CA: Vancouver to Panama! (Recommendations needed!)

Discussion in 'Americas' started by TravelKidKurty, May 20, 2019.

  1. TravelKidKurty

    TravelKidKurty BiG n00b

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    Planning a bike trip as mentioned! I'm a fairly new rider, so I'm looking for some tips from some of you experienced folk! Planning to leave around mid September-mid October, with an unknown end date (April 2020 or later!) I'm looking mostly for the following gear recommendations at this point:

    Bike (~4000USD budget):
    -Vstrom 650 -powerful enough? The 1000 may be a bit too much for my experience level
    -Other suggestions? Next picks would be Honda NC700X or KLR650
    -ABS important?

    Bags:
    -I plan to have 2 side bags, topbox, and tank bag, but what size? I tend to be a pretty light packer, backpacked SE Asia and Australia for 5+ months each with only a 40L bag

    Clothing:
    -Mesh or full leather? Would be nice to be protected without the side effect of heat stroke
    -Good budget suppliers? Preferably with a Canadian branch to avoid duty

    Sorry for all the questions, but thanks in advance for any info you can help me with! I also apologise if I've left out any important info
    #1
  2. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    Welcome , Kid .
    Do you have a bike at all right now ? If so what kind ?
    A V Strom 650 has more than enough power for your needs . You don't need the 200km/h capability of the 1000 .The 650 can carry more freight than you might think you need especially if you are a habitual light packer .
    A KLR is also a good bet , again plenty enough power and speed for touring .
    Any good reliable motorcycle with AMPLE GROUND CLEARANCE would be useful
    ABS is nice but it is not essential . Just remind yourself not to lock up the front wheel in panic stop situations- keep the speed down and always have the eyes on the road ahead and pay particular attention at all intersections in town and country .

    If you are a lightly loaded traveler you could probably get by with the two side cases and a soft large dry-bag in the center position .
    Top boxes are okay , but you need to keep them full enough to prevent the contents from flinging around inside and doing damage and making noise . Having a full top box high at the back may also influence the feel and the handling . Having a fairly large dry bag in the middle allows you to place soft or bulky items there or the clothing you shed as the temperature rises , stuff which you might be unable to fit in a restrictive hard box .

    As for that last question on clothing - go MESH . Full leather is way too much air flow impeding and will overheat you for sure during the January - April hot season in the low areas of southern Mexico and Central America . Ditto applies to the solid textile ( usually black and extra solar- heat-absorbing ) riding suits with a few slots and zippers to admit airflow. I keep seeing northern riders down there zippered and cinched into black suits and their red faces look ready to pop.The mexican sport bike riders often dress in full leathers but often resort to stripping the tops as soon as they stop: leathers because that is a fashion , okay in cool mountain climes but sweaty in the warm lowlands .
    DSCN0543.JPG
    Notice the leathers' tops on the bikes . Thes guys are on a fun day ride in Veracruz state .February - some of the warmest weather of the year... until the next cold front comes through .

    You will want clothing that is comfortable for riding and for the time you are off the bike during the stops .You can't afford the bother and nuisance of needing to strip half way down and securing the stuff on the bike with a cable lock every stop you make .
    Joe Rocket , (Canadian company but get sewing done up in various Asian countries just like some of the other brands) makes a variety of mesh jackets and pants with armour in the right places .Im sure there is something there for you .Combine that with a variety of layers and you can ride in ANY weather situation in comfort . Mesh jacket ( pants ) with a rain liner ( which is an illogical arrangement because you wind up with a heavy sodden jacket/pants on the outside ) or a rainproof OUTER SHELL will be good for cool weather , for cold to very cold just add a sweater or two , fleece shirt/pants . In hot weather the rain layer gets removed . Add or shed layers as approriate .
    A good mesh jacket will have back protector and elbow and shoulder armour that will give you all the protection you should need .
    You are NOT going road racing ( like the guys in the photo were doing before they stopped ) where you might have a get-off at 190km/h and you might expect you go sliding down the road . If you hit a rock wall or an oncoming vehicle leathers would make only a minor difference .
    You are going touring and road speeds will be in the lower range , or better stated they should be kept in that lower range . The saying "dress for the slide , not for the ride " is meant for racers who just know they are going to overcook it . If you ride calmly and pay attention at all times the probability of crashing is greatly reduced and if you do fall at a low speed the damage to you and the bike should also be less severe .

