Is it too cliche to say, "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it?"
Hey, it's the truth. This business started by riding and researching motorcycle routes, and it continues to grow partially due to such efforts. Now in eastern Europe this past week, riding the Dolomites of northern Italy and the Alps of Austria and Slovenia, I'd say RIDE Adventures will have more to offer soon!
Steve Atwill, a Repeat Customer of RIDE Adventures joined me for the first 4-5 days of this research project which was just really just a motorcycle & GPS rental starting in Zagreb, Croatia. We're also doing an actual guided motorcycle tour offered by one of the local operators, but that's down through Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro before circling back to Zagreb.
What a ride though through the Dolomites and Alps though! Unseasonably heavy rains hampered things a bit, but didn't stop us from crossing EU borders without a problem, whizzing along through beautiful valley settings, and staying at, dare I say, some of the "charming" Gastof's typical in this region.
While I'm obviously a proponent of the guided motorcycle tour format, there's something to be said about the self-guided experiences we offer as well. In this central/eastern European region, you can have so much fun if you just arrange good bike (I'm riding the BMW R1200GS,) a Garmin Zumo or similar GPS, and set the "Avoidances" to keep you off main Interstates, Highways, and Toll-Roads. These tiny villages in Austria and Slovenia are just picture-perfect, with a "Gasthaus" or Bed & Breakfast-type option available on nearly every road. It's really easy to travel here, guided or self-guided.
A real highlight (fortunately as the weather cleared for us a bit was the "Nockalm Road" or "Nockalmstrasse" named for the Nockbergs, or uniquely shaped small mountains that line the National Park here. Like they say, it's motorcycle paradise! There's a small fee of about 10 Euros to enter the 34km stretch of twisties, and as such, we could tell some riders were essentially "lapping it" by going back and forth without leaving the road. It never gets terribly high in altitude, or even in the busy season here did the road seem over-packed. Well, if it was packed with anything, it was great scenery and fun twisties.
More on this region soon....we'll have self-guided motorcycle trip or guided tour service to offer you soon. Actually started this blog post a few days ago back in Croatia, and now we're in Sarajevo, Bosnia. What a site, and city rich with history!
In the battle of the Best GPS for Motorcycle Trips, there are a few key reasons why I think it's easy to decide between the various options. As noted in my previous review of The Best Motorcycle GPS, Garmin's Montana GPS unit was a very clear winner amongst 3 other possibilities I tried, and I still think it's a great unit.
More specifically though, how do things play out when we ask "Garmin Montana vs. Oregon?"
Separate but similar designs, they both fall under Garmin's "On the Trail" category for hiking and backpacking types of GPS's. Both units also function with either AA battery or a proprietary NiMH battery that Garmin provides. Based on notions of versatility like this, both have gained popularity amongst motorcycle travelers as well as we continue to find ways to pack light, keep it simple, and not have to depend on nearby retail or shipping options. These GPS units are similar in size, weight, and usability thanks to a touch screen, and both are considered waterproof and extremely rugged for travel needs right out of the box.
In the end, however, these key points should make it obvious why the Montana wins against the Oregon for motorcycle travel:
Mount Type: Do a Google search for "Garmin Oregon Mount" and you'll see pictures of how the unit "snaps" into a simple plastic mold and clasping roller. The problem there is that the integrated clasping roller actually that holds the Oregon is subject to the same bouncing and engine vibrations as the rest of the mold, such that the Oregon could and has popped loose while riding. - On the flipside, Garmin's "Rugged Mount" for the Montana has this separate mechanical switch shown in the picture to the right. By having the locking switch a separate assembly from the rest of the plastic unit, the switch is not subject to the same flexing and vibration that the rest of the mold deals with, and therefore doesn't accidentally pop open. (At least not thus far for me, even on rugged sections of non-paved riding in Patagonia.)
