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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.
Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
Arizona USA



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  #1  
Old 12 Jun 2020
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My ramblings about why i decided on a CRF250 Rally rather than an Africa Twin

Apologies in advance for the length of this, its just cut straight out of my blog but thought it may be slightly useful for someone deciding on their round the world bike.

Anyway, here it is...


When looking at adventure motorcycles, and in particular their engine size there’re a lot of opinions, so I thought I’d add mine, for what it’s worth.

When choosing a bike, I had the luxury (having decided to sell my house to fund the trip) to choose pretty much anything on the market. I initially decided to buy an old 1996 Suzuki DR650se spurred on by romanticised delusions of traveling the globe with my faithful old steed, tinkering as I went to keep her ‘running good as new’. The reality turned out to be somewhat different, spending more time fixing the bike than anything else so it quickly lost its appeal, and so I came round to the idea of buying new.

So I did what any self respecting male would do, I started looking at the biggest most powerful adventure bikes available. look at the, below, there’s no way that any motorcyclist, let alone one planning an adventure wouldn’t be more than slightly aroused by these three!



Above is the BMW GS 1250, KTM 1290 Super Adventure R and the Honda Africa Twin, these cost £13,849, £14,799 and £14,649 respectively, and for that money you’d expect them to be pretty damn good! It’s worth noting that the prices above are the ‘from’ prices (I only had a quick look so I’m sure you’d find a better deal than I did in my 5 mins search) before you start clicking away on all the lovely optional extras at which point the price can become quite eye watering.

So there I am, searching the internet, reading reviews by random journalists spouting on about which bike is best on their half day road test that does not in any way reflect what I’m about to do. A mate then asked me a couple of questions, these seem so simple now I write them but I hadn’t fully considered them at the time. These were as follows:

What is the point of this trip?

What do you want the bike to do?

Seems simple right? I’m happy to put my hand up and say I hadn’t answered these before letting my inner 10 year old loose on the internet to go virtual bike shopping.

Here are the answers I came up with to these very enlightening questions:

What is the point of this trip?

- To travel overland
- To see as much of the world as I can
- To travel indefinitely (I’m not made of money but this sounds better than ‘for a long time’)

What do you want the bike to do?
- Be reliable
- Be efficient
- Allow me to go anywhere and get as far off the beaten track as possible
- Be easy to fix when something goes wrong
- Carry enough kit that I can rough camp for a large portion of the trip
- Be comfortable on long journeys
- Not be too upsetting should I experience a total loss/write off while abroad (because I’ll only be covered 3rd party in most countries and even then, the insurance won’t be worth the paper its written on)

You’ll notice that none of the above mention being able to power wheelie at 80mph, or sit at 120mph on the autobahn all day, or provide extra bragging rights while at the pub with mates. As much as the answers I didn’t give were telling, there were two answers I did that made me change tack with my bike choice, these were, ‘Allow me to go anywhere and get as far off the beaten track as possible’ and ‘Not be too upsetting should I experience a total loss/write off while abroad’.

Off the beaten track to me means in the middle of nowhere, on my own, with no support at all. If I was on a 250kg bike, and that’s before kit weight is added, how many times am I going to want to pick that up before it becomes very old, very quick! The next answer considers cost, if I lost a £15,000 bike mid trip would I regret taking it, the answer is almost definitely yes.

Don’t get me wrong, in a different situation and after I have finished my round the world trip i’d love a big adventure bike, the mate who asked me these questions has the KTM and I certainly don’t turn it down when he offers to swap for part of a ride! For the record, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R is hilariously powerful for an adventure bike, 160bhp is awesome, it’s as unnecessary as it is wanted! But back to the subject at hand.

When looking at the answers I gave to my mate’s questions I was being drawn towards smaller adventure bikes, there are a few options that seemed to tick a lot of boxes, some of these are shown below:



The Kawasaki Versys 300 X, BMW GS 310 and the Honda CRF250 Rally, these are all available for around the £5,000 mark. They may not be as exciting as the big bikes to look at or ride but they cover every point in my list of answers, and to be honest, I still like the way they look, my inner 10 year old is still satisfied with these options. There is also a new small CC KTM which is worth a look.

As I wanted reliability and the ability to be fixed anywhere in the world, I couldn’t get past the Honda CRF250 Rally, they are incredibly popular in South East Asia and seem to be everywhere in developing markets. Honda are also pretty well known for being reliable. The Honda is also the more off road orientated of the three which increased its appeal to me further.

I’m going to wander a little off topic here, I follow a chap on Instagram, he’s riding round the world on a Ducati Scrambler, he’s having a great time but each time he breaks down he’s mentioned the mechanics spend more time taking pictures with the bike than actually fixing it as they’ve not seen one before, as you would expect he also struggles to get parts.

As much as this isn’t how I want to spend my trip, the answer to the question ‘What is the point of this trip’ for him may have been ‘to travel on my Ducati Scrambler’, in which case, he nailed his bike choice! As everyone is different and wants different things from their own trips this is just my rambling opinion and reasons why I chose what I chose, and not in any way a suggestion of which bike I think others should get.

