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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  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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Classically Styled RTW Bike?

All,

I have started to plan a RTW trip for sometime early 2012, starting in Sydney, Australia, heading up through SE Asia till I hit the Silk Route in China and then head west to the Middle East, round to Turkey, around the northern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, through to Spain and then basically the Long Way Down route through Africa to Cape town, before going back to Perth, Australia to ride home to Sydney.

One of the first things I would like to decide on is what bike I will complete this course with, currently I have a Vespa, which I have done some smaller (tarmac only) trips but the poor wee beast is breaking down, and before it gets too bad I want to sell it and trade up to a model that I will take next year with me, which gives me a year to get totally comfortable riding before taking off.

So I originally went for the Vespa because I love the classic vintage styling, and I do have that same passion for the motorcycles I am looking at to replace it. Top of my list is a original Royal Enfield Bullet 500, restored with some improvements (front & back disc brakes, 5 speed gearbox, electric start, better shocks etc.). One of the appeals of the Bullet aside from its classic styling is that mechanically it is much simpler than a GS1200 and mechanics (and myself) should have an easier time with tuning and repairs. Now I am aware of the downside of Bullets that they need both a mechanically minded owner and require a wee bit more attention with servicing than your average bike, but in my mind I feel that its worth it.

What I would like to know from you guys (especially any Enfield owners out there) is:
A) Is it possible to make it RTW on a Bullet?
B) If it is possible, would you go so far to recommend it?
C) If not are there any other classic styled bikes (Triumph Scrambler or Bonny, another RE?) that might be better suited for the task?
D) Are there aspects of this plan I have not really thought about?

Cheers guys.
Esquire
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  #2  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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One big disadvantage in older Bristish bikes is thread sizing. It can be a pig to get the right size nuts in the UK (not just imperial sizes but a seemingly random assortment of pitches even on one machine). The 'new' triumph scrambler should have nice standardised metric everything but they are an unknown quantity when it comes to crushing out 30,000 miles on bad fuel!

Any bike you can think of can do anything you want it to - the Enfield would make it but would need constant TLC (or a VERY good prep including blueprinting the engine) and probably some major engine work at some point.... Old Enfields have poorer factory tolerances but are made out of decent metal at least.

For stunning 'classic' looks and modern performance the Norton Commando is a mouth-watering bike but not sure if it would be good to be the first person to long-distance test one!!
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  #3  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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What about the new Tiger 800 XC?
If you insist on going retro I'd take a new bonnie or scrambler; I've never understood the desire to use an enfield.

Last edited by Docsherlock; 17 Jan 2011 at 19:39.
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  #4  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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I had a Bullet. The first thing is to learn the models:

UK made
Madras 4-speed
Madras 5 Speed iron engine
Madras 5 speed Aluminium engine
Madras EFi

Mine was a 5-speed iron. The tools issue is odd, you need imperial tools for the major engine parts, metric for the outer stuff . These things are labour intensive (2000 mile oil changes) and slow (50 mph cruising). They are also very simple. Mine had one loose connector and two busted clutch cables in two years and 12000 miles. I put this down to a massive improvement in quality at the point they went 5-speed and the fact I hardly modified it (did minor things like opening the exhaust and putting an extra tooth on the gearbox). The chap who bought it off me tried to make it do 70 mph for longer than it was meant to and it siezed. The owners treat them like mechano and usually want to try and make them into Goldies on the cheap, so Caveat Emptor. The EFI version to me would make a great RTW bike, they are low, easy to ride, simple in some places, massively reliable in others and above all frugal (I got 70 mpg with a Goldstar silencer and upped jets). Buy as new as you can and get at least 6000 miles in as practice for how these bikes ride. If you can live at the bikes natural speed and service needs you'll be happy.

I own a Hinckley Triumph Bonneville. They will prise this bike out of my cold dead hands. It is tough, efficient and easy to ride. They used modern materials with basically an early 1980's engine layout. Performance is similar to an airhead BMW, which plenty of people have used RTW. The 6000 mile service intervals and motorway performance are the big advantage over a Bullet. The tank is too small, 200 miles and you are walking. The tyre sizes are the same as an F650, so you can get knobblies. The paint will fall off the engine, which is useful to know when buying a two year old 1500 mile example from guys who've spent thousands on Chrome and less on petrol, little reaslising they had a true all round bike hidden under pictures of Steve McQueen on the posters.

