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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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Old 11 Apr 2010
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London to Mongolia to Tokyo: F650 Dakar vs TTR 250 vs XT600E

I'm off to Tokyo this summer via Iran, the Stans and Mongolia. Was planning to take an AT but have found its just a bit too top heavy and porky for my liking, so looking at changing the bike. Ita also immaculate and I don't wan to ruin it! I reckon I'll have around £2k to spend give or take a few hundred and would like to get something back at the end...

So...much of the riding is on roads but then again roads may well deteriorate after Iran (Mongolia!?). I believe that the F650 Dakar could be up to the job but the question is, is it really? My concern would be the water system going on me and leaving me stranded or waiting a long time.

So here's some questions about some potential options

F650 Dakar:

- How bad is the water pump / system problem?
- Can it be made reliable before you go and is there an aftermarket fix that improves things? I've heard it can go at any point.
- What other nasties are there?
- If buying one with 30k on the clock (my budget), what checks should I do to see its not knackered.

At the other extreme there is the TTR250. David Lambeth recommended this bike on simplicity, reliability and handling (when packed light). I am going minimal and lightweight and this idea quite appeals to me.

modern TTR250

I would set up much like Lois Price: Trans-Africa - The Bike

- Would the lack of power be horrible down to Istanbul?
- Is there even a lack of power? I heard they are quite pokey, at least compared to older 250s.
- What might it be like at altitude - The Pamir and Kyrgystan are high! Think the beemer might be much better here?
- Does 'protection' i.e. a faring really make a big difference apart from on the motorway?
- Can it cope with crap fuel - it has a highish compression ratio. Think the beemer might be better here.
- Anyone got any experience with the TTR250??

I guess a compromise would be an XT600E. Its a bit vanilla though and I might as well go for the BM and get the comfort no?

I'll be solo so want something reliable. Also I don't really have much time to hang around for parts etc if things go wrong. That said, I don't want to be miserable crawling along for half the trip...

I'm inclined to pack VERY light and take the light bike. Thoughts?
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Old 11 Apr 2010
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Light and very light. Sounds like my uncomfortable but seriously fun trip to Kamchatka next year on my WR250R. I just had a great day exploring the green lanes around Hungerford before hacking it back on the motorway to High Wycombe. Got some funny looks passing people on my muddy 250 at 73mph on the M40. That is one capable bike.
Find out details of my 2011 trip to Siberia on a lightweight dirtbike:
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Old 11 Apr 2010
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its all about opinion (opinions are not right or wrong they are just opinions) mine would be the xt600e with a corbin seat best of all worlds.....
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
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Old 11 Apr 2010
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The F650 Dakar is my travel bike. The TTR is my wifes trail bike and I've got a large tanked DRZ400E for adventure/ trail riding with some camping gear which is crossing the Simpson Desert this August. But if I would be only allowed to take one bike overseas with a large amount of dirt I'd take the Dakar without hesitation. Do a search on them here and filter out the BS from people that only ever saw one parked or have no feedback beyond the original BS.

I've bought a 3AJ Tenere off David and whilst he is amazing with those bikes, he can be referred to as having mild luddite tendencies. Also keep in he never actually did a trip like yours.

The cooling on the Dakar with the correct preparation (check out my blog) shouldn't fail. The later models are the best. Nothing wrong with liquid cooling. Where as in traffic an air cooled can overheat which happened to my air cooled Tenere. The liquid cooled just turns the fan on. Take a good maintenance free battery and you won't need a kickstarter. Just make yourself some jump cables. Never used one though. FI is awesome. Dakar's need good suspension. Check out the Yamaha forks mod on ADVrider.com in thumpers.

The TTR is a great bullitproof trail bike. But that's it. It's crap and kind off dangerous on the long straight roads. Lois only really took that because she could pick it up. Only not in every case.

Get a TTR anyway and learn how to ride on the dirt on it and sell it before you leave. That's the best thing you can do for a RTW trip. Personal preparation before bike preparation. All the rest is hype. And this is coming from someone who did the bike preparation first.
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Old 12 Apr 2010
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Its all a matter of opinion, but you asked for opinons ... so ...

I would forget the TTR right now.
250 cc is not enough on graded gravel roads. As for the Pamir? The combination of carburettor plus 250 cc?? ... tedious at best.

The F650 would be my choice too. Its a bit on the heavy side. but ... Fuel injection rocks - especially if you have to deal with bad fuel and high altitude riding - possibly at the same time. And BMW have the best FI in the business. The water pump thing, as far as I know, fails only after a lot of miles. Change it before you go and its very unlikely to re-occur before Tokyo. If you are worried about it, take a spare kit. Motorworks have the replacement seal and pump impellor kit for £22 plus VAT.

