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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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  #16  
Old 30 Jan 2010
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Nothing wrong with a small engine:

If I were you I'd go for that small engined bike you mentioned, I know there's people on here saying you need a big bike, but there's plenty of travellers happy with low power. Do a search on here for posts by Simon Gandolphini who rode in South America on a 125 and Birdy who rode to Capetown two up on a dodgy Honda CG125. Google Wan Lee and Ruckus and see someone who toured all round the US on a 50cc scooter.

I happily load up my Derbi Terra Adventure (another 125) and go off for a week or two (time prevents more). You just have to treat your journey differently, pack a little lighter maybe, shop for food a bit more often, don't carry quite as many gadgets, stop more, potter more, avoid major arterial roads.

Look at it this way, people bicycle the world and can carry everything they need, and cover huge distances. If they can do it with just leg power a 125cc's 15hp is more than capable.
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  #17  
Old 30 Jan 2010
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for two up, one of the alternatives might be suzuki dl650 v-strom. really tough bike. anything smaller then 600cc might be a pain in eu zone and in turkiye. i think the lowest 650 enduro you can get is f650gs (might be lowered and can be bought low seat).

best of luck and enjoy every step of your planning and trip!!
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  #18  
Old 31 Jan 2010
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I think 4-500cc should be enough for traversing Africa. It's not going to be a race, right? I have a DR650 and have found it too big and heavy in nasty stuff. Didn't happen often, but I have needed help several time to get a pannier lifted off my foot... I am very tall.

I strongly re-suggest to take the same bike on the trip for all in the group. If necessary lower it for the shorter rider(s) or make it higher for the taller one. One manual, one set of tools and spares. You know how to fix one, you know them all.
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  #19  
Old 31 Jan 2010
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Nath,
Thanks for the heads up on the name... i can find it on wikidpedia.... but not for sale... weird... it looks like the last year it was produced was 2004?

Mickey D,
I hadn't even considered the Suzuki... I don"t know anything about them. Are they as reliable as the Honda's?

Alexbrit,
I couldn't agree with you more my first bike was a 250, however, as the idea of doing a trip on a bike is already pushing the limits of the female's comfort zone, it'd be nice to give her either a non-loaded bike to ride and something that won't struggle... not to mention a bike where she will have to ride so slow that people are constantly overtaking her... unnerving... & a bit more space to pack bring things cold go a long way.

OldBMW,
I agree 100%, I am going to make sure we all can flat foot the bike we choose, especially as when they get loaded down and a bit more top heavy this for me is important... plus i can't imagine for a newbie that tippie toes could be at all comfortable!?

ozhanu,
Wow, I just looked at the BMW F650GS's specs... they claim it will go down to 765cm... similar power to the V-strom similar tank size to the TransAlp and 20 kilo's lighter than both!? comparable price to the transalp but 2K more expensive than the Suzuki... AM I MISSING SOMETHING HERE?

I think I will be looking more seriously into the BMW F650GS now... if the little lady doesn't take to riding how with this do 2 up? Anybody with experience on it?

As beddhist mentioned this might be the answer to a bike in both the US & EU that all 3 could ride... hummm...
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  #20  
Old 31 Jan 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Popex View Post
Mickey D,
I hadn't even considered the Suzuki... I don"t know anything about them. Are they as reliable as the Honda's?
A 50yr old Brit bike could be more reliable than 1yr old Honda depending on its treatment whilst in use!

As long as a bike is well looked after, not abused it has every chance of being "reliable".

Honda (like any manufacturer) have some issues with certain models. I believe they are recalling 1000's of cars at present

As long as you stick to large manufacturer, you can't go too far wrong - I'd avoid Asian machines though
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  #21  
Old 1 Feb 2010
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Hi, i did a tour of the Black Sea and the Balkans in summer 09 with my son who is 18 and only passed his test a few months before we left on our 2 month trip. The roads particularly in Romania, Bulgaria and Albania can be of very poor quality. Many of the countries you will be visiting have as many unsealed roads as tarmac ones which will take you into the rural (best and safest due to lack of fraffic) parts of these countries. i would therfore recommend a trail bike for the trip Xt660R, xt600E, serrow etc. Once out of western Europe your speed will drop considerably, negating the need for a larger bike. In 19,000 miles between us we had only 1 very scary moment when i met a car overtaking a lorry towards me. Andy B
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  #22  
Old 2 Feb 2010
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how much do you want to spend?
are you buying new or nearly new bikes or older models?
i suggest your lady friend reads lois price's "lois on the loose" where she uses a yamaha serow225, a great book and if she doesnt want to ride herself after that then there is no hope.
suzuki drz400 is light and can be lowered, fast enough for road use and tough enough for some off road, and is very reliable,
or you could spend a fortune on KTMs?

once youre out of western europe you will be lucky to be able to do 80kph very often, so a big engined bike will just be wasting fuel and you can carry just as much on small bikes as big ones, but you will do the little bike a favour by keeping it simple and you will have to pick it up off the ground at some time
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  #23  
Old 2 Feb 2010
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Pigford,
Agreed... however, in my experience there are simply some motors that are more forgiving to abuse, like a Honda... and others that seriously complain if the mnf. recommended services are missed...

