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  #1  
Old 9 Jul 2012
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Help me choose mild tourer

Background: I bought my XT as a winter bike to save my beautiful Ducati from the mud of my daily commute. I found I preferred the XT for 90% of my needs, and although I have changed the 'better' bike several times, the XT is still the bike I choose for most rides. I have toured in Europe (road only) on 'proper' touring bikes (e.g. Honda Pan, Triumph Sprint), but they are not really what I want. I like the tall stance, wide bars and upright position of the XT, and like the way the bike encourages you to take your time and smell the flowers, rather than get your head down and munch the miles at high speed.


So I am considering selling the 'better' bike and getting something more suited to the touring I want to do. Parameters are as follows:
  • Ability to cruise at ~70 mph
  • All-day comfortable
  • Able to take a light pillion along with full luggage
  • Upright riding position and easy frame geometry
  • Able to tackle light off-road (unmade roads, gravel tracks, nothing serious)
  • Robust and able to take a few knocks
  • Mechanically/electrically simple (i.e. no CANBUS, although FI is fine with me)
  • Reasonably light (max about 200-210 kg dry)
  • Fast enough to be fun!
The XT already ticks a lot of these boxes, but it is quite elderly and would need quite a bit of work (and expense) before I would be happy with it for a long trip. Also, I haven't enjoyed riding it with a passenger. The weight issue pretty much rules out the 1100/1150GS, and the newer 650/800 GS would probably be too expensive (and I'm not keen on the looks!). I'm 6ft and 15st, so a high seat isn't a problem - in fact, the less I have to bend my knees the better these days


Trips would be 90% road and 10% mild off-piste, mostly in Europe. We're definitely planning to tour France and Germany, possibly Italy, and a long-term goal is to visit Nordkapp and also Morocco before I get too old. I can probably spend about £3k, although if I found a bike that ticked all the boxes I might push to a bit more. Bikes I have on a kind of shortlist are:
  • Honda Dominator
  • Yam XT660R (had one, loved it)
  • Yam XT660Z Tenere
  • Honda Africa Twin (and Transalp? They seem to have almost identical specs)
  • Kawasaki Versys
  • Suzuki V-Strom 650/1000
  • Triumph Tiger 955i
This isn't an urgent thing. I will probably change before next summer, but until then I am having a good long think. Any observations on the above (and another other suggestions about possible candidates) would be very welcome.

I ought to add that I am a big fan of XTs. I've had 4 (350 x 2, 600E, 660R) and my initial thoughts are towards the Tenere, but I have also hankered after an AT for a long time. I've rabbited on long enough. Over to you.
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Last edited by BlackDogZulu; 9 Jul 2012 at 08:56.
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Old 9 Jul 2012
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"Able to take a light pillion along with full luggage"

Some will disagree, but I think that one strongly calls for at least 2 cylinders on the engine.
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Old 9 Jul 2012
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I know what you are saying. To clarify, the passenger would be my daughter, who weighs about 55kg, and the luggage would be panniers and a topbox. We are not planning on carrying camping gear etc. I may well be camping solo, and I guess the weight of that would be less than a passenger.

Thanks for the response.
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  #4  
Old 9 Jul 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
"Able to take a light pillion along with full luggage"

Some will disagree, but I think that one strongly calls for at least 2 cylinders on the engine.
Depends on the pillion. For my wife, if we want to do more than 100 miles a day a twin is better. I've done 400 mile days on singles two up where the pillion was limited with what other modes of transport were available and were used to tarvelling light. An F650 pillion seat is better than a back packer bus that isn't due to leave for a week.

For completeness I'd add the BMW G650GS and old single F650 to the list. Had two, know what breaks, consider them no better or worse than anything else. The Tiger is a monster, closer to the big GS's than XT's/Transalps/Wee's.

I'd be buying on condition vs price with a 3 grand limit, so I wouldn't be looking for any specific model, just low miles are careful owners. If you know model years and where to buy bits for Yamahas that would be where I'd look, spend your money on mechanically reliable of sort any minor cosmetics.

