BMW-F800G_adv2013

Adventure myths #1: οι μεγάλες «Adventure» μοτοσικλέτες

English text follows after the brief greek intro.

Παρακολουθώ διάφορες συζητήσεις σε φόρουμ το τελευταίο καιρό σχετικά με νέες «adventure» μηχανές, όπως πχ το φρέσκο F800GS-A, ή τα πολυαναμενόμενα BMW 1200GS-LC και KTM 1190-R Adventure και αναπόφευκτα σκέφτομαι πόσο θύματα του μάρκετινγκ γινόμαστε όλοι μας (και εγώ μέσα). Βέβαια, τα πάντα εξαρτώνται από το πως ορίζει κανείς τη περιπέτεια και το «ταξίδι περιπέτειας με μοτοσικλέτα». Η εμπειρία του ταξιδιού στη νότια Αμερική με κάνει να βλέπω το θέμα με μια διαφορετική ματιά πλέον και ενώ προσπαθούσα να βρω τα κατάλληλα λόγια για να περιγράψω το θέμα, θυμήθηκα τον Walter Colebatch. Στο blog του, o Colebatch* θίγει ακριβώς αυτό το ζήτημα και πραγματικά δεν θα μπορούσα παρά να συμφωνήσω απόλυτα μαζί του, 100%, σε κάθε γραμμή του άρθρου.

 * Ο Walter Colebatch είναι ο άνθρωπος πίσω απο το Sibirsky Extreme και μια σειρά απο επικά ταξίδια στα βάθη της Σιβηρίας. Τα ταξιδιωτικά του στο forum του advrider αποτελούν πλέον το απόλυτο σημείο αναφοράς για όσους λατρεύουν αυτού του είδους τα ταξίδια ή προγραμματίζουν μια αντίστοιχη περιπέτεια στην ανατολή.

Η ιστοσελίδα του : www.sibirskyextreme.com

Tα thread στο advrider: sibirsky extreme 2012 – the toughest ride of them all, siberian extreme 2010 – back for more, sibirsky extreme (2009).

Παραθέτω λοιπόν αυτούσιο, μετά απο έγκριση του Walter για την αναδημοσίευση, ολόκληρο το ποστ με τίτλο: «ADV BIKE SELECTION 1» από το sibirskyextreme.com. (Οι φωτογραφίες έχουν αφαιρεθεί, θα πρέπει να επισκεφθείτε την ιστοσελίδα του για να τις δείτε).

I’ve been following varius conversations on forums lately regarding the new «adventure» motorcycles, like the fresh F800GS-A or the highly anticipated BMW 1200GS-LC and KTM 1190-R Adventure and I couldn’t help thinking how much of marketing victims people get (myself included). Of course, it depends on how someone might define the term adventure and «motorcycle adventure travelling». The experience gained from the road trip to south America has made me change how I see things on the subject, and as I was trying to find the right words to express my opinion here, I remembered Walter Colebatch. At his blog, Colebatch* adresses exactly the issue of adventure motorcycles, and from where I stand now I couldn’t agree more. His words express my thoughts 100%.

* Walter Colebatch is the man behind Sibirsky Extreme and a series of epic travels to the depths of Siberia. His ride reports at advrider.com are the ulltimate point of reference for those who love such kind of motorcycle travelling and are planning a similar trip in the future.

Walter’s webpage : www.sibirskyextreme.com

His threads at advrider: sibirsky extreme 2012 – the toughest ride of them all, siberian extreme 2010 – back for more, sibirsky extreme (2009).

So, I’m re-posting here, under Walter’s permision, the whole post titled : «ADV BIKE SELECTION 1»  from sibirskyextreme.com. (I’ve not inlcuded the photos in the re-post, you will have to visit Sibirsky Extreme to see them).

quote/

ADV BIKE SELECTION 1

WEIGHT

Some stick to the old maxim that any bike is an adventure bike. Any bike can take you anywhere. A recent conversation with Austin Vince found us in complete agreement. That maxim is bollocks. That maxim worked in the 1980s and 1990s when Adventure Motorcycling was crossing continents like Africa or South America. When routes were undocumented, even main “highways” unpaved and uncertain, and mystery was around every corner. Back in those days, when the term “Adventure Motorcycling” was born, a trans-continental motorcycle journey inherently consisted of both travel to exotic places and the adventure of expedition motorcycling to actually get there. This is epitomised by the journeys of people like Chris Scott, Grant & Susan Johnson, Helge Pedersen, Eric & Gail Haws, and others. This complete intertwining of these two elements that make up “Adventure Motorcycling” of exotic motorcycle travel and expedition riding can be seen in the Austin Vince film, Terra Circa, where the exotic travel goal of riding across Russia to Vladivostok was inextricably linked to the need to ride across what the team christened, the “Zilov Gap” – several hundred kilometres of swamp – on nothing more than unmaintained railway service tracks.

