Alaska to Argentina - which Bike?

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

  1. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    A V-Strom is no KTM 9X0, thats for sure. Two completely different tools for two completely different jobs.

    Also, there is plenty of proper off road riding in Central and South America and more dirt roads and two track than you could explore in a lifetime. In Peru and Bolivia alone I rode over 4000 miles of dirt.

    If you ride pavement 90 percent of the way, you are missing the best South America has to offer IMO. I would shoot for something in the 50/50 range, pavement/dirt. Then you will see some great stuff and really get "out there." But if your goal is just to ride a motorcycle to Ushuaia, then stay on the pavement, its easier than having to explore, ride more challenging terrain and actually get to see things.

    You have 8 months. Get off the tar and explore South America. That's where the epic stuff is to be found. In fact, I would skip North and Central America entirely and ship the bikes right to Colombia. Once you get to South America you will see why.



    This is right on. I dont understand the affinity for the KLR either as there are better bikes for nearly the same price, the DR 650 being one. Also, you can get a used, well kitted KTM 950 for around 7 to 8 grand. Thats a shit load of performance and capability for that price. Not an expensive bike if you buy used as they dont hold their value very well.
    #21
  2. The Breeze

    The Breeze Been here awhile

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    I agree with Crash....my favorite memories of South America were the "off-road" rides through Peru and Bolivia. Strongly advise that you don't miss these routes!!! Numerous bikes will "make it" on these roads...but you'll enjoy the ride and will be smiling the whole time on a KTM 990 or a DR 650. Actually, I found myself wishing I was on a KTM 690....better off-road performance than my DR and lighter.

    I personally wouldn't take a bike that was less "off-road" worthy than these bikes. But...I tend to seek out the dirt and try to stay off the tarmac.

    By the way, when we had to slab it, I cruised all day long...day after day at 85 mph (indicated) on my DR and was comfortable....fully loaded. My buddy was on a KTM 990.
    #22
  3. bush pilot

    bush pilot Long timer

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    A KLR is the easy answer. Cheap to buy, cheap to operate, and cheap to fix. Comes with a stock big tank If you don't go too fast you can nurse 300 miles out of it, 250 miles easy. It's got quirks but reasonably manageable. The trick is buy a used one already sorted out buy a fastidious owner.

    The other bike I'd choose would be a sorted out old R100GS mostly for the cool factor and conversation piece; I'm fond of airheads.
    Couple of nice ones in the flea market right now....:tb
    #23
  4. wheatwhacker

    wheatwhacker It's raining here

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    For this trip, I vote for the KLR.
    You can buy a low mile stock one for $2-3K, another $1K will kit it out and your set.
    Leave Alaska on June 21'st, the day of the summer solstice and you can easily make it to TDF for the summer solstice down there.
    Simple and reliable should take priority over performance in this situation.
    Doing 1000/week, you can cover 24,000 miles in 6 months, that's only riding 200 miles per day and giving you 2 days a week to pee off. In reality, 400-600 miles per day is realistic in North America giving you more P days to explore. The KLR is well capable of this as well as giving you a 250 mile range, more if you splash for the aftermarket tank.
    Put on a quality shock and check your oil. Any parts can be sent by posting here, I know, I have sent many the part to stranded riders all over.

    Here's a nice example

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/mcy/2423189114.html
    #24
  5. Moose_DK

    Moose_DK Been here awhile

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    A KLR or aDRZ400S

    My DRZ400s has done 25.000 miles without any problems and fully loaded.
    its indestrucable!
    #25
  6. cu260r6

    cu260r6 Been here awhile

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    I rode just about the same amount of dirt in Peru and Bolivia, but all the dirt I encountered wouldn't be a challenge on any bike mentioned in this thread. 'True' dirt would be something like rocky single track, something I never hit for any extended stretch. Once you add in the weight of fully loaded panniers, tank bag, and seat roll it really takes away a ton of off road capability of any bike, my 640 adventure included. A V-strom, or even a kawasaki versys would be almost as capable offroad and much faster on the pavement for a lot cheaper. In hindsight I'd still have taken a 990 if money was no option, but it always is :D
    #26
  7. cu260r6

    cu260r6 Been here awhile

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    After having been stuck on a single cylinder bike for the trip in SA the reason I recommended a multi cylinder bike is passing power. Sure, if you wring its neck a single will cruise at 80 on the flats at sea level, but it makes passing much more dangerous. The thousand or so passes I made on my trip wasn't a consideration of mine when picking out a bike, but I really wish I would have known this before leaving.
    #27
  8. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    A loaded Strom or Versys almost as offroad capable as a loaded KTM 640 or 9X0? We should go for a ride sometime. You take the Versys. :lol3


    Any bike can be taken in the dirt, but not any bike can be really ridden in the dirt. Try bombing down a rocky, deep rutted two track at 60 mph or even 30 mph for that matter, on a Strom or a Versys and then let me know how that worked out. Heck just take them on the washboarded sand on the Lagunas Route in Bolivia, or some rocky sections of the Ruta de Che and see how well they handle it.

