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When is too slow unsafe?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by dcfield, May 9, 2020.

  1. dcfield

    dcfield Adventurer

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    First off, some context: For 3 years, back in the 80’s, a motorcycle was the only transportation I had. I loved riding, and was never worried about me, or the bike or the road. But I finally got tired of dodging all the idiots pulling out in front of me and gave up riding.

    But I’ve always missed riding. I’m planning on semi-retiring later this year and would like to get back into riding. In an effort to avoid traffic, I’d like to get a dual-sport bike and explore back roads and even off road trails. I have absolutely zero desire to do wheelies, jump the bike or race either on or off road. I just want a relaxing afternoon ride to enjoy the scenery.

    But having said that, I also want a bike that can function as a practical second vehicle and be used for commuting, light grocery shopping, etc. If possible, I plan on limiting rides to low traffic routes and times. But I’ve got a ratty old truck and, if it dies, the bike may have to fill in as transportation for a while. I’d really prefer a bike that has ABS (I’ll take any advantage I can get on a rainy street).

    I live in East Texas. The street outside my house is a 55 mph zone. I’ve driven 60 on that road during rush hour, and been passed by most of the other traffic. The roads connecting to the nearby cities are 70 mph (that people drive faster on). But these are the roads that lead to the smaller towns and trails that I’d like to explore.

    My previous riding experience makes me question whether I want a bike that just barely keeps up with the flow of traffic, or should I have a little extra speed for maneuvering? Again, not going fast. Just merging into traffic or getting out of the way of a hazardous driver, etc.

    Plan A would be a Honda CRF250L (or equivalent). Possibly more than I need off road, but relatively lightweight and good to learn trail riding on. Probably fast enough around town, but I’m wondering if it’s going to be pretty well maxed out on the highway?

    Plan B would be a Honda CB500X (or equivalent). Plenty of power on road, but heavy off road. Probably fine for dirt roads and mild trails. But I haven’t ridden off-road before and the 500X might be kind of big to learn on. Although it would be freeway capable and great for any longer trips.

    Plan C might be a Suzuki DR650. Enough power to maneuver on the highway, but lighter and more off-road worthy than a CB500X. It”s older technology is actually what I’m familiar with, so I’m not bothered by a carburetor. Although I really wish it had ABS brakes.

    Obviously there’s some overlap. People ride CRF250’s on the highway and CB500’s off-road. But for those who’ve owned either, or both bikes, what are your thoughts and experiences? I’m not so much looking for the “perfect” bike as I am trying to decide between a Dual Sport and Adventure bike.

    Thanks
    #1
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  2. c_m_shooter

    c_m_shooter Ninja Warrior Supporter

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    I live in Texas. You do not want to ride a 250 on wide open Texas FM roads. Get the CB500 or a 650 twin. The 650 singles will go 80mph, but you get blown around quite a bit, especially by turbulence around trucks. Some weight is your friend. I may be able to get you a good deal on a Vstrom 650 if you are interested. There is very little off roading in TX unless you want to haul a long way. Dual sports are horrible on the roads and too heavy in the rough stuff.
    #2
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  3. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    You might consider the CRF 450L. More power & less weight than the 250L. New & used prices have dropped considerably since the bike was released. Service intervals aren't as long as the other bikes you mentioned, but for the uses you described, it may not be a problem.
    #3
  4. sluagh

    sluagh not fade away

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    My previous bike was a CB500X ABS. I really liked it. Rides nicely, can go off road on moderate dirt and gravel and is fast enough to go on the interstate. Also good gas mileage and reliable. I rode around the Bay Area in CA, where speed limits are meaningless on major highways. From my experience east Texas is the same. I would say that the CB500X has, for me the minimum level of performance needed to ride in those conditions. On two lane, 55 mph roads you could do fine with less performance. But on multi-lane 70 mph highways you need some headroom to accelerate well at 75 mph.
    #4
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  5. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Long timer

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    I started riding pretty late in life, about 2 or 3 years before I retired. I took the MSF class and got my endorsement.
    My advice is get a used 250 four stroke. It will be under powered and if you are light enough it will be fun. I am kind of big for a 250 at 240lbs and 6'1". Still it will be able to 65 to 70 at Texas altitudes. Use it to learn some off road skills. If you take care of it you should be able to sell it for about what you paid. The move up in size and power.

