Alaska to Argentina - which Bike?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by peteFoulkes, May 30, 2011.

  1. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    Hello,

    A friend and I are planning what feels like a big trip and require some advice. Here is our situation....

    In April of 2012, we plan to leave london and fly to Alaska. The aim is to ride all the way down to the most southern point of Argentina and we have around 8 months to do this. We have absolutely no idea what such a trip is likely to throw at us and are yet to make a decision on what bikes to buy. the only thing we have really decided on is that we would rather buy the bikes now here in London so we can get some miles in and make sure that they are mechanically sound.

    We have spent countless hours trawling thorugh various web sources trying to decide on the best bike for the job and often feel more confused each time we shut the laptop down than we did before we even began. The budget is set at around the £3000 mark (for the bike).

    So, here's the questions we need answering:

    - What bike is most suitable for the varied terrain we are likely to encounter? We obviously need something that can handle the high speeds on the good surfaces of Canada and USA for example but also need something that will perform on the broken roads of Boliva.

    - How much can we expect to pay to ship the bikes from London to Alaska then back from Argentina to London? Has anyone needed to do this in the past and if so, are you able to recommend a reliable company?

    - Insurance? How the hell does insurance work for such a trip and which companies should we be considering?

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated. The departure date is nearing and we are eager to get the bikes purchased and get the planning under way.

    Cheers

    Pete
    #1
  2. Deuce

    Deuce Crazy Canuck

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    #2
  3. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    It's been done on Harleys, ST1100's, all the way down to a Yamaha 230 (smallest I've heard). So, I'd say pick whatever tickles your fancy. And since you're going to spend alot shipping to and fro, something you'd like to keep awhile to amortize that shipping cost over several more years of ownership.

    If exploring dirt roads is a priority but you need to be able to crank out freeway miles, I'd go with a 650. DR650, KLR650, or WeeSTrom 650, or one of the BMW 650's. All are reliable and can be had in your price range. Pick the one you most want to ride. Or the one you know best since you can assume there will be repairs along the way.

    With as much time as you have, I'd personally decide on a couple suitable bikes. Scour the internet and find a large North American city (maybe even Anchorage) with several suitable ones to chose from. Fly to said city in Canada/Alaska/Washington, buy bikes, and spend a week servicing/outfitting bikes. Ride north to Alaska, south to Argentina, and sell the bikes in Argentina.

    Say you spend $4000 on each bike and ride them 20,000 hard miles. They will be worth significantly less. And say shipping is $1000 each way. that's $6000 and you'll be left well worn bikes when you're done. If you fly and buy and sell, you'll spend $4000, save $2000 in shipping, and say you can sell them at the end for $2000. That leaves you with a $2000 expense and no bike. However, $6000 your way minus $2000 out of pocket my way leaves you $4000 ahead and you could buy the same bike you started out with 8 months before and it wouldn't have 20000 hard miles on it.

    Those numbers are not exact but I'd imagine they are pretty close.

    #3
  4. AKtracks

    AKtracks Kilted Fükengrüver

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    If you're planning on starting in Alaska during April make sure the bike has a sufficiently sized alternator in order to power a lot of electric clothing. Also make sure you have a set of studded tires, as there will still be hard-packed snow and ice on the roads, especially in the more northern latitudes and in the passes.
    Mid to late May would probably be a better start date if you're planning on riding northern Alaska.
    #4
  5. Uglyprimate

    Uglyprimate UglyPirate

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    Buy a pair of KLR 650. Simple, basic, and reliable. Buy in the states or Canada. Ride to Alaska, turn south.

    They will be worn out by the time you reach Argentina, but will still be worth their value for the spare parts.

    Similar arguments can be made for the Suzuki DR650, but it has a lot less aftermarket following.

    Harley Sportsters would also fit the job and would be easiest to resell, but you have to deal with shit poor fuel range.
    #5
  6. GISdood

    GISdood Been here awhile

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    I'm likely a little biased as I own one... but I'd lean towards the DR650.

    There's a fairly decent amount of aftermarket support (http://www.procycle.us/bikepages/dr650.html & http://kientech.com/DR650ProdList.htm in particular) and the DR is about as bomb-proof as they come.

    I hosted a rider last summer who started out in Boston on a second-hand DR, rode to Alaska, then turned around and headed south. He's somewhere in Colombia now. You can see the build-up info on his bike here - http://shortwayround.co.uk/suzuki/

    Its also worth noting that he started his journey from the UK on a BMW which - after repeated head bearing failures and other breakdowns - was shipped back to London from somewhere in Bolivia. That's when the DR came into the picture and has carried him throughout all of North America and into South America to pick up his trail where the beemer had previously given up.

    While the KLR is probably the better bike for more highway-oriented riding, the DR - being lighter - will be less of a handful on gravel or off-road situations.

    Good luck!
    #6
  7. The Breeze

    The Breeze Been here awhile

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    I'm biased as well....but I have to recommend the DR650.

