What would people recommend for a low cost, non sport, touring motorcycle?
April 24, 2008 6:17 PM   Subscribe

What would people recommend for a low cost, non sport, touring motorcycle?

My gentleman friend is looking for a touring motorcycle that is not a sport, as low cost as possible, and comfortable. Perfect bike, right? ^^ We tried looking on google with the standard word search and hoping to find comparison sites, but to no avail. We have seen many nice new Hondas and Harley's, but nothing else is coming up past the first couple of pages for other brands or something not quite so new and expensive. Are there any sites, companies, etc, that you guys know of that might help with this? Thanks in advance hive mind!
posted by LittleNami to Shopping (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Used BMW. May be more than you want to pay, but a friend of mine rode one for years and it was a great road bike.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:41 PM on April 24, 2008

My Suzuki V-Strom has a sport bike engine (from the SV650) but has a much more comfortable and long haul riding position. It wasn't super expensive, has been rock solid to ride and pretty cheap to maintain. But then, I don't go for long, long rides on it, just long jaunts up into the hills above Santa Cruz and along the coast.

I used to own a Kawasaki Concours and it was made for long, long rides. Shaft drive, full fairing, big saddlebags and they used to be inexpensive.

Sorry, no sites to recommend. But he should start reading some of the touring mags and maybe join a forum.
posted by fenriq at 7:22 PM on April 24, 2008

What is "low-cost"? How used are you willing to go? The suggestions below assume you have a few thousand to spend; if you are trying to spend just a few hundred, you need to not worry about brand but rather just find the first thing that is in good condition for its age. But remember that with used motorcycles, new tires plus new cables plus chain and sprockets plus other stuff eats up your savings real fast; it's easy to "save" money and end up costing yourself quite a bit in the end. (Also, take a rider's course, wear helmets and gear, etc -- be safe, ok?)

Used BMWs (especially the K-bikes, as compared to the often more beloved boxer-twin R-bikes) can often be found for very reasonable prices. Parts are easily available, lots of avid internet forums, very good aftermarket support. The for sale ads at IBMWR is an excellent place to start, though sometimes the prices there can be a tad high.

If you don't mind the semi-offroad styling, the KLR650 is superb value for money. They made it virtually unchanged for something like 20 years, so used ones are cheap and parts and aftermarket support are easily found. It looks like an offroad machine, but it really excels on long trips -- huge gas tank, comfortable ergonomics, efficient engine, easy to work on.

If you want big, there's the Goldwing (available in various sizes and through the years, up to the current behemoth), and for more sportiness (but still large and comfy) bikes like the Venture, ST1100 (now ST1300), etc.

Motoguzzi, Triumph, and Ducati have all made touring/sport-touring bikes; prices will be higher than for comparable Japanese bikes, but in exchange you get a fantastically beautiful machine (albeit perhaps with some quirks).

I would suggest starting by reading through some back issues of whatever motorcycling magazines your public library gets, to get a sense of what is being sold right now. There are way too many motorcycle forums to begin to list here, many model- or brand-specific, others segregated by type of riding (sport, touring, adventure, etc). Those are invaluable resources once you begin to narrow down what you are looking at.
posted by Forktine at 7:22 PM on April 24, 2008

First, almost any motorcycle can be used for touring.
But as far as your parameters, Japanese (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki) will generally be lower cost than European or the ridiculously priced Harleys.

For a good example, check out an older Kawasaki Concours.
Another data point, a bike with a driveshaft rather than chain is often considered best for reliable long distance touring. Good luck.
posted by artdrectr at 7:23 PM on April 24, 2008

Honda's are known for durability, you may be after the VTX1800T.

Depending on how much emphasis you're placing on' touring' and 'comfortable' a Goldwing might be a good choice. But they aren't low cost, or well respected by the culture.
posted by oblio_one at 7:23 PM on April 24, 2008

Adding to what fenriq said a lot sport bikes from the early 90's are extremely comfortable compared to today's sport bikes.
I regularly ride a '94 ninja 2 hours one-way to my parents and don't have comfort issues.
posted by oblio_one at 7:26 PM on April 24, 2008

Before we throw any random recommendations to you, let's establish some baselines. (Also, you won't find me recommending a used Beemer to a non-gearhead because they often require a specialized mechanic to repair. People will argue with me, but it's the truth. Beemer bike mechs are in the $120-$200/hr range.)

