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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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Old 14 Apr 2004
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: UK
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The best bike for Africa - is it a GS650 or not?

I have a F650GS and would like to head off over Africa. A friend of mine who is a very exprienced biker and has done trans Africa on several occasions says the GS650 is not the best bike for the job. She is The Thing for touring but not Africa.

Reasons mainly being weight (too heavy with enlarged petrol tank, kit and me), fuel injection and computerised bits in the engine (I won't find spares easily en route and certainly no mechanics for the tricky bits I can't do myself + costly) and also safety is better if on a less flash bike. Plus the conversion to a full off road touring bike is going to be costly in the first place.

These are valid arguments but I need some opinions here, please. If I have to buy a Yamaha 600XT or the likes, it's still yet another expense that I hadn't accounted for. I'm not keen on trashing my baby but 1) do I really need to get another bike for Africa? And 2)which one? I keep on hearing about the XT.

I am doing this trip on my own and need to have a reliable machine that I can mostly fix on my own and even better, doesn't break down after a long dirt road thrashing. In addition, I'm on as low a budget as I can do (considering it seems to be going all over the place :-)).

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Old 14 Apr 2004
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You'll get as many opinions on this as there are people out there!

It depends completely on how well you ride, where you ride, how fast/hard you insist on riding, and where you're interested in going. People have done Africa successfully on Gold Wings, Yamaha R1's, (Sjaak Lucassen) and full dress Harleys - see the Forwoods story.

IF you ride with your friend regularly, and ride similarly and as well, AND want to go to all the places he's been, then pay attention, his comments are very valid for you. But I suspect you're different from him...

For really serious, nasty off-road, there are better bikes - BUT the GS will DO IT. Perhaps not as quickly as say a KTM 640 Adventure, or as cheaply as an XT600 CAN be, or as comfortably as a Gold Wing, but certainly just fine. AND probably more reliably than an XT. Chance are very high that the GS will not breakdown at all, whereas an old average XT probably will. When the XT does break, yes it's easy to fix - but you still have to know what you're doing, and you may not have the right parts etc. A really well-prepped - by an expert - XT is not cheap, but is reliable.

Most problems the GS is likley to have are as easy to fix as the XT. If the electronics fail, or the fuel injection, yes it's a pain, but you can have replacement parts shipped in easily. AND most importantly, they are EXTREMELY unlikely to cause ANY trouble at all.

My advice is to sort what you have, and ride it. Be sure you really need the big tank too. A spare plastic fuel can lashed on somewhere can do as well, and most of the time it's empty and weighs little. And it's really cheap.

Pierre Saslawsky and Merritt Grooms just rode a pair of F650GS's down through Africa. Search the site for "Pierre Saslawsky" for lots of hits and info on their experiences.

Have a great ride!

Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


One world, Two wheels.
Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
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Old 16 Apr 2004
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Iwas about to do London to South Africa but for reasons here in the UK I can't at present but I looked at the GS as well as many others and decided it would have to be a honda or BMW. The GS is good and parts easy to get but I found the honda dominator could do everything the gs could but better and cheaper- maybee worth a look.
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Old 30 Apr 2004
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You should use a bike that you feel comfortable with. In terms of weight, learn how to pick it up properly (there's a technique). I've seen 'weaklings' pick up a RT1150 using the correct method, so I wouldn't be worried about the 650.

For electrics, all bikes have them and when they go they're a pain. Arrange to have someone back home be responsible for shipping you new parts if required. Or at least make contact with a BMW dealer at home so they know what you're doing and will give you prompt assistance. Get to know them and build a relationship.

Have you taken your bike on 'a long dirt road thrashing?' Try and get some practice before heading off as you might find you don't feel good off-road on that particular bike. And this will probably give you a chance to practice your pick-up technique.

I wouldn't worry too much about trying to find the holy grail of a best bike for overlanding. There isn't a best bike, just the bike you feel best with in the varying conditions you'll come across.
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Old 10 May 2004
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read all you said above, all is correct.

sandi, the xt is not much lighter, just a lot simpler.

In Russia (summer 2003)I met a two Germans, he on an Africa Twin, she on the new F65O. They had travelled in 2002 from Germany to Cape Town - no problems with the Africa Twin and only small problems with the F650 - they got to Cape Town allright. They used the same bikes to cross Russia to Vladivostok, on a dirt track the F650 stoped and did not start again. There was no way to fix it in the East of Russia, and nobody could tell which electronical part was wrong. She was lucky, as a journalist she had good contacts to BMW and they send all the parts (I would say over 1000 Euros).

Sandi, as somebody said above there is no perfect overlanding bike for a trip thru Africa. One thing is for sure, if you take your f650 it will not look as new after the trip as it looks now.

my advise, learn as much as you can about your beemer, find somebody at home who knows all about it and somebody who send out parts fast if you need them, and ride it down to Cape Town.

I am riding an old XT600Tenere since 1999 around the world and I am getting ready to ship it to South Africa. Maybe we will meet somewhere, all the best from the Dominican Republic


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