Feb 19, 2012

Can It Do Everything?

One of the guys on the Minnesota Dual Sport sent a mildly dissatisfied note to the group asking if there is any such thing as a "dual sport" motorcycle? I think his point was that there is no such thing as a motorcycle that is great at everything. One of the group's smart guys, Paul Streeter, replied, "Hey, I own more than one Swiss Army knife, too!"

My initial thoughts on the subject were, "I have spent almost 30 years looking for an all purpose bike. In my experience, guys who own lots of bikes generally don't have even one in ready-to-ride-anywhere condition. That's for certain a problem with me. I have a DL and a WRX and a KL250 and the last time I rode the DL (or tried to ride it) I discovered the battery had failed. I can imagine I'll find a reason to ride the V-Strom again, but I'll have to put in a few days of prep work on it to be able to trust it. The KL is just garage mass and has been for a couple of years. When I get the damn thing to start, I'll sell it. The WRX is, currently, my all-purpose DP bike. I use it for commuting around the city, for dirt riding, touring (Lake Superior last summer with my brother on the DL), and I expect to check out the Rockies this summer on the little bike.

"That's just me, though. I don't like owning a lot of stuff. More to the point, I don't like a lot of stuff owning me. Dual sports can do everything, but some things they do aren't done as well as other tools can do them. Swiss Army knives are pretty limited knives, too. Ever try to throw one or fillet a trout? In fact, I'd argue that Swiss Army knives are pretty good at everything they do, except for being knives."

 If I can get my lard ass back down to 180 pounds (even better, 170), I'll have a hard time imagining anything I want to do on a motorcycle being unsuited for the WR250X. It's too small for a passenger, but nobody in my family wants to ride with me anyway; at least as a passenger. It's too slow for road racing, but so am I. With the addition of the Giant Loop Coyote Saddlebag and Diablo Tank Bag, there isn't a one-person travel situation I'll ever be in that will require more storage space.

Still, the WR250X is clearly not the perfect all-purpose motorcycle. It will not cruise at 80+mph; something I have been caught doing in my desperado past. In fact, the WR is most happy cruising at about 60-65mph. The WR's little front wheel doesn't roll over big stuff like a real dirt bike's 21" wheel. With my old, original-issue, withered-up and wimpy left hip, that was a problem because I didn't have the will or strength to get the front wheel far enough into the air to skip a 12" log or jump a ditch. On the other hand, crashing is a much bigger deal to me at 63 than it was at, even, 53, so I may be done with my log-hopping, ditch-leaping days. That all remains to be seen, I suppose. However, that does not diminish the all-purpose-ness of my WR or whatever weapon you deem to be superior.

In all honesty, a 450 or 650cc supermoto or dual purpose bike would be even more multipurpose than my 250. However, you have to be more man than me (expecially than my 29" inseam) to wrestle one of those high-altitude bikes through the woods. I've ridden the KTM 690 and other than the mounting/dismounting issues it is an amazing motorcycle. The KTM 990's 875mm seat height and 192kg are beyond my capacities off-road. The over-$10k price tag for either of those machines is out of my socioeconomic class.

Which brings us to another aspect of dual-purpose-ness; practicality. Not only does a dual-purpose bike have to be affordable (to me/you, not Mitt Romney) but it has to be practical to maintain and affordable to occasionally crash. Because, if you plan to venture off-road, you will crash your dual-purpose toy. This is a perfectly valid Motorcycle Affordability Test:

If your bike, or you, can not pass this test, you have more motorcycle than you can afford and what you own is definitely not dual purpose-ready.


Chris said...

all the bikes in my garage work just fine. owning more than one takes some organization and planning. that's all. yay google spreadsheet.

sounds like you need some R wheels on that X too.

PS: typo in "Grand loop" should be "giant loop"

T.W. Day said...

I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm just saying I haven't seen it much and I know for a fact that I am not interested enough in maintenance to keep up a pile of bikes myself. I'd rather ride one than maintain a dozen.

Chris said...

I'd rather ride than maintain as well, but i can't afford to pay someone else to maintain everything right now.

gonna get rid of your DL??

T.W. Day said...

Could be. I rode it so little last year that it became a garage obstacle. I put 6k on the 250 and my brother put 1800 of the 2000 miles the DL burned in 2011. Sounds like a needless toy to me. We'll see how this spring goes. If it just sits to June, I'll probably sell it. I really need to get the KL working by June because I will never ride it again.

Joe said...

Love that video. Makes me wish I hadn't sold my beat up '01 KLR. KLR's seem to just keep running despite what you do or don't do to them. This is exactly the reason I sold my '05 GS. I'm just not pretentious enough to own a GS.

When I became desirous of the BMW koolaid 3 years ago, I broke my golden rule that I believe you can buy most any "style" of motorcycle you want for $5k or less. Sometimes much less. You just have to look and be patient and in some cases be willing to buy something older.

T.W. Day said...

Sometimes older is good. The older I get, the less inclined I am to deal with old technology, though. That means I end up buying a little smaller bike than I might have thought was ideal. That's what drove me to the WR250X, but it turned out to be a better decision than I anticipated.

I had my run-in with Euro-vehicles in the 60's when I bought a used MGA. After that experience, I have never lusted after anything European with wheels since.

Anonymous said...

"a 450 or 650cc supermoto or dual purpose bike would be even more multipurpose than my 250. ... my 29" inseam ... The over-$10k price tag for either of those machines is out of my socioeconomic class".

The Suzi DR650SE is very popular in Oz for all manner of travel. Simple, cheap, as reliable as, seat height 890 mm (34.8 in), factory option to lower another 40 mm /1.5 in. We've lowered my wife's 75mm all up (dog bone & slower seat). She loves it.

2 pics here: http://members.iinet.net.au/~ahack/x_Shows/2011-03%20Bike%20Camping%20Trip%20Tas%20with%20Austouring.com%20Riders/album/slides/2011-03%20AusTouring.com%20Tas%20Trip%20455.JPG and http://members.iinet.net.au/~ahack/x_Shows/2011-03%20Bike%20Camping%20Trip%20Tas%20with%20Austouring.com%20Riders/album/slides/2011-03%20AusTouring.com%20Tas%20Trip%20569.JPG ... phew ... them's seriously long links.

Cheers from Oz, DonQx

T.W. Day said...

I like the DR650 but it's pretty damn close to my DL650 in many ways. The lack of fuel injection is a deal-killer for me. You don't find a lot of them in the US, either. so they are not that cheap (usually around $2700-3300 with 20k miles on the odometer). That's nothing compared to the WRR/X, but it's nothing to sneeze at, considering the compromise being made.