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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 22 May 2014
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Honda XR650L or Suzuki DRZ400S

Ok, first some background. I am looking for a good bike to RTW. I will be doing the ride in small bites rather than a continuous journey. I want something that is as comfortable off road as it is on and low tech/maintenance is key as well. So FI is out as is lots of electronics. I also plan to travel light. I will use soft panniers and bring camping gear and keep what I carry to a minimum. I am going to try to keep the gear weight under 40 pounds/18kgs. I am about 200lbs/90kgs. After a lot of research, I have narrowed it down to the Honda XR650L and Suzuki DRZ400S. The bikes are very similar in terms of specs and I find myself torn at which would be easiest to live with on the road. I like these models as they have both remained virtually unchanged for a couple decades, have a lot of aftermarket support and are readily available where I live.

Are both equally easy to get parts for around the world?

Is one head and shoulders better than the other?

Which would you choose amongst these two?
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  #2  
Old 22 May 2014
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XR
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  #3  
Old 22 May 2014
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I rode to capetown on a drz400s.. I now own a xr650l..

Neither are comfortable... And they both need modifying to make them overland ready.

Weight wise , not much in them.. The 650l needs its subframe bracing a bit too.

I packed fairly light and the drz400 frustrated me with its lack of power.

By all accounts, i think I prefer the xr650l .. However, parts have to be imported from the USA if you're in Europe. The engine is the same as the nx650 dominator so engine parts are very easy and the 650l also shares parts with the xr600r too...

You can try my xr650l at the hu UK meeting..

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  #4  
Old 22 May 2014
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So Ted,

How much total weight did you and your gear add up to approximately? The lack of power is what really concerns me about the Suzuki.

Are parts for the DRZ easier to come by than the XR?

I will be modifying either bike for comfort and ride worthiness.
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  #5  
Old 22 May 2014
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Originally Posted by Drwnite View Post
XR
Succinct and to the point...

Why?
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  #6  
Old 22 May 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chasbo View Post
So Ted,

How much total weight did you and your gear add up to approximately? The lack of power is what really concerns me about the Suzuki.

Are parts for the DRZ easier to come by than the XR?

I will be modifying either bike for comfort and ride worthiness.

On my DRZ I had soft bags and a big roll bag. A fair bit of weight but I was crossing Africa for 7 months. I don't know the exact weight but I had lots of tools and spares. I did the 3x3 power on my DRZ and had a sports exhaust and up-jetted for power. I still struggled to cruise at 65mph. I tried all sorts of gearing but the bike wasn't powerful enough for lower ratios 'with luggage'.. Kills were a pain. I was travelling with a guy on an old battered F650GS and he left me behind with ease.

The DRZ is a fine bike. It's simple, reliable, lightweight and has decent components. I would happily do another trip on one but only if it was an off-road based trip. I would pack MUCH lighter and stay away from highways.

The XRL is in the same category as the DRZ but with a bigger engine. They are just as reliable but obviously more powerful and a little more thirsty with it.

The XRL is also a very TALL bike. I'd say a little more vibey than the DRZ too. It's got a much weaker rear subframe but it's very simple to strengthen.

The XRL is hugely popular in the USA. There are sooooo many parts available. It's been going in it's current for for over 20 years. You can also get a Corbin seat for it too which it DEFINITELY needs. As does the DRZ.

If you're based in the UK or Europe then outfitted a DRZ is much easier. However, the XRL has a strong following. You can get almost everything you need for an XRL from Gab at Zen Overland. He did a RTW on his XR650L and swears it's the best bike for the job.

Tell me about your trip... Where are you going and what terrain are you covering ??
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  #7  
Old 22 May 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* View Post
Tell me about your trip... Where are you going and what terrain are you covering ??
I ride a KTM 625Sxc now and have been strongly considering using that. RTWPaul is currently doing just that and I am following his travels with a very close eye. I am worried about spare parts with the SXC mostly.

I am slowly working out the where now. I want to stay off major highways of course and really want to get off the beaten path, but still retain the capability to see the popular sites. As for the terrain, whatever is in front of me. I do not want to be limited to what the bike can handle.