    Try riding through a whooped out sand wash on a Versys or Strom. Those bikes dont have the suspension to handle it, nor would they last very long trying to do something like that.

    I encountered plenty of this type of terrain in South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. In Colombia I rode some fantastic two track that would have destroyed a Strom or Versys. I spent over a year in South America alone and rode some really nice stuff. I didnt seek out technical single track on my trip. I rode a bit of it, but didnt look for it. But I rode plenty of very fun two track, there's shit piles of it down there. Fun on a capable bike, not so much fun on a street bike.

    Sure most of it is not challenging to just get through it if your a competent rider, but if you really want to ride it and not just get through it, a Strom or Versys do not even have close to the capability of the 640 and 9X0, otherwise they would be riding them in the Dakar and Baja. :deal

    Now if youre just talking dirt roads, which probably most people on a 3 month mission seem to do, and very little of it for that matter, then sure I would almost agree with your statement. But on other than smooth dirt roads, no way. A Versys? Really? :lol3
    #28
  9. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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    These threads are always fun. :lol2

    I guess it boils down to the OP's riding abilities and desires.

    If he has the skills and desire to ride dirt, not just get through it, but ride the fookin hell out of it, then go 950/990 (or DR if you prefer a single).

    If you don't think you'll get off the panam much and are more of a putzer when you do then go with one of the other DS bikes mentioned in this thread.
    #29
  10. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    I agree, way more fun than an oil thread because we are all a bunch of very opinionated FF's about what is the best bike. :lol3

    Now, passing power is for sure something to think about as was mentioned above. But then again, it depends on what kind of a rider you are and how you like to ride. I go from putzer to hooligan, depends on the scenery and how hungover I happen to be. :1drink

    I kept a loose tally.

    Vehicles I passed: 173,428

    Vehicles that passed me: 1

    In fact, I just got passed the other day for the very first time on Arco Norte, a new Mexican cuota. The car was a Mercedes SL 55 AMG., I think. He was doing close to 200 mph I reckon since I was doing a buck twenty and he passed me like i was going in reverse. :lol3 Actually he blew my doors off, scared the hell out of me too. :rofl It was pretty impressive to hear the roar of that V8 as he blew by me.
    #30
  11. cu260r6

    cu260r6 Been here awhile

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    Sure Crash, I totally agree that the capabilities are very different, but taking an overall view of the entire route someone would probably make up more agregate time (and be MUCH safer passing) with one of the bikes I mentioned even if they had to go 1/2 or 1/3rd the speed on the serious dirt/sand portions you mentioned since those sections make up so few K's. I never encountered a single K where I felt any of the bikes mentioned would be absolutly incapable of making it at any speed.

    Also, keep in mind that the extra capabilities each bike theoritically has does not play out to the same degree in the real world because few moto travelers are willing/capable to push these bikes to these limits, especially when fully loaded. I don't think just by riding a 690 someone is automatically going be more comfortable and faster.

    However, expierences differ. If we all encountered the same thing why would any of us have ever gone? :D
    #31
  12. bouldergeek

    bouldergeek Filthy, poor KLR dweeb

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    Like Misery Goat says, it really depends on the rider.

    i tend to use whatever I have. And so, if I had 100BHP available to me, I would have gotten into far more trouble in my travels than I did with my wheezer KLR.

    When the rest of the traffic is topping out at 45-50MPH, it's easy to blast 40-60 and get the jump. I never was lacking for passing power on my KLR. Sometimes it took a slipstream draft to get me out there, but as a bicyclist, that's not a problem.

    I did miss my old '91 R100GS/PD. But, the KLR was lighter, better suspended after mods, and had zero maintenance issues.

    I'd get a really solid suspension setup on whatever. Cogent Dynamics Moab shock and Ricor Intiminators did me well for under a grand. I met several riders with blown OEM shocks who were hating life.

