Monday, June 22, 2015

The next bike after the 690 Enduro R

Different approaches of replacing the 690 Enduro


No, it's not yet time, but at some point it will be. (maybe spring 2017 at the earliest). I sort of enjoy this kind of pointless pondering so I wrote my thoughts down.

As far as bikes, it feels that I've found my niche so to say and I certainly want to stay "in category". What ever the next bike will be it should be in the dual sport category or at least in the "adventure" category. I have come to appreciate simplicity and lightness over comfort and power. Skilled riders can make dual sports of even the big ADV bikes, but that's them, not me.

Road map to my next bike?

I tried to visualize (above) the different approaches available, while still staying (loosely) in the adventure category. The list of bikes on the illustration is far from complete, but it gives some idea of what I have in mind when going to a certain direction.

Disclaimer

Before anyone gets offended by me "disrespecting" their bike or getting in any way worked up. Don't. I fully recognize that this is just a one man's opinion and all in all an ass backwards way of approaching motorcycling (be it adventure riding or something else). It should be about the riding, not the bikes. This is how the world of motorcycles look to me and this rambling is mostly for my own entertainment. I've thrown bikes into categories, but I'm sure some will feel that some bikes are in the wrong category.

It seems that getting something else than another 690 Enduro R will likely move my motorcycling to some direction. There is nothing out there that would be a direct competitor to the 690 Enduro in a sense that it would offer very similar specs and performance. Simplified very strongly, it's either more power and weight and worse off road performance or less power and weight and similar off road performance.



The can't buy category

Some interesting stuff just isn't available in europe. The KLR and DRZ to name a few. Despite the fact that these bikes exist, there is no point contemplating them because they simply can't be bought. There are also bikes that ARE sold in Europe, but I would categorize to the can't buy section too because of total lack of domestic retailers or service network. (CCM Motorcycles being a good example)

Suzuki DR-Z400 is one of the bikes that money can't buy in Europe


Choosing a bike by numbers alone?

Some bikes and numbers from each category
Choosing a bike by numbers alone is not a working solution to begin with. Let alone doing it by only few numbers. Not much can be derived from the table above. The variation is too big and there should at least be some sort of points system to give more weight to the numbers that actually matter. And that doesn't really work either.

Below is a chart I did back in 2014 just for fun to see what bike I should get solely by the numbers. I chose a selection of bikes, entered the "key" data and weighted the points according to my priorities back then. By the numbers I should have bought the 250 Honda and the 690 E wasn't even in the top 5.


Choosing a bike is not an exact sience in a way that you just fall for some bikes no matter what the so called facts say. Oh, and the actual feel of the bike is probably most important. That can't be derived from numbers.


The different approaches 

The BIG adventure route


Here we have the big BMWs, Super Teneres, KTM 1190 Adventure and so on. The upcoming Honda "Africa Twin" is a bit of a mystery. I don't know if it really fits in with the big BMWs as Teneres, but until proven otherwise it's mentally in this category. If nothing else, it will be priced similarly.

PROS
- Power
- Comfort
- Technical goodies

CONS
- Weight
- Price

I honestly can not take this route. I can not afford it and even if I could I could not imagine myself taking these bikes to the places I want to be able to go. I'm not skilled enough to do it and I don't have the wallet to live with the consequenses. The big bikes also have a sort of disconnected feel, that the smaller simpler machines don't. Also, while I'm sure these bikes can commute, I'm not sure I would enjoy that.

The middle weight adventure route


This is GS800 and Triumph 800 country.

PROS
- Power
- Comfort
- Technical goodies

CONS
- Weight
- Price

On paper, the perfect compromise, right? Somewhat more manageable than the big ADVs, but still way too cumbersome when one is used to the 690. I tested the Triumph XC800 recently and while it was good in many ways it's just still too much of everything. To me these bikes have all the same cons as the big ADVs.

The small displacement Dual sport


Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha have very capable 250cc dual sports.

