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  #1  
Old 6 Aug 2011
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The Perfect Bike

I don't wish to sound too cynical but looking around on this and other sites I'm beginning to get the impression that some potential overland travellers are choosing bikes on the grounds that they have a huge aftermarket back up offering all the parts you need to overcome the manufacturers shortcomings. Not only does it cost a small fortune to do the essentials such as a fuel tank that holds more than 10 litres and suspension that doesn't collapse but a second fortune can be spent on all the gismos that make it look like a dakar competitor.

It seems to me that just getting on it and riding it is a thing of the past where BMW and Honda (and probably others) made bikes that were virtually ready to go and you could even fix them at the roadside (no, I'm not talking about carbs vs. FI). Yes, I'm well aware that these ancient models now have a long list of essential mods. that you must fit before setting out, however, I know from my own experience that most of these are far from essential on a well maintained bike.

Money is usually the missing ingredient for anyone planning a RTW and it seems a shame that it's become more about the bike than the journey.
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Old 6 Aug 2011
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Originally Posted by Magnon View Post
I don't wish to sound too cynical but looking around on this and other sites I'm beginning to get the impression that some potential overland travellers are choosing bikes on the grounds that they have a huge aftermarket back up offering all the parts you need to overcome the manufacturers shortcomings. Not only does it cost a small fortune to do the essentials such as a fuel tank that holds more than 10 litres and suspension that doesn't collapse but a second fortune can be spent on all the gismos that make it look like a dakar competitor.

It seems to me that just getting on it and riding it is a thing of the past where BMW and Honda (and probably others) made bikes that were virtually ready to go and you could even fix them at the roadside (no, I'm not talking about carbs vs. FI). Yes, I'm well aware that these ancient models now have a long list of essential mods. that you must fit before setting out, however, I know from my own experience that most of these are far from essential on a well maintained bike.

Money is usually the missing ingredient for anyone planning a RTW and it seems a shame that it's become more about the bike than the journey.
I am not sure what the exact point is with this post ... but it seems to be a criticism of anyone who wants to have a well thought out, built for purpose decent adventure bike. Is that correct?

Thre is nothing wrong with someone wanting to travel RTW on a 20 year old Africa Twin or a 25 year old BMW boxer. Just as there is nothing wrong with people who want to travel RTW with a bike that is 70 kgs lighter, 50% more economical, handles 20 times better at 3 times the speed off road. There is the opportunity in this day and age to build a bike that does the job many times better than factory bikes from 25 years ago. Whats wrong with someone doing just that?

Why would you choose to criticise people for wanting to have a bike which does the job better? It seems like a little bit of jealousy.

Some people, myself included, feel that yes I want the pleasure of travelling to remote places, I want the experience of mixing with people that have never seen westerners before, but I also get a huge kick out of actually RIDING THE BIKE. For some, the bike is not just a platform to convey you to these places. For some the riding (particularly the off road riding) is also allowed to be a huge pleasure. I dont "endure" the tough stretches, I actually LOVE them. Why cant I, or anyone else who builds a similar kind of bike, actually build a bike that is designed to handle travel in those kind of conditions? Instead of being a horrible pig i those conditions. Why is that bad? Not everyone likes adventuring on good roads.

That is allowed, isnt it?
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Last edited by colebatch; 6 Aug 2011 at 18:58.
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  #3  
Old 6 Aug 2011
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Sadly, I have friends who have joined, and since left Horizons Unlimited, because they felt there was an overriding culture of "you must have a crap old bike or else you are a bad human being and dont belong here". It's a mentality I would very much like to see driven out of the site.

I think its a shame moto travellers who do enjoy the bike side as much as the journey side, are being driven away from the site.

If someone is into triumph scramblers and want to ride around the world in one, why not?

If someone is into Harleys and want to heavily modify one and ride it to Magadan, why not?

If someone is into old DR350s and want to ride one round the world because Austin did, then why not?

Why should we tell any of these people to stop focussing on the bike, and focus only on the journey?

