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  #1  
Old 21 Mar 2012
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Question Which bike?

So I got my first dirt bike when I was 11, and haven't looked back. However, I lived in Israel for 3 years, and lived on a bicycle there (couldn't afford a motorcycle there, but I wanted one!).

Back in the states, I was given a scooter. Lots of fun. Decided that the trip I had been planning (bus and foot, backpacking) would be a lot more fun if I did it on the scooter I now had, down through to Costa Rica.

After lots of research, and talking with my mechanic about my scooter in particular, I have decided it isn't really up to the rigours of long term riding--there's a bit of play in the crankshaft where there shouldn't be, and so while it's good, it's not quite bullet proof. (You can see my prior posts for the thread I put on here concerning the scooter. )

So I'm selling it. And honestly, it'll be more fun on a motorcycle anyways. The question is, which one? I'm in Austin, TX, so I've been scouring over craigslist, and these are the two major contestants in the end. I asked my mechanic for some advice, but I feel like, frankly, he shallowly listened to me, and went ahead with a prior bias towards Yamaha. :\

Frankly, however, after my research (I'm no expert), I'm actually leaning towards the Suzuki. Here are the two options in my area. I really can't spend more than $2000, and am willing (and expect) to work on it/have some work done, but I don't want a project bike.

Here are my general criteria:

ideally, 200-400cc... Though if it's more, but still gas efficient and reliable, that's fine.

Between $1000-$2000 dollars.

Easy to find parts for/mechanics for throughout the Americas.

Would prefer something with an upright riding style (Honda CB175, for example), and would prefer to not have something with a cruiser style riding position (Honda Shadow), though I could deal with it if the right deal came up. I like the idea of a sport bike for town, but probably not for this trip. Something not too flashy, and not too rare looking; I don't want to stick out as a target. Kind of prefer it to look its age cosmetically, I guess, and imagining something 70's/80's.

THESE are the bikes:

Suzuki GS850 G, 1979 = http://austin.craigslist.org/mcy/2837380719.html
Yamaha XJ650 Maxim, 1982 = 1982 Yamaha Maxim 650

Called the owner of the Suzuki, and he said he was getting the bonded title and plates for it today, same price. Though the cam chain is ticking at low RPMs, it's just a nuisance, and he expects it to run well for 'another 30,000 miles'. They do seem to be known for being super low maintenance, and touring machines. Comparing them on this site: Suzuki GS 850 G engine performance, reliability, maintenance costs, etc. rated by riders
favors the Suzuki.

Haven't gotten to talk to the owner of the Yamaha yet, except that he let me know it's still available. His wording is a little cautious sounding to me...

Any advice? There are some other ones that I've put aside for now, but they're definitely still options:

1972 Honda CB175: 1972 HONDA CB 175
Runs, but needs some work, and is a bit expensive for what it is. Slightly underpowered, but acceptable.

1982 Yamaha Virago (500cc): 1982 Yamaha Virago 500 bobber
No title. Needs front brake assembly.

1983 Yamaha XJ 650: 83 Yamaha 650
A little too polished, a little expensive for me? Maybe good choice.

1984 Honda 350 Enduro: 84 honda 350
Dualsport, 6 gears trail-to-highway, one site listed its engine as "bulletproof". Not much space for touring gear, though, and a bit expensive... Maybe good choice?

Would love some advice!

Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 21 Mar 2012
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look

check this thread. TX to South America 2up on ninja 250 hope it gives some insight.
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  #3  
Old 21 Mar 2012
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Seriously..

NONE of these bikes will have more than tires and chains (maybe some levers that fit..) in Central and South America! The XR350 has the same rear sproket as most older Hondas, but not the front sproket.

So... forget them all and bus to Mexico and buy a used Honda XR250 Tornado (Built in Manaus, Brazil). THAT will have ALL parts EVERYWHERE in CA and SA.



Toby
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  #4  
Old 21 Mar 2012
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So are you recommending an ex? My mechanic, who only works on Japanese bikes, over the phone and through a relay quickly just recommended I bring in the Yamaha, and not mess with the Suzuki; seemed to have a bias against them, honestly, didn't really give it much thought or care to hear the model much. Then he just said to go with the Yamaha or find a Honda. Lastly, he recommended a Kawasaki EX, same bike I guess.

But is that really optimal for touring?

