Hi Sportsman, and welcome to the circus. You offer some interesting questions. That create some more questions. The Honda XR650L, in my opinion, is more comparable to the Kawasaki KLX 650 than it is to the KLR 650. It seems to be more trail / off road orientated. The XR factory fuel tank gives you a travel range of about a hundred miles, plus or minus. the KLR 650 is going to offer more road travel comfort, load carrying capability, fuel capacity and after market options. The XR650 will go a lot more places off road than the KLR 650 will take the average rider. The KLR 650 will go further.
Unless you plan on changing your riding habits to something more road orientated, you may regret trading to the heavier KLR 650. I ride with a guy that has a XR650L, and I've had a few XR's in my day. They will go anywhere the KLR will go. And visa-versa. The difference will be in the condition of the rider and the bike once you get there. 200 miles of road on a XR is brutal, I don't care who you are. Five miles of outback might be fatal on a KLR 650. All depends on your destination and plans, right?
I own air cooled and water cooled motorcycles. Out in the open and moving, air cooled is great. Get into a situation where the engine is not getting a constant exposure to road speed air, my anxiety level goes up with the temp gauge. The water cooled engines can get hot in traffic too. The water cooled don't seem to get as hot as fast or as predictably as the air cooled. I believe the three biggest detriments to any engine are heat, dirt and abuse. Water cooling helps the first issue. We are seeing quite a few high mileage KLR 650's, which I think says something for the water cooling system.
Oil burners. The '08's had a bunch. There is not to my knowledge a method of detecting which ones burn oil, which ones are going to burn oil and which ones will be OK. The issue is not by any means limited to the '08's. It was a major issue with KLR 650's long before the '08 version came out. The popular 685 kit, an after market piston replacement kit, is a common solution to the oil burning problem. 5-600 bucks, depending on the extent of machine work you have done and where. This kit was available before the 08's came out. We had our share of oil problems with the Gen I bikes, too. There is a weak component in the engine balancer system that should be replaced. On the Gen II bikes, [08+], a spring costing under 15 bucks will solve this issue. Something the average owner can tackle. Other than that, the bike is reliable and easy to maintain.
Oil for this beast is about 10 bucks a gallon at Wally World. If you are going through a liter every 800 miles, and riding 5,000 miles a year, under twenty bucks will cover your riding season for oil. You just have to remember to top off before you take off.
Now ask yourself: What kind of buddy would stick you with an oil guzzler? Maybe the biggest issue isn't the bike. Ask him what you'll find regarding oil usage if you pull the spark plug and read it.
If you want to do some more commuting, consider the KLR. It will handle light trails / fire roads / forest service roads like a champ. I find little joy in manhandling this big of a bike in the brush. Please understand that this is purely personal opinion on my part. Kind of like plowing a field with a Shetland pony. I can do it, but if a better option was available, I'd damn sure use it.
Get the KLR. Columbus took a chance, right?
ďmany a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceasedĒ- Steinbeck, [I]"Travels with Charlie"
[FONT="Century Gothic"][I]Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith[/I] [/FONT]