Touring on UJM

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Prof J, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

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    Thanks. But I don't need to buy a new bike; I have several of those too. Each has its place. I'm just countering the notion that old bikes are just as good, or nearly as good, as new ones from a functionality standpoint. As an owner of many examples of each, I think I can speak with some authority that it simply isn't true. But that doesn't mean that you can't do most anything you want with the old one if you're into it. Touring on a 70's or 80's UJM is a blast.

    - Mark
    #21
  2. Tim_Tom

    Tim_Tom Long timer

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    Two summer's ago I rode my 82 Suzuki GS850G from NJ to California and back. The was bike I bought for $1200 and was a brilliant bike. You can tour or anything you like, one isn't any better than another, but the best bike is the one you are sitting on.

    A picture from my trip coming down the Pacific coast highway.

    [​IMG]
    #22
  3. tlub

    tlub Been here awhile

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    Except that was done on the antithesis of a UJM, a Triumph. A 500 cc, single carb 'hundred'. Sort of like a Daytona, but the service version with one carb.

    But the point is actually well taken. You don't need the latest and greatest. Miles then, for which the old bikes were made (and to me, all UJMs are 'new') are the same 5,280 feet as miles now, and new miles travel just like old miles.
    #23
  4. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    In most ways they are not, but in some ways they are far better. Show me a new bike I can buy and get in shape for a long road trip for under $2000, with a super comfortable long flat seat, that will never blow a cooling hose or puncture a radiator, which will easily last 100,000 miles without a top end rebuild, and one which every possible failure can be understood and fixed by a layman which no exotic tools and I'll buy it. BMW's airheads come close, but they haven't made a flat seat in decades. And they are not $2000 either.
    #24
  5. Short Shins

    Short Shins Adventurer

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    I tour on a UJM all the time. It's all I've got
    1977 Honda CB750 with A Yamaha SRX600.
    On our annual Sad Old Gits Tour. around 1500km in 5 days.
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
    #25
  6. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades...

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    Maybe not, but I'm betting a lot of us could quite easily do every bit of work - including fork seals and engine rebuilds - on a CB400F over that of the new 500. THAT is what many of us mean by a good basic bike... at least I do. There is also a certain joy in riding a very elemental bike that isn't there with newer stuff. It's like sitting on the bench seat of a 68 Chevy C10 versus being coddled and absorbed into the bucket seat of a current Chevy Silverado. Just something I still love about the feel. Fact is the only thing I didn't and don't like about older bikes is totally curable - suspension.

    For the OP I agree, nothing like an 80s UJM. Only thing they need to really do a great job is suspension. A set of good shocks ($300-600) and a Race Tech Gold Valve cartridge emulator or the like and Progresive Suspension fork springs in the forks to have a ride to rival the new stuff, which usually need springs or damping fiddled with too.

    There is adventure in riding the basic motorcycle over the modern compartmentalized bikes. A UJM is more touring than a sport bike and more sporting than a touring bike, lighter than many sport tourers and more comfortable than most sport bikes. That is the UJM. My favorite was the Nighthawk S 700. It was better for me than my bare standard 83 Gold Wing and definitely better than any sportbikes I'd ridden. The seat and ride position was virtually perfect.

    At this point, I am going totally single cylinder, serious elemental. My Zephyr will be sold. My KLX650 will get 17s for road use, and a KLX250 was added to the garage for more serious real dual sporting. My project/play bike is an SR500 street/tracker. It just suits the way I have become over the past few decades, as I started finding riding secondary roads as much as possible (including dirt/gravel) and not finding any joy in sheer mileage and wide open highway/freeway riding. Only one draw back to dual sports and most singles I know of is the seating for highway use - and that is why I have a pick up and trailer. When there is a drone to a place we want to be I'd rather sit in the cab with a few friends shooting the breeze on the long boring run to the destination. Besides 15 mpg in a truck with four guys is the same as 60 mpg on four bikes with four riders - no energy consumption increase.

    In addition I can deal with virtually anything on these bikes. For me the reward isn't in the miles droning down a freeway, it is the ride on the roads that are fun. But if I had to, I know I can add a bit of a pad (ATV cushion) to the seat of the 650 and hit the highway. I also kind of like the elemental kind of character - nothing more than is needed to do the job. Especially with the manual compression release kick start equipped SR500. Pure elemental motorcycle - no "alloying" extras like electric start or counter-balancers.

