In the first part of this multi-part post, we began exploring a question asked on advrider.com as to whether European bikes are worth the premium over Japanese bikes. We established that the Europeans don’t make a 400-500cc dual sport bike comparable to anything from Japan so an apple-to-apple comparison was not possible.
Now we move on to the 650 class – specifically the XR650L. Luckily the Honda XR650L is in the dual sport class of motorcycles so a true comparison can be made.
The Honda XR650L was first released in 1992 as a 1993 model. It weighs 350 lbs, puts out 32 horsepower, has a wide ratio 5 speed transmission, is carbureted, and has conventional suspension and disk brakes. Other than color changes, the XR-L remains exactly the same today as when introduced 25 years ago. It sell for $6,899.
On the European side we have the Husqvarna 701, a dual sport class of motorcycle based on the KTM 690. (Husky is owned by KTM and the 701 is a derivative of the 690, so the bikes are more similar than different). KTM released the 690 is 2008 and has made many upgrades and improvements since. In 2016 Husqvarna released the 701 using the existing 690 engine. In 2017, the 701 and the 690 diverged – the 701 got a new engine while the 690 kept the existing engine. The 2017 Husky 701 weighs 320 lbs, puts out 74 horsepower, is fuel injected, has a narrow ratio 6 speed transmission, upside down forks, and modern disk brakes. It sells for $11,799.
The first point that can be made is that if you could buy a new car from 1992 and one from today, would you notice any difference between the two? I ask the question because you can buy a new Honda XR650L today and it is exactly the same mechanically as it was 25 years ago. On the other hand, the Husqvarna is a modern motorcycle, with all that implies – more horsepower, better brakes, better engine, better suspension, better ergonomics, and so on.
Are the differences between the two bikes worth the $4,900 premium for the Husqvarna? Well, that depends on you, doesn’t it? Both bikes have handlebars, tires, wheels, motors, suspension, brakes, seats, and so on. Why pay nearly $5k more for one than the other? You would pay more for the exact same reason you would pay more to drive a 2017 model sedan versus a new 1992 sedan – because you want all the improvements made to automobiles in the last 25 years.
I’ve owned a Honda XR650L and a Husqvarna 701 and can tell you that they are very distinct from each other. The ergonomics, motor, transmission, performance, and capabilities of the Husky are night-and-day better than the Honda. Are the increased capabilities and performance worth $5000? For me, yes. For you? The answer depends on how much you value those modern advantages.
Admittedly, the answer is 100% subjective – do you want a bike with modern performance and capabilities or do you want the cheapest bike in the class? Only you can decide what you value most.