Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

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-   -   Two up...what to take (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/which-bike/two-up-what-to-take-5170)

Sfajner 13 May 2005 00:16

Two up...what to take

Starting to think seriously about doing a RTW on a bike...
Nothing is planned yet, nor the route, nor the time etc...
I know that we (me and my wife) will ride on the same bike...that I want to be able to go off the paved roads...
Now...I don't what bike to choose...But It seems to always come back to BMW...
I've seen the KTM 950 Adventure, but hear it is not reliable and hard to find parts...
I've seen the Aprilia Caponord, but haven't heard of anyone doing a RTW on it...and hear it is expensive to maintain,and same thing, hard to find parts...
I don't know of any other bigger bikes that can manage 2up+gear. except for BMW.


jeronimo 13 May 2005 01:26

I guess that will also depends on the fact that you live in the Usa, and that not all bikes are available here.
So that leads me to an "add-on" question to Sam's initial post: how many people do buy a bike outside of the us (through ebay for instance) and then import it?
I'm pretty sure that for a 2 up trip starting in the Usa for instance and going North to Alsaka and then down to South America, there's plenty of good bikes here and thus no reason to import a bike, no?

Margus 13 May 2005 01:55

Most of the bad storyes behind the bikes are myths. Sure any bike would do it if you just WANT to do it! Purpose, comfort and practice is another story...

I had to make the same decision about a year ago. The only two-uping machines i considered were:

Honda XRV 750 Africa Twin
Honda Varadero
Triumph Tiger
Aprilia Caponord
Suzuki V-Strom 1000

Only two got into final due others just have too much plastic and too fragile. Those were Africa Twin and R-boxer GS. Both had it's cons and pros, went to R1100GS finally. Now if there's more than 10K kilometres behind me mostly two up 40% gravel 60% pavement i never regret going to GS and preparing it for Asian travel now. I really find the low-rpm power the boxer engine generates making it almost ideal two-upper and very hard to beat in "two-uping terms", altough it has some additional kilograms compared with it's competitors, but it has very low centre-of-weight compared with others due engine conception, other massive parts such as catalythic converter and shaft drive are the most lowest parts to the ground too. So the whole bike feels extremely light once you get it moving even a bit. I.e. I've sit on Caponord & Varadero and they feel top heavy compared with GS. But sure other people have different tastes and needs so i say the good old golden words:

Do testdrive them all - two-up on various roads!


Stephano 13 May 2005 02:22

<font face="Arial Narrow">Here's another vote for the R1XXXGS.
It's an all round wonderful bike. It'll easily carry two adults and
luggage on good roads or tracks. Slowly if you want and very quickly if you have
to. It's also a relatively quiet bike so it doesn't disturb the environment
you're riding in.</font></p>

<font face="Arial Narrow">My only criticism is that 1st gear is too tall so
slow, twisty ascents when fully loaded can be tricky. I think the adventure has
slightly different/better gearing.</font></p>

Sfajner 13 May 2005 03:49

to Jeronimo,

It is true that there is no need to import bikes from outside , first it is a major pain in the butt, then, there are not too many bikes outisde the us that could do a better job 2up.
Africa twin is probably too small, and Yamaha teneree as well...
I guess for these reason very few people in the US import bikes from outside, as we americans have a tendency to buy the biggest and toughthest even to go shopping..(i.e. too many Hummers and BMW1150 GS adventure in San Francisco Downtown)
A trip from Alaska to south america sounds mighty good too!

Sfajner 13 May 2005 03:58

To Margus and Stephano,

Thanks for the advice guys...
the only thing that worries me a bit is the sheer size of the BMW GS...
I am 5.8 and about 165lbs.
I am worried that , the bike the gear and the passenger, all that combined might be too much for a little guy like me...
I have been riding for quite a few years, mostly sports bikes, except for a KTM 640 adventure and yamaha XT125.
The KTM was hella tall and too small to manage 2up, which made it impossible to really use it...

do you know anything about the earlier model of GS, like the R100GS and R80GS. reliability etc...Anyone?

Grant Johnson 13 May 2005 09:30

Actually the Africa Twin is a well-proven two-up bike, it works very well and is stone reliable. Especially for someone "5.8 and about 165lbs" and probably a smaller wife, I bet it's just fine.

As noted:

<font face="" size="2">very few people in the US import bikes from outside, as we americans have a tendency to buy the biggest and toughthest even to go shopping..</font>
Yep, and far too many think they need far more bike than they really do. For long distance, rtw type riding, smaller is GOOD, in all respects.

