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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 14 Jan 2014
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Maximum K's on the clock for second hand?

Hi all,

I was just wondering what other Hubbers think about buying second hand i.e. for a big overland 6 month journey in S.America, what's the maximum K's you would feel comfortable buying, assuming the bike had already been used for ADVriding, and was something reliable like a single-cylinder Honda, Suzuki, etc?


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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Depends on the bike ....

IMO, it depends which bike. Among big 650 singles...we're spoilt for choice. IMO, all are pretty good. In terms of pure longevity I would rate the 650 class something like this:

1. Suzuki DR650SE
2. KLR650 / XT660R (tie)
3. XR650L
4. BMW F650/G650 series (F, Dakar, G)
5. KTM 640/690 et al
6. Husqvarna 610/630/ Terra 650

I've owned the DR, XR-L and the KLR and owned two KTM 640's some years ago. None of my bikes ever broke down but lots of friends ride these same bikes ... so I've benefited from riding with them ... and have towed a few home.

There is a lot of "unknown" when you're talking high mileage used bikes.
It's really hard to know how hard they were used and how frequently they were serviced. A loaded ADV bike ridden fast off road ages quickly. Try to look for tell tales of this wear ... or hope for a forthright an honest seller.

On high mileage bikes lots of things wear out over time and hard use. Most buyers never give them a thought ... but things like Wheel bearings, Swingarm bearings and steering head bearings, cracked frame or rear sub frame ... ALL can be worn out or broken. On any high mileage bike I would carefully check them ... no matter the brand of bike. Remove seat and tank, side panels ... put an expert eye on the bike ... or PAY and expert to do it for you.

The Japanese have a clear advantage with electrics. BMW have the poorest showing. Some of the above bikes can have cracked, bent or broken frames or rear subframes. The KLR, XR-L Honda and BMW all have a history of this ... especially if overloaded. I've been there, seen bad results in person on all three of the these bikes.

The KTM's and Husqvarnas are so rare that it's hard to collect data, especially the Husqvarnas. Almost no one is traveling on them.

We don't see many big Yamaha singles in the USA, Mexico, Cent. America or S. America. But I've read enough Ride reports from riders in EU, Russia and Mongolia to be convinced they are as good or better than all Yamaha's that have come before. So top of the heap for sure.

KLR's have a few issues that need addressing. Once done, pretty tough bike and cheap as chips to buy here in the USA.
The DR650 is, IMO, the longest lasting and least problematic. Also a pure bargain used in USA. But it does have ONE fatal flaw that happens once in a great while. 3rd gear failure which can ruin the whole motor. But hundreds of very high mileage DR650's are out there, rolling along ... including my bike at 55,000 miles. Not ONE problem.

Everyone has their favorite bikes and swear by them. Tons of happy BMW riders out there who've never had a problem ... but they DO wear out, just like all bikes do over time and hard use.

Read the ride reports, ask long time owners to learn the true history of issues. Read owner forums. The new Chinese made G650 model BMW IMO, are the best yet. But very few out there with high miles at this point.

I would buy the NEWEST and lowest mile bike you can afford. Even a low miles bike can be worn out. After ten years things like bearings, rubber lines and hoses, brake system internals ... all can begin to age. Wiring looms can be abraded on older bikes ... once it rubs through ... problems!

Unskilled owners can also spell an early doom for a perfectly good bike. So, roll of the dice. Think positive ... all will go your way! (I hope!)
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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Its not the km ... it is how it has been treated.

Frequent oil changes with good oil.
Air filter kept clean. No inlet leaks.
Regular valve adjustments.

Some of that can be assessed by the condition of valve cover nuts, oil drain bolt.
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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Most often (in my experience), it's not the engine, but the frame, suspension etc. that falls apart on an overland touring bike. People tend to overload the machines, they get dropped, vibration, corrugated roads etc. I've seen 'new' Triumph Tigers XC's with cracked subframes after less than a year and 40k. And depending on the make, they all have different soft spots and issues. (e.g. KTM 690 use the fuel tank as a stressed member in the rear; Older Honda trailbikes have a tendency to bend their sub's; etc.)


Assuming they were looked after properly:

60k for a low-stressed engine like XT600, XR650L, DR650 are low. 60k for a high-stressed engine like a KTM LC4 is a lot.

And listen to the top gear- spending lots of kms in top gear with a heavily loaded scoot tends to wear out the top-gear. My XT600 hummed like a truck gearbox after 60k.

