Random Roads and Desert Dust

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Cro59, May 8, 2018.

  1. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    (25 Apr 19: Rather than create a new ride report, I'm redirecting this one. Thus the new title. Why? Well, I've added a new horse to the stable, a WR250R. The new bike is really just a continuation of this story and my ADV education, so rather than cluttering up the universe with another report, I figure I'll just keep this one going on both bikes. So, on with the story...)

    This about sums it up...

    [​IMG]

    Yup, I could have had a nice job with that engineering degree from a Big 10 university, but figured flying was better than working any way you looked at it. It's been a strange road with it's fair share of ups and downs. I can't complain. We didn't have motorcycles growing up, yet it's no surprise that I was eventually drawn to them. I had a brief affair with a Honda 500 back in the '80s. Loved it, but I had no idea what I was doing and after a few harrowing experiences we parted ways. Thirty years later, I dipped my toes in the motorcycle waters one again and was instantly hooked. What the hell took me so long? My Kawasaki Vulcan lasted nine months before I realized I wasn't a cruiser kind of guy. I wanted to get out into the mountains, do some camping, traveling, that kind of thing, which opened up the world of ADV. Traded in the Vulcan for a DL650, which was a great bike, but still unsuited for what I wanted to do. The VStrom was just too heavy and road oriented to get me where I wanted to go. Part of that was my lack of off road skills and part was the bike. She'll be sold as soon as I get back to Tucson long enough to put her on the market. Why sell her? Because of this...

    [​IMG]

    I found myself sitting in Florida waiting to go overseas on a new contract and figured I'd rather tool around on a motorcycle than the rental car. The local dealer had this leftover 2016 cluttering up the showroom, so we struck a deal.

    OK, before I go further, I should warn you that this will be a slow developing RR. My job sends me overseas for three months at a time, so I'm not going to be racking up huge mileage for the next year or so. The long term goal is to rebuild the suspension with the full Rally Raid kit and ride the Americas (if not more), but I've got to feed the bank account first. In the meantime, I'll share my thoughts about the bike and bits of kit I'm using, and write up whatever rides I do manage to fit in during my time back in the Motherland.

    Good to have you along for the ride!

    25 Apr 19: Here's the WRR for those of you who just can't wait.
    [​IMG]
    #1
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  2. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    A few thoughts on my bike choice. (I'm copying this from my VStrom thread, so if you’re following me from over there you may have read this post.):

    I bought a new, leftover 2016 for about $5300 plus the usual bullshit fees and have put about 500 miles on her so far. Overall, I'm pretty impressed. The little 471cc engine provides good acceleration and cruises comfortably in the 80-85 mph range. I took her up to 95 mph once and she felt fine. Winds and gusts move her around a bit, but no more than the VStrom. In fact, I think the Honda feels more planted at highway speeds. The seat is fine, the suspension is adequate, and I love the brakes. There is a bit of nose dive, but I feel more comfortable and controlled during high speed, quick stops than I do on the DL650. I've made a couple of stops that would have engaged the VStrom's ABS and felt no ABS chatter on the CB. She has a low short first gear, a moderate second, and nice tall, overlapping gears between third and sixth. Much better gearing than the VStrom in my opinion. As far as handling, the little CB is nimble, turns well, and has a surprisingly spirited engine.

    Compared to the DL650, I think the CB is equal to or better as a stock ADV platform. The VStrom has the edge in terms of wind protection, cruising comfort (not by much), and two up travel. The CB wins in terms of weight and weight distribution, nimbleness and maneuverability, range, cost, gearing and braking. In stock form with only a bash plate and decent tires, the CB should prove to be a better off road bike. Both stock bikes lack suspension travel, engine protection, and ground clearance (both are about 6.5"), but are adequate for moderate off road use. The CB will give better ramp over angles due to its 5" shorter wheelbase, better turning radius and maneuverability, and easier handling with its lower weight and center of gravity. All in all, I find the CB500X to be a better basic platform for my purposes.