I'm 6'1 and 175 pounds and Susan is 5'4 and we did very well on an R80G/S - not nearly as big a bike as an R11xxGS, and with LESS horsepower than an F650 - and yet it was perfect for our rtw.

What we North Americans find hard to understand is that NA is unique in the world in it's wide open streets and highways - there is far more room, wider lanes, wider and bigger everything, which makes big bikes not only easy to use, but also gives the feeling that they're "needed".

Everywhere else, a big bike is a pain in the butt. There's lots of people going rtw two-up on Tenere's and F650's and loving it.

If you're 6'3 and 250 pounds and your wife is big too, then an R11xxGS makes total sense anywhere, but otherwise for smaller people, especially under 5'10 or so, it LIMITS you to where you can go and costs more too. Don't get me wrong, the R11xxGS series is an awesome long distance touring bike and works far better than it's weight says it should - it's superbly engineered in the handling department, but that doesn't mean it's the perfect or only tool for the job.

Find a bike that FITS you, take your passenger on the back for a good ride, and see if you're comfortable. If so, go for it. Just don't forget that all your luggage is almost equal to another passenger...

I'd recommend the R1200GS over the R11xxGS for smaller people too, it's a lot lighter and lower.

Re the KTM "too small to manage 2up" in what way? Power, or space for two on the seat? My bet is that it was space on the seat, not power - it has plenty. The bike was never designed for two-up travel, but with a much better seat they have been used two-up for rtw - there's even a few masochists I can think of that are riding stock seat two-up rtw. Anything can be used and will WORK - it's what's best for YOU that matters, and we all have different criteria, experience and preferences.

Re earlier GS's, there's a huge amount of discussion on these versus the later bikes on the HUBB - use the search facility, browse the "Which bike" forum and you'll find tons of info.

And try hard to get to the Colorado HU Travellers Meeting (or Mexico) for some serious discussion on long distance travel - see the meetings page, link on left.

Hope that helps,

Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


One world, Two wheels.

LuckyStriker 13 May 2005 14:30

Hi Sfajner
Elsewhere on the HUBB Grant or Susan Johnson mentions that your pillion needs a good seat or she will make the trip a living nightmare for you! BMW is arguably the manufacturer who does the most to keep the spousal bum happy.
I ride a R1200GS (I’m a human skyscraper) – with a little adjustment to the front seat my fiancé can ride the bike as well… and she’s as tall as you. She prefers her perch on the back though…

Africa (one of the more difficult continents) has been crossed with Vespas and Yamaha R1 Superbikes. It sounds as if you’ve already decided on BMW so there is no point in me trying to talk you into or out of a certain bike.
I think your deciding factor should be comfort for your wife. My girl would never have agreed to marry me if she thought she’d have to spend holidays sitting on an anvil.

P.S. don’t stick a large Stars-and-Stripes on your bike – everyone will pester you to perform tricks thinking you’re Evil Knievel… Either that or it will turn otherwise friendly people into belligerent vandals in certain countries. (This issue has already been discussed elsewhere on the HUBB)

beddhist 13 May 2005 19:23

Even though I now run the risk that Grant might beat me up at the UK rally: I wouldn't buy an older GS. In Germany the for sale ads often have the statement: "Gearbox already rebuilt". It's their Achilles heel and hellishly complicated to repair.

To the rest of Grant's comment I can only say: Amen.

Another thing: don't think you need a trail bike of some sort. Two up with luggage you aren't going "off-road" in the real sense of the word. Dirt roads, yes.

If you like BMW and comfort try a K75 or K100. Or Even an F650.

I did around India and on to Europe on a CX500 two-up towing a one-wheel trailer. (I don't recommend the latter.)

I now have a Suzuki DR650SE, as does my other half. I have already regretted my choice and think I'd rather use something like a Honda NTV: reliable, not too heavy, low-end torque, shaft drive, tubeless tyres, low exhaust (important in my mind, cause trailie exhausts make your bike very wide). I'd probably put higher & wider handlebars on it to make it more manageable in rough stuff, and beef up the rear suspension.

Voilà, my 2 c worth.

