Thread: Exped bikes...features you want

  1. #1
    goodtimes's Avatar
    goodtimes is offline Expedition Portal Moderator Expedition Poseur
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Default Exped bikes...features you want

    I'm looking for opinions. There is a TON of info out there about features and options we like/dislike on our 4 wheeled exped vehicles....but no talk about what we like on our 2 wheeled versions. So, for those who either have, or have had, time in the seat of motorcycles used for exped travel, what do you like, and what do you not like (both OEM and aftermarket)?

    For example:

    ABS, or no ABS?

    Extra lighting?

    Heated grips?

    Hand guards?

    Fuel injection or carburator?

    Chain, belt (I have read that the newer belts don't have the shredding problem of a few years ago), or shaft?

    Larger capacity fuel tank(s): When does more = too much?

    I'm sure you get the idea.....

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Calgary, AB.
    At one time I was going to rig up a XR650R to take back to West Africa, where I grew up and spend some time putting around............anyway I've been back a few times but never with a bike. I chose Honda just because I grew up with several and still have a XL600R. Acerbis makes a great "Sahara" 6 gal. replacement with a 3.7 underseat tank and replacement seat, no fuel transfer pump needed. So the fuel load is low down. First built for the Honda Paris/Dakar team 6/7 years ago. Using the XR requires a light kit to make it street legal. It is water cooled with lots of jam. Which of course some say thats why you want the KLR650 or XL650R for the air cooling. Ability to frame mount boxs/bags is important. The KLR's are good for that. Honda's take more work to mount. The KLR's are great in that all they've done in the last bazzillion years to them is chang the color every few years. So parts are the same every where. Another "Q" boxes or bags? But why then is the BMW 650 so popular for the RTW (round the world) group? Heated grips? Never used them even up here, but the hand gaurds are sure nice. Would be nice on the Harley even (doorky maybe though "eh"). If your're staying in N.A. then all the extra stuff such as ABS/injection is OK. Should it start to screw up, well it depends on where you are I guess as to the help you'll find. I like carbs so that I can mess it up myself and think I fixed it. #50 roller chain on the Honda means I can stop at any famers hay baler and get my bike going again. Extra lighting, I still night ride, but after smacking a deer and sliding almost 300' I'm always on the edge of the seat at night. So I'm an extra lighting fan. On the Honda's you have to pull the stator and wrap some more post with wire to get enough juice for more lights which is quite easy to do. Larger foot pegs are nice, keeps the foot on easier when it gets rough.

    Then you read stories like Peter & Kay Forwood's round the world trip on a Harley Dresser, anything can be done. (eg. blowing a belt in the Sahara as well as his spare and still getting on, on the back of a truck to Casablanca.) Some good bike stories here Also do a search for Chris Scott. 04/05 he cached gas in Algeria then came back with rigged Xl650R's and did the Algerian Sahara. Also has great info for bike travllers. Infact they do the odd weekend show where people/travellers come together show slides/pictures of their travels and give talks, and discuss the whole RTW scence. More geared to bikes, but 4x4 guys show up to. I think there is one in Colorado in July. Worth going to ColoradoRon.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Planet Earth
    Quote Originally Posted by goodtimes
    I'm looking for opinions. There is a TON of info out there about features and options we like/dislike on our 4 wheeled exped vehicles....but no talk about what we like on our 2 wheeled versions. So, for those who either have, or have had, time in the seat of motorcycles used for exped travel, what do you like, and what do you not like (both OEM and aftermarket)?.....

    ABS, or no ABS? ** ABS is good for big bikes as long as you remember to turn it off before heading onto the dirt & gravel, which I often forget to do. I never missed it on my dirt bikes, but great on the big GS. Saved us more than a few times.

    Extra lighting? ** Absolutely YES, don't leave home without a high beam flasher & LED brake light strobe, these two will save your life countless times. Also have a fog light and a really, really good Halogen driving light. You WILL get caught out after dark at some point.

    Heated grips? ** Yes, add them if you don't have them. Critical to stay warm to stay alive, and I don't mean freezing to death, I mean getting cold and making stupid decisions.

    Hand guards? ** Yes, required, not an option.

    Fuel injection or carburator? ** I haven't had trouble with either. FI is better for changing altitudes, which is a real issue for global travel.

    Chain, belt (I have read that the newer belts don't have the shredding problem of a few years ago), or shaft? ** Shaft means no carrying chain lube, no chain adjustment/lube/check every night when you are dog tired. Downside is more unsprung weight. OK for big GS, otherwise chain. No experinece with a belt. I'd be terrified to have one where I/we've been.

    Larger capacity fuel tank(s): ** Yes, not an option. ** When does more = too much? ** When you can't pick the bike up by yourself, even after taking everything else off that will come off, i.e. boxes, racks, wife.

