Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Why I am buying it.

Hello, here is the beginning of an infrequently updated blog on the new vstrom 650 (which some call the wee-strom, but I won’t).  Have three posts up, this one, first impressions, and things I plan to do - will probably only update it as I buy a new bit to report on it - so if you are interested then click on follow because it might be months before that happens.

I have recently sold my 96 Tenere XTZ 660, and was thinking for a long time about getting the new one (I love the look of the new model) as I did 45000 k’s on the old one without a hitch - and it had 30k on the clock when I bought it. New Tenere fantasies bought to a halt by the fact I am about to get married. In stature she is kind of like an Ewok, except shorter, so I figured I’d need to get something that is not as ridiculously tall as the new Tenere so there was a chance I could eventually talk her into getting on it with me. Comfortable seating was a high priority for the same reason.

Thought about the F800GS and also the Tiger 800 XC - both of which are far sexier bikes than the Vstrom - problem is that here in Australia a new F800GS is 19,300 ride away, the Tiger 800XC (ABS) is 18,950 ride away, and the brand new Vstrom was: 11,500 ride away (I imagine it will be cheaper shortly, but I am getting one of the first ones). They are better bikes, but 8000 dollars better? Not so sure.

Also thought about a DR650 - if I was still single that would have probably been what I ended up on - a big tank and a screen and you are pretty much ready to go - but again, the ewok factor prevented me going for the DR.

A dark horse contender was the Scrambler - but luggage would be a problem, wind, fuel, and the high pipes would have to go immediately. I know they have a bit of a rep of being just about the look, but I read on some site about some Kiwi’s riding one all over the place off road, and plainly anything a Kiwi can manage an Australian can do as well :)

Have been impressed with the reliability of the two other Suzuki’s I’ve owned (DR250 and GSXF750), so I started thinking about the Vstrom - put reasonable offers on a couple of second hand ones, but neither of them would budge on price and then the new one came out, I liked the look of it, it got good reviews, so I thought I’d wait.

In a perfect world I would get something more dirt orientated because my favourite kind of riding is big 50/50 dirt/road tours (South Island NZ, Tasmania, Central Queensland, North East Victoria) - but in addition to fun riding I also clock up about 10-15000 k’s a year in city commuting - so I figured a more road biased ride might be a nice change. The amount of commuter work I have to do on the bike is also what kept me away from anything too exotic and raw like a KTM. Plus, again, the ewok question.

I reckon, but don’t know yet, that I will be able to do around 70-80% of the roads I have done on the Tenere (and hired Dakars, DRZ’s, XT’s) on the V-Strom, so long as I don’t try and chuck it around too much (or maybe at all) - get a set of knobs and treat it more like a tractor than a jeep. We’ll see.

Why not something bigger?
Because I spent the entire time watching Long Way Round wondering what the hell they were doing on huge GS’s when they obviously would have had so much more fun on Dakar 650’s, and spent so much less time busting stomach muscles trying to pick them up. That German nutter they had filming for them seemed to cope with life better on the dodgy Russian two-stroke he was on at one point than on the big GS. Briefly thought about a second hand 1150, which you can pick up for around what I am paying for a Suzuki, but they are just too big.
Finally, I’ve not had Suzuki or Yamaha let me down with reliability - I know people do big k’s on BMW’s and while the important stuff (engine, transmission) seems bullet proof, on most rides I’ve been on with guys on German bikes there has often been some kind of “minor” mechanical drama which threatened to be a show-stopper (oil spurting everywhere because of some cheap part, coolant squirting out somewhere it shouldn’t, a chain that won’t adjust, pogo stick forks, panniers that have to be repaired with bootlaces, rope, gaffer tape).

Why new?
Because I am about to get married and will now be spending my money on things like house deposit, strollers, “accent pillows.” So don’t know when I’ll be able to buy a bike again - put the deposit down with two weeks to spare :)

Why not wait a few months until there are more of them around and they get a bit cheaper?
See previous point.

Why dirt at all?
I like that kind of riding. Also, around town, they are easier to ride than road bikes - thinner, lighter, easier to chuck around, easier to bump over gutters with, you’re taller and can see over cars - and you’re more visible to drivers. I reckon the low down torquey power of dual sport bikes is better real-world power than outright GSXR horses (certainly in traffic). Even out on rides on public roads they are often quicker than big road bikes - you are not spending half your time trying to rein them in. One trip around Tasmania was pure tar because I was with a mate on a VTR1000 - I was on the Tenere and I spent half the time waiting for him to catch up - partly I am a more experienced rider, but I think that on those kind of tight windy roads I would have been faster on the Tenere than if I had been on the VTR myself. It’s just so much easier to handle the bike and enjoy yourself when you are not worried about breaking traction on the rear or slinging yourself into the side of a hill because you twist the throttle a couple of millimetres too far. I’d rather be on a bike where the limiting factor is the bike, not my lack of freakish alien reflexes.

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