    You see, my dual sport 650 had done everything that all the new stuff had done. I rode it and hung close to sport bikes, packed up some stuff on it and rode some longer distance stuff (nothing major, but it could go touring with some side bags hung on it, no power problem), and it certainly does the around town and general screwing around as good as any current bike... it also goes easily on dirt/gravel too - BONUS! So it does do what the new stuff does in pretty much as good a fashion when you talk general purpose motorcycles. Only thing that would be nice to have would be EFI, but my carb does the job without any more than fiddling with the choke when cold.
    #26
  7. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades...

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    I agree totally with your comments about the 400 - that was what made a UJM a UJM, it could be whatever you decided it would be, even if it changed overnight! Sweet...:clap

    As for your comments about the CB500 and no kick start, all I can say is you're wrong.

    The 500 is quite practical. A releatively small foot print as motorcycles are, can have bags/box on it or bungee on whatever. Heck, a back pack and it's like commuting on a CB400! Jump on and ride.

    As for kick start - I have 30,000 miles on a KLX650 dual sport without any need for kick starting. That IS one area where new stuff is good - electrics. The electrics, like starters and all, got more and more reliable through the 70s and to date. It got to the point where having a kick starter made about as much sense on the bikes as having a hand crank on a car. :lol3
    #27
  8. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades...

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    That is totally relative.

    My nearly 20 year old 95 KLX650 is still on par with the current lot of Japanese dual sports. My nearly 25 year old in-line 4 with a set of shocks can perform legally on par with the current mid size standards. What is better may not be necessary for functional performance. There is nothing on the market that actually has better stuff than my current 650 for general road and light dual sport use. There is nothing on the market that actually has better function for general road use than my 550. The only reason to go to something newer would be because I wanted something that wasn't provided by my current ride. I will tell you that reason is why I bought a 95 KLX in 97 over say a 90 Honda XR650L, I liked the look of the KLX over the XR. The XR remained virtually unchanged for a few decades, so how would Modern be better? KLR 650 got an overhaul, but it didn't increase function in any real ground breaking way over the first gen that had run for like 30 years! Better is totally relative. Where is a markedly better sport tourer than an ST1100 or the first FJR? In fact is anything really markedly better than a C10 Concours on a day to day general ride?

    I open the garage, get the bike out, put my stuff on (including my back pack), turn on the key, pull the choke (which they may not have to), hit the start button, and ride off taking the choke down after a few minutes while I ride. I pull up, put the kick stand down, get off and go do what I need to do. Then repeat to go home. Tell me how much better a 2014 bike can do that for me?... well, other than having to use the choke lever when cold.

    Now if I'm going road racing or looking for sheer quickness and speed I'm sure modern is better. If I want full boat touring I'm sure the new Wing and others are far superior. And if I want cruiser, well they were so low tech a 2000 model isn't that much different than the 2014, that's cruisers for ya.

    A good running old bike will do, for me, everything that the latest and greatest will. It will get me from here to there without issue. (Much like my 96 truck versus a 14 truck) One thing the new bike cannot do that the older does - give a bit of panache. You pull up on an older bike and riders notice.
    #28
  9. gpounce

    gpounce Been here awhile

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    Shrug.. plenty of Suzuki Bandits 1200 and 600 can be found cheap, plenty reliable and likely to last forever. Classic UJM with reasonably modern suspension, brakes etc. Lots of parts around, maintenance is entirely conventional, upgrades are well understood and specified these days and make a big difference. I probably have $1k in upgrades on it now, some new, some salvage & craigslist.

    I take my 1200 anywhere the bike has a reasonable chance of having traction... heck I took my old Volusia cruiser down logging roads until I ran out of ground clearance.


    [​IMG]
    #29
  10. rivercreep

    rivercreep Banned

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    I'd like to see you bump start a modern FI bike (without much of a hill around) that has a completely dead battery.
    F.W.I.W. I've had the batteyr on a 98 Dodge Dakota 5 speed and my TU250X go completely dead...and even with a good hill, neither (with no juice to let their brains think) would bump start.
    I.M.H.O. a Kick-start with an electrical discharge DEFINITELY has it's place on a modern FI bike.