I'll give a big thumbs up to the Wee, but I've barely used mine yet so feel free to give due weight to that opinion.

Andy
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  #5  
Old 9 Jul 2012
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Get a test ride on a vstrom. I've recently changed from a Zx6r to a strom and love it. Loads of grunt, super comfy, amazing mpg, happy pillions. I've done long road tours and quite a bit of gravel track stuff with it too and enjoyed it all. I had a test ride on the xt660z before i got it and although i liked the motorcross feel of it it just didnt touch the strom for power and comfort in my ability. Also the motor is just so much smoother than the big singles. Like others before me have pointed out the vstrom is not an off road machine but its well capable of gravel fire tracks which is more than most tourers ever see.
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  #6  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by Threewheelbonnie View Post
Depends on the pillion. For my wife, if we want to do more than 100 miles a day a twin is better.

For the 2-up trips, I'd be contemplating around 200 miles a day max, with a lot of sightseeing, so I'm reluctantly agreeing that a single may not be the best option.

For completeness I'd add the BMW G650GS and old single F650 to the list.

I've had the chance to examine these up close at a recent bike meet and I didn't like the looks at all, so they are fairly low down the list.

The Tiger is a monster, closer to the big GS's than XT's/Transalps/Wee's.

The Tiger has the same engine as the Sprint (although detuned) and it's an awesome motor. But you are right - it is a big lump of a bike, and also heavy at 215 kg.

I'll give a big thumbs up to the Wee, but I've barely used mine yet so feel free to give due weight to that opinion.

See below.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluebus View Post
Get a test ride on a vstrom. I've recently changed from a Zx6r to a strom and love it. Loads of grunt, super comfy, amazing mpg, happy pillions. I've done long road tours and quite a bit of gravel track stuff with it too and enjoyed it all. I had a test ride on the xt660z before i got it and although i liked the motorcross feel of it it just didnt touch the strom for power and comfort in my ability. Also the motor is just so much smoother than the big singles. Like others before me have pointed out the vstrom is not an off road machine but its well capable of gravel fire tracks which is more than most tourers ever see.
You're not the only person to say this to me. I'll try to find one for a test ride, as your description sounds like what I am looking for. I guess what I am hankering after is a bike with the chuckability and general ease of use of my XT600, but with more power, comfort and luggage-carrying ability. Is yours the 650 or the 1000?

(No-one has mentioned the Africa Twin or the Versys yet ...)

Thanks to you both.
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  #7  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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I've had similar thoughts to those in your question here BlackDogZ, for similar, but not exactly the same, reasoning.
So far, I have written off any thought of using a single cyl in these circumstances, so they are not on my list for this purpose. As per an earlier post, two, or more, cyls is a must when a pillion is considered.
The AT owners are asking very silly, inflated prices here in the UK which one or two people seem prepared to pay, now and again; in any case quite a few on offer have fairly high mileage which doesn't help in the slightest if you aim to do your own high mileage.
The 650 versys is interesting but it may be a bit weak in the sub-frame; there is a report somewhere in here (Kawa tech I think) that says they are fine for two up, but Kawa do not recommend both a top box and panniers together - so they don't provide fittings for that combination.
The latest Transalp (700cc) is a good bike but the tank range is pretty limited - a problem that is not unique to the Transalp.
For a twin cyl I would add the TDM 850/900 to your own list especially for your proposed budget of 3K; it is on my list.
I also like the cbf1000 in the 4 cyl category; it is very under rated and rarely mentioned for travelling with a pillion.
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Old 10 Jul 2012
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Thanks for the tip about the Versys. 2-up-ability is essential, but if it can't take topbox and panniers together it's less useful. I'll have a read around about this.

I hadn't even considered the TDM (put off many years ago by Bike magazine's comment of 'don't say the name too quickly') but it looks like it might fir the bill - decent size/comfort/power but not too heavy. 190kg dry is a lot lighter than my old Bonneville, for example.