I test rode a Scrambler. The guff about the 270 firing sequence making it more tractable was made up by a marketing loon, the loss of 10 HP is real. The high exhaust makes luggage a PITA. I'd still get one if there wasn't a Bonneville T100 available. Avoid the SE, the tyres are tubeless, but the front is rollerscate sized.

I'd say the choice has to be based on what you know. I prefer FI to carbs, don't worry about shims instead of pushrods and as I don't get out of Europe find 80 mph two up cruising useful. For a solo RTW where most things run at 40 mph I'd have to think hard about the Bullets range and frugality against what I know about Triumphs.

I wouldn't join the Tiger XC testers club for at least 18 months!!

Andy
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  #5  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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Hello,
mabey you like these vintage looking bikes?
yamaha w650, yamaha xs 650, xt500,
or any moto guzzi.(i do not know if they are sold in Australia?)
Or an old Suzuki gs or Honda cb?

On a large trip i always like my bike to be reliable,
to do work on the bike is normal ,but when you are all the time repairing
the bike on the side off the road is really.

Good luck with your choice!!
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  #6  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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If you are the kind of guy that likes old bikes , then simply buy an old Brit bike and use it .
I'd go for a simple old bike like a BSA B33 , or maybe a RE Bullet .They are not worth too much and are reliable if treated well . If you are a real masochist ,you could try a Panther .
See "The Last Hurrah " ,which is a story about two New Zealanders who took a Panther and a Norton from NZ to Holland .Bits of it are on youtube YouTube - The Last Hurrah: PAKISTAN and there is a dvd and book .
Don't take a Commando ,they are too long a wheelbase to handle well on the rough and the frame is not very substantial ,plus they get hot when travelling slowly.
The only thing I have against the modern Bonnies is the weight ,which is about 100 lbs more than the old Bonnies .This could be a factor if you travel off the highway and will have to pick your bike up regularly .

One of the new fuel injected Bullets might be OK ,but they are rather expensive .
An XS 650 Yamaha is OK if you like classic Japanese bikes and want to travel a little faster than a single will go , or maybe an old Moto Guzzi ,yeah that would be a blast .

Whatever bike you take will need good preparation and you'll need to be very familiar with it's complexities and idiosyncracies but for some people ,like myself , that's all part of the fun .Plus you have to factor in the people you will meet who want to talk to the interesting guy on the wierd old bike.[ or should that be "the wierd old guy on the interesting bike " ?]
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Last edited by Dodger; 18 Jan 2011 at 04:06.
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  #7  
Old 17 Jan 2011
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Don't buy a Triumph Tiger. I have had 5 Triumphs now and they have all been very unreliable. I don't know why everyone assumes this new one is going to be any different. I think it's going to let a lot of people down. Never, ever buy the first of any bike. It's bound to have troubles.
From what I hear the Scrambler is ok. Tried and tested. it's probably the only retro style bike that has the heart to get you round the world. Add to that it can handle less than perfect road conditions a little better than most. If you really like retro then what about the old air cooled BMW boxers. They have a very good history of reliability.
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  #8  
Old 18 Jan 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jtw000 View Post
Don't buy a Triumph Tiger. I have had 5 Triumphs now and they have all been very unreliable. I don't know why everyone assumes this new one is going to be any different. I think it's going to let a lot of people down. Never, ever buy the first of any bike. It's bound to have troubles.
From what I hear the Scrambler is ok. Tried and tested. it's probably the only retro style bike that has the heart to get you round the world. Add to that it can handle less than perfect road conditions a little better than most. If you really like retro then what about the old air cooled BMW boxers. They have a very good history of reliability.
Kawasaki W650 - kick and electric start, great bike. Or W800 for more poke.
I don't hear of many problems with the new Triumphs including the ones my brother and I owned. What you been doin' to them JT? What were the problems you had?
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  #9  
Old 18 Jan 2011
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No serious Triumph troubles here in 6 years hard use except a bad earth connection (rotted after the second winter).

I'd be interested to hear from W650 riders. I almost bought one to get the kickstarter but the dealer simply wasn't interested in anything but sportsbikes. The thought of trying to get the right parts for a pretty rare Japanese bike ("Is that a W650-1 from 2004, or a W650-1a from 2004-5 sir?") from those dealers put me off.

