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Old 02-03-2014, 07:34 AM   #1
MotorcycleWriter OP
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Tech: Old Reliable vs New Fangled

As I tell my wife when she comments on the number of boots or jackets I own, the right gear is essential for the given set of circumstances. I know we've all been through this argument with our better half and it is a winnable argument, especially when we point at the other side of the closet.

Lately it's been getting a bit tougher to convince her, though, as my new collection seems to consist of motorcycles for different situations. At this point I have a BMW R1150RT for road riding, distance, and comfort - sort of the Rockport of motorcycles. Comfortable for walking but stay on the trail. I recently acquired a pair of heavy backpacking boots in the guise of an '89 R100GS. They say it'll go anywhere but when I compare it to my trail running boots - the Husqvarna TE250, I have my doubts.

So I'm re-evaluating my options and requirements and have a philosophical question for those who've been bumping around this prison a bit longer than I have. The GS is a beautiful machine. Utilitarian, simple, and, well, old. I've read threads where people perform heart surgery on their dead GS's in the middle of a swamp that happens to be in the middle of a desert on top of a mountain on Mars. But that was only after they spent the equivalent of a new bike preparing their "reliable old" GS for said misadventure. And the time it took to get the machine ready. And all the lying about prices as box after box arrives in a string of brown trucks.

On the other hand, there is some right nice technology out there in the form of things like the KTM 990, 1190, watercooled GS, etc. ABS to keep you from skidding. Fuel injection to keep you from jetting. GPS to keep you from wandering. Fortunately there is such a thing as SPOT so when these bikes suddenly stop - like you do when you're in bed with the missus and a sick rugrat appears and vomits all over the bed - the rescue chopper can find you and air lift you and said technological marvel to safety.

My question is, to the wise old inmates who've done the trips and learned the hard way, which is preferable? The GS is cool, has a certain wow factor, and does lend itself to roadside repairs. I'm as handy as I need to be and have the scared knuckles to prove it. And there's a whole cottage industry around keeping the things running (data point!) But at some point I'd rather be riding than wrenching, you know. There is only so much time and I already waste a good chunk lurking here! ABS and fuel injection are very nice. And the likelihood of my doing and RTW trip is... well... about like getting my kids off the family tit. It'll happen when I die. Most of my riding is close to home with an occasional trip out west every other year or so.

I'm starting to sound like a whiney bitch. Weigh in - be brutal - I like it when it hurts.
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Old 02-03-2014, 07:38 AM   #2
JimVonBaden
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Old reliable is more a fond memory than a reality. There will be arguments to this about the ease of repairs, but the truth is, easy repairs are still repairs. Newer bike are much more reliable in the long run, and the right bikes are pretty simple to repair when they do break!
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Old 02-03-2014, 09:11 AM   #3
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My wife's father had the best advice. "If you like wrenching and sometimes riding get the old one with all the charm, if you like riding and sometimes wrenching get something new."
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:18 AM   #4
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You own two BMW's. Can't you afford to hire a mechanic to follow you wherever you go, with a complete set of spares, in a four wheel drive ambulance?
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:22 AM   #5
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Seems the choice is either simple enough to fix, or too perfectly designed to fail. The new stuff is presented as the way to go, but sometimes the machine that fits is the repairable one that needs its human rider.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:35 AM   #6
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Most motorcycle breakdowns in my humble experience have been simple mechanical affairs. (chain, tires, blown shocks) Occasionally you will see a dead battery or some blown fuses.

If someone can offer up some evidence of EFI or computers leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere I am all ears. I've never in my life had a computer in a car or bike fail on me. It's not like they are using vacuum tubes anymore.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:41 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flo_Evans View Post
Most motorcycle breakdowns in my humble experience have been simple mechanical affairs. (chain, tires, blown shocks) Occasionally you will see a dead battery or some blown fuses.

If someone can offer up some evidence of EFI or computers leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere I am all ears. I've never in my life had a computer in a car or bike fail on me. It's not like they are using vacuum tubes anymore.
My electronic ignition failed on my scooter.The computer failed on my Buick. These things were mysterious and ate up a lot of time and trouble figuring out. Not the kind of thing you can approach with a tool box.
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Old 02-13-2014, 05:11 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flo_Evans View Post
Most motorcycle breakdowns in my humble experience have been simple mechanical affairs. (chain, tires, blown shocks) Occasionally you will see a dead battery or some blown fuses.

If someone can offer up some evidence of EFI or computers leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere I am all ears. I've never in my life had a computer in a car or bike fail on me. It's not like they are using vacuum tubes anymore.
The igniter module on my Ex500 messed up once. It would make it five miles from the house, and the bike would die. By the time I had walked home to get the truck, or asked the wife to pretty please come get me with the truck, the bike would start again.

If you removed the igniter, and put it in the freezer, the bike would go all the way to work 15 miles away.

As for EFI leaving me stranded, ask me about my Isuzu Trooper. That stupid thing almost ended a marriage. I had time to work, sleep, and try to get the goddamned thing to run long enough to take me back to work. No time for anything else. It took over my life. Know what fixed the EFI? installing the intake manifold from a 4zd1 Isuzu engine, and putting a carburetor (Weber 32/36 DGAV) on it. When EFI is working, it's great. When it is randomly crapping out on you for no good reason, and you are tracing down yet another fucking dirty ground, bad sensor, etc etc etc, they are terrible. And it wasn't just an issue with that particular ´Zu - look into the 4ZE1 (2.6 liter) Isuzu engine - It's an overheating, head gasket eating, valve burning, clattering pile of failure.

