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Old 27 Jan 2014
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Travelling in Central and South America

Hi, This is my first time here, I'm planning a trip North to South though North, Central, and South America beginning in September. I'm going to buy a bike when I get to the States as they are much cheaper there. My preference is a BMW F800gsa or the R1200gsa but think the 1200 might be too big for Central and South American roads. Any thoughts.
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Old 29 Jan 2014
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Most people drive around on 125cc so yes 1200 might be a little big, certainly (in my opinion) for central America. To be honest I'm not an expert but all I hear is bad stories about people taking beemers to South America. In fact, personally, I just wouldn't overland on one full stop (even BMW mechanics seem to agree!?). If you have the money - something like a Suzuki DRZ650 or a KLR650 would be more suitable in my humble opinion. Apparently the Colombian police use the KLR's and so parts are available and probably cheap, too. I imagine they are simple enough for most mech's to work on and blend in more with local bikes.

I've no experience of South America but in central America the roads are narrow, pot-holed, slow moving, and you will frequently encounter heavy traffic in the urban areas. Doing spot repairs on BMWs in that part of the world sounds like a nightmare judging from accounts I've read here here and getting parts flown out sounds like it can take weeks and is very expensive. Big, expensive bikes stick out like a sore thumb and beemers will presumably attract a hell of a lot of attention. But hey, people who ride Baja's in India tell me I'm crazy for riding around vintage RF Bullets but I love the feel of them - Indeed I certainly do not ride them because they're reliable, economical or good in traffic

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Old 29 Jan 2014
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I think you are just biased against BMW's everything you say is "what you heard" unless you have first hand experience why offer advice ? I notice the tour companies all use BMW's F650 twins. (I have one to...BUT i also have 2 Royal Enfields) so I am not biased the other way !!! I just think your biased reply on 'here say' is very foolish.

My advice on South America would be a 650 dual sport bike, anything smaller the long roads will seem even longer. The brand of bike would be the one you like not one that someone told you to get.

....rather Die Living.....than Live Dying !
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Old 29 Jan 2014
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There is no perfect bike, you have to compromise.

You either get a bike that is perfect for most of the trip (tarmac, easy dirt roads) and VERY hard for the very tricky tough parts (hard dirt tracks) ... OR .... you pick a bike that is perfect for the really tough bits but you will need to compromise for the easy bits (with a bike that is slower and not as comfortable).....

Which one is it for you? Where are you going to compromise?

Note also that any big cylinder bike, if something goes wrong, you will need to get parts shipped.

We did one year round SA on 2 BMW F650GS . I broke down everywhere and cost me a arm and a leg in the very rare BMW workshops I found, to get the bike going. But then my husband had no problems at all with his... so there...

Keep in mind that the bigger and heavier the bike, the more limited you will be in what sort of roads you will go and how far off the beaten track.

I did struggle (a LOT!) in some trails and I did not do the Exit from Bolivia to Chile via san Pedro De Atacama, as I had planned; because my bike was too big and heavy. I will go back, but will get a a Honda Tornado (250) next time.


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Old 30 Jan 2014
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Hi Wayne,

It depends on how experienced and confident you are off road. I did from Tierra Del Fuego to Alaska on a GS1200 and certainly don't regret it. I also took that bike across the Altiplano from Calama to Uyuni, not easy but I made it without falling off. The GS1200 is not the best bike in sand but it depends on the rider! I've seen someone make it look easy (Miles Davis)

You don't need the GSA the normal GS will do, and there might only be one or two places where you need to carry spare fuel.

As for the BMW bashers out there. In the whole trip I replaced one "misty" rear drive seal, and had one puncture. They don't all breakdown. And once you are on the tarmac it's so much more comfortable.

Buy what you want and just ride it.
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Old 31 Jan 2014
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Originally Posted by Waynetogo View Post
Hi, This is my first time here, I'm planning a trip North to South though North, Central, and South America beginning in September. I'm going to buy a bike when I get to the States as they are much cheaper there. My preference is a BMW F800gsa or the R1200gsa but think the 1200 might be too big for Central and South American roads. Any thoughts.
Most all has been said here. If you're a BMW guy .. then go BMW. If you have owned several and know them ... go for it. The new G650's are pretty good or buy an X Challenge or X Country. They can be found here used. ALL good travel bikes if set up properly. Comfortable, fast enough and economical. It's in economy where they beat out Japanese 650 rivals, getting about 15% better fuel economy than bikes like the Honda XR650L, DR650SE, KLR650. But 250's can get 70 mpg or better.

But just about any bike can make it down there and it's true plenty riders are taking 250's these days. Less investment, good off road and less to lose if all goes Pear Shaped! Harder to pack up, slow and not as comfortable. Like Maria says: compromises.

Plenty of BMW's of all kinds have done S. America ... and a fair number have had problems but hundreds more have made it trouble free. So luck of the draw. Many many R1100, R1150 and R1200 GS have done the ride and dozens of F650 series bikes too.

Caveat: there are about 20 times more Japanese bike dealerships than BMW dealers. (BMW typically have ONE bike dealer per country). Most of the Japanese brands are represented with dealers even in small towns. Dozens all over the country. But very few if any will carry your model or parts ... but can order parts. Most, with a few exceptions, sell small bikes, cruisers, Outboards, ATV's and scooters.

Suzuki DR650's are now built and sold in Colombia and Ecuador. The Police use them in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru'. KLR's are used too. Both are gaining in popularity down South. But chances are ... if you need parts for (Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki or Yamaha) you may still have to WAIT! But they are nearer by ... than Germany.
So figure a Week's wait instead of a month. Best of luck!
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Old 19 Feb 2014
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Hi, Thanks everyone, it all helps, you have also confirmed what I have learnt recently about riding in Central and South America.
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