These days Adventure Riding has moved on, as the roads have become paved, as the mystery around each corner has evaporated due to the explosion of information available on the internet. That has caused a split in direction amongst Adventure Motorcyclists. While the majority now focus exclusively on “motorcycle travel” as being the key to Adventure Motorcycling (thus the proliferation of 250 kg “Adventure” bikes that are not suitable for the likes of mud, sand or other adventurous terrain beyond well maintained, graded, gravel roads), many, including myself, believe that some degree of expedition riding is still fundamental to the idea of “Adventure Motorcycling”, as was the case in the past. These days riding to Vladivostok is simply a matter of getting on the all asphalted Trans-Siberian Highway, and following the endless procession of 40 ton, 18 wheel freight lorries, or your GPS voice commands, and around two weeks after leaving Moscow you will arrive at Vladivostok. Is that Adventure Motorcycling in 2013? Is “Adventure Motorcycling” really an appropriate name for that? You can do it on a scooter, on a Goldwing, or anything in between. That’s an experience and an endeavour almost completely unrelated to the “Adventure Motorcycling” experienced on the same route in 2001 by the Terra Circa team and highlights how advances in both technology and road building have meant that many Adventure Motorcyclists of today now seek riding challenges beyond the main routes in order to maintain that need for real adventure riding. Austin Vince himself has shown how the need to seek out more exotic routes is essential to his own sense of Adventure Motorcycling, when for his soon to be released film, Mondo Sahara, he sought out rarely visited inland corners of Mauritania for the Saharan expedition. Mondo Sahara is thus true to the spirit of Adventure Motorcycling, a combination of both elements; exotic destinations and expedition riding.

For me at least, Adventure Motorcycling now does not mean domestic off road riding, nor riding to adventurous sounding far away foreign cities on asphalt major highways, alongside tourist coaches full of elderly German and Japanese tourists. For me, the getting away from it all feeling of Adventure Motorcycling means actual adventurous riding in adventurous places. For that more purist approach to Adventure Motorcycling, a more rigorous and demanding evaluation of potential motorcycles (Adventure Bikes) is needed.

Recently BMW has changed its definition of “Adventure Bikes” to include (for the very first time) bikes less than 1000cc. Unfortunately they have still not managed to build an “Adventure” branded bike that weighs less than 200 kgs dry. The F800 GS Adventure has landed – and its a tank.

I get asked what do I think of certain bikes all the time so it makes sense to share some thoughts.

The dry weight of the outgoing standard R1200GS is 203 kgs. The dry weight of the F800 Adventure is the same. Its supposed to be a lighter bike – a middle weight bike. It isnt. If 200 kgs is a big adventure bike then middle weight bikes should be sub 180 kgs dry. I cant see how anyone can consider a 229 kg wet weight bike (without luggage) anything but a big / heavy bike.

The problem is when you look closely at an F800, you struggle to find any evidence on the bike have BMW designers been weight conscious. If BMW had put a little effort into weight reduction the bike could easily be 25 -30 kgs lighter.  Manufacturers make a lot of effort to reduce weight on track replica bikes, on MX bikes and on proper enduro bikes. But they dont make any effort on adventure bikes. And if the adventure bike buying public don’t demand lighter adventure bikes, the manufacturers never will bother making any effort to reduce the weight of them.

