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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 10 Jan 2010
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Oh look, another "What bike?" thread

I am also in a "which bike?" qaundry, but but with a small twist.

I'm in the (very) early stages of a trip plan, definitly the Americas (since I live in the US and am already here), but then maybe Europe and east. Or the Africa north, then east...you get the idea.

I want to take one of the bike I already own, since I do most of my own work, and have already logged a lot of miles on them (model, of not bike). I know there is time enough got get familer with something else, but don't see the point. And one thing I've learned from reading this forum is any bike can go, its all a matter of the rider's preference.

So then why am I even posting? I've never ridden in the Andes, and 'off road' in the US is by no means the same thing as the rest of the world, which you have seen. I don't think I really have a preference between the bikes, but you all might have advice I'll never get if I don't ask.

So, the bikes -

Bike #1 (which is my local mechanic's choice), is a 1981 xs1100. I have over 150,000 miles on xs11s, and own two. This one has locking luggage and has been my endurance riding bike for a few years. One the down side, it is the more complicated of the two bikes (4 cylinders and 4 carbs), and weighs...well a lot. The dry weight is listed at 640lbs, but that isn't with the luggage. Also, without an aux fuel tank I don't think I will want to bring with (One more thing to fail...), the range is only about 200 miles, and there is little I can do to stretch it.

Bike #2 is an 1981 sr250. I started riding on an sr250, and rode all over the USA for 18 months after college, until the lack of money (and a bit of homesickness) found me back home again. It is much lighter, 250lbs with it's current luggage, and simpler with one cylinder. It doesn't have anything like the power of the big bike, I find myself down shifting more. And while it does currently have a locking trunk, I will probably take it off, since it is big but not easy to use. Its current range is also less than 200 miles, but since Yamaha used the same frame for it's 2-stroke RD bike, which has a tank half again as large (and should fit, I have one on the way for $10).

So, knowing that I am at least riding down the Americas, and might extend the trip much farther, which one should I be spending the rest of the winter prepping?

Thanks
Andy
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  #2  
Old 10 Jan 2010
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As Harley D was born & raised in the US of A, I'd of thought the XS1100 would be the ideal bike for touring the US of A

Bike selection is a moot point..... If you have to ask - you're probably not ready for the trip

I've seen a few posts from people touring USA on Goldwings and the like, with little problem. As with any bike, knowing the limitations of it is paramount

Comfort is a high priority on any long trip, so the XS is probably a good bet in that department.

Pays yer money, makes yer choice
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  #3  
Old 10 Jan 2010
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lol, no I am not ready for the trip. I'm not planning on leaving until mid 2011. Still looking at maps, and reading, and getting shots and health check ups (good insurance through work, might as well use it).

Around the USA the xs1100 is a great bike. Not really sure how it will do out of the USA though. I had, for months, been planning on taking the sr250 until several people all thought it was nuts and I should be taking the xs1100, and for good reasons (I do like locking hard luggage).

I would leave tomorrow on either, and am just curious about opinions. I guess it is a classic question - large powerful bike, or small nimble one?
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  #4  
Old 10 Jan 2010
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On paper I would say 250. Lighter, already got some of the accessories fitted, cheaper on fuel.

That said, ultimately, it comes down to simply which do you enjoy riding the most? By that I also mean which is most enjoyable to ride: almost the same question, but not quite, as it also means comfort and fuel range and flexibility.

If one bike fits the bill relating to the above I say take that one. If your choice has a limited tank range I recommend carrying extra fuel one way or another.

Neither bike is ideal for off-road, so consider how much of that you will do. Both will manage it, however, only I expect the 250 to have the edge in grace and agility!!

Bottom line is it's up to you!
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  #5  
Old 11 Jan 2010
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Which Bike

Hi Andy,
I dont know that there is a best bike. Sounds like you have two great bikes, one is suited to the highways and one suited to the by ways.

I have a DRZ 250 that I ride most places also a bit of a classic 1977 GS750 too heavy for off road ( currently being restored shoud be on the road in May).... but a great talking point when pulling up for lunch at an out of the way cafe or place where local bikers gather neither of these bikes would I consider taking around the world. the Drz is just too light and the GS is too heavy if it needs to be transported and is the wrong bike for me in off road stuff and a lot of other reasons, not the bike for travel. Jut cant imagine it in the mud or sand or loading it on the back of a truck to ford a river as they do in Russia on the back roads.

Let me play devils advocate here:-

As I have been reading and planning I observe many people transverse the world on anything from postie bikes, scooters. Three wheelers, side cars big bike etc etc.

I watched the long way round movie and noted that the big BMW’s were a handful in the mud and off road, so I guess that unless that …I would be much younger and fitter …these would be too large for me to be loading unloading, picking up pushing struggling and wrestling with on a daily basis, that’s if I went off road and London to a brick that is a surety for me cos the best things to see are where most people don’t go, so a extra big bike would be out for me.

