......of Adventure Tourers!
I've owned 54 bikes in the last 35 years. The last few years have been on Adventure Tourers/Big Trailies....so I've put together a definitive review from an owner's POV.
I'm not a journalist, so don't expect literary eloquence or performance figures. It's just an honest assessment of how I found each bike.
The bikes are:
Honda Transalp XL650
Suzuki V-Strom DL650
Suzuki V-Strom DL1000
Firstly the Yamaha XT600E
Now discontinued and been replaced by the more motard styled XT660. It's solid, old tech, and no frills. It's vibey, the seat will give you much grief, and two up is a struggle due to limited power. But it's fun! It's also pretty much bulletproof and will quite happily accept being thrashed day after day with no complaint whatsoever. Fuel consumption about 55-60mpg.
It's a testimony to the model that so many of them are still running now after over 20 years in service, and they still have a huge following in Europe.
For a no nonsense workhorse....this is the bike.
As you all know, this is pretty much an 80's tech bike...with just a few enhancements over the years.
In spite of being built in Spain, the build quality is still good. It has a solid feel to it and is reasonably comfortable and smooth. For a bike that gets panned as being boring, it's a very enjoyable riding experience. Handling is fairly good once you ditch the stock Trailwings, and the brakes do their job.
The TA has a fairly flat power curve with no great surprises, but you will have to work harder with a pillion.
Fuel consumption is around 50mpg.
It has a degree
of offroad ability, but that's down to the rider more than anything else.
It starts first time everytime, and will do whatever you want of it. Utterly reliable, robust...basically you could trust your life to it.
Unfortunately, like a lot of Hondas, it does lack a bit of zest and character....basically it's a bike that's difficult to get too emotional about.
You can't fault any part of it (except the stock tyres).....and it does exactly what it says on the tin!
But it's a bit like a dowdy wife who has no spark....it does everything you want, but there's something
I sold the Transalp after I had a test run on the V-Strom DL650
...and I was blown away by it!
What Suzuki have very cleverly done is to look at the dated Transalp, and the expanding Dualsport market, and set out to build a Transalp beater. And in most respects they've succeeded by a very wide margin.
It's quicker (by a lot), it's smoother, it handles better (a lot better), it stops better, it's more comfortable, it returns over 55mpg easily, it's fun....and you want to ride it! All the time!
The motor is it's strong point....it's an absolute gem!
Offroad ability? Depends on the rider......I know guys have run them through swamps and rivers...but rather them than me!
The only drawback is the design of the fairing and screen. Up to 65 mph on rural country roads, the bike is a dream. Get it out on the open major roads and it becomes a nightmare.
The buffeting and turbulence is not just a distraction, it starts to become a safety issue. And the pillion doesn't escape it either....both your heads feel like they're being smacked by a wet towel until you drop your speed.
I tried different screen positions, I tried spacers to change the angle, I even put a screen that was huge on it. The problem was still there to varying degrees, and in the end, I'd adjusted the screen so many times that the plastic lugs on the dash had snapped and it was just about hanging in place. Not good! So I sold it!
And I bought a TDM900
Firstly I'd say that this is NOT an adventure tourer....it's a road bike. But some mags tend to put them in this category due to the styling, so I've included it here.
What can I say......other than I only had it 2 weeks!
I just didn't like it at all....motor was superb and brakes were awesome, and incredible fuel consumption at around 60mpg. But it had a FI hesitation problem, clunky gearbox, I found it very uncomfortable after the Strom, and I really didn't like the handling. I'm not saying it was bad, but it just didn't suit me at all due to it's slow steering, and tendency to want to run wide on bends. After the Strom it felt like a barge....so it had to go!
And I got a Yamaha XT660R.
This is the latest generation in the long running XT series....but radically different to it's predecessors!
It's now got fuel injection and liquid cooling, and despite being considerably quicker than previous versions, it's still maintained the traditional "oldschool" XT feeling.
The pickup is now very sharp and it wants to wheelie pretty much at will. It's light, and despite only having a single disc up front, it still stops pretty well.
Where this bike really stands out is the backroad handling. The whole setup is so precise that on rural bumpy backroads it will take a very capable rider on any other type of bike to just be able to keep the XT in sight. In this environment it's a revelation....and you'll have a lot of fun.
Offroad capability? I've always maintained that it's a Motard dressed like a DualSport, and I still believe that. But with a decent bashplate you'll get a lot further than the Strom will, plus it's considerably lighter than both the Strom and the TA so there is more potential there.
Fuel ecomomy is around 60mpg, and for this style of bike it's reasonably comfortable...especially compared to the old XT's. But it's a long way behind the Strom in this respect.
Then I moved to Spain....sold the XT...and bought a BMW R1150GS!
This was my first BMW, and my first non-Japanese bike since 1972. And it really was a leap of faith to buy this cos I had my doubts on reliability.
So...what was it like? Truthfully.....I loved it! A bike this ugly, this heavy, and this old-tech, has no right to be this good.
Supremely comfortable, amazing suspension, great brakes, and built like a tank. Riding it, you felt like you were sitting in an armchair on the roof of somebody's car. The thing was just so planted and stable at speed it was unreal....like being on a monorail. On tighter narrower roads you had to give a lot more steering input to get it round, but once you got used to it's quirks it was no problem.
The motor ran reasonably smoothly for a Beemer, although the box was a bit clunky till you got used to pre-loading the lever, and it didn't use a drop of oil in 3.5K miles.
Why did I sell it if it was so good? Simply....I just couldn't trust it as I would a Jap bike. I want to hit the button and go, and as it was a 2000 bike and just coming out of dealer warranty, I wasn't going to take any chances with major repair bills.
I also couldn't get my head round strange things like using mineral oil in a motor to stop oil consumption, and not warming the bike up in case the oil sight window blows out. (Some owners carry a spare sight glass with them)
The final straw was when I got lost in the mountains of the Sierra de Segura in inland Spain. I parked up and I thought to myself....you don't know where you are, you have limited language skills, no GPS, you haven't seen another person for 20 minutes, your mobile phone can't get a signal.....and you're riding a Beemer! You shouldn't be living on the edge at 52!
So....the Beemer went and was replaced with a V-Strom DL1000
because you need a big bike in this country.
Very, very similar to the 650, so everything that goes for the little one applied here, except it has a lot more grunt. The motor doesn't seem as smooth as the little one though.
You can ride it all day, and have no worries....but it does lack the high speed stability of the Beemer.
Buffeting? None of these bikes have good aerodynamics and to some degree they're all afflicted by this. But the 1000 (maybe because it has a higher seat) doesn't give me the same grief as the 650 did. If it does, there's a lot more options to remedy it than there was in the past.
I like it....it's ideal for Spain and no overheating concerns as I had with the Beemer...it's 35 degrees and rising now at noon.
So....which one's the best?
Well...if we were comparing 600cc sportsbikes it would be a lot easier as they're all designed to do the same thing...and that's to go fast.
But these bikes are not. Even though they're competing in the same market sector, they're all radically different. And each of them can do different things better than the others.
The best way to summarise is to say....take the DL1000 motor and gearbox, the smoothness of the DL650, the backroad handling of the XT660, the build quality, suspension, stability and comfort of the Beemer....and put it in one package!
Then you've got a bike that's ready to take on the world! Weather permitting! :lol: