"Motorcycle riding in Việt Nam is like living through a zombie movie every day; you know they're all slow and sluggish, but you still have to be ready for the sudden jump and grab."
Because of my doubts re staying in Việt Nam, I'm looking into other options. Both of the possibilities at which I'm currently looking involve a L-O-N-G motorcycle ride. I've initially prioritized them:
- Seattle/Vancouver, BC to the southernmost tip of South America (Argentina)
- ~10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers)
- 14 countries
- Edinburgh to Istanbul
- ~6,000 miles (~9,600 kilometers)
- 12 countries and very few straight lines
A new bike for a new adventure! While perusing the forums, blogs, et cetera, I came across two statements that go well with my thoughts on this new plan.
"I usually run out of talent before I run out of horsepower" was certainly true when I rode my beautiful Victory.
The second was something I said often while driving my MINI
and will be one of the on-going themes of my LONG trip: "I wonder where that road goes?"
Initially I thought I'd get another Kawasaki KLR650.
The KLR was my very first motorcycle just over two years ago and it's quite the workhorse. They're sold in most of the world and the adventure community is full of information on modifications, additions, and subtractions that make them the choice of one hell of a lot of people for a successful long-term adventure trip. A good used one can be found all-day-long for between $3000 and $4000 depending on the extras and the sellers level of pride.
Another bike I'm considering is the Suzuki DR650:
Like the KLR, it's a well-proven design and one that's changed little since its 1990 introduction and has a huge fan base in the off-road and adventure motorcycling communities. The DR is leading the race between the two based on the information I've gleaned on-line AND my high level of satisfaction with its little brother, my DR-Z400S. I almost had to be talked into buying the DR-Z and it is, by far, the most fun-to-ride bike I've owned so far. The used DR is a much more rare find than a used KLR, though the prices are similar.
Those were the only bikes I was considering until read some of the on-line forums about long distance trips in the third world. Then I thought I'd look at the Honda XR 650L:
It was down to either the DR or the XR (the KLR comes in third according to EVERYONE who's owned all three) until my friend Glen, owner of an XR650L and two other bikes, and I talked. He suggested that I look at KTM.
I've always thought of KTM as too much bike for me and the orange paint scheme was never a favorite. Now that I've looked at the specs and read the forums and blogs, I think about KTM constantly. The 1190 Adventure R is now in the #1 slot, followed by the 690 R and the DR.
KTM 1190 Adventure R
KTM 690 Enduro R
The Yamaha Tenere was on my list for about five minutes; until I saw the weight. At 575 lb "wet" a.k.a. full of fuel, it is TOO HEAVY by a LOT... so it's out.
BMW's lineup is also out because, as beautiful and comfortable as those bikes can be, they are designed more toward street riding than off-road and many of the road surfaces on any of my prospective journeys would be "closed for repair" in the first world... and they, too, are comparatively heavy beasts. Hau (my Saigon mechanic and used bike dealer) has a 2010 BMW R1200RT (632 lb. wet) for which he's asking $22,000—reflecting the 100% duty paid on all imported vehicles. KBB says it's worth 12K in the U.S., so thanks for asking... NEXT!
Weight is an issue because at some point I am going to have to get it off me from a lying-on-the-ground position and then get it back upright. Since this is planned as a solo trip, I'll either be able to lift it or I'll have to wait until others come to help me. Those who know me will tell you that I'm lousy at waiting and never good at asking for help.
So BMW is out unless they need a model tested, in which case I'll consider a loaner. That said, I'd be happy as hell if offered a loaner of any of the above. Stubborn and opinionated do not equal stooopid! That said, they don't exclude it, either.
The KLR, DR, XR, and 690 are all enduros, previously and also known as dual sports. The 1190 is an Adventure bike and is, as you can see from the photo, very different. It is also about 160 lbs heavier than the heaviest enduro, though still significantly short of BMW weight. It's an awesome bike with the most advanced ABS system in the industry and it's at the top of my list... though I'm still cogitating on the enduro.
Or, I could get one of these...
The other major change from my original intention is that for this trip, I'm almost definitely buying new instead of used. The price difference is "only" a couple thousand US dollars and all three bikes hold good value on the used market. When I finally sell it, unless it's completely thrashed upon my return, I should be able to recoup a good percentage of my investment.
Tad, if you're reading this, do you think they'll insure me after my two previous claims?
As I was about to post this, I heard from Glen again... late this year or early 2016, Honda will release an all new Africa Twin, a.k.a. the CRF1000L!!! Although I have qualms about the first year of any new vehicle, Honda always builds top-quality bikes and this will be no exception.
KTM 1190 Adventure R or Honda Africa Twin?
If you have thoughts or opinions, I'd love to hear them...