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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 24 Jul 2006
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The best bike on the cheap?

I have contemplated purchasing a BMW GS 650 for a long time now and have been saving my pennies. I have raised enough money for a used GS but have come to realize that it will take me a long time until I have enough saved for my trip to Mexico. Therefore, instead of spending 4,000-5,000 on the bike I was hoping to spend around 1,000-1,500. Please help me find a bike for around a thousand bucks.

Needs:
-I will not go offroad but plan to travel on poor dirt roads.
-It needs to be reliable and easy to fix (I am a poor mechanic).
-able to carry me and all my junk 250Lbs + 75 Lbs equipment

wants:
-Hopefully a large gas tank for 450+ miles w/out refueling.

Can it be done? Thanks for the help!!
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  #2  
Old 24 Jul 2006
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OK ,
Just to give everyone a good laugh .
How about a Yamaha XS 650 ?

The good points about this bike are :
Reliable engine ,
Enough power - 50+hp ,
Reasonable fuel consumption [around 50 mpg {imperial}]
They run on low grade fuel .
cheap to buy [ $1500 to $2000 should get you a very good one ]
Most bikes for sale have a low mileage and have lots of life left in them .
Tyre sizes [19 inch front ,16 or 18 inch rear ] means you can get tyres anywhere .
Some of them have a 4 gallon tank ,but extra fuel can be carried in jerry cans or camping fuel bottles .
Kick start as well as electric start.
They are quite good on gravel roads .
Mechanically simple - no computers ! and back yard mechanics can fix them .
Not too heavy .
Steel frame can be welded easily [if need be ]
They have a low profile and don't earmark you as a rich tourist .
If they break down terminally [highly unlikely] or get stolen ,you've only lost $1500 .
Any Carnets you might have to buy would be a low value .
There is a good parts back up from enthusiastic aftermarket dealers .[ Mike's XS in Florida actually ] So ,unlike most old Japanese bikes, you will be able to get parts at a reasonable price .


Bad points :
They do nothing for your image ,
Early forks [34mm] are not so good - get later ones [35 mm and adj preload].
Shocks need changing for better ones [ progressive , hagon , girling etc]
Swing arm bushings need to be changed to bronze [$ 35] ,
Not much good in mud .
You will have to ride slower on gravel than your trailie mounted buddies [ but I can manage 50 to 70 mph on good gravel without problems ]
The alternator is weak and troublesome ,carry a spare rotor .
They will not run without a battery , although if you change the rotor to a permanent magnet kind ,they will .
You'll have to make your own bash plate if you need one .
You'll have to fit motocross style bars instead of the silly ape hanger things .
You won't be able to buy "off the shelf " accessories like specialised luggage mounting systems , you'll have to make your own or improvise .
The brakes on the early bikes are not super spectacular ,but adequate , either change them or ride accordingly , probably better than a KLR though .



By the way , like it or not , if you buy ANY cheap bike your mechanical skills will improve !

Dodger
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  #3  
Old 24 Jul 2006
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Ramon, I would suggest contacting Flying Gringo. He gives very good advice about purchasing used bikes, and as he is a new/used bike dealer, he will tell you the ups and downs of which models to look out for. He is very "in your face" at times, and may come across as offensive, but has very good worldly advice.

My two cents is to possibly consider a Chinese enduro. You can purchase a brand new Lifan GY-200 5 model for within that price range. The downside is that you have to assemble about 30% of it as it comes packed in a shipping crate. Most people here will advise you to not look into Chinese bikes, but I am only saying to consider it. There are a few Yahoo! Groups dedicated to them, and one new forum site that I belong to is called www.chinariders.net which has dozens of members that own one of these enduros. In fact, someone who just joined recently, is a Columbian ex-pat who lives and works in China. There is a link to his site which details a 10,000km trip he and a co-worker took in China on a 200cc Zongshen over a 31 day period. Of course, the advantage he had was that it was in China on a Chinese bike.

Join the group and ask other members what they think about how they feel about a long distance trip from their first-hand ownership perspective. The bikes aren't as trashy and unreliable as the gossip suggests, especially the bikes with the 200cc Lifan engine. (Most of the different brands of bikes use the Lifan engine as the standard engine of choice)

(My disclaimer--the only reason I suggested to look into a Chinese bike is due to the low price he wants to pay. I only said to consider, and only after researching through first-hand accounts from other Chinese bike owners--the key word---CONSIDER)
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  #4  
Old 24 Jul 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RamonAllones
Needs:
-I will not go offroad but plan to travel on poor dirt roads.
-It needs to be reliable and easy to fix (I am a poor mechanic).
-able to carry me and all my junk 250Lbs + 75 Lbs equipment

wants:
-Hopefully a large gas tank for 450+ miles w/out refueling.

Can it be done? Thanks for the help!!
No, it can't really be done, at least not exactly as you have described.
No bike you'll find you will go that far on one tank. And in Mexico you just don't need it Amigo. Pemex are everywhere. A range of 150 to 200 miles is all you really need.