Salut from Southern France, the bikers' paradise,


liketoride2 13 May 2005 19:27

You might give some consideration to the Suzuki 650 V-strom. I've ridden but not owned one. At a claimed dry weight of 418 lb, it's 40 lb lighter than the 1000 V-strom and similar in weight to a BMW R100GS, which means it's a lot lighter than an oil head GS. At about $6650 msrp, it's a bargain, especially compared to BMW prices. The seat height is quite low for a dual sport so it might fit you well in that regard. I also found the stock seat quite comfortable, something I rarely do.

The 650 cc twin motor makes surprising power, providing considerably more acceleration than one of the 650 dual sport singles and I believe somewhat more than an air head BMW. It's also very smooth for a twin. After riding one, I would have no qualms about going two up on this bike despite it being only 650 cc. I found it to be a very comfortable bike. The after market is developing for this bike - Happy Trails now makes panniers and someone makes a robust skidplate (don't recall who), for example.

The down side would be lack of ground clearance and suspension travel, at least compared to a dual sport single, and perhaps fuel injection, which adds complexity. However, I'm not sure ground clearance and travel are deficient compared to a BMW, (I'm not familiar with current BMW specs). Never the less, this bike isn't ideal for heavy duty off pavement riding but it will handle unpaved roads that are at least somewhat maintained quite well.

I don't believe there is an ideal bike for a RTW trip, and taking a passenger certainly limits the selection somewhat. I have no experience with the Honda dual sport twins which aren't sold in the US - Africa Twin, Varadaro, Transalp. Perhaps one of these would be suitable for your purposes if you can find a low mileage one in good condition(occaisonally one turns up on ebay). I think a Bmw R80 or R100 GS would be a good choice (I've owned both), although R80 forks have been known to crack and I would start out with a new driveshaft in an R100 if doing a RTW.

Although a single, a BMW F650 GS (which I've also owned) can be used for two up travel as it makes more power than a typical single. Acceleration (one up) seemed quite comparable to the air head GS's I previously owned. The complexity of fuel injection in this bike might be a downside (although most fuel injection systems seem to be proving very relible). The chassis seems adequately strong for two up travel with luggage.

These are all just opinions, based on my experiences, about bikes I would consider if in your situation. Hope they are of some help. I'm considering a two up trip from Alaska to Argentina in 2006, and the 650 V-Strom currently heads my list of candidates for that trip. Of course, I may change my mind before then.


Margus 14 May 2005 00:15

Offroad ability - forget the V-Strom!

1) a way too much plastic that can broke even on smaller falls
2) oil cooler is placed on the worst place imaginable (direct target for dirt, dust and flying free rocks coming from front wheel)
3) no spoked wheels
3) if really Strom implys, get 1000cc version for two uping - weight difference is hardly noticable while driving and second hand prices are on the same level as newer 650 here.

If 650cc really considered, then i'd recommend F650GS or TransAlp (more plastic, less "enduro" [sure more "enduro" than Strom], cheaper than 650GS!) Electric Fuel Injected machines (EFI) too complicated? - It's never seen broken down even on minor amounts! I rather say carburateor machines are more hassle due need often tuning fuel mixture and the need to rejet them for higher altitudes.

Seat height is no problem on any travel enduro - there's low aftermarket seats available for most of them or you can modify the stock seat your own. I've seen even about 160cm people riding enduros and even higher GS Adventures/KTM 950s with no problems.

Boxer BMWs expensive than others? Well, here second hand ('94-'97) R1100GSes are at the same price class as second hand (post-'00) V-Stroms and newer ('97-02') Africa Twins or even newer TransAlps, cheaper than Varaderos and Capo Nords! Why to spend more money if you can have:
- more low-rpm power that you really need for two uping
- maintenance free shaft drive,
- the easyest routine-maintainable engine conception (valve clearances adjustment is about 15 minute job even if you do it aside the road, throttle bodyes syncing is a breeze in few minutes, spark plugs off/on in few minutes) No need to hassle with plastics, details, frame and fuel tank in that lot of amounts to get access.
- lower centre-of-gravity, less weight to "handle".
- telelever front suspension, added comfort, stability and security in twisties and on hard braking (no "diving", or "waving" as with common 2-fork suspension making you lose control on critical situations on braking/accelerating wheather on direct road or in twisties).
- paralevel rear suspension, rear wheel removal is the easyest and quickest possible procedure, it's blessing because it's quite often requirement to remove rear wheel to work on (tyre worns out quicker, punctures, spokes etc).
- stickly out boxer cylinders with guards don't let the bike fall over the critical angle on often "slow-speed" falls on difficult offroad terrains - much easyer to get the heavy bike up again via my practice.
- stock wide and comfort dual seat for rider and pillon
- have the highest electrical power output: 700 Watts for your GPSes, heated clothing, additional lights, laptop/mobile phone charging options etc.
- ABS availability for those who want it.
- plus some other smaller BMW-standards as heated grips, extra 12V socket, all maitenance required tools and puncture repair kit are under the seat in standard etc that become handful on travelling.

