Wandering the Desert on a DL650 V-Strom

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Cro59, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. kickstandsup

    kickstandsup Long timer Supporter

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    Enjoyed the RR...thanks for taking us along... :clap
    black top bob and Cro59 like this.
  2. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Thanks, now if I can just figure out how to ditch this work thing and get out there more!
  3. kickstandsup

    kickstandsup Long timer Supporter

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    Yes...2 years on the inside, 3 years on the outside and I'm done! :clap
  4. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    That's about where I am. The tough part for me is that I'm overseas and don't get to ride often. Pay now and play later, I guess.
  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Been here awhile

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    I enjoyed reading your RR. You had me at Cherry Creek Road.

    I lived in Phoenix from 1988 through 2002. Hiked and camped all over state. In 1999 I took my Jeep Wrangler up Cherry Creek Road with some buddies who wanted to hike to some Anasazi ruins off the north end of the road - probably about 15-20 miles south of Young. I had taken my Wrangler to many remote places around the state to access hiking trails. I recall a spot in the "road" where a large metal culvert had washed out from the prior year's rains. Additional rain had eroded the gully further. It was an interesting situation we stopped to survey before tackling. After camping two nights and hiking to the ruins we exited north to Young.

    I recall the road getting incredibly rough and rocky - probably equal to the roughest I had ever seen. At the time I was a Mormon and my LDS Stake (comparable to a Catholic Diocese) had owned Spring Creek Ranch which is on the west side of 288 where Cherry Creek Rd intersects 288. The Stake sold Spring Creek Ranch because the access off of 288, like the northern end of Cherry Creek Rd, was simply too rough even on 4WD vehicles with off-road tires. You could walk faster than you could drive it at speeds necessary to prevent blown tires, broken shocks, and cracked differentials. From a geological standpoint that area is simply not conducive to unpaved road construction or maintenance. If the road hasn't changed much, you made a wise decision backtracking to 288. I am sure a Vstrom with a bash plate and good tires could make it - but I would not find riding enjoyment in an hour of fist sized sharp rocks in first gear up an incline. A person could go through a lot of tires/tubes getting the rest of the way to Young.

    As for the absence of coffee shops in Utah and rural Arizona - you can thank the Mormons for that. Good Mormons don't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. And there is a significant percentage of Mormons in northern Arizona - most of them good, or at least, not enough of them bad enough to drink coffee. [I gave my "two weeks notice" to the Mormon church thirteen years ago but my wife has Mormonism in her DNA in both a figurative and literal sense. I have a BIL/SIL living in Eagar/Springerville and nephews/nieces in Clifton/Morenci working at the mine.] Not to get overly off-topic but I freaked out my wife a week ago by bringing home four mini-bottles (airline size) of whiskey and bourbon. Even though I am not Mormon anymore I still don't drink coffee/tea/alcohol but I had picked up a bottle of Dewar's as a gift for a co-worker. My still Mormon wife freaked out over the presence of these four mini-bottles regardless that my adult children still living at home have full size bottles of liquor sitting right next to the mini-bottles. A week later my Utah-born wife confessed that she had gone momentarily irrational over these four mini-bottles. I had to tell her the joke: Q: How do you get a Mormon girl to put her pants on? A: Open a beer. Fortunately my wife laughed and concurred that LDS culture places inordinate weight on the prohibition against coffee/tea/alcohol relative to other "sins". This is why McDonald's is likely to be your only reliable source of coffee in that region.

    I didn't ride motorcycles when I lived in Arizona but at those pre-internet days, Wide World of Maps in Mesa was the definitive source for any map you could possibly need of Arizona. I know they have become largely an online store now but when I stopped in their store last year they still had some unique resources available.

    If I were to move back to Arizona I would have a Jeep with a motorcycle trailer and bike smaller than a Vstrom. I saw the new Vstrom 250 at the motorcycle show on Friday but I would be more inclined to a CRF250L. The distances in AZ/UT/NM/NV are simply too great unless you have endless time.

    I got down to southern AZ only a couple times. One was to ride the San Pedro tourist railroad with my dad. IIRC, it used to go from Benson (or Wilcox) down to Charleston and back. My dad loved that ride and raw desert landscape.

    Thanks for the RR and I apologize for the verbose response.
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  6. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the info.

    I have no regrets about turning around. It's about living to ride another day. There are so many great trails and roads in AZ, and one of these days I'll get a smaller bike to explore them properly. The VStrom is great for many things, but it is a handful on the rough roads.
  7. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Every ride report has a beginning and an end. We've reached the end of this one for two reasons. First, I chose to go back overseas to fly again, and my availability to go on rides that justify new entries will be extremely limited for the next year or two. Hell, it's already been a year and a half since my last significant entry. Second, I've decided to move on from the VStrom.

