Big bikes vs. Small Bikes

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by mikem9, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. mikem9

    mikem9 Wanderer

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    Let's discuss the trade offs of big bikes vs. small bikes during true Adventure travel, where a lot of rough dirt roads are involved.
    #1
  2. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    Smaller is always better when it gets rough.
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  3. OrangeYZ

    OrangeYZ Been here awhile

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    Everybody has different ideas of what's big and what's small. Right now there's a guy in Thumpers debating whether he should keep his big bike or his little bike, the little bike being a BMW 650.

    Hell, I have different ideas from day to day. If I want to go dirt riding, the little bike is a 300 2 stroke and the big bike is a 540 RFS. For a street ride the 540 is the little bike up against an 800. When I bought the 800, it was one of the smaller bikes at the dealer.

    My dad's little bike is a Norton 850 and his big bike has an engine bigger than my sister's Corolla and weighs almost as much.

    For any given trip, I ride the smallest bike I can get away with.

    EDIT:
    Apparently the OP feels that smaller original posts are better than big ones where the going might get rough.
    #3
  4. mikem9

    mikem9 Wanderer

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    Ha! how did you know? I changed my original wordy post.
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  5. Dusty1013

    Dusty1013 Been here awhile

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    I used to do some nutty stuff with my KLR that I wouldn't even consider on my GSA. Of course I wouldn't want to slab it a couple states over on a KLR to get to some trails. Even on the KLR at times I was wishing for a 250 in the rough stuff. Like it was said above smaller is always better. Love my GSA but on Long way Around I bet they were wishing for something smaller most of the time, but that's another thread.
    #5
  6. OrangeYZ

    OrangeYZ Been here awhile

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    Because it took me twenty minutes to type out and post my wordy post :D
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  7. mikem9

    mikem9 Wanderer

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    What kind of motivated me to write this post, is that I was reading a thread where 3 guys were adventuring to South America. One was riding a BMW F800 GS, one was on a BMW country 650 and one was on a Yamaha XT 225. Seems like the guy on the 225 was on a much better bike for where they were riding.

    Also, the Long Way round film did influence my thinking on the subject - Just looked like those guys would have been much better off on much smaller bikes.

    A while back I was on a a big dual sport/adventure ride event. A rider on a GS 1200 went up a slick little hill - not really a huge challenge to small bikes. He lost it. When everyone helped him pick his bike up, his foot was pointing the wrong way. Also saw a friend yesterday who loves to challenge himself on his big adventure bike. He crushed his ankle last year pretty badly when his bike fell on him. Took him a long time to recover.

    I think big adventure bikes are very cool, but the more I think and read about them, I think I would just stay on pavement or graded gravel for the most part and ride smaller bikes (530 and below) on the knarlier stuff.

    Thoughts?
    #7
  8. KoolBreeze

    KoolBreeze Been here awhile

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    for all that....

    "rough dirt road" is also very subjective. :deal
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  9. SloMo228

    SloMo228 World Class Cheapass

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    For anyone who's ever been to Glacier National Park in Montana, there is a Forest Service road called North Fork Road, which is where my dad and I happened to end up on two rather unsuitable bikes. Last summer, my dad and I visited Glacier, me on my ZRX1100 and him on his GL1500. We arrived at the park a little late and all of the front-end, easily accessible campsites were full. We pulled out the map of the park and located a campsite at Bowman Lake, and headed for it, not knowing what the roads there and back would be like. :lol3 Now, that road is probably not terribly challenging on a smaller DS bike, and probably not even that bad on a bigger ADV bike with some ground clearance, but it was quite an experience for us - me on a 120hp street bike with slick tires and next to no ground clearance, and him on his 900+lb behemoth. It was one of those experiences that was fun in retrospect but at the time we were both constantly worrying about being able to make it up a gravelly hill, or bottoming out and cracking an oil pan, leaving us stranded miles from help.

    I would have much preferred to have been on a ~300lb DS bike and would have had a lot more fun, too. We did pass a group of riders (going the other way, we'd never have been able to overtake anyone) on KLRs and DR650s and such who were clearly having more fun than us.

    The smaller bike is almost always going to be better suited to rougher conditions, and that's what I'd take in a heartbeat. The biggest bike I'd want to be riding on anything rougher than a graded gravel road is a 650.
    #9
  10. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

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    Simple thing.

    In rough dirt, the lighter the better.
    On the street, the more powerful the better.
    #10
  11. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    On a straight street maybe. Where I prefer to ride, give me quick and nimble handling any day over an overweight high-powered behemoth.
    #11
  12. wheelbender6

    wheelbender6 Been here awhile

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    If the dirt road is graded, even once a year, I'll pick a heavier ADV.
    if the grader never comes through, I'll take a lighter dual purpose bike.
    #12
  13. neepuk

    neepuk Such a drag...

