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Old 18 May 2009
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In the various bike threads I seem to detect a split in the community between those who want the latest technology and those who view anything more advanced than a Ural as too much. I take a perhaps different view and perhaps people would care to comment?

I like bikes I understand. I can find a bad earth as easily as a holed diaphragm. It therefore really doesn't bother me if a bike has FI or carbs. I can carry a multimeter and some cable as easily as tube patches or a few jets and bits of rubber. There seems to be a lot of talk about obvious technology that really shouldn't worry us. If you've got pushrods they are simple to adjust, if you've DOHC and shims you should never have to touch them away from home. All the talk about the big technologies should be pointless?

What I don't like is big items that I can't carry and won't be available anywhere except a dealer unless they never ever fail. I don't have the skill to strip a gearbox never mind carry the kit to do it. I can't buy the software to talk to the vehicle ECU. I therefore need big items and sealed units to be reliable. This to me is where the less flashy technology comes in. It's not as sexy as the switch from tube tyres to tubeless or carbs to FI, but metal treatments, sintering technology, plastics etc. have really changed over the last 50 years. You can't tell if a 1980's gearbox will fail because they used stamped circlips or a modern one will fail because they replaced a forged item with a cast or sintered one. The only way then is to let people clock up the miles. Same goes for FI maps and ABS fault reactions, a few lines of code should be so simple as to never cause hassle, but they aren't always.

What puts me off old bikes is really the fiddling of previous owners. There is no way to tell if owner number 3 out of 6 bought his oil at Netto and only changed it when it became so thin it was only held inside the gaskets by suspended filth. What puts me off new designs is the fiddling of the manufacturers. They'll change a supplier or simplify a production process and we only find out when a 2009 model has some fault that 2008's didn't.

I guess having new/underdeveloped bikles and old/over used ones has pushed me to the middle ground. The right bike for me is one that's been about for four years and I've had my (greasy) hands on for 18 months

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Old 18 May 2009
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Originally Posted by Threewheelbonnie View Post

I like bikes I understand... and ...the right bike for me is one that's been about for four years and I've had my (greasy) hands on for 18 months
That sums it up for me 100%

I also like undertuned bikes. Any machine tuned to run at the limits of its specs needs to be maintained alot! Undertuned = less stress on the machine = less maintenance, but has the trade off of less performance... so this also pushed me to the middle ground.
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Old 18 May 2009
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Any machine tuned to run at the limits of its specs needs to be maintained alot! Undertuned = less stress on the machine = less maintenance, but has the trade off of less performance
Absolutely! I note the various ktm-problem threads on the web which highlight the high-compression-ratio=overstress you mention, yet the new G-series BM's also run the same - will they develop probs also. On the other hand the probs some people have with xt600's is worth noting. I reckon any modern hi-tech machine should be ok as long as it's not abused and maintained well.

Last edited by pottsy; 18 May 2009 at 14:45. Reason: Bad grammar
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Old 18 May 2009
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It's materials again. An Enfield with grey cast iron bits works fine at 30 HP per litre and a compression ratio of 4:1. Do nothing but skim the head and you'll briefly get 4.5:1 and 55 HP per litre, but not for long unless you change some major parts that seem to escape the tuners. The KTM and BMW's are at 8:1 and 90 HP per litre. The KTM using 1990's technology has it's limits that are documented. If BMW improved the material they'll be fine, if they used Chinese toffee it won't. I guess we'll know in about 18 months!

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Old 18 May 2009
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I'd more-or-less agree with you.
I'm an engineer by profession and would suggest that mostly, bikes are designed by engineers who have pride in their work, often ride them themselves, and want to see them zooming about the roads, not stuck in garages.
OK, the objectives of accountants and marketeers might dent that a little, but I think it's always generally been like that with bikes.
Consequently, those bike-builders will go to some lengths to tell you how to look after the bike for the best performance and reliability.