Roads:
A poor dirt road is still Off Road. You have to ride a different style on dirt. Not a big deal, any street bike will handle this fine, just watch out for pot holes, Topes and deep sand. And learn to brake properly on dirt or you'll crash.
(well, you'll crash anyway most likely....wear protective gear)

Reliability:
Of course, we all want super reliable bikes. You get what you pay for. 30 year
old bikes, even Japanese bikes, may not be all that reliable. Its a crap shoot.
But thats all part of the adventure. Don't worry about breaking down. You speak Spanish. People will help you everywhere you go.

You are not a mechanic? Better start learning Ramon. It is just not that hard.
Try to learn the bike you buy. Read everything you can and go try to do stuff. Get help from friends or shops. Most stuff you can do yourself. Not a big deal.

Load Capacity:
250 lbs.? You're a big boy eh? No problem.

Have you ever ridden a bike before?

Here are a few possibilities to look for in your price range:

KLR650
If you look hard for an older one you MAY find one in your range.
To get this bike I would seriously consider spending a bit beyond $1500 if a good KLR comes along. This is a relatively "modern" bike, bulletproof, long range, good for "big" guys and able to carry you anywhere. Its a poor man's
F650 GS BMW. It would be my number one pick for you. Buy 1995 or newer.

Nighthawk 650/700* or 750.
Even an older Nighthawk will work for you. Look for the 700 or 750 first.
The 700 (1985 to 1988) had shaft drive and hydraulically adjusting valves. Air cooled, reliable) I owned one. The 750's started in '89 or so. Also good.
Chain drive. More common, easier to find used. Solid.

Honda CX-500 or CX-650. Any model (Silverwing ect). Cheap and strong. Newer the better, low mileage a plus. Can be outfitted to work great. One of the most reliable motorcycles ever produced, by anyone.

Old bikes like the above CX can have problems. Many times they've been sitting around for years, unused. Not good. Things like Stators tend to fail on these older bikes. But some good ones are out there, on the road. Find them.

No matter what, buy a brand new, high quality, sealed battery for what ever
bike you buy. Go through the bike carefully and clean it completely. This will help turn up problems. Loose wires, missing bolts, ect. Pull off the seat and
check all the wiring. Just make sure wiring is clean and still connected tight. Any rust must be removed from connectors. Make sure battery connectors are solid and not frayed or coming apart.

Chain: Another "must be new" item for Mexico. Get a DID X ring chain amigo.
Trust me on this, OK? And of course, new sprockets MUST be added as well.

Tires:
For your trip you'll want BRAND NEW TIRES AND TUBES. No compromises here.
Some tires are available in Mexico but maybe not in the sizes you need.

Fuel tank:
One of the most common causes of problems on old bikes is crap and dirt in
the fuel tank. Especially if the bike has been sitting. Take the tank OFF and
clean it out. Make sure its clean inside.

Carb(s). Pull float bowl. see how it looks. If really bad you may want to rebuild the carbs (or have it done) before you go. Just because it runs OK now, doesn't mean it will continue to run after 1000 miles.

Brakes. Make sure they are good, or as good as they can be.

Lights. Check them all. Japanese electrics are generally amazingly good.
Bring a spare headlight and tail light bulb with you.

Cables:
How do they look?
Think about a spare clutch cable if yours is old, heat cracked or rusted out.

Suspension:
Are the fork seals leaking oil? Is the rear shock(s) OK?

Anyway, you get the idea.

Good luck.

Patrick
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  #5  
Old 25 Jul 2006
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Thanks for the info guys.

Mollydog: I like your suggestion of the Honda nighthawk...It is simple, cheap and looks to fit my needs. So I guess a standard bike that has enough ground clearance (at least 6 inches) and is relatively light should fit the bill??

All other dual purpose bikes cost above 1500$ including the DR 650. At first I thought I needed a "dual purpose" bike to ride dirt roads....But I guess I will be ok with a bike like the Nighthawk so long as I know how to handle it. is this right?

btw, I have driven bikes for several years (my uncle and Bro. in law have cycles) but I still don't have a license. So i'm a beginner with some experience. I will, of coarse, learn how to survice the bike (oil, tires etc.) but I doubt I will be able to do anything complicated.
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  #6  
Old 25 Jul 2006
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Ramon,
You've got the right idea. Learn how to ride the Nighthawk properly and you can do it. The big is heavy but your a big guy. Should be OK.

Find the back issue of RIDER magazine about Bob Higdon and Mike Kneebone (both world famous RTW riders) who rode Nighthawk 750's across Mongolia and Russia. Should be a bit of inspiration for you. Fantastic story. It was from about six months ago or so.

Learning basic servicing is all you need do to start with. Once you dig in you'll
learn more along the way. On a motorcycle your life is in your hands. If the bike is unsafe and something goes wrong, it could spell the end. Learn basic
safety maintenance. (see my other post)

BTW, there are plenty of other similar older bikes that could work for you. Yamaha Seca ll, Kawasaki Zephyer 750, Honda Ascot 500, FJR600 Yam, and many many more.

