Dirt-Highway bike...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bob, Dec 30, 2019.

  1. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    I've only scratched the surface of the good dirt riding in northern BC, Yukon & NWT. Frankly I think my R1200GS is 'too good of a bike' to trash in some of those conditions but it's a great two up tourer so I'm keeping it for that. Meanwhile, I've been daydreaming about a bike that can handle the extended highway speeds, and variable off pavement conditions that are required to get to, around and back from Northern rides.
    Just daydreaming at this point, but as always I'd like to hear what's worked for you.
    My preferences are for old school symmetry and simplicity, points condenser and kick starter would be fine. Prefer chain drive, suspension needs to handle rough dirt roads and sand, prefer 650 or larger twin for the highway miles. Plan to use solo with camping gear.
    I've looked at the pre 2000 KLR 650 and BMW R80GS on paper. One is liquid cooled and the other is shaft driven so they don't meet the exact specs below but I haven't ruled anything out yet. I'll take some time to see if it's dependable before I start throwing money at it...
    Any possibilities come to mind?

    Here's some stuff I'd like:

    the *s mean possible aftermarket mods/farkles

    17”R 19”F spoked tubeless wheels

    ~80 hp air/oil cooled motor

    ~450 lbs wet

    six gallon tank*

    accessible fuel filters/injectors OR carbs

    q/d windshield*

    quick detach fuel lines*

    easily accessible air/oil/gas filters

    snorkel and T-mods easily done*

    external cam chain adjustment

    locknut valve adjustments

    six speed transmission

    chain drive

    scott oiler or similar*

    dual exhaust (just upswept to rear wheel height)*

    dual sided swingarm

    analog speedo and tach

    hydraulic clutch

    metal clutch and brake reservoirs

    wired foldable shift lever*

    wired adjustable brake lever*

    dual disc front brakes

    disc rear brake

    steel brake lines*

    pivot pegs and stand up riding ergos*

    DS handlebar*

    hand guards*

    four RAM Mounted mirrors (one adjusted for riding on the pegs and one to check the GoPro )

    DS (Ohlins) suspension F/R*

    switchable ABS on front only, or no ABS (delete)

    front/rear crash guards* (delete rear crash guards)

    bash plate*

    center stand

    generous steering lock

    steering damper*

    heated grips*

    heated rider’s seat* (delete)

    hwy pegs*

    q/d rider’s backrest* (delete)

    q/d pannier mounts* (delete)

    interchangeable q/d pillion seat/rear rack* (delete)

    'high quality' head/brake/tail/signal lights, emergency flashers, pulsing brake lights

    ’fog’ lights integrated with hi/low beam*

    additional LED running lights*

    very loud two phase horn*

    Last edited: Dec 31, 2019
  2. Backdraft

    Backdraft Active Member

    Royal Enfield??? Although only 500cc
    Bob likes this.
  3. RossKean

    RossKean Active Member

    Unicorn bike. (Doesn't exist)

    I think this will be an interesting discussion.

    My number one priority for a bike to take off the beaten track is proven reliability and durability. It must also be comfortable enough and capable enough to take me hundreds or even thousands of kilometers of highway to get me to the riding destination. Common enough to have a reasonable expectation of being able to get parts within days, not weeks. Dealer network would be nice.

    New or used? Do you have a budget in mind? How rough in terms of terrain do you want to handle?

    Does a modified Vstrom or Versys tick enough boxes? Or are these too "refined" for the mission? No matter what, you will be looking at a lot of aftermarket stuff.

    Good luck

    Edit to add: I am still trying to decide on a bike for "roads less traveled". I suspect that my needs/expectations (and budget) will be less than yours but will be watching this thread. Hope to get something next season.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2019
    Bob and HunterSon like this.
  4. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    Yep, Unicorn Bike for sure and I keep wondering why that is...
    I've been 'looking at the Himalayan, V-Strom and Versys among others on line.

    Wondering how much highway flogging the Himalayan could take plus trying to avoid the radiators, plastics and new electronics of the Versys and V-Strom. Rads are just one more thing to go wrong plus don't need the extra power they provide. Also don't need shaft drives or anything I can't fix in a campground. We've seen enough of the dealers north of Prince George to know that if you have a problem you better be able to fix it yourself or settle in for a bit of a wait. They cater to their local markets who can afford to wait and they keep their parts inventories low to avoid overhead.

    I don't need a 'refined' bike... first choice is a kickstart bike with points and condenser that the first EMP won't knock. LOL

    Will likely run tubed DS tires I can change with spoons. Probably wouldn't take it anywhere you can't get with a pickup truck. Needs to absorb potholes and washboards at reasonable speeds tho.

