Bike choice: practicality vs passion
I'm getting rid of my street bike (a Suzuki SV650) and looking at a bike to take overland. It seems like there's a trade-off between wanting something practical - easy to fix, fairly cheap, lightweight, capable on bad roads - and something that stirs the emotions - fast, stylish, great handling, fun to ride, or just chock full of charisma.
You could look at the two extremes: on one side you'd have your KLR650s, Suzuki DRs, or even a Honda C90; at the other a Harley Fat Bob, Triumph Rocket, or Ducati Panigale.
What I'm finding is that sensible mounts like the KLR650 or DRZ400 aren't quite doing it for me - not only do I find the looks dull and uninspiring, but I think I'd really regret it when I'm on some great well-paved motorcycle road and crying out for something a bit more sporty. I like the idea of a practical bike, but I want something that feels a bit special too. To give an idea of my tastes, I'd say a bike like the Yamaha 660 Tenere or the Honda Transalp (the newer version) are right on my borderline of ugly/bland, even though they seem like really practical bikes for overlanding - I'm pretty sure I'd have this niggling regret for the whole trip, thinking I could have done it on something more exciting.
Some of the more glamorous bikes I'm concerned would become a liability on a long-trip on dodgy pot-holed roads, with transportation, river crossings, ferries, and almost inevitable drops along the way - not to mention the expense. Besides, it seems like any performance would be hard to use outside the 1st world. Even in the UK, I find that many modern middleweight bikes have almost too much performance to be used, and I prefer a more relaxed riding style anyway. And a damaged 'hot' bike is likely a lot slower than the most battered, small capacity bike whose toughness and reliability has kept it going.
Also, I have no dirt bike experience so far. I am planning to do a week or two of training courses and then mucking around off-road before I go, but I'm not sure to what extent I'd be able to, or want to, go anywhere off-road. It seems like you can ride most of the world without having to go off-road - in which case, a bike's dirt-riding capabilities might be a bit wasted on me. But there's also the chance I might end up loving the off-road stuff, and having the option to do it opens up a lot more possibilities to explore - plus, a lighter bike is easier and good fun in normal riding as well.
At the moment I'm leaning towards a few bikes that seem to blend some practicality with fun or style. Examples: Triumph Bonneville on the more street-focused side, KTM 690 Enduro R on the more off-road/adventure side, maybe a Tiger 800 in the middle (I'm slightly biased towards British bikes). Love the looks, easygoing nature/rideability, and simplicity of the Bonnie, and the weight, grin factor, and go anywhere ability of the KTM.
So, I'm interested in the HUBB's thoughts on this. What do you recommend - go for something sensible and just live with the (IMHO) boring looks/ride; forget practicality and go for something crazy; or go for the middle-ground? And if the latter, what other suggestions do you have, given my preferences? Should I forget off-road ability, or would I really be missing out on too much if I stick to sealed roads? I'm especially interested in hearing from anyone who took a super-sensible ride and regretted it, or who went for something 'crazy' and either regretted or loved it, warts and all.
About budget - I set aside up to about 6-7k for bike + mods. I could go above that in a pinch, but I'm not convinced it's worth it when that cash could mean more months on the road. I'm aiming to spend 6+ months travelling, going across at least 2 continents, ideally round the world if budget and time permits.