If we are talking less common another one to look for: MZ Silver Star. It's a Rotax 500. Read up on them though some required the exhaust off to change the oil filter or similar such annoyances The enclosed chain however is a work of genius.

Andy
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  #10  
Old 18 Jan 2011
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I'm going back a bit. The original ST3 had sprag clutch issues, engine leaked, etc, etc. I had the T509 after that, the fuelling was all over the place. Had an 01 Daytona, that was ok at first but then went wrong (repeatedly). Tiger was just an appalling piece of junk. I had the Sprint ST, to be fair that was ok for as long as I had it apart from minor age related issues. All were thirsty machines though.
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Old 18 Jan 2011
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I may have misread the OP, but I don't think it mentioned classic bikes, but rather classically styled. In which case, perhaps the new EFI Enfields may be worth a look.

The running gear is supposed to be improved, front disc as standard, spectacular consumption and improved maintenance requirements. And now with FI. Perhaps more involved, maintenance-wise, than some other brands but better than the older models, I'm lead to believe.

And can be picked up quite cheap, relative to some other models.

The Woodsman has made it to the "my ideal garage" short-list of bikes, if I were to win the lottery.
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  #12  
Old 18 Jan 2011
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I have nothing against Enfields, I admire their simplicity but I don't like EFI. It has dubious benefits for the end user but massive financial benefits to the company producing it. In my experience carbs are more reliable and cheaper to run. Modern EFI is getting better though but I doubt the unit on the Enfield is a "latest model".
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  #13  
Old 18 Jan 2011
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I´ve had many carburetor bikes in the past (several Africa Twins, KLR650, CBR1000F, 900RR, Tiger885 for example) and now I´m on my 4th FI bike.

Carb´d bikes did not often have troubles with carburation, but they sometimes did, and needed adjustments, or possibly dismantling... while the FI is yet to give me the first indication of any problem whatsoever. Something like 180.000 kms ridden with these FI bikes altogether right now.

And when I did a 34.000km trip from Europe to Oz, that was on an FI bike, and it never missed a beat. So it works just fine these days, and (perhaps surprisingly) seems more trouble-free than carbs ever did.

Add to that the fact that when you go high altitude, carb´d bikes usually develop problems a lot sooner.

And the fact that similar capacity engines were considerably more thirsty with carbs, than they are now.

And the fact that with injection, fuelling is much quicker & easier to adjust to your liking, and when done properly, throttle response is much better compared to carbs.

Not saying you COULD NOT do it on a carb´d bike, sure you can, and there are many good choices in that category, too. But for me it´ll be FI all the way, it´s just more modern, and I like to concentrate on riding, so I won´t miss having to work with carbs.

(this is just my 0.02)
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  #14  
Old 18 Jan 2011
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Interesting question and you may have many different answers depending of the experience of each member.

If I would go for a RTW trip today, it would be with a not too old but not too new bike, as simple as possible. Motorbikes which are 15 to 25 years old have an advantage: it is very easy to know their long term or high millage weak point and correct it prior to departure.

I have nothing against EFI and it makes our life much easier, has better fuel economy etc... EFI is reliable, there is no point about that. But EFI means also that you need a pressure pump for gas, several sensors etc... and none of those can be fixed on roadside. Which is not the case of a carburetor and a manual fuel valve. Maybe it does not fail very oftenly, but when it does, you are screwed up.

Considering that, my choice would probably be a big mono trailbike such as a Honda XL or XLR500/600/650, a Yamaha XT500/600 a Suzuki DR650.

Another big advantage of these bikes is the dealer network: all the parts are available in almost every country, which is not the case of other "exotic" brands. It is not exactly what I would call a "classic bike" (although you can build an old looking XT500 like the ones which participated to the PD race at the end of the 70's) but it is definitely a bike which would be 100% adapted to your project.

My second choice could be a BMW airhead: an R80G/S or a R80/100 GS. Great bikes, but dealer network and availability of parts is not even close to Japanese manufacturers.

Last possibility, but we are very far from the "classical bike look" you like: Honda Transalp, Africa Queen, Yam Super Tenere 750 but we are talking about heavy bikes, less simple by design than mono and airhead flats, and the availability of parts may not be as good as the monos (less unit sold compared to monos).

Good luck!
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Old 19 Jan 2011
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Don't know about reliability, but I think the Triumph Scrambler has the looks you want...
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