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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 Post By backofbeyond

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Old 6 Aug 2014
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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.
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Old 6 Aug 2014
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You can go more or less anywhere on anything, the most travelled people on bikes are Peter and Kay Forward on a Harley and Emilio Scotto on a Goldwing. I have met a chap who went around on a Kawasaki 1500 cruiser and he said it had not been a problem although this type of bike might keep you away from some of the more out of the way places they will take you around the world. My answer to your question is if you think you will enjoy your trip more on a particular bike which might not be the obvious choice then take it, it's your trip, no one else's.
If gaffer tape doesn't fix it then you haven't used enough tape
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Old 6 Aug 2014
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Armani don't make diving suits. You need to pick either looks or practicality or a balance between the two.

The Bonneville is just another cheap starter bike with an undersized petrol tank. A perfectly good choice, just buy a 5-litre petrol can, get your head round how the tyres/exhaust fit and carry a spare coil.

If you know the SV well why not just take that? Knowledge of how it works is worth a thousand technical top trumps points.

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Old 6 Aug 2014
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Go on anything. Don't worry about it. Pick a bike you like the look of or stirs your soul, load it up with what you want to take with you and head off. Ignore anyone who says you must have this or that; it's your trip, your idea, do it your way.

I've toured on everything from a C50 (twice) to a GoldWing and enjoyed each trip in its own way. You'll do the same. No matter what you chose will have good points and bad points, times when it's perfect and times when you wish you'd bought something else. That's the way touring on a bike goes.

Don't worry about lack of off road ability. If you can ride on the road you can do easy grade off road - just more slowly. You'll probably have to anyway if you're away long enough as you'll come across road repair detours, new sections being constucted etc.

The reason KLRs, DRZs and the rest of them keep cropping up here is because others have found them to be bikes that tick more of the boxes for more of the time on long distance trips than other bikes. They come with many of the attributes built in that makes day to day use less stressful - stuff like half decent suspension, load bearing capacity, stone age simplicity, passable fuel economy, light(ish) weight and others. Not many people would call them pretty or charismatic (not me anyway) but something that starts in the morning and moves under its own power has a different sort of attraction when you've been overnighting 200 miles from the nearest town.

There's nothing worse than doing some sort of tick box trip though, where you pick the route, the bike, the add-ons, everything based on what others say you should. Don't listen to what we say, we're all just jaded cynics anyway (no arguements entered into over that last point!)
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Old 6 Aug 2014
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I think its a bit of both, you have to look at the bike everyday for as many days as you are on the road, possible on your own, and its going to be your companion for all this time, no point if you don't think it looks good (Ummmmmm, no story to tell ) But at the same time it does need to be practical.

Ride Safe

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Old 6 Aug 2014
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Go on any bike you like. These days you probably can go round the world on tarmac. I went to 10 countries in Africa on a street bike (Yamaha FZ6), and it was brilliant. I dropped the bike few times , but hey that was part of the fun and deep sand made my adventure more interesting.
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Old 6 Aug 2014
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The reason the KLR/DR bikes get mentioned here so much is that you have a lot of members here who are into dirt and off road riding and many people who are travelers first, motorcyclists second and they don't chose bikes for the thrill, but for the practicality.

If you like riding spiritedly on twisty roads in the UK, you will want to do that on your trip as well. The SV650 is a great travel bike. It will go anywhere there are roads. If there are lots of gravel roads, get more aggressive tires. Changing the bars or risers and seat for more comfort on long days is cheap. Advrider SV650 thread and some inspiration

The Official SV Thread... SV650 - ADVrider

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