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Which Bike? Comments and Questions on what is the best bike for YOU, for YOUR trip. Note that we believe that ANY bike will do, so please remember that it's all down to PERSONAL OPINION. Technical Questions for all brands go in their own forum.
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  #1  
Old 1 Dec 2009
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2 up RTW Trip

I've read all there is to read, tested bikes but still can't decide what to buy for our (my wife and I) multi-year RTW trip.

Main requirements are able to carry 2 people, their stuff and camping kit. Anticipated roads are mostly tarmac. However, we also want to get off the beaten track a bit (fire roads, dirt roads etc. no hard core off road).

I've boiled it down to 3 possibilities

Suzuki DL650
BMW R1150 GSA
Honda Africa Twin

On the face of it the Suzuki is ideal. It does, however, have one major drawback. The alternator output is rather low and will struggle to run heated clothing for when it gets really cold. I'm acutely aware that if my wife is not enjoying the trip because she's too cold then it's not going to work. We have tried the Suzuki on a short test ride and I think it would otherwise be suitable with a few modifications (e.g. suspension).

The BMW has the alternator output but I'm not fully convinced by its long term reliability. It's comfortable and would easily haul us and our kit. It is about 25% heavier than the Suzuki, not great. I have looked at the later 1200's but they strike me as too complex, particularly the electronics.

The Africa Twin has a great reputation for reliability but they are getting a bit old now and parts may be hard to source? Alternator output is also an issue. They are slightly more cramped for 2 than either the Suzuki or BMW.

What I want is a DL650 with 700W alternator

I know whatever we take will be a compromise to some extent. I guess what I'm after is some input to my thinking. Have I missed any other obvious choices?

Thanks for your thoughts
Steve
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  #2  
Old 1 Dec 2009
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i dont know if there is a way to change the alternator of dl650, however, the bike is solid. actually as solid as africatwin. bmw is expensive and heavy. africatwin is not good for two people and a bit old. however, easy to fix as they have not that much electronics.
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  #3  
Old 2 Dec 2009
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Rtw

I had the same dilemma and was interested by the DL but did you take in consideration:
1)Fuel range
2)off road ready (coler on DL is very expose)
3)ABS
4)carrying ability
5)passenger confort when bike loaded (DL is a bit smaller)
I bought a GS 1150ADV and never looked back , a friend of mine is doing a RTW on a DL and is happy with it but feel a bit cramped especialy for leg room is your passenger have long leg.

Good luck and remember that there is no perfect bike
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  #4  
Old 2 Dec 2009
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I'm guessing you are in Europe if you are considering an Africa Twin. Also worth considering is the cost of the carnet on a new BMW.
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  #5  
Old 2 Dec 2009
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How often is she really going to need heated clothing?

Not very, I say.

... but in any case, if she wants it, then you personally can do without for those rare occasions. The DL650 will easily manage it for one person.

..... but think about this, 90+% of your riding will be in on-road NOT off-road situations so buy a bke that is best suited to those conditions., i.e plush ride. lots of comfort features, big fairing etc.

ANY road bike can handle the occasional offroad sections - I rode 3,000 kms of dirt across the Sahara on a Yamaha RD350, and 3,000kms of dirt in Russia/Kazakhstan on a maxi-scooter, without difficulty.

Get a road bike - cheaper, more comfortable, and just as reliable..... providing it's Japanese.
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  #6  
Old 2 Dec 2009
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The only one I have had personal experience with is the R1150, although mine was not an ADV, so the suspension was shorter.

Of those 3 I would consider the BMW or the Suzuki. By all accounts the AT is probably the best off-road, if I can believe what I've read and what I've heard, but it is not a powerful bike for it's size (not far off the weight of the GS, IIRR). Plenty for solo riding but two-up I think it could be a little under powered, especially with luggage.

I may be wrong and someone whose done it may be able to say otherwise.

Economy wise, the Suzuki will be best, but your range may still be less than the BM with it's 34 litre tank. (My fully laden GS managed 48-49 MPG - Uk gallons).

Weight-wise the Suzuki wins easily and power is pretty good too: not far behind the BM, but in terms of torque I think the extra 500 cc of the BM will pack more punch, especially as the GSA has a lower first gear than my old GS.

DL is watercooled and the BM oil and air, so this means if you had a prang and holed the radiator you would be screwed, whilst this is less of a risk on the BM.