I just changed the oil/water seals on an X-Challenge (same engine) but left the impellor in. Just changing the seals alone is a 15 minute job. Get the seals and impellor changed before you go, and take just another set of seals with you as spares.

To be honest, I think you are mad worrying about the engine in the Dakar. I think its the best adventure bike engine ever made. The rest of the bike is "average". Its a bit heavy. The suspension is basic. ... but the engine is excellent and comes with a good size electrical generator.

I personally bumped into 4 Dakars that rode across Russia / Siberia / Mongolia last year. If you ask is the Dakar 'man enough for the job' of Mongolia et al, I would tell you that probably between 100 and 200 Dakars do it every year. I dont know how many fail every year and have to be shipped back to europe after dying trying, but I have never heard of any.

I met only 1 TTR 250 on the road last year, and he was constantly bitching about the power and being unable to get much above 80 km/h even on full throttle, being overtaken by trucks on dusty roads etc. And he was riding it in Far Northern Siberia, well beyond where you are planning to go ... dont just worry about the lack of power before Istanbul ... the lack of power will drive you nuts all the way to Tokyo. As a follow up, the guy with the TTR250 I met in Northern Siberia traded it in for a DRZ400 as soon as he got back to a bike shop - in Irkutsk, Siberia.

Unless you are specifically trying to push the boat out regarding route (like Ed) or are considerably shorter / lighter than average (Lois) I would not want to go smaller than 400cc.
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Old 12 Apr 2010
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thanks - what about the modern, fuel injected 400cc yamahas and hondas? Wrs and CFRs. Are these rubbish for loading up even light? Quick machines...
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Old 12 Apr 2010
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There is more to engines than size. Besides the Suzuki most 400 range bikes are enduro machines. Built for performance with light components like titanium valves etc and short maintenance intervalves. I wouldn't even consider any of those bikes.

If you're looking for a dirt ready travel bike with reliability and weight as the main features, than look at the DR650. It's a proven design, but like everything else on the market comes short of ideal. It needs a large tank and suspension work. But it's cheap and light even after all those mods. This is why it's the most popular budget adventure bike in Australia where it gets used to cross the country as cross the forresty single trails. All with ease at low cost. But it's no modern bike, nor a performance machine.
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Old 12 Apr 2010
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my thoughts on the F650 GS/Dakar

Hi dabarley

i have been riding my F650 GS around the World since 2003, just under 200,000 miles so far.
The problems with the water pump/system that you have asked about are few and far between. After 140,000 miles I changed mine and it was on its way out but I had not experienced any problems - I just thought it a good time to check!
Other nasties....not really. Its a good idea to get more progressive fork springs and take fork seals with you and know how to do the change as they do go even with the tougher springs. But all in all I have replaced around 5 sets? but that's in 7 years with a lot of tough off road.
These bikes love to be ridden hard - so someone thrashing one with only 30k on it would be tough in my opinion. As an interesting note: it was the only bike that the USA police force was unable to knacker!
The things to make sure you do - lock tight all nuts bolts etc - but then again I would do this on any bike that I was going to take off on a long trip with off road on the route. Take out the cat. Put on a chain feed. Try to change those fiddly star-headed hex nuts into allen. Small changes to foot pegs etc so its more comfortable when standing (which you will be doing a lot of in Mongolia).

If you are interested in some of the alterations I have made and also need some information re route, GPS refs, and want to read a little of our trip report through from Japan - Siberia - Mongolia - the Stans - Iran etc then go to visit our website 2ridetheworld.com
we have a downloadable GPS file at the bottom of the front page.

On an end note: this bike will go anywhere - its tough enough to cope with some of the harshest terrain in the World (I should know Ive taken mine there) the only thing stopping this bike is the capability of the rider. Its also got the engine capacity to have the power to 'get you over' the sticky areas with just a blat of the throttle plus its comfortable to sit at a decent speed fully laden for 8 hours+ without too much of numb bum.

OH - and yes at 5'3' I can pick up the bike fully laden..only once mind you..after that I have to unload if I am trying it on my own.

hope this helps!!
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Old 12 Apr 2010
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Kamchatka tour

Originally Posted by edteamslr View Post
Light and very light. Sounds like my uncomfortable but seriously fun trip to Kamchatka next year on my WR250R. I just had a great day exploring the green lanes around Hungerford before hacking it back on the motorway to High Wycombe. Got some funny looks passing people on my muddy 250 at 73mph on the M40. That is one capable bike.
Hi, can you tell more about your planned Kamchatka ride. I am planning a similar one for "some years" later.
"where the traveller goes, nobody knows ! "
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