This is my vision why boxer BMW travel-enduros are still hard to match in two-uping terms. Newer R1150GS/ADV and R1200GS probably lose some ground in payed-price/what-you-get compared with others - they really are more expensive. The new R1200GS is still in "beta" production status and having some reliability issues (final drive and servo-ABS failures mostly), i'd not recommend buying it for high-mileage RTW at least next year's model if most of serious issues are "ironed out".


[This message has been edited by Margus (edited 13 May 2005).]

Sfajner 14 May 2005 01:02

First of all thanks to all of you for your replies.
I'd take it that you have quite good background information knowing who you are and what you have done...by the way, it is an amazing trip you have done, and i congratulate you on the quality of this web site. really!

As far as BMW is concerned, just the size of the GSs (1100,1150) makes me uncomfortable. I was not sure that a 650 GS could handle all the weight of 2 people plus gear. I am happy to hear that! with regards to the R1200 GS, way, way, way, over my budget...did I say way over my budget?

I was also looking into the K series and thought that it would be a suitable and affordable ride... I am just not to sure about how well it would do on a "dirt" road...

The Katoom was a great bike, it was simply too tall for me, even with a lower seat, I already had problems managing the bike bymyself barely touching ground even after lowering the seat, and was really "scared" with someone in the back...Power , you re right, is plenty...All in all I loved the bike, i just wished it was a little eaier to handle for me, plus i had some problems with carbs and the fuel line melting on the exhaust...which I thought was a pretty Scary design flaw after i almost blew myself up in front of my house while warming up the bike...

Luckystriker, thanks for the advice!

Bedhist, Comment va la france en ce moment?
Merci pour tes conseils! I am trying to stay away from true Trail bikes, i want to be somewhat comfortable and i want my wife to enjoy the trip as much as i will...and since she does not really want to ride her own bike , we gonna have to find the right one for the both of us...

Liketoride2, thanks for the info on the Vstrom, I ll look into it a bit more...

Margus, you got a point...know anything more on the K series?

I am going to try to find out more, as you said beddhist, I am not gonna be jumping around on dirt roads with a passenger...

thanks to all of you, please keep on giving me advice and opinion, the more i know the better prepared i' be...


Grant Johnson 14 May 2005 02:10

Thanks Sam!

Re K-bikes - nah, not for a rtw if you have the choice. Twins and singles are better for the purpose, generally working better "off-pavement".

Check out R100GS, might be the ticket for you, or R1100GS - they can be found at prices similar, sometimes lower, than R100GS. (The old airheads are attaining "cult" status and priced accordingly)

[This message has been edited by Grant Johnson (edited 26 May 2005).]

Grant Johnson 14 May 2005 02:29

Don't worry Beddhist, you're safe - I do try to make it clear that I'm not "married" to airheads - the one I have I rode because at the time there was nothing BETTER for the job - but that was 1986. I would NOT buy an R80G/S today and take it around the world two-up.

I MIGHT take the one I HAVE around again, but I wouldn't start from scratch now. There's much better out there NOW.

I DO like the airheads - I'm very familiar with them, they've worked well for me since I started riding them in 1981, and I like being able to fix anything on them myself at the side of the road. The background that matters is that I was a mechanic in my early years, so fully understand the flaws and how to deal with them - in other words, for ME they are a 100% known quantity, therefore a solid choice.

However, for someone else, I don't normally recommend them unless other factors say they're the best for that person.

Newer bikes - ANY of them - are far more reliable and will definitely cause less grief. BUT if they break they can be harder to fix - what matters is that the really hard stuff to fix - electronics and fuel injection - VERY rarely fails. The stuff that does fail is the same as on an airhead - frames, saddlebag mounts, shocks etc.

hope that clarifies my personal thinking a little...

Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


One world, Two wheels.

Sfajner 14 May 2005 02:39

thanks again Grant...
i'll look into the r100 and Gs1100...the the earlier GS seem to be affordable from what i have seen and they seem to be a bit lower too...


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