If we consider an F800 vs X-challenge (144 kgs dry – and a good base adventure bike I know well), I would recommend beginning by reading these thoughts from Steve Royset, a man who not only owns both, but has done proper off road adventuring on both the F800GS and the XC (each bike for at least 3 months across Siberia and Latin America) – With that experience of both bikes I know of no-one more qualified to give a balanced, objective comparison on real world adventuring on those two bikes:

Quote:

“I used my big and heavy F800GS on this trip to BAM and ROB and it was possible to get the big and heavy bike through there. BUT on the other hand, it would be MUCH easier and MUCH more fun if I had brought a lighter bike more tailored for this kind of adventure riding. I was riding with 4 BMW G650X bikes on this journey and I saw how much easier they handled their bikes than me. I actually thought that it was more about riding skills than about the bikes itself. The stage II of my journey from US, through Central America and to South America I bought myself a BMW G650X challenge with the hotrod tank and prepped up with the Magadan softbags. Oh man what a difference when you get off the road. This bike is just so much lighter and handles so easy compared to the F800GS (Which is just slightly heavier than the Sertao(?)). One person in our group had a F800GS and I saw that he had the same kind of struggle offroad which I had with mine. Now with my XC it was just so much more fun going offroad and I could keep more in control and balance on the dirtroads. On the asphalt roads the F800GS gives you more comfort and power, but while offroading this is a huge difference.”

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=20775043&postcount=3947

The same author, owner and adventurer on both bikes, in another post in an answer to a question about comparing the two as adventure bikes, wrote this:

Quote:

“F800 vs XC:

I see that for light offroading, easy dirt roads and mostly staying on asphalt – the F800GS is a more comfortable and powerfull bike which handles that quite well. I feel it is a bit on the heavy side and I dropped my bike from time to time.

Fore more offroading I simply want a bike that are as light as possible. On the paper there is about 50-60 kilos (?) on the XC and F800 which really makes a difference. The XC is also quite narrow and has good ground clearance. Ground clearance is like on a offroad car a good thing. The XC is just much easier to handle in every means. So if I were to plan the same trip again I would choose XC. I feel that the offroad capabillities in the XC is more important than the better street performance the F800 gives you. I usually don’t go much faster than 120 km/h over long distances anyway”.

Bear in mind he was referring to the F800GS … the new F800Adventure is 15-20 kgs heavier again!

Earlier this year, BMW provided a couple of F800GS Adventures to well know German adventurer, BMW offroad instructor, and friend of mine, Joe Dakar, to ride offroad from Germany to Magadan, planning to follow the offroad Sibirsky Extreme Trail we developed last year as closely as possible. The idea was a proof of concept as a go-anywhere adventure bike type ride. The idea was to show the F800GS Adventure can take you to all the challenging adventure locations you could possibly want to go. I had spoken extensively with Joe before the trip and gladly shared my trails with him in the hope of a successful duplication of our adventure last year. Unfortunately largely due to the weight of the bikes, it just wasn’t possible.

From the first day in the Ukraine, the bikes, even in the hands of a highly skilled off road instructor, were not really suitable for following our offroad trails across Ukraine and so the bikes ended up taking the asphalt roads across Ukraine, Western Russia and Kazakhstan. Ultimately by the time the bikes got the the legendary BAM Road, the attempt to duplicate our X-Challenge based ride last year had ground to a halt. Even with the backing of a major manufacturer in BMW, new factory prepared bikes, and in the hands of a skilled off road instructor with over a decade of motorcycle adventure experience thrown in as well, which is Joe, AND bypassing 90% of the offroad route in favour of asphalt across Ukraine, Western Russia and Kazakhstan, it was a bridge too far on a 300 kg fully loaded bike (230 kgs wet, plus 2 metal boxes (10 kgs), luggage frames and assorted Touratech accessories (10 kgs), plus 5 main containers of luggage – two metal boxes worth, plus 3 ortlieb roll bags, each of which contains an avge 10 kgs of stuff).

Certainly the challenge Joe took on, of riding the BAM Road, is made a lot tougher by choosing a heavy bike like an F800 Adventure. Despite the fact that the BAM is successfully ridden by about 20 bikes a year these days now, since the time it fell into disrepair in the mid to late 1990s, either half of the BAM Road has only successfully been ridden by multi-cylinder motorcycles on just two occasions. Steve Royset and Iker Iturregi on an F800 and a KTM 990 both in 2012. Steve said if he ever did it again he would do it on an G650 X-Challenge, while Iker, a genuine Dakar level rider, admitted the road was tougher than expected and a KTM 690 would have been a smarter choice. The other 60 odd riders of the Western BAM since the late 1990s (in reality since 2009 onwards) have been on single cylinder motorcycles.