I notice that your concerns are the tank sizefuel capacity... so I agree, nothing like having the fuel capacity and you also mention power as one of your concerns, you can carry extra cans of fuel but this takes up luggage room on the back. And there would be racking to make etc. The more luggage the more useable power needed, but look at the postie bikes and letters do weigh a bit when you have bags full of them postie bikes do a good job for 50 cc. then again they arn't delivering mail across the Andies on a regular basis. Or transversing the Kiber pass.

I met a traveler recently and his choice was an Africa Twin "great bike" and features well with most travelers, medium power plant at 750cc and has a lot of stuff made for it like a very large fuel tank I think it was about 60 liters and panniers etc. also travelled 2 up Gho and Samantha Singapore Dream Im impressed with Africa Twin unfortunately they have been discontiued and I believe wernt available in OZ
Gho remarked that it was troublesome to pick up if it got tired and lay down. Big Buffalo he called it
As it was not a new bike before he left he had to replace an engine along the way, the engine I believe he freighted from somewhere (not sure), maintenance is a big thing and can be costly financially and in time, who wants to spend their time repairing bikes on the road? So again I would take a look at parts and are they available all over the world.

I have followed this site for a little while now and I look at the bikes that most seasoned travelers are using and there are a few that stick out as being popular and have a good touring record.

Manufacturers have produced quality add on’s. after market stuff, such as large tanks and ready made panniers, ask the question why don’t they make these things for all bikes, my answer is that touring doesn’t suit all bike so they choose a range of bike that suit touring and having done their homework (they want to sell product) they have produced a product range which is suited to the majority of requirements. I have tried to sorce a large tank for the DRZ250 but haven't found anything so far.

So as devils advocate the right bike for me would be the one that the bits are manufactured for , check out which bikes are owned by the majority of long timers on the site, the salt and peppered travelers, Yes there are Bemers and then again there are lots of other bikes and they don’t have to be new, just prepared properly before travelling maintenance pre travel eg wheel bearing replacements brake pads and disc, overhaul the master cylinders, check the calipers for corrosion new kits etc and check the engine and gearbox, (re-bore the engine and replace the piston and crank bearings etc NOthing like preparation and ensure that all is within manufactures spec) James Cook travelled from England to OZ in a leaky coal barge....option!!! coal barge or nothing....when there was no GPS or sat nav etc I guess that is the equivalent of traveling the world on a second hand Tennarae, Honda or DRZ 650) doesn’t have to be new just worthy, and the answers are on this site,
Then again in the spirit of adventure you can be a hero and the first to do it on a motorised skate board and back pack if you like. Seems to be popular with the youth today

Hope this opens up some thought for you and brings about a great deal of discussion.

Kind regards
in the sprit of good biking
Champ
If your in OZ around the Brisbane Gold Coast area give me a call happy to share a meal and would love to hear about your experiences

Good ing
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  #6  
Old 20 Jan 2010
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While it may be true any bike will get you down the road, for a trip into S. America there are several other considerations. First off, 30 year old bikes will likely have you spending a lot of your time fixing things. Fact is, stuff wears out and the big miles and rough conditions will break old bikes quickly.

Guess what? While you were in a 30 year hibernation, bikes actually got Much Much better .... in a thousand ways.

Go back and catch up on your reading of MC mags for the last 20 years or so to learn about modern bikes. Then go ride a few and tell me it doesn't put a smile on your face. And where are you going to find parts on bikes this old? All the big four make great bikes, just pick one suited for travel.
Light weight is good and off road capable helps too, but you don't need a motocross bike either.

If you are doing the ride so you can work on your bike everyday, or spend everyday looking for parts or waiting for parts to arrive, then fine, if that is your thing then its all good. If you want to ride the old bikes for the novelty of riding an ancient bike because no one else is doing it ... it's all good. Go for it. A guy on ADV did a ride report about his ride to Mexico on an old Yamaha (1970's). Took him 2 months just to get out of the US. Then another six months just to get half way into Mexico. He spent everyday tearing the bike apart, living in mechanics garages while his girlfriend worked the internet to find parts, help and advice. The bike would run OK for a few days, then something else would let go and the whole thing would start again. He must have stripped that Yam down about 20 times, replacing every part on it. Whatever. I think he eventually walked away from it and took a bus home. I went through all this shit as a kid, now I just want to ride and travel. But that's just me. I like working on bikes, but I don't want to do it everyday and constantly get stranded in bumfrick no where.

But if you really want to travel, then I'd make a more practical choice, something tough, super reliable, cheap and simple, suited for high Andean duty, which is tough on bikes, even good ones. Bad ones don't survive.