And some more Dual Sport bikes too:
Honda XR650L(1994 to present), XT600 (1984 to 1990) XL600R (1983 to '87)
All but the XR-L are kick start.

Mexico, in the cities can be a bit harrowing on a bike. Takes a few days to
learn their style of driving and act accordingly. Be cautious Amigo.

Buena Suerte!

Patrick

Last edited by mollydog; 25 Jul 2006 at 23:25.
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  #7  
Old 25 Jul 2006
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Another couple you could maybe look into are Honda XL600LM(similar to the previously mentioned XL600R but with a 6 gallon tank and both electric/kickstart as standard) but i'm not sure if you get this model over in the states?Another bonus with this one is it will run with no battery and is very economical on fuel if you keep below 60mph.It also has a substantial rear subframe and rack which will take a lot of weight.
Another is any of the older non-GS BMW's though the heat from the cylinders is a bit of a pain in the foot for hot countries!
Whatever you end up getting,go for a few test runs with ALL of your gear a while before you go so you can get used to the extra weight and test any frames/racks you've fitted.And not just on blacktop either,go and find some dirt tracks.Good luck it sounds like you're gonna have a cracking trip!
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  #8  
Old 26 Jul 2006
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Suzuki GS500, Honda CB500, CB750's are pritty cheap here, transalps too, DR 350, ...
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  #9  
Old 26 Jul 2006
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Cheeep bikes

Another thought is to find one running bike and then find another more or less identical bike that has been crashed or has a dead engine. take all the cables, levers, electricals etc etc off the dead bike with you for spares. If you are traveling on the cheap you don't have the big bucks to have a part couriered to you or wait weeks for a part. Even if you don't know how to fix it I bet somebody else could if they have the parts you brought along. I have done this for less than 1K$. And yes road bikes can go some amazing places.
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  #10  
Old 26 Jul 2006
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You guys are the best....Thanks for all the help!!!!

Bill: I think I will try to find a wrecked second of whatever I buy...that way I can have spare parts and take the thing apart w/out fear of putting it back together wrong.
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  #11  
Old 26 Jul 2006
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Bill's idea of a 2nd parts bike is an excellent idea!

A buddy did this with a CX500. The guy be bought it from had two CX's...
he took them both. One runner, one parts bike.

We rode to Copper Canyon together, he on a CX500 me on my KLR (now sold). The old CX did fine.

Before we left we went through the CX and upgraded or replaced a few things, including new tires and battery. It needed a Reg/Rectifier. That was the only real problem we had with it. Weird bike to ride until you got used to it. My partner sold the bike in Mexico for more than he paid.

Patrick
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  #12  
Old 27 Jul 2006
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Ok, so I have been researching several "standard" bikes and have noticed the Suzuki SV650. It gets great reviews but is probably a little out of my budget. However, I notice that it is lighter than the BMW 650GS and has better ground clearance. So why is the BMW considered more of a trail bike than the Suzuki?
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  #13  
Old 27 Jul 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RamonAllones
Ok, so I have been researching several "standard" bikes and have noticed the Suzuki SV650. It gets great reviews but is probably a little out of my budget. However, I notice that it is lighter than the BMW 650GS and has better ground clearance. So why is the BMW considered more of a trail bike than the Suzuki?
The SV650 is a good bike but it's styling is more sports bike than tourer and I wouldn't want to do long distances on it as it would kill my back and be hard to handle on gravel .
The engine in the SV was detuned by Suzuki and used in the 650 Vstrom and is an excellent reliable engine .
The BMW GS 650 and the Suzuki SV650 are bikes designed for completely different roles .

Regards
Dodger
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  #14  
Old 30 Jul 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RamonAllones
I have contemplated purchasing a BMW GS 650 for a long time now and have been saving my pennies. I have raised enough money for a used GS but have come to realize that it will take me a long time until I have enough saved for my trip to Mexico. Therefore, instead of spending 4,000-5,000 on the bike I was hoping to spend around 1,000-1,500. Please help me find a bike for around a thousand bucks.

Needs:
-I will not go offroad but plan to travel on poor dirt roads.
-It needs to be reliable and easy to fix (I am a poor mechanic).
-able to carry me and all my junk 250Lbs + 75 Lbs equipment

wants:
-Hopefully a large gas tank for 450+ miles w/out refueling.

Can it be done? Thanks for the help!!
Yes, it can be done. Look for an older Suzuki DR200 to 650 or Honda XL650, possibaly a Kawasaki KLR/KLX 250 or 650. Used, not abused 5-10 yrs old these bikes can be found in the 1,000-1500 range with low milage.

Being mechanically limited I would say go for the air cooled DR or XL. Even a mower shop should be able to work on one if you can find parts.

You won't get your 450 miles between gas stops, but, aftermarket tanks ($200-400 NEW) will get you close to 300.

If nothing else, E-Bay usually has several of these bikes going for around $1000.

FWIW, my best friend just bought a mid 80's Kawasaki 454 LTD for $500. It needs a brake lever and master cylinder. Most people don't ride a bike nearly enough for even a 20yr old bike to be close to being worn out.
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