    And I also don't equate a backpack to practical commuting.
    I brought home a 20 lb turkey, gallon of milk, bread, and a few other forgotten items on my way home from work with the saddlebags on my TU...something no backpack could handle...and that was in a pouring rain with a large shield keeping me mostly dry for the trip home and to the grocery store.
    Like I said, it's a matter of perspective. I'm not saying your wrong (and
    I don't understand how you feel you can tell me I'm wrong, when the bike YOU describe, doesn't fit MY needs at all)

    I know you can buy all sorts of stuff for the new CB series but, like I mentioned earlier, look at the prices for that stuff! You can't morph any of the CB series for cheap, like I could my TU250X. (I actually like the new CB500X and would consider buying it IF I had the finances for the extra large shield, bags/mounts and rack)

    Before this site made it hard for me to post pics, I did post some of my TU on the TU250X thread...look there and you can see what I'm talking about. No fancy hardware was needed for my shield or bags.
    I'm holding out for a DR650 powered larger version of it. (unless I want to buy my 4th DR650)
    #30
  11. hugemoth

    hugemoth Long timer

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    I'm still touring on a 81 GL500 Interstate. 33 years old now and still fits my touring needs perfectly. Rode it on a 9,000 mile Alaska trip last summer and will continue to tour on it for the foreseeable future.
    #31
  12. k-moe

    k-moe Long timer

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    Keep up on maintainance and that won't happen :deal
    #32
  13. rivercreep

    rivercreep Banned

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    It will when some asshole turns on your heated grips that you were forced to hot wire to the battery due to space limitations. (and you come out to a dead battery after being inside work all day)
    I've since corrected the asshole problem by wiring in a redundant switch that isn't visible...if only I could fix the asshole responses on some posts.:D
    #33
  14. duckman

    duckman co conspirator

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    spring 1976, took a brand new monkey shit brown 76 550k from n.y. to mt desert island,then p.e.i then st. Lawrence seaway to quebec then on to west Virginia sky line dr., then DC then home
    #34
  15. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    I will if you leave something turned on.
    #35
  16. Tuna Helper

    Tuna Helper Rawrr!

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    What are you doing to make it "safe and reliable"?
    #36
  17. Kamloopsrider

    Kamloopsrider Been here awhile

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    I've got a 73 Norton and a 69 Triumph. An 82 Seca is a modern bike. I hear they even have electric starters now.
    #37
  18. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    New tires, usually a few bearings, cables, clean the carburetors, clean the brake system, usually upgrade the brakes to a more modern standard. If I'm planning on keeping it long, cartrige emulators in the forks, new shocks, I prefer have a nice smooth ride. Adjust the valves, test and clean up the electrical system, clean out the gas tank if it's grungy. Replace, grease or service everything else that needs it. Fork seals, whatever. Easy stuff, these are simple machines. I enjoy the work, if you hated working on stuff it wouldn't be a good idea.
    I try to buy the ones that look nice, not running, as not running is easier to fix than ugly. I won't touch a rust bucket. Too much work.

    It usually comes in at just under $1000 when all is done. I have been doing this for years, buy a dead bike, fix it up, ride it until I'm tired of it and sell it at a small profit.

    I prefer the Suzukis because they still sell most parts for the old bikes, but have done other brands as well. Honda and Kawasaki drop the parts quick once a model is no longer in production, not Suzuki.

    In something like 400,000 miles I have yet to have any of these bikes leave me stranded alongside a road. Ever.
    #38
  19. buls4evr

    buls4evr No Marks....

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    Yup i am aware that he rode a non- Japanese Triumph. My point was that you can travel any kind of terrain for many miles if you have the will to do this on a universal type motorcycle. Doesn't matter who makes it.
    #39
  20. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

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    Not a UJM, but I did 9000 miles around the US on a 1979 Triumph Bonneville special.
    The only problem I had was a flat front tire at the Grand Canyon.
    The bike was not new, and was well abused by the time of the trip.

    Good ergonomics for me, nice thick seat, hard fender and grab rail and a flat seat gave plenty of room to strap stuff on the bike.

    If you do not want to spend any money, or have ugly heavy crap all over your bike, I do not see a way to carry a lot of stuff on most modern bikes.
    And forget about 2 up.
    I was once on a long ride with a friend and his girlfrend, bike camping, and when he got a flat, I had my cargo, his cargo, and his girl on my bike, while he rode his bike with a flat to the campground 50 miles away.

    Once you set up camp, the bike looked like a normal bike, no hard bags and other junk on the bike.

    A valve adjustment was a 10 minute job, the bike held plenty of oil, had a center stand that made fixing a flat easy, the bike was about 400 pounds, so it did ok in the dirt.

    My current TU250 is a small version of that, with an over the tail light rack on the back, I can have cargo and the wife on the bike and its comfortable.

    Most motorcycles have gone from basic useful transportation to solo race bikes, at least in style, or giant touring sleds.

    I would guess the klr650 comes close to an all around bike, but its a water cooled top heavy pig with low power output and oil use problems.
    #40