    I've taken mine through the Andes, then shipped it to Africa, then back to the U.S. Put 20k hard miles on it, and it didn't skip a beat. Other than general maintenance, I had to change the chain and sprockets after 15k miles....that's it!!! The bike is bombproof.

    Don't worry about carb/jetting issues as when you hit the high altitudes. The stock jetting works fine up to 9-10k feet. After that, take off the airbox cover and she'll run like a champ over the 16k foot high passes in Peru and Bolivia.

    The bike is so simple, that if for some reason it breaks down, you (or a local) will most likely to be able to make a repair and get the bike running again. Unless you have a catastrophic failure...which is highly unlikely...the bike will get you there and back. Also, it'll run on low octane, or pretty much any, fuel.

    Just fly to the States, buy a used DR with 3-4K miles on the clock. Probably run you around $3,500.00 US. Put on a Safari or IMS tank, skid plate, Sargent seat, Wolfman racks/bags, and you're good to go (~$1,500.00 US total). If you really want to farkle it out....put on a Cogent rear shock, Powerlet for an electric vest, new bars, and a GPS mount. In other words for $6-6.5k, you'll have a bombproof, reliable, comfortable bike that'll go anywhere you want to go. Can sell it for a couple thousand when you leave (depending on the farkles)

    Just make sure that you have time to obtain the original title to the bike before you cross borders. It is mandatory!

    Anyway, hope this helps......it's going to be a great trip:clap:clap:clap
    #7
  8. peteFoulkes

    peteFoulkes Been here awhile

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    Thanks all for the excellent advice. I didn't expect such thorough responses so a big thank you for your time. It's really interesting to hear your opinions and i'm sure will help us make the final decision.
    #8
  9. willys

    willys Long timer

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    KLR all the way.....lo...I too am biased....but the bigger seat, tank and over all more comfortable ride over the DR is a deciding factor. Both bike are stone tool repairable, and have the go any where capabilities. But you are going to be doing way more hard surface riding so the KLR wins hands down...sorry.:deal:freaky
    #9
  10. AKtracks

    AKtracks Kilted Fükengrüver

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    If you choose to go with a KLR do yourself a favor and replace any and all bearings on the bike with quality, sealed (where appropriate....and don't use the original as a guide) units. Kawasaki seems to pride themselves on installing the cheapest bearings they can find. :lol3
    I still have no idea what they were thinking installing unsealed bearings in the cush-drives. :huh
    #10
  11. willys

    willys Long timer

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    OR...take the wheels off and check them for rust, mine have the original bearings and I always keep an eye on whether or not they have enough lube. Although, bearings are cheap in the big scheme of things and it's something you never need to worry about.
    Just do some preventative maintenance when you get the bike and be aware of it's issues. There are a few really good KLR specific sites to learn all you need to know about KLRs. Another good reason to go with that bike.....but to each their own.....what ever floats your boat!:freaky
    #11
  12. AKtracks

    AKtracks Kilted Fükengrüver

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    Crack the engine and replace those as well. Doing so would eliminate the vast majority of mechanical failures I've experienced with customers KLRs. It really is a shame to see peoples rides ruined when a $5 bearing fails and leads to engine detonation. :cry

    For as long a ride as you're going on, this really is a ounce of prevention that will avoid a pound of cure. Plus, in doing so at home, in your shop, you'll know all there is to know about your bike....that knowledge is indispensable if broken down in the middle of nowhere.
    #12
  13. Slowphil

    Slowphil Big Man in a very very small pond

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    KLR all the way.....lo...I too am biased....but the bigger seat, tank and over all more comfortable ride over the DR is a deciding factor. Both bike are stone tool repairable, and have the go any where capabilities. But you are going to be doing way more hard surface riding so the KLR wins hands down...sorry.:deal

    OR...take the wheels off and check them for rust, mine have the original bearings and I always keep an eye on whether or not they have enough lube. Although, bearings are cheap in the big scheme of things and it's something you never need to worry about.
    Just do some preventative maintenance when you get the bike and be aware of it's issues. There are a few really good KLR specific sites to learn all you need to know about KLRs. Another good reason to go with that bike.....but to each their own.....what ever floats your boat
    -----------------------------------------

    These guys are right, I own a KLR, to get my bike ready to go to TDF in August 2012 I have put on a bigger tank (which you don't really need), replaced the doohickey, put on a heavier rear shock spring and replaced the wheel bearings with sealed. All in all if the previous owner did nothing to the bike , it would take you a day and $150 to get a KLR ready for the trip if you didn't want a bigger tank and rear spring. If you look in the tent thread you'll find guys in Canada or the US who have a garage and tools and are quite willing to help you get ready for your trip. Hell, come to Nova Scotia and you can use my garage and tools, if your early enough next year that is:clap.
    #13
  14. going south

    going south hero & Zero...

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    I'm not trying to hijack this thread, I was wondering why nobody ever talks about the Honda XR650L or R for long distance travel? they seem to be the Bike of choice for Baja, 1000 and 500, and there is lots of after market parts so you can build to suit.

