Yamaha WR250R vs Honda XR650L vs Suzuki DR650
Ok guys, I'm asking for some personal experience, thoughtful advice, or prominent points of interests that I may have not mentioned, left out, or forgotten. The question is about the durability, reliability, financial investment, and overall value between three bikes. The Yamaha WR250R, Honda XR650L, and Suzuki DR650.
First and foremost, the trip will involve the following.
In 2 years, three of us are traveling around the entire world. We will be riding from our home town, just north of Seattle, to the northernmost part of Alaska. We will then ride down to the bottom of South America, hitting every country along the way in meandering fashion before we ship the bikes from Buenos Aires to South Africa. We will ride up the east coast of Africa to the northern countries and ferry across to Southwestern Europe. From Southern Europe we will ride to the northernmost part of Norway before looping back and riding towards Southeastern Europe and heading through Turkey, Georgia, Russia and into the Stans. From there, it becomes a bit fuzzy. We will either ride south, and head towards India and South East Asia, or we will head East towards Mongolia and the Road of Bones. If we head east, we will ship from Vladivostok to Vietnam and tour Southeast Asia from there. From Southeast Asia we will head south towards Malaysia and Indonesia, where we will reach East Timor where we can then ship to Darwin, Australia. We will tour Australia, ship to New Zealand, tour NZ and then ship home to Seattle.
In total we will ride through approximately 65 countries, cover approximately 65,000 miles, across 6 continents, and over the course of roughly 25 months.
Secondly, we are each are each of nearly the same, yet different sizes. I (Alex) am 6’6” and 210lbs, with a 36.5” inseam. Tom is 6’2” and 185lbs, with a 33” inseam. Kristi is 5’9” and 155lbs, with a 31” inseam. Each bike will fit Tom or I just fine. Kristi’s bike will need to be lowered. Not an issue. Weight is no problem for her either. In effect, we can each ride any of the bikes just fine with simple modifications.
Our first goal is to reach a mutual decision concerning which bike we will ride around the world. We will all ride the same bike to ensure that we have ample spare parts, combined knowledge of the motorcycle, and be able to ensure preventative maintenance is carried out regularly. The benefit of riding the same bike, for us, easily and significantly outweighs riding our own personal favorites.
After doing my own research, and having conferred with the other two riders we decided between the three of us that we'd prefer a sturdy, off road worthy motorcycle that has the least chance of letting us down and leaving us stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Our key points so far are listed below
To sum it up:
The 650’s are both at least 50lbs heavier stock, and to attain the same fuel range, our goal is set at 250 miles, the 650’s need an extra gallon, or 6.25lbs. The WR250R therefore has roughly a 60lb weight advantage.
The 650s are both air cooled and carbureted and so are less to worry about, but more difficult at higher altitudes, i.e. South America, parts of the Stans, and Europe. Can run “battery-less”
The WR250R is water cooled and fuel injected. Puncture a radiator in a fall, and you’re into some money. Fuel pump fails = money. Fuel injection fails = going nowhere. It must operate on a battery.
Seat heights are not much of an issue. Tom and I like the higher seat heights as we are both taller than average. Kristi enjoys the shorter height available after lowering any of the bikes. So it’s of no concern.
We’d prefer to run a 21” front and 18” rear wheel which puts the Dr650 at a disadvantage unless modified. Not impossible.
Shipping Costs: The heavier, larger bikes will cost more to ship, and our major shipping destinations are not small. Buenos Aires to South Africa, Ferry from Africa to Europe, (Possibly Vladivostok, Russia to Vietnam), East Timor to Darwin AUS, Syndey AUS to New Zealand, NZ to Seattle. Over all, it will be cheaper to ship smaller, lighter, less dimensional bikes.
Fuel Economy: The WR250r can obtain nearly 10 more miles per gallon then the 650’s. Over the course of 65,000 miles, at an average cost of $3.00/gl, the savings reaches nearly $800. The better the mileage difference, and the higher the price of fuel, the larger the savings will be for the WR250r.
