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Any Motorcycle People Here?

Khayembii Communique

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I'm looking to rebuild a motorcycle in the next couple of months for long term travel across North America and was wondering if anyone here had any recommendations. I seriously know nothing about bikes - working on them or riding them - but figure that since I have a ton of friends that have built their own I could probably pick it all up pretty quick if I put the time/effort into it. My budget is probably around $3,000-5,000. I'm not looking for something super nice. I want something that is going to take me where I want to go, be reliable and able to carry all my shit, something that works well in all types of weather, low maintenance and most importantly does not look stupid like most/all touring bikes:
Fucking yuck! I'm also really big into history, and I wanted to start reading up about motorcycle history and thought it might be cool to build a bike that's historically significant in some way. So that might also be something to take into consideration. Also, I'd love to hear about any books/sites if you know any that would help me out regarding any of this - building/rebuilding, riding, travel on a motorcycle, motorcycle history, etc...
 

changy

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There's a particular Argentine who rode a bike across America. I think he even kept a diary.
 

Kurt N

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Originally Posted by JLay87
I'm looking to rebuild a motorcycle in the next couple of months for long term travel across North America .... I seriously know nothing about bikes - working on them or riding them - ...
 

CDFS

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So you want a cheap, reliable, good looking, easy to repair, historically significant bike to ride thousands of miles cross country?
 

gnatty8

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I'd highly recommend you take a motorcycle safety course, and don't rely on your friends to teach you how to ride a motorcycle. People who are self taught tend to have much higher accident rates than those who took some type of formal training.

In terms of books, I read "Long Way Down" which was Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman's book about their ride from Scotland to Cape Town. Cool book. There's also a website (Long Way Round, google it) where you can buy the DVDs of the TV miniseries they made of both their trips.

In terms of a motorcycle, if you plan on riding this across country, you'll want some fairly significant storage. It is not historically significant by any means, but have you considered a late model BMW? I don't own one, but every time I see one go down the road, they have so many compartments/boxes everywhere, they look like they could carry half the contents of my refrigerator, and most of my shoes. They are also pretty reliable from what I've heard.

I can't comment on the idea of trying to build something with two wheels that is intended to hurtle one down the highway at speeds in excess of 75 mph, when one has no experience in either the mechanical aspects of building a motorcycle, or riding one. Best I can think of is to hang out at a place that builds custom bikes or down significant amounts of motorcycle repair and offer to fetch tools/do grunt work in return for being able to watch and learn.

Good luck.
 

Kurt N

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I'm still debating whether the OP is serious. But David L. Hough's Street Strategies is worth a look. It's a book-length collection of 2-page safety tips on everything from railroad crossings to interpreting other drivers' signals.
 

intent

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Originally Posted by CDFS
So you want a cheap, reliable, good looking, easy to repair, historically significant bike to ride thousands of miles cross country?
I suggest OP get very generous motorcycle and life insurance policies.
 

bigbjorn

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You could get a 1964 Honda CB77 (305cc). Same bike Pirsig used on the trip that became the basis for "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." Or you could get a 1974 Super Glide, like Sonny Barger. If the latter, you should get proficient at wrenching on a Shovelhead. For the former, you probably want to know how to re-set points and do a valve adjustment. Hell, if you want to get all "Che" on us, you could get a Norton Model 18. If you asked me for a "historic" bike, I'd pick a R90S, or a 1998 YZF-R1.

Any bike will go across America; it's just how fast or comfortable you want to be doing it. (For the record, if I had to leave tomorrow, and you were paying for the bike, I'd pick a 2011 Road Glide Ultra, or a GL1800.)
 

Khayembii Communique

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Sorry I should clarify. I have been around bikes for years, and have ridden on my friends' bikes both as a passenger and a driver. I have experience in small engine work as well as working on cars. I just have never owned or worked on a motorcycle and don't have significant riding experience.

I am definitely planning on taking a riders safety course offered through MSF, and have also ordered Proficient Motorcycling.

I'm planning on gaining all the experience necessary - both in working on bikes and riding them - before departing. I know how dangerous bikes can be and how important it is to gain the experience and skills necessary to ride safely.

Oh and btw thanks for the rec for the Scotland bike trip memoir I'm definitely going to be reading a ton of those as I prepare for this.

Also I am looking towards smaller bikes because it forces me to take less with me and think more about what I take. Plus most touring bikes I just find hideous and some you might as well just buy a car.
 

Kurt N

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OK, you're serious and also being serious about it. But with apologies to fans of Harley and/or older bikes, I would not take off cross-country on a bike where there was any doubt about reliability. I guess Harleys are more reliable than they used to be, but it would be news to me if even now they're competitive with Japanese bikes in that department.

