Looking for the best motorcycle for a worldtrip

Everyone, who wants to travel the world by motorcycle, has to begin with the question which motorcycle he should choose. So this year, also we have to find a suitable motorbike for our trip around the world.

For our tour though Eastern Europa last year, Erna (an old Kawasaki ER-5) was a loyal companion. We mainly rode on asphalt, the streets were more or less acceptable. But for a trip around the globe, Erna is not suitable. We need a reliable bike, which can carry us both through remotely places far from solid streets.
So now, we want to take you with us on our search for a proper motorbike and share our thoughts about it.

Before we begin, we have to say that we neither have much experience with Enduros nor are we motorbike experts. We had many discussions with other motorcycle travellers and follow some other blogs, where we get inspiration from.


The criteria

Let’s start with the aspects that are important and the ones that are not.

Which conditions has our motorcycle to fulfill?

The categories are listed in descending order.

Reliable and robust

Our most important criterion. We want to spend our time riding – not in garages with a screwdriver in our hands. Additionally, the bike should be able to cope a fall. Bad petrol also should’t be a problem. Reliability is of course a very subjective thing that cannot be judged directly. We rely on reports of other travellers, tests and out gut instinct.

Rideable on streets and off-road

We don’t have a doubt that it is possible to circumnavigate the world with a Honda Goldwing, but we want to ride a bike that allows us to conquer every kind of road. This criterium is quite hard to judge for us. Apart from riding a few times on gravel roads, we don’t have that much experience. You can find endless discussions about the off-road capability of every long-distance enduros on the internet. Quite often we have had the impression that people tend to compare apples and bananas. There can be huge differences in the understandings of off-road. Some think of  the Dakar, motocross and jumps over a hilly landscape. Others connect it to loose gravel roads, muddy trails and the occasional crossing of a stream. Because we are sitting 2up on a fully loaded motorbike, there are some restrictions for riding off-road anyways.

Not too heavy and big

Following up the last point. On the market for traveling enduros, there are some – how we call it in German – existing battleships. From the BMW R 1200 GS to a Ducati Multistrada or a KTM 1190 Adventure. They seem too big and too heavy. On the other hand, leads the fact that we are sitting both on the bike to something with power. That’s why we see our motorcycle in the field of 650 ccm. The bike also shoudn’t be too high, because with his 173 cm, Moe wants to be able to reach the ground with his feet. When we rode on a Suzuki XT 660 in Crete, he was struggeling (~88cm sitting height). Ideal would be a seat height of +/- 80 cm.

Not too expensive

We want to invest our budget in traveling and not in fancy technology. With baggage handling system, maintenance work, spare parts and modifications, we are thinking of a budget between 3000 and 4000 euros.

Gas comsumption/range

Because we want to ride A LOT OF kilometers, it is not only more sustainable but also better for our travel cash if the bike isn’t too thirsty. That is why we prefer an engine below 5l/100 km. Additionally, a range of 300 km with a full tank would be nice. But it doesn’t need to be huge. In case of doubt, there is always the option of carrying a few extra bottles with gasoline. We trust in a worldwide infrastructure of gas stations.

Comfortable for 2

If we want to ride thousands of kilometers, we need a comfortable seat for rider and pillion. Apart from the motorcycle, alternative benches, another cushion or  supplies like sheepskin could be a solution.

Few electronics

Our motorbike should be build simple and mechanical in order to facilitate repairing it. An e-starter would be nice, ABS would be an asset but is not necessarily needed. We do not need board computers, electronically adjustable  struts or tank sensors.

Easy spare part procurement

This is an criterium which is also not really assessible for me. Sure, it is helpful if the bike is not that exotic and the procurement of spare parts is not impossible.  Preferably worldwide. We know that it can be tough sometimes to get access to spare parts but honestly, we do not have the experience to evaluate that.

Used but still good, if possible less than 50.000 kilometers

This also belongs to the point of realibility. Our bike does not need to be the newest, but it would be great, if the engine is able to tanke us a few kilometers. We already heard about touring enduros, which achieved 200.000 km without bigger problems. As we already mentioned, realibility is our first priority. We see 50.000 km as a rough limit.

What is not that important?

