Technique and elaborations Tue 10 April 2018

I WANT MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO: WHICH ENDURO BIKE SHOULD I BUY?

Hi everyone!
At the end of August, when I came home from my trip to Iceland, I was left with a taste for long range enduro adventures that wouldn’t leave me.
So, for some months now, I’ve been discovering how the time that elapses from the sentences “I want to buy a motorcycle” and “I bought a motorcycle”, is full of dreams, wishes and fits of rage, but, above all, this time is usually too darn long.
I think the limbo one endures until the coveted transfer of ownership, can be summarized with the story of my last six months.

PHASE 1: I WANT THEM ALL!
The first week (but, mind you, for some this phase of the illness may last even after the purchase) you see yourself on every motorcycle: from the most popular to the most impossible!
Every day of that week the same story:
As you wake up in the morning you are back in the 90s! You see yourself in Mauritania passing a Gilera RC600 while riding a Cagiva, strictly Lucky Strike; in the afternoon you come to your senses and lean towards a BMW: more human, suitable for two-up riding and for riding to work; after dinner, you lay on the couch, find a video on YouTube of Giovanni Sala on the Ezberg and you only want a KTM Super Enduro, but when you open your wallet you understand that the only possible choice is a Benelli. This loop of wishes goes on until you decide to go to bed but, while you sleep, you dream of the shiny new queen: the Honda Africa Queen CRF1000 Rally.

PHASE 2: DO I REALLY NEED IT?
As the “purchase hormone” wears off, you understand how much your dream costs and start asking yourself if it is worth it …
Perfect! Google here comes to your aid: you compulsively start to search for itineraries, “liking” all the tour planners you find on FB, discovering destinations and places to go that if only the teacher in elementary school had told that you could visit these places on a motorcycle, you would have studied geography too!
In no time you convince yourself that the motorcycle will be not only useful but - and now you are drooling - NECESSARY!  

PHASE 3: THE DEAL OF MY LIFE IS ON THE WEB
The duration of this phase of the illness depends on the patience of the patient, but it usually ends after a long search, when you find what you like, at the lowest price ever, in excellent conditions, only to have it snatched from under your nose in the space of an afternoon!
So now you understand that you will buy your motorcycle at whatever price because you will never find another one like the one you lost, as though it was your girlfriend who got snatched!

PHASE 4: THE PURCHASE
Unfortunately, I haven’t lived this phase yet, but I assume it ends happily with an endless list of places written in your personal road book and the awareness that from that point on you will have to go to work to pay for it, for you surely bought it at a price double your initial budget because it was so beautiful … and you were so in love!

SUSPENSIONS
If, as said above, tires connect our thoughts to the roadbed, suspensions transmit the road to our wrists and butt and they certainly characterized a motorcycle, transforming it in a touring bike rather than an off-road rock biter.
Usually, manufacturers differentiate their models with versions more suitable for off-road, offering lengthened suspensions and new hydraulics.
For more challenging off-road, the suspension travel should be around 250 mm which inevitably makes riding on paved roads less fun and less accurate and, above all, brings the seat at a prohibitive height for maneuvering (even in off-road) for people shorter than 1.80m.
In these last years, technology made much progress in this field and the introduction of active and semi-active suspensions allow an agility unthinkable a few years ago; so, yes, electronics is bad in the mind of purists, but it is absolutely convenient if you want your cake and eat it too!

WEIGHT
Those who know me are aware that I feel very strongly about this issue …. there is nothing to be done: a light motorcycle is cool, maneuverable, fast and a godsend off-road.
So, if you plan to ride off-road with a certain frequency, you should prefer 10 kg less to 10 hp more but, mainly, make sure that the kilos are well distributed!
The position of the center of gravity multiplies or diminishes the weight. Bikes of the same weight can be completely different to drive and unfortunately there is no remedy for this: if you are torn between two models you should test ride them in person to evaluate the differences.

LUGGAGE
If long-range tours are your dream, make sure that the bike can be equipped with reliable luggage holders and has a strong frame to support them; for trips longer than one week, cases are a must; if instead your typical trip focuses on woods, mud and maybe a tent, then you won’t need a lot of clean underwear and you will be forced to use soft bags secured with rubber belts, so luggage will take second place since whatever solution won’t be comfortable.

TANK/MILEAGE
In the old single-cylinder bikes of the 80s (Ténéré, XT, Big, etc.), the big tank was a distinctive characteristic, a display of their desert pedigree.
Nowadays, a tank that holds more than 30 liters makes no sense, in my opinion; thanks to globalization gas can always be found not very far way practically everywhere.
With a minimum mileage of 200-250 km off-road (mind you, not on-road!) you can tour any part of the world without big problems.

ENGINE
I intentionally left the engine as last, because the mechanical excellence achieved is such that all engines have more than enough power for “dual” use.
We can affirm that a V engine is narrower and has a smaller transversal footprint that facilitates off-road riding, but all this is relative since even KTM, that made a brand of the V, offers the forward-facing two-cylinder 790, as the excellent Africa Twin and the long-awaited Yamaha T7.
So again, the only distinction is use: if off-road prevails, treatability and smaller displacement are preferable to full displacement and horsepower; on the other hand, in two-up trips with luggage, power could be the parameter to consider.
One last comment is on a layout that seems to have disappeared from the “dual” concept: the single-cylinder! Up to the early 90s, it was a prerogative of the all-around enduros; today it may be considered dated and uncomfortable on long trips but, in case off-road is the main use, and if you are not tall, the single-cylinder has no rivals weight- and treatability-wise.

MAINTENANCE AND RELIABILITY
Last but not least, reliability and maintenance routines, two aspects that should be taken for granted on bikes used to tour remote places.
Today’s machines, even if much more sophisticated than ten years ago, guarantee a certain mileage (especially the multi-cylinder bikes).
The best way to achieve the design specifications given by engineers is to properly maintain the bike, but this is not important when you are still choosing the bike, it will be when you are planning your trip!

CONCLUSION
At the end I will buy a KTM 690 with the objective of making it a Rally Replica, because I like enduro, I don’t have the physique to ride a twin-cylinder on challenging off-road and I prefer to suffer on paved roads rather than losing the possibility of meandering the center regions of Italy; I will mount the Rally Replica kit for the most irrational reason of all: I don’t have Walkner’s wrist, but let me at least have the bike!
Finally, you clearly cannot have your cake and eat it too, the choice of the right machine is up to you and nowadays the market is helping as it never did before! 

Text: Dario Lupini
Photos: Archivio DE