Wondering about which Touring/Dualsport to use in Mex/C.A/S.A.

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by Zokambaa, Dec 29, 2009.

  1. Zokambaa

    Zokambaa .

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    Hi, I don't think I've posted on this site before... more or less just lurking... but I've been considering doing a ride trip from Alberta Canada down to the bottom end of South America... sure this is waaaay off in the distance right now... but I am considering bikes... I currently have a 97 VZ800 Suzuki Marauder and a 06 SV650s... I might get a 3rd or just sell the marauder and get a dual sport...


    What I am looking for is some opinions on super reliable bikes that can take a bit of a beating and keep on going, plus that can still be fixed by some small town bike mechanic in the middle of south america or central america somewhere...

    I've thought a bit about the 1000cc VStrom but have been ruling them out as they sit even higher than my SV650 does and that would make it a bit more difficult to manage in off road conditions since they are a fair bit heavier than my SV... (I'm only 5'7 and have a 30" Inseam to my pants) also been thinking about an older GS but to me it seems the less technology, the better.... Heavy is not as big of a deal for me as I've been into weight lifting and bodybuilding for years... so picking up a heavier bike is not so much of a concern to me.... but it does make it harder maneouvering and on the crap roads

    I want to be able to get parts pretty much anywhere or gerry-rig something that will work to get me somewhere I can get the right parts without much issue.


    So I may look at the 650 VStrom... as I am very familiar with the SV and they are quite similar in a lot of ways... but what else should I be looking into that would be a good choice for Latin America? would a DR be better?


    I'd rather the bike be a bit more road oriented than a dirt bike mostly because it would be used for touring and crappy dirt roads rather than forest trails and river crossings


    So... what would you go with as your top 5 bikes to look at for this kind of thing?
    #1
  2. JamesOn2Wheels

    JamesOn2Wheels Banned

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    If you want a primarily road bike -and there are parts available. Many roads are in very good condition now, and the extra power and smoothness will make a big difference.
    Klr650 is not as comfy at all on long road trips but better in dirt. Parts can be had also. And I have on for sale all set up !
    No seriously a 2 cylinder bike like the weeStrom is great. Terrific factory Suzuki mechanic in San Augustin Colombia (he has one) will sort you out half-way.
    Zig
    #2
  3. Drumboy

    Drumboy Been here awhile

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    I'd vote for the KLR. I've taken a few 3,000 Mexico trips and it's not too bad on 300 mile days.
    #3
  4. Zokambaa

    Zokambaa .

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    I'm kind of stuck between a KLR650, a DR650 and the Vstrom but I'm really kind of ready to toss out the idea of the vstrom just for the height and complexity issue... plus compared to the other two I hear it is a dog on trails... not that I'd really be doing much trail riding but it is nice for the just in case factor.

    There are certainly a lot of KLRs for sale... not sure if that is a good or bad omen

    But the XT660 could be good too except for the height

    I've not really considered yamaha's and hondas... I used to like the Honda TransAlp or Africa Twin bikes... but that was back in the 90's And they were pretty big from what I remember


    The BMW's I think are out of the question as they are way too expensive... even used... I'm not a rich retired babyboomer with a pension as well as years of savings behind me


    If I do this sooner than later I'll need to go with used biked for this.. for even the klr and DR are fairly pricey.. but closer to my range... and it looks like I can find a few klr bikes around with less than 18,000km on them... I haven't seen any DRs for sale bigger than the 400...

    There are always some vstroms around but I could almost get a KLR and a DR for the price of a used Vstrom


    Do you think it would be better to go with a carb bike over a Fuel Injected version

    I suppose carbs would be easier to mess with on the side of the road if I got bad gas somewhere..... But FI is so much nicer when going from close to sealevel to up to 5000 ft
    #4
  5. Gustavo

    Gustavo Motociclista Errante

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    Let me throw something out for you to ponder. I don't see any dirt bikes in your current stable. I see several mentions of riding trails in CA/SA. How much dirt riding experience do you have? Consider your riding experience and abilities when picking the bike you'll ride. If you haven't been riding trails around home, starting to learn to ride difficult dirt sections on a long trip is not a good idea.