    You have tropical travel experience in SE Asia so you know warm weather . Mexico and Central America during the months from September to through April will have a potential for massive variation in climate as you move north to south and as you change elevation . You are hitting the tail end of the WET season and much of the DRY season .
    In the south the HOTTEST season of the year will fall during those months of the Dry Season in the low elevation areas . Yet in that same span the high mountain areas of Guatemala (frosts) ,Costa Rica and Panama may experience the coldest temperatures of the year . It is all very regional ; get informed about which climate zones you are visiting .
    Your trip launch and re-entry dates place you outside the Canadian winter extremes , so those clothing needs are of no concern ( one hopes ) unless you have the misfortune of being late in the high country of Chihuahua -Copper Canyon and other high parts of north Mexico
    #2
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  3. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Elaborate a bit more on what fairly new rider means. How much riding experience do you have - road/off-road?

    The lighter you pack, the more fun the riding part will be. Especially if you are buying a cheap bike with (most likely) well-past-service-date suspension. I tend to travel with only a top box or a waterproof duffel if I am going solo. Top box and waterproof saddlebags (soft) if two-up. You seem to know how to travel light off the bike, figure out how to do it on a bike too.

    You'll want waterproof gear for this trip. Mesh is great when hot and humid, but not so much when chillier and raining. You can supplement the mesh gear with simple waterproof jacket/pants. Although, that leaves you with an all on/all off solution, nothing for climate in between (i.e. it doesn't breath at all when you are in need of some waterproof-ness, but it's not that cold). Good GoreTex (or the like) would be the preferred alternative, but is not cheap.

    Gustavo
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  4. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    I use a 2012 650 vstrom for Mexico and CA bought used with 33000km for $4500.00. now has 98,000 almost all Mexico mileage. Perfect bike in my opinion.
    I use 2 side cases and a top box no duffel at all. Also a tank bag. SAM_1571.JPG
    My side bags are Nanuk cases from Quebec similar to Pelican
    #4
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  5. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    DL650 and a good skid plate.
    E07 or K60 rear tire.

    you will travel 1/2 of your normal speed from Mexico south.
    #5
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  6. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    spend time in the Mexico Safe thread to find the goods.
    don't blow too quickly thru Mexico like most do...it will be the highlight country of the trip.
    #6
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  7. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    At the risk of starting a tire thread.....those are both great tires, I seem to get by with the Shinko 705
    #7
  8. TravelKidKurty

    TravelKidKurty BiG n00b

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    Oh man, I cant thank you all enough for your replies, especially Sjoerd, that was amazingly informative and extremely helpful, thank you so much!! This will actually be my first bike purchase, I am very fresh.

    Bike:
    Those are good points about being more nimble and not requiring the higher speeds outside of the US and Canada. I was already feeling pretty good about the Vstrom 650, but now I'm convinced! There are also many of them available used in Vancouver area, so that'll be great to have options!

    Bags:
    Also a good point about the top box. I've seen that mentioned in other threads as well that it can make the bike a bit less balanced. Naturally being a light packer, I think I'll aim for maybe two ~30L side bags, then gauge if I need more space in a tank and/or top box. 60L between the two side bags is already 50% more space than I'm used to travelling with, so I may be able to make that work with the extra items I'll need with a bike.

    Clothing:
    Mesh it is! I've also got some rainproof pants/jacket to pair with it when needed. That's true it won't be breathable when wearing it, but ideally there won't be many occurrences where I actually need to wear weather gear while riding- we'll see if I eat my words later! I will also look into some Joe Rocket gear that you mentioned.

