This is a guest post by M-BY-MC member Andrew Pain.
Andrew isa writer, motorcyclist, and paramedic currently living in Milwaukee,WI. He is the author of:
You can find him on twitter @painonpatrol,www.Facebook.com/Andrewcpain,and www.traveling250.com.
BMWR1200GSA.For many riders this is the premier adventure motorcycle. The GoldStandard. The Bike You Need if you want to Go Somewhere. Other markshave strove to copy this Ultimate Adventure Machine - The Explorer,the Super Tenere.
Youcan go on an adventure rides on any motorcycle. In fact, when peoplego off onto hard single track or to play on dunes for a few hours,most of them choose a smaller, lighter machine. Why, then, when theytake off on a long overland adventure, where rough roads or no roadsare not only a possibility but likely, do they grab the biggest bikethey can find?
Thereis another way.
Motorcyclemanufactures - some of them anyway - have recently released smallerbikes that are just as capable as any of the big adventure tourers.Some of them are more so. Im going to talk about some of theadvantages of choosing a smaller, lighter, and less expensive bike.
Ihave gone to, and given, talks on saving weight packing a motorcyclefor trips. Since I often ride around on a little bike, I am prettygood at keeping what I bring under control. Rarely, if ever, have Iheard anyone (other than me) discuss the single heaviest thing we allbring along - the motorcycle.
Afully loaded GSA can weigh 600lbs. Thats almost twice the weightof my bike, weight which has to be kept upright in sand or liftedwhen dropped. All those "how do you pick up your motorcycle"videos on YouTube are there because people need leverage or techniquetricks to get their sleepy bikes back on their wheels.
Pickingup a smaller bike is much easier, obviously, and they are easier tokeep upright on rough terrain, which is why single track racers areusually on little machines instead of big ones. Of course, big bikescan do it, but it's not rocket science to see which is easier. And ifyou need to throw it into the back of a truck to get to the next townfor repairs, it's a lot easier when the bike is light.
Aneven more obvious advantage of little bikes is the cost savings. Most250cc machines are around $5,000 new. And if you are willing to workthe used market you can find one for far less (mine was $65). It istrue that you can find used adventure bikes for far less than MRSP,but you will (almost) always find smaller bikes cost less than largerones. The money that you save can be used to actually travelsomewhere, which should be the whole idea.
Ahidden advantage of smaller bike is repair and maintenance. They areusually simpler machines, more suited to shade tree mechanics. Also,if you find yourself in a developing country with a serious failureyou are more likely to find local mechanics can get you back on theroad than if you are on one of the more advanced big adventure bikes.Reduced costs on oil changes (smaller engine needs less oil) andincreased MPG mean you save more money over the long term. And savingmoney means more time on the road.
Okay,you might be saying, I get it. Smaller bikes are cheaper to buy andrun, lighter and easier to deal with on poor roads, and simpler tofix when they break. But I want to go fast or travel on theinterstate, or travel with someone on the back. You can't do thosethings on your little bike.
Iwill admit, for two-up travel, smaller bikes are more of a challenge.Two people on one bike is one of the few valid reasons I know to usea larger bike, and the increased spare GVWR of something like theGS1200A which can carry an extra 500 pounds, more than a Goldwing(about 400lbs) is useful. You might even save money over two bikes,especially if you are shipping. If the bike falls over someone thereto help pick it up.
However,the big bike advantage ends there. My sr250 will do better than 80unloaded, and managed better than 70 with all my stuff. And that waswith stock gearing, so I could have gotten it faster if I'd tried.This is a common complaint about travel with a small dual-sport - thelow top speed. The engines usually have the power to manage higherspeeds, but the bikes are geared to allow more low-end power. Simplesprocket changes will address this problem - something easy enoughyou can carry different sprockets and change them at need.
Asfor being on the interstate, I've done that and will admit it's lessfun on a smaller bike. But the interstate isn't much fun anyway and Ican't really recommend it where it can be avoided.
Whatabout the mid-sized bikes? The KLR and DR650? The Wee-Strom? They doseem to offer a compromise between the big adventure bike and thelittle guys. And they do, but compromises are always dangerous andshould be approached with care.
Letsconsider the KLR650 and its small, more off-roady sibling, theKLX250. The 650 is only $1500-$2000 more. Not bad and still way lessexpensive than a big bike. It gets fewer MPG, which is expected. Butthe KLX actually has a larger spare carrying capacity, 330lbs betweencurb weight and GVWR, than the KLR (just over 300lbs). And, if youload the bike to its limit, the KLX is over 100lbs lighter.
I'mnot saying don't buy a KLR, to be honest I'm not even saying don'tbuy a GSA. I am saying think about what you are buying and decide ifit's what you need for what you want to do. Consider the costs andwhere else you can spend that money. And remember the words fromAustin Vince, film maker behind Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa, "Youwill never wish your motorcycle was bigger and heavier."