Mid-size motorcycle recommendation for older, returning rider
May 12, 2020 2:15 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm looking to buy a used motorcycle in the 600-1000cc range. This would be bike no. 3 for me. My first was a Yamaha RD400. No. 2 was a Honda Interceptor 750. It's been about 30 years since the Interceptor.

I'm looking for reliability and low maintenance, roadtrip-worthiness, commuting, handling, ability to ride two-up for day trip distances. I do not need or want a rocket. I would definitely like to feel comfortable riding gravel roads to friends' cottages.

My inseam is around 30" so seat height is an issue?

I'm liking: BMW F650GS, KLR 650 (lowered), Suzuki VSTROM 650, Suzuki SV650

Help me riders of AskMeFi!
posted by kaymac to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Former SV650 owner here. It's a great bike for solo riding, but I wouldn't recommend it for long 2-up trips. The small pillion seat and high passenger pegs don't make for a happy passenger on anything longer than cross-town rides.
posted by zombiedance at 3:41 PM on May 12

I heartily endorse the WeeStrom! I sold mine when I moved to the East Coast and I miss it something fierce. Great bike. I’d buy another one in a minute.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:52 PM on May 12

I've been toying with getting a bike again after a 20-year hiatus. This has led me to cruising Craigslist and Facebook ads to see what's out there on the used market. Yesterday I stumbled on the Honda NT700V., It's a heavier bike than I need right now, but might be just the ticket for you. If you're going to be doing day-trips on pavement, I don't think you need a knobby-tired adventure bike just to get to a cottage.
posted by jon1270 at 4:05 PM on May 12

My husband is an experienced rider of 40 years and when I read him your question he recommended the Suzuki VSTROM 650. I quote "It's a solid proven bike, definitely the roomiest of the four you listed and there are unlimited accessories available, including suspension lowering components so you can turn it out any way you would like. The Kawasaki and the BMW might be better on gravel with their skinny front tires but choose tires well for the VSTROM and you should be fine." Hope that helps!
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 4:23 PM on May 12

I have a '99 BMW650 (F, not GS, carburetted, chain, not a belt drive) and have found it more than adequate for gravel and the like. I love it and commuted (highway) for a few years on it. Peppy, responsive, high-viz seating ergonomics, which I like. Your tire choice is really going to affect your ride on a dual sport. But a dual-sport isn't great for two-up riding and even I swapped out my seat for a custom seat for solo trips. One reason I've kept it is that I don't think of recent BMWs as reliable or low maintenance, but I don't know much about the recent 650s.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:36 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

I’ve rode all but the BMW and they’re all excellent bikes, but for your wants the Wee Strom would be ideal. Not just out of those 4 either, it’s a really great bike.
posted by rodlymight at 8:24 PM on May 12

My legs only just reach the ground from my arse (30in too) and I have a Triumph Tiger 1050 with full luggage. I haven't taken it on a road trip but I think it would go well. It's perhaps a little tall - I can get both feet down but not flat - though on my somewhat venerable one (2008) you can certainly get lowering kits, and that may also be true of more recent models. It is an adventure bike but I've not tried it on anything rough, even gravel.

It's been about a year and it's not yet had a service since I bought it; I changed the battery out from the one it came with, which was long in the tooth and also smaller than the stock version. Otherwise, touch wood, no problems.

I can tell you that BMW GSes are too big for me by a country mile, at least as stock. I can't even get close to the ground.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 11:18 PM on May 12

The mid-weight "adventure" segment is pretty hot right now, basically because a lot of people are looking for the same things as you: a capable all-rounder. This includes me! I just got a 2020 Moto Guzzi v85tt. My use case is touring and camping.

Compared to the Honda CB that I sold to make room for this bike it's a night and day improvement. The only compromise is power; the guzzi handles better, is more comfortable and safer, has more storage and room for a pillion. The seat height is surprisingly low on this bike; at a 32" inseam I can easily flat foot both sides.

Maintenance is much easier compared with a modern liquid cooled engine, and final drive is shaft. Since this is a new model, reliability is unknown.

I cross-shopped a VStrom, Yamaha Super Tenere, Triumph Tiger, BMW f900xr, Yamaha Tracer 900, and multistrada 950, although living far away from motorcycle density I wasn't able to ride any of them. A used VStrom does sound like a good bet for you, but according to a buddy of mine who has the 650, consider the 1000cc if you'll be two-up.
posted by dbx at 5:34 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

V Strom 650 owner here too. I think it's a good choice. As to 650 versus 1000 engine, on long straight road trips I sometimes want more power, but honestly the 650 is plenty fast and keeps me out of trouble (edit: 1-up only.) And most of my riding is a city commute where any heavier would be a huge pain. I'm a novice off road rider and felt pretty secure on gravel the few times I've been on it, though I wish the ABS had a switch.

Plus even though its a still being made the platform hasn't changed a ton over the years so there is good part and accessory support.

The look of the bike at first kind of turned me off, but researching helped - some of the less common colors really look good.

(Went to the DL650 from a KLR, which I would not recommend as much unless you want something dead easy to repair all the time)
posted by Wulfhere at 6:12 AM on May 13

It sounds like while you want to do gravel, you aren't looking at rough gravel or logging roads. I ride a Kawasaki Versys 650 and I liked my 2008 version so much that I got the same model as a 2018 again. Fairly easy to work on, parts are very affordable, and rugged enough that I can technically do gravel roads, but still very smooth for long highway rides. However, if I were to attempt a really technical, rugged trail I might have troubles and the weight would make it more difficult. (Not impossible but it's not a dirt bike.)

My friend who rides a KLR had an even easier time off the pavement and taking more adventurous roads, but he's a lot less comfortable on the two day it takes for our group to get to the mountains, because the KLR is lighter and built for that more technical type of riding.

I know a few folks who had the V-strom (but the 1000 cc model) and seemed to enjoy but I find the centre of gravity awkward when I sit on it, and just didn't like the style of the fairings.

If you haven't rode for awhile, I'd recommend going to a bike show (when trade shows are a thing again) and sitting on a whole bunch of models. Some will just feel a lot more comfortable to you. Or, buy something used that's a low investment and if you want to sell it and get something different in a year or two, just do that. In my observation, motorbikes don't lose a huge amount of value.
posted by Kurichina at 6:28 PM on May 14

Oh, and a separate recommendation, if you haven't rode for a very long time, taking a motorcycle safety course is a really good idea. Provides up to date traffic rules, and really emphasizes the importance of slow speed control. You don't want to be like one of those old Harley dudes duck-walking their bike through an intersection because they can't keep their bike upright at a slow speed!
posted by Kurichina at 6:31 PM on May 14

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