quality bike for Cent/South America...

Discussion in 'Americas' started by redelvis, Jul 24, 2013.

  1. redelvis

    redelvis Adventurer

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    I am planning a trip from Wyoming to southern tip of S. America which I will depart for in October of 2014. Lots of time to plan, for sure, but I'd like to buy the bike this summer or maybe early fall.
    So I have thought about a few different bikes over the past couple months. Most recently the one I have been thinking hard about is a Suzuki DR200. The reasons I find this bike tempting are as follows...
    A. Time tested engine (reliable)
    B. After market guards/racks/ etc.
    C. Good gas mileage with an acceptable size stock tank
    D. Only around $4,000 brand new

    My questions/concerns are as follows...
    1. If (when) shit happens to bike, would this be a bike where parts can be reasonably easily obtained in Cent/South America for repair?
    2. Small engine, so will I be getting run over by traffic due to lack of top speed when loaded down for travel?

    I'll leave it at that for now. I don't mind packing light and doing the minimalist thing, I don't mind riding at 45-55 cruising speeds, and I don't mind people poking fun at me for riding a baby bike. My primary concern at this stage is if this bike, being low on speed and power, is a bit of a dangerous choice for a trip like this.
    I've read a lot of the DR200 thread in 'thumpers', but decided to post here to get the thoughts of those who have travelled extensively through the Americas. Thanks so much for any advice and suggestions!
    #1
  2. acejones

    acejones Long timer

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    If you stay off major routes, you'll be OK.
    Do you have to buy new ?
    #2
  3. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

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    We just bought a DR350SE for my wife's first bike. I'm still going through it, but it seems like it will be a good little bike. You might consider the 350 if you are concerned about top speed, since it is very similar to the 200, and can do around 75-80 mph.

    I also just installed the MMoto complete rack (http://www.mmotoparts.com/product/complete-rack-for-suzuki-dr-250s-dr350s). It is made in the Ukraine, so I was a bit worried about the ordering process. Shockingly, I received it in about 1 week! It is very solid, and will carry a lot. I will have to move the license plate light, however. I chose this rack over the TCI Products rack (http://www.adventuremotorcycleparts.com/product/TCI-87-320.html) because TCI said their's was not strong enough to hold hard cases.

    If I were buying a bike for a trip out of the country like yours, I would either get the kick start model, or add the kick starter as a backup if that is possible. (I see there is still a place to put it on my wife's e-start 350) I don't trust batteries that much.
    #3
  4. redelvis

    redelvis Adventurer

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    I don't necessarily plan to do a lot of major highways, but I suppose it would be inevitable to cruise a fair amount of them throughout such a journey. I want to buy new because I know very little about motorcycle maintenance beyond fluid/filter changes. Local shop charges $90/hour so I figure that would add up to a handsome sum to have them go completely through a used bike for me and replace/repair what's needed for an extended trip. Maybe I'm wrong about a new bike being the way to go for someone like myself?

    I've actually thought about a DR350 being the better choice for the extra power and speed but the whole used thing is intimidating. If it was just for here in the states, no problem buying used. But going to remote locations in foreign countries has me thinking it's best for me to minimize my chance of a clutch going out, gaskets deteriorating, engine seizure, etc. by going with a bike that only I have ridden. Also, the used bike selection around here is a bit small.

    Thanks for the replies and I welcome more suggestions, comments, concerns!
    #4
  5. AdventurePoser

    AdventurePoser Long timer

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    Hey Red,

    Doing the same trip, leaving October 1....doing it with a friend, both of us on R1200 GSAs.

    Around here there are always a good number of used KLRs for sale at very reasonable prices. Good luck on your choice, and have fun planning!

    Steve
    #5
  6. AndyT

    AndyT Been here awhile

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    I spent some time on a CTX200 Honda in Guatemala and found it adequate, but barely, for the elevation and terrain there. The locals use those size bikes, so it can certainly be done. You do see DR200s on the road in Central America, so I assume parts and service are not a big issue.