The first part will be Central/South America. I am starting with Baja California and finishing with Argentina. It's a toss up on if I will ride home or have the bike shipped back. If things work out, maybe head back north and catch Brazil and tour some of the Amazon before shipping the bike back from there.

Second part will be New Zealand/Australia.
Third part will be Southeast Asia and India.
Fourth Part will be Russia, Mongolia and a couple of the 'stans, still working on that one.
Fifth Part will be Africa south to north
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  #8  
Old 22 May 2014
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Well most of that you could do on a Harley unless you go looking for the dirt
Why not use different bikes for different regions unless you're doing it all in one big hit ??

Have a look at a dr650se too. Post 1996.. Xt600e can't be ignored either..

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  #9  
Old 22 May 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chasbo View Post
I ride a KTM 625Sxc now and have been strongly considering using that. RTWPaul is currently doing just that and I am following his travels with a very close eye. I am worried about spare parts with the SXC mostly.
Your KTM could work! ... and if you put in the amount of work modding your bike that RTW Paul has, then it may be reliable. .. or not. (I'm following Paul's report too ...followed him for a year when he was in South and Central America on his Tenere')

If you really learn your KTM, dissect it's many faults & foibles and work your way round them all ... then you've got a bike that is good! If you don't mind the Vibes on your KTM ... then all good. (owned two KTM 640's) If you're mechanically astute and have parts and tools ... then all good. Not a bike for amateurs.

I believe the KTM will require just about as much prep/mods as either
XR-L or DRZ400S. Parts? Just because a town in Honduras or Peru' has a Suzuki and Honda dealer DOES NOT mean that dealer will have parts on hand for your bike. They just won't! You will have to wait.

Same with KTM. Set up a deal with a good KTM dealer in USA ... one email and parts on their way to you. In the end, probably about the same or shorter wait as ordering from a local Honda or Suzuki dealer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chasbo View Post
The first part will be Central/South America. I am starting with Baja California and finishing with Argentina.
Can we assume you are US/Canadian citizen and starting in USA?

I'm not an XR-L fan. Bought one NEW in 1993. Sold it off in less than a year. The motor runs HOT. Sub frame bends/breaks. Battery box breaks off. All can be helped with good mods and aftermarket parts.

Like your KTM, the Honda is very tall ... but suspension needs help to be it's best, the rear shock is a POS. Ted says the XR-L is very popular in USA. I'd say "it used to be popular!" but not much now. I rarely see one anymore. Lots of Orange bikes here in California. Honda are OUT.

The DRZ has the off road advantage over the XR-L with a few key mods. If you can get a better seat and fit your luggage, it's not bad. I owned a DRZ400E ... only rode Baja on it with a small backpack. Never toured. But many DO tour on the DRZ-S. See Adam's Jedi reports on ADV Rider.

You say the XR-L and DRZ are "very similar bikes". Not at all similar. The XR-L is old school air cooled, radial valve head, NO oil cooler, CV carb. The DRZ is liquid cooled, much more modern chassis, stronger everywhere, better design overall. (stock vs. stock)

Both can be modified to be super good for travel, both will make it. Your idea of going light is very smart. 40 lbs. is perfect! I carry about 60 lbs. on my
DR650 and trying to cut that down some. (not so easy)

Best of luck. I'd take a few short-ish shake down rides locally to figure out what bike is best for you.

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  #10  
Old 22 May 2014
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A Harley would get me a lot of cred with the highway pirates we have in the states, but no thank you

I am guessing I will be about 60-75 percent dirt on my ride, that is my aim anyhow. I dropped the DR650SE for that reason. Having ridden that bike in the dirt, I was underwhelmed. It also feels a good bit heavier than the XRL.
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  #11  
Old 22 May 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chasbo View Post
A Harley would get me a lot of cred with the highway pirates we have in the states, but no thank you

I am guessing I will be about 60-75 percent dirt on my ride, that is my aim anyhow. I dropped the DR650SE for that reason. Having ridden that bike in the dirt, I was underwhelmed. It also feels a good bit heavier than the XRL.
How tall are you? The DR650 is not a great BIG MAN bike. The Honda is much better ... or your KTM. But the DR650 (with proper mods) can be pretty good.