I'd suggest a relatively new, reliable, simple air cooled, carb'd single. Something fairly modern. Modern means very reliable electrics, cables, fasteners, hardware, bearings and wheels and pretty much trouble free riding for tens of thousands of miles. Modern also means WAY better (and safer) suspension, bigger forks, better shocks, much safer on a loaded up bike in rough conditions on terrible roads with whacko traffic.

You will have enough challenges just dodging traffic, dealing with borders and police, staying healthy and learning Spanish that having additional bike troubles is not what you need. Well, its not what I need anyway, but to each his own I guess. You decide.

If you really like the 250's then consider the Suzuki DR250, Honda XR250 or XR400 (with street kit), DRZ400S, KLR250 or KLR650, DR650 (post '97), XR650L, Yamaha TT250. Don't get some old POS and think it will make it, it won't. Also, think about tires and what is available down there. By now you can find most modern dual sport sizes for most modern bikes. Tires are an important part of travel in the 3rd world. Another great option is to buy a bike in Mexico or anywhere down south. Plenty of nice smaller bikes to chose. Hondas, Yams, Kawi's and Suzuki's. There all there, just different models than we have in the USA.

All the above bikes will deliver years of trouble free service with just basic maintenance. I would do research here on HU on how best to pack up for Long Distance travel and how to Pack Light, very important.

Take some long "shake down" rides in the US with all your gear loaded up and see how things go. Come home and make changes to make it better. Keep doing this and in a year you'll be ready. Do some off road, there is plenty in the US, you just need to know wear to look. Have fun.
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  #7  
Old 20 Jan 2010
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Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post
30 year old bikes will likely have you spending a lot of your time fixing things. .
And new bikes will have you looking for a dealer to buy a ring antenna or some such. IMHO the age doesn't matter it's what you know about it. Now if the XS has 70000 miles on it and the intention is just to fill it with fuel and go, fair point, but if the intention is to pick a bike and give it a really huge service and shake down run, no problem.

Andy
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  #8  
Old 20 Jan 2010
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Modern is by no means better....

Why buy, when one already has? The extra cash spent, not to mention the bits needed to get it trip ready would be more than enough for fuel and probably accommodation the whole way down!

And speaking from experience, an XR400 is only a viable choice if you have an oil supplier every 1000kms and an arse made of granite...

If that bike is 30 years old, and is still on the road and being used, I think it has proven itself capable of taking some punishment.

Perhaps replacing seals with modern ones, replacing the forksprings with modern ones and ditto the bearings. Otherwise, as TWB said: a good service before and when needed along the way and I can't see any problem.... Just don't expect to follow the dakar route...
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  #9  
Old 20 Jan 2010
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I'd had such hopes for the Dakar route, too.

I have had "new bike" thoughts, in fact I have another bike, an 2007 Ural Patrol (one of the 2WD ones), which is fun to ride around on. It's also heavy, expensive to operate in fuel, oil and tires, and would be a terror to ship anywhere, if I decide to continue on another continent. I know people do it, but I see few reports on the costs. Like most travellers, I am on a budget.

Not that a Ural is 'new' exactly, but you get the idea.

One thing that has always stuck with me from Long Way Round (say what you want, it's not a bad show - but still a show), when the camera man's bike broke (still unclear what was wrong with it, but whatever) he got a smaller Russian(?) bike, and had a much easier time on the roads.

From this site, though, I am surprised by the number of blogs that say bigger bikes are better. Small bikes are getting more common, an rolling up on a big bike gets peoples attention, and makes it easier to make contact with the locals. Of course, by the time I get there, it will be "oh, look, another American on a big bike. Is that the new BMW?"

About availablity of parts - I have little hope for the xs1100. There are several owners groups around the globe who might be able to help, and the bike itself is famous for being engineered to run forever. The sr250 shares a lot with the once common and popular xt250.

Just to abuse myself, I'm planning on taking the xs1100 on a long off-road trip once spring gets here, see how I feel about sand and mud, with some gravel thrown in. I am much less concerned about the sr250 on those roads, so am planning a long ride on that, maybe 300 or 400 miles in a day. Highlighting the weakness of each bike and see which bothers me more.
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Old 20 Jan 2010
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I have had "new bike" thoughts, in fact I have another bike, an 2007 Ural Patrol (one of the 2WD ones), which is fun to ride around on.
Good man:

I have exactly the same bike and year and it will be takingme, my lady and our two pooches to Kamchatka in 2011 (we hope)..!!
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  #11  
Old 20 Jan 2010
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Excellent!

Quote:
Originally Posted by xsPain View Post
I'd had such hopes for the Dakar route, too.

I have had "new bike" thoughts, in fact I have another bike, an 2007 Ural Patrol (one of the 2WD ones), which is fun to ride around on. It's also heavy, expensive to operate in fuel, oil and tires, and would be a terror to ship anywhere, if I decide to continue on another continent. I know people do it, but I see few reports on the costs. Like most travellers, I am on a budget.