    The new CRF250L Honda is more modern design, and has more power for about the same price. The liquid cooling and EFI are either good or bad, depending on how you look at it. There are many more Honda dealers throughout Latin America than any other Japanese brand, but I don't know if this model is common there yet.

    High on my list would be a Suzuki DRZ400, but this doesn't seem to be as common down there. I have used a KLR650 Kawi for most of my Latin American travel, and it has served me well, but is much bigger than what you are looking at. South America is a big place, and I would not buy a 200 for this trip, but might take one if I already had it.
    #6
  7. Adv Grifter

    Adv Grifter on the road o'dreams

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    Hey Elvis,
    Good to start planning now. Whatever bike you get, it's important to begin prep early, then do some "shake down runs" locally to see how things work out ... things can change once all the crap is loaded on board.:eek1

    Also, this will be time to learn to do basic maintenance ... and to learn what to look out for on your model bike, what parts to carry, build a tool kit, how to change tires et al. Lots to learn.

    Much as I'm a big Suzuki fan, I cannot recommend the DR200. Yes, it's reliable as an anvil, but IMO, too down on power for such a ride. If you were starting in Colombia, I might change my mind ... BUT .. you have LOTS of wide open country to cover to get there.

    Just getting from Wyoming to the Mexican border will be a challenge staying off busy, fast roads. Trying to maintain pace you may be running that little DR200 too hard for too long? I'd want something with a slightly higher cruising speed. Funny, the DR200 is just not that light weight. Moving up to a larger bike does NOT add all that much more weight. I feel the trade off is worth it.

    Lots of Mexico has fast and modern roads ... speeds can be high in places and you'll be learning Mexican road rules. :eek1 Sure, you can usually find a way round ... but may be inconvenient.

    Then there is altitude. In Colombia and further South plan on over 10K ft. a lot, and in parts of Peru' and Bolivia, over 14,000 ft.
    Read: Lois On The Loose, by Lois Pryce ... and note what she says about riding her 225 Yamaha Serrow in Bolivian Andes. NO POWER. She could barely even go 25 mph. Ages ago I rode a 150cc Vespa through Bolivia .. it actually did OK ... but lots of flats! But Two Strokes make good power. :D Four Strokes? Not so much. Slightly bigger engine has advantage up high.

    The suggestion of a DR350 is a good one. There are still lots of virginal, low mileage examples out there or ones that have been lovingly restored by an expert. Take you time, get a good one. A stellar bike. Bulletproof.

    Or go more modern: Suzuki DRZ400S. This is a great bike and really not that much heavier than a DR200. More expensive but you can buy new or find a perfect, low miles used one. Lots of support. I would NOT be afraid to buy a nice used example.

    Look, these are good bikes. Very hard to kill. A few thousand miles is just not anything to worry about. If the overall condition is good and no signs of abuse ... go for it ... and save a couple grand over new.

    I ride a DR650 (324 lbs. dry). 50,000 miles all over Mexico, Baja, and four or five US states. Lots of off road, lots of long days sat on 75 MPH. 50 MPG
    won't match the DR200 but not bad. Since you have over a year, I'd try a couple bikes out ... see what suits you. :freaky
    #7
  8. srelegante

    srelegante srelegante

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  9. acejones

    acejones Long timer

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    Spend some time working on your mechanical skills; especially tire/flat fixing, Carb. Adjustment, and especially electric maint., changing chains/sprockets, etc.
    #9
  10. redelvis

    redelvis Adventurer

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    Thanks for all the replies!

    I will certainly be learning much more about maintenance over the next 14 months, don't worry about that. I fully understand the necessity of being able keep your bike dialed in a bit on this type journey.

    I actually got a chance to sit on a CRF650L today. I've never known someone who owns a dual purpose bike and this was my first time sitting on one. Wow, it was TALL. Now, I knew that this was one of the taller duals out there, but damn! I wasn't even close to scraping my left toe on the ground with it leaning on the side stand. Very humbling. I have about 29" inseam and now wonder if there even is a bike that could be manageable for me? The DR650 is two inches or so lower and I learned today that I almost certainly would need to lower that in some way to feel comfortable.

