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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 2 Apr 2010
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Street bike vs. Dual Sport, and being pushed in a direction...

Hi all,

I'm preparing for my big test, which I am planning on passing, of course. Yesterday I made a commitment to myself that I would begin preparations not only for setting myself up to use the bike frequently and do shorter trips but I intend to do some extended trip, or perhaps even RTW in the not too distant future, probably before my two year restriction is lifted. I'm pretty lucky that I seem to be built to fit on nearly anything because I'm tall-ish for a girl (5'9") and my legs are long so even on bigger bikes, usually the lowering options get my feet pretty squarely on the ground. I can foot a 1200 GS. The weight of the bigger bikes, on the other hand... I'll address that issue once I leap this first hurdle.

There are a few initial factors muddying my decision making abilities when it comes to finding the right first bike for me, the first factor being the restricted period after I pass my test.

I am of two minds about the bike I have in this period: As an inexperienced rider who rides fairly confidently and who wants a bike on which I can continue to advance my skills, both on and off road, do I buy a cheaper bike that I will be happy to grow out of and flog once my restriction is lifted? Or do I buy a machine that I want to hold on to and keep riding after my restriction period is over?

The second confusing issue is around the type of bike, as in street vs. dual sport. My heart seems set on a dual sport bike because I want something that's comfortable enough for long road distances, but I do want to tackle off-road riding and head off the beaten path and know that the bike will take it. With this in mind I went to BMW yesterday simply to throw my leg over an f650 and 800 GS to feel the positioning, weight, etc. While I was there I also saw a very clean 2007 f650 Dakar with an astoundingly low 3200 miles on it for what I thought was a decent price and I was sorely tempted to put a deposit on it to keep it out of the showroom (the deposit is fully refundable should I change my mind). I have to say like the positioning on the BMWs. I'm not that interested in going fast, really, and I couldn't go very fast restricted anyhow. I don't want to tire my arms out leaning on them, or wreck my spine leaning over. However, it seems that everyone with experience around me right now is pushing me towards a street bike of some sort to start off on, and as I appreciate they know a lot more than I do I wonder if there's a logical reason for this or is it simply because it's the kind of bike they prefer? None of these people are interested in touring, as far as I know.

I've noticed that motorcyclists in Northern Ireland lean toward sport and street bikes but for me I'm really not that way inclined. I am, on the other hand, very aware of my lack of experience and I aim to take advice to heart if I understand the reasoning behind it. My instructor says he would prefer I get a Bandit, Hornet or Fazer as my first bike. Someone else is pushing my toward a CBR. I have yet to put my leg over any of these machines but simply reading reviews available online is turning me off. And from what I can glean from pictures, I can't see myself folded up on top of these bikes for long periods of time and feeling very happy about it. They're not in the classification I think I want, and the positioning on them looks to me to be more forward than I want to be. I do intend to go sit on some of these to get a full understanding of what they're like in the flesh.

So, IS there some reason for people suggesting that I start on a street bike? Or is it simply a cultural thing? It's of the utmost importance to me that whatever I get can take me and my luggage long distances comfortably.
Am I taking the wrong approach in wanting to buy one bike that will see me through and hopefully past my restricted period, and should perhaps consider not getting so attached and simply graduate from bike to bike as I advance?
And would I be nuts to throw a £250 fully refundable deposit on the 650 Dakar to keep it from going before I get a chance to get a trusted, more knowledgeable individual to go check it out and take it for a spin for me?


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Old 2 Apr 2010
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molly, you'll probably get a bunch of contradictory opinions on your questions, but here goes:

1) I'm a yank, so I don't understand all of this about your two year restriction...what is the limit? It sounds like you can get a 650, so the limit must not be too low?

2) If your heart is not in a street bike, don't get a street bike. Really easy. Get what you want to ride. I ride my GS almost every day but the thought of getting on a sport bike or cruiser leaves me cold, I just don't think I would bother. Sort of defeats the purpose of buying a bike if you're not interested in riding it...the only problem with the dual sports is their height, but it sounds like you are tall so you should be able to deal with that (weight is another matter, see below).

3) The perennial question about whether to get a "starter" bike or go with something that you want to end up with is more difficult to answer...I definitely would not recommend anything over a 650, and frankly I think the best bet might be to go with one of the little 250 dual-sport type bikes. I rented a Honda 250 for several days and had a blast with it. The best thing was I felt like I could almost pick it up with one hand (exaggeration of course), so I went places and did things with that bike that I would never do with my huge GS. You might not want to ride around the world on a 250 (although you probably could), but I think it would be perfect for getting the hang of riding, weekends out of town, etc. In any event, before dismissing the option I would take one for a spin! The problem with starting with a bigger bike, in my opinion, is that unless you're really strong, it is easy to find yourself in positions where it is difficult, if not impossible, to man-handle the bike around yourself--everyday things like parking or slow-speed maneuvers can be a real hassle with a big bike, especially if you not accustomed to them. They are just really heavy!!

Anyway, good luck with your decision, and be careful!
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Old 2 Apr 2010
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Thanks a million for that. It's opinions I'm looking for!

Just to clarify for those outside of UK, the two year restriction in the UK is a physical restriction on any bike to limit it to 33BHP. UK mainland has the following testing scheme to avoid being restricted but unfortunately it doesn't apply to Northern Ireland:
"Direct access scheme

Direct access is a scheme which allows a person over the age of 21 to avoid the two year/25 kW restriction by taking a test on a machine of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). A pass allows you to ride any size of bike. Any instruction given on a machine that exceeds the normal learner motorcycle specification must be supervised at all times by a certified motorcycle instructor who should be in radio contact. You should also wear fluorescent or reflective clothing and follow all other provisional licence restrictions.

Accelerated access

Riders who reach the age of 21, while still within the two year period where they are restricted to maximum 25 kW (33 bhp) machines, but who wish to ride larger bikes need to pass a further test on a motorcycle of at least 35 kW (46.6 bhp). They may practise on bikes over 25 kW (33 bhp) under the same practice conditions for direct access riders. You will revert to learner status while practising (on a motorcycle greater than 25 kW (33 bhp)) although test failure will not affect your existing licence."
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Old 2 Apr 2010
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And would I be nuts to throw a £250 fully refundable deposit on the 650 Dakar to keep it from going before I get a chance to get a trusted, more knowledgeable individual to go check it out and take it for a spin for me?
If it is FULLY refundable - go for it - you've nowt to lose!

You will probably have more fun on a dual sport, than a fully blown sports bike. I've ridden them all and always have a bigger smile riding a big single/DS bike than a speed focused bike.

Go with your heart, thats what bikes are all about!
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