First bike for NW adventures

Discussion in 'Pacific Northwet - Where it's green. And wet.' started by Valkiera, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. Valkiera

    Valkiera Adventurer

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    Hello everyone,

    I was trying to figure out where to post this question, and hope this is an appropriate place.

    I'm about to get my license, taking the BRC the middle of next month. And as you might have guessed, I'll be looking for my first bike. The goal is to explore and enjoy, camp, take photos, meet folks and above all else relax and enjoy.

    So here is what you have to work with. I'm 5'8" 31" inseam, female, mid 40's, and not a stick figure (Scandinavian blood, and it shows). No plans of single track trail riding, minimal Interstate (I prefer the back roads), want to be able to take dirt and forest roads. I did ride dirt bikes a bit when I was much younger, so it's not totally new to me. But very old knowledge, so lets keep that in mind. My current dream ride(s) would be the Washington Discovery Route and a trip to Alaska. But for local, trips around the Olympic loop, and up or down the Coast as far as a long weekend might take me.

    What bikes would you recommend I check out, and do you have some favorite dealers? I don't mind a road trip for good service and knowledge.

    Thanks all,
    Val
    #1
  2. Billy_b57

    Billy_b57 DARTH

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    Val, I always ask people to think of what they want to do with the 1st bike and look 3 years out.
    With 31 inseam this will put some limits on what you can get w/o adjusting the links/suspension.
    I also suggest they get used , first due to cost and second , you will wreck/drop it and used hurts less than new in respect to the drops/wrecks.

    Now a few suggestions would be a KLR (older is lower ) , a F650gs ( 07- older)

    If you want look at our website and see what we have to offer you .
    Come down and ride one of ours for a day or two .
    This in itself might help you decide and save you money .
    Call me or Stacie and we will be more than happy to help and we will assist you in getting it right the first time.

    Stacie is also a Oregon safety Instructor.

    In any case good luck and welcome.

    See my sinature for link to Oregon Dualsport
    #2
  3. Scott_PDX

    Scott_PDX Leisure Engineer

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    Welcome Val.

    My guess is you are going to get LOTS of opinions out there, and there will be lots of good answers also. Here's my thoughts off the top of my head (and my opinions).

    Kawasaki KLR650 - Cheap, HUGE support help out there, lots of parts, easy to work on. It's also heavy and a bit tall, but I think doable for your size
    Suzuki DR650 - Same as above, but a more dirt oriented, not quite as heavy, but not as nice on the highway
    Suzuki DR400 - Sames as above, but not as heavy. MUCH better off road. A bit tall though, but I know some ladies that love theirs still and probably not as tall as you
    Yamaha TTR200 - Better size you and not a "High Performance" bike. But will get you there, although sure wouldn't want to make LONG trips on it.
    Yamaha WR250R - Bit taller and much more performance for a little bike than the TTR. May be too tall
    BMW F650 - Size is right, plenty of power to grow with. A bit pricey, and definately not an off-road bike. Gravel and forest roads are fine though.
    Kawasaki KLX250 - Maybe a bit tall. Good all around performance, but not a fast bike. WR250R offer the same capabilites but more performance (IMHO)
    KTM XXX - Probably not a good match based on what you have said'
    Suzuki DR200 - Another one to consider if you are looking for good fitting bike. Again, not a long distance bike.

    Based on only what info you have given, I would look at one of the 650CC bikes above. If you think more dirt I'd consider the DR650/DRZ400. If you want the best of both the KLR650 as probably the better all around choice. And if you think you'll ride more pavement, the BMW's aren't THAT much more $. Look at them all, and at least sit on them if you can't ride one.

    FWIW I have a KLR650 and it was my first bike, and recently added a WR250 as the KLR isn't much fun to play in the woods on. I'll still use the KLR on overnight adventures or longer rides.

    Welcome to the Madness!
    #3
  4. Revnelli

    Revnelli Yello Moto

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    Welcome.
    IMHO a KLR650 is what you want. Cheap, plenty of them out there - and plenty of spares etc. The only drawback might be the weight. If that's too heavy then get a drz400 and farkle it - It will be fine for backroads (that's what I'm doing with mine). In between option would be the DR650.

    Enjoy the anticipation!:norton
    #4
  5. kaptain

    kaptain Adventurer

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    Scott Nice writeup, looks like you forgot the xt 250 / xt 225.

    If you want to go on roads faster than 55mph and forest roads then your choices filter down to the 650's. The wr250r would be sufficient but its very tall stock, my gf hated the height of it when we were at the dealer. If you want to go dirt I would probably look into < 650's.

    With respect to seat height my gf liked the Xt 250 best. She's probably 5'9"ish and I have no idea what her inseam is.