    Bike selection is subjective and personal. All of the other bikes I considered are great machines, each better than the CB in some areas and worse in others. Here are some thoughts to explain my decision. Nothing below is meant to disparage the other bikes, so keep your flamethrowers in your pockets. Truth is that I could make any of the other bikes work and be quite happy, I just think the CB fits what I want and need better. YMMV.

    The contenders: DL650 VStrom, DR650, F800GS (I was just a signature away from buying one of these), KTM 690, F310GS, and CB500X. The larger ADV bikes have advantages and bikes like the KTM1190 handle remarkably well off road, but they are just too damn big and expensive for my purposes. I considered a range of more dirt oriented thumpers (DRZ, KLR, XR660, etc) but doubt I'd ever be happy with their road performance.

    What I wanted:
    - A good road bike. My bike is my primary mode of transportation, so I need something that is good in the city and comfortable for long stretches of highway. Realistically, my current and planned riding is 60/40 in favor of the road, so I'm willing to give up some off road ability. If I ever get into hard core dirt then I'll buy a dedicated dirt bike. The 310GS doesn't have enough guts. The DR and 690 can be made better but will never be great road bikes. The 800GS handles comfortably at speed, but rider buffeting was surprisingly bad, plus I couldn't get over the engine heat radiating on my legs. The nod here goes to the VStrom and CB.
    - Reasonable cost. Just because I can buy anything doesn't mean I want to spend a mint. The bike is going to get beat up and bikes do get stolen. I don't want my investment to limit what I'm willing to do. The DR, CB, and 310GS are comparable in cost if you buy new and do the necessary upgrades. If you buy used then the DR is the hands down winner. The 690 and 800GS start at $11K which is already more than the other bikes after upgrades, and based on what I've read these two will cost more to maintain. Overall, the DR is probably the cheapest to buy, farkle, and maintain, with the CB and 310GS next in line.
    - Fuel Injection and ABS. Yeah, everyone has their own opinions on these features and it's been beaten to death on the forums. I like both features. The KTM and BMWs have switchable ABS and Rally Raid offers an ABS kill switch for the CB. That's all I've got to say about that.
    - Low weight. This is the biggest compromise I made with the CB, and yes it is a big compromise. The KTM and DR are way lighter, although once you make them more road friendly and add larger tanks the margin shrinks significantly. The DL and 800GS are top heavy beasts. I've had to pick up the DL; it sucks and the 800GS is even heavier. If I thought I was going to do more hard core dirt then the KTM or DR would get the nod.
    - Simplicity. Again, the CB is right in the middle of the pack. The DR is the simplest of the bunch, but the Honda isn't overly complex and parts are relatively easy to get.
    - Reliability. The DR, DL, and CB engines have reputations of being bomb proof. The 310GS is still relatively new, so time will tell. The 690 and 800GS seem to have the most problems and are more expensive to repair. To be fair, I think the problems are overblown on the internet and there are plenty of owners who have had no issues, but there just aren't as many horror stories about the Japanese bikes. By the way, the CB500's 8000 mile service interval is the best of the bunch. For perspective, I could ride the CB from LA to NYC and back without an oil change or service.
    - Can it get to my favorite camping spots? If the DL can, then they all can. It just might not be fun or easy. Having ridden the 800GS, I expect its weight and CG to be a problem off road. The DR and 690 were made for this shit, so no problem there, although the consensus seems to be that both benefit from suspension upgrades. The CB and 310GS can get there, but really need suspension mods to do it well, and that's where Rally Raid comes into the picture.

    OK, this has been a long post with no pictures, so its time to wrap up. All of the contenders are a compromise. Maybe one of the manufactures will design a true mid-weight Adventure bike from the ground up, but until then we've got to decide which compromise works best for us. I wouldn't have bought the VStrom if I knew what I know today. It's a great platform that just doesn't work for me. That said, the experience helped me understand what I am really looking for in a bike. The CB is closer to my ideal, but in a couple of years I might be writing another post to explain why I'm moving on from the Honda. That's part of the process.
    #2
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  3. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    I like it...

