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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 11 Mar 2008
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Need advice on bike choice!

This is my first post in this forum but i have been an avid reader of people's stories and blogs for over a year. I am a 25 year old experienced traveler. The stories here have inspired me to travel to every country in the eu by motorbike starting and finishing in london. I will spend about 3 months doing this on my own or with a friend for some parts of the trip. I have never ridden a motorbike before. I intend to complete a direct access course, practise for about a month and then set off. I have very little interest in riding fast and will for the most part be avoiding motorways. It should however be powerful enough to survive mountainous roads. I will only be riding on roads but would like the bike to have some limited off road credibility so i can set off down tracks and trails that take my fancy. The bike should be light and easy to handle but be able to take me (5'10" 90kg guy) with (light) camping gear etc. Also at present i know nothing about the mechanics of a bike so reliability is important.

I apologise for the rambling nature of the post. I would appreciate your thoughts and advice. I am thinking of a 250 or 400, don't want any bigger than that.

budget: 2000-2500 pounds!!

Thanks,
Martin
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  #2  
Old 11 Mar 2008
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why so small?

If you are planning on being mainly on-road the engine characteristics of a smaller crosser-style bike might get to be a pain. Plus finding a 200-400cc bike that can handle luggage might be tricky (i.e. require rear subframe reinforcement). Based on what you said you wanted the bike for my first thought was 'Honda Transalp', great all-rounder, fairly light, some off-road capability, set-up for touring.

More off-road biased would be the Honda Dominator (650 single again), great bike and you can pick them up cheap as chips.

Going down in engine size and up in off-road capability my 400 of choice would be a DRZ 400, but this is a proper off-road machine, doing a lot of road miles might get tiresome (no screen).

The ultimate on road bike with off-road capability (esp if you weigh 90KG) is, of course the classic Cagiva Elefant. I think someone might even be selling one LOL!!

Hondas do have THE reputation as the ultimate bike for people who do not like maintenance - they just keep on plugging!
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  #3  
Old 11 Mar 2008
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Check out new Yamaha YBR250, looks like a nice low cost "touring" bike (fuel injection and 19l tank so should give 500+ km range, low weight). Cost of new one is probably less than £3000.

I also like smaller bikes. My first ride on a motorbike was on YBR125 and that is also very fun small bike (for me it was a bit too small as I'm about 190cm). If you want to wander on secondary roads with reasonable amount of gear, YBR250 is worth checking.

I own Suzuki DR-Z400S and for pavement I can't recomment it. Only if you want to ride 75% or more off pavement then it might be your choice.
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  #4  
Old 11 Mar 2008
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Wink Ccm 404

The CCM 404 has the same engine as the DRZ but with better suspension from White Power and it is put together in Britain.
I mention it because CCM (Clewes Competition Machines) does not get much discussion in HU!

Other than that, you can read into the mega-threads that have discussed a whole range of bikes - there is a thread specifically about 250cc bikes from memory. Use the search facility that is in this website, or just look back through this forum: "which bike".
Also, have a look at the thread about the KTM Military 400cc bike in that tech forum.
When you've done that, you will have lots more questions.

So, to HU and read on!
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  #5  
Old 11 Mar 2008
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Within Europe and with limited off-road I'd have to say go bigger than you are planning. Don't worry, a circa 600cc bike is well within the capabilities of a new rider.

As you'll be mostly on good roads I'd go for something quite road orientated. A bike like my XT for instance, is a bit rough and ready and lacking in suitable weather protection for long road rides to make it ideal.

If it were me I'd go with maybe a Kawasaki KLE (nice little 500 twin), a Honda Transalp, or even better, a Honda Africa Twin.

Matt
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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  #6  
Old 12 Mar 2008
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Martin,

Welcome. I'm currently looking for a mid-size dual-sports bike and I'm coming down in favour of a KLE, Transalp, or Dominator. Lots of used examples around, your local bike shop can service it, and getting luggage shouldn't be a problem. Plus they have that legendary Japanese reliability.

If you're new to bikes, an Africa Twin or Varadero might feel too big. Remember too that weight distribution and seat height on a dual-sports or off-roader is higher than the road bike you'll learn on and can feel tricky at low speeds.