    So maybe I shouldn't even be looking at dual sports? Even the 250cc's are tall. I currently ride a Kawasaki EX500 and I love it, but wouldn't feel comfortable taking it on this trip. I'm not even necessarily looking for off roading on the trip, just thought it made a lot of sense to ride a dual sport because many great roads won't be paved.

    Any other bikes that might fit me well that would be adequate for the ride down south? Thanks again for the help/suggestions/comments!!!
    #10
  11. Adv Grifter

    Adv Grifter on the road o'dreams

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    You're worrying too much about seat height. Relax. And you're correct ... the XR650L is THE tallest dual sport out there except some of the KTM's or Huskies. Way Tall! (I owned one)

    The DR650 is the lowest dual sport there is ... and can be lowered almost 2 inches additional with the factory adjustments built into the bike stock.
    My inseam is 28" (5' 7") and have NO PROBLEM even with a taller Corbin seat and set on stock settings. You will adapt to a taller bike very quickly. After a week of riding around, it won't even be a concern. The DR is very low to start and with the lowering option even works for those in the 5'2" range. You DO NOT NEED to have both feet flat on the floor. This is a myth.

    The recommended DRZ is taller than the DR650 ... but not quite as tall as the XR650L you sat on.

    Go ride some bikes.
    #11
  12. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto Supporter

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    DR650 would be perfect. Fast enough, reliable, low enough, often bought and farkeled heavily before poser owner decides not to ride it... Go for it! Saludos, JIm
    #12
  13. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto Supporter

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  14. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    take your EX500 .. slap some dual sport tires on it ...
    nothing wrong with taking what ya got.
    #14
  15. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    EX500 was sold in Mexico, there is some limited support here.
    You wouldn't believe how many riders I have seen come through here on KLR 650s bought used for under $3,000. They put some quality rubber on them, a few Eagle Mike pieces like the doo repair mod, etc... I have seen them up on the trail to the climbers shelter on Pico de Orizaba pushing over 14,000ft, seen them on super cuota highways plugging along, seen them in pieces for maintenance in my garage, seen them damn near everywhere.
    Get a good clean used one and you are way ahead of the game.
    #15
  16. wheatwhacker

    wheatwhacker It's raining here

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    29" inseam is not too short. I have a 30" and manage tall dual sports fine. You just need to buy a tall bike and practice. 3 points of contact is all you need to keep a bike upright (tripod) so, sliding your butt over and creating a solid contact with your leg will work in most situations.
    On level ground, slide to the right, lean bike to the right. Use your left leg to drop the kickstand and throw the bike to the left. Practice this a few hundred times and you will be looking for taller bikes :)
    Be careful on sloping ground, this is where you will get caught. Never park the bike across the slope, always up and down.
    Lowering kits are available for most bikes now anyway.

    After doing the trip your talking about, I recommend either the Suzuki DR 650 or a Kawasaki KLR 650.
    A light 200cc bike will be fine for most of the trip but, when it comes to open road and a high wind situation you will appreciate the weight and the power of the 650.
    Mexico has great roads and you can really make time on the toll roads if you need to get somewhere quickly. The further south you go, the less you will need the power but, really a 650 is not that powerful a bike.
    We did it on KLR 650's and they worked great. We met a lot of guys on BMW GS's and they were really regretting bringing such a powerful bike.
    A Suzuki DRZ 400 is taller than a DR 650 and is designed for more off road situations than touring.
    Take your time, do more research and buy the bike sooner than later. Don't stress about a new bike. Buy a nice used one and save the cash for the trip.
    Buy soon and start practicing simple stuff like chain adjustment and flat repairs.
    Take some short overnight trips and get comfortable with the bike.
    Have a great trip and don't over think it too much.
    #16
  17. redelvis

    redelvis Adventurer

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    I appreciate all of the responses! Ya'll are right, I am concerned over the height issue.... probably overly so. Riding doesn't worry me much at all, just dealing with city traffic, stop and go type stuff.

