Two motorcycles in one?
March 14, 2012 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Motorcyclists of MeFi, please suggest the best possible city bike that is also a comfortable go-anywhere tourer. In other words, if a Honda Nighthawk 250 and a BMW GS1200 had offspring, what motorcycle would there be?

If such a hybrid doesn't exist, what do you think are the nearest matches? I'm looking for an agile, lane-splitting city bike for 80% of my riding, and a comfortable cross-country tourer (not necessarily off-road) for 20% of the time. Right now I have a 2008 Honda Nighthawk 250, which is perfect for everything around town but isn't very capable anywhere else. A few years ago I had a 2001 BMW GS1150, which was perfect for touring long distances but cumbersome around town. I'm 6'0 and 185 lbs and comfortable on anything but a zippy sport-bike.
posted by Hermanos to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jon1270 at 9:24 AM on March 14, 2012

Response by poster: Money grows on trees.
posted by Hermanos at 9:25 AM on March 14, 2012

KLR650. Big brute bike that is absolutely perfect for urban battle (and surprisingly capable off-off-road!) Cheap, reliable, visible.
posted by at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've had my eye on the V-Strom for a while and your description matches the reasons I want this as my next bike.
posted by iurodivii at 9:40 AM on March 14, 2012

Best answer: I'd also suggest the V-Strom. I have an SV650 which is a great city bike and actually not all that bad as a lightweight tourer with a few add-ons like a windscreen, soft luggage, and maybe a better saddle. The V-Strom has all of the city bike virtues of the SV650 (with which it shares a lot of mechanical details) and is a much more capable tourer.
posted by zombiedance at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2012

Oooh buddy, there's a long list, isn't there? City bike means fairly narrow, upright ergos with torque. Cross-country tourer means you want a full or half fairing with cargo capacity.

My short list for you would be the:
1) Bandit 1250 - All-day comfort, venerable design, good cargo options
2) DL650 V-Strom - A bit lower-rent, but they can be had for a song and customized immensely
3) VFR800 Interceptor - not as sporty as you might think, but they're the gold standard for sport-touring

Also worthy of consideration: Yamaha FZ1, Triumph Street Triple (if you're amenable to a naked), Ducati Multistrada.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:28 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A Triumph Tiger.
posted by squeak at 10:52 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nice suggestions, exactly what I'm looking for. The Tiger and the V-Strom really stand out to me. I remember now that I've ridden a bike in this Sport Enduro Tourer segment - a BMW GS650 - and found the suspension was awfully soft and "springy" around the city, and a bit clenching when entering a corner at speed. Is that a characteristic of this category of bike?
posted by Hermanos at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2012

The Ducati Multistrada is the unlimited budget version of what you want. The S version has an extremely versatile suspension setup. I've never been on another bike like this one, and it hit all of my buttons for city commuting as well as distance travel.

I ride a monster 696 which is awesome, and I use for mostly city with distance travel, just as you are looking to do. A few caveats - Since it's a naked bike you are pretty exposed compared to a more proper ST bike, and your storage options are limited. I tacked a tailcase on to mine, which some consider sacrilege, and while practical, it does seem to affect handling. All that being said, I've ridden it for three years in city and distance traffic, and the handling is superb. The great thing about the monsters is that they are relatively easy to turn into whatever you would like to turn them into. Additionally, the 696 is short enough to the ground that it's great for stop-and-go traffic, although you will likely want the touring seat. Finally, the twin cyl engine is a really good balance of wide power delivery as well as peak power.

All that being said, I still think it's not perfect, and I do often consider other bikes, but the only one I've found that I like more is the multistrada. I haven't ridden the triumph tiger yet, but I plan to - it seems to be an excellent option as well. Believe it or not, the bonneville may be worth considering as well, if you like the retro styling. I was on one for a long time that I lvoed.

Friend of mine has ridden a V-Strom 650 for years in a similar style, and won't consider anything else. I want to like those more than I do - They are technically extremely capable bikes, they just don't "do it" for me.

Which 650 did you look at, F650 or G650? They are both very different bikes. Also, many of them are dialed in soft on the rear suspension at the factory - This should be addressable.