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    The answer is simple; both, I mean all three. I've got an r100gspd for long trips that are on road, mellow two-track and gravel roads. The 650 Dakar is for medium length trips that have routes with on road, gravel, two- track, rocky terrain, and minimal single track. My new custom built 2014 KTM 150/200 xc is ready and waiting for me to come sign the paperwork and bring it home. It will be my singletrack assault weapon!

    Every bike has it's benefits and drawbacks. If I were going around the world I would take the f650 Dakar if I had to choose from the bikes in my garage now. If I could take any bike at all it would be a well accessorized dr650.
    #13
  14. MTrider16

    MTrider16 Ridin' in MT

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    I think an R12GS would be perfect for this road. Piece of cake on the F8GS. Too many miles between home and that location for the CFR250X.

    Like you say, it all depends on the person and the situation.

    David
    #14
  15. SteelJM1

    SteelJM1 Undercover KTM rider

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    Agreed. Three to me is the perfect number of bikes... number. TE300 for singletrack offroad shenanigans, DR650 for longer distance weekend ride/ campout jeep trail/ easy single track shenanigans, SV1k (which these days I wish I could transmute into a DL1k) for long distance all road street shenanigans.
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  16. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    For covering distance solo at better than a legal clip, on a budget, while still being able to ride rougher offroad terrain like mud, sand, rocks, and roots in BFE, I really like the simple DR650. If I were a better rider, and/or wanted to travel 2up, I might move up to something as big as an F800GS or Tiger 800XC for the same split of slab/rough. The DR will do 2up if you're not big people, but we still like to take breaks every 100 miles or so. Solo, with a big tank I can burn over 1000 miles a day without issue. If I'm staying within easy hiking distance of roadside assistance, I'd be inclined to try an EFI 650-class thumper, like the TR650, 690E, TE630, or X-Challenge. Some of these EFI bikes offer exceptional mileage, power, and smoothness for a big thumper. The DR is anvil-simple fun on a budget that can usually be field-fixed with just the OEM toolkit, some duct/electrical tape, and/or some epoxy.

    If there's no 65MPH+ slab involved, something like a DR350, or a smooth and powerful 250, would be better solo, as long as it keeps the weight down around 320lb curb or less, unladen.

    I see no benefit, for me, in getting something bigger or more spacious than something like a DL650, F800GS, or Tiger 800XC. These bikes handle big distances at superlegal speeds fine. A bigger bike would just add bulk, and would likely suck more $$ for gas, tires, insurance, and purchase. We aren't big people though. Big people may want more space to stretch out, or want more power if they're hauling bigger/heavier personal items. I don't need 100HP+. 60-90HP does me just fine. The DR even does it OK for us with probably not even 40WHP, and on just one carbed cylinder with a mild cam and air/oil-cooling.

    I also think that if Yamaha made a WR450R as smooth as the 250, with similar tranny, similar weight, similar frame/subframe, similar stator, similar suspension, similar maintenance schedule, and similar HP/liter, at a decent price, they'd sell a crapload of 'em. I think they'd even be fine with 10" of travel to make for a shorter seat height. Add an optional/accessory kicker and they wouldn't be able to keep up with demand. Ditto, if Suzuki ever got off their asses and just swapped a wide-ratio 6spd into the DR-Z400 without jacking the price to the moon, and that thing is just barely more modern than the DR650.
    #16
  17. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

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    Its all relative.
    My big bike is a TU250, 340 pounds wet.
    My little bike is an XT200, 260 pounds (or less).

    The DR650 was fun with the power and torque, but I sold it after getting out of the hospital.
    The motor on the 1200 sportster was fun, the weight and poor suspension was not.

    Fun can be had on any bike, but I figure I do not want to end up in the hospital again or worse, plus I like pushing small bikes HARD.
    Push a big bike hard, and it can end badly.
    #17
  18. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

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    The DR 650 is a PIG of a Dual Sport. Anything bigger and heavier is just an adventure bike. :1drink
    #18
  19. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

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    You only need a little bit more force on the bigger bike. It corners just as well as the smaller one and often even better because with the often higher price there often come better parts.
    A straight street, for a rider who obeys the law, might be the only street where more power is NO advantage.
    #19
  20. bush pilot

    bush pilot Long timer

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    One of the favorite bikes I own is a 30 year old 100cc honda dream. It's by far the best tool for zipping through heavy traffic. Now my r1100gs isn't bad either as the handlebars are higher than most car mirrors, it is the taller small pickup trucks which cause problems.
    Anyway smaller is better my next travel bike is going to a KLX250S fitted with lightweight cyclist touring gear and punched out to a 351cc cylinder.
    Also the venerable old dr200 or it's many china knockoffs is worthy too.
    I'm just partial to Kawasaki motos.

    Sent from my SM-T211 using Tapatalk
    #20