The following criteria are not as important as the ones above:

Looks/Image

We do not want to buy a certain brand, nor do we need to have the prettiest motorcycle ever. What really counts are the aspects mentioned above. The more the mopped looks inconspicuous, the less it arouses desires of criminals. A pretty bike is only relevant for nice photos 😛

Age

We do not care about the age of our mopped. Old or new, both has advantages and disadvantages. Older machines are mostly easier to repair, the procurement of spare parts is higher. The probablity to find someone, who knows to repair an old bike is much bigger. Plus, old motorcycles are much cheaper. New bikes have the advantages that they are in a better condition, include advanced technology or often look better.

Performance

On our tour through the east of Europe, we were fine with the 50 PS of Erna. We like to ride cosy and pleasure-orientated. The journey is the reward. On our tour last year, we did not ride more than 200 kilometers a day. Outside of Europe,  the conditions of the streets and the traffic do not allow you to go very fast anyways.


The candidates

After this evaluation, a list with all possible bikes emerged. We never rode with one of the following moppeds, that is why the provided information extracted from comments and our own research. The list is in descending order.

Honda Africa Twin (RD 07)

A true classic among long-distance enduros. What convinces us most is the high realibility that is always related with the Africa Twin. She prooved her off-road capability not only once at the Rallye Dakar. Unfortunately, she is quite heavy and possibly not the most comfortable of our candidates.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
V2 246 kg 5,7 l 743 ccm 60 PS 86 cm

BMW F650GS/Dakar

The “small” GS scores with its low seat height and a small consumption. The machine with one cylinder and four-stroke engine is also available in a “Dakar”-version, with an extended strut and a bigger front wheel. However, the seat height for this version is therefore higher. GS-riders often call it a beginner or ladies version, but we do not care about this gossip.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
One cylinder 193 kg 3,5-4,5 l 652 ccm 50 PS 78/87 cm

Honda Transalp (PD 10)

The Honda Transalp is another popularmeans of transport among motorcycle travellers. She has some comparable characteristics to the Africa Twin, but stays more street-orientated. The Transalp is known for being very reliable and is also more comfortable than the AT.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
V2 210 kg 5 -6 l 583 ccm 50 PS 85 cm

Suzuki V-Strom 650

The V-Strom is an allrounder. She is one of the youngest motorcycles on our list.  The seat height is quite comfortable and her comsumption is also more than acceptable. She is known for her reliability.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
V2 197 kg 4.5 l 645 ccm 67 PS 82 cm

Kawasaki KLE 650 Versys

The Kawasaki Versys is known as the V-Strom competitor. She is based on the model of the Kawasaki ER 6, successor of our Erna. Like the V-Strom, she convinces with her modest comsumption. For an offrad-application, some adjustments are needed. Because of our reliable companion Erna, we trust in the brand Kawasaki.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
Two cylinder in-line engine 209 kg 4,7 l 743 ccm 64 PS 84,5 cm

Yamaha XTZ 660 Ténéré

Although the Ténéré is named after a part of the Sahara, there are many diverging opinions about her offroas-abilities existing. With a tank of 20 litres, this enduro promises a far reach. The seat height could be a problem.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
One cylinder 195 kg ~5 l 660 ccm 47,6 PS 87 cm

Triumph Tiger 900 (T400)

The Tiger T400 is one if the bigger and heavier moppeds, but scores with a high performance. Being a better motorbike for streets than off-road, she is nevertheless a good choice for far traveling.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
Three cylinders carburettor 255 kg 5-6 l 885 ccm 86 PS 85 cm

Suzuki DR 800 S

The DR 800 S is also known to be durable and reliable. She is not the best option for tough terrain, but gravel roads and streets of bad conditions are not a problem. Disadvantage: the DR has a high consumption which is able to reach 9l/100km.

Engine Design Empty Weight Consumption Displacement Performance Seat Height
One cylinder 225 kg 6,4 l 779 ccm 50 PS 89 cm


Conclusion

We spend many hours, looking for a suitable travel enduro. One can get lost in all those comparisons. We now have a much better overview of the market, but nevertheless it is still a tough decision. All of the listed motorbikes are probably a good choice for a worldtrip. If one is looking for a used bike, one has to check what is available. Moreover, one has to conduct some test rides to see, whether the bike is right for oneself.

We will continue to seek attractive offers on the second-hand market and are thankful for all personal advice of motorcycle travelers.

Sources:
https://www.tourenfahrer.de/motorrad-technik/enduro-topseller-gebrauchtkaufberatung/
http://howfarcanwego.de/motorrad-fuer-weltreise/
http://www.motorrad-weltreise.com/welches-motorrad/
https://www.spritmonitor.de/