TDM goes on the list ... thanks.
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  #9  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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I did like the BMW F650GS single very much. I went to the Northcape on that bike. About 8000 km in 12 days. No racing, just enjoying the ride.
Trip report here: http://jkrijt.home.xs4all.nl/trips/n2g/index.shtml

Very good fuel consumption, very easy on all kind of roads and a very nice bike to ride.
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  #10  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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I tour 2 up on my F650 GS single, and my pillion is 6' same as me, Lightweight camping. It can still cruise at 80 on a dual carrigeway, not that we often do, and as has been said, the fuel consumption is brilliant.
Were off for 3 weeks together around France & Switzerland.
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  #11  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackDogZulu View Post
Thanks for the tip about the Versys. 2-up-ability is essential, but if it can't take topbox and panniers together it's less useful. I'll have a read around about this.

I hadn't even considered the TDM (put off many years ago by Bike magazine's comment of 'don't say the name too quickly') but it looks like it might fir the bill - decent size/comfort/power but not too heavy. 190kg dry is a lot lighter than my old Bonneville, for example.

TDM goes on the list ... thanks.
There are other threads in here about the TDM; in fact years ago, the XT600 forum was altered, i.e. enlarged, to take account of the fact that Yamaha do manufacture a range of bikes, including that popular single cyl
As for the Versys, Kawa are probably being very cautious about their luggage carrying capability; I would expect that luggage manufacturers, other than OEM kit, would supply a top box and panniers arrangement, so long as you don't exceed the stated all up weight limit for the bike.
In the discussion about this bike, I was interested in it's two-up capability.
I am not sure where that thread is; it could be under the "which bike" forum rather than the "Kawa tech".
It may also be listed as a KLE650 topic/heading?


Quote:
Originally Posted by jkrijt View Post
I did like the BMW F650GS single very much. I went to the Northcape on that bike. About 8000 km in 12 days. No racing, just enjoying the ride.
Trip report here: Jan Krijtenburg homepage (Travel pages)

Very good fuel consumption, very easy on all kind of roads and a very nice bike to ride.
Agreed, for a single rider with or without luggage it has done a fine job for me also - there is a 7 year old F650GS twin spark in my garage.
The longest single day ride I have done on that bike is about 560 miles in one hit along the 2/3 lane motorways.
It is certainly a very smooth single cyl bike compared with many other singles - there are lots of earlier threads in the HUBB about this bike, stand alone or in comparison with other bikes of similar specification.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lowuk View Post
I tour 2 up on my F650 GS single, and my pillion is 6' same as me, Lightweight camping. It can still cruise at 80 on a dual carrigeway, not that we often do, and as has been said, the fuel consumption is brilliant.
Were off for 3 weeks together around France & Switzerland.
I have always shied away from this after experimenting with such a load - it is just personal choice; I agree it can be done, but the passenger may not have the best experience overall.
Maybe it was just the way I ride, but the passenger was constantly banging the front of their helmet against the back of mine!!
Again, this has been discussed elsewhere, so it is a case of whatever floats your particular boat.
I have taken the F650GS around a lot of the Alps and I would not want to have a lot of luggage and a pillion on the bike on such rides; again, just personal choice.
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Old 10 Jul 2012
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I think the airhead paralever gs should be on your list. Similar weight to the TDM and Africa Twin with the added benefit of shaft drive. Mechanically extremely simple and easy to work on. Excellent 2 up and carries a good load. The only issue is findind one in good order at a sensible price although that probably applies to most of the bikes on your list.
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Old 11 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by Walkabout View Post
As for the Versys, Kawa are probably being very cautious about their luggage carrying capability; I would expect that luggage manufacturers, other than OEM kit, would supply a top box and panniers arrangement, so long as you don't exceed the stated all up weight limit for the bike.
I'm sure that product liability makes a lot of manufacturers very cautious about stating weights etc, just in case someone tries to carry a load of bricks over a ploughed field and then sues them when it breaks

Worth a call to Kawasaki, I think, as I like the look of the bike and a friend who has one thinks very highly of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnon View Post
I think the airhead paralever gs should be on your list. Similar weight to the TDM and Africa Twin with the added benefit of shaft drive. Mechanically extremely simple and easy to work on. Excellent 2 up and carries a good load. The only issue is findind one in good order at a sensible price although that probably applies to most of the bikes on your list.
The airheads seem to be around the 210kg mark, which is at the upper limit of what I really want. I like the R80GS and especially the R100GS P/D, but there aren't many about, and at around 50/60 bhp they have quite modest power compared to the more modern bikes. But I will keep my eyes open and if I see a good one I will think again.