    The V-Strom will be comfortable on the road, will take you on any dirt road but will be a handful on tight trails. A DR or KLR will be not as comfortable on the road, but will be easier to ride on dirt roads and trails. If you were going to ride the SV, the V-Strom is much better everywhere on a trip like this. If I misread your post, and you are comfortable on dirt trails (and are planning to go way off the beaten path) a d/s single would be good choice. But, think about how much time you have for his trip and how many of those dirt trails will you hit on this ~15K mile adventure.

    Gustavo
    #5
  6. Zokambaa

    Zokambaa .

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    Drove a friends dirt bike around a few times when I was in highschool and took my old XS 400 off road, even did small jumps with it as though it were a dirt bike... (man I beat the hell out of that old bike) I've taken all of my bikes and an old yamaha maxim on fire roads and gravel roads but that was about it...

    I would say it was pretty comfortable... but I'd need something that could hit trails if I need it to... and dry creek beds.. washed out roads, things like that..

    I've got a SV with a stock seat on it and it is fine for 600km days... as was the old yamaha maxim... my marauder is fine too.. but I need to take more breaks when I ride that... but it is a low'n'loud cruiser and still has the stock seat... My old maxim and the SV have seen more fire and gravel roads than my other bikes though.. but with the SV I try to avoid them unless I had to take it.

    I'd be sure to practice up long before I made a trip like that... but since this wouldn't just be a ride across north america... with some fun trail riding and a HUGE network of bike shops for parts and service.... not to mention I've seen the roads in Belize , part of south eastern mexico and a bit of Guatemala already... I need to look into what will work on that and then some...


    I'll never need to do what a dedicated dirt bike will do but a trip through central and south america would beat on a bike pretty good so I need something that can take it but not cost a fortune to maintain.... but the big thing for me is for there to be parts and people to work on the bike beyond what I could do for general maintainenance.

    When I say trails for C.A and S.A I'm not talking about going off roading for the fun of it.. but sometimes good roads turn to nothing in a second...I'd rather something be able to take it when the conditions get crappy in places I may not want to be stuck or broken down.... and I'd like the option of exploring about a bit where it is safe to do so, which might mean roads a bit worse than our typical canadian fire and logging roads/trails

    I'm also now paying attention to these bikes and learning more about them... so I am keeping my options open as to what I'd go with.... on a limited budget.

    Also it wouldn't hurt to have a less flashy bike to ride... from what I saw in Belize it would stick out if I got even a VStrom instead of say a DR, KLR ot XT

    I know a bike loaded up with something other than livestock, or general odds and ends piled sky high will draw attention.... but if I can limit that to a minimum it wouldn't hurt.
    #6
  7. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    You have to be realistic and honest with yourself about some things.

    Number 1:, you can find off road riding, but youre going to have to look for it. By off road, I mean just that, off of anything that would be considered a road. How are your deep sand skills? Deep sand is something that will swallow a front wheel if you touch the brakes. How about rock gardens, boulder fields?

    I would say this section is starting to become "off road."

    [​IMG]




    This sand is borderline off road, but its still a road, nevertheless its fairly deep sand.

    [​IMG]




    If you are not comfortable with this, I would not go looking for this type of terrain on a big trip, and the Strom is not going to cut it anyway. Like I said, you're going to have to look for this stuff. Its not just going to jump out at you. the worst things you will find is some sand and gravel, and some fire road type terrain, unless you really go hunting for something more difficult. Well, maybe except for mud.........

    Number 2: How much of that off road terrain, or even remote dirt roads for that matter, are you going to ride when youre solo, not really sure where the road goes, if anywhere, and where the next gasoline will be. Think about that for a while. If that road "turns to nothing" as you say, your probably going to turn around and look for an alternate route. Youre not in Kansas anymore. If you find yourself on a remote dirt road in Guatemala, solo, at night, not sure where you are, that is a very bad situation to be in. Ask bouldergeek about that, he knows what it feels like. Guess what every Guatemalteco says about driving a dirt road after dark?

    Number 3: A DRZ, DR 650, or KLR 650 is going to look just as out of place as much as a BMW GS or KTM 950/990. The only way you are going to ride stealthy is if you ride a bike like a Honda Bros 250 or an Italika 150, or a Yamaha Razr scooter, and you better not have any bags other than top box, or any decent riding gear on either or you will still stick out like a sore thumb. Youre going to look like a rich gringo long rider no matter what you ride, so this should not be a consideration in your bike choice.

