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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
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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
henshao
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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 02-03-2014, 12:23 PM   #8
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I haven't been left stranded by EFI yet, but I've had 3 different vehicles with recurring electronics issues that were EFI components. Took a lot of effort to figure out exactly where the problem was coming from in one case, the others were found by researching the trouble code online and seeing how the lots of other people having the same problem fixed it.

Did you catch that little part- the only reason it was easy to fix is because the problems with EFI that I was having were common, not rare.


As far as my personal bikes, I haven't had any issues with my EFI Versys, but have had some issues starting a VSTROM with a dead battery because of the EFI (the battery wasn't dead because of EFI - starting was hard when it would've been easier without EFI). It will push start, but you have to do it more than once to get the fuel pressure up enough to get the engine running. If it will fire just a little, it will cough and start running. Don't know if I could've done it by myself on flat ground.

As far as riding buddies, most of them haven't had issues, but I know several people who have:

-In-tank fuel pump came loose during ride. Trailside disassembly and fixed good enough to limp it back to truck (Husaberg).
-Sensor wire frayed and bike died on a dirt road trip couple of hundred miles from the trucks. Was lucky enough to find a dealer on the phone who could tell us what the code meant, and we traced the wire from that component. (KTM)
-In-tank fuel pump failed on the trail, requiring bike to be hauled/pushed back to the truck. (I think Husaberg again, but not sure)


I think we are still a couple of generations away from EFI on dirt bikes being "robust" enough for me personally. Probably there with the street bikes already.

There are a lot of people who say that carbs may be easier to fix, but EFI you don't have to fix very often. #1 - that hasn't been my experience. I have only ever had one carb problem on a bike, and it was just a dirty carb.

My personal observation is that a carb failure will likely happen when the bike is in the garage, while an EFI failure will likely happen when the bike is on the trail/road. I keep more/better tools in the garage, so that's where I'd like to do my work.
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Old 02-03-2014, 12:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scootrboi View Post
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.
When was this scooter and buick made?

I get the feeling a lot of people don't trust computers because they have a PC that runs like shit. I've had the misfortune of trying to help people fix their personal computers and 99.9% of the time it is because of something they did, mostly related to viewing porn and infecting themselves with viruses. The other .1% are mechanical hard drive failures.

IC chips are pretty tough. Most failures are connecters and external sensors that are easy enough to fix. You can really only "break" one when attempting to reprogram it or by sending it too much power (i.e use the right fuses).
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Old 02-03-2014, 12:41 PM   #10
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Nothing against carbs really, but I´ll have FI over them any day. My own experience is, that FI is more reliable, easier to adjust to your liking, much easier if you go to high altitudes, and as a bonus you get better fuel economy. No way I´m going back to carbs.

(as always, YMMV.)
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:04 PM   #11
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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   #12
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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   #13
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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?
You are trolling right?
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:37 PM   #14
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I think old tech is better, it just needs some quality to go with it. Many people blame the fact that old machines (some of them, not all) break down more than newer ones, and don't last as long (mileage wise) on the old technology, when it was really caused by poor quality materials and poor build quality. New technology does indeed break down, and when it does, it is a lot harder and more expensive to fix than the old stuff. I work on newer vehicle electronics 40+ hours a week, nobody can tell me it doesn't fail. Technology in cars has reached the point where they are not really even cars anymore. Owners can no longer work on them. So far with bikes it is pretty much confined to FI, ABS, and sometimes some type of electronic suspension control. And nobody can say the Japanese bikes of the '80s were not stone reliable.
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:50 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyshadow View Post
So yeah....if I can have a new bike I'll take it but the old bike will last longer.
You can't say that with any kind of certainty.

Unless you're talking personally,
since you also mentioned;

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyshadow View Post
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.
You feel apprehensive about newer tech?
Which, if you can perceive yourself doing engine overhauls
(a reality on any old scoot), seems rather silly.
If you can fix an old one, you can fix a new one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyshadow View Post
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.
I could probably break down and rebuild my 2012
with only tools from the local hardware store too.


Not to bash you personally Skyshadow,
I just hear sentiments like yours quite frequently.

Personally I'm quite fond of low tech myself.
Hence the harley.
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