Why cant people enjoy the bike side too? And why is an appreciation of the bike side, or a motorcycle modified for purpose, incompatible with Horizons Unlimited?
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Last edited by colebatch; 9 Aug 2011 at 09:44.
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  #4  
Old 6 Aug 2011
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Moved thread

I moved the thread into the HU Bar area, because it seems to be more an expression of a personal opinion rather than a question.
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  #5  
Old 6 Aug 2011
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Very well said. I often don't come here as my built up vtwin seems to discourage folks. Riding a very capable off road wild beast doesn't appeal to everyone, but to me it's a crazy wild ride while out exploring new places. Both parts are equally gratifying to me.

If that bike was built out of the box that would be great but it's not, so we build a bike that can handle aggressive off road riding and make it capable of long distance travel. Too me that's a part of the fun. Plan, build, ride and explore
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Old 7 Aug 2011
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Sorry if I implied criticism. If I am being critical of anyone it is the bike manufacturers. They obviously do their market research and from this they can see that the percentage of buyers of a given adventure model that are going on an extended overland trip is very small. That said, it seems to be big enough market for the likes of Touratech and other suppliers to make a business out of it.

I certainly don't advocate setting off on a long trip on a 20 year old bike, however, my point was that these bikes came from the factory much nearer 'ready to go' than the bikes that are being produced today. Manufacturers have, in my opinion, extended the 'Adventure' themed bikes to the point that they are so complex and heavy that they are not really viable for a trip with significant off road content (or very remote places without support). Bikes around 650cc seem to be much more suitable but apart from the Tenere there isn't anything available straight out of the crate.

So who cares? Well, my original point was that the need to modify even basic things on the bike makes the bike extremely expensive. Some of the wish lists I see on here and elsewhere just give me the impression that it's more about bolting on every conceivable part to make the bike perfect and then at the end of it all not having enough money left to travel - again, just my perception.

I have always enjoyed modifying bikes to make them 'fit for purpose'. We are generally much more demanding these days in terms of suspension, brakes, protection etc. so I can understand that the fit for purpose bar has been raised but my view is still that just because it's in the catalogue it doesn't make it essential.
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Old 7 Aug 2011
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I'm with you on this one. I've been looking for a Bonneville replacement. I can buy a Tenere and spend the first week of ownership stuffing bit of inner tube into the cush drive. I can get a Tiger and get someone to remap the FI. The thread about F800's is long. Consumable bikes for a consumer society.

Andy
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  #8  
Old 7 Aug 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnon View Post
Sorry if I implied criticism. If I am being critical of anyone it is the bike manufacturers. They obviously do their market research and from this they can see that the percentage of buyers of a given adventure model that are going on an extended overland trip is very small. That said, it seems to be big enough market for the likes of Touratech and other suppliers to make a business out of it.

I certainly don't advocate setting off on a long trip on a 20 year old bike, however, my point was that these bikes came from the factory much nearer 'ready to go' than the bikes that are being produced today. Manufacturers have, in my opinion, extended the 'Adventure' themed bikes to the point that they are so complex and heavy that they are not really viable for a trip with significant off road content (or very remote places without support). Bikes around 650cc seem to be much more suitable but apart from the Tenere there isn't anything available straight out of the crate.

So who cares? Well, my original point was that the need to modify even basic things on the bike makes the bike extremely expensive. Some of the wish lists I see on here and elsewhere just give me the impression that it's more about bolting on every conceivable part to make the bike perfect and then at the end of it all not having enough money left to travel - again, just my perception.

I have always enjoyed modifying bikes to make them 'fit for purpose'. We are generally much more demanding these days in terms of suspension, brakes, protection etc. so I can understand that the fit for purpose bar has been raised but my view is still that just because it's in the catalogue it doesn't make it essential.
Apologies for jumping on this one, but as I mentioned, the atmosphere that sometimes comes thru here of "old bike, do it cheap or you're a wanker" has become a real pet peeve of mine. I mentioned I knew several people who have abandoned the site because of that prevailing mentality and that feeling is also confirmed by deadly99 above.

