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Thumper Choices

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by PatB, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. Well, following my brief but exciting stint as a brake tester for Holden Commercial Vehicles, I’m working on deciding what to get next.

    Excellent bike though it was, the RT was a bit of a whale when it came to its principal use, which was as an everyday commuter, doing 90 km per day, half of which required rather better filtering capability than it really had. Indeed, it was starting to develop the embarrassing habit of rubbing affectionately against adjacent vehicles and I suspect it was only a matter of time before it tried to shag someone’s leg. The number of times it got outside the outer metropolitan area in the two years I owned it could be counted on the fingers of one head, which I always felt to be a bit of a waste.

    Having owned a variety of fours, twins and strokers, it occurs to me that the one major engine configuration I haven’t tried long term is a thumper. Not only that, but MrsB has now got the bug again, thanks to the Ural, and wants to try a solo. Due to various past mishaps, she needs something light and manageable to try out on and, as we can’t afford two solos, I need to consider this in my choice of replacement.

    Realistically, I can’t see myself becoming an avid dirt rider. It doesn’t interest me that much and there are precious few opportunities to do it legally in WA anyway, so dirtability isn’t that important. The occasional gravel road on the way to somewhere else would be about the biggest challenge likely to be faced.

    So my options would appear to be:-

    Road single – SR4-500, SRX600 MuZ, Yam 660 thingy. SR(X)s are long in the tooth except the 400 which may not be big enough for a 186 cm, 108 kg fat bastard. Also no leccy start on many of ‘em. MuZ is a bit rare (must work every day) and I’m not convinced I’ve ever seen a 660 Yam.

    Big trailie – KLR650 and DR650 are astonishing amounts of bike for the money and are very tempting new buys. Road oriented so maintenance demands do not appear excessive. Would a good option be to buy one, run it as is, then look at road tyres and lowering links and maybe medium term think about getting some fat 17†rims laced up to softard it?

    Motard – Big range here. I’ve been contemplating a used F650CS to satisfy my BMW brand loyalty, stay away from maintaining chains and keep a little long distance practicality. Not a true motard I know, but I can’t keep inventing categories. Bit rare though. However, my silly streak is showing a desire for something a bit harder edged and I’ve read the archived comments on the Husky SM610 with great interest and could run to a used one. Or, on a more practical level, a DR-Z 400 (although my size and weight concerns come up again).

    So I’m looking for recommendations from those with thumper experience on what would be best to carry a fat git 450 kms/week through traffic, has an electric start, reasonable maintenance demands (don’t mind short oil change intervals, but I’d rather not be replacing parts every other weekend), good to excellent bitumen manners and dealer back up good enough to see 99% availability, and, most importantly, be heaps of fun so I don’t instantly get bored and regret the purchase. Oh yes, something that won’t embarrass me at the track days I intend to start doing would be nice (although I am aware that no bike yet built will ever prevent me from embarrassing myself) :grin: . Price range is likely to be in the $8k region, dependent on the insurance outcome on the R.
  2. I'll put in a good word for my bike - the ol' SR400. The thing is mechanically flawless (not the stuff I've touched) and is full of character and charm. With a myriad of parts available you'll never get bored of it. You might be a bit big for it though - if you're ever in Victoria give me a buzz and you can take her for a ride. The kickstart is a peice of piss, an absolute breeze to kick over.

    The other one I can put in a good word for is the DR650. It could have some stiffer springs in the front but you're right, it's a lot of bike for $7500. Well, sort of. It's road manners were pretty good actually, lots of pull etc but it was a bit heavier than I'd like a commuter to be.

    The Husky 610 is a cool bike, but... I dunno. My boss at work had one and although he kept saying it was reliable, it blew at least one fuze and a globe every week and went in for a top end rebuild at 3-something thousand k's. That's not reliability in my books anyway...
  3. There is also a Honda XR400M which would probably suit your requirements quite well. It's a motard but of a workhorse rather than exotic sport variety. Based on enduro machine that hung around for a long time, it should be dead reliable and as useable on day-to-day basis as any street bike.