My XT600 needed it's 1st engine rebuild at 90k, but that was because I allowed it to overheat.
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Old 15 Jan 2014
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Originally Posted by Squily View Post
Assuming they were looked after properly:
Thanks Squily!

I want to buy some sort of enduro bike in S.America but not sure whether to buy new or second-hand. Maybe the best solution would be to buy from a Honda dealer, but buy a second hand bike with a low figure on the clock, but you see some good deals from other hubbers/overlanders selling their bikes. Do you know of any tell tale signs the bikes been thrashed without taking it to bits? If you had five minutes to decide to buy a motorbike or not, what things would you look at?


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Old 15 Jan 2014
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The Honda 400 Falcon is sold in S. America. (made in Brazil) Other bikes may be for sale as well. But Brazil is expensive (generally) Mostly 125's and 250's. Big bikes (over 400cc) are very expensive in general.

Word is Suzuki have an assembly plant in Colombia and produce DR650's and
Vstroms there. I have no further details ... but this info comes from a local. Check at Suzuki dealers to see what they've got for sale.

Bikes in S. America are generally about DOUBLE the cost as in the USA. So a NEW DR650 that costs about $6000 USD in the USA, will cost $12,000 USD in S. America. (mas o menos) Good news is you can legally resell it when your trip is done, but can never "import" it to USA.
(you can ride it round as a tourist ... but not register it permanently)

Buying a bike from another traveler is great if you can get the title in your name and work out details with transferring the TVIP. Most borders want to see an ORIGINAL title in your name. Things like Bill of Sale or notarized notes generally will not work. But by far the best value if you can do it.

Or you could buy a nice bike in USA and ride South. You can ride from USA border to Panama in two weeks easily ... but better to take two months!

Tell Tale signs are good to know ...if you have experience and know how to read them. But even then, it's not 100% right everytime. I've bought and sold 50 bikes in the last 20 years ...mostly good luck. So experience counts ...

Looking for tell tales is hard to explain in writing. But the obvious stuff is:
1. Look under bike. Are the lower frame rails bashed and dented in? Is the
shock linkage pieces dinged up? Is the underside of the swingarm gouged?
Bash plate sand blasted?

2. Check the steering stops. Look for rust or bent stops from hard contact (indicates possible crash) .

3. Big dents in rims (indicates bike ridden HARD and FAST)

4. How is the chain and sprockets. Poor chain and sprocket condition can reflect on how the owner cared for the rest of the bike generally.

5. Look at the oil. clean or dirty? Bad smell to it means it got HOT! (not good)

6. Have the electrics been bodged into? If so ... be careful.

7. Engine Sound: This one is hard for the inexperienced ... start engine, and listen carefully. Let it get HOT. How does it sound? Do a meditation and a Zen prayer ... maybe some wisdom will come your way?

Some bikes may click and clack and actually be OK. Normal. Others, those clacks may not be good. It's hard if you don't know the specific model. Expert help is good on this one.

8. Ride the bike. All the gears there? Does it go down the road straight? Weave at speed? Turn left and right evenly, neutral in corners? Brakes strong with no pulsing? does it accelerate OK? Idle smooth? Start when HOT?
A 10 minute ride can judge most all the above.
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Old 15 Jan 2014
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Originally Posted by ridetheworld View Post
If you had five minutes to decide to buy a motorbike or not, what things would you look at?
Probably take me 10-15 minutes, but...

  • Do front and back wheels track straight/true? Could be a bent frame, crash, or worse.
  • How straight is the subframe? Sometimes things can be bent back (on steel frames), but it can tell you something of the history or treatment the bike received.
  • buckled/bent rims
  • loose/broken/missing/replaced spokes tell a story

Rubbers and seals
Something most people neglect is seals on the engine and suspension- look for cracks, leaks or even replacement- it's an old trick to patch up a dodgy shaft-bearing with a new seal- by the time the new seal is worn out, you'll be a long way from the seller.

Look for any play on bearings- i.e. wheel bearings, swing arm, steering head, shafts etc.