    Number 4: Finding parts. If you really want to find parts/tires on every street corner, youre going to have to ride a local bike. Bros 250, XT 225, Italika 150 etc. You get the picture.

    Finding KLR 650 or DR 650 parts is going to be just as difficult as getting KTM and BMW parts. Before anyone calls bullshit on that, no matter where I have been I can call a KTM dealer in the nearest big city and get parts shipped in a couple of days. If youre not in a big city you will have to do the same for the KLR or DR. Even on a DR 650 or KLR 650, its best to do your own work because many of the folks working at most of the shops have probably only seen a few of them and may not have ever worked on one.

    Number 5: You must be realistic about the amount of miles you are going to make in a day. In Mex and CA and Norther SA I would figure an average of 200 to 300 miles a day tops, and thats staying on the pavement/graded dirt roads. Your average speed (off the toll roads) is going to be around 40 mph. Even when you can run 70+ that doesn mean its the smart thing to do. There will be construction, horses, cows, huge washouts eating away half of the road that can and will jump out at you when you come flying around that curve at high speed.

    This is from Moto-Treks ride report of what you will be dealing with when you are on the highways, most of the time. The power is nice in these situations (which you will have most of the trip) but it tempts you to cut it close sometimes as well.

    <object width="425" height="344">


    <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Jq_fkopG3Bw&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></object>

    So far there have been MANY more days where I WISH I had a smaller bike, than days that I'm happy I have a big bike. And bear in mind that my KTM is much more capable off roader than a DR or KLR. Its just a lot of bike to move around town, find parking, man handle through traffic, and the times you get to open her up and really let her run are few and far between.

    With the choices in your budget, given the amount of time you want to spend off pavement in remote areas, I would look at 2 bikes. The DRZ 400 and the DR 650. Both are capable off roaders superior in that aspect to the KLR. They both have plenty of aftermarket parts availible. The 650 is going to be nicer on the pavement for passing trucks and other cars but the 400 is going to be much nicer when the going gets rough.

    If you want to try something different for a big trip, look into a Yamaha WR250R. Dont laugh, its a very capable bike.

    The Strom will be fine for the pavement, graded and not so graded dirt, and may even preferable to you if you dont venture off the beaten path in to border line off road conditions.
    #7
  8. John Ashman

    John Ashman Adventurer Wannabe

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    Get a used BMW 650GS single probably. Low in the seat (I have the same issue) and plenty of touring options, often installed by the previous owner. SA isn't a place where you can often rocket down the road at 100mph safely. Normal speeds are 60-70mph even on the best, fastest roads. You do want something with a biggish tank or excellent gas mileage since fuel is hit and miss. Or the Dakar, which, I believe, comes with more road oriented tires, but can still do reasonable off road.

    A lot of the very coolest stuff you'll see is on a dirt road somewhere.

    KLRs, KTMs, Aprilias, Triumphs, etc, are tall enough to bother you if you're used to a shorter seat height. Personally, while I can handle it, I just don't like dealing with it, especially if there's luggage and such involved. BMWs are one of the few that have the right features for touring and aren't too tall for my taste. Even the Versys is just a bit much for my taste, but I love the new G650GS and F650GS twin.

    Oops, just saw the price issue. Well, used BMWs go for around $3500-$4500, often fully farkled. If that's too much, an old Honda VT Ascot (500cc V-twin) or Honda NX650 if you can find one. Some of the older bikes are shorter. Hell, an old 80s BMW would work for a couple grand if you can find one. A Honda Silverwing maybe.
    #8
  9. mundobravo

    mundobravo Long timer

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    that was a great video ! that is just what it looks/rides like "down south".. You should start a thread with it . Any one looking to ride south should see it.
    #9
  10. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    650. Suzuki wee-strom.
    #10
  11. damasovi

    damasovi Long timer

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    well if i were going to do it. I would ride a lot more street and go with the V-strom but if I wanted to do more off road then KLR, and since I all ready have the KLR farkle up well it is obvios.

    I think either bike will be good. The KLR is easier to work on, but the Dl requires less maintenance (valves for example) just make sure to put something to guard than oil filter!

