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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 4 Mar 2014
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Venezuela
Posts: 35
Post Exp. with Honda, BMW and Yamaha in Latin America

I live(d) in Latin America with these three bikes and here is my resumee about the companies - not the models!

1. 1999 Honda XRV 750 Africa Twin
2. 2001 BMW F650GS
3. 2010 Yamaha XTZ1200 Super Tenere

The best bike is from Honda.
The petrol pump of the Africa Twin leaked in Brasil and I made it to the Honda station in Vacaria.
First – there are no AT sold in Brasil, so there are no parts for an AT.
Second – these guys found out that the petrol pump of the Shadow Shopper in the window was equal to what I needed. “Do you want us to uninstall it and put it into yours?” YES!
Best and quickest help I ever received. (Obrigado Vacaria!)

If you can: Buy a Honda!

The worst bike is from BMW.
We had a breakdown in Natal (north Brasil), we had to carry the bike to Rio de Janeiro (around 2500km). Then I had to travel to Sao Paulo (around 300km) in order to get the warranty.
First – bike was bought in Germany, broke down in Brasil, BMW said it is not responsible for it anymore.
Second – Sao Paulo promised to garanty the work of BMW Rio de Janeiro.
The bike broke down again. BMW never answered nor cared. The written warranty of BMW Brasil was without any value. We had to throw a two year old F650GS away. No kidding.
(BTW: We are germans, who officially work abroad. If BMW does not give a dump about representatives of Germany, what do you think they do for a Mr. Smith traveller?)
If you can avoid it: Do not buy a BMW!

In the middle so far is Yamaha.
Right now (march 2014) I am in Guatemala with an in Germany bought Yamaha.
There is a worldwide “calling back” because of light problems (something can overheat and the lights go out – accident danger). Yamaha Germany (thanks for the info!) says, I have to go to the Guatemala Yamaha dealer here to have it done without charge, but these guys have not even heard about the Yamaha XTZ1200 call (but they sell the bike here of course). So far I waited ten days only for the result, that they do not get an answer from Germany…
Well well.
And where did I get the info from?

My advice is: Do not buy the bike only because of the bike.
1. With a Suzuki you can go to Kawasaki, with a Kawasaki to Yamaha, with Yamaha to Honda, but with a BMW you need BMW.
2. There are motivated people, who want to help you NOW and there are talkers who NEVER help. I do not remember one terrible Honda workshop in South America, nor do I remember one good BMW one.
3. Beside Honda shops – I was always happy with the private shops. Sitting in the Argentinia Chaco with a family in the garden while the dad was fixing my bike.
4. Always(!!!) control what the people do to your bike. I just had a simple tyre change here at Yamaha. I asked how much pressure was put in. The answer was, that the tyre has the info on it. There is an info on the tyre??? -> Yeah, an info about the maximum pressure!
Imagine: At Yamaha they do not know the tyre pressure of a Tenere.
5. Buy a bike which was build longtime and use a late model, so that the childhood sicknesses are overcome. It is not so fancy – I know, but it will hold and nobody touches this boring donkey.
6. I had GIVI hardplastic boxes and now I have Yamaha Alumininia ones. Buy GIVI. The original parts from the bike factories are not as solid as GIVI. I admit I am a GIVI fanatic, but there is a reason (i.e. accidents on plastic ).
7. Same is valid for side bar protections.
8. Have a skidplate out of metal. Here in Guate the speedbumper are so high, that even my Super Tenere scratches (I just bought “bones” to higher her 2,5cm up).
9. Last but not least: Today’s people like to think, that the other (i.e. mechanic) is the expert. But responsible for your safety are you – so do not forget to check, what “experts” did to your bike. Are all screws there? Etc.

...to be continued...
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Old 4 Mar 2014
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: california
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Excellent words of wisdom!

I never trust the "experts" ... and always re-check the work they have done. I like to hang out in the shop during the job ... not to supervise, but just to "observe" and perhaps offer a tip or two if required.

I have found bolts left loose many times ... (or missing!), once found a rag left between cylinders, brake caliper bolt left loose, Steering head left loose, and even oil drain plug not tightened up.

Sometimes we get the feeling someone is trying to KILL US!!
I always to try to do ALL my own work. (except changing tires .... but I keep an eye out)

The best mechanics are OK with me watching ... the amateurs sometimes get Nervous. Too bad. It's my money!

Amazing story about your BMW! But you are not alone. Quite a few problem reports on F650's here and elsewhere.

The Africa Twin is a classic. We ALL wish Honda would do a "modern" version of this bike again. I still have an "old" bike ... which is past "childhood" sickness. My Suzuki DR650 is a rock. It has not changed since
1996. SO easy to maintain ... a monkey can do it. (Me!). It is not fancy so not too many want to steal it ... it is cheap to buy and goes a long way without problems! Another "Classic" like your Honda AT.

What are you doing now in Guatemala? Living where? (I lived there in the '70s)
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Old 6 May 2014
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Venezuela
Posts: 35
Part II - Exp in Latin America

I would have bought any Honda bike which they name "Africa Twin II".
The decision was made in Bremen in the Honda dealer there. The new Honda has no clutch anymore....

Boy, these salesman have no idea, what kind of trouble can be on ones way. To have no clutch is no buying argument at all. I looked at the bike and was so dissapointed - it had nothing to do with an AT.

The BMW... no I will never ever buy a BMW again!
The Triumph 800XC - two up and a dog in the tankpack?
I was left to get in love with the fat lady called Super Tenere.

For our time in Africa I informed myself with a Toyotadealer in Berlin. The spare wheel was under the car (not on the backdoor). I lied half under the car on cold ceramics and asked him, how he would get the tyre out on a muddy way.
He answered, that nobody ever asked him how to free the spare tyre.
-> So what we have in our civilisation are bikes and cars which seem to be able to do the job - but are they???

In my first part I wrote about the companies. I have one more unbelievable BMW story for you.
The F650GS needed the 10.000 km inspection and there was no dealer in our country. Where you can find the BMW dealers worldwide is named in a high-quality BMW brochure. All the addresses of garages and behind is a little dark car and sometimes as well a dark bike and then you know that Asuncion in Paraguay is an official BMW bike garage, where you can prolong the (as we know from part one is worthless anyway) BMW warranty.
So what you guess happened, when we arrived in Asuncion??

The garagemanager said, "no we have no bike garage".
And the little black bike in the high-quality BMW bochure behind his address? "...is only there, because we can order you an oilfilter for your BMW, but we do not install it."
**** ME!

The problem with BMW is also, that the info might be wrong and you think "here is an oasis in the dessert" and then you are toast.
But even if they have the same BMW like yours in the shop, they would NEVER uninstall a part out of a showroom bike. In Rio they told us we would have to wait 3 months to receive parts.... and they had three 650GS for sale.

Two months after the XTZ1200 cable problem and the worldwide recall by Yamaha (see part one). What happened.
I got the promise that they would do it for me "although my bike was not bought in their shop".
Lucky me! Yamaha Guatemala makes an exeption for me.

What do we learn?
When Yamaha Central calls worldwide all XTZ1200 back for safety reasons, how on earth can Yamaha Guatemala say, that they make an exeption for me?
Think about it and you understand why I want a Honda.

And did they contact me so far (2 months now) to do the garanty job? NOPE!
Do I think they ever will?

--- to be continued ---
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africa twin, f650gs, guatemala, south america, super tenere

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