    Your mentioning Alaska and riding around the Olympics makes me think that you want a road/forest road bike. The reality (for me in seattle) is that a ride to the olympics/alaska/mt rainier/etc will require at least 1hr on non backroad 55+ mph roads.

    I personally thought I would drive my bike wherever I wanted to go so I got a f650gs. Then I realized I wanted to do more serious dirt and started tailoring it for dirt. When I did that I ruined it for 70mph highways.

    I think Ladybug would probably have the most useful opinions for you, she seems to ride the same type of stuff you want to do and is active in the "what bike for a wife conversations" in the past.
    #5
  6. asrvivor

    asrvivor Rabies Cure ????

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    The XT250 would be a great start. IMHO But, if you want a bike you can pick up on your own and do whatever speed you want. The DR650 is the ticket. Many have taken it to Alaska and back. Shoot, there is a ride report by Alan, "No Job, No responsibilities, No better time than now" out there where he and a buddy went from Seattle area to South America on 2 DR650s. Also I agree with Kaptain, Ladybug can help you out immensely. She'd be the one to talk to about it. And she is a fantastic person to boot. When you get sorted, come join us. And you can meet her and many, many other great people. We'd love it if you ride over with us too. Or hook up with Ernie (http://advrider.com/forums/member.php?u=142972) from your area to get over here. http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=734889

    He's another character to talk to. He did the OBDR on a brand new 650GS and will have plenty of info if you wanna go that route. Which ever way you go, get out and ride with some of the groups. The type of bike will only matter to you, the type of company is what makes this all special. At least that's what I've learned. Good luck John
    #6
  7. turnsleft

    turnsleft Long timer

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    I'm in Sedro Woolley and have a lowered DRZ 400 and a lowered KLX 250[351 now]. If you want to try one on a short ride. My legs are not long like yours so it might work.:D
    #7
  8. redbastard

    redbastard Long timer

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    For a first bike whether it's street or dual sport, male or female, tall or short, I would recomend something on the smaller lighter side. It's much less intimidating to have a 250-300lbs bike that even a DR650 at 350+ lbs. I'd recomend a used bike you won't worry about if it tips over ( because it will )

    I always loved the Honda NX250, but a DRZ400 with lowering links is going to be newer and probably better. A DR200 or something like a Yamaha XT225
    [​IMG]

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    #8
  9. turnsleft

    turnsleft Long timer

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    09 KLX lowered 1.75", Kanda DOT knobies, 3 gal IMS tank.

    [​IMG]

    06 DRZ 400 lowered 2", Kenda DOT.

    [​IMG]
    #9
  10. puckinet

    puckinet Safety third

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    Val welcome. It all really comes down to how much you want to spend and what your going to ride. Think about how much and at the same time think about how much am I willing to spend to set the bike up for me. Just about any bike can be lowered. Then if your just riding forest roads and doing over night trips you want something around a 650 but if your just going to do local trips the first couple years think 400. You really need to test ride a couple bikes to see what you like and really that's what it comes down to what you like and where you what to ride. What area are you in I see you just listed Western Washington. My girlfriend has a KLX 250S and it was her first bike and only rode locally and now had a BMW F650G twin and loves it. Once again she is the forest road queen but that's what she likes, Your more than welcome to try her bike out.
    #10
  11. DeFens

    DeFens Been here awhile

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    With your stated use, I'd say to forget the small displacement bikes (<250cc), with the possible exception of a lowered WR250R. It's NOT a given that you're going to dump the bike, since you're not planning much dirt riding to start. You can have an entire career of street riding without once putting the bike on the ground - so buying a bike based on whether you're going to tip it over is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I'm with the folks recommending a 650, specifically the BMW F650GS single or G650GS, or a KLR650. Both of those make plenty of power for longer jaunts up the coast or across the state. Both have room to stretch out on longer rides and be comfortable, and both have the room and available accessories to carry some luggage without heaping bags and duffels all over the bike like a Pakistani goat herder. The BMW has nice lowering links available, and still handles very well with one installed.

    The Suzuki DR650 is taller and more dirt oriented. It would hate commuting or stop and go traffic, where the water cooled bikes are much happier. I don't know if you can lower a DR, either - but if you can, it might be a viable option.

    I have an R1200GS, but after riding around on my wife's F650, I ended up buying one too (keeping the big GS as well.) The F650 is an absolute joy to ride - down to town for an errand (5 miles away) or on an all day ride on Forest Service roads. I had a TW200 for a while, and while it was a fun little scoot for short distances, I can't fathom why anyone would want to ride any distance on roads, at speeds above about 25. Sure, it'll do it, but the engine is working hard, and so are you. A 650 makes it effortless.

