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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.
I'm plannig a rtw trip with my fiance in about two years time (pretty much eveywhere but southern Africa), I have been intensively reseaching bikes (as you do when you can't actually go anywhere) and didn't intend to purchase for a while yet, however we now need a second car, so a trip bike will have to be bought early!
I've narrowed it down to the Dakar and the KTM, but am having trouble deciding.
I was thinking about GS adv initially but they are a little too big for my fiancee and I can see alot of merit in taking too identical bikes. (would love a big GS though)
Which leads to my question:
I expect to do in the region of 1oo,ooo kms a lot of which will obviously be on sealed roads, although some of the dirt sections we intend to tackle maybe quite difficult, and thats just getting out of Oz!
So, how long do KTM engines tend to last? Who's got the highest mileage out there? and how are people finding them on the long haul? the really, really long haul?
I like the comfort factor of the BMW and from research, speaking to mechanics etc, the motors tend to be fairly long lived, anyone got any good info on this?
However beefing up the Dakar for decent off road work (suspension, tanks etc) makes me think about buying the KTM.
Thers no chance of me getting a day test ride on either and I not entirely confident a basic test ride will answer ny concerns.
I don't really like the idea of multiple engine rebuilds mid trip, but I don't really like the idea of spending big dollars to make a BMW into a KTM when it already costs the same new. Also the KTM is close to 15kgs lighter as standard, and strokes a male ego by looking the business?
So ladies and gentlemen, opinions please!
thanks in advance
PS I just wanted to say how useful I've found this site to be!
I'm not sure I can answer your questions specifically, but I can offer a few opinions FWIW.
If the big GS is too big for your girlfriend, I am guessing the KTM will be too - I assume height is the issue.
Don't under estimate what a quick ride will tell you about these bikes, maybe not everything, but perhaps a few important things. My first impression was KTM vibrates much more than I expected and the seat is same as a trail bike - narrow and hard. The KTM is more dirt oriented, the 650 Dakar more road in comparison. I bought the Dakar and owned it for 20,000 km (sold it recently for a v-strom 1000, but that's another story) and had no problems at all except expensive servicing. Its a comfortable & capable bike in most road/dirt situations, but its not a true trail bike (I am primarily a trail rider, so I also have a few dedicated trail bikes) and neither KTM or Dakar are high performance road bikes.
I think the Dakar would be perfect for an overland or RTW with luggage but not quite as perfect with pillion & luggage (hence the change to v-strom). Several have done or are doing RTW on BMW 650's (classic, GS, Dakar ect),so its worth reading up on their experiences.
It is difficult/expensive to increase fuel capacity on the Dakar if that is important to you. Your girlfriend may even have trouble with the height of the Dakar, but don't worry, the 650 GS is basically the same bike with lower suspension and you can lower it further if needed. So you could have a Dakar and 650 GS like a few other couples have done.
My opinion is the Dakar is much more comfortable for 90% or more of most riding, but KTM is more off road capable. Depends on your priorities, ride them both (bikes not girlfriend) then sit down and assess your needs honestly, then choose.
Although I own a KTM Adventure myself (and I enyojed every minute on it) I'd advice you not realy to concider one unless you have test-riden it.
It is an excelent bike as soon you leave the tarmac - but it's also a beast on tarmac. Not that it's not capable to do it - I crossed eg the Nullarbor Plains on it - but it doesn't feel home. The engine doesn't like long turns at same speed, your bottom is in serious danger and every other part of your body is still vibrating when you lie down for the night.
As Skillo already mentioned, the seat height is a problem. I'm 1.77m and I spend a lot of effort and money to lower it a bit. On the other hand side, a friend of mine, she's about 1.70m, surrounded Oz on one without any mods - you eventualy get used to the height.
The vibes are another thing. It realy DOES vibrate. Realy! Even if the new engines might be a bit smoother and there are a few things you can do about it (eg. handlebar weights and saddle mods) you will have to live with it, especialy your bottom and the hands.