WE SUPPLY THE ROAD BOOK - But you can also use a Garmin on this Peru Fly & Ride package
Charging Method: Both the Montana and the Oregon can be charged by USB cables, which of course is great when you're connected to a wall, computer, or solar panel. The majority of your charging needs will probably be while riding, so for that, nothing beats the convenience of these electrical contacts that match up against Garmin's Rugged Mount. With the Oregon, you'll have to plug in/out the USB charging wire each time you get on/off the bike (for security reasons, if you don't want to leave it on the bike.) If for nothing other than saving time and avoiding monotony, the built-in exterior contacts on the Montana (shown right) are a huge convenience, as you can snap the Montana GPS into its place in 1-2 seconds. Charging begins when you turn the key then.
Screen Size: No brainer here, "bigger is better" when you're looking through sunglasses and possibly a helmet face shield or goggles, trying to follow the route you're on. Not that the Oregon's 3" diagonal (7.6 cm) screen is awkwardly small, but compared to the 4" diagonal (10.2 cm) of the Montana, well...bigger is definitely better. Both units have a touch screen, which I've always found the most convenient and far less likely to have sun glare than the high-gloss screens of a unit like the Garmin 62s. In short, I've never really felt like I struggled to see the screen on the Montana, yet on the Oregon, maybe just a little.
Sure the Montana is slightly heavier (about 120 grams,) but when you've already got a 250-600lb motorcycle, that's hardly a difference. I know, every little bit adds up, but in this case, the choice is easy: Garmin's Montana wins again.
PREFER GUIDED MOTORCYCLE TRIPS? We guide the "Machu Picchu Express" tour in Peru!
Folks it's about time to mention once again a very, VERY important topic with regards to motorcycle safety: Make sure your luggage is strapped or locked to your motorcycle in a way that it can't accidentally fall out of place!
As I talked about in the embedded video, a young couple riding 2-up last Sunday was very fortunate to have avoided worse injury than what they sustained in a bad motorcycle crash. Coming around a beautiful mountainside sweeping turn in Oregon, a simple duffel bag they had strapped to their bike came out of position, slid down into the rear fender area, and jammed up into the back of the bike hard enough to completely "lock" the rear wheel.
Although I didn't actually witness the moment of the crash, I took the photo to the above showing how the bag looked jammed up in the rear of the bike and would estimate that nobody could have recovered from such a surprising jolt like that. It happened at about a 50mph on a right hand sweeping turn, and again, I don't think there's a motorcycle rider in the world that could have handled this without crashing. That point alone is reinforces why we all need to pay attention to this subject.
This "loose luggage" situation actually happened to me before once too, back in 2010 when I was out scouting what would become one of the motorcycle trip packages in Peru that we offer. You can see in the picture below how I actually had a cable lock combined with my tie-down straps when this took place. This combination of strapping and cables wasn't enough to keep my luggage in place though, and at about 65mph on a windy stretch of highway on the way to Cusco, my bags also slid down and got caught up in my KTM's rear wheel, locking it instantly.
Fortunately for me, my incident happened on a straight section of road and there weren't any other vehicles within eyesight. I was able to keep the bike upright, and the only "losses" I sustained were my destroyed luggage and clothes, and the almost fist-sized hole in my rear tire as shown below.
My 2 errors in the above scenario were that:
1) My luggage straps clearly weren't tight enough. As it turned out, I had weakened my strap-tightening hand the day before in a situation where I had to lay my bike down and avoid a serious encounter with an unseen guard gate. My right forearm was badly bruised and swollen, so only after this happened did I realize that my weak hand clearly didn't pull the straps tight enough that morning. (Yes, stupid of me, I probably shouldn't have been riding either.)
2) I was merely using that cable lock you see as a "lock" and not routing the cable in such a way that it would tightly secure the bags to the bike. If you're using a cable lock as I still do most of the time, it should at least be routed in a way that it also tightens your luggage to the motorcycle!
I had the right equipment, I just didn't use it effectively. That being said, let's spell it out clearly:
Motorcycle Luggage "Do's"
- DO feel free to use soft luggage if that's your preference. Systems like the Ortleib duffel bag shown above, or Giant Loop's Saddlebag Systems can be mounted securely if you take the time and effort
- DO use strong, heavy-weight straps like you see in the video and photos
- DO make sure that those straps are pulled very, very tightly!