Baselines we need to know:
1. Experience level. We're not going to recommend an 1800 to someone with a year under their belt.
2. Size of bike you've ridden before.
3. Length of average ride to "cruise." (e.g. are you going to cruise for an hour or two, or are you going to ironbutt from Nova Scotia to Florida?)
4. Technical wrenching ability, if any.
5. Speed requirement.
6. Amount you're willing to spend.
7. Geographical info.
8. What you like. Chrome? Leather? Full Fairing? Bare bones?
9. Any major aversions/attractions. To anything. Any bike ever.

If you can answer these questions for us---we'll be glad to help.
posted by TomMelee at 8:21 PM on April 24, 2008

A really good touring bike for very little money would be a mid 90's Honda PC800 Pacific Coast.
posted by sourwookie at 9:49 PM on April 24, 2008

I just picked up an early 70's BSA Thunderbolt which would be an amusing touring bike for the right person, but that person would have to find old steam engines amusing, long to own a model T, etc., etc.

Don't overlook the modern Triumph touring bikes. The Trophy is a very comfortable tourer and is powerful and reliable. It's a big bike, though. The Sprint is another good used value, especially tricked out with luggage.

If you're going to be doing genuine touring, do not discount the value of a good set of fitted luggage. BMW and Triumph both excel in this department.
posted by maxwelton at 11:09 PM on April 24, 2008

I'll second sourwookies Pacific Coast recommendation. My dad had three PC800s, and it's my all time favourite bike. The integrated saddlebags are awesome when you're touring...they're more like a trunk.
posted by Kreiger at 2:20 AM on April 25, 2008

Also, you won't find me recommending a used Beemer to a non-gearhead because they often require a specialized mechanic to repair. People will argue with me, but it's the truth. Beemer bike mechs are in the $120-$200/hr range.

I would argue with this, most respectfully. First, in most of the US, dealer shop rates are in the $75-$85 range, probably a bit higher in some places, usually lower for independent shops.

But more importantly, BMWs are some of the easiest motorcycles to work on. Partly because they are well-made and designed to be serviced, but mostly because there is such a deep base of fanatics providing advice for the DIY'er. Websites like the IBMWR one I linked, plus all the model-specific groups (Airheads, Chaingang, etc etc etc), are a resource for the at-home amateur that most other brands do not have. That's partly demographic -- BMW riders tend to skew older and richer and nerdier, which means that they have the time and expertise to put together websites about the technical aspects of their bikes. But it's a culture of "fix it," not "use it and throw it away" like you see with the racer guys on the latest and fastest street bikes.

Parts availability, even for a 30 year old BMW, remains excellent. You can still get most parts new, and there are plenty of BMW-only junkyards that will sell the parts used. (And I can't emphasize enough how having a motorcycle that is designed to be serviced will make your life easier -- it shows up in things like high quality fasteners that don't strip out every time you try to unbolt something, and in logical, compartmentalized designs that are easy to remove and install.)

That said, the BMWs are quirky, generally less powerful for their weight than a comparable Japanese bike, and they are priced higher. Every small town has a KawaYamaHonSuz dealer; BMW dealers are fewer and further between, which can be a problem if you are out on the road and have an issue that you can't resolve on your own. They aren't the bike for everyone, but they are well made and have a lot of style, and are perfect for long rides.
posted by Forktine at 5:02 AM on April 25, 2008

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have the 1200 BMW cruiser. However...the recent iterations are so very very engineered that the mind sort of boggles. On my old Kaw I can rip it apart and put it all back together in a couple hours. In a late model Beemer there's an MPFI fuel injection system to contend with, computer controlled valve timing and ignition, carbon fiber rods and lots of other challenges. I'd prefer to have to work on a bank of 6 carbs than a bike with injectors, lol. But then---I'm a pansy. You'd be SOL here if you needed a beemer worked on...and by "here" I mean "this state."
posted by TomMelee at 6:08 AM on April 25, 2008

I just bought a '98 Honda Shadow 1100cc for touring and it is very comfortable. I spent less than $5000 US.

It's like driving around in a recliner.

First I would say that you need to decide on a price range and then go from there.
posted by chugg at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2008

I have a Yamaha V-Star Custom I like. Paid $2300 for it and I can ride it all day now that I've swapped off the horrible stock seat. You can get a 650 or 1100. Mine's a 650 and it's plenty for my purposes, plus it gets 50+ mpg.

Mine was a bit cheaper b/c it'd been dropped and there's a big dent in the tank.
posted by Camofrog at 7:46 AM on April 25, 2008

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