    Been looking for a lighter weight ADV bike for off-road explorations myself. I'm currently on a 2016 KLR-650 and she is a pig in the dirt when loaded for a two/three day excursion. The CB500X looks like a good platform to build with the Rally Raid Stage 2 kit from the UK. A couple of months ago I watched blancolirio on youtube for his CB500X Rally Raid build and seemed simply enough to wrench on over the weekend.

    have fun with your build...
    #3
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  4. mkitchen

    mkitchen Been here awhile

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    Cro, you left out an additional caveat for the CB, it is a very good choice for a shorter rider. My wife chose the CB over the BMW R 700 GS with a lowered seat and lowered frame. She just liked how the CB felt and the balance was spot on. Due to her height, she won't be making the bike any taller but it is turning out to be a great ADV bike. She does also have a Yamaha XT 250 that she uses for more difficult trails and between the two, she is set.

    Looking forward to seeing how your build goes. I have done a bit of business with Rally Raid (pegs, levers, tools and skid plate) and they have been very good to work with. The quality of their products seems spot on as well.
    Mikey
    #4
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  5. wintu

    wintu Adventurer

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    S.F
    i have one as well great bike rally raid engine guard will get install this weekend and RR lvl 2 is on
    its way.

    IMG_3642.jpg
    #5
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  6. Bultaco206

    Bultaco206 Back-to-back motos suck Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2007
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    Location:
    Mineral Point, WI
    Been there...
    [​IMG]

    Now doing this...
    [​IMG]

    I intended to keep both. Didn’t take long for the DL to start gathering dust. So away it went.
    #6
  7. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Quite a few folks over on the CB500X thread say the CB (after the Rally Raid mod) is like a KLR with good road manners. Similar off road capability.

    Unfortunately, I'm about four months out from the build due to work, and my poor bike will be sitting in Florida in a dark storage unit, wondering if I've forgotten her.
    #7
  8. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Good catch. At 6' that isn't a consideration, however I do like the low seat height and lower CG
    #8
  9. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    :clap
    Good luck with the build. Stop back and let me know how it goes.
    #9
  10. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Yeah, that's why I'm just planning to sell my DL.
    #10
  11. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Less than three weeks and I've got just under 1200 miles on the bike. Fair to say that I'm enjoying the CB. A couple of gripes, but no show stoppers. First, I wish she had another 10 hp. I can keep up with traffic at 80-85 mph, but I'm riding with only a Kriega US20 as a tail bag. Luggage will definitely affect the bike's performance, so once I start traveling on her I'll be in the minimalist mode. That suits me. One of the things I love about both backpacking and moto travel is that they force you to think about what you really need in life, and I believe that in many ways less is more. Second, I need to bring the bars up and back a bit. Offset risers will be one of the first mods. I'd do it now but I don't have any tools. Also, I'm not crazy about the seat. It's comfortable enough so far, but I think I'll try the Seat Concepts Tall Rally seat, which is a flatter profile and will give me a little more separation from the pegs. The final gripe is the foot peg position. Taller riders will likely find the bike a bit cramped. It's not a problem around town and hasn't bothered me on the 2-3 hour rides I've done, but I can see it being an issue when I start living off of the bike. I'm thinking about lower pegs (after the Rally Raid Level 2 mod) and adding highway pegs. All in all, those are minor problems and two of them are easily fixed. The bike is a hoot to ride, wheelies so much easier than the VStrom, and I love the nimbleness of the shorter wheel base.

    Anyway, I've done a couple of rides from Melbourne to Orlando, mostly because Orlando has the closest REI and Cycle Gear. This past Sunday I wanted something different. The weather radar looked like crap, so I tried to decide whether north or south was a better option. They both kind of sucked. I flipped a coin and headed south for Okeechobee. Of course, it started raining as I walked out to the bike. I waited, checked the weather radar again, and once it cleared up a bit I twisted the throttle and pointed the bike south. There aren't a lot of roads across the swaps, but I wasn't in a hurry and didn't mind taking the long way around.