- DO position the release clamps and ends of the straps in locations where your body or other gear can't accidentally loosen them (not in locations where you or your passenger might accidentally bump them and release the luggage straps)
- DO consider using a cable lock as a back-up for tightness, in addition to what it can mean for security of your belongings
Motorcycle Luggage "Don'ts"
- DON'T use bungee-type cords to secure your luggage unless you are absolutely, 100% certain that they have the strength and ability to remain in tact and keep your luggage in a safe position on your bike
- DON'T use a soft luggage system unless you are 100% certain that you have the strength required to tighten the luggage properly (i.e. it's not just about the straps, it's also about YOUR strength and ability to secure the luggage)
- DON'T rely on "balance" of your luggage to keep it in place, as wind, terrain, and other factors will constantly be changing once you start riding
- DON'T assume that your luggage would simply fall away from the motorcycle if it came loose, as it's extremely likely that such will not be the case
- DON'T take this topic lightly, as you can see the horrible things that can happen if you do!
Back to the situation referred to in this video though, a small group of us had rolled up on the 2 riders and were there to help until the ambulance came. Despite being very badly beaten up from their crash, it appeared that they would be okay, although in quite a bit of pain for a while with broken ribs, and other possible problems. I never got their full names, but wish them the best in recovery from this incident.
I think we all wish this had never happened in the first place, and so this remains my primary message and wishes to you: Take your luggage situation seriously, think about how you're positioning and securing bags and attachments to your motorcycle, and please think about motorcycle safety before, during and after every single ride!
The timing of the installation of my new motorcycle cruise control made by Kaoko couldn't have been better!
Maybe I'm actually getting old finally, as I recently started having some issues with my right forearm while typing, working, and riding my BMW R1200GS Adventure. Communicating with you folks by computer all day and then guiding motorcycle tours like "Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!" means I'm pretty dependant on my hands, so some much needed relief has been in order.
I first tried the Kaoko Throttle Lock (Cruise Control) on our "Patagonia Experience" tour in 2013, but admittedly, didn't really need the "help" at that time. Now that I need it, I'm glad this option exists, as it's providing some much needed forearm relief:
- Easy to use, just tighten the spinning Kaoko lock to create resistance against the throttle tube so that the throttle tube doesn't spin as freely and cable tension isn't constantly pulling & twisting on your wrist
- The amount of resistance is easily adjustable with just your throttle hand, also while riding
- Resistance against turning the lock itself is adjustable with a small grub bolt (look closely, on the top of the lock nut)
- Simple to install, it took about 5-10 minutes on my BMW with the basic instructions included
- The Kaoko Throttle Lock replaces the original handlebar end-weight both in terms of size and weight
- Looks great, and who doesn't love a little farkling?!?!?
Especially when compared to other types of motorcycle cruise controls that I've reviewed, (see this link for one potentially DANGEROUS version), why install a cruise control device that you'll then need to uninstall for safety reasons?
The Kaoko Cruise Control is an easy choice to make. It's out of the way when you want it to be, yet readily accessible at any moment you decide you want some forearm relief. Perfect! (See the original bar end/weight to the right next to the Kaoko Cruise Control prior to installation. The small allen wrench that's included in the background allows you to adjust the resistance with which the cruise control spins/tightens.)
Sure, some new bikes come with electronic cruise controls that may or may not work (ehem, "more electrical problems anyone?") The beauty of the Kaoko cruise control is its simplicity. Combined with the fact that it works and provides such relief, I'd say it's an easy buy!
Riders from around the world have costs to consider when planning their motorcycle trips, and whether they ride near home alone or reserve an adventure through us, they are often surprised at the eventual price tag on their adventures. With only 2 wheels to spin around, a generally lightweight existence, and aerodynamics better than cars and trucks, motorcycles might be one of the most fuel-efficient travel options available…yet somehow, the amount of money involved in fuel alone can be a major factor in the big picture. Why is that?