The BM has spoked wheels, whilst I think the DL has cast: I may be wrong, but if so then on really crappy roads you could risk a busted wheel, whilst the spoked wheels are more resistant to abuse of that nature. You could spend about €800 on a set of spoke wheels, made to fit the DL, if this was a real concern.

The BM has a very powerfull generator so you can run all-sorts of gubbins as well as two heated vests!! No idea about the DL, but a previous post seemed to suggest it was a little feeble, juice-wise....

Then you have the shaft v chain debate!!

If you pack light and do not have a very stocky build, then I think the DL could well do the trick. Otherwise, although a bit ungainly in the dirt, our GS got us places I did not think I'd reach, so I was pleased: I hated sand though. Mind you I hated it on my XR400 that was literally half the weight, so there!

Both have their pros and cons. It boils down to which you like the look of, and which is most comfortable, and if you have a very good idea of the terrain you will face one may make more sense than the other....

Just to confuse you, I just bought a Honda transalp 600. Power to weight is probably about the same as the GS, it is lighter, cheaper and is very comfortable but is water cooled. Have a spin, if you get the chance!!
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  #7  
Old 9 Dec 2009
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DL650´s cast wheels in fact do take a surprising amount of abuse. I´ve hit potholes at high speed 2-up so hard so many times I actually cannot believe the wheels took it all, and survived. But they did.

Downsides: not much ground clearance, not great off-road (but really few bikes that are good 2-up are!)... maybe not so much alternator output (from K8 onwards its bigger, though), kind-of-ugly, and may not have the ´poser value´ of some bigger bike... (to me, that´s more of an upside, though!!)

Upsides: gutsy motor for a 650, carries weight very well, proven technology with very few typical failures caused by design, relatively easy&cheap to maintain, and if done properly, most of these will just keep going without any problems, great headlights, and you can even shut down the other beam to save some power, low consumption, long range, can get one with ABS for cheap......

Overall, the thing is much tougher than it looks, and very capable for long trips. Still not everyone likes them, but if value for money is what you´re after, it´s pretty tough to beat.
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  #8  
Old 9 Dec 2009
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First and foremost is make the wife happy, no explanation need! Heated gear to me is over-rated, I have used it and can get just a comfortable with a good riding suit, and besides you can follow the weather if time is of no consequence, so stay away from colder areas.

I would also look at a bikes that I could walk away from if necessary. If wife rides I would look at 2 of the same bikes (cheap ones), cn carry more gear and you have a backup.

One poster mentioned carnet's and their cost, this could be a factor. Cast wheels IMHO are fine unless you are hell bent on hauling ass on crappy roads. Many have made the trip on all of your choices and many others.
If i had the time right now I would go on any bike I had--if a scooter can do it any bike can.

I can not over state how important it is that your pillion is comfortable--will make a "world" of difference.

Ride safe...
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  #9  
Old 17 Dec 2009
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DR into the mix...

It may seem like a ludicrous option but I would give the DR some serious
thought..

First time on a bike and my girlfriend loved it, although not a RTW we drove around Africa for 7 months traveling 30,000kms.
I fitted a larger tank, corbin seat, alaska sheepskin, mounted small pelican cases on side racks and everything else (tent and camping gear) was stored in a couple of ortlieb bags behind her (great back rest).
Some days we drove 600km on tar other days 100km in dirt and we had no comfort issues.

Light, reliable and It'll take you anywhere.

We've got a couple of years to go before our RTW and we'll get a new DR to take us there..
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  #10  
Old 26 Dec 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farqhuar View Post
How often is she really going to need heated clothing?

Not very, I say.

... but in any case, if she wants it, then you personally can do without for those rare occasions. The DL650 will easily manage it for one person.
I'd agree with that. Unless you're routing thru Russia-Siberia in October or March or TDF in June, it will be a cold day in hell when she really needs heated clothing.
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  #11  
Old 25 Jan 2010
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Steve, let us know what decision you make as I have EXACTLY the same dilema. She must be enjoying it or the whole project goes stale. Is the BMW F800GS too small?
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  #12  
Old 25 Jan 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nigel_tailyour View Post
Is the BMW F800GS too small?
Comfort (especially for the passenger) really depends on the size of the 2 people on the bike. For average northern-european people >180cm, >75kg, not so comfty for 2-up, but this also will depend on the tolerance levels of your wife . But I reckon if the rider is max 175cm, 70kg or less, the passenger is max 170cm/60kg or less, put a comfty aftermarket seat and BMW F-twin will really do the trick along with some luggage. The 800cc engine makes decent midrev torque for 2-up + luggage setup. Conventional front end forks will probably need stronger progressive springs and thicker oils to make it handle all that weight offroad though. Otherwise it'll be a overweight cow with weak legs walking on a difficult terrain. Good thing is that the F800GS has a very good ground clearance.