Regardless of what you look at, I'd stick with the twin cyls.
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:00 PM on March 14, 2012

I know the multistrada is probably too much bike, but I cannot emphasize enough just how incredibly versatile this bike is. I was lucky enough to have one for a few weeks, and it really hit all of my buttons - In city mode, it was agile and easy to ride. In touring mode, it was comfortable with a lot of power, and smooth delivery. In sport mode, it is a BEAST, and you are quite aware of just how powerful that engine really is. It's the only bike I've ever been on that made me feel like I wasn't compromising a single thing (except potentially my finances if I was to get one)

The non-S version is still plenty capable, and if you are lucky, you may be able to find a demo unit or a used one for considerably less than new. That's what I'm banking on later this year.
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:08 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suzuki Bandit Bandit Bandit! My 2007 1250 non-ABS version is the love of my life. It has lots of torque, so is easy to ride in traffic/at low speeds, yet is nimble enough for joy-inducing backroads touring and has enough HP for "I'm gonna get a ticket if I'm not careful" superslab touring. I believe later models are fully faired and come with hard luggage. I added Suzuki-badged Givi sidecases and topcase, threw on a Sargent seat and an adjustable-height windscreen, and I'm in hog heaven (pun intended, in your face HD sheep).

A huge plus for me is that the Bandit is light and has a low seat height. The V-Stroms are pretty leggy. I'm a 5'4" female person, so I chose the Bandit as a better option than a high, heavy "real" sport tourer. (Even so, I had it lowered 2 inches. FYI in case you're a sub-30" inseam.) In theory I love bike shopping, but I. Am. Done. Bandit 4 Life. I'm going to stop now because I'm starting to sound stupid.
posted by scratch at 12:30 PM on March 14, 2012

I guess if you're looking at Tigers you're tall, so seat height is irrelevant. I forgot to mention suspension in my Bandit sales pitch--I have never felt any need to touch it, except for a minor fork adjust to prevent minor dive. This goes for fully loaded touring and unloaded commuting. I also forgot to mention that Bandits are a huge value for the price point.
posted by scratch at 12:34 PM on March 14, 2012

I lose track of the specific models. but BMW has some 800cc bikes that look damn nice, aren't big and crazy powerful, aren't small and a little on the gutless side.
posted by ambient2 at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2012

I commuted on my 2002 Suzuki GS500 for a couple of years, then rode it cross-country from Florida to California. It is a capable, reliable machine, and gets some kick-ass milage too. I'm your size (6' 0", 200#), and it is a bit small for me, but I manage.

My only complaint with it is the front shocks; they are a bit soft, and tend to bottom out in potholes fairly easily. I've heard that some people replace them with GSXR shocks, but I've been happy enough with them, so I don't bother.

I was told when i bought it that I'd want to get something larger within a year, and that's partially true. I'd like to get a KLR or KTM, but I don't think I'll be selling the GS500. it's grown on me, and is probably a better city bike than either of those.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:51 PM on March 14, 2012

My coworker has a Tiger which he rode cross country from New Hampshire to San Francisco, and he commutes here on it every day. Just another data point.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:19 PM on March 14, 2012

I have a 2006 Kawasaki Z750s, which is new to me. I'm already quite fond of it. I'm coming from an old ZX-7, and before that a very old XS400, so I've seen two sides of the weight/power/sportiness spectrum.

The ZR7s is much more comfortable and agile for around-town riding than my ZX-7 was, obviously. I can turn it around in my parking lot like I could my XS400. But on the highway, it's even faster than the ZX was, and I can stay at speed without feeling like my head is going to be ripped off by the wind blast. It has a decent amount of space under the seat, plus big handles in the back that work well as tie-downs for luggage.

The front shocks aren't adjustable, but I'm not enough of a rider for that to limit me yet. I think there's a new one being made (it's the Z1000's smaller sibling), so check it out.
posted by aaronbeekay at 3:30 PM on March 14, 2012

I have the V-Strom 1000 and wish it was the 650. I think the V-Strom 650 is the perfect Swiss Army motorcycle. Does long distances with ease, but handles the city without a problem. Slap some luggage on it and go.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:45 PM on March 14, 2012

Suzuki DR 650 if you ever have any off-road, or soft road ambitions. DL650 if not, or if you've got the budget BMW F800GS.
posted by gofargogo at 3:52 PM on March 14, 2012

I should add that my V-Strom is about to roll over 100K miles with little more than having the oil, chain, and tires replaced.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:01 PM on March 14, 2012

The BMW GS series is actually really good for this. I rode one (R1150gs) almost exclusively for about 4 years in Albuquerque and Flagstaff AZ. I bought groceries, I did a bunch of sightseeign, i commuted to work every day. I took my car when it was snowing, but I even rode when it was clear but just below freezing.