This topic comes on the heels of many customers this time of year reserving their guided and self-guided motorcycle trips from RIDE Adventures, but at the same time asking “how can it cost that much?” Before explaining the costs further, please let it be known that business is mainly about passion, meeting riders from around the world, and ensuring that they have great travel experiences. So the prices on www.rideadv.com
so much about making a bunch of shareholders mega-rich…it’s more about fun!
Some key factors to consider whether you’re reserving a trip through us, or if you’re just riding alone on your own bike near your home:
NEW ZEALAND MOTORCYCLE TRIPS might be among the most expensive, but see what's included
The Fuel Situation: Sure, motorcycles are typically better than cars or trucks in this regard, but actual motorcycle fuel economy isn’t always what the manufacturer’s sticker on the bike says. For starters, a rider could weigh more than the average weight rider used to calculate economy. Then, once we start adding side panniers and luggage, a tank bag and passenger on the back, a motorcycle’s fuel economy is worsened over what the manufacturer claimed. So fuel costs are still significant chunk of any motorcycle travel budget.
Tires, Chains, and Other Parts – This will of course be different from brand to brand (commence the ridicule and “hating” on each other’s bikes in the comments below now!) We might not have to change motorcycle chains after each trip, but it will need to be done eventually, so a certain percentage of a chain’s life needs to be factored into each trip. Same with the random parts we don’t expect, and little “mishaps” where brake and shift levers and such get broken, as there could be any number of items broken on a motorcycle trip. The funny thing about bikes is that with only 2 wheels, somehow motorcycles tip over more easily than cars do.
Insurance & Registration – Throw these numbers into the mix, cause they certainly are a factor. Especially if you’ve had other “incidents” that hiked up your own insurance premium, in many cases it will cost more to insure a motorcycle than a car. If you’re crossing borders on international motorcycle trips, additional insurance for each country often needs to be purchased while your policy for back home just sits unused. For us when we insure the motorcycles you’ll ride on any or our guided or self-guided trips, please trust us…the insurance is expensive.
– How long do the tires on your bike last? Probably about ¼ of the mileage you’ll get on most cars and trucks. Car and truck tires have the advantage of having 3 other tires around them for starters, not to mention that their entire width, which is often 4 times the width of a motorcycle tire, typically remains on the ground at all times. (The bottom of a passenger vehicle tire is basically flat, right?) Motorcycle tires constantly have to lean left and right to turn, so they are more “rounded” from side to side than car tires and only have a small patch of rubber actually contacting the ground at any given time. That small dollar-bill-sized patch is constantly subject to torque & friction while we’re riding, and with such a little patch handling the demands of your trip, it wears the tires out often in less than 10,000 miles.
PATAGONIA MOTORCYCLE TRIPS come with a high cost, but very high reward as well!
Overall Purchase Price: Let’s not forget the original price tag on these machines! Whether purchased outright or financed through a banking service, many bikes cost more than a university education. With regards to the price of bikes in other countries and why rental rates can be so high, please note that for example, BMW motorcycles cost about twice as much in South America as they do in the U.S.
I guess the point of all this was not only to help you budget ahead of time for your motorcycle trips that you do on your own, but also explain why the prices on www.rideadv.com are what they are. We love what we do though, so let us know when you’re ready to book your next great motorcycle adventure!
Motorcycle Gear to Protect Knees: Fluid Pro Knee Brace by Alpinestars
Following news that Ryan Villopoto is "out" for the 2014 AMA Pro Motocross season, it's time to remind you...protect those knees!
Now, I'm not about to tell you that the latest protection I've been wearing from Alpinestars would have saved Villopoto from having go through surgery and miss the 2014 season. Heck, I'm not even going to suggest that adventure riders ever put ourselves through the physical demands that riders like Villopoto do. What I am going to suggest is that, even for everyday casual motorcycle riders, the Fluid Pro Knee Brace from Alpinestars could make a huge difference for you someday.