    ** HU is the definative RTW site. For general adventure riding check out It's a much rowdier bunch than HU.

    ** Our trips have probably set some unfortunate standards for how much crap you can carry around on a bike, so I'd consider us the high end for that particular parameter. Carrying all that weight really sucks the joy right out of riding. Take as little as possible and after a few weeks you'll be ready to throw 25% of that away.

    ** For travel in developed countries you really don't need much in the way of spares, just bring a credit card. For unsupported travel (no chase trucks, circling helicopters full of factory BMW mechanics, convoy of worshipers carrying your spares, etc.) in developing countries you'll need to be self sufficient for the things that can break and be challenging to rig up from baling wire and bent nails. The fundamental metal things like steel frame welds and such can be done by any 3rd world mechanic. It's the special little bits and black boxes that will strand you.

    Don't count on FedEx boxes from the sky full of factory parts either. It's not like sending something to Pittsburgh. It takes a long time for things to clear customs and lots of things never do. Meanwhile you're still in that sweltering village, staring at your dead bike, on a tenuous phone connection to some faceless customs bureaucrat who speaks a different language...

    ** If you have to break down, break down in India. Indian mechanics could launch the space shuttle with a flat blade screw driver, a roll of wire and a few hours under the shade tree. They can fix and/or jury-rig anything.

    Last edited by dhackney; 05-29-2006 at 10:06 AM.

  4. #4
    Hltoppr's Avatar
    Hltoppr is offline Overland Training Alumni
    Expedition Portal Moderator
    El Gringo Spectacular!
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Northern Arizona

    Doug pretty much summed it up!

    I started out on an XR650L Honda, which was a dirt biased dual sport. Modified with some soft luggage and a large 4 gal. tank it did very well, but was pinned on the highway and got beaten around by the wind a my arse hurt after 50 miles.

    I was looking at an 1150 GS Adventure, which I still love, but went for something a bit lighter and more simple, the current 88' R100GS.

    What I looked for in an Adv./travel bike....

    Good power....800-1200cc motor
    Good reliability
    Good off-road ability, but for single track...I'll use my mountain bike.
    Mechanical simplicity...can't get better than an old beemer....
    I didn't want to be afraid to scratch it...I knew I'd drop it at some point.
    Hard aluminum luggage

    Decent electrical power is a must (for me at least). I like to run a GPS, heated grips and a heated vest, and extra lighting is very nice.

    The old beemers are anemic with their charging systems...I've cured that in my rebuild by adding an Omega 400W conversion from the 280W stock system.

    For the price, BMW 1100GSs are great bargains...but significantly heavier than an older airhead GS...



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Prescott, AZ
    Do you think the 650 dakar would be that much of a pig on the highway? That is the bike most tempting to me.
    Scott Brady
    Instagram - @globaloverland

    Overland Journal
    G-Wagen | Defender 110 | Land Cruiser BJ74 | Moto Guzzi V7

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Calgary, Canada
    I haven't ridden a 650 Dakar on the highway, but I can give you this experience.

    I rode a 1200 GS Adventure a few weeks ago on a group demo ride. It was a 45 min ride with a good amount of highway and for a demo group we really opened it up. Probably hit close to 150 km/hr. The bike behind me was a f650 and he was taking up the rear. I couldn't believe how well he kept up. He was a small guy, but he was able to keep within striking distance the whole time. He couldn't accellerate as quickly in the higher gears, but he sure didn't have any big issues.

    I also had a long conversation with a local guy who has traveled extensively in South America on his Dakar. He actually prefers the 650 over the 1200 for speed as it is, in his words, more nimble.

    As far as the other questions, I think Doug hit it all. The only things I would add right now (other than cargo/saddlebags type of stuff) is a windscreen. If you are hitting sections of tarmac for any extent, there is nothing as pleasant as a well designed and setup windscreen. And also the seating surface. Nothing is worse than a poorly designed seat. Spend the money and go with what works - be it custom or not. Your but will thank you for it.

    ~/\ ☼
    / -- \
    Pete Hartl - VE6PGH - 0VRLAND

    EXPEDITION = (Encounters + Adventures + Experiences) x YOU

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    I've been riding an older BMW R80GS for years. Like Hltoppr said; great simplicity, good power, not too heavy, can carry more than enough sh*t, great range (8.5 gal. tank), readily available parts and can be cobbled together with enough bailing wire and duct tape. Getting a bit rare these days though. The R100GS and R1100GS models are easier to find with most of the same attributes. That being said, I've talked to lots of folks who ride the F650GS and just love 'em. Well built, solid and reliable. Light and manuverable with lots of great aftermarket stuff availabe (including bigger gas tanks). Worth considering.

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