    My wife and I have done a couple of 1000 mile trips now from our home outside Seattle to Vancouver Island, spending a week there exploring. We had full camping gear, and she carried clothing, sleeping bag, pillow, etc. I carried a bit more gear on my big GS, but she held up her end of the trip just fine. We're planning to ride the WABDR this coming summer, too - and about all we'll need to do for her bike is swap out the tires for something knobbier. Her bike isn't lowered, but she did have a custom seat built by Rich's, which lets her get her feet on the ground and is a lot more comfortable for longer rides.

    About the only thing that bothers her on the F650 is vibes from the bars on longer rides. I think we can still probably do more to dampen those, and any single cylinder bike has to deal with that to some extent. I think the F650 with all of its technology is better than an KLR in that respect. And I truly believe you'd be happier, all round, on a 650 than on an XT250 or other dinosaur.

    We live in Monroe, and I'd be willing to let you put around on my F650 Dakar - it has a 1" lowering link, but is still pretty tall. But I only have a 29" inseam, and have no real issues with it. You could sit on my wife's bike too, but probably not ride it. If you're in the general vicinity, PM me for location details.
    #11
  12. dillon

    dillon Low Speed, High Drag

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    If you look at the KLX250SF it is 1 inch lower that the KLX250S and is engineered that way so you wont run into any little issues I have heard of with lowering links and bottoming out in rough stuff(especially on bigger bikes). Also the SF has bigger brakes and suspension tuned a bit more for street (yet still plenty good for even single track). The only thing you need to be aware of with the 250CC thumpers is if you get a strong head wind you may be struggling to maintain 60 with gear on the bike. But after I went from the factory 39 tooth rear sprocket to a 43 toother it had no problem holding 70 when we had 40mph gusts here the other day...
    #12
  13. modeselector

    modeselector Common as muck

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    Hi and welcome.

    I agree with Scott from above. Based on height and the type of riding you see yourself doing in the future, the BMW 650 sounds perfect. Sure, you could buy WR/DR etc and spend the $$ lowering suspension or cutting foam out of the seat, changing the gearing so it's comfortable making the miles, put a larger tank on it to go the distance, then add a windscreen for your backroad touring trips etc.

    The GS ~ with it's low frame and/or low seat option ~ your ready to roll, reliable, fairly easy to work on and a hoot to ride. Standard options like heated grips and ABS are nice too! :drif
    #13
  14. linkweewee

    linkweewee tantum quantum

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    Another vote for a KLR. Tons of them out there for dirt cheap and many many riders waaay better than you or I will ever be ride them long-term. Might want to do a little research on this site regarding BMW 650 front fork failure if you are looking in that direction.
    #14
  15. Ladybug0048

    Ladybug0048 Bug Sister

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    Hi Val :wave

    Welcome to ADV and all the fun we have around here.

    You're well on your way to your dream rides and I for one will look forward to reading your ride reports once you get out there doing it. :D

    John/asrvivor has already suggested joining us at the Hells Canyon Gathering in June, please do it's a lot of fun. The link is in my sig line if you missed it when John posted it.

    In July another campout you will enjoy is our 1st annual Ladies campout: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=736084 We're going to have a weekend for riding and having fun with just the gals. We would love to have you there as well.

    Now about the bike. During your BRC you will learn a lot about what you might or might not like in a bike but what's available there will be limited as far as trying bikes on for size. I would suggest you go to some of the dealers, talk with the sales people, and sit on bikes to get a feel for what works for you. Everyone will have an opinion and some will even have some great suggestions. :D

    If you are planning to ride pavement and forest servie road type I agree with the prior suggestions about getting a 650 and for your first bike go for something used. My choice of motorcycles has always been based on what I can touch ground on since I'm short - 5'0" so what I ride very well wouldn't be the best bike for you because with your height and leg legnth your choices will be greater. You lucky gal.

    Truthfully I think a great starter bike in the 650 size is the KLR because they are affordable and the support for them is terrific. Perhaps Bskye will weigh in on this as she rides one.

    I don't agree with Billy when he says look out 3 years - I say look at what works for you today. If you buy used and you "outgrow" it or decide you don't like it then sell it and try something else. Many folks are concerned about outgrowing a bike so they go too big and/or too powerful for starting and end up fighting the bike more than enjoying the ride. It might be the perfect bike down the road 3 years but if you hate riding today then it defeats the purpose. I've seen this happen way too often with gals that the man in their life talked them into something too big, gave them their hand me down bike, or just went out and bought them one. Then she doesn't enjoy riding it and he doesn't understand why.

    When you are out test sitting bikes lean them back and forth and see how they feel. Walk it forward and backward again seeing how it feels. If it feels big and heavy try something else. If a 650 feels to heavy, too big or intimidating for you start with something smaller. Smaller bikes can be tons of fun and can go many places. Being underpowered can be a disadvantage on the interstate but that just gives you the incentive to find those wonderful backroads.