I just returned to the U.S. after 4 months of working on motorcycle tours like "Discover Colombia" and "Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!" and have nothing but good things to report from my first test of the Fluid Pro Braces. Although I had used the Alpinestars B2 Carbon Brace and 2 versions of their Bionic SX Kneeguards previously, the Fluid Pro's are now my favorite because:
Total Comfort - More so than with the aforementioned knee brace models, I've been completely comfortable wearing the Fluid Pro's whether I'm riding, standing, or walking in them. Don't tease me for mentioning this as such an important point first, though. I usually put them on about 5 minutes after I wake up, and could be wearing them for 10-12 hours or more on the longer riding days of our motorcycle trips. Anything that is a nuisance or even a "distraction" during motorcycle travel can pose a serious safety issue, so it's important that protective gear like this be comfortable. They don't bind, slip out of place, or do anything to distract me. It's as though they are "Fluid" like the name suggests.
Excellent Protection - It doesn't happen often (fortunately) but I have had a crash from time to time. My most recent incident actually involved another rider crashing into the back of me while on a Patagonia tour, and I found myself on the ground before I even knew what had happened. Despite my BMW R1200GSA landing on my leg and the rest of my body taking a significant impact, I simply stood up, brushed myself off, and had to wait 10 minutes or so for the "daze" in my head to clear. Again, that's with a 550+ pound motorcycle that could have done a LOT more damage to my left leg had I only been wearing the foam/rubber padding that comes in most motorcycle pants. Many of us tend to think of "Impact" or "Twisting" being the major factors for knee damage while motorcycle riding. Almost certainly though, I have the rigid shape and construction of the Fluid Pro Knee Brace to thank for keeping me from heading to the hospital and/or surgery due to a crushed knee. (Certainly worth noting here is that I was also wearing other protective gear from Alpinestars that I strongly recommend. You can see which gear on this free whitepaper download.)
CLICK HERE TO SEE the Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia tour where the crash happened
Easy On, Easy Off - Out of 4 models of knee braces I've tried, the Fluid Pro's have the best system for taking them on and off. Once I went through an initial "fitting" and adjustment of the straps, I found that the 2 center straps are the only ones I need to touch when getting geared up for the day. See the 2 red button-clips on the photo to the right? I just slide my leg down through the brace, plug those clips in, and that's it! Pre-adjusted and fitted for me, I can put them both on in about 10 seconds each day instead of having to play with velcro or other factors.
Fair Price - How much do the Fluid Pro's cost? Less than your knees. Enough said. Wear them.
RIDE Adventures doesn't sell protective gear, we sell motorcycle tours & rentals. So my motivation for writing this product review is simply to help keep you safe. Well, part of what motivates me might be that you'll stay safe and healthy enough to take one of the motorcycle trips we offer, but hey, can you think of a better "win, win" situation for everyone? When you ride, please think about your safety, and make the investment in the right protective motorcycle gear!
CLICK HERE TO SEE the Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia tour where the crash happened
As if finding the time & money for a major motorcycle trip isn’t enough of a challenge, perfecting your gear selection and packing strategy is a whole other project. We’ve posted articles and free whitepaper downloads in the past about “How to Pack for Your Motorcycle Trip,” and the “Motorcycle Trip Checklist,” but one item specifically worth mentioning is footwear. In particular, sandals made by Keen are what you should know about.
Only 3 “Footwear” related items are allowed with me when I'm guiding or researching motorcycle trips:
1) My Alpinestars Tech 10 Boots – Still fantastic and loving them after 2 years. Of course I really just use them for riding, which could be 4-12 hours per day of comfort, small walks, etc.
2) Running Shoes - As I try to do more than sit on the bike and in front of the computer when I’m traveling, I still run a few miles every other day or so.
3) My Keen Sandals - Take away every hour I spend wearing #1 and #2 above, and the balance of my life is spent wearing my Keen’s. It feels as though I live in them, and that’s just fine by me!