    The only disadvantages I can see are its great ugliness (in my opinion) and rather inflated pricing - Honda's official price is 9,999+orc which I think is a bit silly... if they were more reasonably priced, I'd get one myself for city use instead of a scooter!
  4. Check out Aprilia's Pegaso 'factory'. Has nice road rims and tyres.
    Or for something a bit harder edged Benelli's BX570, if it ever comes here.
  5. Yamaha SRX600?
  6. of all the bikes listed, the husky 610, is probably the most fun. Not only that, but if you buy the dirt bike, then put road wheels on it, you have 2 bikes.

    The only down side is 450km a week might kill it. It will be maintenance heavy, IF you want to ride it that much, id be suggesting an oil change ever 2-3 weeks. I know you can blurt it out to 5k changes, but i think on a big single, with such little oil, it might be a good idea to do it more often.

    Reliability on bikes is a funny thing. My dad is a mechanic by trade, and he owned a Ducati 860 gte(no not a gts) and later on a 750ss in the 70's and he owned/owns, bultaco's aswell...all of which were noted as unreliable...however...the truth of the matter was, if they were maintained correctly, they are dead reliable.
  7. XT600 'tard?
  8. Erm, I mean XT660X, apparently.

    Several on Bikesales, around your price range, for a super-reliable 'tard that has that bit more grunt than the 400s.
  9. The amount of work needed for the 12,000km service on an F650xS bike makes me go all :? -faced.

    Need to take off so many panels and covers and airboxes and stuff just to get to the spark plug(s), nevermind the valves. Very much the antithesis of the R1100/R1150/R1200GS servicability where most routine services can be done from the side of the road without pulling the bike apart.

    That said, dunno what sort of pulling-apart-ing the other thumpers require for routine maintenance. :-k
  10. That's a fair few k's a week. The lazier the better. Prob a XT660 or DR650 would be a good bet. Takes the fun out of it a bit though.
  11. I would mention the Sachs too. Also a few places are importing the Honda GB400, a pretty cool bike with kick and electric start. I would have been tempted by that when I was looking around. I'd add to Quarterwit's post that, while the SR500 has a reputation for being a pain to start (compared to other modern kickstarts), the newer SR400 doesn't seem to suffer that problem - Quarterwit seems to have no problem and needs little effort getting his going.


    It's a shame the Royal Enfield has such poor quality control...
  12. The SZR660 is a little beauty. See if you can find one for a quick spin.
  13. Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I think my choice is looking increasingly DR650ish (I like Suzis and the aircooled simplicity appeals), with the possibility of an XTZ660. I'd look at an SZR660 as well, but I don't think I've ever seen one in the metal.

    The Sachs is appealing, as is the MuZ but both are, perhaps, a little too obscure to be relied upon every day.

    I'd love an SRX but they're getting old now. If only stuff like the SR400 and GB400 came in 600 form as well :( . That and the fact that I'd rather chew off my own leg than ride another Honda :evil: . I've more or less decided that making a 400 haul my bulk around is a bit cruel :grin: . Of course, if anyone has any solid information on shoehorning an XT600 donk into the SR, I'm all ears...... The kickstart only aspect doesn't especially bother me (although it can be a pain if you stall in traffic) as I had no problems with the 500 BSA I rode earlier this year (once I got used to it), carb tickler, Lucas magneto and all, but MrsB would have problems. She used to bring a IIA Commando with lumpy pistons and cam to life easily enough, but that was more than a decade of deterioration of old knee injuries ago.

    As for the Husky, it was a bit of an outside possibility anyway, predicated on getting absolute top dollar for the R (which I won't) and based on a bigger gamble on reliability than I think I could actually bring myself to take with $8k+. Nice thought though.

    That's the trouble with an everyday commuter. Sometimes the wishlist has to be pruned somewhat. A big trailie with sticky tyres and a Scottoiler would do though :grin: .
  14. It probably just means you should buy two bikes. A cheaper DR, then set some aside for a toy! :p
  15. I'd have no idea (of course the old XT500 engine was very similar and slotted straight in) but ask QuarterWit about doing the same with a Husky engine in an SR (or XT for that matter, made road-pretty), I heard glossy-eyed talk from him on that topic...
  16. Yes... the SM610 engine looks like it wouldn't be too much of a fit. If only I was a half-decent machinist.

    The 600 engine swap is bloody tempting. I might have to post on that link!
  17. Just remembered a review I did of a loaner DRZ400 I was riding around on for a while. You can get a read of it...


    To cut to the chase, I'd recommend it.