The big GS bikes are comfortable (the seat has a wide adjustment range as do all the controls) , get decent mileage and have a good range (over 250 miles usually) are not heavy at all for the size of bikes they are, and the newer 1200 is even lighter. The bmw bag system is really, really good and portable and big enough for groceries for the whole week for two people. The bike is big enough to take two people if needed (i actually had a date or two on it). It is easy to work on-not much body work so all the fiddly bits are exposed and the single sided swing are makes changing tires and brakes super easy. The telelever front end really does work better than traditional forks. The grips are heated which makes a huge difference on chilly or cold days. You can get a heated seat also (I didn't). The charging system is powerful enough for running a heated seat or other accessories (I mounted a satellite radio system to mine). The engine is powerful enough for cruising at 100+ mph if you want to (it isn't that much fun after the holy crap i am going fast wears off). It is agile enough for pretty nasty dirt roads. To beat the summer tourist traffic around Flagstaff I would take forest service roads as short cuts and would actually enjoy my commute.

I also had a KLR650 after that (downsized for budget reasons) and never really liked it after the BMW. IT wasn't made as well, the single cylinder engine was not comfortable for extended highway cruising and while the bike was much more agile when on really rough off road use, the BMW was so much better on every other road surface.

BMW also makes several other bikes like the RT and ST that are mechanical really similair but optimized for touring or road use. The only downside is the cost. They are not cheap, parts are not cheap and god help you if you really wreck one.
posted by bartonlong at 4:44 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check out the Road Warriors section on ADVrider. They Love the "WeeStrom", which is the 650 version of the VStrom. The "Roadie" Tiger (non "XC" 800 version) is probably also a good bet, if you're looking for current production bikes.

My bike is the Buell Ulysses, which is great, but having been discontinued, isn't for everyone. They are similar to the Ducati Multistrada, but much lower tech, and much, much cheaper. The "XT" version is more road/touring oriented; it came with easily detachable hard luggage, and is a couple inches shorter than the "X" version, which was more intended for less improved roads. The thing about Buells is that the stock suspension is really good and fully adjustable.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:44 PM on March 14, 2012

Best answer: I really could beat this topic to death personally, and while I've been on several bikes and researched even more, it's hard to beat a speciality forum with lots of different viewpoints - ADVrider has QUITE a bit of info to read through, and is a great resource. This is also an interesting time to be looking, because the "adventure bike" market (which seems to be your target) is growing.

Looking to see what's out there, I discovered an unusual option that is coming out this summer - The Honda NC700X. This hits most of what you are looking for (from what I can tell) and is definitely priced right. I'm a bit skeptical of the "dual clutch" system (seriously, an automatic/pushbutton transmission?) but that's thankfully an option. It has very - um, "different" - power handling than most bikes. It has half a honda fit engine in it, and it's designed for more low-rev like driving as opposed to peak power at high revs. Personally, I love this idea (well, the practical part of me) - but it would take some getting used to if you use a lot of engine braking. It won't have the same raw appeal as a BMW or Duc, but the cost of owning/running is unparalleled in this category.

The rational person in me really wants this. The rest of me is still firmly sold on the Multistrada, but I'm a Ducati nut - First bike I owned was a monster, which I only replaced - with a newer monster - because it got destroyed in a flood.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:27 AM on March 15, 2012

Best answer: Jeez. I cannot believe no one here mentioned the Kawasaki Versys.

Cheap, reliable, versatile, fun. One of the most awesome bikes I have ever owned.
posted by Thistledown at 12:57 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to go out on a big limb here and ask if you've considered something unusual, like the Can-Am Spyders?
posted by arimathea at 7:35 PM on March 16, 2012

There's absolutely no way for a Spyder to lane split.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:16 PM on March 16, 2012

Bit of a personal update on this one.

I just replaced my monster with the Triumph Tiger 800 XC a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't be any happier. You don't necessarily need the XC, the standard tiger could be more up your alley, and is 2k less.

I love the three cyl so much more than I thought - it's a torquey engine that makes gears irrelevant, yet it can be sporty when you want, yet it cal also be well behaved, and it's fairly economical.

The XC handles great in my opinion, I'm sure that the standard is wonderful.

It's QUITE comfy. I commute to work daily through city traffic on mine, and have also taken several 5+ hour trips already... Throw the side bags on, and you are good to go.

I got mine loaded with the bags, the adjustable touring screen, and heated handgrips, and it is pretty much perfect. I know I went on and on about the multistrada - For half the price, I'm just as happy with the Tiger.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:35 PM on April 9, 2012

« Older So in this next shot...   |   Hair stylist for thinning hair? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.