And my own experience tells me that bikes looked after exactly as the original builder intended will serve you a lot better that anything that hasn't. And that includes the skills and disciplines the maintainer should have in carrying out the servicing, as well as actually doing the services specified.
So I'd also agree that when buying secondhand, the slightest evidence that the bike hasn't been looked after as the builder intended means steering well clear of it.

Buying a new bike, specially a new model, is a bit different. Here you just have to have faith in your own gut reaction as to whether the bike has design faults, manufacturing faults, or plain gremlins. Don't know how you do that. Just look at them closely, maybe with an engineer's eye, look at others on the road, look at the shops and workshops in which the manufacturer is selling them, look at the manufacturer's reputation, the list goes on and on.

I've bought three bikes from new in my time that were new models. The Honda CB750 when it first came to the UK (wish I still had that!), the Honda XBR soon after it first came out (still have that - great), and the Aprilia RSVmille when it first came out (still have that - grrrreat). So I've been lucky with all of those. And the two that I still have I look after Exactly As The Manufacturer Specifies. The CB750, I raced that for a while, and it still went brilliantly (but not competitively) when I sold it.
Funnily enough, I did buy one bike from new that was a well-establish model at the time, a Ducati 900SS. That too was brilliant (except for the short-life clutch which I knew about when I bought it), but I never got to judge it's long-term performance. It was written off in an accident. But not before I had ridden it, in separate trips, to Moscow, Lisbon, and Istanbul.
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Old 18 May 2009
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For me technology is only good when it is cost effective. What has happened is much of the stuff we now pay a lot for is not there for our benefit but for the manufacturers and to meet emissions standards which are often flawed.
FI is one example, it is fitted because carburettors are open to the atmosphere, and when parked leak a small amount of fumes to the atmosphere. Injector systems are sealed so meet the emmisions requirements.
As we all know the cost of electronic appliances have dropped dramatically over the last 20 years. So why does an enginge management system cost many £100's usually more than a home computer with hard drive, dvd and screen? a complete works electronic ignition system for an Enfield costs less than £45 so given its expected life, a fair jump from the £4.50 for a set of points, but only just. Now cost out a BMW's ignition system???
One of the major problems is the accountants and the sales divisions of the bike companies. To sell bikes they use the numbers game so their bike is one and a half horsepower 'better' than a rivals. The parts being cost reduced from last years model because the warranty claims were within budget. The result is the market is full of near racing performance bikes, with very few commuters. This explains why Harleys are so popular. Riding a low stressed slow revving engined bike is much more relaxing than riding a 14,000 rpm speed machine that needs six gears to cope with a narrow powerband.

Another result of the current trend is that most failures are now classed as about equivalent to teh old nighmare of a con rod through the crankcase. Sometimes though, this scenario is cheaper and easier to fix than having an electrical failure on a modern bike. We have exchanged survivalbility for low maintenance. Nowadays many more breakdowns are tow truck to the dealer, rather than a quick fix to get you home.
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Old 19 May 2009
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I think that TWB's view would also apply for the majority on here.
Thing is, we are a niche market in the motorcycling world, certainly in the western MC world...

When I first got into biking at the spotty, awkward age of 17 (it was for me) and finally got my first set of ballistic 12bhp wheels at 19, biking was still something of a fraternity. In the SE of England that has certainly changed since 1992: it is now either a commuting tool, or a weekend luxury toy. The fraternity has dwindled and the priorities have changed.

People want gadgetry, and speed or gadgetry and chrome. So back to us, here, in the overland market. What do we want, predominantly? Reliability, low-weight, comfort, decent MPG and often scope for off-road.

Not the same requirements as the masses...

So, in a nutshell, I too want something I understand and given that I am not massively mechanically minded: the simpler the better: a Ural, and a XR400r.

The Ural is basic in design but my model (2007) has been blessed with decent quality components and this has made a big difference. The XR too is straight forward: aircooled, single cylinder, basic wiring loom. I only wish I had researched a bit more as the oil changes bother me.

However, I will say that all this is largely for my peace of mind: despite all the horror stories, I do believe that, on the whole, most bikes are reliable nowadays, if well looked after.... just choose the right tool for the job...
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