I agree with you that the manufacturers have moved away from built for purpose bikes. But I disagree with you in the reference to Dakar bikes. The bikes were in the past a lot closer to purpose as long distance, off road capable travelling machines precisely because Honda, Yamaha, Cagiva, BMW and more recently KTM all based their adventure bikes in the 80s and 90s on Dakar bikes. The reason the modern bikes are less fit for purpose is because they have moved away from that Dakar / rallye bike capability. Building bikes that are strong enough, light enough, handle well enough and carry enough fuel to be rally worthy is also building bikes that are more adventure worthy. In my opinion there is a pretty close relationship between a good adventure bike and a rally bike, apart from the state of tune of the engine. That implies that to make a better off road capable, long distance capable adventure bike, you have to modify a standard bike in the direction of a rally bike. That goes for either if you start with a larger less off road capable bike, or a lighter off road bike that lacks durability.

I agree that its unfortunate that building a capable bike aftermarket is 20 times more expensive that if the OEM bike was specced with the same components. Then again, the manufacturers have the market research ... the segment is growing precisely because they are focussing on what the market wants. Big, heavy, bikes that are a real handful off-road and that dont really warrant good off-road capable suspension.

KTM keeps lowering the off road capabilities of its 990 model ... every second year it comes out with a more revvy engine, lower suspension travel, weaker rims ... and yet they keep selling them. Their 640 Adventure similarly was gradually diluted in terms its off road capabilities throughout its lifetime, and a replacement for it has been deemed not a priority for the last 4 years. I think there is just not a viable market for adventure bikes that are as capable off road as they are on road. You have to make them yourself.
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Last edited by colebatch; 7 Aug 2011 at 11:48.
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Old 7 Aug 2011
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I think I understand the OP's view. If money is no object, why not get the BMW or KTM... but for most folks that's just not affordable. There are plenty of posters here who have toured through Africa or South America on beater 250s and even 125s.

If I had the money, I would probably get the high end "super adventure tourer" bike - but I don't have 15-20 grand for a bike, so when I go touring, I make do with whatever I can afford.

Better a cheap tour on a cheap bike than no touring at all...
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Old 7 Aug 2011
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There are lots of different approaches to overland travel and individual ideas as to the ideal bike. I have my preference for a bike model that is no longer made over a modern bike which I also own but the reason's for my preference are hard to explain. I also automatically rule out most manufacturers as non starters for me, although there are many other makes out there working fine. I can't say I've noticed an anti modern bike phobia on here but I'm not very good at spotting these things.. I have seen a number of threads asking advice on a minimalist approach to to keep costs down usually involving a 125 or similar. These threads can come to abrupt end when the poster realises the alternator hasn't got enough power to charge the laptop, gps and Iphone at the same time - a sign of the times, I suppose.

I think for most people embarking on an overland adventure cost is a very important, if not the most important factor. If a suitable bike isn't already available then buying a fairly recent model is the only sensible approach as there is a better chance that major refurb. work won't be required. the only model that is vaguely ready to go is the Tenere but even so there are some serious weakpoints and shortcomings. The 20:1 aftermarket to OEM ratio is pretty scary plus virtually all models have some major shortcoming. For a first time traveller with no experience of what he may come across and no experience of riding or running a bike outside Europe, budget options are hard to find.

Ignoring cost, I agree that the modern rallye bike and ideal adventure bike have a lot in common although luggage carrying ability is also important on a travel bike which often conflicts with fuel tanks, exhausts etc.. But the rallye bike is designed for speed and mostly off road. A compromise has to be found in terms of road and off road ability and even then most overland trips are 80%+ on reasonable tarmac, a good percentage of the 'off-road' is easy going and you don't score more points for doing the tricky bits at speed. Howeevr, from my own experience, I would always opt for good off road handling over saving a few mpg through higher gearing (for example) because in many places you have the option of the unsurfaced route (through the moutains) or the tarmac road with all the trucks and saying we'll do all those dirt roads next time isn't an option - this is why you are travelling and why you're on a bike not in a Land Rover.

