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Old 08-24-2014, 11:47 AM   #1
chrisjk OP
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Creating a lightweight "rough road" tourer?

I am putting this post here in Thumpers because a single seems likely to be part of the answer to the question I pose but if a six cylinder fitted the bill, I'd consider it!

I am getting old but I love solo exploring unknown (to me at least!) backroads around Europe that sometimes turn into more than I had bargained for or am capable of negotiating on my present bike. I am enjoying my new BMW WC GSA but it's impossible for me to pick up, especially when fully loaded - unless I am shooting a Youtube video using the butt on seat method in a car park (real world slopes and any stones or mud underfoot change this scenario very quickly). So I am reluctant to take it down the most interesting lonely side roads by myself.

Thus, I am looking to buy or create a bike that will take me in reasonable comfort along the inevitable sections of boring highway to the places I would like to go and which doesn't need a crew of helpers to get me out of trouble caused by a simple dropping of the bike on a potholed backroad somewhere - say with a dry weight of 140-150 Kg (300 to 350 lb). I am not looking for a hardcore off-roader but something that I can ride for 250 miles on minor roads and still get off at the end of the day without the need for a chiropractor.

I had high hopes of the new CCM 450 adventure bike but that still seems to be vapourware in terms of a production ready machine and frankly, I have had enough of Beta Testing manufacturers' offerings as member of the general public.
I also was one of those thinking that a KTM 390 Adventure would be wonderful - until KTM said it wasn't going to happen…

I want to buy a modern bike with long service intervals and that with some reasonable amount of tinkering can be made to do what I want. I'm thinking in terms of something like a KTM 690 Enduro or SM (although the height of these is a bit off-putting), even a Duke 690. If Suzuki sold the DRZ in the UK I would happily get one of those. I have thought of a Honda 250L but wonder if I could do better buying something else and paying to get it set up and modified for the kind of riding I want to do.

I'd be grateful for any suggestions.
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:59 AM   #2
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I keep talking with my dad about exactly the same thing- he does a ~2500 mile trip once or twice a year, and a lot of local (couple hour) rides, he has a R1100RT for the long trips, but he doesn't like feeling like he won't be able to pick up the bike in a parking lot. And he's not really interested in covering more than 600 miles in a day anyway, and spending hours on the freeway going 80 mph doesn't appeal to him.
Those bikes that you mentioned can be nice bikes, but they don't sound like rough road tourers to me. If you can stand the reduction in eye appeal, I think that a F650 (single) or a DR650 is not very far from an ideal starting point. I find those sorts of bikes very comfortable under 55 mph, they're low/easy maintenance, and they get good fuel mileage (that counts in a tourer, if only because it extends your fuel range so much).
It's also nice to get a bike that's well supported by the aftermarket- for example, comfy touring seats.

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Old 08-24-2014, 04:48 PM   #3
Blaise W
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If you want to be 350 pounds fully loaded, and can be satisfied with 65 to 70 mph then look at the Yamaha WR250R. Low maintenance, low weight, durable and go just about anywhere. Lots of us have many thousands of miles on them, dirt and pavement. I have four dual sports, 250 to 650 cc, and if I had to keep just one, it would be the WRR, hands down.
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Old 08-25-2014, 03:03 AM   #4
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KLX 250 is my vote. Light weight not to much power, but enough, and plenty of aftermarket available.
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Old 08-25-2014, 03:05 AM   #5
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I will second the WR250r. Mine has been great, except for the cracked engine case from a broken chain. No fault of the wrr though. At 17000 miles, the crosshatch marks on the cylinder were still there and the valves were in spec. With some farkles this bike is a perfect small all a rounder.

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Old 08-25-2014, 03:45 AM   #6
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Hi Chris - if serious off-roading isn't a priority as you say (and lets face it, if you ride a GSW, then I doubt you are going in for any enduros any time soon!) then any single cylinder 'dual-sport' type bike is going to feel like a compromise for 90+% amount of the paved riding you'll be doing... and as you say, there is a limited number of genuine 'dual-sport' style bikes available here in the UK - it's either the 250cc class of two (CRF250L or KLX250), or the 690 Enduro, 660 Tenere or 650GS which are still all pretty big and tall* bikes - although a lot less of a handful than the 1200GSW of course!

I rode a KTM 690 across Europe and back recently, and it was actually very comfortable (by that I mean under-stressed and not too viby) at 120-130kmh all day long, and is obviously pretty useful once you hit the dirt too... But as you say, the seat hight can be pretty unwieldy for day to day riding?

The SMC version (17in wheels) shod with TKC tyres and perhaps a lowering link fitted too might well offer what you're after; but if I might make a suggestion - if on-road performance and comfort is going to be the overwhelming priority, then how about the Honda CB500X?

Yes it weighs in around 200Kg (as any twin or multi cylinder engine'd bike is going to these days), but it carries it's weight very low (and has a nice low seat in comparison to a dual-sport style bike), and compared to your BMW, it will feel like you're riding a bicycle! Fundamentally though, the twin-cylinder engine is a peach - very smooth, quiet and economic - with plenty of power for cruising at 70-80mph all day if needs be - and is surprisingly fun and agile on twisty roads.