    I rode a KLX250 for a couple years and put 13K mile on it. I actually sold it for a couple hundred more than I paid. The reason I got rid of the 250 is because I was riding altitude from 5K to nearly 12K feet elevation. The 250 is really under powered for off road at altitude.
    I got a used DRZ400 and loved it. I put another 10K miles in about a year and a half. Again lots of off road and some high passes in the southern rockies. I sold it for $100 less than I paid.
    Then a deal on a used WR450F came my way. I have had it for about 3 years and many K miles.
    All three of these bike are very dirt oriented.
    Subsequently, I picked up a New (old stock) Vstrom 650 with ABS. It is fine for forest roads and the bike is capable of a lot more than I am willing at my current skill level.
    Then I got the Honda CB500X with ABS. I will likely get rid of the Vstrom because it feels heavy. It has way more power than the CB500X, but the Honda is just more fun. But I would only take the 500 on good forest service and BLM roads, not the gnarly trails the WR450 is capable of. I do like the ABS but I think I have only every had it kick in once to twice.

    Start small and work your way up, it is the easiest way to gain off road skills.
    #5
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  6. PeterW

    PeterW Long timer

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    You'll learn a lot more a lot faster and with a lot less risk on a small second hand bike. Not worrying about dropping it because a) it didn't cost much b) you aren't moving that fast and c) you can pick the bastard thing up easily is not to be underrated. That means you'll try things that would be stupid expensive say on a 1200GS which leads either to very expensive repairs or rescue and probably a lot of reluctance to have that happen again.
    #6
  7. Florida Lime

    Florida Lime Long timer Supporter

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    As stated and not often enough in Robbinsville, NC
    I've ridden 250 dual sorts on the highway, and at a bit over 200 pounds, I have had no problems. I always hear people saying how they are too small and too slow, and that you NEED a bigger bike. I would WANT a bigger bike for doing a lot of highway riding too, but how far will you need to ride on the highway ?
    Maybe compromise and get a Versys X-300 ? :D There are usually a couple around used that have some decent upgrades (+1 countershaft sprocket, better seat, etc.), and they are available with ABS too.
    #7
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  8. windmill

    windmill Long timer

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    I drive a truck that's governed to 65, and I ride a Ural which has a usable top speed of 70. Like anything else its just something one adjusts to, don't have any issues with it. When people talk about "needing" more speed, in reality its an emotional, not actual need. Other road users aren't going to run you over as some are fond of saying.

    That said, needing to run something to its limits all the time can be wearing on oneself and their equipment. In the past I've had no problems riding a 250 on highways, but wouldn't want to go any smaller.

    Drivers have gotten worse since the 80's, but I actually have a lot less trouble with them now because I've matured as a road user, and have learned to be proactive, rather than reactive.
    #8
  9. jay547

    jay547 Long timer

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    That's the dual-sport I ride. It's electronically limited to 90mph. And it does it quite easily.
    #9
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  10. dcfield

    dcfield Adventurer

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    The Versys X-300 was actually on my short list. But I learned that adjusting the valves involves first pulling the cam shafts out of the engine. More than I want to tackle myself, or pay a shop to do.

    A DR650 has valves I can adjust myself, working on my patio (don't have a garage). Honda uses valve shims that don't require pulling the cams shafts to change (although apparently you have to disassemble a lot of stuff to reach the valves). So Honda maintainence intervals are twice as long and likely only cost half as much.

    I am planning on keeping the bike awhile, probably the last bike I'll ever buy (I know, famous last words if wind up trading it in on something else).
    #10
  11. dcfield

    dcfield Adventurer

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    My first motorcycle was a Suzuki GS250 twin. It kept up with traffic in town just fine. On the freeway (with the then National 55 mph speed limit) it was pretty well maxed out.

    My second bike was a GS550, wihich was a 4 cyclinder mini-superbike. This was complete overkill for me and I never used half of it's potential.

    But I do remember the first time I rode the 550 on the Central Expressway in Dallas (a truely crappy freeway). It was a revelation. For the first time on a freeway, I felt in control of the situation. If I had a bad feeling about the car next to me, I could get away from it. If I wanted to be in a different lane, I could easily pop over. I mostly cruised right along with the flow of traffic, and don't think I ever went more than 7 or 8 mph over the speed of the cars around me. But I had enough power to control my highway position rather than being stuck in the slow lane without enough speed to pass anyone, or get out of an uncomfortable situation. I guess that's my concern with a CRF250L.
    #11
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  12. The_Precious_Juice

    The_Precious_Juice 2019 DL650XT Touring

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    Greetings,

    Excellent first post. Thanks for the solid info.

    To answer your question, too slow is unsafe when you get rear ended.