Another great example of the realisation that the F800GS is not what it purports to be – a middleweight adventure bike – and how weight matters, can be found in the travel experiences of Ben Myburgh, a young, mechanically savvy (and physically big) rider from the US, who headed to the Old Summer Road on an F800GS in 2011. He began with an extensive blog titled Round the World F800GS preparation. It details Ben’s fantastic efforts to put together what he believed would be a suitable RTW machine. It culminated in this photo in May 2011 immediately prior to departure.

On the Road of Bones, Ben met up and rode with a Japanese rider on a DR650, with soft luggage, perhaps 50 kgs lighter all up. Bear in mind that Ben is a big, physically strong young lad with loads of prior off-road experience, being into rallies and off road riding from a very young age. Here’s what Ben said about his riding companion:

 “he is cheating… he is on a DRZ – 650 with very small baggage… he just bounces thru everything while I hit everything! With my whole bike clanging around I could tell I brought the wrong bike for the job…” . 

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=16466178&postcount=370

As soon as Ben had landed back in the US, he prepared to take up again his extensive bike preparation thread, and the first post was from the moderator informing the readers that Ben was changing the name of the thread to “F800GS goes on a diet”. Then Ben detailed the aspects of the bike he found deficient on his RTW adventure ride and that he was going to change. 17 inch “road sized” rear wheel would be changed to an 18 inch “off road” sized wheel. The poor forks would be swapped out for better suspension. Hard luggage would be changed for lighter and more flexible soft luggage. But the overriding goal of them all was to strip the bike down to achieve a dry weight of 160 kgs (350 lbs). I dont believe he ever made it, and now rides lighter bikes.

There are 3 riders that have ridden the Road of Bones’s Old Summer Road section on F800GSs, Tomas Holman, Ben Myburgh, and Steve Royset. All three of them took immediate action regarding weight after their rides. Ben Myburgh as detailed above, tried to strip his bike down to 160 kgs dry. Tomas Holman and Steve Royset had bought 144 kg X-Challenges within a month of getting back to the western world.

If we move away from the 200 kg F800 GS / GSA in particular and consider weight in general, the ultimate conclusions don’t change. A further interesting observation related to weight from a rider riding around the world on a KTM 690 (138 kgs dry) at the moment. He was last month in the stunning scenery of Tajikistan …

 Quote:

“Soon after the tunnel I met a guy from Germany on a brand new BMW 1200. I told him about the tunnel and the southern route along the Pamir. He said he would skip the southern route because he is not confident in his ability with this heavy bike. I wanted to ask him why? Why have a big bike if it will limit your trip?” . 

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=21604999&postcount=1688

Why have a big bike if it will limit your trip?

To me this is one of the ultimate questions that I see people who are new to Adventure Motorcycling failing to ask themselves. Certainly there are some very skilled riders for whom a big bike will not limit their choice of routes. But they are a tiny minority in the world of adventure riders. For the rest (98+%) of us mortals, we need to seriously consider weight. You should not be limiting your adventure because of your choice of a heavy bike. If a person limits their adventure because of the weight of their bike, then the adventure itself was not their priority. Maybe image is? Maybe something else? (not that there is anything wrong with that).

My experience when it comes to bike selection, gear selection, tyre selection etc …. is you should plan for the toughest parts of your trip. If a guy is riding from London to Cameroon, across the Sahara, the experienced man will not select his bike, his tyres, his luggage as to what will work best on the motorways of Europe. If the hardest part of that planned trip is the dunes of the Sahara, then he needs his choices to first and foremost, be compatible with that. Any adventure bike for a given trip is a compromise. But … The selection criteria you should compromise the least, are those required for the hardest parts of the trip. A wise choice is not an even compromise between all aspects of your trip, its a compromise heavily biased towards the hardest parts of your trip.

You should plan (and select gear) for the toughest parts of the adventure you want to have. Any bike, any luggage, any tyres can deal with the easy stuff …Here are more observations related to bike weight from another adventurer a few weeks ago in Mongolia:

quote:

“I stayed at the Oasis in Ulaanbaatar and tryed to find out the road conditions by talking to other bikers who came via the south route. A guy,who hasn’t ridden a bike for years,did it on a XT250 and discribed it as pure fun. Others on XT660 described it as challenging but O.K. Then there were two guys on BMW 1200 GS Adventure who ended up on a truck.” . 

http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/northern-asia/mongolian-road-conditions-in-may-69583-2#post425818