I haven't done a cross-country trip, but I did a trip up and down the CA coast, 950 mi round-trip, on a 2004 Suzuki 650 V-Strom and I think that was exactly the right choice for me. Inexpensive, reliable, and personally I care less about looks (some people aren't a fan of the V-Stroms) than about actually getting there without a lot of maintenance issues.

With side bags, topcase, and tank bag (and backpack if nec.) you can carry plenty even on a smaller bike. But if "long-term travel" means a leisurely few months cruising around the US and Canada, I think you need to expand your budget and look at bigger bikes.
 

Khayembii Communique

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Why would I need a bigger bike? Seems that you'd be carrying the same amount of stuff regardless of whether the trip is a few weeks or a few months.
 

Kurt N

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Yeah, I wondered about that myself after I posted. Why did I think a bigger bike might be better for a really long trip? I suppose it isn't strictly necessary, but here are some "soft" reasons in the sense that they're open to challenge but worth thinking about: (1) Certain comforts that one can do without for a few days might become more important over a longer haul. Reading material, for instance. Or one's own pillow instead of making do with motel pillows. (2) A bigger bike can be more comfortable to ride. For instance my bike came with only one set of footpegs, whereas at least some bigger bikes are set up with footpegs plus footboards so you can vary your leg position. (I added a second set of pegs on my bike after discovering during my trip that this was a significant issue.) There may be other comfort issues, as well, such as a more comfortable saddle on a bigger bike. (3) The engine on a smaller bike is working harder at highway speeds than the engine on a bigger one. On a really long trip this might translate into more risk of mechanical failure.
 

bigbjorn

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Originally Posted by Kurt N
I guess Harleys are more reliable than they used to be, but it would be news to me if even now they're competitive with Japanese bikes in that department.
Twin-cam Harleys are equally as reliable as Japanese bikes, more durable than most Japanese bikes, and have a service/shop presence in America Japanese bikes can only dream of. 2009+ touring bikes are the best land barges on the planet, with their only serious competition coming from the GL1800. Look, I'm not a huge fan of HDs, but they're pretty good bikes.

I haven't done a cross-country trip, but I did a trip up and down the CA coast, 950 mi round-trip, on a 2004 Suzuki 650 V-Strom and I think that was exactly the right choice for me. Inexpensive, reliable, and personally I care less about looks (some people aren't a fan of the V-Stroms) than about actually getting there without a lot of maintenance issues.
For god's sake, this is Styleforum. Please take your Weestrom and return immediately to Advrider, where the utter horror of the Wee's styling won't make people throw up on their Edward Greens! (No seriously, Wee is a nice bike, but the styling is ugh, and the screen buffeting gets old.)
 

lambchop

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This is the first Honda goldwing from 1975. If it was me and I wanted something "classic" I would probably take something like this. My current daily driver is a modern sportbike (05 Honda 600RR) because I prefer the higher performance and reliability. It is punishing on really long rides though. I've ridden from San Francisco to Orange County on the coast (Highway 1) and back. That was painful...but fun.

 

Kurt N

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Originally Posted by bigbjorn
Twin-cam Harleys are equally as reliable as Japanese bikes, more durable than most Japanese bikes, and have a service/shop presence in America Japanese bikes can only dream of. 2009+ touring bikes are the best land barges on the planet, with their only serious competition coming from the GL1800. Look, I'm not a huge fan of HDs, but they're pretty good bikes.
I'm certainly not opposed to the idea that an American-made bike can be good quality, so I'm willing to defer to those who know more. If HD's are well-made these days, I'm glad to hear it.
Originally Posted by bigbjorn
For god's sake, this is Styleforum. Please take your Weestrom and return immediately to Advrider, where the utter horror of the Wee's styling won't make people throw up on their Edward Greens! (No seriously, Wee is a nice bike, but the styling is ugh, and the screen buffeting gets old.)
Don't mind the jibes, especially since you admitted it's a nice bike once you got serious! I think of the styling as more quirky than ugly, and my long-ish legs would be cramped on a more low-slung bike. Yes, I've thought about swapping out the windscreen. The only other thing I'd say is that although I haven't ever ridden a Harley, I'd have reservations about what I think is a fairly cruiser-type seating position, even on the touring models. I've always heard that on long distances you don't want all your weight on your butt and spine. My little Suzuki is a standard-seat, and if I were looking for a big tourer my first look would be a Gold Wing, also a more of a standard-seat. (If the Road Glides come with, or can be equipped with, pegs that put one's feet farther back, then never mind this part.)
 

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