What do I mean by saying I “live” in my Keen’s? In this rider’s opinion, the off-bike experiences we enjoy are as important in adventure riding as the riding itself. For example, when heading out to dinner after a long day’s ride I don’t look for fancy restaurants any more than they look for me. So the fact that the Keen’s mostly cover my feet means they’re sufficient for eating at some great, yet casual restaurants and far better than showing up in my stinky running shoes or motorcycle boots.
For another example, on the “Discover Colombia” tour, we have various rest day opportunities to hike or just mingle around towns like San Agustin or Honda. Whether it’s through the mud, crossing a river, or swimming in the lagoon itself, the amphibious nature of the Keen’s makes them perfect for the job. (Above/Right: At the top of "El Peñol" near Medellín, Colombia where my Keen's were perfect for a warm hike up 740 steps.)
For more hardcore watersports and activities, the Keen’s are great as well. We did some whitewater rafting on a recent “Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!” trip in February, and my Keen’s again found themselves in the raft, walking along the stones on the shoreline, and scaling rock formations for vantage points on the rapids ahead. Photos were tough to get on the rugged Futaleufú River trip, but trust me, the Keen's were an excellent choice for the ride. (Right: Prepping to raft the "Rio Magdalena" on our Discover Colombia motorcycle tour, my Keen's in the middle stay secure and comfortable while being perfectly amphibious.)
Traditional “flip flop” types of footwear just aren’t agile enough for such a variety of activities, and neither do they offer the type of protection needed for things like whitewater rafting or hiking. Whereas you’d have to worry about flip flops falling off if you went swimming or jumping off a waterfall, these Keen sandals stay right with you the whole time.
Again, why are we writing about sandals and footwear on a website that sells motorcycle trip packages? Because these Keen sandals are that fantastic, and dare I say "perfect" for motorcycle adventures. They’re tough, comfortable, protective, and pack quite easily into motorcycle luggage. No, we don’t sell these products … we’re simply here to tell you what works for those of us who actually work making motorcycle trips. Nice job, Keen!
A situation developed on our "Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!" tour in February such that I needed the original muffler on my 2012 BMW R1200GS Adventure taken off the bike and sent down to us in Chile for use on another bike in the fleet.
Instead of replacing the stock muffler with another over-priced, heavy BMW original, I opted for the Remus Hexacone Slip On pipe from Max Moto in California. While shopping around online for my options, my muffler selection was made with 3 key goals in mind:
Weight Reduction - Whereas the original BMW muffler weighs 5.04 kg (11.11 pounds) the Remus Hexacone Titanium Slip On comes in at only 2.38 kg (5.25 pounds.) That's more than a 50% weight reduction for something that costs basically the same as the original from BMW! I know, a few kilograms on a bike that weighs so much shouldn't be a big deal, but as with many things, "every little bit counts." As a motorcycle riders, we know that just a few kilograms can make a world of difference, whether it be on the track or during an evasive move in a dangerous traffic situation. I'm not going to sit here and brag about how I can feel the difference in the weight, but just knowing that the bike now weighs less is satisfying enough.
Similar, But "Sweeter" Sound While I love the roar of a finely tuned engine as much as rider, BMW's boxer engines are not known for having the growl that KTM's LC8's or other V-Twins boast. It's just a matter of degrees of separation between ignition that will forever have the boxer engines sounding fairly "golf cart-ish," as the muffler sends noise-cancelling pulses back toward the exhaust ports. While I wasn't expecting nor did I aspire to make my Beemer sound like a badass bike, the Remus Hexacone has added a nice "crackle" to my ride that serves as a good reminder of the considerable power and fun active beneath me. (Photo Right: The Remus Hexacone for the R1200GS literally just "slips" on in minutes with no gaskets, compounds or anything other than a few tools needed. You'll need to swap the original mounting bracket to the one the comes with the Hexacone, but other than that, it's a simple farkling process that anyone can handle.)