I'd be interested to see any tried and tested budget solutions based on something less than 10 years old or of anyone who has just bought it and ridden it (around the world)
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Old 8 Aug 2011
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I get it.

I understand what Magnon is saying and I have never got the impression that if you can't do it with and old hack then bugger off from this site.

As others have said, cost is probably in the "top 3" limiting factor for most travellers. The advise that I have always got and tried to pass on is that yes you can buy any new bike, accessorise it and off you go. What's necessary and what is bling is another question. The feedback I have always wanted from a question was how did someone else do it and what did they think about it. Did they buy a bit, make one or found that they didn't need it all. This is always what I have got from this site.

If you have the money to buy all the bits, cool go for it. If you don't, finding out what others have found useful and making do is great too.

I think jumping on some ones opinion because its different is what makes these us and them scenarios. People are different so are their opinions and choices.

Last edited by gixxer.rob; 8 Aug 2011 at 23:37.
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Old 8 Aug 2011
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Having your cake and eating it?

Clearly some people want older, less reliable (potentially more 'charming' I guess) bikes that you have to tinker with the whole time, and some people want more expensive, custom set ups that handle better - each to their own and more power to them!

But isn't it possible to combine the two?? By putting an old Triumph Engine in a custom competition off-road frame with some modern top-end suspension I hope to create the ultimate adventure bike, getting the best of both worlds - an expensive old unreliable bike that's good off road but still needs fixing all the time!!
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Old 8 Aug 2011
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The bike you ride is (or should be) chosen for a number of reasons. Budget,your own mechanical ability,purpose,your size,looks and feel. Personally i am lucky to be skilled mechanically but don't have a lot of spare money hanging about so i ride an older bike with mainly home-made mods and travel gear - indeed i get a lot of pleasure in the making of my bike.Some people have never even changed a spark plug before (and don't want to) so a new or very modern bike is the best choice for them (although it doesn't guarantee a hassle-free ride).A bike chosen for a road trip across the States would probably not be the same as you'd choose to ride across Africa.But whatever you ride it is important for you and the bike to be comfortable with each other as it'll be part of you for a considerable time. Only when you and the bike become one can you really relax and enjoy the trip for what it is.
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Old 8 Aug 2011
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Traveller's who want to build and ride a special for their adventure usually have some experience. They know what they want from the trip, whether it's hardcore off road, good comfort for road miles, lots of luggae for comfortable long term camping etc.. these guys usually have the mechanical skills and enjoy tinkering with their creation on the journey and are often proving a point if only to themselves that the correct mix of parts has made the best bike possible for them.

If you have no previous experience you have to rely on sites like this one to pick up some good information and a strong bank balance to put it into practice but I still think that the manufacturers are missing a trick or two by not making an adventurised version of some of their smaller models. I'm not suggesting a bike that is ready to go but at least something that is a good basis for long distance travel with a good fuel capacity, good quality supension. a touring seat and some luggage options. Obviously the aftermarket suppliers would still be there to supply the more specialist items and solutions for some of the weakpoints.

I think it's hardly surprising that airhead BM's and Africa Twins are still so popular when the only other 'off the peg' options are £15k behemoths with too much of everything you don't need (weight, height, gadgets, cost etc.) and not enough on anything you do (suspension quality and travel, reliability, easy servicing etc.)
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Old 8 Aug 2011
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Originally Posted by Magnon View Post
I think it's hardly surprising that airhead BM's and Africa Twins are still so popular when the only other 'off the peg' options are £15k behemoths with too much of everything you don't need (weight, height, gadgets, cost etc.) and not enough on anything you do (suspension quality and travel, reliability, easy servicing etc.)
And that shows the problem I think. The Adventure/touring riding group is not a big enough percentage of the motorcycling community for the manufactures to do it. I think that percentage would go up if more effort was put into new models like the Tenere and other purpose built bikes. But ultimately I am not sure it would make enough money for them. It's sad, well I am sad about it.
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