    I wasn't looking for cool stuff. I was just out for a ride. That said, I did stop for a couple of glamor shots...

    [​IMG]
    There were a couple of alligators floating off shore, but the iPhone couldn't capture a good shot.

    [​IMG]

    In retrospect, I should have been paying better attention to the clouds, but was too busy enjoying myself. As I turned south on Route 441, a dark haze covered the horizon. "That's probably south of Okeechobee," I thought, and blissfully pressed on. It started raining five miles out of town. "It'll pass," I told myself. "Besides, it's not raining that hard and I'll just stop for a coffee until it clears up." As I rolled through town, it slowly dawned on me that this was Sunday in the deep South, and nothing was open. On the way back down the main street, salvation came in the form of a pizza shop, so I parked the bike and headed in to wait out the storm. Naturally, they didn't have any coffee. What kind of restaurant doesn't serve fucking coffee?

    As it turned out, I had to wait a bit longer then I expected.

    [​IMG]
    I was in the orange blob in the lower center of the picture.

    [​IMG]
    Too bad it was raining, because they had some interesting displays in the square.

    I didn't have rain pants, so I settled in to wait out the storm. I ate, smoked a cigar, wished I had a coffee, dozed off, and after an hour and a half the weather cleared. I'd planned to hit the coast and make my way back to the hotel, but the storms were tracking east so I decided to cut around them to the north. There was one blob up that way, but I was bored and it didn't look too heavy so I decided to head out. That was a mistake. I should note that I live in Arizona. You might have heard that it doesn't rain there much, and when it does you can usually pick your way around the storms. Doesn't work that way in Florida. Ten miles out of town, I hit the storm and within minutes my lower body was completely soaked. I thought about turning around, but it wasn't like I could get any wetter so I pressed on through the wettest thirty minutes of my riding career.

    The rain stopped just before the junction of Routes 60 and 441, and I was greeted by a hopeful sight...

    [​IMG]

    Surely, they have coffee. Right?

    I pulled in just as an older woman came out with a trash bag. I shook myself off, popped my helmet off and gave her what I hoped was a friendly smile.

    "We're closed," she said.

    "Oh."

    We looked at each other, already knowing how this was going to go.

    "I don't suppose you have any left over coffee, do you?" I gave her my best drowned, puppy dog look, which was pretty easy to do considering the circumstances

    She looked me up and down, gave a little shake of her head, and said, "Let me throw this away and I'll make some."

    You meet the best people on a motorcycle.

    I poured the water out of my shoes, wrung out my socks, and enjoyed another cigar with my coffee. All in all, a great day. If you ever find yourself in Florida near the Desert Inn, stop by and say hello. I know I will. They're good people, and the coffee was great.
    #11
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  12. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Eight hours on the CB today, mostly backroads and secondary highways. Definitely not as refined as the DL for cruising, but still comfortable enough for a cross country ride IMO. Gas mileage drops with higher speeds and winds, but still better than the Suzuki. For city driving I’m getting 65-70 MPG, and for traveling between 45-60 MPG. Somewhere between 220-290 miles per tank.

    Landed in Key Largo for the weekend to do a little diving before I head overseas.

    Life is good.
    #12
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  13. Merlin44

    Merlin44 XR400R & Africa Twin

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2016
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    Spring, Texas
    Hey Cro,
    Just finished reading your other thread. Really like it, thanks for sharing it.
    I got back into riding just a few years back myself. Kids are off at school, and just had the urge to pick it up again. Looked for a while and ended up with a used Honda XR400 that I went almost completely through, and then wired up and got street legal. Thought that would be the bike. Well, no. Rode the Triumphs, really like the BMW's, but just couldn't see spending the money.
    I read all of John Down's reports, too, and looked for a Sherpa. Hard to find.
    Really wanted an Africa Twin, but still liked the CB500X, also. Rally Raid kit looked great, and the dealer would even do the install. And for whatever reason, I trust that dealer to do it right, if I didn't do it myself.
    Luck would have it, a local shop had a barely used Africa Twin for what the CB500X would cost with the RR kit.
    So, a year later, and 6,000 miles, it's great. Yes, it's heavy, but only when sitting still!
    Ran the Motoz Tractionators (not the GPS, but the knobby ones) for a bit, and decided that I needed a little more road oriented tire, so Avon Trail Riders went on. Supposed to be really long wearing (dual compound tire), and I feel that they have a lot of grip on pavement.

