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Ducati 916 vs. Kawasaki KLR 650

Posted in Ducati, General, Motorcycle by MrAngry | September 15th, 2010 | 14 Responses |

Talk about apples and oranges. You may be wondering how one could even mention both of these iconic motorcycles in the same sentence, but have no fear because I’m going to tell you. You see way back when I was a younger man, I was what you’d call a motorcycle nut. I road everyday, year round, weather be damned to the tune of around 12-15k per year. I was the motorcyclist you made fun of when it rained, and I was the guy you cursed when I blazed by you on one wheel on the highway. There was a time when I had 5 bikes and 1 pick-up truck which was only used for the purpose of motorcycle transport when I was either hitting the track or the trails. As with everything in life though priorities change and life goes on. As it stands I haven’t owned a bike since 2005 and truth be told I am getting VERY itchy.

Ducati 916

Riding a bike is an experience like no other, and as of yet I have found no other form of motor sport that gives me the same type of enjoyment. In the title of this article I mention two amazing machines – the visually stunning Ducati 916 and the do it all two-wheeled Hummer, the Kawasaki KLR 650. One is a corner carving scalpel and the other is a swiss army knife and at some point in time, each one had a home in my garage. Like I said, I’m now getting itchy for another bike and these are the two I’ve narrowed it down to. Keep in mind that whichever machine wins out they’re both going to be regulated as mild recreational vehicles. Since my knee dragging days are behind me, the Ducati would simply be used for the occasional Sunday morning run with the big chunky KLR having the same roll, albeit the occasional trail road thrown in for good measure.

Ducati 916

From a visual point of view the Ducati 916 wins hands down. It’s a visual masterpiece and the exhaust note that it emits from its big V-twin mill is simply glorious. Plus it’s a machine that will always be desirable, fun to ride and make me smile. Sure by today’s standards it’s a dinosaur, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy every moment in the saddle. The pro’s to this machine are its wonderful handling, its sheer beauty and the shit-eating-grin factor it provides every time you start it. The con’s are that it is mechanically finicky and expensive to maintain, it has terrible fuel mileage and after about an hour of riding your back is toast. It is however a Ducati and I’ve wanted one again ever since I sold my 1996 model.

Kawasaki KLR 650

The Kawasaki KLR 650 is probably one of the best all around dual sport bikes on the planet. It’s been around forever, never breaks and can literally take you anyplace you wish to go at a moments notice. It’s got wonderful range thanks to its 6.1 gallon tank and provides the rider with all day comfort. Plus if it breaks you can pretty much fix it with a screw driver and duct tape. Seriously… these suckers are pretty indestructible. I had an old 1993 model that I put damn near 22,000 miles on and the bike never missed a beat. Plus I really used to enjoy taking the occasional trail ride with it and going were very few street machines dared to tread.

Kawasaki KLR 650

So with all of the above being said, what do you all think? Both bikes will satisfy my urge to ride again but they’ll do so in very different ways. Keep in mind I also DO NOT want to go out and purchase anything else, so don’t give me suggestions for other rides. It’s a choice between these two and that’s it. Either way I’d like to buy one in the not too distant future, but I’m curious to know your input as to which way you’d go.

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14 Responses

  1. 98dsmgs says:

    Id go with the ducati. You just cant beat the stunning good looks!

  2. 75RD350 says:

    Have to go with the 916, modern superbikes have not moved the character bar any further than this bike did in the 90’s. It is a true classic, and will go down in the books next to the F40 as all time Italian greats. You can always snag up a cheap KLR for the fireroads later. the clean 916’s are only getting harder to get their owners to part with.

  3. Harvey Mushman says:

    Out of my 5 street bikes the KLR wins for the fun and utility factor. It rides 2 up no problem, handles good enough on the curves, travel back roads and potholes mean nothing, full bore on gravel roads, and offroad you are going more places than a jeep can make it(with a hell of alot better ride quality). Good example, took mine to the Smokeys last year and rode a 10 mile trail with creek crossings that outlet on the “tail of the dragon” riding 2 up, try doing that on anything else.

  4. Set says:

    What was that article was written a few weeks back about not giving advice? Haha. But, on a serious note, I’d say the KLR. If you’re going to be more comfortable, spend less on it, and be able to do more, I don’t see how you could walk away unhappy.

  5. Big Russ says:

    being a Kawi guy…. the KLR is the best bike for damn near everything…. it will go to hell and back with you and thank you every mile of the way…. granted if your a smaller guy its gonna need a few little things…. Corbin seat so that you can even get 1 foot on the ground at lights… and given the performance differences in the 2 bikes… id get an older KLR and drop a newer 599cc motor…. or if you want to get NUTS a 636cc Motor….. that would be evil…

  6. Rod says:

    I recently traded a Ducati 2001 748 for a Kawasaki 2006 ZX-6R. I miss the Ducati looks, nothing beats that! But, as it is said above its very expensive and mechanically troublesome. I’m happy with the ZX-6R because I think it’s an awesome bike too. Besides I’m a Kawi guy!
    But… If my bike had been a 916 I would have NOT made the trade, the 748 that looks nearly exactly the same is far worse than the 916 with it’s mechanical “issues”; it was a really frustrating bike for me! If you are well off stay with the 916, if you like to actually ride stay with the KLR, I would!

  7. ptschett says:

    Of these two I’d go with the KLR. My ’99 KLR that I’ve had 5 years will be just past 50,000 when I park it for this winter and I’ve hardly had to do anything other than replace normal wear items and also the “doohickey”. If you get bored with the normal power level there’s always the 685 kit.

  8. MrAngry says:

    Wow! Honestly, I did not expect so people to pine for the KLR! I have to tell you folks that I agree with you though. I think that for I’m going to use the bike for the KLR will fit the bill the best. As mentioned it’s big, comfy and goes fine at highway speeds.

    Speaking of that, in 2008 they redesigned the KLR… was more power added?

  9. Big Russ says:

    just a bit… its got more ground clearance too… which is a good thing…. granted its heavier



  11. […] Ducati 916 vs. Kawasaki KLR 650 (ridelust.com) […]

  12. JEC says:

    Bad fuel mileage on a 916? What kind of gearing were you running? I typically get 45-50 (imperial) MPG with mine on the highway with stock gearing. My old Honda Interceptor gets way less than that. City riding cuts it down to around 20s, but that is in crawling Montreal traffic. I’ve carefully tuned my Duc over the years, maybe I just got lucky with my fuel metering.

    I’ve had my 916 for nearly 6 years now and I would not sell it for anything in the world. It is the most spectacular bike I’ve ever ridden; not the fastest (but it is quick), not the best handling (but it is pretty stable and satisfying to throw around), and certainly not comfy (who cares) – but as a whole, that bike give me chills every time I take it out for a ride. It makes me giddy to nail the throttle in the midrange and listen to the thundering intake roar. Every ride is theatrical and it doesn’t suffer fools at all, you need to commit to riding it properly. It’s a no-nonsense brutal sportbike that has no business on public roads. I love mine like nothing else.

  13. DAVE Mc VEY says:

    916,I have a’94 and gas milage doesn’t matter.I put my head in a vise to squeeze the smile off to go back to work. just bought ’08 KLR to ride the Continental Divide,pumping iron to shape-up I’ll be 70 yrs.old in a few months.
    “keep em right side up boys&girls”
    Cheers DAVE.

  14. Walter Esparza says:

    Hola, yo estaria con el mismo dilema y si economicamente pudiera tendria las dos. Personalmente no he tenido la posibilidad de subirme y probar la Ducati pero si tuve un par de KLR. Ahora tengo una Cagiva 900 Elefant (motor Ducati) y si bien no es lo mismo, he podido experimentar buenas aceleraciones y salirme del asfalto sin problemas. Es logico que no tiene el manejo facil del KLR, pero se deja llevar, tampoco tiene la velocidad final de la 916 pero se viaja rapido.
    Si puedes comprar las dos, adelante!!