I did think of the BMW F650GS but a thread on here was quite critical and has put me off a bit and they tend to be pricier.

Look on ebay, there a quite a few KLEs around, '05-'07, low mileage, for around £1800-2500, older Transalps and Dominators for much less. Look at a few, if it doesn't feel right, walk away, another will come along.

If you decide on a road bike, you'll probably learn on a CB500. That or a Fazer, Hornet, or Bandit would be fine.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

Indoors.
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  #7  
Old 12 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MTennant7 View Post
This is my first post in this forum but i have been an avid reader of people's stories and blogs for over a year. I am a 25 year old experienced traveler. The stories here have inspired me to travel to every country in the eu by motorbike starting and finishing in london. I will spend about 3 months doing this on my own or with a friend for some parts of the trip. I have never ridden a motorbike before. I intend to complete a direct access course, practise for about a month and then set off. I have very little interest in riding fast and will for the most part be avoiding motorways. It should however be powerful enough to survive mountainous roads. I will only be riding on roads but would like the bike to have some limited off road credibility so i can set off down tracks and trails that take my fancy. The bike should be light and easy to handle but be able to take me (5'10" 90kg guy) with (light) camping gear etc. Also at present i know nothing about the mechanics of a bike so reliability is important.

I apologise for the rambling nature of the post. I would appreciate your thoughts and advice. I am thinking of a 250 or 400, don't want any bigger than that.

budget: 2000-2500 pounds!!

Thanks,
Martin
Hi Martin,
setting yourself quite a challenge, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Europe has very fast moving traffic and riding a lower capacity bike has some draw backs, overtaking trucks for instance. Having said that speed enforcement is a bigger priority in many countries now. But nether the less keeping up with the traffic on a 400 is hard work. I would consider a 600 as a minimum and a twin would make life a little easier.

If you are completely new to motorcycle touring / maintenance try a couple of shorter trips, get feel for what you can handle and enjoy.

It’s taken me 30 years to visit them all, so I am sure you can beat that

Steve
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  #8  
Old 12 Mar 2008
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cheers for the advice

Thanks so much for all the advice. Really is appreciated, never experienced a forum with so many active members that isn't cliquey or anti-beginner! I am considering a trip around scotland (my fathers homeland) to test myself and my equipment before the bigger trip. I guess i have a further question. i am not a speed freak and returning home safely having seen and experienced the destinations and its people is my most important priority. i am just concerned by the constant warnings about buying too big a bike too soon and the inexperienced idiots starting their bike on youtube who are left with a broken tailbone whilst their 10k sports bike disappears towards the horizon. Is it easy to ride a 600/650 slowly and safely when needed or would it feel twitchy and eager to up the revs. ( sorry if this sounds stupid!!! ) It just feels like a toss-up between the following:

small bike: light, affected by wind and luggage, easy to ride on smaller roads, more dangerous perhaps on highways.
big bike: heavier, more stable with luggage, safer on highways, more manoeverable at lower speeds.

please correct me if any of that is wrong, or all of it!

I guess my priorities for my trip and bike are:

1. safe
2. smooth
3. easy

Any help or advice would be further appreciated.
Martin
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  #9  
Old 12 Mar 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MTennant7 View Post
that isn't cliquey or anti-beginner!


Martin

Yes, very true and not often said - well spotted!

500-650cc: well, they can be handled OK on the throttle - they are not all off-road motocrossers, and any that have been mentioned here already would work for you IMO.
Have a read into the which bike forum for lots more information.

Cheers,
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  #10  
Old 12 Mar 2008
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Transalp

Hi Martin,

I'll admit to being slightly biased but I think the Transalp would be a fine choice.

It's a doddle to ride, the v-twin engine is relaxed and smooth, no danger of unplanned wheelies here! Having said that, you'll have no problem keeping up with the traffic either. My 1999 600 (650 from 2000) happily cruises at 75-80mph, two up plus luggage with plenty left in reserve. I can't say I've ever felt the need for more power. It may be nice, but it's not necessary.

