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So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
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Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
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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.
I'm 31 y/o and I've been riding (either street or off-road) since I was 12. I'm looking for an adventure travel, dual-sport motorcycle. I'm 6'-3" and 160 lbs.
The first trip I've decided on will be the Trans-America Trail... not really challenging trail riding, but definitely off-road. Subsequent trips will most likely be international and involve more highway travel. So, I need something either street-legal (preferably), or easily convertible into SL. I want true dual-sport behavior, so nothing leaning strongly towards either extreme...
Based on my own research I'm thinking 500-600 cc. I don't want it to under-perform on the road with a load, but I don't want it to be unwieldy off-road. What do you think based on my body size? I also plan on doing alot of solo travel, so I'll need to be able to pick it up myself a few times a day.
Also: Everything dual-sportish is four-stroke these days, right?
You will have to make compromises somewhere. This question has, as you say, been asked many times before. Yet, no one can ever really achieve a definitive answer.
Some of the answers you get are trying to justify the bike they own or the bike they aspire to own. It is possible to tour the world on everything from a Monkey-Bike to a Bavarian Super tanker and everything in between.
Sorry, not very helpful. Wait for the more constructive suggestions to come in or better still, trawl the Hubb, then maybe start a “for and against” list. Have a look at some of the bikes “in the flesh” to help you decide. Also, in the long term if you make a decision, you are allowed to change your mind. Most second-hand bikes don’t loose their value very quickly so don’t be afraid to buy something and ride it for a few months.
Any of the 650cc dual sport bikes will do what you want - Suzuki DR650 / Kawasaki KLR650 / Honda XR650L (although the R is much nicer, it's not street legal out of the shop) / BMW F650 (or G650X if you can find one)... KTM 640 Adventure is another option...
I'd pick one you like the look of and try and get a test ride... most people use such bikes as a basic machine and modify/accessorize it to the way they want it anyway, and all the above have plenty of aftermarket parts and options available...
Most engineeers I have known tend towards logic and reason. So you have that going for you. That counts out all of the romantic and impractical bikes or the ones that go like hell and tend to blow up or are impossible to find parts for in Uruguay. You are also over six feet and setting your sights on the TAT so that counts out all the small, low ground clearance practical bikes. Knowing what I know now I would buy something cheap and reliable preferably from a meticulous anal type person on Craigslist or Advrider with garage floors clean enough to eat off. Maybe a KLR650 or DR650 in your case. Rather than spend a lot on a new bike I suggest buying a nice well maintained used bike which leaves more money for traveling.
Mind you I have worked my way down the food chain and am a minimalist. So a big RTW bike is overkill for me. When I was younger I didn't mind picking up a big BMW in the mud and rain out in the middle of Guatemala. Later this month I'll head down to Central America on a Kawasaki Super Sherpa. You'll have a blast no matter what bike you choose. Noboady much cares what bike you took to Tierra del Fuego. Your relatives will think you're nuts no matter what you end up buying.
I'd suggest not really worrying about the brands and models and simply go looking for the best deal you can get. As yet another engineer, set your specification then talk to the suppliers if you get my drift.
The big things to me are range (not fuel tank size anymore, now FI can be so efficient), tyre choice and the dealership network. If you take in second hand bikes as well, there is also the condition. With a blank cheque I'd probably go for an XT derivative, but if someone wants to fit an F650 or KLR with all the toys, have the first service done and sell me it for half the list price that'd be okay too.
To answer the final question, just about anything anyone will offer you will be a 4-stroke. Much as I love my MZ's, for hopping on and turning out a 500 mile day or riding a rough road , day after day, you won't beat the 600cc singles and the odd twin.
Well, I guess what I was really looking for was displacement suggestions more than specific models... which you guys and gals have already provided. Overwhelmingly it seems that 600-650cc is the mainstream opinion on displacement.
Beyond the displacement I'll make the final 'specific brand/model' decision based on cost, availability, necessary reinforcements/repairs, availability and cost of add-ons, availability and cost of parts, and of course, a few test drives.
As much as I'd like to go BMW, I'm going to save that extra $$ for the road.
I've heard some horror stories of not being able to locate tires outside the U.S. Are there any sizes that are fairly universally common? Or any sizes I should avoid like the plague?
I've actually never owned a fuel-injected bike. Does FI increase mileage enough to be a "gotta-have" feature? What percentage increase could I expect between identical bikes with carbs vs. FI?
Thanks for helping me answer the "unanswerable" question of which bike...
My advice is go for a YAMAHA XT600E. You simply won't find a better "bang for bucks" bike anywhere and thats a fact. It's probably the No1 African adventure bike ahead of the costly BMW's.
I procured a mint 1999 model with only 5,000 miles on the clock for only £1,600 ($3,200) in January 2007. I presume even better deals can be found across the BIG pond?