Andysr6,
I would be really really interested to learn more about your trip do you have a blog/diary?

DAVSATO,
How much to spend... good question... some of us are students & others can afford a bike off the shelf... which makes the idea of all being all on the same bike A LOT harder... nobody will be buying brand new but a 1-2 y/o bike is a possibility except for the students... where over €5K is out of the question...

Lois on the Loose is now on order from Amazon... and we are looking into a dirt bike day out event to get us a bit more dirt bike experience...


Anybody have negatives on a lowered BMW F650GS ?
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  #24  
Old 2 Feb 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Popex View Post
Lois on the Loose is now on order from Amazon... and we are looking into a dirt bike day out event to get us a bit more dirt bike experience...

Anybody have negatives on a lowered BMW F650GS ?
Read all you can. Dirt bike class is good but seat time is what really counts. A two day seminar is good and will get you in touch with basics. But practice is what counts.

If you do your research, following Ride reports here and over on ADV, you'll learn about the F650GS problems, which are many.

For my money, the F650GS is:
Over priced
Heavy
Expensive to fix at BMW dealer
In some cases requires proprietary dealer computers to work on
More frequent break downs than comparable Japanese bikes

Look at what Lois rides NOW, not what she rode when she was starting out as a raw beginner. That Serow she had was junk from the day she started. She should have never taken it. The book will make this very clear.

Lois NOW is riding another Yamaha. But a nicer, newer one. A TT250. One of the toughest little bikes out there and reasonably priced. I listed this bike in my initial list back a few posts. It's way way better than the Serow, is light and can be made fairly low. (lowering links)

The Serow is a mid 80's design, the TT250 came along in about 2005.

If you end up going two up, the Suzuki Vstrom (DL650) is the best bike in the world at the moment, all things considered, IMHO. The more you read and study, the more obvious this will become.

The Suzuki DRZ400 is a fantastic bike but not two up capable. Should be on your short list for the males in your group. Also consider XT600, KLR650, DR650. All good RTW bikes if set up properly.
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  #25  
Old 2 Feb 2010
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Hi Popex, i have not got round to a blog yet although i have photos in my Facebook (search for Andrew Burke, glasgow). Our route was ferry from Uk to Holland, Belgium, germany (visit Nurburging), Czech, Slovakia, Hungary (recommend Bikers Route 66 camp site), Romania (Transfargan and Transalpina), Moldova, Ukraine (Arabat Spit), Russia, ferry to Turkey (Trabzon-Bayburt, Road of Stones, Cappadocia, Pukkalle, Kas, friendliest people), greece,, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania (great trail riding), Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland Austria, Lichtenstein, germany, Holland and Home to Scotland.
We had no problems at any border, were not asked for bribes and met only friendly people. Make sure your paperwork is good. Daily costs were 40-50 Euros in E Europe (mainly cheap hotels) & 50-60 Euros in W Europe (mainly camping) each. Any questions just ask. Andy B
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  #26  
Old 2 Feb 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post

Look at what Lois rides NOW, not what she rode when she was starting out as a raw beginner. That Serow she had was junk from the day she started. She should have never taken it. The book will make this very clear.

Lois NOW is riding another Yamaha. But a nicer, newer one. A TT250. One of the toughest little bikes out there and reasonably priced. I listed this bike in my initial list back a few posts. It's way way better than the Serow, is light and can be made fairly low. (lowering links)

The Serow is a mid 80's design, the TT250 came along in about 2005.
yeah i dont suggest she tries to get a serow, sorry if i gave that impression!
you wont find one less than 15yrs old now? when did they stop making them? they'll all be field bikes by now

just get her to read the book and she'll either come over all 'girl power' or be put off the whole idea forever. the second book wasnt as good, maybe because she didnt have to cope with an old underpowered overloaded bike?
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  #27  
Old 3 Feb 2010
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No worries Dave,
Just pointing out that Lois's bike was well knackered to begin with.
Funny thing is, Yam continued to make the XT225 Serow's into the 2000's. Like maybe until 2002 or something? Hard to believe, I know!

If Lois had started on a new one, she'd have been fine. But that POS had her doing multiple repairs and rebuilds (usually by guys who did not do great work) from AK to Argentina!

Made for a funny story! But having traveled like that in my youth, I'm done with it. As a former Bultaco owner, I've had my share of pushing bikes as opposed to riding them.
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  #28  
Old 3 Feb 2010
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Now that weve isolated a few issues and have mentioned one particular aspect I believe that it will now be prudent to start talking specifics.

"I have no idea how much of my path will be off-road... but we want to leave the door open if we like it to head across Kazakhstan"

I still stand by recommending the Big BMW GS for two up riding - and as was correctly noted it is for TWO UP... so not so much of an issue for the 5 ft3 lass besides these bikes are not as big as they look and the seat hight can be reduced. they are however bloody heavy!