If you have the dosh available, I think R11xxGS series is the best bike for 2-up RTW currently around (except 1200 ADV which is from another price league!), comfort and all-round ability with the best space and comfort for two in stock setting, carrying ability and telelever front end that really makes the bike handle all that excessive weight in different situations and road conditions. I'm constantly amazed how good it handles offroad with all that weight.

If you don't have the dosh and opt for the economy route, you have to make compromises anyway, but at least there are choices. We never get everything in life!

Anyways, best way is to try the actual bikes together with your wife. Please TEST RIDE them all, in all sorts of road conditions to get the comparision how they handle them and how you like them for your use.

PS: oh yes, you will need heated clothing for a proper multi-year RTW, especially for your wife. Been there done that. Trust me on this. (Or the only way out of it is don't tell your wife that heated clothing exist and it's normal to freeze too often riding a motorcycle! Shhh...)

Last edited by Margus; 25 Jan 2010 at 07:19.
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  #13  
Old 3 Feb 2010
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Plus 1 on the F800! Great bike but maybe a bit cramped for two? Bit more room on the Vstrom I believe. Dunno? I've only ridden the F800GS solo. Loved it. If you can afford it, get it! Best BMW out there!

But the F800GS price difference compared to a used Suzuki DL650 is huge! Hard to find inexpensive F800GS's used any way. Most go for about $10,000 used around here. I'd swap out my KLR for one if I could afford the F800. No can do.

The big boxer's have massive elec. output but suffer from lots of repeating problems, all well documented world wide. Very surprising for a modern and very expensive bike. Read ride reports here, on ADV or BMW boards to get a sense just how many have issues. Basic motors are good, it's all the ancillary stuff that seems to act up.

The Telelever is great on rough roads but things like final drive, trans, broken sub frames, bent wheels, electronics can act up. Not too confidence inspiring, IMO. Who doesn't know someone who has had a rear drive or shaft bearing failure on a BMW?

But in the end, go with your heart. Ride them all to know for sure what works for you two.

FYI, Vstrom cast wheels are 'Hella strong as anyone who has toured one can tell you.

Also, to gain extra elec. output, install a $5 headlight switch. For day time riding shut them off. You can gain 100 watts of output ... almost free!
Or ride at night with just one on. The Vstrom headlights are like Kleig lights, BRIGHT! One will do fine in most situations.

The BMW is a better fast motorway bike but the Vstrom can cruise comfortably about 85 mph all day two up. Off road, the lighter DL650 makes it easier to handle than a 1150GS, (it's about 100 lbs. lighter weight) but go slow with the limited ground clearance. Fit crash bars and bash plate, some luggage and GO! After a couple weeks, you won't even think about the bike. They are that solid and reliable
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  #14  
Old 4 Feb 2010
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Ive spent a stupid amount of time researching this too, and i had it boiled down to a 1150GS or 650 Vstrom. And ive settled on the Vstrom.

Reasons:

More reliable, can buy alot newer for the same price, cheaper to run, lighter.
The main reason tho is that i rarely see anyone with major problems with the vstrom, whereas the beemer is nothing but complaints. Peace of mind and confidence in the machine is paramount imho.

Also, the seat height of the strom is less, and a fully loaded GS would scare me i think.

I hadnt thought about the heated vests etc, so sorry cant really comment on that, other than im sure it will easily run one heated vest for her.

best of luck to you
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  #15  
Old 8 Feb 2010
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For 2-up long distance the DL650 is an excellent choice. I went from Europe to Australia with one, with my girlfriend as a pillion.

And as much as I love the Africa Twin, its a way older construction, and its handling suffers more, when you really load it up. DL650 in fact carries huge weight without a problem - may be surprising, when you look at it, but it´s true. The suspension could use some upgrading, though, and also the seat. But these are easily sorted. Considering its small engine size, it is hugely capable, so it´s no wonder you hear the same thing from so many sources.

GS1150 - sure, why not, and naturally its got more power and torque, and its ride quality as stock is probably better than DL650. But I think you can get a much newer DL650 and even equip it fully (and maybe still have some travel money left in your pocket). It may look ugly, and not like a ´real´ adventure bike, but pure value for money, the Suzuki´s pretty tough to beat.

Last edited by pecha72; 8 Feb 2010 at 08:54.
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