The Yamaha XT600E is about as straightforward, reliable and solid as an old school trail bike gets. The Yamaha XT600E was the last of a long line of 4-valve air-cooled Yamaha singles, starting off with the original, much-loved XT500 of the mid-70s. This is a true trailie: decent off-round and straightforward and ujn-fussy on. Don’t expect any frills or motorway plushness. But you won’t find a more honest workhorse than the Yamaha XT600E.
Completely trustworthy and about as straightforward as motorcycle engines get. The world may now have moved on with liquid-cooling, fuel injection and multi-valve systems, but for honest, trustworthy poke you could drive across deserts, I know which I’d take. The Yamaha XT600E is limited (to about 90mph) as a road bike, though…
The Yamaha XT600E definitely isn’t dripping in thick paint and lustrous chrome, but it’s rugged, durable and reliable – besides, all that shiny stuff never lasts long when riding on the much. No mechanical issues to speak of on the Yamaha XT600E, otherwise it’s a case of how well it’s been looked after…
The XT family of motorcycles are simply legendary...
Everyone here has gone through this same process. There is no perfect bike.
The 650s get the nod in the U.S. quite often. It is seen as a middle of the road displacement. It is important to remember though that this is a huge bike in Latin America where a Honda XR250 Tornado is considered a largish bike. There just isn't a lot out there in Atlanta in smaller displacement. Suzuki DRZ400, Kawasaki KLX250S, Yamaha WR250R come to mind. You might want to at least check those out. Good information over at ADVrider.com in the thumper section. The WR250R gets 80+ mpg, is fuel injected and cruises at freeway speeds. Those are sexy numbers to a cheapskate like me.
Tire availabiliy is more of an issue in third world countries. But nowadays the capital cities are more likely to have 17" rear and 19"fronts in decent sizes for bigger bikes. The easiest sizes to find are 18" rear, 21" front that fit the 125/250cc honda/kawa/zukis that most people zip around on. You can get those tires everywhere.
Fuel injected bikes get better gas mileage for a given displacement as a rule. I don't know the percentage but at least 25 percent better fuel mileage would be my WAG. You might be surprised to know that fuel costs are very steep in some countries. 9 or 10 bucks a gallon when I was in Ireland last spring. Over 10 bucks a gallon in Turkey. It makes 4 bucks a gallon from last summer seem cheap. Okay, enough rambling.
Thanks for the input everyone - great advice and insight. I think I can now make a sensible decision based on your advice and the wealth of knowledge floating around the forums. This was my first post. I'll be around here and adv poking and prodding for various bits of info, and will hopefully, one day be contributing wisdom back into this estimable community.
I'm thinking Suzuki as a top choice with Honda at second. While I won't rule out klr's, I've never really liked any Kawasaki's I've ridden. I've obviously left out KTM and BMW, which I do regret, but I so value the fact that I have no debt that I want to stretch my funds, and the horizon, as far as possible.
I'm thinking I'll go for a 650. I haven't completely eliminated 400's yet, but I need assurance they can handle long distance asphalt with a decent load. I'll base my final decision off some riding. I've ridden motorcycles, played guitars, heard sound systems enough after pre-over-researching to have learned that nothing replaces your natural response.
Neil: This will be my 5th motorcycle, and my first non-Yammy. Makes me weepy-eyed. I so love my Yamahas, but there's just nothing in my range available here.
All the above are fine bikes by any measure. The KLE500 is currently available new in the UK for £3,000 ($3,000 now that Sterling is FCKED) which is a absolute steal (less than half the cost of an equiv new KTM or Beamer).
Now tell me that the US didn't get the KLE either
If you want a 400 then have a look at the venerable little Suzuki DRZ400.
You will need to get rid of that awful thin "cheese wire" OEM seat and fit a Acerbis fuel tank. Most would urge you to pick at least a 600cc bike though.
Kent - the US market is very different to the UK, the bikes I listed above are all US models, while as you surmise, the Yamaha XT 600/660 range were never imported into the States, and the KLE500 wasn't a US bike either (understandable really, as it's pretty sh!t)...
The KLR650 is a very popular US machine, and continues to be one of the best selling dual-sport bikes, for some unknown reason!... actually, the reason is clear - you can pick up a brand new XR650L for around $4500, and a DR650 for well under $5000 too, same goes for the current KLR650 - these all cost significantly less in the United States than they do elsewhere...
Hi Engineer, given your height I think I'd be right in saying forget a BMW F650 GS, I mean the older 650cc model. It's too small. The one I did a 4 week test drive on vibrated far too much to live with on highways. For long times on a bike, think about the angle between back and thighs as this affects discomfort a lot. You need the thigh supported to avoid pressure. Best of times to you, Linzi.
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