I went and looked at the Suzuki today. I was a little worried beforehand, but meeting the guy I feel a lot better--he opened up his garage and had 5 other bikes in there. He's an amateur motorcycle mechanic, has been self-teaching for 2 years, and has obviously taken care of the bike while he's had it. Said I could get his buddy (who he's selling the bike for, and who he works on bikes with) down to $1100--the price he bought it for a couple months ago before realizing it was too big for him, and he just put $200 getting bonded title and plates for it.

It sounded like the engine is in good shape, it's only got 31,000 mi on it, and the transmission seems smooth. It's a shaft drive, which seems like the way to go, and looking up old reviews, it seems like the shaft drive on these is excellent--engineered so that there's no delay.

The carbs were vatted recently, but never tuned, so I couldn't really test drive it--even when he drove it, it died on him a couple times. He had the box off, then tried it back with it on again, but if the 4 carbs weren't tuned, that makes sense--the engine sounded good.

A weekend tuning those ought to fix that. I think I'll bring it over to my mechanic anyways and get him to give it a once-over before I commit, but any feedback guys? Does this sound like a good touring bike, low maintenance with a little work?
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  #5  
Old 22 Mar 2012
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I considered crossover bikes, but there's not much place to put stuff; also, how comfortable is that for long distance riding? And with weight on the back? Am I going to be able to get the bike's title and so on easily enough transferred as a non-citizen? I have heard bike prices in Ecuador for anything over 200cc are ridiculous; what are they like in Mexico?

Ideally the Suzuki won't have any problems, but what parts will I be screwed if they go bad, and which have a possible chance of going bad enough to need to be replaced and not being universal? Is that a serious problem, and if necessary, would just shipping in parts be possible?
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  #6  
Old 22 Mar 2012
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Keep in Mind

Keep in mind:

(1) You will find NOTHING in parts for ANY bike over 15 years, unless it is the mid 80's Honda XL250S.
(2) Roads are not what you expect. You WANT an on-off road bike!
(3) Getting parts from the US will be difficult, VERY expensive (some countries charge 140% tax on parts that come DHL or UPS) and take close to a month by the time you get it in your hands.
(4) Shaft bikes can not vary the ratios as you need for change in road conditions, climbing, etc. Go chain. WHEN it breaks, you will find another within 20 miles anywhere in SA.

Here's a dozen XR250 Tornados in Mexico for 2-2.5K (divide by 13 to get US$)
tornado - México, Motos - Scooters - México, Automóviles

Toby
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  #7  
Old 22 Mar 2012
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I would think an economical ex250 would definitely be a practical choice for buzzing around Austin and going on some longer rides. This one is on the Austin Craigslistings for today.

06 250 Ninja LOW LOW MILES
3000 miles nice shape 70 mpg

A low mileage newer bike is likely to prove less expensive than a cheap older bike in the long run. I have learned this lesson the hard way.

You mentioned Ecuador and Mexico, so I assume you are thinking of possibly heading south of the border. If so, you will find a smaller bike perfectly adequate if not preferable. Cheaper to buy, cheaper for tires and parts, easier to park in your room or a lobby in a guest house, easier to thread through traffic, better gas mileage, lighter to pick up and throw in a canoe or boat crossing rivers, cheaper to ship back home, easy to sell in South America.

Of course, I don't care what you buy. Any bike will do. It's hard to get out of the driveway for a fun moto trip if you don't have any wheels though.

Have fun!

Kindest regards,
John Downs
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South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=831076
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  #8  
Old 22 Mar 2012
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This is the American version of the Tornado for sale in Austin today:

Honda XR 250 Dirtbike with Riding Gear

I own one. I put a 4 gal. Clarke tank on it and a sheepskin on the seat and some throwover saddlebags. Great bike for south of the border. Bulletproof motor. Easy to find parts for south of the border. I also rented one for a couple weeks in Costa Rica. Easy to find tires and parts for. Even a hole in the wall shop in the boonies had oil filters and a turn signal lens. Comfortable? not so much. Fun on the roads less traveled south of the border? You bet. No bike is perfect. Any bike is better than no bike.

Vamanos! Mi Tejano compadre!

