Originally Posted by Kommando
Even an archaic DR650SE can manage 100MPH with a little tuning...barely, and it'll happily cruise at 75MPH+ across the whole continent.
If you want a dirtier bike though, get a thumper. The TE610/630, 690E, X-Challenge, and Terra 650 have more power than the likes of the DR or KLR. The DR/KLR/XRL can be easily upgraded though, and the inexpensive aftermarket is good. Stock, they make around 35WHP. 45+WHP DRs are getting more common, thanks to vendors like www.Procycle.us
I ride a DR. I love it. It's no big touring bike. It's no race-ready enduro. It has enough power, gearing, and stability to haul 2 of us and luggage down the slab. I can still ride it like a chunky-butt dirtbike when off the pavement, and I just started riding dirt semi-regularly a little over a year ago. I couldn't see myself doing that very easily on a much heavier bike. All it really needs to play off-pavement is armor, a front knobby, suspension, and some fuel:air work. These mods are common needs to almost any dualsport. I often run dirt without even swapping on a front knobby, but I do use a dualsport tire...Shinko 244. It's no knobby, but it does get me around.
Shop used, when you can. Bikes and parts can be found cheap.
Plus one on the above DR650 comments.
If you're going by the budget you claim ... then the DR650, KLR or XR650L might work for you. The Versys is no trail bike.
... great as it is as an all rounder.
I too have ridden my DR650 on LONG highway rides ... at speed. Like 1000 mile day home from Baja ... average cruising speed ? 80 mph. Also from Nor Cal to Colorado and back. 3500 miles. 4 Mexico trips. Now at 50K miles.
With the right seat and proper set up the DR is actually smoother than a KLR at highway speeds. But a well set up KLR is no slouch. A pack mule.
Test ride a few bikes ... get a feel for them.
The new Husky Terra / Strada are promising bikes but very new, unproven. That "Rotax" engine is Chinese. (not a bad thing) Figure your OTD cost to be around $8000 after tax/prep/fees. Is that in your budget?
A nice low mileage DR650 with farkles should run between $3500 to $4500. A great bike for our Nor Cal fire roads and Forest Service two tracks. A good handler. The DR ridden solo has ample power to pass on back roads. I do it all the time. I've ridden all the roads up your way for 25 years ... Highway 36, Trinity Alps and all the little roads in the area. The DR is ACE on these roads. Set up is the key. Not hard or expensive.