    IMO, speed is not what one needs. Handling, reliability, all-condition capability are more important. Though, I'm not as much of a dirt-head as Crashmaster, so I probably could be on a WeeStrom with decent suspension and D606s and be just fine.
    #32
  13. GroundedFlyBoy

    GroundedFlyBoy n00b

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    I sold my XR400 to a guy named Dave Gerulski. He rode a 2005 BMW F650 Dakar from Prudhoe Bay to the tip of S. America in 27 days, to set a new world record. You can see his story at www.34for40.org. I know you're not planning on setting a similary record, but you might find his story interesting. If you'd like to talk to him, let me know. I'll ask his permission to pass on his contact information.

    Hope this helps!
    #33
  14. motomon11

    motomon11 motomon11

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    I rode my DR from California to Ushuaia and back last year, but would vote for the KLR. The reason is that there are very few Suzukis in Argentina and parts are very hard to find. I had to rebuild my engine there, but could not get parts in country and had to come back to the USA for parts.
    I had no trouble cruising at 75-80 and passing people. I put a 16 tooth counter shaft sprocket on for better cruising. I never had any problem passing, except the "Tren de Cana" trucks that are incredibly long. They may be hauling as many as six trailers.
    I also learned that when I stayed below 120 kph (about 75mph), that my tires lasted much longer. And while I saw plenty of bigger bikes, unless you are traveling two up, the bigger bikes are too heavy, especially when you drop it off road, like I did, as many as 25+ times in one day. In addition, the vast majority of bikes in Latin America, except for Costa Rica, are less than 400cc. By having a big bike, you are setting yourself apart from everyone else. You will quickly realize that many motorbikes, especially in South America travel on the shoulder of the road and you must be prepared to move over to the shoulder when, not if, a vehicle coming the opposite way stays in your lane because they can't get back into their lane before reaching you. They expect that since you are on a motorbike, that you will just move over to the shoulder. I had this happen to me 3 times in 30 minutes in Peru.

    Attached Files:

    #34
  15. JediMaster

    JediMaster Adam Lewis

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    I noticed a few links to my website coming from this thread so I thought I'd chip in with my experiences/thoughts.


    I'll start by saying that there is no perfect bike which is why nobody makes one, nor ever will.


    Next I'll answer some of Pete's original questions...

    Shipping to the US/Canada - A friend of mine and his partner are about to leave the UK and were recently quoted GBP611 by Air Canada to fly their bikes from Heathrow to Montreal. This seems incredibly cheap to me but I've seen the email quote.

    DO NOT ship your bikes directly to the US. Ship them to Canada and ride across the border.

    Insurance - You'll need a US address but the cheapest/easiest company to deal with is [FONT=&quot]http://www.progressive.com/[/FONT]


    Shipping back to Europe - In 2009 I paid U$1260 for ship my F650 from Lima to Hamburg, plus another 100euros in German port fees. At the same time, a friend of mine paid the same to airfreight his Africa Twin from Buenos Aires to Brussels with Lufthansa.


    My thoughts/experience...


    I left home (UK) in March 2006 and rode my BMW F650 GS/Dakar hybrid 133,000km's through 31 countries before destroying my second Ohlins rear shock (I was in Boliva). I'll cut a long story short and just say that after 2 Ohlins shocks, 4 sets linkage bearings, 1 pair of link arms, 4 sets steering head bearings, 4 waterpumps and too many cradle bolts to remember, I threw the towel in and shipped the Beemer back to Europe.


    Whilst the Beemer was at sea I flew to the US and bought a 3 year old DR650 (2006) which I have since ridden around the US, up to Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) and down to Ecuador (which is where I am now).

    The Beemer had a lot of plus points: 10k km service intervals, comfort, fuel economy, no issues at altitude (5350m in India). Ultimately though, the chassis couldn't cope with the journey I wanted to make and so when I decided to replace it I did so with dirt roads in mind.

    I consider the KLR to be more akin to my F650 - Tall, wide and heavy - and so it didn't make my short list. The two bikes that did were the DR650 and DRZ400. Being a short arse (5'4". 26" inseam to ankle), seat height played a big part and so the lower seat height of the 650 combined with air cooling, adjustable tappets and a 3-bolt front sprocket swung my decision.

    The DR has transformed my journey. No longer do I enquire about road conditions, I just ride. If I get stuck, I get unstuck. With the Bemmer it would have been possible to get stuck and not be able to get unstuck.

    Below: After falling three times en-route to Australia's Lake Eyre I ran out of energy and pitched my tent. Picking my bike up meant unloading it, picking it up, getting it to firmer ground and re-loading it. Had I not been with another rider I wouldn't have ventured out to Lake Eyre on the Beemer, I would on my DR.

