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Jeanie - you're an inspiration!
I've been reading this thread with interest as I too am a short rider (5' 2" with a 29" inside leg). However, I've been riding bikes for almost 30 yrs but have never ridden off road, but in recent years have become more interested in it.
As many have advised, as you gain experience, you will realise you don't need both feet on the ground - 1 on tip toes will do in many cases. With good low speed control you'll hardly ever have to stop and with forward planning (looking for adverse cambers, pot holes etc) you'll avoid all the tricky stopping places too.
At the recent HU UK meeting, Tiffany Coates demonstrated picking up a bike using the handlebar technique (turning the bars away from you & cupping the lower bar in both hands, using your legs and not your back to lift).
I admire your adventurous spirit to ride into Africa, I would love to ride in South America but there are so many other countries to explore too!
Hope all goes well with the bike test and off roading, let us all know how you get along!
A common theme between Overland riders is that their bikes get smaller with every trip, even though their experience and riding skills get better.
I started out travelling on a Africa Twin in Europe, then moved down to an XT600 for South America. Now I have a DRZ400 prepped for Africa and i'm already thinking about a 250cc for the next trip.
I don't know anyone who has done a trip on a small bike and desperately wanted to swap it for a giant BMW or KTM. You will encounter plenty of people on the road cursing their giant bikes. Looking at you with jealously as your playfully glide your lighter bike over ruts and potholes and effortlessly push it through Hotel doors or onto boats etc.
I have been interested in your adventure and your planned trip to Africa, Having recently learned to ride my self and being a little on the ancient side and suffer from arthritis and initially could not get on the bike unless I stood on the foot peg. I chose a DRZ 250 for my first bike had a set of Motard wheels made and this made the bike lower and easier for me to get on, then found out that ready made accessories were difficult to get so I thought this would be something that you might consider. I sold the DRZ and still have the wheels, so Motard wheels with a link kit would significantly lower the bike. And saddle trimming is not uncommon for people with Ducks Disease.
The saddle can be made much nicer and be more comfortable, perhaps a little wider where you need it. You can do anything that you want.
Now there are lots of people on this site that have much more knowledge about individual bikes than I have however if I were doing a trip to Africa which I am planning a RWT in about 5 years these are things that I consider as being necessary
BTW my mechanical experience spans somewhat over 40years
·Fuel capacity a ready made tank large capacity
·Panniers all ready made to fit the bike
·Sump guard and Bark busters ( if you drop the bikewithout them it is likely that you will break a clutch or break leaver, they shatter really well (that’s the first thing I learned I droppedmine in on the the front concrete and hadnt turned a wheel), but always carry spares zip tied to a convenient part of the bike They are really light.
·Longevity of engine
·Ease of parts replacement ie. is it easy to change
·Is the bike comfortable
·Is it the right height for me and what’s available to make it so
·How light is the bike for air travel 147KG dry weight
So what I elude to is there are two bikes I would consider and both from the Suzuki range and one I think is a little more durable and less likely to break or develop problems than the other, Bothe have availability of aftermarket parts, Fuel tanks etc. Motard wheels which are factory fitted
Both bikes are LAMS approved (learner approved)
The DRZ 400 is water cooled so if this develops cooling problems then you may be stuck in a place that you don’t want to be. Touring Ted my be able to give more advise on this bike
The DR 650 is very durable and there are reports on the web regarding their durability, there is a website which is based around the Birdsville Track and they use the DR650 exclusively for their clients. I have read other reports which compare several different bikes that have travelled around the Simpson Desert, the DR650 perform exceptionally well.
There are more parts available for the DR650 and the bike can be properly kitted before departure. I would go for Bilstine shocks on the rear, but being a light weight you may not have to consider this.
Link Kits Motarrd wheels lowered seat large tank, and panniers that bolt on and you have the perfect touring bike, very comfortable air cooled, no cooling system problems.
The DR650 is 140KG dry weight There is one bike lighter for putting on the plane and that a KTM 560 (I Think) Touring Ted my be able to give more advise on this bike
Now last but not least is the frighten factor, can this bike be too powerful for a novice, no not at all it is really easy to ride and throttle control is good not like the Gladius, which is also Learner approved and the bike I rode for my open license the thump in his bike can take you by surprise But the DR650 is a little more sedate until you want to ride it hard.
Well just my two bobs worth as a new rider: I wish you well in your choice and if you wish to discuss further pleas e-mail me
Overall I reckon a 600-650cc bike is best for RTW. I've got a 250, 400 and 2 650's in the garage and can't imagine taking a 250 RTW. Even the 400 would be difficult on the long straight roads. Particularly if you cross the whole continent. Dirt or not, but the OP may find it ok. It all depends on what you're used to.
