I own an '06 KLR and an '11 V-Strom, so have some insight into both. What follows is entirely my opinion in all cases. I'm sure there is somebody that will disagree with every thing I say here...
Why I like the KLR better than the V-Strom:
- The KLR is more versatile. I've had mine in sand, snow, pavement, dust, rocks, some mud, jumping curbs, you name it. It handles it all. I've done less mud than the others since I live in the desert. I use the KLR for mostly dirt, probably 90/10 dirt/pavement at this point.
- The KLR is easier to work on. Keeping in mind that I have a Gen 1, and the body stuff on those is much simpler, but it all comes off easily and you can get to the guts of the thing easily. I do all my own work on the KLR. So far, I do not like working on the V-Strom very much.
- The KLR is simpler technology. No computers, one cylinder, carb, etc. Part of easier to work on.
- The KLR has a lower initial cost, leaving more $$ for later goodies. And the aftermarket support for the KLR is mind boggling. I don't think the V-Strom aftermarket is as well populated.
- If range is something of concern, you can get a 10-gallon tank for the KLR.
- The KLR is a major chick magnet. Well, maybe not this one. I'm past the age of caring, anyway...
Why I like the V-Strom better than the KLR:
- Pavement work. The V-Strom is way more comfortable than the KLR, vibrates less, is faster, has about the same range out of the box, better lights, better brakes.
- And variations of that. I never take the KLR onto the slab if I can at all help it. I avoid the slab on the V-Strom as well, but I'm not so rabid about it.
- The V-Strom has tubeless tires.
- The V-Strom has 'modern' guts... fuel injection and so on. As long as that stuff works, it is great.
On the negative V-Strom side, to me the oil cooler and filter hanging down there is a major vulnerability. I've heard of lots of folks going for years with no problem, but I did put a bash plate on the V-Strom right away, even though its use is 95% street.
You mention you want something to keep up with traffic... how is traffic in your area? Where I live, I'm an hour away from the closest freeway so the KLR and V-Strom are both fine around here. I'd be pretty nervous about riding a KLR much in places like LA. Actually I'd be nervous about that on the V-Strom as well, but less so.
When I first got the KLR it was my only bike and I used it for making trips to the home office of where I work... which is about 350 miles one way. It handled it fine, including keeping up with surface street traffic in the big city just fine. Again, no freeways for me on it.
The KLR, being a dirt-bike type design, might be a bit more visible to cagers than a more road-bike design... the high fender and all. Also, the KLR sits much higher so you can see around better... over the tops of cars and such.
The KLR is pretty much bullet proof. As willys mentions, it has a few issues that should be addressed but after that it will go and go and go.
To be fair, the V-Strom also has an excellent reputation for longevity... I haven't had mine long enough to have any personal experience with that.
If your riding was more dirt oriented, I'd say the KLR wins hands-down. For 90/10 street, the question might be a bit more open. I have read many times that the Gen 2 KLRs are much better on the street than Gen 1.
Now just to keep the torches and pitchforks at bay, I do want to say that I absolutely love the KLR. I still, even as much as I like the V-Strom, if I was going to take a long trip and time was not an issue, I'd probably take the KLR.
But for higher intensity street work, willys is right again, the V-Strom is a more capable choice for that. Long trips where time IS an issue, the V-Strom wins because it is more comfortable cruising at higher speeds (legal ones) than is the KLR.
For the kind of riding I do, if I only had one bike it would be the KLR, but I am more dirt oriented than it sounds like what you have in mind.
Sorry to go on for so long and I know you didn't ask for a comparison with a V-Strom or anything else, but what the hey... I have experience on both, so here you go. Take it or leave it...
But I've seen guys go with the KLR and end up hating it because it didn't fit their riding style. And the KLR does not deserve to be hated or denigrated in any way. So I figure the more info a prospective rider has, the better. Again, all this is just my opinions.