    Also before going I would practice a lot in sand (I live in front of the Pacific so no problem for me) like crash master show you, there are parts where it can be sandy, very sandy!

    If you go with the KLR it is a very tall bike, I am also 5'7" with a 30 in. inseam but after putting all the crap you will carry then that 35" seat hight is not so tall!

    Enjoy regarless of what you take!

    damasovi
    #11
  12. Zokambaa

    Zokambaa .

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    I've been looking around on specs and such for the various bikes... I dunno why but the KLR bikes I've seen in the past have seemed shorter than even the 650 VStrom at the seat although had better ground clearance from what I remember... but going back now and looking at the specs, it looks like it is about 3 inches taller than the 650 Vstrom and in inch or so taller than the 1000...

    Hmm... so I guess that KLR one is out...

    I don't intend to take the bike over trees and boulders so perhaps the 650cc VStrom is more appropriate if I mod it a little... but they are quite a bit more costly...

    I know I fit the 650 strom on tip toes... the seat height is more or less like my SV so I guess on the roads it wouldn't be too bad... but I need to find a way to drop about an inch and a half to 2 inches on the seat height... I really don't want to d!ck around with the suspension and lower it there... that is never a good idea...
    I just I hate maneouvering my SV while I am sitting on it so a slightly taller, heavier bike would kind of suck unless I could drop the height a bit...

    I have no issue riding a tall bike.. it is maneouvering it around town or if I were to take it off road that I would have problems...

    Anyone know the maxim you can strip a VStrom seat down height wise and still leave it rideable?... I think with the SV it was about 1 to 1.5 inches but the VStrom looks slightly more padded..

    It is a heavy bike... but I suppose touring and on gravel roads that is a bonus... I'll just have to avoid mud and deep sand as much as possible.


    I'll need to do more research yet... I just figured going on what I saw when I was in Belize, bikes like the Strom are rare but the more dirtbike style or the 80's style standard are common... along with the moped things...

    But I dowloaded a service manual for the 04 strom and it looks like there are many similarities to the SV650S so that should help me a bit and I know the SV650s go forever with little work needed...

    Too bad the used Stroms are twice the cost of the used KLRs and DRs

    Perhaps I should Trade in my Marauder... I like the cruiser style but it isn't the most practical unless tooling around town or on well paved highways.
    #12
  13. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

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    I've got a 2008 vstrom (650, which is plenty for S.A. unless you're riding two up) and a 2007 KLR. I brought the KLR to Europe and North Africa, then brought it to S.A. The Vstrom has 6 or 8 thousand miles on it; the KLR has 61k. There are reasons for this.

    You can tour all over Central and South America--or Eastern and Western Europe and North Africa--hardly leaving pavement.....or not, as you prefer. The KLR is easier to service but build quality (and known faults) are a problem sometimes. The Strom is no fun on gravel, dirt, rocks, washouts, river crossings.... Its speed and power are only helpful on pavement, and they can get you into serious trouble if inclined to take full advantage of them.

    Whatever else I might say has been said a thousand times before all up and down the internet. In the end, take whatever you please for whatever reasons and have fun doing it.

    Safe journeys!

    Mark

    (from Sucre, Bolivia, heading south in search of summer)
    #13
  14. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Everybody has an opinion of the best bike to take.:rofl:rofl:rofl

    Just be honest with yourself about what you want to do, and choose the bike best for you.
    #14
  15. dirtydeeds

    dirtydeeds I'm alive.

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    Bananaman has it right. Suzuki. And you area already a suzuki rider.

    He has been living down here for awhile and I have spent about 2 1/2 years down here. The V-Stroms are popular with the local touring crowds and the police in a bunch of countries use the DR 650 or Freewind (A DR 650 Chassis with a funny headlight, windscreen and low front fender.) Parts and mechanics for these bikes are everywhere.

    Mark mentioned something important too. The speed of a twin down here can get you in trouble. I have heard of a bunch of riders hitting things (dogs, horses, cars, buses) and all were riding big, fast bikes. (And usually riding fast.) None that I have heard of were riding a single.

    BTW, the DR 650 can be lowered from the factory.