BTW, dry weight of DR650 vs. XR650L are the same: 324 lbs.

But off road in stock form, the XR-L is much better. But once the DR has been modded up some, it's a whole new bike. But not great for tall guys, as it's too low for most.

60 to 75% dirt? Have you ever toured/travelled in Latin America before?
Short answer is: You're dreaming!
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  #12  
Old 22 May 2014
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Originally Posted by mollydog View Post
How tall are you? The DR650 is not a great BIG MAN bike. The Honda is much better ... or your KTM. But the DR650 (with proper mods) can be pretty good.

BTW, dry weight of DR650 vs. XR650L are the same: 324 lbs.

But off road in stock form, the XR-L is much better. But once the DR has been modded up some, it's a whole new bike. But not great for tall guys, as it's too low for most.

60 to 75% dirt? Have you ever toured/travelled in Latin America before?
Short answer is: You're dreaming!
Yep, I live in the US and all my travels will begin here. I am tall-ish at 6'1" and have no problem on the DRZ and my SXC reaching the ground. I don't imagine I will hit much dirt in SA, but since I do have plans to do the BAM, Mongolia and Africa, offroad abilities and lower weight seem like they would be rather important. At least I that is important to me. To be clear, the DR650 is not even a consideration for me.
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  #13  
Old 22 May 2014
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Originally Posted by mollydog View Post
I believe the KTM will require just about as much prep/mods as either
XR-L or DRZ400S. Parts? Just because a town in Honduras or Peru' has a Suzuki and Honda dealer DOES NOT mean that dealer will have parts on hand for your bike. They just won't! You will have to wait.

Same with KTM. Set up a deal with a good KTM dealer in USA ... one email and parts on their way to you. In the end, probably about the same or shorter wait as ordering from a local Honda or Suzuki dealer.
Molly, that is a killer point. I haven't really considered thinking along those lines.
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  #14  
Old 23 May 2014
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Originally Posted by Chasbo View Post
Molly, that is a killer point. I haven't really considered thinking along those lines.
Also, if you follow what RTW Paul and other KTM 640 experts do ... you'll find the main bugaboos on that bike, carry the needed spare parts with you. Pretty sure this is what Paul is doing.

There are a few common failures on the 640's (which are commonly known among users) and most of the parts can be easily stowed on your bike for travel: Water pump kit, Valve gear bearings and a few other things I can't recall.

Most long time 640 riders KNOW when problems are coming and replace key parts as preventative maintenance, so no slow down when on the road.

Also, now-a-days ... there are several KTM dealers in S. America. I believe
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru', Chile and Argentina ALL have a KTM dealer(s).
Will they have parts for a bike they no longer make? Who knows? KTM is now BIG in S. America because of the Dakar race. Now a household brand.

Good luck with your planning! (talk to RTW Paul about Cent. America ... he's a border crossing God!)
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  #15  
Old 23 May 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mollydog View Post
Also, if you follow what RTW Paul and other KTM 640 experts do ... you'll find the main bugaboos on that bike, carry the needed spare parts with you. Pretty sure this is what Paul is doing.

There are a few common failures on the 640's (which are commonly known among users) and most of the parts can be easily stowed on your bike for travel: Water pump kit, Valve gear bearings and a few other things I can't recall.

Most long time 640 riders KNOW when problems are coming and replace key parts as preventative maintenance, so no slow down when on the road.

Also, now-a-days ... there are several KTM dealers in S. America. I believe
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru', Chile and Argentina ALL have a KTM dealer(s).
Will they have parts for a bike they no longer make? Who knows? KTM is now BIG in S. America because of the Dakar race. Now a household brand.

Good luck with your planning! (talk to RTW Paul about Cent. America ... he's a border crossing God!)
Yeah, Paul is the man. I got his border crossing book. I chose SA/CA as my first leg because it should be the easiest for me to do. I will be following him like a hawk to see how he does on the BAM. I am well versed in bike maintenance, so working on the SXC doesn't bother me, it's just the fear that I will be miles from anywhere when it decides to act up.
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