In the end, light is might. So in that respect for most the DR650 would be ultimate, but it's still a hefty bike compared to the 400 though. The 400 goes everywhere with ease. Is bulletproof and doesn't need much to spec up. Water cooling is one of those FI vs Carbs, or synthetic vs dyno oil debates. The 400 cooling system is a beauty. It doesn't have a fan on the E but can be retrofitted, but doesn't need it either really. Air cooled bikes can have cooling issues as well. I've had it on both. Had boiling coolant in my 400 (sitting in first on a single trail behind my wife) and steam coming of my old XTZ600 Tenere (finding a park spot on Fraser Island in summer). I reckon in Africa liquid cooling is the go, but if that's not an option on your preferred bike it's by no means a show stopper.
Ted's right. Most people will try to make it lighter second time around. I reckon it's because most people get more confident on the dirt, and want to ride more aggressive. Keeping in mind that most people on RTW trips have next to no dirt riding experience though, it would be a logical statistic. A lot of them like myself are from Europe with limiting to no dirt riding opportunities adding to this statistic. In Aussie we have heaps of opportunity. So you'll find that it's the perfect prep ground for a RTW trip and usually ahead of the 'bike setup evolutionary chain'. You can experience the same conditions as Africa within a weekend ride in most places of Australia, where in Europe you'll have to drop in to Spain or Morocco. You won't find many hard luggage setups here.
Keep that in mind with some of the advice given and this is why I reckon you should join some of the local rides. A long weekend setup will suffice for a RTW setup with a few additions. I tested this one the other weekend and found it needed a suspension tuning or more balanced distribution. Didn't need steel racks though.
Hey thanks guys for your very detailed suggestions and feedback! That's what I love about this forum, everyone's so generous with their knowledge.
I took another small step towards my Africa dream today - passed my learner permit theory and practical tests first time, yeeha! My instructor - who's been instrumental in building my confidence - is going to give me some more individual training on a 250cc Suzuki, then I'm finally going to take the plunge and buy my bike - armed with all the advice on this thread!
At this stage, I'm thinking I'll buy an el-cheapo bike for now to build up some kilometres on, something I won't get too precious about. AND I want to start getting some off-road experience as well. Then I'll think more specifically about a bike for Africa.
I'm VERY excited as I'm about to take possession of my Very First Motorcycle - a ten-year-old 250cc Suzuki Marauder. I spent an hour riding it round a playground yesterday (!) and for the first time I actually felt like a proper motorcyclist - woman and bike were at one! So I've decided to buy it to get some riding practice in over the next couple of months while I keep deciding which bike to buy for Africa. Once I've got some kilometres under my belt - and riding confidence - on the Suzy, I think I'll be better placed to decide what's the right bike for me for my Big Adventure. AND I'll be ready to try some off-road riding as well...
Meantime, this weekend, gotta get myself kitted up with helmet, gloves, jacket etc, which is a whole new ballgame for me...!
Hi Jeanie, Ive not got any experience of these machines but have been informed the Beta alp 4.0 is a fine machine for smaller people, fairly inexpensive using i believe a suzuki dr engine.
I shall be looking more in depth at them as my partner is verticaly challenged.
Good luck Jim
I had been looking at the Beta Alp, and I think it will have the same issues that my spanish made Rieju Tango 250 off road: spare parts.
Rieju is a very good brand, and is HUGE in Spain. The Tango is very low and hence a superb off-road bike for me (i'm rather short!) to get more experience off-road.
BUT... my only concern for my next big trip across northern Asia would be spare parts. This is something I would need to discuss in detail with my local mechanic.
I am torn between keeping the little bike (105kgs) 250cc, air cooled, Carbs ... it is quality built but what happens if something goes wrong in mongolia... vs something going wrong with yamaha say!
It was already such a huge problem (1 month delay ) to rebuild my BMW F650GS in Chile after a massive crash! It was not easy to deal with BMW, not sure it would be easier to deal with Rieju in Catalunya!
Someone mentioned the DR350 as a possible for you.........forget it, it's waaaaay too tall. Too tall for me at 5'7".........I had a little DR200 that I thought was sweet as can be (until some bas***d nicked it)...nice and low but torquey. Not strong enough to carry luggage though. Wonderful little bike for green laning.
I am also looking for a bike that I don't need to wear stilletos with, but something with a bit of power........maybe 400cc upwards. It's not the power I'm worried about, it's the size/seatheight of the 'adventure' bikes. I need one to carry luggage too as I want to do a big trip. The only one I've found so far is the Beemer 650..........but it's expensive and seems to have lots of (potential) faults.
Me and my girl have just recently come back from 3 week ride to Morocco...me on a cb1300 and her on a 22 year old Honda Bros NT650! It was perfect for the trip for her (i find it a little bit of a ball buster). it takes luggage, a good thrashing to 90+ mph and was getting 110 miles out a tank...its same engine (near enough) as the transalp, so bullet proof......i just wish they did a bigger version, something like an unfaired vtr1000!
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