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Author Topic: Tell me about your touring experience on small bikes and how it compares  (Read 1952 times)

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Offline HawkGTRider

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I nearly have a garage full of small(er) bikes, and they continue to put a smile on my face.

From oldest...
1970 Honda CL70. Yeah, this is pretty much a toy. With a top speed of 40ish, I'm hesitant to get it out on anything other than seriously little backroads. But then I look at the odometer of this bike and it has over 10,000 miles clocked. Wowza...someone put in some serious hours in riding this thing to put that many miles on it.

1975 Yamaha RD125. A little more than a toy, but...  As the only 2-stroke in the fleet, it's a bit different. One of the pistons disintegrated the last time I rode it, but it's being repaired.

1980 Suzuki GS450e(s). This is one of my favorite bikes ever. It's about as basic as they come, but it's got a great combination of comfort, reliability, ability to handle all paved roads from little to interstate, and gets pretty decent fuel economy as well. This bike has done several 1000 mile days.

1986 Honda VFR700. Ok, not exactly small, but also not a liter bike. It's the "sporty" bike in the garage and is also all day comfortable if my behind will take it. And that V4 wails!

1988 Honda Hawk GT (NT650). I've knocked down a bunch of miles on this compact little bike...so compact that it's not really an all day bike. But I rode it from TN to Florida for the Jennings track day a couple of years ago and had a blast. I feel like this bike pre-dates many later bikes with a torquey v-twin, stubby under engine exhaust, single sided swingarm, and so forth. But that peg-to-seat distance is certainly a limiting factor to longer rides...my knees just won't take 600 miles in that position like they might have once. I did back-to-back 600 mile days riding this bike to STAR at Lake Eufaula in Ok packed down like a mule with camping gear and such.

1997 Suzuki DR650SE. Yeah, it's a stone ax in a world of computers. And that's why I like it. It's not as smooth as some other 650s and doesn't get the fuel economy, but any shortcomings are known and spares can probably be carried on an adventure to far away and remote places. With an estimated 35hp, it's the right bike for a trip to the far reaches of northern Quebec next summer.


2007 BMW F650GS. Along with the Suzuki GS450, this is THE all time favorite. I've put 110k+ miles on this bike riding across the country on the interstate to get to gravel roads 7 states away. It's had some water pump issues, but now that issue is pretty much resolved.

2007 BMW F650GS Dakar. Just got this one a few months ago with less than 2k miles on it. The 19" front wheel on the standard GS is better all around, but that 21" Dakar front is better for the gnarlier end of the spectrum. I wouldn't consider this a "dirt" bike, but I bought a set of hard bags from a guy that was using his much rougher than I'll use mine. And I also got a spare front rim from a guy that replaced his entire front end with one from a KTM. Some folks are obviously using their Dakars much more aggressively than will I. It'll serve as a lightweight all-around bike for me. Both the standard GS and the Dakar get really good fuel economy...not unusual to see near 70mpg.

Lastly 2017 Honda CB300F. Last year for this model, it was replaced in 2018 by a sport naked model termed a Neo Sport Cafe'..the CB300R. They made it less angular, a little peppier, and decreased the size of the fuel tank. I'm happy with mine. I rode this one to the Big Lynn Lodge a couple of weeks ago and had a ball. It kept up with Doug Pippen (ok...he was taking it easy on us) but the light weight was super. Yes, I was doing a tap dance on the gear-shift lever while everyone else was locked into 1 or 2 gears, but I was grinning the whole time. And then when I filled it up, I averaged 77mpg (including 100 miles of 70mph interstate riding), next tank 86mpg, next tank 83mpg, and last tank 88mpg. Dang! I'm loving that. And yes, those big mileage tanks were at a pace that didn't include a lot of wind pushing. But I've gotta say I love those numbers.
Geoffrey Greene
MSTA Ride For Kids Coordinator, MSTA Secretary, TriSTAR Coordinator
Difficult roads can lead to beautiful destinations.

Offline vince

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Re: Tell me about your touring experience on small bikes and how it compares
« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2019, 01:41:59 AM »
I have a lot of motorcycles. But I have never taken a trip on say a small bike. I want to get back home.
But let me tell you about my first trip on a bike.
I just got out of the service in 72. First thing I did was get back into school. The second was to take out a student loan for school. But a brand new 250 CZ MX bike and a new 750 Norton Commando Combat Roadster. I had a high school buddy still in the Navy and station in the bay area in San Francisco. In 75 I thought I would ride my bike out West and see him.


