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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 4 Dec 2012
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Musings on how big a bike you really need

I went to the Melbourne Motorcycle show a week or so ago.

Getting up close to a fully kitted out BMW 1200 for the first time I was astounded how huge this beast was.
Lisa Thomas and her husband from "Two ride the world" fame had their bikes there as well (unfortunately missed their talk) and again thought how the hell do you get these monstrosity's around the world without constant hassles associated with the sheer size and weight of the things.

I have been kicking around this site for a couple of years and had decided that for my trip I wanted to travel light, using a small/medium sized motorcycle not unlike those available anywhere in the world in common use. I did not want to look like a spaceman riding a machine that was beyond the imagination of 90% of the planet.

Of course each to their own. I have read many threads advocating big bikes, small bikes etc etc but a common thread I keep reading by those that have been there and done that is that they would do it next time with a smaller machine.
Just wondering what percentage of overlanders are actually buying these behemoths for their big trips and would they do it again?


Cheers,

James
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  #2  
Old 4 Dec 2012
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I bought a new BMW R80GS in 1991 because I thought it was the only bike to travel on and 160,000 miles later it has proved to be a good, reliable, long lasting machine including some long trips, UK to Oz, South America and trans-Africa, but all of these trips could have just as easily been done on something smaller. Having done some cycle touring I have realised that travelling more slowly brings its own advantages and have just bought a Honda XR 125 which I may well take on my next trip which I hope will be to Central Asia next summer.

I have enjoyed travelling on the 80GS, which is 50kg lighter than an 1150, but am looking forward to riding something more managable and cheaper to run which I think will bring a different experience to my trip.

The jury is still out on which is better but I suspect the answer will be inconclusive with pros and cons on either side.
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  #3  
Old 4 Dec 2012
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600cc class bike at 145Kg weight is all you need

a bike in the 600cc class will do nicely, not to heavy to handle, not to flimsy on the long run and still very robust, easy to store away, doesn't show up for to much, fuel consumption is ok, very easy to customise and to work on too if needed, no fancy ABS or other electronic crap that going to suffer.

Don't know about the GS type battle ships, but with my 30Lt ADV-tank on my LC4 from 2002, I can cover about 550Km if I take it steady, can easily ride all day and have plenty of grunt and comfort (if you can call a KTM comfortable) but well yeah the low weight of about 145Kg plus me and 35Kg of luggage on it is all it's needed to go virtually everywhere

Now I don't want to declare the old LC4 the perfect bike for long trips, even if this old tackle can cope with it, but actually every bike starting with 400cc up to let's say 650cc will do nicely and is proven by many travellers to be the sort of perfect size engine to be happy with.
And yeah depending on your travelling style a 250cc and it's low fuel consumption will do very well and can be a superior bike compare to many big tractor's regarding there low profile and easier blending in to the local traffic.
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  #4  
Old 5 Dec 2012
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Elsewhere I posted a summary of my experience with a Kawasaki KLX250s during a ride of several thousand km. in the Yukon and Alaska this past summer. My usual ride, a 750 cc. ZR7-S stayed home for that experimental trip.

My conclusion was that the economic virtues of a bike of this size (well, at least of the KLX250s) for serious travelling are a tad oversold. Price wise (in Canada) it does not cost that much less than a KLR 650. And although, as you might expect, the 250 is extremely fuel efficient to start, after you load it up with tools and luggage, attach a decent size wind screen, stash the absolutely necessary 10 extra litres of gas (tiny fuel tank) and start moving at real highway speeds, the fuel efficiency drops precipitously into the range of nothing special. My impression is that a small engine working very hard can be less efficient than a larger one loafing along.

Had I purchased and ridden a KLR 650 instead I strongly suspect the trip would have cost me no more than it did on the 250. And a KLR has a more comfortable seat.

Of course the KLX weighs about 100 lb. less than the 650 and there is an agility/fun factor which I thoroughly enjoyed. The KLX also felt safer to me than a larger bike simply because it seemed more controllable in all circumstances.

So some of these things are not quite what they initially appear.

Good luck.

Norm
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  #5  
Old 5 Dec 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by normw View Post
. My impression is that a small engine working very hard can be less efficient than a larger one loafing along.

Norm
Not to mention the life of a small capacity engine when howling down the highway for hours on end at maximum revs (keep checking the oil level at least).
The whole point of a small engined bike is to slow down and enjoy more of the trip with less emphasis on the destination?
"Low and slow" - lower in the saddle than a lot of the behemoths currently in production and, definitely, slower in the journey (check out some threads about riding bicycles).