Not that a Ural is 'new' exactly, but you get the idea.

One thing that has always stuck with me from Long Way Round (say what you want, it's not a bad show - but still a show), when the camera man's bike broke (still unclear what was wrong with it, but whatever) he got a smaller Russian(?) bike, and had a much easier time on the roads.

From this site, though, I am surprised by the number of blogs that say bigger bikes are better. Small bikes are getting more common, an rolling up on a big bike gets peoples attention, and makes it easier to make contact with the locals. Of course, by the time I get there, it will be "oh, look, another American on a big bike. Is that the new BMW?"

About availablity of parts - I have little hope for the xs1100. There are several owners groups around the globe who might be able to help, and the bike itself is famous for being engineered to run forever. The sr250 shares a lot with the once common and popular xt250.

Just to abuse myself, I'm planning on taking the xs1100 on a long off-road trip once spring gets here, see how I feel about sand and mud, with some gravel thrown in. I am much less concerned about the sr250 on those roads, so am planning a long ride on that, maybe 300 or 400 miles in a day. Highlighting the weakness of each bike and see which bothers me more.
I loved that part in Long Way Round about the little Russian Minsk! Funny!
IMO, your attitude is perfect and you are much more well grounded than I first thought. If you really know your bikes and do all the services before you go (as alluded to my TWB and Warthog) then OK, I concede, should be OK.

If you've been in and out of your bikes enough, then doing minor repairs should be doable. I like the idea of some new bearings, seals, springs and up graded brakes. Also, tires are critical. Get the toughest ones you can find.

Totally agree, big bikes not needed. Small bikes are good for a number of reasons.

Your Spring rides will be perfect to figure all this out and get a reality check. Make sure to pack up as if you were headed to Argentina! Have fun,
rubber side down!
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  #12  
Old 22 Jan 2010
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Originally Posted by Warthog View Post
Good man:

I have exactly the same bike and year and it will be takingme, my lady and our two pooches to Kamchatka in 2011 (we hope)..!!

No shipping to get there?

Really, the biggest (only) concern I have with the Ural is the daily cost just to drive it around, or move it from one continent to another. I know people do it, but it has to be much more than a single bike. And I really don't need all the space, just being by my lonesome.

Sounds bad, after reading all the posts about people packing too much, but I have trouble filling the hard luggage on my xs1100, those old Vetter cases. Maybe it helps to know I'm staying in the USA, and it will be different when I know I won't be?

...I am totally in the depths of a motorcycle identity crisis right now. I think I am going to spend a few weeks reading about cameras to think about something else.
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  #13  
Old 23 Jan 2010
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A vote here for the 250 .
Simpler ,lighter,less things to go wrong .Only one carb to rejet .

I use an old XS650 for travelling sometimes .
The only trouble I have had with it is the alternator .
The wiring insulation within the rotor breaks down due to engine vibes.
The cure is to fit a permanent magnet alternator,they can be sourced from other model Yamahas or one is now made by Sparx who do Brit Bike electric parts.

I'm not familiar with your bikes ,but you might want to pay attention to the charging system and see if you can do something similar .It's one less thing to worry about .

Have a great ride .
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Old 5 Mar 2010
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Take the old xs1100 . Why spend an more cash for another bike. If one guy can do 500000 miles and the world on an 81 goldwing , no reason you can't do the same. I don't know maybe I nuts to say it but replace the tires in S. America with ones more suited to their roads. Your bike going to give you 40 miles per gallion. Parts if it breaks can be found. Worse happens you end up somewhere waiting. You can always get help from people on sites like this.
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  #15  
Old 6 Apr 2010
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Hey Andy, thought I'd give my two cent in here. I've just finished a tour around South America on an XT600, and honestly, I couldn't imagine many better bikes (for the price at least) for the job. Similar bikes being the KLR or the DR. It was lightweight enough that it could take me anywhere, and a lot of the most inspiring routes that you'll really want to do are heavy going, mud, sand, gravel, etc... I was in many situations that I was delighted with my choice of bike, where a heavier one would have landed me in the shit, but it still had enough power to keep me content on the few highways you have to do.
A heavier bike like the xs1100 will really restrict where you can go. I've come across people on all manner of bikes down here, from little Chinese no-name 125's to Goldwings, and fact is they'll all get you around, but in different manners and to different places.
Your sr250 will get you onto the grittier routes (the fun ones), but a small bike over long journeys could be a real pain in the ass, or maybe that's just me.
Could be time to bite the bullet man, new bike for the trip. You'll not regret a change, and who doesn't like to get a new toy every so often....
Whatever you go with, I'm sure it'll always be the right one. Enjoy the trip!
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