Engine noise:
  • valves or tappets. most trail bikes can be adjusted, but some bikes use shims and they're a right pain to do. old tool marks on valve adjuster caps means someone has been servicing them- good or bad.
  • timing chain
  • grinding noise could be main bearings
  • clonking noise that increases/decreases along with revs can be big-ends
  • whining noise from gearbox is worn gears (if only one or two)- could be as bad as a bearing failure if it's noisy in all gears
  • color of the oil. condition of the oil-sump bolt (toolmarks for signs of work etc)
  • if water-cooled: condition/color of the radiator fluid- brown/rusty indicates dodgy maintenance.
  • if you think the bike might be overheating or the seller says it uses a little water, remove the radiator cap (when the engine is cold) and start the engine. If revving it to 4000rpm results in water spraying everywhere, there could be blown gasket/waterjacket.
  • condition of the sparkplug- grey or even black is good. fouled is not. brown is not
  • presence of oil in exhaust = not good
  • let the bike idle for 2-3 minutes. if a blib on the throttle produce oily smoke but it clears, it could be valvestem seals. not necessarily serious if it's not excessive.
  • run the bike downhill against compression- if oily smoke, then the rings are dodgy. you can also check for too much sump compression by checking the breather pipe- normally they go into the airbox and the airbox will have 'pooling' or excessive oil inside.
  • remove the airfilter and look for dust/dirt inside the intakes. also- lots of dirt inside the airbox tells you what the bike's been doing and reflects maintenance. don't be too critical of 'dirty' air-cleaners: a dirty air-cleaner actually works better than a new one (especially true of foam-filter ones), but within limits

Gear changes
  • clunky/grinding gearshift into 1st- could be clutch related, but also wrong oil. If you're lucky, it's clutch adjustment. If not, you could be looking at a complete clutch overhaul.
  • jumping out of gear: worn cogs
  • struggling to change gears when moving- could be bent gear-forks, or misaligned gears due to bearing damage/failure.

  • Does everything work like it should, and if not, why not? (e.g. sometimes people bypass sidestand switch which could be ok, but if lights are disconnected/bypassed... could be a dodgy magneto)
  • check for repairs on the harness or wiring and how it was done (e.g. professional or wires twisted together and duck-taped)
  • fuses: old fuses means they haven't been replaced for a while. new fuses = recent replacement and possible shorts or issues
  • if you have a voltage meter, measure the voltage drop over the battery terminals with the engine off and lights on to get an indication of battery condition. you can also test the output of the alternator
  • warning lights- are they operational or bypassed?
  • start the engine and switch everything on- do they all work and keep working when you move the handlebars lock-to-lock?

  • new paintjob could mean a crash
  • broken or replaced bodyparts tell a story
  • original vs aftermarket speedo assemblies (could be bike has more distance on it than claimed or it's been in a crash)
  • leaks/rust on or inside the fuel tank
  • presence/absence/condition of fuel filter
  • seat condition- original seat in good condition generally means relatively low-mileage or a well-maintained bike

  • Saggy or bottoming (front and rear) are probably worn out
  • Too hard suspension indicates the bike is setup for load and was used that way predominantly
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Old 15 Jan 2014
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My '83 R80G/S had already done 200,000 km including a 4 year RTW trip two up with its original owner and wife when I bought it. I did an overhaul followed by a 32,000 km trans-Africa trip without a problem. As has been said it is how it has been treated and what work has already been done to it that matter, not mileage. It has now done 280,000 and is still my everyday transport.
If gaffer tape doesn't fix it then you haven't used enough tape
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Old 15 Jan 2014
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Originally Posted by ridetheworld View Post
the maximum K's you would feel comfortable buying
One problem is, that you can probably never be 100% certain, if all K´s are on that clock.

I would look at the bikes general condition, and how it runs, rather than a number.

With proper care, todays bikes last longer than many people think, and without it, expensive overhaul could be needed even on a "low-mileage" bike.
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Old 15 Jan 2014
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Concur all the above. Condition is infinitely more important than mileage - who's to say that 30,000k bike you are looking at hasn't really got 130,000k on it (or been clocked)?

Problem is how much experience have you got to be able to spot a genuine good condition bike and not a tarted up wreck? Be honest with your self and take an experienced person with you if you haven't got that knowledge.

If you can't find such a person I would then fall back on buying the newest bike you can so the slow wearing parts like suspension, brake internals etc are reasonable - buy simple and new(ish) rather than complex and old(er) ie think the 650 singles over the big twins. Also often the best purchasing is one that has been tarted up for a trip but never been on it - plenty of those out there if you are not in a hurry.

Hope this helps

back on the road again

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