But, yea, the BMW 1200GS is about half of all the sales of BMW bikes at present and next year, with the water cooling jacket version, BMW will expect to continue with those sales figures; at the recent bike show here in the UK the price remains TBC. Right now, they are discounting, a bit, on the price of the current model which is totally logical. However, up until recently it has not been possible to negotiate over the asking price of the bike (since 2004 when they first came to the show rooms) simply because the sales staff could sell every bike delivered from the factory in Berlin.
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  #6  
Old 7 Dec 2012
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I'm reminded of the spoof advertising slogan: "Eat sh*t; ten million flies can't be wrong!" In other words, just because something sells well, it doesn't mean it's good - or in this case, appropriate to the task. I'm not knocking the 1200, which seems to me a very fine vehicle, but I wonder how much of that huge sales figure is people who have persuaded themselves that anything less just isn't enough.

For me, I have recently downsized from litre+ bikes to a nice 650 single for my riding, and I'm all the happier for it. No long trips yet, but I can't see it being any less capable than something twice the size. I recently did a 450-mile round trip over two days, and it coped very well. It took me slightly longer because I wasn't doing the fast bits at 90+, but that's part of ther reason I changed.

I read something recently (might even have been on here) that "on a trip in a car, you see more than you can take in; on a bicycle or walking, you take in more than you can see." I think that's true of bigger/faster vs smaller/slower bikes too.
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  #7  
Old 10 Dec 2012
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i traveled london to capetown on my r100gs, and yes it was a handfull at times, but it was never stressed out, always (sort of) kept going and never minded how much fuel/water/food/usless rubbish you carried. a big plus was it was dead easy to pick up being so low with sticky outy cylinders (my first rule of choosing a bike is u should be able to pick it up fully loaded) and im not a big person. i did another trip on a xt 600 tenere which used about 2/3 the amount of fuel, was more fun off road, struggled a bit on the windy hils and was a bugger to pick up, even though it was a lot lighter. i think ease of maintenance, how much you have to modify it to get it usefull and comfort are all the important bits. some people will always ride big bikes and some will allways ride little-uns. try a few, c what you like best.
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  #8  
Old 10 Dec 2012
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p.s. once youre away from home youll probably not go quicker than 50mph anyway...
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  #9  
Old 11 Dec 2012
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Originally Posted by mavis cruet View Post
i traveled london to capetown on my r100gs, and yes it was a handfull at times, but it was never stressed out, always (sort of) kept going and never minded how much fuel/water/food/usless rubbish you carried. a big plus was it was dead easy to pick up being so low with sticky outy cylinders (my first rule of choosing a bike is u should be able to pick it up fully loaded) and im not a big person. i did another trip on a xt 600 tenere which used about 2/3 the amount of fuel, was more fun off road, struggled a bit on the windy hils and was a bugger to pick up, even though it was a lot lighter. i think ease of maintenance, how much you have to modify it to get it usefull and comfort are all the important bits. some people will always ride big bikes and some will allways ride little-uns. try a few, c what you like best.
We did the same trip on the same bike. It was chosen because at the time it appeared to be the only bike suitable for this sort of trip 2 up. It was the ideal bike as 2 people carry more stuff the whole weight and manageability thing goes out of the window anyway - it's going to be heavy! Incidently, our cruising speed was 60mph but this was also the maximum speed we ever reached on the trip. the bike in everyday use now happilly cruises at 75 so I suppose you could say the engine was unnecessarily large and wasteful on fuel.

I'm a big chap so manhandling a big loaded bike has not really been an issue but I would never consider taking a 1200GS near a 3rd world country for a whole load of valid reasons, most of which relate to the junk that has been added to a modern GS (compared to the R100GS) that adds a lot of weight and complexity but contributes nothing to its ability as a overland bike.

At the other end of the scale (and not considering the pillion aspect which would rule out anything smaller than an F800GS for me), I think there is a bottom limit on practical size for a trans continental trip. By the time the bike is loaded with adequate fuel, camping kit, other luggage etc saving a few kilos by choosing a 125 is irrelevant. I would say the bottom limit is 400cc. I would consider doing a trans Africa on a DRZ 400 but I'd want to travel very light and I would gear the bike up to help improve mpg and perhaps reduce wear and tear on the engine.