John Downs
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South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=831076
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  #9  
Old 22 Mar 2012
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I'd have to say any Kawasaki EX is a decent choice. I've owned both an EX-250 and an EX-500: I found them both to be very reliable, low maintenance machines. As that one post above shows, people have used them to ride some pretty long distances - and two-up as well. Is it a dualie? No, but you can take off the lower bodywork and have a decent amount of clearance, better than a lot of other street bikes.
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  #10  
Old 22 Mar 2012
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Oh! I didn't make it clear. I'm picking a bike to drive to Costa Rica, the long way, over the course of a month. Then let it sit for a couple months while I continue on foot to South America. Then come back to it, and drive it back. (I already have someone in Costa Rica that will let me leave it with their mother-in-law in the garage.)

Those bikes are still out of my pric range; that ninja is almost $3000, which would make it most of the cost of my trip. :\

That dirtbike isn't street legal, and is also beyond the top end range of my budget; modifying it to make it street legal sounds like it would take some paperwork and money and time, as well. And I do want to be comfortable on this trip.

What kind of things might disastrously go wrong on something like that on a long trip? All the trips I've read here have never had anything go wrong other than needing tires--one person before crossing the border had a spoke break.

I do appreciate the advice, but I had kind of gotten attached to the idea of an old bike. Which is probably bad. My Uncle, a rider with plenty of experience who leans more towards cruisers, and a used car salesman, told me that for the money I should just stay away from something that old, I could do better. I can't help but feel sad, though. The look of an older touring bike, with a mostly straight, long seat, and simple handlebars, is bar far the most appealing bike style to me. I don't see anything modern like that today. Ninjas just look tacky to me, like something an 18 year old wants to show off. Like they all wear flip flops and t-shirts while riding home from a college drinking party. (Obviously not true, but... not obviously untrue for a lot of cases). And then I can't help but feel like I look like a cocky sonofabitch riding in something like a Honda Shadow, or anything with a reclined seating position. I just want a neutral bike.

For the record, I don't judge the people that own them; my cousin who I'm close to owns a small ninja, and my uncle rides a $20,000 Harley. Those bikes fit both of them--my uncle has his gray hair and just looks wise and confident riding his Harley (though I'd never touch one myself), and my cousin *is* young, and probably doesn't wear his gear (except helmet)--but he's a good kid. It's just wanting a bike that fits me.

But I should really get over it, I guess. *sigh*

Lastly, I don't plan on shipping it anywhere, or selling, just for the record.
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Old 24 Mar 2012
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For south and central america either the xr250 honda or the dr200 suzuki would the best choices. They got em every where parts everywhere they are cheap to run, durable and reliable.
I had really good luck with the KLR 650 except for the rear tire size isn't the norm and sprockets and oil filter were something you might have to order ahead. I went with the KLR because I already had it from a previous trip.
If I was starting from scratch I'd pick the little Suzuki or Honda.
Down in Ecuador you can buy brand new china enduros for 1200usd. Which is a good quality knockoff of the dr200.
I liked having the little extra power of the KLR.

out the old bikes you listed I like the old. Suzuki GS850G best they were really well made and its shaft drive. Chains are a messy hassle.

And there's much to be said for riding a cool older bike. I met a young guy making the trip from AK on a 1976 honda cb500t. I remember buying one new back in 1976 when I was 20 years old! You will meet plenty of local folks down there who are still nursing along those older bikes.
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Old 24 Mar 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bush Pilot View Post

out the old bikes you listed I like the old. Suzuki GS850G best they were really well made and its shaft drive. Chains are a messy hassle.
.
Me too, and the GS850/1000G shafty has a good reputation here in the UK as well.

Fintip,
When I read your first post I kind of thought you had already made up your mind and were kind of looking for confirmation of that, rather than for any real alternatives; anyway, whatever the case, go with your heart - you will enjoy it far more!
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Old 10 Apr 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Downs View Post
This is the American version of the Tornado for sale in Austin today:

Honda XR 250 Dirtbike with Riding Gear

I own one. I put a 4 gal. Clarke tank on it and a sheepskin on the seat and some throwover saddlebags. Great bike for south of the border. Bulletproof motor. Easy to find parts for south of the border. I also rented one for a couple weeks in Costa Rica. Easy to find tires and parts for. Even a hole in the wall shop in the boonies had oil filters and a turn signal lens. Comfortable? not so much. Fun on the roads less traveled south of the border? You bet. No bike is perfect. Any bike is better than no bike.

Vamanos! Mi Tejano compadre!

John Downs

I really love this bike, lightweight with a big tank. I don't understand why you would want to ride a GS1200 or something if you can do the same on this Honda XR 250? Maybe somebody can explain it to me someday.
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