The fairing and screen do a reasonable job of keeping the weather off (much better than a naked bike) and it can carry an unfeasable amount of luggage should you feel the need. It's no dirt bike but for the tracks and trails you won't have a problem. It's lighter, smaller and considerably cheaper to find used than it's big brother the Africa Twin. Also one of the most reliable motorcycles known to man. Loads of accesories available too.

Plenty of other good bikes out there but for me the TA does everything I want. Hugely underated IMO.

As for touring Scotland, well I'm biased about that too! Some of the best biking to be had but save it for the better weather!!


if you're looking inspiration, why not come along to the UK Horizons meeting in July?
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  #11  
Old 13 Mar 2008
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update

Thanks for your advice and help. Transalp looks like a real possibility. what about the bmw options. my untrained eye suggests that i can get more bike for my money with a second hand bmw, (less milage, newer).

Any opinions?
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Old 13 Mar 2008
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Wink I have a BMW 650 in the garage, but............

Quote:
Originally Posted by MTennant7 View Post
Thanks for your advice and help. Transalp looks like a real possibility. what about the bmw options. my untrained eye suggests that i can get more bike for my money with a second hand bmw, (less milage, newer).

Any opinions?

It's not clear to me why you think that. £ for £ you will probably get a newer Transalp than a Beemer 650, say. BMW tend to carry a premium in the price, although that may change as BMW "assault the mass market" with their new range of bikes - just like the Jap bikes, they will be for the hoi polloi (spelling??!) in future.
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  #13  
Old 13 Mar 2008
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Originally Posted by MTennant7 View Post
Thanks for your advice and help. Transalp looks like a real possibility. what about the bmw options. my untrained eye suggests that i can get more bike for my money with a second hand bmw, (less milage, newer).

Any opinions?
Hi Martin,

Loads of options...............

Looking at your original post in this thread you may get more for your money with a Honda. For around £2500, you should be able to source a late low mileage 650 Transalp. Look for one in standard condition with as many accessories as possible. Centre stand, heated grips, luggage etc.

Very often in threads such as yours riders like to have there ideas / wishes confirmed but I would say keep your options open. Brand loyalty is wasted, with experience you will build up a list of priorities.

For a big continental tour such as yours a sports tourer is an option, how about a Guzzi, they made some excellent 650/750 bikes. I am not a big fan of the air cooled BMW twins but an older 650 twin is a solid performer. If you could find one a Honda CX 500 / 650 would fit the bill. All those would handle a bit of off road in the right hands. The list goes on.

List down your priorities as you see them, see what fits the bill and go from there.

If I was setting out on your European trip my list might be as follows.

Budget - £2000 to £2500 ready to roll
Fuel consumption 50 + ideally 60 MPG
Capable of 100 mph and cruises at 80 mph
Fuel range 250 miles +
Ease of maintenance and intervals, 6,000 miles +
Comfort
Reliability
Tyre wear
Shaft drive
Off road capability

Not many bikes fit the list exactly so make compromises and go from there.

What would your list look like?

Steve
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  #14  
Old 13 Mar 2008
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Just a few others

I ride a 600 transalp myself, and agree with all said above. It's an extremely good 'does it all bike'. Not very powerfull, but enough for all sorts of trafic.

In my opinion, all relative light bikes handle mild off road. Tires are important if it's getting muddy.

I think all bikes below (and similar from other brands) will suit you as well in one form or another:
Suzuki GS 500
Kawasaki ER 5
Honda CB 750
Suzuki Bandit 600 (this one maybe wants to go a bit faster then you like)
Honda NX 250

Rob
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  #15  
Old 14 Mar 2008
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No matter what bike you decide to buy .. I'd recomend a rider training course for 'adventure touring' - where you get to learn some methods for riding on dirt. This will give you more confidence on those dirt tracks and reduce the chance of a bad fall.

On the mechanics ... buy and use a manual for the bike you get - do an oil change, it really is easy. Adjusting valve s is a littel harder but do able. Slowly increase you knowledge about your bike.

On analysing what bike to get ... don't just look at the prices, specifications .. go for a few test rides - see what YOU like to ride. Even hire a bike or two .. go ride them and them add that bit to the other information!
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