The 650’s have been tried and true, and each has been ridden around the world successfully on multiple accounts with the trophy going to the DR650 for the sheer number of riders who choose that bike. Personal friends of mine have ridden the XR650L 30,000 miles around the planet with no major defects. The 250 however, from my research does not seem to have been ridden on immensely long journeys such as this one. It is ONLY 2 years old however, and much can happen in the 2 more years before we depart.
OK. So having said all of this, and putting forth what I know about the bikes, and all that other jazz. What do you guy/gals think about them? I’d like to hear things like, “availability of spare parts”,“reliability issues”, “what you think it’d cost to properly modify the bikes for RTW travel”, “necessary modifications for one bike that aren’t necessary for the others”, and things like that.
Which bike would you ride around the world for 2 years, 65,000 miles, 6 continents, and 65 countries? These bikes will be our homes, livelihood, and mode of transportation.
The bank is open; give me your two cents please! Thanks!
--Alex, Tom, and Kristi
Just to throw a little oil into the flames: In my experience and gathering from what I heard and read, fuel injection might be harder to repair/replace but carbs are much more likely to fail in the first place.
Think about cars, even on the oldest run down heaps of crap it's pretty unlikely the f.i. fails, after all the tech has been around pretty much forever now...
No FI discussion here please! There are threads for that stuff...
I've got a WR250R with 3,000miles on it, longest trip 1,000miles in 3days.
I owned for (part of the) same time an XT660R with 16,000miles on it, longest trips around 300miles.
I am 5'11" and about 70kg.
I have put some response into the previous thread comparing a wr with a klx250 but I will try to answer some comments using my own situation. As soon as I've finished some more work....:(
I don't know any of these bikes, but I think the WR will be more sensitive to service intervals. Less oil in a higher revving engine= shorter/more critical service intervals, it could become an issue.
Also to benefit from using a lighter bike you would have to travel very light.
The wr250r has a scheduled valve check/service only after 26,000 miles. The suggested oil change intervals are every 3,000 miles! It's incredible, but in reality the Wr250r has more dispersed service intervals then the Dr650 or xr650L.
Edteamslr: I'll be awaiting your response. Off to work now myself!
Blimey, I'm gobsmacked, and stand corrected
Greetings from a fellow Bellinghamster, almost returned from my own trip. I just lost a long response, so this one will be brief.
I think you are paying attention to stuff that does not tend to matter once you hit the road. That's what everyone does--you pay attention to what you can control when the trip is still two years away. Try not to get too carried away, however.
For example, $800 for gas matters very little, even multiplied by three. Really. You're looking at spending tens of thousands of dollars easily, probably much more. You want a bike which will be reliable and fun, not one which will save you an insignificant amount of money.
Carbs do not necessarily need work. What you want is a fuel system which can easily be taken apart and cleaned of a spec or dust or a bit of water, because even if nothing ever goes wrong with it--mine has gone 90,000 miles without any real problems--you won't know this without checking. It can be really nice to have a fuel system which anyone, including but not limited to actual motorcycle mechanics, can break down and put together easily by the side of the road in the rain while being attacked by sandflies. And you can certainly ride at altitude without adjusting your carb or changing jets--I went long periods up to 16,000 feet with mine and never even fouled the plug.
Unless you are a very rare breed of overlander, you will spend most of your time on pavement or good dirt roads. You don't need a dirtbike, you need a bike which will carry excessive loads at highway speed and will manage the offroad portions adequately. I doubt this will be a 250 unless you three can pack very, very lightly....but others will disagree. The way to find out is to load up a 250 and take a long trip with it.
Recommended service intervals sometimes don´t really relate to what your bike needs. I change oil at 2-2500 miles because by that time it has sheared and doesn't work well (as determined by people who have had their used oil lab tested and also by the fact that my bike stops shifting properly). On the other hand, I go much longer between valve clearance checks (because no one, including myself, finds them necessary at the manufacturers intervals). Again, it is easy to get all worked up about service intervals when you are sitting at home reading the manual, but your trip takes place in the real world, not within the confines of your service manual (which is often the product of a bunch of fantasizing by engineers or corporate lawyers anyway).
Last, I've shipped four times and neither weight nor size ever had any impact on price, availability or ease. I know that this varies, but it might be worth keeping in mind.