On the other hand, the MPFI on my Jeep ZJ works flawlessly. As does the EFI on the wife's Saturn. So perhaps piss-poor design has a lot to do with it.

I'll keep riding my nice modern Dr650 (It's a 2009, newest vehicle I own, therefore I think it is modern) just to be safe.
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:04 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by henshao View Post
You own two BMW's. Can't you afford to hire a mechanic to follow you wherever you go, with a complete set of spares, in a four wheel drive ambulance?
I think this highlights a misconception about most BMW owners. You are referring to the smaller group who buys bikes new. I'm in the majority group who buy our bikes second or third hand with tens of thousands of miles on the odometer. I picked up my RT 11 years old, low miles, from an older gent who'd bought it hoping to relive his youth only to discover if you don't take care of your body it won't take care of you. I bought the GS this summer from the original owner who was more concerned about it going to a good home than turning a profit. The deal I got has made more than a few people turn green. She's a bone stock beauty. Also purchased from an older gent. I paid less for both bikes total than for a five year old F800 in the flea market

As an engineer I like BMW because the boxer is a robust, easy to work on design. I like air cooling because of the simplicity. And because the Germans know how to make some quality stuff. Repairs aren't cheap but I've owned a lot of bikes and none of them are cheap to fix. I also like BMW because they have a rich history of amazing engines- everything from the Fokker Dr. 7 to the Messerschmitt 109. And of course, the tried and true R.
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:17 PM   #10
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I like a new bike when it is new and unlikely to fail......when the miles add up, and the seasons pass, moisture gets in, and the new becomes old, things start to break......I would not want to own an old newer mfg bike because I cannot afford to fix it, nor can I fix it myself.

Old bikes like my r80g/s are aging old tech that can be fixed with tools available at any hardware store. Sure, it'll break, I do have some money fixing the stuff the POs neglected, but now it is relatively reliable.

So yeah....if I can have a new bike I'll take it but the old bike will last longer.
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henshao View Post
You own two BMW's. Can't you afford to hire a mechanic to follow you wherever you go, with a complete set of spares, in a four wheel drive ambulance?
You are trolling right?
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Old 02-05-2014, 05:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimVonBaden View Post
Old reliable is more a fond memory than a reality. There will be arguments to this about the ease of repairs, but the truth is, easy repairs are still repairs. Newer bike are much more reliable in the long run, and the right bikes are pretty simple to repair when they do break!

Well, let's temper that with a few thoughts:

Old reliable is great - if reliable. I have an old First Gear Timbuktu enduro jacket that is absolutely fabulous and irreplacable because no one is doing anything like it. I love it and hate to see it deteriorate. It is a waist length jacket (Eisenhower jacket for those old enough to understand) with half length zippered sleeve vents and full width cape vent, a snap in 3/4 sleeve liner that can be stuffed in a pocket on the lower back and a zipper/snap front that could allow more air flow by snapping and not zipping. It had two side pockets that also had hand warmer pocket openings, an internal 20 oz bladder pocket and bladder for water with a straw that came through a grommet on the coat front, an angled right side chest pocket for an enduro check card, and finally a sleeve pocket at bicept level which was probably a waste. Very very useful and functional. Nothing like it out there right now.

Too much of the stuff is over engineered with too many features that are a waste to many of us, just adding cost to the item. The only thing my old reliable Timbuktu could have used was being waterproof. It was the perfect 3 season jacket.

Of course when old gets old and starts to crap out then it isn't reliable any longer and may have to be replaced. Then it isn't better. But right now in comparison to other jackets it is still "good old stuff".

When it comes to bikes again reliablilty comes into play:

If an old bike keeps on running fine, where is the problem? So what if one has to spend say $600 on suspension updates, if they like the bike it is worth it and the updates won't really lose function either. Heck, what are the updates for most bikes still today? Suspension! Get the forks valved and a $600 shock! Same as 1980, but twin shocks even now are only about $350 for good ones. Forks are more easily worked on with old bikes. Besides we don't expect 2014 suspension on a 1978 motorcycle.

By the way, when an ignition takes an electronic crap it doesn't seem to matter what year you have - you're screwed. Now with points and plugs you have a chance to get going from the side of the road, but it is more likely to be a problem eventually. Still I could substitute a car coil, ballast resistor, and condenser for the ignition on many old bikes. Had 'em on my MotoGuzzi and a few I knew had 'em on RD350/400s. They worked. Try that with a 2014!

Functionally in casual riding and commuting an old bike can easily be as good as a new one provided both are reliable mechanically and electronically. Much like cars. It is only when you start to push the envelope to an extreme or if your ego needs massaged that the new one is truly better. An 80 Honda Interstate won't hold a candle to a 14 GoldWing, nor will an 87 CBR600F Hurricane hold a candle to a 14 CBR600RR when you start to push the limits they're meant to approach. But to start 'em up and ride 'em casually... all can do the job.

By the way, I'm thinking my 78 SR500 is likely on par and as good as the modern Royal Enfields that had kick start.
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markk53 screwed with this post 02-05-2014 at 05:18 AM
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Old 02-04-2014, 02:02 PM   #13
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sell both BMWs and buy a Super Tenere, they don't break & go most anywhere.
& keep the TE.
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Old 02-14-2014, 07:22 AM   #14
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Ouch!
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Old 02-14-2014, 02:00 PM   #15
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I think few of us would argue that the modern fuel injected internal combustion engine is much much more reliable than its 50s and 60s cousin,both in car and motorcycle form
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