    The VStrom is a great bike that just doesn't suit the riding I want to do. It's great on the pavement, and I'd keep it if that was all I want to do. The problem for me is that it is just no fun off road. It's heavy, poorly suspended for anything more than forest service type roads, and first gear is too high for rough stuff, mud, and sand. I'm not knocking the bike; it's incredibly capable and I've taken it places it wasn't designed to go, however, it isn't fun when the pavement ends. I'm sure a more capable rider could get more out of the old girl, but it's time for me to move on.

    So what's next? Good question. I am in the fortunate position of being able to buy whatever I want, and have looked at everything on the market. My conclusion is that the bike I want doesn't exist. The big bikes don't appeal to me and my ego doesn't need a liter plus KTM or BMW to feel good, besides I'm looking for smaller and simpler. I will confess that I came damn close to buying an F800 GS, but backed out when it came time to sign the contract. It was a great deal; they were even going to throw in a Shoei and a Klim jacket. I feel bad for the salesman, but the F800 didn't meet my smaller and simpler criteria. On top of that, I hated the way the engine radiated heat against my legs. That might work in Germany, but it's a horrible design flaw for Arizona. I kept coming back to the thumpers, specifically the DR650 and the KTM 690, but both had flaws that held me back.

    Ideally, I'd like a twin in the 500 cc range (plus or minus), under 400 lbs (since I'm dreaming, let's say under 350 lbs), with 50ish horsepower, fuel injection, ABS, good road manners, respectable off-road suspension, and fuel range approaching 300 miles. Yeah, it's the mythical unicorn of ADV bikes. I'm not a hardcore dirt rider, so I don't need a Dakar bike or something that scrambles up vertical, rocky single tracks as a warm up for the really tough stuff. I want a bike can tackle the long pavement stretches comfortably, yet can still get me into the wilderness beyond the forest service roads. Like I said, the DR and 690 were serious contenders but both require significant upgrades to reach their full potential and still offer sub-par road comfort and performance. (OK, all of you fan boys can flame away now. Truth is, I think both are fine bikes and I could make either work for me. If Suzuki would update the damn DR with FI and switchable ABS it would be a no brainer for me.)

    The recent introduction of small "ADV" bikes gave me hope that the manufacturers might actually be listening to us, but I'm not interested in an underpowered VStrom or any of the other anemic offerings. KTM's long awaited 390 Adventure looks the most promising, but I'm not convinced it will launch in my lifetime. The best of the bunch is the BMW 310GS, but like all of the other small ADV bikes it is designed for new road riders and is lacking when it comes to true ADV performance.

    On the bright side, the 310GS (and 690 Enduro) led me to a little company out of the UK called Rally Raid. They make plug and play upgrades for a number of bikes. After hours of ride reports and YouTube videos, I'm pretty impressed by their products. That said, I'm not impressed enough to pull the trigger on the 310 or 690. There was one bike on their website the caught my eye. It was a bike I had never considered, yet Rally Raid spent over a year designing and testing new suspensions, wheels, and various farkles for this particular bike. They tested it in the Simpson Desert and ran it across the Trans Am Trail. It a fairly modest bike out of the box. In fact, it's the modern version of my first bike from back in the 1980s. Any guesses? I'll let you think about it while you scroll down...

    :finger

    :type

    :y0!

    :drums


    [​IMG]

    What the fuck? A Honda 500? Is this some kind of joke? Ah, nope. That's my new bike, or more accurately the foundation of my new bike. Yup, the humble, generic, Honda CB500X. Over the next few months (or whenever I get back to the States), I'll be adding the Rally Raid Level 2 suspension, the Rally Raid wheels (including the 19" front), bash plate, engine and hand guards, and some Mosko Moto luggage (probably the R80 with minimalist racks to keep the luggage away from the hot parts and spinning bits). Even with the upgrades, it will be no more expensive than an upgraded DR650 and significantly cheaper than a stock 800GS or 690 Enduro. Is it perfect? Nope, no such thing. Will it suit the kind of riding I want to do? Time will tell, but, yeah, I think it will. If you aren't familiar with the Rally Raid CB500X, then read JMo's ride report and watch MAD TV's Hay River videos on YouTube.

    Trans Am 500 (Jenny Allen rides the TAT on a CB500X)
    MAD TV Hay River Episode 1

    OK, that's enough for now. I'll wrap this up later with one more post on my initial impressions of the CB500 and a comparison with the other contenders.
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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Been here awhile

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    I'm not a fan of thumpers. I don't do any off-road riding, but when I've considered it I came to the same conclusion as you: CB500X. I've said many times I loved the CB500F I test rode before buying a Vstrom. I also test rode a CB500X. The X was brand new whereas the F had 2300 miles on it. The difference between a broken in engine (F) and one with 0.3 miles on it (X) was night and day. I only passed on both because the bikes felt a bit small for me for the road riding I would be doing. But for off-road and a bit of road comfort to get you to the off-road bits - the X is as good as it gets these days.

    The other bike that could be considered is a CRF250. Less road worthy but by all means a competent off-road bike. My youngest son has a roommate with one. He rode it 500 miles to Sturgis last year. Definitely not what the bike is best designed for but he had a great adventure.