Aesthetics Upgrade - While at it, why not spark-up the looks of the bike a bit, right? Remus has made a sharp looking muffler in my opinion, and I much prefer the way it looks now vs. previously. Not that the original chrome pipe from BMW was bad looking, but in comparison...well, there is no comparison. With a snazzy titanium finish, a carbon fiber tip out the back, and the Remus logo, it further moves my BMW from "ordinary" to being a slick looking adventure bike.
As mentioned, the Remus Hexacone slipped on easily, taking about 25 minutes total after I had deliberately read the instructions, checked the clearance, and tightened everything. The result? I'm very happy with my selection, Max Moto was easy to deal with and punctual with regards to the shipping needs, and here's what the Remus Hexacone Titanium Slip On sounds like now on my bike!
Over the past few years, I'd had a few chances to hop various Kawasaki KLR 650's for an hour or so, although usually only on pavement. Only on recent riding research projects for our new "Best of Northern Patagonia" tour and top-selling Discover Colombia tours did I finally had the chance to ride the KLR to such an extent that I feel prepared to share my opinion about this motorcycle.
First, please make note of the title this article as the word "Value" will be important to consider as I report on the KLR as an adventure bike. When you consider the purchase price, parts prices, service options, global network that surrounds the KLR and the way it performs, I don't think there's a better value in the adventure riding world. Let's look at some key categories:
YOU CAN DISCOVER COLOMBIA on the Kawasaki KLR 650 during this 10 Day Guided Tour in the Andes
Size, Stature & Capability: With full riding gear & full backpack, I'm about a 6'3" - 270lb rider, yet after multiple days on the KLR, never felt cramped or confined. (Granted, I do have shortish legs, only a 32" inseam.) The KLR is neither big or small, but perhaps the perfect mid-sized adventure bike that we frequently see couples riding 2-up on. That being said, it's ability to hold loaded sidecases, topcases, tankbags and such ranks right up there with the bigger and more expensive European brand adventure bikes. Plus, the KLR has the ground clearance to handle significant off-road demands, the suspension travel to handle the rocks & ruts atop a user-friendly chassis that allows you to move the bike around as you wish.
Engine & Transmission: "The Tractor!" I routinely had the term "tractor" running through my mind as this Kawasaki's single-cylinder powerplant pulled me up steep, twisting gravel switchbacks even at very low RPM's. My personal bike is still the BMW R1200GS Adventure, as one of the features I love so dearly about my bike is that low-RPM, tractor-like "grunt" that makes it feel like I'm on a conveyor belt that can be throttled when climbing hills. Often times a single-cylinder engine with such great low-end power doesn't offer much at highway speeds, but somehow Kawasaki made this 650cc engine a champion in that category as well, in that I never had a problem passing or climbing hills at high speeds. Of course the Kawi doesn't boast R1200GS-like power, but when I think of "adventure riding" I don't tend to think about how quickly I can finish the experience. - The transmission was likeable as well, although nothing really specific jumped out at me about it. There's a certain simplicity I do like, going back to a traditional cable clutch vs. the hydraulics I've been pulling on the BMW, even if it doesn't pull as smoothly.
Toughness & Durability: Now we're getting into the real "value" factor mentioned earlier, as it's astonishing the overall durability of this motorcycle when compared to others that cost double or even triple what the KLR costs. (Now listed at $6,599 USD new online, my BMW is literally priced at more than 3 times that.) No, I'm not bragging that I ride such an expensive motorcycle; instead, this is more of a rant to those of you out there who are trying to live your adventure riding dreams on the smallest budget possible.
(See picture to the right where all the KLR's were keeping up with the BMW's on the same Discover Colombia tour. - Truth be told, of course some BMW's have advantages over the KLR, like carrying capacity, performance, etc. But in terms of durability & reliability...check the statistics for yourself!)
The KLR 650 is used commonly by Police and Municipalites around the world, so in addition to the random rider's needs, access to parts and service is quite simple compared to other brands. With online forums like KLR 650.net and all the knowledge out there, riders that do encounter small problems typically won't have a problem resolving things themselves.