    ___
    The slowiest I would go would be the DR200.

    However, since you need to go about 60mph all day, any day, and you want ABS,
    Try to find a used or newer CRF250L Rally ABS. They came out in 2017.
    I think in 2020 or 19 the engine got a retune. Not sure.
    Top speed is about 83mph.

    If it's too windy, skip that day.

    Plan B would be THE MIGHTY DR.
    Plan C , a WR250R.

    Have a good'n.
    #12
  13. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    #13
  14. ZoomerP

    ZoomerP . Supporter

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    That's one of the reasons I skipped a 250. I'm only going to have one bike for awhile, so I wanted the flexibility offered by the 450L. It ticked enough boxes to make sense for me, but I can understand some of the drawbacks putting people off.
    #14
  15. windmill

    windmill Long timer

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    Naturally a bigger bike will give you more options on a freeway, and would be a better choice if that was your primary use, but your criteria seems to place that at the bottom of your list.

    A CFR250L can be ridden on the freeway, but a big bike can't be a small bike when you want it to be. I appreciate the attraction of a small bike, and I appreciate why one would want something bigger. The toughest question is how you will actually use it, rather than how you imagine you would.
    #15
  16. Ibraz

    Ibraz Been here awhile

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    You will spend a lot of time on 55mph+ highways. I would not consider anything with less grunt than a DR650.
    It's one thing to be happy to ride at one's own pace, but winding out a 250 everywhere you go AND being more vulnerable to tailgaters isn't fun. That's even before considering the non existent practical aspects of this kind of bikes as a primary vehicle in your area (groceries + fast roads will be no fun)

    I absolutely adore my DR350 but the 650 makes more sense as a "more road than dirt" do it all bike and to be honest, in your situation I'd consider a V-strom 650 for one very simple reason: It is a bike that will get you where you need or enjoy to be with no fuss each day every day and YOU will be able to chose when to make things "interesting".

    Trying to limit your riding to the nice days may get old very fast if the bike is your only transportation.
    Hard luggage that locks is a huge advantage in a lot of situations. I can do a two person two week grocery run including toilet paper no problem with my versys and the V-strom will be even better as it will have more luggage capacity and be better on gravel.
    #16
  17. RickB1975

    RickB1975 Long timer Supporter

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    Why not an XR650L. Valve adjustments are a breeze. No shims, no removing cam. I put 30k miles on one without making an adjustment. They are lighter than the DR650, more powerful and have better suspension. They do not have abs. But that 21inch front tire will make riding in the dirt a lot easier than a 19 inch. The XR is air cooled and very simple. A few free upgrades and she runs great, even at freeway speeds. I rode mine across country on the TAT and back to PA via highways. It truly is a do everything bike.

    It is tall however.
    #17
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  18. Howsbentley

    Howsbentley Adventurer

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    Great discussion! I experienced similar desires to get back into motorcycles. I imagined (key word here) riding wooded trails, camping, exploring, quick trips to the store, on a city street capable dual sport. I found a killer deal on a TW200 and rode it around for two years. Did I go moto camping? Did I find trails to explore as I did in my youth? NO I DID NOT. The difference between my imagined use and reality was great.

    I’m riding a Versys X 300 now and it fits my use perfectly. “Any road, any time” is an accurate slogan for the VX3. I take 100-200 mile round trip, day trips to state parks, lakes, rivers. I ride highway, occasionally Interstate, gravel and dirt roads but after a couple of dirt riding spills on the 200, no single track “trail” riding for me. I also avoid rutted out muddy roads. I have no garage to work on bikes, no skill set for such, just a driveway and basic skills to perform basic maintenance, so I wouldn’t attempt to check and adjust the valves.
    Just had valves checked, inner tube replaced as oil changed at 12,xxx miles for under $300.

    Point of my post is not maintenance discussion.

    Here’s my point and one that has been made before. What you imagine and reality are always different. Get a used, inexpensive, small dual sport of any sort and get back into riding. You’ll find you enjoy styles of riding experiences more than others and your second bike can be the perfect fit. Happy riding!
    #18
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  19. Lorretto

    Lorretto City Dweller Crushperado Supporter

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    Not familiar with East TX but city traffic yes.

    If your travel time to fun places has you in high speed and stop and go traffic more than 30 Mins you will be winding the piss out of a 200 or 250 each way. I had a Yamaha XT250 and it was a great city bike - it just struggled at trying to get out of the city. YMMV
    #19
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  20. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it

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    Get a small dual-sport bike and a hitch carrier. Haul it to where you want to ride and haul it home.

    John
    #20
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