    [​IMG]

    Trying to find a way through the Mexican mountains NE of Oaxaca I got my DR stuck. No Problem, a little time and I got her unstuck on my own. I could never have attempted to cross this obstacle on my Beemer.

    [​IMG]

    Riding off-road is all about weight and my DR, fully loaded, fueled with 33l (9.5gal) gas, food and water weighs 80kg (176lbs) less than my Beemer and that lack of weight means FUN!

    I rode the western half of the TAT fully loaded, bush camping and cooking the whole way (and no Dual Sport route arounds either), the DR coped with the rocky passes of Colorado and the sandy creekbeds of Utah. I rode a fair chunk of the CDR, the Pacific Crest Trail, TWVT and countless more dirt roads.
    Unloaded, I had a lot of fun trail riding around Moab and my only regret was not carrying all my gear around the White Rim Trail so I could camp along the way.

    For a big, heavy bike the KTM 990 is remarkably capable off-road...in the right hands. ie. CrashMaster, Goggles Pyzano, but it doesn't fit Pete's budget.


    The KLR is popular in the Americas (I think) because they offer the easiest/cheapest way to a capable bike (decent size fuel tank/comfy seat/screen all OEM).
    However, anybody who chooses a KLR needs to do their research. Whilst the 2008 revamp addressed many of the bikes traditional faults, it also introduced a motor more prone to shitting itself than any of its predecessors. Take a look at [FONT=&quot]http://www.klr650.net/[/FONT]

    To say that either can be repaired with 'stone tools' is a fallacy. Both are water cooled, shim-under-bucket motors that require a torque wrench and a selection of shims to service.
    The DR/XR/XT motors are the closest you'll get to 'stone tool' repairable. XRV's (Africa Twin's) also have tappet adjustable valves and have proved themselves to be a strong and reliable long haul bike (save for the fuelpump).


    Probably Pete's biggest consideration is what bikes are available in the UK. Post '97 DR650's were never imported to the UK and as a result are as rare as rocking horse shit. I don't think the UK spec KLR is the same as the US/Canada/Australia either but I may be wrong.


    That leave's the DRZ and the Africa Twin but he'd do well to buy and prepare a decent DRZ for GBP3k.

    Possibly the best solution to Pete's time/budget would be to skip North and central America and buy a US/UK registered bike from another traveler in SA and spend his entire trip there. Believe me, you'll still only scratch the surface in 8 mths. Mike at [FONT=&quot]Casa Blanca Hostel[/FONT] in Cali, Colombia could be a great help with this.

    Argentina is only one country out of a possible 21 in the Americas. To not choose a bike because parts weren't available in one country makes no sense. Were that situation to arise in Colombia for example, you DR/KLR example would be reversed.

    Why the need to re-build your motor? Prior to arriving in the Americas the DR was the most popular long haul bike I'd encountered. Yours is the first story of a motor re-build I've heard. What happened?

    As for riding a Versy's off-road; wanna come for a ride...

    [​IMG]

    I'm not going to recommend a bike, Pete needs to look at the pro's and con's of what's available and decide what;s best for his journey.

    Good luck Pete and if I can offer any other help please PM me. It might take a while for me to reply as I'm heading for the dirt of Peruvian mountains tomorrow...600km of dirt. Whoo hoo!!! [​IMG]
    #35
  16. JediMaster

    JediMaster Adam Lewis

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    #36
  17. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Good post amigo. :freaky
    #37
  18. JediMaster

    JediMaster Adam Lewis

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    Gracias! :thumb
    #38
  19. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    I had the luxury of being able to explore South America for more than a year so I went places that a Versys or Strom could not go being ridden by an average rider, for sure. Maybe youre a AA Enduro rider and would have no problem with it, but its still not nearly as fun as on a proper off road bike. Also, a Versys or Strom making it home in one piece after that kind of riding is highly suspect IMO.

    Adam brings up some great points in his post. I had the time to get lost and explore. Everyones ride is different but I can say that I would have had an incredibly hard time in my specific journey on a strom or versys.

    Cheers, Vince
    #39
  20. AdventurePoser

    AdventurePoser Long timer

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    I am riding my '11 GSA to TDF beginning in November of 2012,primarily because it is the bike I own (and love).:clap I realize its size and weight may keep us from discovering some real jewels, but I know that ANYTHING I see on this trip has never been seen by me!

    Have fun!

    Steve in So Cal
    #40