The 2-up capability is very important if I am to change the Sprint (I am keeping the XT no matter what). If I were going solo, I would just take the XT, no question. I have done a lot of trips on it with camping gear in the UK, and it is ideal. But I have only taken a passenger on it once, and it wasn't a nice experience. The bike was totally unbalanced and a pig to steer.

Thanks for all your comments. You have give me a lot to think about.
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Old 11 Jul 2012
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Shafties

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackDogZulu View Post

The airheads seem to be around the 210kg mark, which is at the upper limit of what I really want. I like the R80GS and especially the R100GS P/D, but there aren't many about, and at around 50/60 bhp they have quite modest power compared to the more modern bikes. But I will keep my eyes open and if I see a good one I will think again.

The 2-up capability is very important if I am to change the Sprint (I am keeping the XT no matter what). If I were going solo, I would just take the XT, no question. I have done a lot of trips on it with camping gear in the UK, and it is ideal. But I have only taken a passenger on it once, and it wasn't a nice experience. The bike was totally unbalanced and a pig to steer.

Thanks for all your comments. You have give me a lot to think about.
An immaculate, restored probably, 100GS PD was on ebay for a long time with an asking price of just under £10K; these are yet another bike that has become over-rated (whatever that means exactly) and are heading for a collectors' garage.
I can still feel your thought process; a few years ago I stepped off a Honda Blackbird that I was riding two up with luggage and that was a superb touring bike; with a passenger and lots of luggage it went even better, with the suspension operating in the mid-range of it's travel and the back tyre digging deep into the road surface.
Now that the shaft drives are under discussion I would throw in the XJ900, Yamaha Diversion which I used to own a few years ago; that bike is vastly under-rated and it has no direct replacement in the current Yam lineup - the FJR1300 appears to use exactly the same shaft final drive bevel box etc but, after that, the FJR is much heavier and bulkier.
The Divy is a fine bike for two up and nowadays it is very affordable if you can find one for sale; there are a few around, but I suspect that owners tend to hang on to good ones.
You could take your pick of all XJ900s on offer for sale with a 3K budget but you won't get far in the BMW market with that same budget; sad, but that is my assessment of second hand asking prices.
But, it is not just about the all up weight of a particular bike; the CoG of the airhead is relatively low and that will compensate for the bulk of a rider/passenger/luggage at a higher position.
Nor, are top end power figures the full picture; for hauling weight up to a particular speed (i.e. acceleration) the torque output is much more relevant - the airheads have this in abundance, as do V twins.

(I can hear the voices in the background referring to "off road" capability, but none of these shaft drive bikes are for off-roading, depending on how you want to define such activity).
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Old 11 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by BlackDogZulu View Post
The airheads seem to be around the 210kg mark, which is at the upper limit of what I really want. I like the R80GS and especially the R100GS P/D, but there aren't many about, and at around 50/60 bhp they have quite modest power compared to the more modern bikes. But I will keep my eyes open and if I see a good one I will think again.
According to the specs I found the standard R100GS is 210kg with a full tank of fuel (23 litres or about 16kg) and the AT is 205kg dry. P/D version is 20kg heavier. I think the bhp figure is about the same as the AT.

I don't put much store in published weight specs. as some bikes feel light others feel like lead bricks. None of the twins on the list can really be called off road capable as they all weigh too much for ordinary riders to throw around with confidence.

Any bike will tackle gravel roads whether it has off road pretensions or not.
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