Not sure if the right bike exists?

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by ThePass, Jun 30, 2013.

  1. ThePass

    ThePass Adventurer

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    Hey everyone, I've been searching all over this forum and others trying to make a purchase decision that's going to leave me really happy with the bike I chose, and I've read so much my head's starting to spin, and I feel like I need to just go straight to the experts (you guys) to try to get some solid guidance.

    I'm coming from the world of sportbikes, and my buddy and I recently decided we need to begin adventure riding, so we've been shopping for dual sports.

    My personal list of priorities for the bike:
    50% street, 50% dirt
    Reliable and Low maintenance - runs forever
    Not excessively heavy

    Most of the dirt use would be fire roads, some single track - not MX riding through mud though. My street use would be carving through twisty roads on routes that would mix street and dirt.

    My buddy just found a very clean DRZ 400 SM and we picked it up yesterday. He's going to get some dual-use tires for it and be ready to go. Up until now I thought a DRZ might be the perfect mix of everything. Then yesterday I rode his new bike. We were on a mountain road with lots of twistys and the bike just wasn't very quick. And this one dynos at 40 whp with all the mods it has.

    This has left me rather dismayed. I'm not sure if it's just the fact that I'm usually riding something with 170whp, or if I just have unrealistic expectations, but everyone says a DRZ with all the right mods is really quick, and within 30 seconds of riding this one I was pinning the throttle and wishing for more while pulling out of turns...

    So now I've been searching for alternatives, and that's left me even more frustrated - it seems that anything with more power is also less reliable and/or has maintenance intervals that I am not interested in signing up for. KTMs and Husabergs seem to fall into this category. Additionally, most of these faster bikes are faster because they are more race oriented - meaning not designed for luggage, etc. I don't want a race bike at all. And on the other end of the spectrum, I've looked at bigger cc bikes than the DRZ - like the XR650 or DR650, but despite being heavier, they actually don't make any more horsepower than the DRZ does, so that looks like a bad direction to go too!

    So at the end of the day, I'm sort of at a loss for where I should be looking. Let me know what you guys think. Maybe I need to adjust my expectations... If I could design my own bike, I'd want something that can carve twisty roads, run dirt trails and single track, DRZ-size frame and weight with a 50hp motor, and be dead reliable and run forever with just reasonable/simple service. Here's the cliff notes of what I've come up with so far:

    -XR650 and DR650 might both be bit on the heavy side, but maybe I could put up with that... DR is slower than the XR, so I would probably lean towards the XR650 (and I'm a huge Honda fan), but it still only gets ~40-42 hp when uncorked. Here's where your guys' experience comes in though - does the torque of the 650 make it drastically different than a 400cc with similar peak power?

    -I've looked at the KTM 500/400 EXC models - they look great all except for the fact that they are all measured in hours of use (scares me - I want to put hundreds of hours in without issues), and I've heard they need constant maintenance. I do not want to have to do an engine rebuild, thanks. All of my Honda sportbikes have ran or tens of thousands of miles with just oil changes and valve checks (never needed adjusting). I like that.

    -Husqvarna just release for 2013 the TR650 Strada/Terra - 58hp, and great manners on road/dirt, and I saw one at a dealer for $5999. That's way out of my price range (Mine is more like $3k) but I had even considered taking out a loan for one, but then read about the uncertainty in Husky's future with the ownership change, and don't want to get into something that ends up with no support.

    -DRZ400/KLX400 - Looked great to me on paper until I rode one and wished for more power. Maybe I could live with it though. I'm going to swap bikes with my buddy again soon so hopefully I can spend a little more time on his SM to figure this out. I sure like how light it is though!

    Thanks for any insight you can give me..
    -Ryan
    #1
  2. Gundy

    Gundy Been here awhile

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    KTM 690....60-70 hp, ~330 lbs wet, and longer service intervals. 2012 onwards have most of the major bugs worked out. If carrying a passenger was not a priority for me, I would own one. I have similar riding needs as you.

    I love my Sertao, but do need to watch the pace offroad. Suspension and wheel upgrades would allow for a faster pace in the conditions you describe, but then you may as well have gone with KTM.
    #2
  3. itsatdm

    itsatdm Long timer

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    I think you have pretty much nailed it. Coming from a sport bike, most any dual sport is going to feel slow in the twistys. It is inherent in the design of these types of bikes. You want stability off road? Add some rake/trail, 21" front wheel, more suspension travel along with ground clearance. Everyone of those changes slow the bike's response through a curvy road.