    The downside of a KLR is they are a bit top heavy from what I understand (I have never ridden one). I ride an '07 BMW F650GS and the gas is under the seat so the center of gravity is lower. There is a terrific website available that covers just about anything you can think of about the F650: www.f650.com


    I've never ridden a Suzuki DR650 so I can't tell you much about that one either other than it is a bit more dirt worthy..... I am a DR fan and ride a DR200 when I want something smaller and lighter than my F650. While I enjoy my DR200 and ride it all over the place I wouldn't recommend it for you with your longer legs. The DR200 does have limitations especially with the lack of top speed and there isn't much in the way of aftermarket goodies. If you are looking at a smaller bike The Yamaha XT250 is a good bike and if you can find an older XT225 that's even better because it's a 6 speed and works better for the highway. The Kawasaki KLX250 is a terrific bike - PNW Buttercup rides one and enjoys it. The XTs and KLX both have a lot of aftermarket goodies.

    There are a lot of great options out there and you are the only one that can really decide what is best for you. I will tell you to make your own decision based on the bike that feels best to you. Many people will tell you what you should want, try not to get caught up in that. They base that on what's good for them. :D

    Take Turnsleft up on his offer to check out his bikes (I want to check them out and might have to ride across the state one of these days just to do that). Hit one of the meet ups in your area and start meeting the other riders and check out their bikes. The ADV crowd is a terrific group of people and will help you with all things motorcycles. Watch out for Turnsleft and his buddies though they ride to some crazy places and they think they are still teenagers - they're not. :lol3 Hi guys :wave

    Enjoy your new adventure, come back often and let us know what you bought and how you're doing. We like pictures, lots and lots of pictures.
    #15
  16. Maxacceleration

    Maxacceleration Off the grid

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    I would think a 2" lowered DRZ 400 would be a great bike.
    Or the lowered KLX 250 would be good too.
    With gained experience and a 31" inseam you could ride any bike of your desire.
    Flat footed at a standstill is not really a necessary thing, or correct. Its really just a confidence gainer while getting your experience.

    How many miles a day you want to ride? And how fast?
    #16
  17. Mullet Bullet

    Mullet Bullet Been here awhile

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    i have to say, i ride a DRZ400 and its a great bike, i can cruse on the freeway between trips and hop on some single track between the slabs.
    #17
  18. Valkiera

    Valkiera Adventurer

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    Crap, had a great post going and the cat hits the power button on the plug strip!!!

    Okay so the new version...

    Thanks everyone for the ideas and offers.

    I've sat on quite a few, and fiddled with them a bit, TW200 to Tiger800. I can flat foot (or very close) many of the less strongly trail oriented ones, or would in riding boots, except the KLR and WR250R I'd need platform boots! So they would need to be lowered to give it a fair assessment. One that I haven't found to sit on and play with is a KLX250S, the local shop doesn't have one.

    The V-Strom DL650 just felt big, maybe something I'd feel good with after a year or two on a smaller bike. I could get two feet down in riding boots, or very close.

    The two that seemed to feel the best size wise was the DR650SE (didn't care for the seat, but that can be replaced/fixed. It was tall but manageable) and G650GS. I also felt comfortable on the newer F650GS and Tiger, but I think those two might be too much power for this newbie. Of the smaller 200-250ish size, the XT250 fit nice, but I'm not sure about longer trips on it, but I could see it being a blast on trails, and rougher terrain.

    I'd imagine most of my riding would be on some sort of road, I know forest service roads can get a bit dodgy. I can always turn around, may not be a neat and tidy U-turn, more like a 27 point turn, but easier than a single track! About the hardest I see me trying is the Washington discovery route with a group in a couple years, I could provide the comedy relief. I live over on the Kitsap Peninsula, in an area that has some good 2 lane roads to learn on, and a church parking lot about 3 miles away! The Olympic Peninsula is easy to get to for me too, the Staircase area is about an hour away. This is the type of riding I'd like to do on the weekends, with some camping tossed in. I would also commute to work, at times, 30 mile round trip.

    I think I'm leaning toward the G650GS, if it's a tame enough bike for a rookie. The 650GS was a regular frame and seat. I sat on a lowered frame and seat, actually had a bit of a bend at the knee. A good bit of my riding may be solo, so I want something friendly enough while I learn and explore. I'm not about fast, just fun and able to keep up if I join a group ride.

    Again thanks everyone, and let me know if you feel my thinking is sound or a bunch of phooey.

    Val
    #18
  19. guns_equal_freedom

    guns_equal_freedom Long timer

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    #19
  20. puckinet

    puckinet Safety third

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    The G650GS would be. Great bike
    #20