My prejudices are obvious--with 90,000 miles on a KLR 'm jealous of the 250 and DRZ riders out there but I would do the same again....with maybe some consideration of the DR650. There's a reason most overlanders choose this size bike (or larger).
Enjoy your preparations! When I get back to Bellingham I'll be happy to answer questions over beer or other adult beverages.
Ditch the liquid cooled, and go aircooled. So that's either 650 of the three options.
How about a serow / dr350?
Rationale: my liquid cooled bike went through a phase of spitting off coolant hoses, very annoying. Glad I was always somewhere civilised. A thousand miles of washboard beating across mongolia... it would at least play in the back of my mind.
The clr125 however would lose 10mph in the middle of a very hot day, but it never stopped going. As long as it had petrol, oil and a spark it was happy. It never ran perfect, but it ran.
I had my XT600 stolen, which I finally replaced with an Honda XLR 250cc baja I've had some time with both bikes now and though I am aware that i would be better off with the 250cc on some smaller tracks, its a non starter for me.
The motorway work and carrying a load on the 250cc doesnt even begin to compare with the 600 particularly if you need to blast down some motorways to get somewhere decent.
I will be selling the 250 and my BMW and buying another 600cc bike - The new Yamaha 660z Tenere (Water cooled against my better judgement I know I know!) Its also very heavy, but so worth it.
The DR650 was my second choice by the way, and the KLR 4th.
Simple mechanics is good - especially in less "technical" countries.
Honda is probably the way to go - most common/largest bike producer, and has the right size wheel to start with (to meet your brief)?
Aircooled is also nice & simple - coz if you aim to cover over 50k miles, odds-on you're gonna have to do a bit of repair work here & there.
Bikes that can run without a battery are also a good idea - coz bike batteries are a weak point (compared to large car ones) & do dry up due to heat, spills etc.
Size doesn't necessarily matter - coz you just adjust your speed to suit, but a large motor can be a godsend, and as already said, you're into this trip for tens of 1000's, so a few hundred (extra fuel, tyres, etc) here & there don't matter.
This is a once in a lifetime trip (maybe) so aim to ENJOY it & don't skimp too much :thumbup1:
I prefer to just describe my situation and try to challenge the received wisdom (big vs small, carb vs FI, Hard vs soft etc.) that's hard to avoid these days. You can then take from it what you want. I have only done the UK to CapeTown via the West Coast on an Africa Twin but it showed me what I want to do next. In the eye of the beholder, the WR is beautiful. Well made, a joy to ride and equipped with a number of features that make my next trip easier to consider doing.
The Africa West Route is probably over 97% decent tarmac and improving all the time. An Africa Twin works well and allowed me to achieved that journey but what I found was that the memorable parts of the trip were not the roads but the areas when we struggled, the more remote places, the places where we had to slow down and absorb the world we found ourselves. I decided that my next trip would be on a smaller, lighter bike, with less stuff. I want to go be able to get to the places I just wouldn't consider on the larger bike and I accept that I just made the 97% that bit harder on myself as a result. Next stop is Russia and Mongolia and by taking less baggage with me and getting further off the beaten track, I hope to concentrate on making the most of the trip rather than just following the tarmac in front of me.
I think other people on this thread have described a 'Just do it' mentallity that is definately called for but I would add that you should make sure you are honest about what the 'it' actually is. Do you want to sit (cramped) on a 250 for 5,000miles to enjoy a couple more of the finest rough/offroad or would you rather cruise your trip on the smoothest tarmac in lovely comfort or would you prefer somewhere in between? Try it out, make a few adjustments and try it again.
As said before, the 10mpg doesn't matter but then again neither does the liquid/air cooled, FI/carb or most of that stuff. Most people who read this site are more likely to choose bikes that are liquid cooled and increasingly FI but even that doesn't really tell you anything helpful.
And the Honda is one of the tallest dual sport bikes out there. (Yes, it can be lowered) But it feels top heavy. Still a nice bike in some ways. More dirt biased.
I've owned the XR-L and know well it's pit falls. I've seen the XR-L in action on many Baja rides (since 1994) As a travel bike IMO, its got some issues:
1. Weak sub frame ... not suitable for RTW without major strengthening
2. Battery Box vulnerability (I've seen them torn clean OFF)
3. Air Cooled only ... radial valve motor runs Very Hot
4. Uses Oil normally .... be very careful level does not get too low
5. Will pit or seize cam if run low on oil. (ask me how I know this)
The Yamaha is a great little bike. If the ride was 80% off road I'd vote WR. But listen to Mark's wise words here.