    The smaller displacement bikes make horsepower at a higher rpm than a larger displacement bike. The more displacement usually means more torque. They are measurements of different things. Depending on the length of the race, the DR650 will be faster.

    Passing on a Terra at $6,000 tells me you have a budget that probably won't include many European bikes. If you can find a used Husky 610/630 that you can afford it will be a good comprise bike. Same for the BMW X bikes.

    The Japanese bike designs are old, heavy, lots of trail and low on HP, but there is plenty of aftermarket that makes them better.
    #3
  4. Off the grid

    Off the grid Unsmooth Operator

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    Don't let the KTM stuff scare you. They last just as long as similar Japanese bikes. The hour stuff is for racing only.

    Yes, you need to change to oil and check the valves a bit more, but it will do everything you are looking for....and more.
    #4
  5. jtw000

    jtw000 Survivor

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    The perfect bike doesn't exist. Like you, I went from litre-class to 650 singles and paddled around offroad. At first it was nothing more than a hobby and I was always looking for a bigger, faster dirtbike. The BMW F800gs does well but it's not really built for the dirt and runs out of steam on tarmac if you're comparing to a really fast bike.
    The longer you ride them though, the more it makes sense. Once you're tuned into a dual-sport they are actually faster around corners and from the line but they aren't sportsbikes.
    The simple fact is that if it's light, it isn't strong. If it's fast it's either heavy or flimsy and neither of those will work in the dirt. In fact, to my mind the DRZ400 is not a great choice because you're screwing more power from a smaller engine. That's going to hurt your reliability and service intervals. There's a reason why the whole bunch of 650 singles run around 50bhp. It works. The BMW G650x wound it up to a little more and proved reliable. Husky have wound the same engine up a little more still and should still be reliable.
    Get yourself a cheap bike and enjoy the experience, it soon gets under your skin and will give you a better idea of what you're really looking for.
    #5
  6. Motomochila

    Motomochila Mad Scientist

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    The perfect bike? Yea sure, and all women are beautiful, all beer is great, leprechauns exist, and surely the current administration will balance the national budget.. Or... You will wake up and realize there is no perfect road,,or trail or highway for every bike, and you will finally decide.... That skinny girl you knew in high school actually turned out to be a "hottie" once she grew up and wish you still had her phone number. Moral of this story; ain't never gonna happen.
    #6
  7. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    $3k to spend and you want alot in a bike? That is going to be tough dude.

    Looks for a well moded DR650, 1st gen KLR650 or XR650L.
    XRL is the most dirt oriented, followed by the DR.
    You might also find a few Husky 610/630s out there but they require more upkeep.
    An older KTM 640 might be had for that price.
    #7
  8. Baja Dad

    Baja Dad Long timer

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    For $3000 you are looking at a used 05-07 KTM RFS 525
    ( and it will still need some work )
    #8
  9. Albie

    Albie Kool Aid poisoner

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    So at the end of the day, for $3K you're bike definitely does NOT exist. So now you're gonna have to get a bike that you can settle for.

    Look at it in sport bike terms. You can afford a Ninja 250, but you want a CBR 1K.
    #9
  10. ThePass

    ThePass Adventurer

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    Thank you for all the replies thus far guys. It's tough not knowing anyone who is in this niche of the motorcycling sport, and therefore having very few ways to get personal experience with various models to determine what I like best.

    I've gotten a lot of good input here, as well as via PMs.

    Right now I'm between the DRZ-400, DR650, and XR650. I understand that of those two 650s, the DR leans more towards being well mannered on the street whereas the XR is more off-road capable and has a bit more power, and of course each one is a little less proficient at the opposite. The DRZ has the benefit of lightness but I'm going to have to get a little more seat time with the one my friend just picked up before I can really decide how I feel about that...

    I think on the subject of wanting a dual sport that is 'perfect' your guys' input has really helped me adjust my expectations/perspective. Dual sports are compromises from both ends of the spectrum, 'jack-of-all-trades, master of none' sort of thing. Especially because this will be my second bike - I'm not parting with my 1000RR, I feel I'll be happier getting something that leans, if anything, towards being more off-road proficient. Any dual sport iss going to fall short compared to my streetbike on the pavement no matter what, no sense trying to compete. I suppose I just want something that won't be painfully bad on the road ;)

    Unless someone can convince me that there's a certain Husky or KTM that really can rival the japanese stuff in terms of maintenance-free use and reliability, those are the three I'm looking at now.

