Bikes that can go from soft sand to highway cruising?
So I'm living in Mozambique (Maputo) since recently, and planning to get a bike after a couple of years without one (last bike was a Ninja 250 in the US, which served me well but had to leave behind when I moved). I've done some travelling around Maputo in cars and 4x4s, and the places I'd like to visit regularly include significant portions of hard and soft sand roads. Examples: Macaneta, Punta de Ouro, Bilene, etc.
I want a bike that can:
a) Be reasonably manageable in soft sand.
b) Be reasonably comfortable in paved roads / highways, for trips of up to 400km in a day (in 2 x 200km legs)*. I would cruise at around 60-80kph on gravel, 100 - 110kph on paved roads, and at whatever is survivable on soft sand. I think that having a max speed of 130 - 140 would be nice for overtakes, and to avoid being at very high rpms when cruising at 100 - 110.
* Maputo - Nelspruit - Maputo (tarred) or Maputo - Ponta do Ouro - Maputo (mostly gravel and some sand).
c) Two-up riding would be nice but not mandatory.
I'm, 5'6". Last "adv" bike I had was an '88 Aprilia Tuareg 600. I did ride it on packed sand and gravel, but when I went took it into soft sand I could not really handle it. I was constantly dropping my feet down and spinning, all at very low speeds. This bike weighs 170kg dry, and was wearing worn-out Dunlop Trailmaxes, so I can't really use that experience as a reference.
I did take a KTM MX course, which was given on KTM's 4-stroke Enduro 200s (I think they are called EXCs?). I was not fast but did feel confident and in control when riding those bikes with proper tires (knobblies) in soft mud.
Bikes I've seen around (I'd need to buy in South Africa to bring here) and my concerns, in CC order
1) CRF 230 / XR200: Should be fun in the sand but really underpowered for travelling anywhere beyond a short ride.
2) KLR 250 / XT250: too slow for highway?
3) XR250L: looks ideal, but can't get any of the Japanese ones, only the Brazilian-made "Tornadoes" which don't sound so good.
4) DRZ400: seat too tall? Uncomfortable on long road trips?
5) NX: I can only find the Brazilian-made NX4 Falcon in South Africa. A Dommie would probably be the ideal bike if I could get it, right? I'm moving my stuff from Ghana, and I could buy a used Dommie there to bring along if I decide fast. Would it be worth it?
6) XT600E / DR600 / DR650: how are these on the road?
7) KLR 650: too heavy?
8) BMW F650 / Dakar: seems about right. Pricey to fix if dropped?
9) XT 660/new KLR: heavier than older ones?
9) AT or TA: I've seen quite a few Transalps available at reasonable prices. They seem ideal for the road and gravel (low-ish seat, twin power and comfort), but probably not good on sand? Or can knobblies fix that?
Is it realistic to expect the same bike to handle soft sand and long distance? Is it a matter of rider training and tires? Or should I just get a dirt bike for the sand and carry back and forth on my pickup?
Follow up question: should I buy a "practice" bike (eg: CRF 150/230 XR200 / TTR 230) for the first few months while I learn how to ride on sand so that I can then trade up to a dual sport? Or can I learn to ride on sand with, for eg., an XT600E or a Dakar right away, as long as they are wearing proper tires?
I understand any decision will be a compromise, but do appreciate your thoughts.
Thanks in advance.
Can you please take a chance about Honda XR 250? Its really a good option
KTM 640 Adv
Honestly, I can only think of a KTM 640 Adv, tough bike, takes loads with panniers, decent long range (350-400 km at that speed), comfortable, surprisingly agile on sand, gravel roads and tarmac, parts available in SA, you can possibly find one with low km on the clock, as recent as 2006. I'd suggest to find one anywhere in the world and get it shipped to you. Ride safe.
KLR 650, a little bit ov a workout on single track trails, but cruse on the tar at 85mph, all day long:thumbup1:
I have gone places on my klr that some would not dare on a 125 motocross:funmeteryes:
Highly recommend as a great all rounder:thumbup1:
XT660Z ticks all those boxes.
I'd stay away from the BMW 650 singles - unadulterated shite IMHO.
KTM 690 Enduro R would also be high on my list.
Thanks everyone for your input. I'm leaning towards buying 2 bikes. Time and money will tell if I replace one with the other or try and keep both.
Bike 1) a cheap enduro that I can ride on sand and drop as many times as necessary until I learn. Also needs to have reasonable maintenance schedules, not competition-bike maintenance schedules.
Bke 2) a long trip / adventure bike, either replacing or in addition to the first bike, depending on many factors.
Bike 1) CRF230F or TTR230.
Bike 2) KLR / XT600 / XT660
I think the best overall compromise for what I'm looking (sand / highway) is bike 2, but I don't feel confident (given their weight and seat height) with then being the first bike I ever ride on soft sand. So, I'll take the cheap bike, learn the ropes, drop it as much as necessary and then get the heavier / more powerful bike that can also cruise on highways.
Additional thoughts and replies.
On KTMs: I love KTMs, both their design and performance. As I said, I once took the KTM MX school in Devon, and it was on 4-stroke 200EXC. I opted for the one they had set up with 19 / 16in wheels, since I'm short and felt more confident that way. It felt like the ideal enduro bike for a guy with my limited skill and height, although I'm not crazy about their maintenance needs.
Having said that, I can't consider the KTM models proposed because:
1) They are all way too tall for me (I'm 5'6"). I can lean on one side and touch with my toes on something like an XT or a KLR. Anything taller, and I can't really own such a bike.
2) There aren't many older used ones around, and the newer ones are both expensive to buy and expensive to import in to Mozambique. I'll end paying something like 15 - 20 kUSD to bring a 640 Adv here.
XR 250: I'm leaning towards a CRF as poor man's XR, since I'm not finding any recent XRs. My options are:
a 10 to 15 year old Japan import XLR250 Baja / XR250L with unknown miles and history for 3k USD + import duties.
- a 1 to 3 year old CRF230F with a full service history for the same price (less than 3K + duties).
I'm quite confident I can make the CRF street legal, too.
I think most 600-700cc single cylinder dual-sport motorcycles would fit what you're looking for.
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