. The highest payload speaks for a vacation for two. At the Kawa you prefer to do it alone because the bench is short. There is also a lack of payload. And it has the worst light of all. The award for the best workmanship goes to BMW.
Winner everyday: Suzuki
The Honda is finally ahead. Your powerful, easily adjustable compound brake in conjunction with the sensitive ABS is in a class of its own. The V-Strom also has to show stable brakes. Even when fully loaded, it cannot be brought to its knees. The Versys brakes also work well, only unsettling with a spongy pressure point and a momentum in corners. The individual BMW windshield shows slight fading under high loads.
Safety winner: Honda
A savings round is the order of the day: Versys and V-Strom undercut the four-liter limit by a tenth. The F 650 GS needs exactly four. Not good: the high inspection costs of the Transalp. When it comes to maintenance costs, however, it is one of the leaders.
Winner costs: BMW
Winner price-performance: Suzuki V-Strom
All of them have plenty of motorcycles for the money. The Suzuki V-Strom can push itself in front of the BMW F 650 GS because it is Cheaper with a high score.
MOTORCYCLE test result
After 150 kilometers, the end point of the test drive, the city of Dole, is reached.
1st place: BMW F 650 GS
The comfortable chassis, easy manageability, the good-natured, powerful engine: the little GS is the all-round carefree package for all occasions.
2nd place: Suzuki V-Strom 650
The good wind protection, the comfortable way of traveling and the lively, powerful engine make it suitable for everyday use and touring at the same time. The telescopic fork could work better.
3rd place: Kawasaki Versys
The brawny engine is good for touring, the inexpensive luggage set like the Vario windshield for traveling. But bustling handling and a tight chassis are better suited to fun biking.
4th place: Honda Transalp
A successful travel enduro, if the poorly tuned shock absorb wouldn’t thwart your plans. The engine characteristics are okay.
Data BMW F 650 GS
BMW F 650 GS.
Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, cup tappets, injection, Ø 46 mm, regulated catalytic converter, 400 W alternator, 12 V / 14 Ah battery , mechanically operated multi-plate oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, secondary ratio 41:15.
Bore x stroke 82.0 x 75.6 mm
Displacement 798 cc
Compression ratio 12.0: 1
Rated output 52.0 kW (71 hp) at 7000 rpm
Max. Torque 75 Nm at 4500 rpm
Steel tubular frame, load-bearing motor, telescopic fork, Ø 43 mm, two-arm swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut, directly hinged, adjustable spring base and rebound damping, single-disc brake at the front, Ø 300 mm , double-piston floating caliper, disc brake at the rear, Ø 265 mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS.
Cast aluminum wheels 2.50 x 19; 3.00 x 17
110/80 R19 tires; 140/80 R17
Tires in the test Bridgestone Battle Wing 501/502
Data Honda Transalp
Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 52-degree V-engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, rocker arm, injection, Ø 40 mm, regulated catalytic converter, alternator 396 W, battery 12 V / 11 Ah, mechanically operated Multi-disc oil bath clutch, five-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, secondary ratio 47:15.
Bore x stroke 81.0 x 66.0 mm
Cubic capacity 680 cm³
Compression ratio 10: 1
Rated output 44.1 kW (60 hp) at 7750 rpm
Max torque 60 Nm at 6000 rpm
Single-loop frame made of steel, telescopic fork, Ø 41 mm, two-arm swing arm made of steel, central spring strut with lever system, adjustable spring based and compression traineeship damping, double disc brake at the front, Ø 256 mm, three-piston floating calipers, rear disc brake, Ø 240 mm, single-piston floating caliper, partially integral composite brake with ABS.
Spoked wheels with aluminum rims 2.15 x 19; 3.50 x 17
Tires 100 / 90-19; 130 / 80-17
Tires in the test Bridgestone Trail Wing 101/152
Data Kawasaki Versys
Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, one balance shaft, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, fork rocker arm, injection, Ø 38 mm, regulated catalytic converter, alternator 344 W, battery 12 V / 14 Ah, mechanically operated multi-plate oil bath clutch, Six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, secondary ratio 46 : 15.
Bore x stroke 83.0 x 60.0 mm
Cubic capacity 649 cm³
Compression ratio 10.6: 1
Rated output 47.0 kW (64 PS) at 8000 rpm
Max. Torque 61 Nm at 6800 rpm
Steel tubular frame, load-bearing motor, upside-down fork, Ø 41 mm, adjustable spring base and rebound damping, two-arm swing arm made of aluminum, spring strut, adjustable spring base and rebound damping, double disc brake at the front , Ø 300 mm, double-piston floating caliper, disc brake at the rear, Ø 220 mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS.
Cast aluminum wheels 3.50 x 17; 4.50 x 17
Tires 120/70 ZR 17; 160/60 ZR 17
Tires in the test Dunlop D 221 ?? G ??
Data Suzuki V-Strom
Water-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 90-degree V-engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, bucket tappets, injection, Ø 39 mm, regulated catalytic converter with secondary air system, 375 W alternator, 12 V / 12 Ah battery, Mechanically operated multi-disc oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain, secondary ratio 47:15.
Bore x stroke 81.0 x 62.6 mm
Cubic capacity 645 cm³
Compression ratio 11.5: 1
Rated output 49.0 kW (67 hp) at 8800 rpm
Max. Torque 60 Nm at 6400 rpm
Bridge frame made of aluminum, telescopic fork, Ø 43 mm, adjustable spring base, two-arm swing arm, central spring strut with lever system, adjustable spring base and rebound damping, double disc brake at the front, Ø 310 mm, double- piston floating calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 260 mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS.
Cast aluminum wheels 2.5 x 19; 4.0 x 17
Tires 110 / 80-19; 150 / 70-17
Tires in the test Bridgestone Trail Wing 101/152
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