    I still think a lot about downsizing the Africa Twin to the CB500X, though, and reading your posts just reinforces that mindset. Looking forward to see what you do with this one!
    Im almost 60, and the Twin is a little bit heavy to pick up. But that twin 1000 is sure a smooth motor.

    By the way, who do you fly for? Army?

    Thanks,
    Billy
    (edit - sorry for the long hijack)
    #13
  14. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I like the idea of having a street legal dirt bike in the stable. Tucson has some nice off road riding. For me the AT is another one of those really nice bikes that’s just too big for my purposes. I could make it work but picking it up would get old very fast. Maybe if I was a better rider. I enjoyed John Downs’ ride reports but don’t think I want to travel on something that small. I do agree with his idea to minimize though.

    I’m a retired Air Force helicopter pilot doing contracting work, mostly in the Middle East. Heading out again next week, but all I really want to do is install the Rally Raid mods and ride.
    #14
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  15. equyst

    equyst Adventurer

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    Apr 8, 2018
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    dallas
    I like it, have fun with your build...[​IMG]
    #15
  16. Merlin44

    Merlin44 XR400R & Africa Twin

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    Spring, Texas
    Yeah, the AT is heavier. Why I like the 500X, and am so interested in your build.

    And thank you for your service!
    I was Army from 86-95.
    #16
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  17. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Well, better grab a good book because the build will be a while :imaposer
    #17
  18. 805gregg

    805gregg Long timer

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    I hope the build includes some added HP because 46hp is just not enough
    #18
  19. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Yeah, well, no. I haven’t even looked to see if there is a big bore kit available. She’s about 10 hp shy of what I’d prefer, but the CB does well with what she’s got. It’s not a two up cruiser, but for a solo rider with reasonable luggage I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.
    #19
  20. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Two great days diving here in Key Largo. I didn’t bring a dive camera so here are two shots from my trip to Roatan in February that we can pretend are from Key Largo.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    OK, the actual purpose of this post is to review a jacket I bought recently. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of the power range style adventure gear that seems to dominate the market, especially for day to day use. I am, however, a fan of waterproofing and impact protection. Klim came to the rescue with their Revener jacket, which is part of their 626 Series.

    [​IMG]

    I like this jacket. It’s a bit of a retro, military jacket with D3O CE1 armor, Goretex, and abrasion resistant material. Plus it doesn’t scream “moto RTW wanabe”. The venting is surprisingly effective, although you’re going to heat up if you’re sitting in traffic.

    I do have a couple improvements for the next version. Klim are you listening? First, add a water resistant zipper. Seriously, why wouldn’t you use a water resistant zipper on a $500, “guaranteed to keep you dry” jacket? As is, this is a “guaranteed to probably keep you dry” jacket, because the jacket tends to bunch up at your belly, where water pools in the folds and finds its way through the zipper. So when you hit the rain, make sure the jacket is sitting flat. You can either tuck it under or open the zipper a bit from the bottom. Next, the jacket has no reflective materials. I think they could use reflective stitching or a thin band of reflective material up around the shoulders to improve visability. The final improvement would be to add forearm vents along one of the seams. The jacket has chest and back vents, so overall it provides good airflow, but it would benefit from more air through the sleeves.

    Anyway, it’s a good jacket as is, and I recommend it if you want to get away from the normal motorcycle styling. Hopefully this series is a hit for Klim so they bring out a wider selection.

    Time for dinner so I’ll wrap up. Cheers and ride safe.
    #20
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