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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 17 Jan 2011
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South America Two Up HELP

Hello team,

my girlfriend and I are from New Zealand and want to plan a motorbike trip through South America for a number of months.
We're new to the whole motorbike scene and need HELP.
If you have any advice regarding bike type any help would be appreciated. We only a few years out of uni so don't have too much money but not looking for the cheapest model. We will probably be doing road and off-road travel.

We're very excited but don't know where to begin looking, HELP

We would also be really keen to talk to anyone who has done something similar, if anyone is based in Auckland we would happily buy a beverage or two for the info.

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Old 17 Jan 2011
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Read as many Ride Reports on this forum and Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum as possible, learn from others experiences and mistakes. I'd also get as much experience on a bike as possible in a safe environment before heading to South America.

There is not a single perfect bike for your sort of trip, everyone has their opinions, get what suits you and your partner (I'd suggest a 600-800cc single or twin) and your mechanical abilities and then learn about the bike's weaknesses and rectify them before departing on your trip.

Here's my partners ride report on her recently completed South America trip:

My photos: www.possu.smugmug.com
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Old 17 Jan 2011
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Basically what he said ^

I would recommend you get hold of whatever bike you are taking asap so you can get familiar with it.
Shipping is obviously one of the first things you will need to think about, but theres a lot of info on here so its not too bad.

My girlfriend and I are also looking at SA in the next few years and have been looking at KLR650 or Transalp type bikes. (Took two Transalps around scandanavia/eastern europe last year for 4 months)

Two up i would say that you wouldn't want to go smaller than that ... we had to sell one half way and getting back to the UK on one bike was a bit of a struggle.

Other than that, the trick will be to get your timing right to avoid the worst of the wet season.

Where abouts in Auckland are you? we could catch up for a chat sometime if you like?
He who makes a beast out of himself
Gets rid of the pain of being a man
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Old 17 Jan 2011
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My advice would be to keep it simple. Spending money does not get you a better bike, take your time to do a bit of research and figure out exactly what you need from a motorcycle. It's almost definately true that no bike will be right for you, you'll either have to compromise or modify it. Modifying it will give you a bit of quick experience of how it goes together which will serve you well if it should break down.
If you're new to bikes, I recommend avoiding the obvious pitfalls. KTM, Triumph, most BMWs, Aprilias and other specialist brands are to be avoided. They are usually not as reliable. Stick to simple Japanese bikes, ideally built in Japan. Some of the bikes these days are built in France, Italy, wherever and are not built to the same standard. Older bikes tend to be a better bet, if they were going to rot or fall apart they would have done it by now. The ones going strong are a good indication of what you can expect.
Bike wise you need to think what you need from the bike. Single cylinder bikes are the most reliable, simplist, cheapest to run. Normally they run to about 600-660cc which is usually just enough power. You might need a bit more muscle to carry two of you with luggage. The weight of a passenger will severely limit what you can do offroad. You will manage light dirt roads but not much more.
Good all-round bikes which have stood the test of time are BMW F650gs (singles), The Dakar model is favourite with better ground clearance. Depending on budget the early Funduro model is a cheap bike with more potential than most people realise, Kawasaki KLR650 (slow and plodding but simple to work on, cheap and very boringly reliable, Yamaha XT range, from 600 to the modern 660, it's tends to corrode easily but the engine is very reliable. Bits can fail so check chain, sprockets, etc for wear, Suzuki DR well respected, more aimed at off road than touring. Bigger bikes to look at are V-strom which is a bit more money, a bit more complicated and limited to fire roads but will suit a passenger better, Honda Varadero, not as good as the Strom and a very thirsty engine. Still reliable but top heavy and less fun. Older airhead BMW GS, the R80 and R100 models are good tourers but probably need a bit more know-how to keep them running. The R1100gs is a good bike, few faults but is big and intimidating at first. If there are problems though they will cost you loads to fix.
This is just a taste of things. You need to decide how much weight you're carrying and how many miles you plan to do each day. That helps you decide if you need a touring bike which is more comfortable, less maneuverable and faster or a lighter, sharper bike more suited to rougher roads. You need to decide on luggage, camping or hotels/hostels which dictates how much you carry. You need to decide on how fast you need to travel, that decides if you need weather protection.
Stick to well known machines. remember most forums have lots of threads about issues. All bikes break at some point and you usually only hear about problems. I think that a good bike in a good state of repair can manage most things. It would be possible to get just about any modern machine around the world with enthusiasm and planning. Don't be put off by the massive amount of things you need to sort. it's worth it in the end. Treat the preparation as part of the fun and enjoy getting a bike ready for your needs.
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Old 19 Jan 2011
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The previously mentioned Honda Transalp might be a good choice, from what I can remember they were the most popular large big bike in Argentina so spares might be available there as well as being sturdy and reliable.
I am not sure if this has changed but you did not need a carnet de passage for any country in South America when I was there.
If gaffer tape doesn't fix it then you haven't used enough tape
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Old 20 Jan 2011
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Everyone before me is spot on. Buy whichever bike you decide on as soon as possible so you can work on it and get to know it.