    Best wishes to you in your flying adventures. Look forward to the CB500X appearing in a RR someday.
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  9. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I only have 300 miles on the CB so not sure about its all day comfort. I'm 6 ft and about 200 lbs, and so far it seems comfortable and powerful enough. Lowering the pegs and highway pegs would likely help but I'll put some miles on the bike before I start tweaking the ergonomics.

    The CRF250 is an intriguing bike, but for my goals the CB is probably better. I'd like to spend some time exploring the Americas and that means lots of tarmac to cover the distances.

    I'll start a new RR and post the link here, but it will be slim pickings for the next year or so. I'll talk about the build and whatever short rides I'm able to fit it around my three month stints overseas.
  10. 805gregg

    805gregg Long timer

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    You didn't change much, lost only 50 lbs, A DR would be better, starts at 366 lbs., plus all the after market, I bought a '96 for $1900, added some suspension and a 790cc kit so now i have a 50-60 HP 366 lb. do it all machine for less than almost any new bike
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  11. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Yeah, the CB doesn’t meet my sub-400 pound goal. Like I said, if they would offer the DR with FI, it would be an easy decision. I’ll probably end up with a DR sooner or later.

    With farkles, I’ll save maybe 60 pounds over the VStrom, but the lower CG of the CB makes it feel like I lost more than that.
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  12. 805gregg

    805gregg Long timer

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    You don't want FI that's the beauty of the DR, no FI, means no fuel pump to go bad, and you can rebuild the carb, by the side of road, no radiator means no water pump, out away from repair shops simple is better. According to Suzuki the Dr starts out 104 lbs lighter, with almost 4 more inches of ground clearance. I know what a pig the Dl can be I owned a DL 1000 before the DR and a lot before that
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  13. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Carb versus FI has been beat to death. Pick your poison. For me, I prefer the consistent delivery of FI, and in 30 some odd years driving FI cars, trucks, and bikes, I've yet to have it break down. To each his own.
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  14. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Did 200 miles of highway, city, and backroads yesterday, so this is a good time for first impressions of the CB500X.

    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, 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 that many horror stories about the Japanese bikes. By the way, the CB500's 8000 mile service intervals are the best of the bunch.
    - 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.

    With that, this thread is done, pending your comments and questions. I've enjoyed the DL650 and hope she finds a good home. I'll start a new thread for the CB500X and will post a link here for those of you who are interested. Until then, let's hear what you think.
  15. pafetzer1

    pafetzer1 n00b

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  16. pafetzer1

    pafetzer1 n00b

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    I have really enjoyed your ride reports and pictures. I live in Phoenix and own a DL650 also. I too had considered the Honda 500 but was afraid it wouldn't have adequate power for road riding. I ride mainly on pavement but have enjoyed doing some easy dirt roads and trails up around Wickenburg. unfortunately it's fallen over in loose sand more than once and without help I wasn't able to get it back up. I guess the fact that I'm 75 years old may have something to do with that. Like you I find the DL650 very comfortable on road and really like having the fuel capacity to not have to make frequent stops. I enjoyed reading your analysis of the various bikes and you seem to have a good grasp of their pros and cons. I'll be very interested in following your future experiences with the Rally Raid conversion.
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  17. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    First, thanks, and second, I love the area around Wickenberg. Fantastic riding in that part of the state. I wouldn’t worry about the CB’s power. I’m around 200 and confident I could push her past 100 mph with just me on the bike and close to that with 50-60 pounds of gear. I felt no strain at 95 mph. Haven’t dropped her yet, but almost did in a moment of indecision pulling into a parking lot. She tipped precariously to the right and at that angle the VStrom would have been unrecoverable. It is still a 400+ pound bike, but the weight feels lower so I expect she’ll be easier to lift than the DL. Unless you plan to do long, interstate travel with only occasional forest roads, I think the CB is a good trade off for ( and has better range) the DL. Even on the road she’s more fun in the twisties.
  18. LateToTheGame

    LateToTheGame Been here awhile Supporter

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    When I first got to the "looking for a new bike" post I was going to suggest the BMW G650GS Sertao. I like my G650GS, and the Sertao brings a lot of dirt features to an otherwise "ADV lite" motorcycle.

    Having said that, the CB500X is a great bike. In stock form it's quick, lightish, comfortable on the highway. With the mods you mentioned (bash plate, different tires, maybe engine protectors) the CB is ADV-ready. And when you're ready, Rally Raid has all the parts to make a serious ADV machine. The CB500X was on my short list for my first bike, losing out to the G650GS basically because of a deal. I'll be interested to see how you do with the new bike.

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  19. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    My buddy has a Sertao. Nice bike indeed and put my DL to shame off road. I wish I had time to mod the CB now, but it will be few months before I'm back and have the time. Gives me plenty of time to shop and plan.
  20. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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