    Budget... no firm budget lines set yet, this is still in the mid Winter dream phase. Thinking around $4000. up front then replace what breaks and add only what's needed. Told Keith to let me know if anyone's interested in a 2010 K1300GT so I'll probably advertise that in the Spring. Putting the extra money towards an ATV.

    As this progresses I'll continue to edit the wish list above and put 'delete' after stuff I can live without and 'added' to new stuff I need.

    Plan to ride locally on FSRs and decommissioned logging roads here in BC. You can go to a lot of other cities and valleys here in the Summer on dirt roads if you're not in a hurry. It's pretty well endless dirt road riding over here but a sin to take the GS on most of it.
    Would also like to explore up towards Yellowknife, the South Canol and Campbell Hwy in Southern Yukon to name a few routes. These all require several days of highway slabbing.

    Don't need a twitchy high performance enduro but let me know if you ever flogged a Honda XR650L really hard and how did that go?
  5. RossKean

    RossKean Active Member

    Can't see the Himalayan as being anything close. 24.5 bhp single cylinder and a 15 litre tank? Did a little reading and there would be too many gaps (for me). Reviewers didn't think much of the bike's ability to keep up on the highway or the stock suspension either.
    (In my case, I need a bike that can get me to the TLH or even Alaska, if that is my destination - without killing me in the process.)
    I see you (deleted) some of the desired items. What's left is still a pretty impressive list!

    It does seem that anything that is even modestly highway-capable has become more sophisticated than necessary in other areas. Plastics, electronic do-dads, FI, electric (only) start, heavy etc. While a calibrated torque wrench is elegant and irreplaceable for certain tasks, sometimes a hammer is the best tool for the job at hand.

    I mentioned the (650) Strom and the Versys because they are a couple of bikes I have been considering. The Africa Twin and the newer 700 Tenere are also worthy of consideration but a little rich for my budget. I would pin my need for reliability and dealer support on Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki or Kawasaki before Royal Enfield or Ural. How about the Harley LiveWire as per the "Long Way Up" boys :( ?
    Bob likes this.
  6. skibum69

    skibum69 Well-Known Member

    For new the Himalaya comes close but first generation had issues. The R80 GS has a lot going but they're collector bikes now and the prices in the used market are high. Early KLR maybe but the 640 Adventure is an excellent machine that many think has never been properly replaced. They are available for decent pricing. I know Love mine.
    Bob likes this.
  7. HunterSon

    HunterSon Active Member

    DR650 with a pumper carb. With mods It could check a lot of your boxes except the 80hp, ABS and 6 speed. How about sawing the horn off the unicorn and list some more horse like (realistic) expectations?
    Bob likes this.
  8. Trash

    Trash Well-Known Member

    The motorcycles you mention are not significantly lighter than the one you currently own.
    My sometimes neighbor Mike was in a similar predicament as yourself, wanting to further investigation the myriad trails and forest roads in the North Woods of Wisconsin, but finding his Triumph Explorer 1200 to heavy.
    He ended up purchasing a Suzuki DRZ-400. They have been around forever, are virtually bulletproof, have huge aftermarket support, and most importantly, only weigh 320 lbs. He has been extremely pleased with his purchase. The biggest difference between his needs and yours is the need to allow for high speed distance travel, and in that category you might find the DRZ-400’s power to only be “adequate”, but as Ross Kean alluded, your choice will necessarily include an element of compromise.
    Bob likes this.
  9. Trash

    Trash Well-Known Member

    I met up with a fellow riding a Versys from upstate NY whilst on the Alaska Highway several years ago. He had performed minimal improvements to make his bike more dirt worthy, primarily fitting more dirt worthy tires. Of course, the shorter suspension required a relaxed pace, but with that said, he handled the Dalton Highway just fine. Then again, when it comes to dirt riding, it’s probably more about the rider than the bike... ;)
    Bob likes this.
  10. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    Thanks RossKean. I'm planning to buy used (pre 1999) of course but just thought I'd throw the Enfield in after reading this: https://www.drivespark.com/two-whee...imalayan-650-india-launch-details-027142.html

    Two of my riding buddys have had Stroms, both the 650 and 1000. Both good bikes (the 1000 has 170,000kms and still pulling strong) but just not for me. The Versys 650 looks nice... too nice for how I plan to treat it. LOL