I ride a DR650 and it would be my clear choice based on 33K miles of hard use. But I would also add the KLR to your list. The KLR is a better Big Man
bike than the DR and with the right mods can be nearly as good. Maintenance is a bit more (liquid cooled, shims, hard access to carb and some other assemblies) I owned a KLR too.
The DR650 excels in many categories. The DR is not simply "Air Cooled", it is Air/Oil cooled. Google Suzuki SACS air/oil cooling system.
The DR may be too low for BOTH the big guys ... but you can change links to raise it up an inch ... or more? Also you can build up the seat. Corbin can do this and probably Sargent as well. At 5"9" your female rider will be fine on the stock DR650. No lowering needed.
All three would need mods to be RTW ready. Spend as much as you like ... or not. My DR650 cost me about $2000 all said and done: Ohlins shock (used), re-do front suspension, HT racks, soft panniers, hand guards, bash plate, Corbin, FMF pipe, Jet kit, IMS tank. The Ohlins is not needed, a re-sprung stock shock is fine. You will need a better seat and most of the rest listed.
Once set up right the DR is nicely capable of highway cruising at 75 mph all day. Fairly smooth. Good for multiple long days, back to back. MPG of about 45 to 50 mpg (US gallons). Mine consistently gets 50 mpg. 220 mile range. (IMS tank)
With suspension up grades the DR will handle a fair bit of luggage and still work well off road. Its easy on tires, chains and sprockets. Good charging system, even if over taxed! (this is a big deal!)
Ride them all around, see what works out!
I would go with the most comfortable bike as day in and out for two years comfort will set the bikes apart. A new smaller triumph dual sport is soon to come out, may be interesting to have a look. As previous poster suggested much of the trip will be on asphalt and droning around on a thumper for 1000 miles gets old fast.
Now having said that, I think the WR would be a great choice if you travel light and do a lot of off road, but at 6'6" it would be a bit small. Lots of KLR's and DR's traveling in SA and don't forget the DL650 and Versys not great offroad but sweet on tarmac and can go anywhere a GS can. So going back to the comfort thing, I believe this is why so many choose the GS, but I would prefer something else.
There are many used Moto Guzzi Quota's and many owners have 100,000 miles +. Comfortable, dependable, air cooled, shaft drive, easy valve service, and can carry a ton. Just a thought.
Rated Issues of importance
I thought I would take some valid advice and rate some issues of importance. They are valued on a scale of 0-1 with 0 being a non issue, and 1 being of high importance. I'll start with some that were provided for me.
Reliability of operation, first and foremost -- 1
Starts with dead battery by bump starting -- 1
Runs on bad\low octane fuel -- 1
Local availability of parts (how common the bike is worldwide) -- 1
Ease of flat tire repair -- .8
Frame can be Welded with electric or gas -- .75
Simplicity of mechanics -- .75
Comfort -- .75
No special tools required -- .5
Overall weight -- .5
Given these priorities, there are a few easy deductions to make. The motorcycle needs to be ubiquitous, everywhere around the world. I don't have any urge to ride a KTM, nor a Husaburg, or a Husqavarna.
ideal vs real
The WR250R is a "different trip" from the other two bikes. People have too-generalised an idea of what an overland trip is. Any trip by bike will have to do some of the same activities ie. periods on highway, carrying a larger amount of gear than a Sunday afternoon trip, being able to run something electrical (just GPS or heated gear and extra lights) etc. That doesn't mean that ALL trips will involve poor quality fuel (just not true anymore), overheating water cooling system, your battery going dead and needing bumping, troubleshooting your FI system or repairing your carbs.
What I'm trying to say is, why is it that most people end up taking BMWs with FI and modern electrics on these trips when these forums always turn up with something with carbs from the 90's? Be realistic about how long you're going to be sat on a bike, assume you'll largely be on road of some sort (because the planet is becoming like that) and be realistic about how much stuff you need to take. Then buy a bike.
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