Whats clear from those observations is that the amount of fun the riders had was totally (and inversely) connected to the weight of the bikes. Here’s another comment from last year and Mongolia – written from the perspective of a different guy on a KTM 690 (138 kg dry):

Quote:

“After a few hours we saw some bikes approaching (we’d seen nothing for hours) and realised it was a couple of overlanders. We pulled over together and said our hellos. This was a couple of German guys … on their mighty behemoths [Yamaha 1200 Super Tenere and BMW 1150 GSA], with every bolt-on goodie you could imagine. The guys had some English so they asked us what lay ahead and when we told them of the mud and crossings they had the look of seriously worried men. They were traveling at about 40kph (25mph) as the bikes were so heavy they daren’t go much faster.” [the author was travelling in a group of mostly 650cc BMWs and KTMs at over twice those speeds]“ These guys were having their holiday ruined by the amount of kit they’d brought to make their holiday better. they were seriously worried. The guy on the Super Ten looked at our setups and the nearest bike and said ” I want that bike!”.

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=20391642&postcount=2118

Another adventurer, writing from Ulaan Baatar just days ago, whose 1200 GSA was too heavy for the job and ultimately arrived into the Mongolian capital, ALSO on the back of a truck (It seems the most common way for 1200s to arrive in UB these days) had this to say:

Quote:

«Don’t do Mongolia on a fully loaded 1200 if it is raining… its a nightmare.».

http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/northern-asia/submerged-r1200gs-in-mongolia-71550

The reality is, as soon as you get off the asphalt, weight is a very very important issue. Lose 40 – 50 – 60 kgs and its a totally different experience, as the guy comparing his experiences between the F800 and the XC pointed out. Or as the guy comparing the amount of fun riders arriving in UB had on a 250 vs a 650 vs a 1200. The difference between suffering / enduring somewhere like Mongolia and really enjoying it, is 40-50-60 kgs in bike weight.

Any rational decision must be made on the basis of a cost / benefit analysis. Compare a 690 KTM or 650 X-Challenge to a 1200 BMW/ 1190 KTM. The 690 / 650 has the power to cruise on asphalt highways all day long at 125-130 km/h. They produce around 60 – 65 hp as opposed to 125-150 hp on the larger bikes. They weigh about 70 kg less than the larger bikes. If you put a HP meter on the bigger bikes and worked out for how much of a trans Eurasia trip they are using more than say 65 hp, bearing in mind that in Russia and Kazakhstan highway speed limits are 90-100-110 km/h and strictly enforced, and to generate the big HP bikes need to be revving up towards their rpm limits, I think you would find less than 1% of the time on a typical trip across Ukraine / Russia / Kazakhstan / Mongolia horsepower in excess of 65 would be generated by the engines. Much less than 1% of the time. Tiny little bursts of no more than a few seconds duration scattered throughout the day. Thats the benefit … a few seconds here and there when accelerating. The cost for having that extra power available for use 1% of the time is 80 kgs in weight. That’s not 80 kgs 1% of the time … that’s a 80kg penalty 100% of the time. Every swamp, every mud patch, every river crossing, every sandy stretch. Every time on a transcontinental trip that you have to pick up the bike, that 80 kg penalty is there. Every time you have to push it across a river, that 80 kgs is there. Everytime you hit a patch of dunes, that 80 kgs is there. 99% of riders to Mongolia will NEVER use more than 65 hp ever. The penalty therefore is utterly pointless. That extra 80 kgs, once in real adventure territory, produces no gain for all but the finest riders, and that 80+kg penalty is more than enough, in many cases, to utterly ruin their experience. 99% of big adventure bike riders in Mongolia are paying a 80 kg penalty for something that offers them zero benefit in return. That weight penalty once in real adventure territory is so illogical from a cost / benefit analysis perspective that it’s at the point of being comical.

Rule number one in adventure bike selection is weight matters. Don’t listen to manufacturers, or marketing people – they have never done real adventure biking. They honestly DONT KNOW what an adventure bike needs. No adventure motorcycling designer, marketer, or motorcycle company senior exec has ever ridden around the world.

There is a dual illusion perpetuated by the industry, including magazines, that (1) experienced riders ride big adventure bikes and (2) riding a bigger adventure bike makes you more of a man. The reality counterpunch to the first of those illusions is not surprisingly, exactly the opposite of the illusion.