    I've been keeping an eye on the Trans Alp 600 but it seems to have a lot going on and all covered in plastic so maintenance would be PITA. Plus I need something I can sort out quickly after a spill and not have a lot of plastic all script up.
    I'm still looking at older bikes to see if there's anything worth the $$$$. Unfortunately I know about the Old Motorcycle Shop in Calgary...
  11. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    Hey Mike, you know I was looking at a 2003 KTM 640 Enduro (not Adventure) last year. That only flashed up for a day or two and I wasn't quite ready. All bets are off if a lower mileage one comes up again tho... I think I could live with a radiator in that case.;)
  12. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    Thanks HunterSon, the Unicorn list is just something to whittle as part of the process.
    I grew up riding without ABS and turn it off when off pavement on the GS as it's pretty spooky. I can easily live without it. I could with a DR650 with a few functional mods like you say. They're supposed to be the bee's knees with a few functional mods like upgraded suspension and stator.
    Edit: Vernon is also the home of Rider's Edge suspension so keeping an eye open where that's included in the adverts...
    I'll probably demo one in March to see how they handle the heavy truck traffic out here as that'd be my only concern.
  13. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    Thanks Trash, yep it would need to be a bigger thumper or a smaller twin to handle the highway stuff without ruining the motor for sure.
    Unfortunately you get tailgated mercilessly by big rigs out here (passing lanes not too plentiful in some areas) so you need the power to stay ahead.
    I've had a street legal WR450 which was a nice bike but too twitchy for the highway.
    It's not just the weight of the GS but the expense of spilling it like a dirt bike that got me looking for a smaller cheaper ride. It's starting to show a bit of wear and tear from the two Alaska rides already and I was planning to keep it as my 'forever' bike... think Mrs. Trash would buy that argument?:cool:
  14. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    I know, right? And looking back on all my spills I don't see that changing any time soon. LOL
    BTW we did lots of dirt (Bonavista Hwy, Burin Penn loop, Southwest Arm etc. before they were paved) back in the day on good old British twins. We all had a few biffs... but nothing we couldn't sort out on the side of the road, but also nothing I'd want to experience on a modern bike due to repair costs.
    I simply need something I can be happy to trash, Trash;) LOL
  15. RossKean

    RossKean Active Member

    Looks like a 650 cc version could be interesting IF it is produced and IF it comes to Canada and IF it is available for a reasonable cost. Saw a new 2019 Himalayan on Autotrader.ca for $6400. Bet you would be looking over $8500 for the big one if it becomes available. And then you have to equip it. While it would be interesting to look at one, I don't think they will be getting any of my money.
  16. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    True. Plus I only want to spend about half that coin before farkling.
    On that note I'm adding the XR650 to my test ride list tho...
    Full disclosure: a buddy of mine rode his 690 from Vernon to Bakersfield Cali on as BDRs as possible. Great ride. However they came back the Pacific Coast Highway and said Never Again! 690s killed their asses! So, if a 690 can't handle several days slabbing I'm wondering if I should I be looking at a dirt road capable street bike with after market suspension.
    All options remain open, plus of course that damned GS really really has me spoiled...
    Anyway, I haven't ruled out the option of throwing a bike in the pickup or even trailering it up North. That's quite doable as most of the dirt is either return trips or nice loops.
  17. RossKean

    RossKean Active Member

    I promised myself a second bike upon retirement. Dual sport of some sort to do stuff I don't want to do on the FJR. I turn 65 in May and official retirement is then so I will be doing some research over the winter and will try to get to the Halifax MC show in March. I will definately be watching this thread for ideas. I have never bought a new motorcycle but I might consider it this time...
    Happy New Year.
    Bob likes this.
  18. skibum69

    skibum69 Well-Known Member

    Renazco will fix your sore ass problems. I have 3 Renazco saddles for 2 bikes. They are the bomb!

    vinyl and suede for the 525
    Bob likes this.
  19. Backdraft

    Backdraft Active Member

    If you're looking for a unicorn... The DR750BIG (or 800) . Hard to come by. I had one... Sold it to Jon.... Damn.

    Buddy of mine has one here in Pasadena but won't sell it to me... Damn....

    750cc thumper... Dual tanks... Chain drive... Loads of fun!!!! Suzuki-DR750-Left-Side.jpg
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  20. Bob

    Bob Active Member

    Over the years about 1/3 of the bikes I've bought were new. No regrets with the remaining 2/3 being used, never had an issue.
    If I was looking at new I'd definitely demo the Yamaha T7. Your FJR might welcome one a stablemate. LOL

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