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Feeling the Shift

14 Jan

I’m feeling the shift from what seems like an interesting idea to taking action.

Today I stopped by LA Cyclesports to price a Suzuki DR650SE. Nine years ago I bought a GSXR750 there, which got me back into motorcycles after a bit of a layoff. It’s fitting that I went there to look at my first off-road bike since I was a kid. After much research I’m pretty sure this is the one, the DR650, the one to take me to the hardest-to-reach surf spots in Baja, and get me down the highway. But first I need to catch you up.

I’ve gone beyond fantasizing to planning and declaring to all my moto-surf trip to Baja and maybe beyond. The idea is simple. Strap a surfboard to a dirt bike and head off. Right.

Which bike? I eliminated the BMW, KTM and other adventure-tourers as too heavy for the really rough stuff and deep sand, and too complicated (having too many parts). My buddies Will and Q have been riding the BMW 1200 Adventure bikes. They ride for fun and train in the woods of New Jersey. I went with them on a Rawhyde weekend training camp for BMW 1200’s, but I rented the 650, which is more of a traditional motocross-style endure bike. A bike that weighs nearly 600 pounds just isn’t my thing. Besides, they’re 6′-plus guys and I’m a scrawny 5’9″. They went on to do another Rawhyde ride, this time in South America where they followed the Dakar race – a grueling ride. I was one part jealous and one part happy not to be dealing with those monstrous bikes. As it turns out, it was a memorable adventure, but the Rawhyde crew mismanaged the thing badly, so they won’t be back. But I’m still jealous and really wish I had gone.

Anyhow, I want a light, simple bike as I’ll be on my own and will need to do everything myself, from picking it up out of a ditch to repairing it after. No water-cooled, multi-cylinder, feature-laden, see-the-world touring rig. No special electronics for everything from heating my butt to adjusting the ride height. Just a plain, simple, big thumper (that’s a single-cylinder bike, typically over 500cc’s), with lots of clearance for the rough stuff.

BA Belton’s “The Alexander Project” trip (http://the-alexander-project.blogspot.com) from Canada to Panama showed how to do it on the Kawasaki KLR 650, a well-respected bike for it’s workhorse-like reliability. A good story and background for my trip. Less surf and more highway than I would like, but it narrowed the search to the so-called “dual sports” – or what we used to call enduro bikes. That narrowed it to the KLR (out), the Honda XR650L (well respected in Baja) and the Suzuki DR650SE. The XR has a 37″ seat height and is great for off-road. But it’s not as good on the highway, and the tall seat makes for difficult slow-going, i.e., can’t put my feet down easily – it’s unstable at slow speeds. The DR has a 34.8″ seat height, is faster on the highway, but the suspension is a bit soft, so it’s not as good for fast off-road travel. And the DR runs about a grand or more less. (That thousand dollars will go a long way toward stiffening the suspension.)

I decided on the DR, with a list of modifications I’ll need to get to. But for today, I found the dealer I will buy from if I buy new. And I can get it out the door for the MSRP, meaning no tax, freight or dealer prep. Awesome. That’s the bike pictured. But I think I’ll look for a slightly used one.

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