    All this said, If I did it again, I would still take a KTM ;)
    #15
  16. Moto Head

    Moto Head Adventurer

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    I'm pretty new here and don't want to hijack this thread, but.... can somebody comment on the OP's question re carbs vs. FI? I'm planning my own trip south and am thinking maybe 950 ADV, used. Should I go with the 990 to avoid altitude issues? Several years ago I rode a plated XR 600 to Mexico City, and while it never left me stranded it didn't run too well on some of the higher passes. Thanks, and good luck to everybody on the road!
    #16
  17. Zokambaa

    Zokambaa .

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    The KTM's looks nice.. still a bit high on the seat and even more higher on the price here than the BMWs... with KTM it is $16,690 and $17,098 for the 990.. even the 690 is about $11,400 yikes!!

    If I went BMW, the F650GS would be what I would be looking at is still about $9,750 Which is about 2 grand more then the Vstrom...

    By the way, why the hell did BMW call it the F 650 GS when it is 798cc? wouldn't it be closer to calling it the f-800GS and then call the existing f800 something like F800GS-T or F800GS-A or whatever...

    It makes sense if it had the 650cc engine.. anyway... they are a bit out of my price range...


    So I think the V-Strom may be it for me... I may look into the DR650 too and see if it looks like something I could manage... they are fairly inexpensive... but the air cooling, while nice for maintenence could overheat... so I am leaning away from something without liquid cooling...

    ...sooo....after looking around, I've noticed quite a few rental companies in South America (and Dominican too) renting out the V-Strom 650s for adventure touring so I'm starting to think this may be what I should go for...

    I love the engine on my SV650S and while it is detuned a bit for the V-Strom it is plenty... I think I'd be wanting more if it was much below 50hp and I could probably work out getting one if I sell my Marauder and put it toward the V...


    I don't intend to be riding very fast unless I have a lead vehicle going just as fast if not faster... and I always ride a bit slower if I can't see far down the road in front of me... even here...

    But I do want something that I can pin it and get up to speed quickly if I need to... (eg passing)

    I didn't realize the V-Strom was gaining popularity down south... I generally thought of them as an European and North American bike... I think it would be a good one to tour Oz on too...

    Just because you have some power... it doesn't mean you have to use it....
    The biggest thing for me is the passing power not top speed... I hate it when you go to pass someone and they speed up (happens here all the time) which can leave you in a bit of a bind when the person behind does the same thing (again seen it happen here all the time).... so if I can drop down a gear and pin it and fly by them.. all the better



    I guess I am a bit Suzuki biased now that I've had 3 of them... I like Yamaha's too but I've not seen anything with them that caught my eye outside of the race and sport bikes.... they need to make something like the BmwGS or V-Strom but base it on their FZ1 and FZ6 bikes... Yamaha seems to have gone all cruiser and race bike for North America.. it would be nice to see some other options from them




    #17
  18. colomtnbiker

    colomtnbiker wimpy old guy

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    I'm a KLR rider. 3 years ago my wife and I spent 3 months on 2 KLR's riding Mexico/Central America. We are vertically challenged, so I lowered both KLR's. I spent some months going through all the know issues before we went and we had no problems to speak of while we were gone.
    We were loaded down and rode mostly free roads. Between El Salvador and Honduras we did 100 miles on back roads one day.
    The KLR loves to fall over when it's fully loaded and we would let them fall and then pick them up. We had lots of gladiator gear to protect the engine/radiator etc.
    Whatever bike you decide on, go through it in the comfort of a garage or some area where you can take it apart and know what you are getting into before you go south. Pick a bike you won't be afraid to get scratched, dented, dinged and everything else.
    Parts for any bike can be an adventure getting ahold of south of the border. Take the most likely needed parts with you.
    Have fun.
    #18
  19. ruedaloca

    ruedaloca just me

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    In the supossed situation that you need parts... KLRs maybe are not a good idea...maybe BMW is better in this situation, they have dealers at all countries at Centro america.... I won´t take suzuki, personally.
    #19
  20. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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    oppositely, i'm a fan a simplicity.
    a dr650 is an inexpensive old technology air-cooled 650 that have proven very reliable.
    these are perfect bikes for off-the-beaten-track rides.
    start the ride with a new or barely used one and most need little to no parts, save maybe a spare oil filter.
    #20