The more experienced an adventure rider, the lighter bike he is probably riding. Austin Vince, Chris Scott, Terry Brown, Mac Swinarski, Adam Lewis etc, all focus heavily on weight. These guys have been doing it for decades and are not obligated to any manufacturer or model. They get to choose their bikes and gear. Light bikes and soft luggage is the number one common theme among guys who have been doing it for years. So in fact, its almost only the naive Adventure Motorcycling first-timers or sponsored riders that take big bikes to the likes of Mongolia.

Adam Lewis has been riding around the world for 7 years now, non-stop. Like myself, he features in Robert Wicks / Haynes guide “Building the Ultimate Adventure Motorcycle“. Adam began on a 180 kg F650GS with metal boxes, he then changed to a 160 kg DR650, and more recently changedd to a 135 kg DRZ400 with soft Magadan bags, on which he successfully rode the Western BAM and Road of Bones. Mac Swinarski began on a 190 kg Honda Transalp, before changing to a 160 kg KTM 640 Adventure, and now does his adventure rides on a 115 kg KTM 400. I myself began on Honda Transalps, have tried a number of midweight bikes and even owned a 1200 Adventure for two years. Now, with 19 years of Mongolia and Siberia adventure experience behind me, my two bikes are the two lightest bikes I have ever owned. My 144 kg G650X-Challenge is my “big rig”, while I am preparing a 114 kg Husaberg 570 as my light adventure bike. This make a mockery of the notion that the more experienced adventure riders ride bigger bikes.

As for the second marketing myth, the reality is this … The bigger the adventure bike, the more impotent the rider becomes. The more he has to turn down interesting adventurous routes and is forced to take boring less scenic routes. The less ability he has to visit out of the way, rarely seen places (and isnt that what adventure motorcycling is all about?) The less appetite for adventurous riding he has. The slower and more pedestrian he rides. The more bruised and injured he gets, and the more likely he is to arrive in Ulaan Baatar on the back of a truck, rather than riding in with pride, having breezed across Mongolia. Have a look at the picture below … do you think this bike is ever going to be seen adventuring the BAM? No? Neither do I. The asphalt road in the bottom of the pic is a dead giveaway. The ridiculous weight of the bike has made the poor rider completely restricted as to how much adventure riding he is ever going to be able to do. As long as that’s his bike, he will never be able to get to the vast majority of the worlds great adventure riding routes.

How’s this for a question … look at the two massively overloaded bikes in the 2 pictures above. How many trans-continental journeys do you think the two owners made PRIOR to buying and equipping those bikes and setting out on their journeys? (Europe and North America obviously don’t count). How much adventure experience do you think those setups are based on? – Answers on the back of a postcard please ….

While Long Way Round is in many ways responsible for the boom not only for BMW GS sales, but the boom across the board in adventure motorcycling, it’s worth revisiting the lessons that can be learned from that journey. They key facts regarding bike selection for LWR are these: (1) The guys were adventure riding novices – they knew nothing about what they were trying to achieve or what might be the best tools for the job. (2) they took off from London on the heaviest bikes they could lay their hands on (1150GSA) and loaded them up to the hilt (approx 70 kgs luggage). [yet again note the theme; adventure novices on the heaviest bikes they could find.] (3) They only had two significant off road sections in the entire trip from London to New York – they were Mongolia and the Road of Bones (4) and this is the key point that many miss – they failed to complete EITHER of their two off road sections.

So they only had two section of off road riding on their trip, and were unable to complete either of them. Why? Despite years of motorcycling experience, a young fit healthy body and special off road training, Ewan was crying in Mongolia at how difficult it was to ride the 330+ kg vehicle off road, through rivers, muddy sections etc. He wanted to get back to Russia almost as soon as he had entered Mongolia. Claudio ended up on a red Izh Planeta 5 and found the 160 kg bike a revelation in terms of ease – the primitive Russian road bike was indescribably better to ride offroad in Mongolia than the advanced, western 330kg BMW he told me at a dinner party a few years ago – and the only possible reason for that was the weight. Fortunately for Ewan, a rolled 4WD gave the team the excuse needed to bug out to Russia and get back on asphalt. On the Road of Bones, the constant struggle of walking 330 kg bikes through river crossings, dropping them and picking them up ultimately put out Charley Boorman’s back. That gave the team the excuse to throw the bikes on a truck for the remainder of the Old Summer Road.