    Sounds as if the DR650 may be low enough for me to be comfortable with and I will almost certainly be upgrading the seat on any bike I get, so I can just get a low seat. Hopefully that will have me happy with any height worries. Currently got my eye on a craigslist find, 2008 DR650 with 1,600 miles for $3800. Seems like a fair price so if I can just get my damn EX500 sold maybe I can scoop it up. Sometimes living in a smaller town has it's disadvantages.

    A little about me, for those who care or are curious. I'm having a difficult time getting the job I want and know that a fairly big part of that is that I don't speak spanish. So my plan is to quit my job and ride down to Guatemala to take spanish classes for a couple months. I've read here on ADVrider that Xela is a cool town and has some pretty good prices for spanish classes. After that I'd like to continue south to Patagonia. I've already sold most of my belongings that have any value (kayaks, road bike) and will try and sell my skis and snowboard sometime over the winter to help fund the trip. I'd really, really like to NOT sell my truck but I will if that is what's required to make the trip.

    Anyhow, thanks again for all the suggestions! Feel free to throw out anything else you think might be important for me to consider...
    #17
  18. Adv Grifter

    Adv Grifter on the road o'dreams

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    Pretty good plan there Red Elvis. I lived in Guatemala for two years. Xela is probably cheaper for classes than Antigua, but not as nice a place. Finding a good teacher is the key to it. NOT ALL are real teachers. But knowing the language will really help you traveling. It's, IMO, A MUST.

    You may find classes locally: High school night classes? community college courses? START NOW .. if you're serious.

    I would NOT quit your job until a week before departure. Keep nose to the grindstone and suffer through ... bank that money, sell off ALL stuff and prep the bike in your spare time.

    Having the funds is critical if you intend to make Argentina. BIG BUCKS tourists have really driven up prices down South ... it's no longer that cheap ... but still doable if you know how. (I spent 7 years living, traveling and working in Latin America)

    Don't lower or modify the seat on your DR650. Just use the factory lowering option. Buy a quality seat: Corbin, Seat Concepts, Sargent ... and a couple others to chose from. ALL GOOD and another MUST HAVE. The stock seat will cripple you. Below is the Corbin seat on my DR650.
    [​IMG]
    Width is the key to comfort on a long riding day. The stock seat is only about 7" wide ... the Corbin is 12". Good firm foam helps too. You will be living off your bike on such a ride.
    Your entire life will revolve around your bike when on the road. Taking periodic breaks is always a good idea.
    If you decide on the DR650 (I would test ride one) ... I'd suggest to start reading over on the BIG DR650 thread. Once you buy the bike, jump in, ask questions. We get about three new owners per week, on average.
    Everyone is friendly, some VERY knowledgeable DR650 owners there.
    Good luck, have fun shopping around. :clap
    #18
  19. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto Supporter

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    Rojo Elvis,
    There is a great Spanish language school in Zacatecas, one of my favorite cities in Mexico. Crashmaster stopped for about a month there and studied and had very good things to say about it. Hoping you don't rush through Mexico as its plenty rewarding itself. Saludos, Jim
    #19
  20. Adv Grifter

    Adv Grifter on the road o'dreams

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    So true. Seems lots of ADV riders zip right through Mexico ... I guess cause they're new and fearful? :eek1 :ear Mexico is one of THE BEST countries to spend time in and explore of anywhere in all of Latin America.

    Incredible diversity ... beaches, Jungles, and beautiful historical cities in the Central Highlands that rival Europe. (like Zacatecas) I could spend at least a month in the highlands alone. World class beaches, if you avoid touristy ones ... and visit at the right time of year. (late October to March.) Many avoid the rainy season .. but I love it. :clap
    #20