    Thanks in advance...
    #14
  15. willys

    willys Long timer

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    I used to have a Honda 600XL...beautiful bike. But. It doesn't have the huge tank, seat as the KLR and is IMHO more of a dirt bike than an adventure touring machine which IMHO the KLR is. IMHO, it isn't a dirt bike, it's a cheapman's adventure touring go any where machine.
    It's just that many just see it as a dual sport and instantly figure that means dirt bike. They soon realize they have the wrong bike for the job if that is what they bought it for. The motor is slung too far forward and low to be any real good off road. Where as the Honda and DR have been designed to go off road by putting the motor further back, higher and maybe changing the rake of the forks. Whatever they have done to those bikes, they can lift the front wheel easier than the KLR. They certainly don't have that much more if any horse power than the KLR or torque. It's all in the design of the frame.
    Again, IMHO...the KLR is the perfect adventure touring machine for the masses.....that life within a budget or just don't want to spend the big bucks on a slightly better bike such as the Beemer line up.
    My theory is, if you can't fix it in tim buc too with a stick and a rock, it's no good to you. Because if a Beemer dies in the middle of the back country you better have roadside assistance because unless you travel with all the diagnotics required , you ain't fixing it. That goes for all bike with all of the electronic crap they force them to run on now a days.

    In the end ....it's your call on what turns your crank........:deal:freaky
    #15
  16. going south

    going south hero & Zero...

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    willys: thanks for the lesson, I have looked at all the bikes and never gave it much thought about the motor placement, or fork rake but it's all sinking in now!!!
    I fully understand the stick and rock thing, trust me..:lol3
    I like my bikes like my women, cheap & easy....:freaky
    thanks...
    #16
  17. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    I'm kind of partial to the KTM 950/990. The LC8 platform is as bulletproof as it gets.

    And yes, you can fix it with a stick and rock, its a big ass 100 hp dirt bike. No better tool for the job IMO. Probably not a good bike for novice riders and wrenches though.
    #17
  18. YnotJP?

    YnotJP? Long timer

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    A year or so ago a fellow from Colorado named Shu, an inmate, did a trip thru Central Asia on a DR 650. He did a few things to it to make it a great bike for a long trip mostly on paved roads.

    I followed what he did on a DR 650, and I am very happy with mine, it will run all day at 70-75 mph, and gets 50 to 60 mpg. With a Seat Concepts seat I can do 8 hours no problem. The 4.9 gallon tank goes over 200 before hitting reserve. The nice thing about a natural tank is you can see just how much fuel you have, which is important on a trip into unknow areas.

    Good luck on your trip.
    #18
  19. macrae85

    macrae85 Been here awhile

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    I'll send you a P.M. i'm heading down as well on a DR650 (Check my slow moving thread) from Arizona.I,as a Scot unfamiliar with all the ins and outs of the States,recommend Craigslist,though you have to go through cities individually,pain in the arse.I got my DR650,2000 model for $998,and have gotten most of that back sticking the bits i dont need on eBay-free bike before rebuild!Copart,which used to be Universal Salvage in the UK is worth checking out too,there's quite a few light 'scuffers' going through them.I supposed to be off this year,but it will be 2012 for sure now,and i've got a New Zealand lady wanting to tag along,so 'her' bike will have to be build too-still working on what to do about that yet-possibly a DRZ400 as someone had written earlier.
    According to EVERMORE,you will get around $2000US for a DR650 on the blackmarket in Argentina,as it's not worth freighting back to the US,keep that in mind.Personally i'd speak to DHL about shipping a bike from the UK out by sea-350GBP Ducati DS1000 from Glasgow - New Zealand,and buy a good DR engined CCM644 for around a 1000GBP and put Kolpin side tanks on it.Things are limited over here,i still think a single is best given some of the Latin American road,something you can lift out the mud yourself!
    Plan B,is hang off a bit,and i'll sell you mine from Argentina and you can do the trip in reverse-just kidding,ha ha.....i have plans after there!
    #19
  20. cu260r6

    cu260r6 Been here awhile

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    Cheaper: Suzuki V-strom 650
    More expensive: KTM 990

    I've done the same trip through Central and South America, and the condition of the roads is no problem for anything more capable than a sportbike. You're going to be on pavement 80-90% of the way, and 99% of the dirt is going to be at least somewhat groomed. Buying a bike capable of single track, like a DR650, is way overkill. Further, a single cylinder bike will only be able to cruise at 70-75mph max once it's loaded down with gear. There are many, many spots where you'll make up more time being able to cruise at 90mph easy than spots where you'll make up time offroad. I rode a KTM 640 adventure and traveled with a guy on a KLR. Both bikes were really lacking in power. This made the type of passing required in Latin America much less safe.

    I'm not sure why many people keep recommending KLRs as reliable vehicles. There is no objective measure, or even subjective characteristic, that KLR owners can point to to demonstrate its reliability. My theory is that they are cheap bikes, so they generate more owners than more expensive ones, and this numerical superiority leads to a greater number of opinions. I like KLRs for what they are, cheap, but saying a cheap bike built with cheap tolerances will be more reliable than a more expensive one isn't supported by any evidence.
    #20