Back to the point…You may be thinking, ‘Yes the CRF may be reliable and easy to fix but it’s gutless and boring’, and you would be correct to a certain degree, it is gutless, but I don’t need guts, I want something to get me where I’m wanting to go.

The biggest problem while riding for me isn’t the bikes capability, it’s the squishy organic bit in the middle, you see, I’m a bit of a tool, if you give me 160bhp off road, I’m going to use it, a lot! And during the use of this whole stable of horses I’m going to find out two things, the limit of the bikes (and associated parts) structural integrity, and, more importantly, the limit of my rather lacking skill levels. Very rarely do I have the thought, ‘No Mike, don’t do that, you may crash’. Unfortunately I have seen videos of people riding big adventure bikes like they’re trials bikes, I am not that good on a bike, nor will I be any time soon but it won’t stop me knowing in the back of my head that it’s possible, and for these reasons, less is more for me!

As I’m sure is fairly obvious by now, I did opt for the Honda CRF250l Rally, after shopping around I got a deal I was happy with, I have had the bike for just over a year now and i couldn’t be happier with it. I have made a fair number of modifications to the bike as you will be able to see on the page, wittily titled ‘The Steed‘. The modifications made have turned it from a capable little dual sport to a bike that I have no doubt will take me round the world with ease. You can read about the bike from Honda ‘here‘.

The only two areas of concern for me when buying the little Honda was firstly tank size and therefore range, which, when ridden sensibly is 150 miles. When you take into account that the tank is only 10.1 litres this is a fairly respectable range, but muttering to yourself ‘it’s got good miles per gallon, it’s very frugal’ won’t provide you much comfort when you’re stuck in the desert half way between the only two fuel stations. The simple answer to this is I’ll be carrying fuel bladders and if needed, I’ll fill old Coke bottles (or similar) with fuel if there is a particularly long stretch without fuel available so it wasn’t a hard obstacle to overcome.

Secondly I was concerned about load carrying capacity as I would only have 24bhp to play with and suspension that was ludicrously soft. The suspension sag issue was overcome by changing the suspension which was surprisingly cheap and the lack of power just inspired me to travel slightly lighter than I would have done had I had a big bike, and for me, that’s a positive.

I know a lot of people will have the impression that the CRF250 will be too slow for them and lacks power. This takes me back to the questions and answers above, I want to see the world, that is the main aim of the trip, it’s easier to see it at 50 mph than at 120. I don’t intend to be going particularly fast at any point so not having the ability to do so isn’t a concern for me. It is worth noting that I don’t have a problem maintaining motorway speed on British roads (70mph), it will sneak up to 80mph at a push but don’t expect much more!

Time for a road test with the boys!

Last summer I went on a road trip around Ireland with three of my mates on bikes for 5 days (a fourth joined for a bit in a car but that doesn’t add to the story so he’s getting ignored).



As you can see above, it was an odd assortment of bikes but provided a good comparison of the Honda CRF250l Rally against other different styles of bike. I had one third of the power of the next slowest bike but I had no problems keeping up for the most part.

I’ll be honest, when the KTM, MT-07 or the CBR really wanted to open the taps on the more open roads they would leave me for dead but on the tight twisty rough back roads of Ireland for the majority of the time they weren’t able to shake me and in some cases the MT-07 and the CBR couldn’t keep up due to road quality. If all forms of self preservation were turned off, obviously the KTM would have been faster on all roads throughout the trip but in real world use, there wasn’t much in it on the twisty rough stuff.



As you can see above, Irish back roads don’t really lend themselves to balls to the wall super-bike riding, id have chosen my Honda CRF250l Rally all day long on these roads.

Where the 24bhp did become a little tiresome was once we’d finished our lap of Ireland, we’d disembarked our ferry in Rosslare, hugged the coast all the way round and we were then in Sligo, the weather was horrible and we had a 120 mile motorway hack to get to Dublin for our ferry back to the UK. To keep up with the bigger bikes I was wringing the CRF’s neck the entire day, what was a light acceleration for the rest of the guys coming off a roundabout was full throttle for me.

They didn’t mind too much as the top speed and acceleration of the Honda CRF250l Rally kept a lid on the silliness to some degree, it did provide a new game for everyone of seeing what the CRF’s top speed was with a wind break of another bike (or bikes) in front, i can confirm it is NOT triple figures but resulted in a lot of child like giggling over intercoms while finding out.

Conclusion?

I have owned big bikes before the Honda CRF250l Rally and I will be getting a bigger bike once I’ve finished this RTW trip, but for me, right now, this is the perfect tool for the job. I’ve grown quite attached to the bike and it really is fun to ride once you’ve accepted that unlike most bikers, you’re not the fastest thing on the road.

I would love it, as a lot of other adventure bike enthusiasts would, if Honda would stick a 450 engine into the Honda CRF250l Rally frame, with ~40-50bhp while maintaining the 8,000 mile service intervals, for me this would give the perfect bike, but until that happens I’m happy for with the 250.