    -Ryan
    #10
  11. lvscrvs

    lvscrvs Been here awhile

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    Lots of sound advise above.

    FWIW, my buddy had a XR650R when i had my DRZ. That bike was at a whole other level of torque and power... but you have to kick it... not so bad on the road, but can be a pita when you fall down on hillsides.... :rofl

    A modded DR650 or XR650R probably fit your budget and needs closest...
    #11
  12. Falcon86

    Falcon86 I just work here.

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    You could always get a DR650 and buy a sumo setup for it if you wanted to hit twisties.

    I love my DRZ.

    There are some times in the twisties when I wish it had more power, but when I remember why I bought the bike, I forget about the wish for more power.

    I bought it to ride on the street to get to the trails, not to carve up twisties at break neck speed.

    We all are going to want a different bike than the one we're currently on, it's just finding the best compromise.
    #12
  13. Ogre_fl

    Ogre_fl Long timer

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    In your 3K budget I would suggest you take a look for a KTM LC4 640 (maybe a 625 as well).

    Longer maintenance than the RFS bikes, in real terms pretty close to what you should do with a DRZ.

    Some explode, many others have reliability & life spans similar to the DRZ.

    They can vibe like a bastard, ride one and see if it bothers you.
    #13
  14. SquadraCorse

    SquadraCorse Been here awhile

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    I have a Ducati 900 and a DRZ. The drz is what it is. I don't wish for more power. It's super super reliable and a great jack of all trades. The AK-47 of motorcycles in my opinion. But so is the DR, KLR, etc. I know it's not that fast, but for a bike you can ride 100 miles to get to the trails it couldn't be better. No matter what you get it will leave you wanting on the street coming from a sport bike. Anything you get it will put a smile on your face once you get dirty. My only advice would be get something light, as I think that matters the most when you get into the more gnarly stuff off road...
    #14
  15. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

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    A DR-Z or DR can be modded for over 50WHP while still being low-maintenance and reliable. The Husky TR650 is even more pwerful, while still being understressed and inexpensive. The DR and TR also have the weight, stability, gearspread, and smoothness for running slab if you want to. The XR650R is also worth a look. All of these are liquid or air/oil-cooled, rather than air-cooled, so they resist overheating well...or can be made to.

    I'd also try riding the DR-Z in some tight singletrack. It won't seem so gutless. I doubt you'll even hit 3rd gear much.
    #15
  16. perterra

    perterra -. --- .--. .

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    Be truthfull, you have never owned a motorcycle have you?
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  17. ThePass

    ThePass Adventurer

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    Me? Been riding for 7 years, doing a 650-ish mile 2-day ride next week... currently selling my 5th moto and shopping for my 6th... certainly not the amazing rap sheet that some of the long-timers have developed, but far from never having ridden... :lol3

    My concern about not having enough power doesn't stem from some inexperienced desire to be Rossi.. over the years I've progressed through bikes and discovered that on the street I like having more torque available than I ever need - power being like a rheostat, just turn the knob until you are getting however much you want, with the bike always having more to give if you want it (that's how my 1000 is)... actually, one small element to wanting to sell my 600 and get a dual sport, beyond wanting to start going off-road, is that a part of me does miss actually being able to use full-throttle. You don't unwind the 1000 fully unless you've got a clear flight path ahead for at least half a mile. I think I have a bit of a clashing of desires - the one being how much I like having something fast and the other being that I keep reminding myself I already have that, I don't want to get another of the same, and it might be fun to have something that has a powerband that can actually be enjoyed in full every day...
    #17
  18. KustomizingKid

    KustomizingKid Been here awhile

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    Just get a klr, its such a turd that its fun. You dob't expect more and toss money at it thinkiing it will be a Dakar winner.
    #18
  19. Gundy

    Gundy Been here awhile

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    Three ways it will unfold if you want a good bike and are on a budget:

    1. You are the rare person who just rides the crap out of a stock bike and doesn't think twice about it.

    2. You buy a bike within your current budget, wish it was the hot whatever bike, and go broke trying to mod it into something it just won't ever be. Common pitfall.....I did it three times.

    3. Save up for awhile longer and just buy the bike that does best job at what you want. Better to spend money on maintenance for a higher performance bike (assuming you need the speed) than endless conversion farkles. This will actually save you money in the long run....wish I had gone this route myself.
    #19
  20. Off the grid

    Off the grid Unsmooth Operator

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    Yeah, you need a KTM. :deal
    #20