With a set of TKC80 tyres fitted, it is also more than capable of dirt-road riding - certainly as much (if not moreso) than a V-strom, Versys and the like so beloved by the US contingent when shod with similar tyres?

Most importantly, the CB500X is very good value for money, even in the UK (it is exceptional in the USA!), so that is a lot of money for trips and the odd farkle should you desire a little way down the line.

Do check one out - I think you'll be surprised how good it is, and how well it might meet your requirements - especially on the right tires...


ps. A little bird has whispered in my ear that we might be seeing some very nice 'adventurising' parts for the CB500X coming this way soon ;o)

JMo (& piglet) screwed with this post 08-25-2014 at 03:52 AM
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Old 08-25-2014, 07:36 AM   #7
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A suggestion from the "mostly street bike that can do a little dirt" side of the spectrum:

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Old 08-25-2014, 07:46 AM   #8
A Aventura Continua....
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since you are in the UK , how about the XT660R ??

or a tenere:

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Old 08-25-2014, 08:32 AM   #9
chrisjk OP
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Thanks everybody for these suggestions, there's certainly some food for thought here.

I guess manufacturers have done their sums and I know it works in both directions but it's darned irritating that some bikes are unavailable here that can be had in (particularly) the USA like the WR250R. That was a bike I had hoped to do the TAT on, until an accident curtailed my off-road activities.

I am still inclined to pick a light bike and the Honda CRF250L seems the most likely candidate but I take Jenny's point about the compromise it represents and I will definitely consider a couple of heavier bikes that have been mentioned, the Honda CBX 500 and the Yam XT660R.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my query.
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Old 08-25-2014, 09:24 AM   #10
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DR650SE - reliable as a paving stone.

This was my 98' DR in 2003 during an 8500 mi. / 5 week tour. Other than the bike's appetite for tires I had zero problems.
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Old 08-25-2014, 09:45 AM   #11
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I wanted a BMW GS800 or a KTM Adventure 950/990. But our trails get really tight, I'm a newb, I stick to 55mph country roads and camping, and those are expensive machines.

So I bought a 2012 Suzuki DRZ400S. Glad I did. No idea at the time it wasn't as lame as it looks. I fixed it's looks though. And while it's no hardcore enduro, it does outperform the beast bike riders I hang with while keeping up on the street. Were not hitting hardcore enduro trails. Just putting around dirt, gravel roads, and some (mostly) easy trails.

Trailtech X2 headlight
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MSR shifter
Delete kick stand switch
Removed the fork bellows.
trimmed the chain guard back to a normal size
Pro Taper SE ATV mid bar. ( It's as high as you can go without having cable trouble, some rerouting and control moving needed, I also had to cut one of the ears off my ignition key so I could get it in, as the bars are leaned fairly forward.)

Pirelli XCMH's
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3x3 mod and jet kit if needed. (the MRD is for sound and weight, not concerned about power, the DRZ has plenty for my needs)

Still if I needed an entire day of travel, and couldn't deal with Ducati 1199 superbike pain, or DRZ400S seatbone pain, a Adventure 990 would still be a nice option. But so far, my truck can pretty much fill the same role, and I can unload the DRZ for really good spots.

Buliwyf screwed with this post 08-25-2014 at 09:56 AM
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Old 08-25-2014, 09:55 AM   #12
chrisjk OP
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Originally Posted by LexLeroy View Post
DR650SE - reliable as a paving stone.

This was my 98' DR in 2003 during an 8500 mi. / 5 week tour. Other than the bike's appetite for tires I had zero problems.

I'd probably enjoy it but the DR 650 is not available in the UK. Like the 400 you can get old ones; 10 -15 year old bikes are sometimes advertised. However, I'd rather spend my time riding than chasing down spares or fixing stuff. Of course bikes and parts can be imported and I would probably do this - absent any alternatives but I really would prefer to get a new bike, or at least one that is no more than a couple of years old with small mileage.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:09 AM   #13
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KTM 690
The CRF would fit the bill too. Little underpowered though.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:16 AM   #14
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Hi Chris, think about a lowered 690 Enduro, Jane has one that's seriously lowered yet has still ridden it in Albania and Morocco. The early versions have 3,000 mile service intervals with a valve check every other service, the later versions (2011+?) are every 4,500 miles. I did the valves on mine at recently, i needed to change two shims, first I've changed in well over 12,000 miles. The valve check and adjustment (if needed) is very easy, especially when compared to a 950/990.

The other benefits of a 690 are the adjustable mapping, plenty of power when needed and the massive range of aftermarket parts.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:17 AM   #15
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Perhaps a Husqvarna TR650 Strada/Terra?
Current MSRP 5690 in Germany.
It's a bit heavier than you wanted (186kg with full tank) but has a powerful single with 43kW, 175kph top speed and a low fuel consumption of 3.2 litres/100km @90kph.
Engine is smooth, you can apply full throttle at >=2800 rpm in 5th gear and still watch things in the mirrors.
Universal rack, no urgent need for an expensive genuine accessory (but the exist).
190/190mm spring travel. M+S or knobbies available.
Service every 10000km/year.
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