In 1975 Honda comes out with a new to the world Goldwing. I would look at pictures of that bike in aw. I had to have it. The dealer is getting only 2 of them. And of course they want more than list price. After a lot of screaming they sold it to me for list price. The bike came just 2 weeks before I left on the trip.


This bike was quiet like a car. Smooth. Perfect for a long trip. First problem is the bike is not set up for touring. Nobody makes a dam thing for it. So what can I do. My GI duffel bag laying across the seat with buggy cords is the hot set up. It worked pretty good really. lol.


On my way. First day I meet up with 2 Harley riders. They have to get gas every 60 miles. I can go at least 150 on a tank. Any way at the end of the day we all sleep on park benches.
The next morning I say goodbye and throttle up.


Back in 75 there wasn't that many freeways like today. The wing does 100 like nothing. I find a cop hiding in a corn field. He stops me. Wants to know where I got this bike. What is it. It's a Honda. No it isn't. Honda doesn't make a bike like that. yes they do. No they don't. Well it say Honda all over it. On the gas tank, the seat, and the engine. More was said but he let me go.


I get to the Rockies and I see other bikes with lots of clothes on. You know like it was cold out. I was wearing a T shirt. It was hot out. It doesn't take long and I am stopping to put more clothes on. As i am going up hill it doesn't take long and I am putting more clothes on. Gez I go a few more miles and I am stopping to put more clothes on. I don't have much more. I get to the top and stop. The bike rolls forward just a little off the side stand and tips over. I am a little guy. 150 lbs and all the tests on the bike said I could pick it up if it tipped over. I picked it up so fast it didn't even have a scratch on it.


It was so cold out that the last thing I had to put on was my rain gear. I didn't know that in early June there was still snow in those mountains. Nothing like being young and stupid. At the end of the day I was cold. Got out my sleeping bag and sleep under the bike. This for sure sucks. Sleeping bags back then were not all that good. Anyway I made it to CA.


Back then you were to bring your bike in for a tune up to keep the warranty. I bring it to a Honda dealer and he asks me where I got this bike. I said in MN. Noway. We haven't even seen these bikes yet. Oh well I need an oil change and filter. A week later after staying at my friends house it is time to go home.


I decide to go to L.A. first then to MN. Half way there I see a car on the side of the road. I stop to see if they need help. No just letting the car cool down it was over heating. Cars did that back then. Anyway we talk and has we are talking we talk about where we are from. As I am telling him where I am from. he keeps telling me his wife if from there. Well not only that but his wife is from the same town and graduated from the same school and year. 2000 miles from home and how can this be. Unreal.


Pointed home now. Going through the mountains and guess what. You guessed it. I am freezing to death. There are no roads signs. Maybe that is because the snow is so deep it is over the top of the signs. I am thinking of sleeping in some snow machine used to clear the roads. I keep going and finally see a house. I go up and knock on the door and ask if I can just stand in the doorway and warm up. They let me and I will never forget this. I left and stay in a motel that night. You know when you are alone at night like that it gets scary.


Almost home and there is a new problem. Almost 5k on the bike and the tire is almost gone. I call my dad. Dad hook up the trailer. You might have to come and get me. Just start heading my way. I call him back and say just be ready. I have been tailgating trucks and this seems to be working. And it did. I made it and the tire was just starting to show a cord when I rode into the driveway.


New problem again. Nobody make a 17 inch tire. This is the first. Calling Bridgestone and they said there are some on a boat and it will be 6 weeks before they are here. Dam to say the least. A call to Honda. How can you wear out a tire so fast. The bikes have only been here less than a month. I said why did you make a bike that uses a 17 inch tire. Nobody else does. Now I have this bike and I can't use it. Honda is one hell of a company. Their is no such thing as FED X back then. But Honda flew me a new tire from Japan. I had it in 3 days. Way to go Honda. They know how to take care of you.


Since then I have been in every state but Alaska. And all of Canada. I learn a lot on that trip. One of the best I ever have taken. And I still have that bike.

Offline Patmo

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Re: Tell me about your touring experience on small bikes and how it compares
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2019, 07:06:55 AM »
Cool story, Vince.  Thanks for posting it up.   And welcome to the forum.
not all that wander are lost

Offline STLTHMSTA

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Re: Tell me about your touring experience on small bikes and how it compares
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2019, 06:58:48 PM »
Hell yeah that was cool!! Even has the bike, lo these many years.  :)  TM

Offline stevegrab

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Re: Tell me about your touring experience on small bikes and how it compares
« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2019, 11:48:26 PM »
Cool story on a cold December night.
Steve Grabowski - Northern OH Asst Director
2014 Interceptor, 98 VFR, 99 Triumph Sprint ST, 06 Ninja 650

 

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