    Also thanks for the tips on prolonging Mexico and on tires and skid plate! I've added those points to my trip notes for when I get to that stage of planning! Again thank you all for your information so far!!
    #8
  9. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Get to know your machine well enough to not panic if you get a flat tire, or other common malady on the road. I 2nd the fact that Mexico is far and away the best part of your long term ride goal. if you cheat yourself by looking for the direct route to Panama you've burned the best part, so to speak.
    Gear wise, given the moderate Canada/USA weather when you leave, mesh makes sense but when are you coming home? That is the looming question gear wise and freezing roads too? On my always winter Mexico trips I had to stay alive going down then stash the warm gear for mesh to not get really hot down there! Perhaps stash some warm gear with an inmate near the border then put it on for Canadian return?
    That's the part we don't know?
    I'll ad that with mesh gear a wicking layer is very comfortable and easily washed in a sink then worn again the next mornings ride. Undies, shirt, hiking shorts, not jeans under your riding gear. Take very little with you and easily washed stuff that drips dry in your room reduces storage of too much stuff. I bungee some flip flops on the back and always take good walking shoes to do my feet a favor each evening. Running or light hiking shoes are my choice always even on USA tours. Ball or floppy sun cap for tropics.
    My mesh jckt is revit and very good stuff. Pants are FirstGear mesh and fit my chunky body, short legs well. I could care less if they are same color or brand. Ebay and ADV FM has some great buys on lightly used gear as people change weights, quit riding and dealers sell off last years models of gear on ebay cheap, some specialize in end of a model run gear there.
    I always ride with a carry in bag and a good tank bag. Thats what goes into my room each night, the rest needs to be locked up. Only bring in hard bags if you have pricey stuff like puters or photo kind of stuff that needs to stay near your body. My carry bag is made for riding and has most all of what matters inside. I plot my routes on a note paper from Guia rojo Mexico atlas each night and place in tank bag window for easy turns info beyond a gps screen when riding. Signage down there can be either non-existent or confusing-part of the fun package you'll get to experience...:rofl:clap Wish I was going along...:-)
    #9
  10. Migolito

    Migolito Prognosticator and MotoYogi

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    Eakins eluded to it, but. Point the bike (DR650 obviously the best choice!) south and go. Try not to plan too much or set a desination. I've found when I do set a destination or schedule, I aim at that destination and miss everything of interest on the way. What a waste. In these forums, many folks have pointed out that they crossed into Mexico enroute to Argintine and are still in Mexico months later because they are surrounded by adventure. IF it's adventure you seek, than seek it at a very slow pace.
    #10
  11. TravelKidKurty

    TravelKidKurty BiG n00b

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    You and me both :lol3 I don't really have an end date. I'm a raft guide, so my work is only seasonal, as well as optional each year, so I don't really have a time constraint. I've also got farming experience, so I could potentially find a job in either of those fields in CA or even SA if I end up deciding to make the trip that way. With that, my trip has the potential to vary anywhere between a few months, to several years :-)

    Thanks also for the additional brand names that I can look into! 2nd hand is ideal for me, I hadn't considered eBay or ADV, so thanks for those ideas as well!

    Couldn't agree more! In my larger backpacking trips, I've always bought a guidebook (Lonely Planet!) and use various other methods to find places of interest, save them on Google Maps, and treat my travels as "I'll see what I want to see, when I see it."- no thought of dates or time between each point, just a collective of POI. No stress, no missed places, no worries :D. As I mentioned earlier in this comment, I'm a raft guide, so adventure (as well as nature!) is only about 100% of what I seek! I haven't gotten much into the POI and route planning portion just yet, but I will definitely spend more time looking into Mexico when I do!

    Actually an additional question I have about the trip regarding route planning; is there a good resource for finding places to avoid in each country due to safety? If there's an easy 1-link answer to this question that someone knows of, that would be great! Otherwise I won't put you guys through the hassle, you've already provided me with so much insightful information and I am eternally grateful!
    #11
  12. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Trip Advisor is a good way to vet a specific country, especially a city or region for bad spots as there are ex-pats on there & travel pros who know their own region well. Horizons Unlimited is a great source for vagabonds such as yourself. A must go to place for your type of trip.
    If you do justice to Mexico you'll need the map I referenced IMO. Best for laying out a plan. Spend many hours here on ADV and you'll begin to see the main places to go in Mexico. I'd spend far more time deciding "where" to go than "worry" over where not to go-this applies to anywhere in the world. If you & your stuff is in at a reasonable time in a safe spot like hotel areas they most all have and no chasing around and bar hopping stuff at wee hours, all will be OK. Typical travel ideas like don't flash cash or property. When I hike in Mexico I typically leave my helmet and pricey gear with a business nearby for safe keeping. Like anywhere the boogerman goes out at night and most the rest are honest, good people. Certain parts of known drug areas are a nogo but other than getting nervous as riding behind a truckload of weed for ~50 miles once I never gave it much worry.
    While I dont think I over plan, I do know there are towns and cities in Mexico that are don't miss places. Wandering around might be a great way to feel footloose but planfully using scenic routes and going to the most fun and enjoyable stuff has much merit vs. becoming a wanderlust with no purpose for each days ride.
    To get your motor running-some of my special towns that come to mind, no order, in MX: San Miguel, Real de Catorce, Deloris Hildago, Guanahuato, Patzcuaro, Morelia, Mariposa reserve in Michoachan, Xilitia, Zacatecas, MX City area, Palenque & rest of Chiapas, Puerto Vallarta and west coast areas and every ride through mtns from either coast to central highlands. List gets longer. Do justice to our neighbor country and really see it, then move on to other stuff below there.
    #12
  13. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    One link answers will mostly tell you not to go to a country?
    #13
  14. TravelKidKurty