In an ideal world take the same bikes so that you have back ups of everything, although it does leave the door open to having to carry three of the same part that the particular bike is reknown for breaking... I dont think that this would be an issue for you.

I am still guessing that you are going to be buying second hand.
Three (older) bikes spring to mind instantly:

Yamaha XT600 - big enough to handle the motorways comfortably and the luggage and in a contingency carry a pillion if their bike breaks down or are injured and cant ride and need to get to hospital / hotel / bar or giving a lift...
The stalwart of the travel market and there are always loads for sale in Germany for less than €1000 check ebay out

Honda Africa Twin 750cc Another bike thats earned its reputation in the adventure travel market, but possibly on the larger side than you require. Again can be brought for peanuts.
Along side this to a lesser extent the Yamaha XTZ750 Tenere. (I would recommend the honda... but buy the Yammy cos I'm passionate)

Suzuki DR350 - Has a taller gearing (and 5th gear) than its newer 400 sibling so is more relaxed on motorways. Its also a taller bike than the 600, but in reality if you are already an accomplished rider you will adapt to it. and in a year you can become accomplished.

Anything smaller could pose a liability when you hit a fast A road or downright dangerous on a motorway when you cant keep up with lorries


New bikes I would recommend the Yamaha XT660z Tenere (new one 2008 onwards) but this is not a short bike. as an all around unit it is the ideal bike for what you described, but its very very tall.
Tall bikes can be intimidating but experience overcomes that.


Someone also mentioned that Kawasaki KLE 500 and its a great newer cheap bike alongside the Aprillia Pegaso, and considerably more expensive Honda transalp.

fact of the matter is you'll buy it, ride it then sell it afterwards to reduce the cost of the holiday, and on those terms a cheap Yamaha XT600 with large tank (tenere) and existing skid plate, and side panniers from someone who has done the same thing will be perfect.

G
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  #29  
Old 4 Feb 2010
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Originally Posted by DAVSATO View Post
yeah i dont suggest she tries to get a serow, sorry if i gave that impression!
you wont find one less than 15yrs old now? when did they stop making them? they'll all be field bikes by now

just get her to read the book and she'll either come over all 'girl power' or be put off the whole idea forever. the second book wasnt as good, maybe because she didnt have to cope with an old underpowered overloaded bike?
The XT225 Serow production ended in Japan in 2005, when it was replaced by the XT250 Serow. My own 250 Serow's now 4 1/2 years old and covered 73,000 miles. The XT225 continued in production of a few more years in Brazil.

The TTR250 has the edge for heavier off road use, due to it's far superior suspension but I really rate my own XT250 Serow.
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  #30  
Old 4 Feb 2010
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Originally Posted by photographicsafaris View Post
Now that weve isolated a few issues and have mentioned one particular aspect I believe that it will now be prudent to start talking specifics.

"I have no idea how much of my path will be off-road... but we want to leave the door open if we like it to head across Kazakhstan"

I still stand by recommending the Big BMW GS for two up riding - and as was correctly noted it is for TWO UP... so not so much of an issue for the 5 ft3 lass besides these bikes are not as big as they look and the seat hight can be reduced. they are however bloody heavy!
Well mate, you've kind of revealed one of the major weak spots with the BM right there, eh? Weight! The bike is a bit of a Pig with a 1150 weighing in at about 600 lbs. wet, no luggage. Compare that with anything!

I would also point out the multiple problems the GS's seem to repeatedly have. Shaft bearings, final drive, trans, ABS, broken frames, mysterious electrical issues and on an on.

The BMW is simply too big, too heavy for a newbie. It's also overpriced for it's only so-so reliability. Many have done very well on them but there is a large percentage of riders with documented probs. For a newbie, I'd give the BM a pass. Only the F800GS (or F650 twin) would make my short list, both super great bikes but expensive.

I'd not stress much about taking the same bike. If a Japanese bike is taken and is well set up and serviced before departure, chances of major show stopping problems are unlikely. Main thing is get a bike that makes everyone smile.

Also, in your list of new singles you neglected the venerable DR650. I believe this bike is currently sold in Austria? Unlike the UK where it's been banished for a decade. The DR can be lowered enough to accomodate a 5' 0" tall woman. I've ridden one set up this way. It worked fantastic, even lowered down! This bike is simple, light, air/oil cooled and is quite hard to break.

Better road bike than the DR350 but not that much heavier, so off road is quite good. Can do about 47 to 50 mpg, very low maintenance. Could even be used Two Up but would be cramped unless both parties are smaller folks.

For two up the Vstrom DL650 is hard to beat given any realistic comparison. Price, weight, reliability, pack-a-bility, versatility. It's simply
world class and does well nearly everywhere.

I agree the XT600 would make a great choice as well. Not sure the AT would be ideal for a newbie rider.

Last edited by Mickey D; 5 Feb 2010 at 19:16.
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