Go as small (and as light) as you possibly can. Having a heavy bike sucks. big time, especially in the dirt.

Really consider how much off road you will really do - if you can ge away with a street bike, do so. Most people here ride street bikes through all kinds of crap roads: it really hurts to be overtaken by a guy riding his chinese 150cc 3 up!

Transalps are very common in Argentina, but there are major dealers of every big brand in Argentina and Chile (and, I believe, in the rest of SA bar Bolivia and the three Guyanas).

Consider if you really need or want to carry camping gear, because that adds a lot of weight and hassle.

Hope this helps.
Currently in Peru fighting our way through landslides and mud, riding (despite the above) a KTM 950: the perfect bike for every situation!
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Old 20 Jan 2011
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Hi guys, I'm another kiwi guy with not much money. Me and my girlfriend are currently on the road in south america. I'd never ridden a bike before coming here and bought a crappy new chinese 250 in Lima, Peru for US$1400. It breaks fairly often but labour and parts are cheap and parts are common as most bikes in south america are 250 or less and chinese. It's a bit slow up hills and doesn't go above 90 kph on the highway but we're still having a great time. I would recommend bringing good wet weather gear and boots and gloves if you're planning on being in the mountains much. Let me know if you want more detail on buying a bike in Peru or anything, theres a bit of stuff in my ride report.
Good luck and whatever people say you don't need experience, the worst that happened to me was embarrassment stalling a the lights in Lima a few times.
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Old 20 Jan 2011
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Bike choice

if you are new to bike riding and maintenance a KLR650 or a more road oriented DL650 will be the best choice , cheap to buy and easy to maintain , tons of parts and a lot of travellers use them for similar trip. Stay away from BMW as the cost of repair and maintenance is pretty high. No need to buy a 20 years old bike as you can get a good one for arround $3500 readyto go
Hendi Kaf


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Old 20 Jan 2011
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Thanks heaps everyone who has so far replied, everyone's comments are more than invaluable.

We'll be definitely considering everything so far advised and will continue to check if anyone has further advice.

Once I think we've narrowed the choices to a couple of bikes, I will post a thread with the information I've learned and ask for any more advice. At this point The V-Strom DL650 is the one I'm leaning to.

I also just want to put out how awesome this website is, I only discovered it a week ago and I'm already checking it most days
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Old 20 Jan 2011
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2up considerations

Hi ReeceNZ and to the HUBB.

From a couple that have ridden over 60,000kms together in 3 continents we may have a few tips and tricks to share with you. The bike is the first part and of course a major consideration, but when travelling 2up it's not the most important. Being able to keep a positive attitude and asking for help when you need it are important but mostly it's working as a team, you and your partner should compliment each other and communicate well. It goes without saying that the pillion has to trust implicitly the rider and the rider has a large responsibility to the pillion and their comfort and safety. Regarding the bike in our experience at least, as long as you are comfortable and confident riding the bike and have some basic knowledge of bike maintenance then you'll get along fine, for the rest you can get help from mechanics. Get familiar with riding on your choosen bike 2up. Do as many kms as you can before leaving to iron out any issues you may have with bike preparation.

Key things you should be able to do your self for road-side repairs:
  • Fix flat tyre (ie take off both front and back wheels)
  • Deal with flat battery (roll or clutch start the bike)
  • Air filter change/clean (especially in dirty dusty regions make this a regular thing)
  • Adjust and oil the chain (if you have a chain)
  • Oil change
  • Take the tools you'll need to do the above
Also food for thought:
- How are you going to carry your gear?
- How are you going to carry enough water for two?
- How are you going to keep valuables safe?

There is more than one thread for each of these topics so jump in, ask questions and we'll try to help you as much as we can.

Know your limits and those of your pillion are critical to enjoying your time and staying safe.

If you want more info, do jump on our website (Riding 2Up) or better still send me a PM.

Enjoy the trip.


Pascal & Arja
TurboCharger + Francois (our BMW R1200gs) '07
www.riding2up.net, blog.riding2up.net
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Old 7 Feb 2011
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If you consider a Honda Transalp, you should (definetly) check out the Africa Twin. It is one of the most reliable bikes.
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