It’s crystal clear that the weight of the bikes was the primary reason for the failure of the LWR project to complete either of its off road sections. If there is a lesson to be learned from LWR, its not that you should be on a massive adventure bike to ride Mongolia and the Road of Bones, but rather the exact opposite – the real lesson from LWR is only the naive first timer will take a massive adventure bike to Mongolia and the Road of Bones. They are totally inappropriate and completely the wrong machine for that job. (unless you specifically want to bring tears to a grown man’s eyes or fancy doing several days in the back of a truck).

That’s a look at real world evidence regarding motorcycle selection as it relates to adventure riding. The summary is both simple and compelling – the more experienced you become at motorcycle adventuring, the more seriously you will factor in weight in your bike selection decision. This is not a criticism of big adventure bikes or people that buy them. This is real world adventure information from a seasoned adventurer that has seen many people regret their bike choice, too late, well into their Mongolian or Siberian adventure. By learning this information up front, you can save time, money and disappointment by going straight to the position of an experienced adventurer, and take weight seriously from the beginning.

Post Script:

There will be those who object to the opinions in this article. But they will not be able to counter the logic, or facts, or how the facts relate to adventure bike selection. Those who object to the conclusions in this article will object primarily on the basis that they don’t agree with my definition of Adventure Motorcycling. That’s not a counter argument. That response counters none of the recommendations or advice that’s been given in this article. Instead, all disagreeing with the definition (usually by saying Adventure Motorcycling should not be defined) typically offers us is effectively this “there can be no advice of any sort on adventure bike selection because we are incapable of offering up a definition of adventure motorcycling”. That simply takes us back to the maxim of any bike is an adventure bike, which also means there is no such thing as “an adventure bike”. Which is exactly why there is a shortage of guidance for sensible adventure bike selection. Because in order to provide adventure bike selection advice, you need to define what is meant by Adventure Motorcycling – at the very least, for the purposes of the advice. This article is specifically written to help those who do agree (to some degree or another) with my concept of Adventure Motorcycling (expressed at the top of the page), or for those who are planning trips with more than 100 miles of off road in them, with respect to the much neglected real world analysis of adventure bike selection criteria.

Sadly, until now, the only adventure motorcycle selection advice that has been offered to the adventure buying public (and I have seen this implied in several magazines) is very much misguided, and along the lines of the following: If you are new to adventure motorcycling, begin with something small like an F650 Dakar, then as you get more experience graduate to a mid weight, like an F800 / Triumph 800, then when you are a real player, you can ride one of the big heavyweights. Every assumption in that advice is wrong. Not only do riders go lighter as they get more experience, but ALL of those bikes are too heavy to start with. That type of advice is a total dis-service to budding adventure riders. Of course readers of that misplaced advice, being human, want to skip the earlier stages and look like a serious adventure motorcyclist from the beginning, so they just go straight to buying a obese adventure bike for their first adventure.

In total contrast, I am telling you that if you want to look like you know what you are doing from the beginning, if you want a better trip, if you want to not have to scale your pre-announced plans down as your trip progresses and you realise much of your ambitions will have to be bypassed, go straight to having a sub 165 kg adventure bike !!

My Recommendations:

In my view, anything over 180 kg dry is a heavyweight. And they are not really suitable for the kind of riding I consider adventure riding, perhaps with the single exception of a KTM 950/990 in the hands of a very skilled rider. A middleweight adventure bike is between 135 and 180 kgs dry weight. Most popular single cylinder adventure bikes are in this weight range, including the DRZ400, KTM 690, BMW X-Challenge, KTM 640 Adventure, DR650, XT600, 3AJ Tenere etc. Anything below 135 kgs dry is a light adventure bike – that included WR250R, Husaberg 570, DR350, TTR250, Serow etc.

A single cylinder bike below 165 kg dry weight should be your starting point. If you are heading to Mongolia or the Sibirsky Extreme Zone north of the Trans Siberian Highway on anything else, you are either kidding yourself that you are going to enjoy it, or you are a rally standard rider. It may sound harsh, but anytime I see a 1200GSA or Super Tenere in Mongolia, I know straight away its a naive adventurer struggling on his first proper offroad adventure, and I can be sure of at least one thing – he will never go back there on the same bike ever again. If only he knew that before he went there …..

Stay tuned for more thoughts on adventure bike selection in coming weeks.

 

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