    TravelKidKurty BiG n00b

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    I always forget about Trip Advisor, thanks for the reminder! I've saved HU to my bookmarks previously, but haven't looked into it yet, certainly will. Thanks for that tip as well! I've just heard quite a few stories since travelling, of people who have gotten robbed or quickly into the wrong neighbourhood by mistake. I probably had a bit of an exaggerated perception of these rough areas, so I think I'll take your advice and just worry less about it :-) I've also added to my notes all of your main areas in MX that you've mentioned to look into later!

    You all have convinced me, I think I will buy a guidebook specifically on MX so I can make the most out of it!
    #14
  15. #GotToGoToKnow

    #GotToGoToKnow #GotToGoToKnow

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    I like the Motoz Tractionator
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  16. TravelKidKurty

    TravelKidKurty BiG n00b

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    Update!
    I've purchased a beautiful 2015 Suzuki Vstrom 650 Adventure series w ~9500kms (~6000miles). It also came with ABS, as well as 2 side bags and a top box, all around 40L each which is perfect! I've bought some new Shinko 705 front and back tires for it, though Im saving to put them on just before departing for my trip. I've also got all my gear- mesh jacket & pants, HJC helmet, as well as a pretty solid repair kit.

    Few extras on my radar that Im considering, though not overly excited in spending the extra coin for them. I'm wondering on your opinions if theyre worth it or not, and possibly some alternative buying options to the ones I suggest (see hyperlinks) if you feel there are better options (also remember I'd be shipping items to Canada):

    1. Center stand $140CAD ($105USD)
    2. Skid Plate $150CAD ($110USD
    3. Bike Lock- not much research done on these so haven't picked any out. I've seen Kryptonite locks recommended, but after a quick look they appear to be a couple hundred $

    Any help thus far and continuing on is as always very appreciated! :)
    #16
  17. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    1 Center Stand yes needed for routine maintenance and tire changes
    2 Skid plate yes and no I had a Givi and found the noise echoed up from it and drove me crazy so took it off 3 years ago and have been fine since. I am not an aggressive dirt rider and I take the topes slower than most or at an angle if they are big.
    3 Bike lock 12 years of riding in 41 countries and never used more than the steering lock I always seem to find secure parking.
    My bike is a 2012 Vstrom 650 I will be in Mexico the first week of November, when do you leave?
    #17
  18. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    Q1 A YESSSSSSSSS . Buy
    Q2 Q3 A Not needed . As a first time rider you have no need for going bouncing off into the rocks .You MUST always keep your eyes on the road ahead to check for topes and other road topography which you can then slow down for and /or ride around . Watch for missing man-hole covers, asphalt slumps and stuff like that which could damage the rims or the underside of the engine if you were to ride into them at full speed. In such a case even a bash plate would not prevent damage .
    The steering lock is okay as a minor security , but check its operation and keep it oiled . Suzuki key operated locks are sort of prone to being obstreperous . The one on my V Strom sometimes is a struggle to get to release , to the point that I avoid using it . Any lock is only there to make the theft of the bike a slightly delayed process. If they wan it they will take it .
    Every night get into a hotel with secure off street parking and lock the luggage. ZZZZZZZZ
    #18
  19. knight

    knight Long timer

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    Being a new rider you are most likely to take along too much stuff ,weighing your bike down

    Get the skid plate , some of them topes are huge
    #19
  20. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    My skid plate usually would not contact the topes, the center stand makes contact a lot!
    #20