It is important to note that this is my opinion based on my requirements for a specific trip, a lot of people will have different requirements but I would suggest not writing off the smaller capacity adventure bikes before giving them a chance, they’re cheap, more able than you’d expect (possibly more able off road than a big bike in the hands of an average rider) and great fun.

As I did, you can read reviews all day long, but unless the review is of the same trip you have planned and written by a person that is identical to you, what value does it really hold? In the words of Malcolm Forbes, ‘It is very flattering to ask others about matters they’re little qualified to discuss’, but in the end, what do their opinions or thoughts really add.

In short, answer the two questions, make a short list, go buy whatever ticks your boxes, if you were hoping for a definitive answer as to whether you should get a large or a small capacity adventure bike id imagine by now you’re somewhat disappointed, but on the plus side, at least you’ve passed a few minutes and looked at some nice pictures of some lovely bikes, so not a complete loss, right?

If you read this far you must be very bored today!

Cheers,
Mike

Blog - The Feral Traveller - My solo round the world motorcycle trip

Instagram - the_feral_traveller
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Old 13 Jul 2020
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Great read, not bored...
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Old 14 Jul 2020
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Of course, the DR650 is still available new in Australia and N America at time of writing.....
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Old 14 Jul 2020
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I hear you. Back in May I down-sized from a 650 to my brand new little TW200. It is not a fast bike - but it is a fun bike. I've been taking it out on average about every other day and really like riding it - it's probably the most enjoyable bike I've ever rode. Pretty much every ride I get home with a smile on my face.
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Old 14 Jul 2020
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I've done 90% of my RTW now using a KLR650. It has been wonderful for the job and I'll use it until the end -but if I had known at the beginning what I know now I would have used a smaller, lighter bike for all the reasons you have enunciated. Good luck with your trip.

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Old 15 Jul 2020
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for me 500cc is kinda minimum I could live with for traveling.
Why suffer.
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Old 6 Jan 2021
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrinceHarley View Post
Of course, the DR650 is still available new in Australia and N America at time of writing.....
Sorry, should have checked back on this post.

Yes, absolutely correct, if the DR650 was available in the UK at the time of writing it may have been a different blog post.

Unfortunately it's not and hasn't been for a very long time. The only way to get one is to have it imported, I believe some have done that but it's a lot of faffing about.

As mentioned at the begining of the post, I did buy a DR650 to start with but the newest I could find for sale in the UK was a 1996 model, in fact, it was the only one I could find for sale at the time.

So yes, would have been great if it wasn't for the pesky UK emissions regulations!
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Old 7 Jan 2021
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tremens View Post
for me 500cc is kinda minimum I could live with for traveling.
Why suffer.
There has been times where I couldn't agree more!

Other times when I'm happy with the 250 and it's cheap, easy to fix and cheap to run nature.

I like my little Honda but I still look at the Husqy 701LR quite a lot.

As mentioned, it's not perfect, but it'll have to do for now but I understand your point!
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Old 7 Jan 2021
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Crf250......cracking bike . Def the better choice over the AT for ur trip in fuel economy alone. Wish I could fit on them but alas no
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Old 7 Jan 2021
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Feral_Traveller View Post
As mentioned at the begining of the post, I did buy a DR650 to start with but the newest I could find for sale in the UK was a 1996 model, in fact, it was the only one I could find for sale at the time.
Jimmy`s selling one in Birmingham (2016) that`s what i would be buying.

https://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hu...-k-sale-101296

Mezo.
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Old 7 Jan 2021
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A good read

“but for me, right now, this is the perfect tool for the job.”

And that is the perfect way to choose a bike - the right bike for the job.

Lots of jobs - lots of bikes to choose from. It’s funny, but when I have taken my GS around Australia, I could just as easily have taken the Burgman and had just as much fun... it probably would have done it better, particularly in the wet of the north.

Have fun on your trip
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Old 17 Jan 2021
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mezo View Post
Jimmy`s selling one in Birmingham (2016) that`s what i would be buying.

https://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hu...-k-sale-101296

Mezo.
It's the lack of available options at the time that was the issue, I was certainly looking out for them. I bought my bike 2.5 years ago and left the UK in may last year, bit late now but thanks for the link
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Old 17 Jan 2021
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Very good read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Safe travels
brian
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Old 17 Jan 2021
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Excellent and sensible thought process. Like many, I have the large cc / high HP bike. However, for long rides into the unknown I went through the same thought process, ending, however with a different answer. I ended up with a Himalayan. Basic but great fun, and also complements well the larger bikes. I look forward to the RRs!
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Old 17 May 2021
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Excellent read, thanks a lot. Have you or anyone else taken a look at the 300 Rally? More power, less weight apparently. Seems to be a good step up from the 250. Agreed with you on almost all accounts. Only doubts that remains for me are, as you rightly pointed out, the days in which you need to take the highway/freeway to get to where you want to go. I would assume that an easy 130KM/H pace would be needed. WHile I was based in Bolivia for work I did Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Peru trip with my Triumph Thunderbird Sport 900 and boy did I enjoy it but in the back of my mind only two words came to mind: LESS WEIGHT! Thanks again for sharing, great read!
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