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Beginner seeking help

This topic has 9 replies, 8 voices, and was last updated 3 years, 10 months ago by AvatarMichael.
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    I am pretty new to motorcycles but do have some experience with different types manual transmissions via my car, brother’s four-wheeler, etc, so I’m not 100% virgin to the idea. I am looking to buy my first bike on the cheap (i.e. used) and just hoping for some tips about general things to look for as to not get taken. In my head the ideal bike would seem to be some type of cross between a dirtbike and small road bike, if such a thing exists. The plan eventually (in the not too distant future) is an extended road trip so I see lots of road hours and iffy roads in the future. Basically, I want a bike or brand that’s known to be tough and durable, high mileage, won’t break down easily and will be a reliable starter, could handle highways or interstate as well as roads messy with potholes. Looks, the Harley rumble, color, etc, are pretty much at the bottom of the list. Any advice is apreciated as to CC’s recommended, brands or models, things to look out for (or to look for) when buying used, etc, to get my head thinking a bit more concretely about what to have my eye on.


    If it weren’t for the fact that you mentioned highway miles as being a priority I’d recommend the DR-Z400SM by Suzuki. Excellent bike, but sucks on the highway due to the uncomfortable seat.

    Honestly the only bikes that sound like they meet all your requirements are the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom and Kawasaki Versys, both of which are on the upper edge of what is considered a beginner bike and what isn’t You could start out on them but you’d have a much steeper learning curve than people who started out on smaller bikes. They do everything you said you require of a bike though, and they do it well.


    Cross between a dirt bike and a small street bike = dualsport.

    If you’re tall enough – with a 32″ or longer inseam – Kawasaki KLR650 and Suzuki DR650 are two very good dualsports that are suitable for beginners due to their manageable power, good handling, and upright ergonomics. Experienced riders ride them across the country (on and off pavement) due to their toughness and reliability.


    Unless you know exactly what bike you want and then shop and search for it for possibly a very long time, buying used limits your ability to establish the make model and year in advance. It might be best to establish a criteria first, then consider a wider range of motorcycles that fit some or all of that criteria.

    Your initial bucket list is:
    – Cheap
    – Small
    – Suited to long rides over desolate and/or poorly maintained roadways
    – Extremely reliable.

    So lets start with ‘cheap’ because that ones a killer !
    Cheap used motorcycles need service, parts or both, so unless the experience you talk of is with fixing those cars and quads ?:| Cheap bikes generally need parts and labor to render reliable for long distances over bad roads. You need an old bike that has not seen a lot of wear.

    Small: is great for learning:) great for dirt:) … not so good for distance:(

    Suitable for long distance rides over crap roads, may as well group in bulletproof reliability with this one ! Basically you are looking for a cheap bike capable of winning the Dakar Rally. Lets start with the list of Dakar Rally winning motorcycles since 1979, because it’s entertaining if not educational :) Yamaha XT500, BMW GS800R, Honda XL500R, BMW GS980R, Honda NXR750V, Cagiva Elefant 900, Yamaha YZE750T, Yamaha YZE850T, BMW F650RR, KTM LC4 660R, KTM LC8 950R, KTM 690 Rally.
    …That’s the whole list, 31 years of racing boils down to only 12 winning models !

    Shorten the list to the oldest, small motorcycles: Yamaha XT500 (1979&1980) and Honda XL500R (1982) The rest of the list is big and expensive, so I think we have your short list. You’re looking for an early 80’s 500cc Enduro that has spent most of it’s life parked in a nice garage.


    get an sv… it’ll do dirt! :-P

    Dan Sewell getting 4th place on his SV at a reno fernley dirt race. notice the front tire… it’s a slick… :-O


    +1 on SV650s

    I personally ride semi-slick on the dirt.. even with hard luggage, bike’s a nice beginner ride and as your skills improves, it will continue to serve well:



    What you are looking for is a dual-sport, some times called enduro.

    Define cheap.

    Its not hard to find decent a DR650 or KLR650 for under $3000. A DRZ400 usually run a little more but plenty exist.
    Older or smaller bikes may be found for less and are better off road but will struggle with highspeed highways or be uncomfortable. XT225, TW200, DR200se, XT350, DR350, XR400, etc. Searching for dual sport or enduro on craigslist will often turn up a few.



    In my opinion, the bikes you should be looking at used to be call enduro bikes…now called dual sport…

    If you are planning hiway, the Suzuki DR400S should be a nice starter…enough power to keep you entertained and has semi-knobbies so it will be good in dirt/loose gravel roads…the Suzuki DL650 (Wee Strom) would also be a good one…just depends on whether it will be more dirt, or more pavement…the DL650 is more street oriented, but okay on gravel…the DR400S is more dirt oriented, but has enough power to do hiway…the comfort issue that was mentioned can be solved with aftermarket seats, chances are you can find one that is already outfitted. Honda has the XR650 that will do it as well…the other Japanese makers also have their version…the Versys that was mentioned is more street oriented than the Wee Strom, with sport bike tires…street tires can be a little spooky on gravel…that’s why I didn’t mention the Super Moto version of the DR400S…the DR400SM, which has sport bike tires and brakes…the brakes will be a lot more “grabby” than you will want in the dirt…

    If it is mostly rough paved roads, the Versys and Wee Strom are probably the best choices followed by the DR400SM…you just have to decide what type of riding you will be doing…you will want a bike that is set up mostly for that type of riding…

    All of these bikes will fit you reliability requirement, along with the KLR650 from Kawasaki…but most of these bikes have a 32″ or higher seat height.

    As for the manual transmission experience you have, it will definatly be helpful, but you will still have to get used to the clutch being your left hand in panic situations…I dropped my bike because of that…grabbed a handful of brakes and forgot the clutch…I was on gravel and the back end just slid out on me, then I realized the clutch was out…pulled it and I got pitched over the bike…what is called a high side…funny to see, but sucks because you dropped you bike…potential damage…I was lucky, just scratches and bruised ego…

    Good luck.

    Repo Dan

    If your under 200 pounds, The Yamaha Xt350 is a fun bike!! I’m 6’1, And 280lbs and LOVE mine !!. I run 55/60mph and do it for long periods of time and distances without any issues… I change the oil every 2500 miles and use 20% Lucas Oil Additive in the oil . Keeps it shifting smooth and also helps it run a little cooler. We put 1500 miles on it one week on a Road Trip and other than a sore butt, I loved the trip. Ohh. And I was carrying almost 150lbs of camping/traveling gear !!!. Invest in GOOD KNOBBY TIRES that are DOT Approved, The basic Enduro tires aren’t very stable in the Sand !!. Do NOT ever put street tires on a DUALSPORT unless you wanna eat dirt !!. Tires are worth the extra investment !!!. Have Fun.


    I agree with you about XT 350. It's my first bike that I bought two months ago, and am very pleased. Plenty of power for my 158 lb. small frame. Though it is rather tall for me since I am only 5'7", but I make it work by always wearing my thick sole hiking shoes.

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