Oil Burner - Hey, what motorcycle doesn't burn a little bit, right? Some reports are out there about the KLR burning quite a bit more than average though, which makes me wonder about the high-mileage possibilities before a major overhaul is necessary. Of course it can be an inconvenience having to keep up with this when on your adventure ride, possibly carrying so much extra oil.
Suspension - Again, sort of a 'weak spot' I felt as the bike came originally from Kawasaki. Yes, I'm heavier than average, so perhaps that's part of why the suspension felt so 'dead' in certain situations. The word is out though that they've greatly improved the suspension on the 2014 model year, so let's hope that in that regard, this portion of this article is out of date soon.
THE BEST OF NORTHERN PATAGONIA TOUR is an excellent choice for riding the KLR 650 in the Andes
So in short, is the Kawasaki KLR 650 the coolest looking & sexiest adventure bike out there? Probably not, although it's not "ugly" in my opinion. Is the power of the KLR going to thrill riders as they pull wheelie's and rip powerslides going up mountain sides? Again, probably not. Is it one of the lowest cost adventure bikes out there? YES! As we continue to support riders who are trying to ride on the smallest budget possible, (like our Self-Guided Tours of Patagonia) I just thought the great value of the KLR 650 was worth pointing out. We now offer KLR's for rent in a few countries around the world, so please Contact Us about setting up your RIDE Adventures!
Another incredible Southern Patagonia season has just about come to an end, and with a smile, our list of happy customers has grown quite a bit more. Things couldn't be better for RIDE Adventures, now in its 4th year of operation.
Please note, I said "Southern Patagonia." There's still some time to enjoy the Northern Patagonia region though! In fact, we're working on a new Patagonia trip itinerary that should be announced within a couple of weeks, so stay tuned and make sure you sign up for our eNewsletter if you haven't already. This new route should be plenty accessible through April, and even into May by typical Patagonia weather statistics (see link here for Temuco statistics, althought you can see that May's weather typically means a lot of rain.)
Patagonia has changed more this season as we knew would be the case, but suddenly it starts to seem like the incoming pavement is for the better, not for worse. Many of our customers are seeking as much dirt riding as possible on their motorcycle trips, and we've supported them in finding it. Truth is though, there's a fairly small percentage of the riders out there in the world that really handle our "Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & Ushuaia!" route on any first attempt. The terrain alone is a factor, but a full-blast of Patagonia wind is a complete gamechanger for riders who don't have much experience in such conditions.
We still offer these Patagonia trips as publicly available tours, so don't worry if you don't have a group to bring...just bring yourself! The shown itinerary and calendar dates will pretty much have to stay as they are, unless again, you want to form your own group. The other possibility is that you do have a group formed, and we can custom-fit an itinerary to your exact wishes. A day of rafting on the Futaleufu River? No problem. Fly-fishing excursions for a rest day from the bikes? You'll be in a fly-fishing paradise in Patagonia, so why not enjoy? Tell us what the best motorcycle trip ever would be like for you, and I bet we'll still surprise you about how great the overall Patagonia riding experience is.
Perhaps the best example of what I'm talking about came from one of the riders in our February group. For me as the guide, and the guy who designed the tour for this private group, it's both extremely fun and extremely satisfying when riders reveal how impressed they are with the trip. In particular, one rider, who was otherwise one of the most reserved and quiet of the group eventually lost composure in one of the National Parks and muttered out in his Latin accent but perfect English: "this is fucking incredible." If this had come from any other guy, it wouldn't have been so special perhaps. But coming from a guy who mostly kept to himself, it's extra special to hear and see the impression Patagonia makes on a rider!
Anyway, it's with tremendous satisfaction that we say this Patagonia season ended on a high note, and as mentioned earlier, more research has been done on a Northern Patagonia tour route that will be announced soon. The Lakes Region around Pucon and San Martin de Los Andes has been an overlooked area for far too long, so it's quite exciting to have something new to start offering. (Plus it will open up September and April as travel months for Patagonia.)
It's all part of the job here...finding the best reasons and excuses for you to get out and RIDE! Just contact us anytime you're ready for what might be the best motorcycle trip you've ever taken.