I can fully appreciate the idea of travelling slower and seeing more but I find that on any extended trip there are less interesting parts that you just want to get past.
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Old 11 Dec 2012
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Originally Posted by Magnon View Post
By the time the bike is loaded with adequate fuel, camping kit, other luggage etc saving a few kilos by choosing a 125 is irrelevant.
I have to disagree with you here as I am considering taking my newly purchased Honda XR125 to Central Asia next summer, I will be saving more than a few kilos by taking the same kit that I take on cycling tours plus a few spares, cables, plug and a couple of inner tubes. It cruises at 45-50 mph which is 4-5 times faster than I go on my bicycle that I had also considered taking.
Although I have not tested it on a long run yet the seat is as wide as the one on my R80GS so should be comfortable and the chances of me taking it have increased considerably as I have just checked the petrol consumption and it used 9 litres in 202 miles, that is just over 100 mpg, at that rate the 12 litre tank should take me over 250 miles.
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Old 12 Dec 2012
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Originally Posted by mark manley View Post
I have to disagree with you here as I am considering taking my newly purchased Honda XR125 to Central Asia next summer, I will be saving more than a few kilos by taking the same kit that I take on cycling tours plus a few spares, cables, plug and a couple of inner tubes. It cruises at 45-50 mph which is 4-5 times faster than I go on my bicycle that I had also considered taking.
Although I have not tested it on a long run yet the seat is as wide as the one on my R80GS so should be comfortable and the chances of me taking it have increased considerably as I have just checked the petrol consumption and it used 9 litres in 202 miles, that is just over 100 mpg, at that rate the 12 litre tank should take me over 250 miles.
I've always worked on the 'how little can I take with me' principle although it's more difficult when you're travelling with a passenger. That said I've met a few long distance cycle travellers and have always been impressed with how minimal their kit is. On a motorbike you can probably always get to the next town even in remote places so it's all to easy to go for the soft option and stay in a hotel/hostel but you can carry enough kit to make camping the easiest/cheapest and most comfortable option but on a bicycle you're options are lmited although often this can be part of the adventure.

Probably splitting hairs but cruising on a small bike is different to cruising on a larger bike in that at even 45mph you will have to work the gearbox every time you reach a small incline or headwind but this is only a matter of accepting the differences.

Are you intending to ride across Europe to Asia or are you shipping the bike in? If you are shipping it in I can definately see the advantages of a small bike.
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Old 12 Dec 2012
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Yes I plan to ride to Central Asia and possibly back via a different route although no definite plan as to return and possibly none until I get there. My thoughts so far are leave in April and head south to Greece, Turkey, Iran and Turkmenistan. It is from there I will make some decisions about route but hope to be in Mongolia by mid July when ramadan starts, after that again not sure.
I can still carry a full set of camping gear on my bicycle, a lightweight one man tent, thermarest, sleeping bag, stove etc. it is just everything has to be lighter, ie more expensive and less in the way of spare clothes, the dinner jacket has to stay at home along with the kitchen sink that the GS will carry.

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  #13  
Old 16 Dec 2012
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l like to toodle along minor roads watching a more detailed world go by as much as the next person. But in areas such as northern Canada and Alaska there are many very long, boring and often cold and wet stretches of blacktop. Slow going on the aforementioned 250 would have been a little on the excruciating side for me during those parts of the trip. Crank the speed up to 110 to 115 kph and throw in some hills, however, and the fuel economics plunge.

I agree that a comfortable dual sport in the 400 cc range would be ideal. Personally, I did not find the DRZ comfortable.

Who is Larry and why is he depressed?
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Old 16 Dec 2012
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This is who Larry is http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-lar1.htm

and this is the English sense of humour falling flat on its face

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Who is Larry and why is he depressed?
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Old 16 Dec 2012
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My first big trip was on a 750 Cagiva Elefant. It was awesome, would fly along at great speed, handled the luggage well. Bit hard to pickup when it went down. Italian so broke down a lot. What a great trip!

My second bigish trip was on a Honda Dominator (delivering to 'Adastra', another HUBBer by the Turkish border). It cruised along easily didn't go wrong at all (until after I delivered it, then the engine blew). What a great trip!

Third time I took an old pizza delivery 125 cc step-through down to Morocco. Very fuel efficient, lightweight, crap suspension, handled terribly off road. What a great trip!

Right now I'm riding to Australia on a 45 year old bike I rebuilt myself. It looks great, sounds amazing, breaks down all the time and my arse hurts. Am having a great trip!!

Whatever you take, just have a great trip. On a small bike there will be times you want a bigger seat, more luggage space and a bigger tank etc. On a big bike there will be times you want it to be 100 lbs lighter. Maybe think about whether you want to be doing more road riding or off-road, but other than that just get something with two wheels and an engine. Or pedals, the 'two wheels' is the main bit!
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