Bike Choice

As much as people say they choose a motorbike for reasons like as it has more power, a magazine said it had a feature that was better than the competition or whatever, the real reason they eventually choose it is some kind of kinship they have with it. Or they think it makes them look cool. This is the journey to my spirit animal bike.

2016 Honda Africa Twin DCT
2016 Honda Africa Twin DCT

XR650L – The Red Pig


I decided that a Honda XR650L was the best thing I could choose. I had this image of myself on a dirty old single cylinder with tools rattling in bags loosely strapped to the back jangling away to the buzz of that coffee can sized piston. It would have minor breakdowns and I would get all manly, rejetting the carb, changing swingarm bearings and tipping it over to get that last drop of fuel from out of the safari tank that I had judiciously installed. The tank and a raft of other much needed accessories or modifications like “oh, of course it needs the euro mod 2nd and 5th gear mod” I would say to my poor partner who is already sick of motorbike talk. “Seat needs changing, oh and the front mudguard because of the wind, speaking of which a bikini fairing and the GPS mount behind it with hand-guards…”. You quickly get the picture.

I would guess this went on for about two or three weeks. Obsessively reading every scrap about the XR650L and all it’s competitors. The crunch came when I read about the cush drive. Years ago I realised bikes had rubber bumpers in the rear wheel when fiddling with my VFR400 and thinking “why the hell would you stick rubber in there?”. It seems if you don’t and you ride the big single cylinder on the road for any distance before it eats that lovingly installed 2nd and 5th gear you expensively sourced from a european scrapper. My trip involves about 10 days of simply blatting to and from the start of the ‘actual’ trip on very hard concrete highway.

CRF250L – Add Lightness

CRF250L at Chiswick
CRF250L, that’ll do it!

How about a CRF250L? Greeeat! Super capable light and lovely;  you’ve always had a soft spot for them. You even test rode one in the UK and nearly bought two (in case one got a puncture1) in Thailand but then got Dengue Fever and had to leave. Go on, it’s really cheap and they have them at most of the dealers. You could just slap your credit card down and say ‘I’ll have one of your lovely 250s please. No fiddling with carburettors (fuel injected) and very few mods to do.

So cool that they are in that price bracket that means that there is loads of leeway for farkles and that “oh my god my bike has been stolen” moment turns into “oh well my credit card is going to be maxxed” to replace it rather than “I’m going to be paying off a loan for the next twelve years for a bike some other bastard is riding.

Thing is it’s a single cylinder with a tiny engine so..  No Jason, think about the highway. Arse. NEXT!

CB500X Adventure – Sensible Unavailable

Aaah, but what about the CB500X eh? Yeeeah? It’s pretty cool, but it’s kinda a dressed up naked street bike isn’t it? Well, it is, but there is a RRP-CB500X-Adventure-ffantastic company in the UK that made a kit to build it into the most amazing little adventure bike… evah! That lady also did the whole TAT on it and did an Iron Butt on the way back, so no moaning about riding on the highway! It’s the very sensible option for people who don’t really care about the macho willy waving exercise that BMW, KTM and Ducati are competing in. The thing has been very well tested and is a sensible choice, plus you get to do the upgrades yourself. The other cool thing is that you can pick up a second hand bike that has been run in by someone tottering around the city on his way to work. No running in worries, some nice scratches on it so there is no ‘first sullying’ anxiety; that feeling you had at school wearing nice shiny shoes before the other kids stomped an initiation into them and they lost all their newness. So as an idea for my bike it’s a fantastic option Great! I’ll order…

…no you won’t because Rally Raid don’t have any wheels and won’t for months. Bugger.

2016 Africa Twin – Unicorn Poo

What about the *whispers* new Africa Twin that you have been denying even exists because new bikes are for other people who buy such things? New…. A new bike. As in new? Don’t be silly you couldn’t afford that. So I read everything that has ever been published about them and realise it is the most amazing-cheap for the money-best for off road-great on the road bike on the planet. So I go to the dealer.

I don’t even get the word ‘Twin’ out of my mouth before Christina at Excel Moto cuts me off. “They have been sold out since the bike show and we have nearly sold our quota for next year”. Oh. You know that sinking feeling you get when you’ve had the first lick of your ice cream and you look away, returning to the slow motion view of your pistachio falling to the seagul poo encrusted broad-walk? Yeah? That’s how I felt at that point. I couldn’t possibly afford it, but even the remotest possibility of it happening was gone. At that point Ali, the big cheese, walks past upon hearing ‘Africa’ and halts. Christina mentions that she was explaining they are rarer than a gold toe2 and that there were none in existence. Ali does that finger to lip thing people do when they have had an idea, disappears then comes back with some paperwork. It appears as if one magically appeared. I think someone ordered one and backed out. It is a Silver one with the Dual Clutch gearbox (more on that later).

After all that I go home and tell Anne the story. Without the slightest pause she says “get it, go there tomorrow and put a deposit on it”.

Right, okay. I’m in the very strange position where my better half is encouraging me to do something that, normally, blokes try to justify or hide from their partner. I was the unsure one. I mean, it’s a shed load of cash and I have never bought anything near this expensive.

$500 down and the place in the line is mine. The dealer confirmed I’d get it for the trip and even said I could be there for the ‘unboxing’. I’m so excited I have actually lost sleep over it.

You can read my post-trip feelings about the bike here

1.How is a CRF250L less than half the price in Thailand than the UK or North America?
2.The phrase was actually uttered by an insurance agent when I was a student trying to get my £3K bicycle insured. “It’s like a gold toe, they just don’t exist”


Wild Meanderings on Wheels