I'd say the average engine life before it needs a rebuild is 25-30k. The main engine bearings need an exchange after aprox 20-30k (the factory says IMHO 20k) and there are several other things which need to be replaced after a certain distance. In general, IMHO, it's a bike which needs constant care and you have to like to do that. There are people out there on 100k+ trips but all of'em I think are at least hobby-mechanics ;-)
Don't get me wrong, I love my KTM and I never had a doubt it was the right choice for me. But I can understand why it might be the wrong bike for other people. If offroad rinding is not one of the main targets of your trip then I'm shure there are better bikes than the KTM for you. I fell in love with her the second I touched sand for the first time. But I had a seriousely hurting bottom at the time :-)
I have a Dakar.. done 50,000 miles (80K KM), all on stock suspension, fork springs. Fair amount of dirt tracks in SOuth America.
Steering head bearings are soft (4 sets so far). Otherwise its comfortable and reliable.
It is a bit heavy, but I reckon as long as oyu can pick it up - you can tackle most terrain - and there are two of you.
I wasn't experienced off-road before my trip, and found consistantly that the bike could handle anything I was prepared to tackle alone.
I'm about 5ft 9in and with a low seat the height is fine - remember with luggage even at maximum pre-load, it will sit a bit lower.
Engine still runs great - I met a German guy on a KTM and he had his rebuilt in Bolivia after barely 40,000 KM.
I has a wide arse thanks to the pipes. I had 41L touratech panniers, and they stuck out wider than the handle bars - recommend going for smaller than that, or something that exploits the space underneath the pipes.
I reckoned on getting 250 miles to a tank (about 400+ kms, and didn't go for the expense of the extra tanks - carrying a plastic fuel can is cheap and simple.
Not sure I would recommend the BMW top box - it leaks in heavy rain, and the mounting is not entirely secure. After admittedly a lot of vibration, it recently popped off driving in London, and broke into lots of pieces.
The KTM is an awesome offroad capable bike and with the big tank it's got a good range. The standard componentry is high quality (handlebars, suspension, wheel rims) and they go like stink and are a blast to ride. KTM's do need a bit more looking after than a BM in terms of servicing and general maintenance. That said they don't crack up and fall apart after a fall. There is a lot of travel gear available for them - panniers, tank bags, headlight protection etc etc.
Personally I have done London-Cape town on a KTM adventure and loved it. I've put down over 40,000km on the bike and aside from normal maintenance only had to replace my front fork seals - and that has included several crashes in the Sahara. KTM also comes with both electric and kick start - I did end up needing the kick start when I drained my battery in the Mautitania desert whislt trying to jump start a Super Tenere. Ever imagined push starting a bike in thick soft sand - I was pretty glad I didn't have to
The downside of the BM's for me was that it has a smallish tank (which costs a good wack to upgrade to a long distance size) and on off-road days bits would shake off them. They are much more comfortable though and are capable off-road. From other reports the reliability seems really good.
If I were to choose again I'd still go for the KTM - mainly because I like getting off the beaten track and the KTM gives me confidence offroad that I didn't get from the BM.
As everyone says - it's personal and it really depends on what you intend to do on your trip. Because you intend covering some serious mileage and are likely to be spending 95% of your time on a road of some form the responsible voice in me says you should take the safe option in the BM ... but the one that really wants to have fun shouts KTM louder for me.
Thanks very much for the info guys.
It is much appreciated.
What has been said pretty much confirms what I had thought. I used to own a 640 LC4 about five years ago and remember it being pretty vibey, but very competent off road. Which is making the decision a bit harder as I know just how good it is off road. I found some info about f650 engines, after a thorough search around the chain gang site, which suggests they are capable of about 80,000 mile before a rebuild (obviously every bike is different) which kind of swayed me until I found this site: www.adventure-motorcycling.com
were a guy went 70,000 kms around the world on his KTM before it was rebuilt, although this definitely appears to be the exception rather than the rule.
Anyway I am hoping to be able to back to back test ride in the next week or two which should help with some aspects of the decision.
So thanks very much to everyone, and keep the info coming!
I was going through the same as you 2 years ago. Dakar og KTM Adv. I really wanted the KTM. I was trying to minimize the problems with it, and overestimating the need for offroad capabilities.... because i reeeeally wanted it. I bougth the Dakar, and have been pretty happy with it. Glad I didnt take the KTM. Parts availability, service intervalls, vibs and less than average onroad capabilities would have made it a poor choice for me. But it shure looks good........ Like yourself I have been thinking about a GS Adv.... again, it looks good.... But the Dakar gets the job done... in comfort. Happy hunting!
i had the same choice to make couple of weeks back and ended up ordering an adventure
when i went to see about the f650 what they offered fo my bike made me think i wouldnt be able to afford the adv, but when i went to ktm they offered me another £600 for my bike plus the bmw guy added £150 pound to the rrp. cheeky twat, also he was gonna get it without the abs to save hhim even more.
still waiting on the ktm though2 1/2 weeks :-( any one know how long it usually takes?
Just to head off in the "Everything else" direction - have you considered the Honda AT?
The engine is good for over 100,000km - recently met a german chap with a 1999 AT with over 120,000km on the clock. They are comfortable for long distance work, and fun enough for short trips.
Honda reliability is fantastic with much thought given at the design stage for reliability issues. The bike is not too heavy - with good ground clearance so it's good for offroad work. You can get parts everywhere, and they are pretty good on fuel.
Should get about 200 miles (300+km) before it hits reserve.
Not cheap, but certainly cheaper than a BMW - and a lot more capable for any offroading that you might want to do IMHO.
I owned a KLR650 until a couple of months ago and have just sold it for a Dakar. The KLR was cheap and simple yes, but I couldn't stand it. Rust prone, not great build quality in my opinion and I never felt that I trusted the bike at all - all I ever had with it were problems. Having owned a Dakar for the first time I would NEVER go back. Miles more comfortable, capable off-road, not too heavy and I really trust the thing to not break down. I would favour the Dakar instead of the ktm for all the reasons outlined by others above.
The two posts immediately above may be discussing two different bikes. Let's not forget that the KLR 650 sold in Europe (the "C" model) and the one sold in N. America (the "A" model) are significantly different machines. I've never seen the C model, but it's described in the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook as "...not suited for an overland biker's needs" whereas the A model is described (by a different author) as "In my view the original KLR 650 as still sold in NOrth America makes the best adventure tourer." These model differences may account in part for the radically different views of this bike expressed in the two posts above.
My experience with the A model KLR 650 is very different than that expressed immediately above, which may be the C model since the author lives in the UK. I have about 8K miles on mine and have had zero problems - it's been absolutely reliable thus far. I've also owned a F650 GS which wasn't a Dakar but had a WP shock and fork and was thus even more capable off road than a Dakar. Even after these almost $3000 suspension modifications, the KLR was somewhat more dirt capable than the BMW, although not dramatically so. The F650 was somewhat more comfortable for highway riding (a bit less vibration) although again not dramatically so. In short, as I see it as someone who has owned both, either bike can do anything the other can do without major differences in comfort or efficiency.
I put 24K miles on the BMW and had no major mechanical problems so I would consider it very reliable also and don't believe there is a major advantage in reliability either way between these two bikes (as long as the timing chain tensioner on the KLR is upgraded, approximately $40 in parts).
IMHO, there are two main differences between these two bikes. One is cost, a huge advantage for the Kawasaki and one which allows for expenditures for upgrades, accessories, etc. with the total cost still being less than the cost of a bare BMW. And, KLR replacement parts are considerable less costly also.
The other difference is in the simplicity of the KLR, making it much easier to work on, especially out on the road when tools may be limited. I've worked on both and much prefer the KLR in this area.
At the time I began planning my RTW trip for this summer, I still owned both bikes (the BMW has since been sold), and because of the simplicity factor it's the KLR which is now on an ocean freighter somewhere out in the Pacific bound for Vladivostok.
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