PROS
- Weight
- Price
- Simplicity

CONS

- Power
- Comfort
- kind of excludes track days

These bikes are the opposite of the big ADVs when it comes to the pros and cons. For me this is the lot of bang for the buck category. Roaming the forums and test riding all of the 250 cc bikes (Kawi, Honda and Yamaha) have convinced me that this is the route I might take. I have no doubt that these bikes couln't do almost anything that you ask of them with the exception of riding two up and doing track days. I rode on the back seat of a Honda 250L and I never wan't to do that again. It wasn't because the bike wouldn't get us where we were going, it was just too small for that. Track days on the other hand... I just don't see it being fun amongst all the bigger bikes.

The Scrambler



Invention as old as the pyramids (almost). Scramblers are (hopefully) making some sort of a commercial comeback. Lord knows we have had thousands of garage built speciments filling sites like bikeEXIF for years.

PROS
- Simplicity
- cool factor (yeah, I said it)
- power
- comfort to a degree

CONS

- "fragile"
- suspension
- price

I really liked the Triumph Scrambler I had back in 2010 and I did'd hate the new Ducati Urban enduro either. Scramblers are a bit pricey for what they really are, but they seem to a charm to them that no other bikes in my "categorisation" have. Going Scrambler would mean ditching my dreams of riding the really bad roads and doing river crossing and such, but maybe the improved road manners will eventually make up for that? I am tempted. I can just envision it though... Taking my spotless Ducati Scrambler to places my skill set can't handle and then crying myself to sleep after scratching and dinging 2000 € worth of panels, tanks and bits. There's an upside to owning a bike that has panels made out of plastic buckets. Then again, track days on a Scrambler should be spectacularly fun.

The Supermoto way


Not many choices in this category. It's either KTM or KT... I mean Husqvarna 701. Sure there are pure bread supermotos out there, but they are just as impractial for road use as the pure bread enduro bikes. The 250cc class has some supermoto type offerings, but the supermoto experience needs a bit more oomph than what a road going 250cc can provide.


PROS
- Simplicity
- power / weight ratio
- handling!
- fun!

CONS

- comfort
- being possibly associated with wheelie hooligans...

It was a coin toss with between the Enduro R and SMCR when I bough my current bike. If I had gotten to test ride the SMCR I probably would have picked that instead of the enduro. It's that much fun. You can swap the wheels around on both, but truthfully it's not that simple. The SMCR is set up differently, it's not just the wheels. If I come to the conclusion, by the time it's time change bikes, that the 690 is the superior platform for a motorcycle I will probably go with the SMCR (or Husky 701 if KTM decides to kill the SMCR as the rumor goes.) I'm repeating myself, but the SMCR was the most fun I've had on a race track and really miss that.

Going electric


Very fashionable still. The future is electric and all that. Mountains of torque and Tie Fighter sounds, right? Pure bliss in a eco self-righteous way.

PROS
- Simplicity
- power / weight ratio
- handling!
- weight (depends on bike)

CONS

- weight (depends on bike)
- RANGE
- price
- resale value?

My opinion is that for most types of adventure riding or dual sporting electric is not an option. I would not want to wonder in to the "desert" knowing that I would need to find a electricity in and hour or so. Nor would I want to go explore the countryside of an unknown country with a range of 150 kms and not knowing if I can recharge the bike anywhere. Let alone, go to really isolated places where I know there is no electricity. Even if I was just riding the countryside on paved roads and had planned charging places beforehand, I'm not really keen on sitting on my ass for 5-8 hours waiting my zero DS to charge fully. Most importantly, with current tech, a basic 300 km day trip would mean equal amount of riding and charging, turning a 5 hour ride into a 12 hour ordeal. That said, once/if they get the ranges up and/or charging times down significantly I'm in.


The hypermotos


To my knowledge this is an Italian invention and a good one at that. I don't know what the proper term for these bikes are, but I've been calling them hypermotos, meaning supermotos on steroids. To my knowledge only Ducati, Aprilia have current offerings in this category. KTM used to have 990 supermoto which was a beast of a machine too, but apparently didn't sell well enough,

PROS
- power / weight ratio
- handling
- ergos
- weight
- presumanly fun on track too

CONS

- weight
- price


The hypermotos are wondering pretty far from the adventure category, but with proper tires could do gravel roads just as well as any scrambler. The hypers are also sort of light, but only by comparison to big / middle weight ADVs. The Ducati I tried, was very very nice on the road. One of the best I've ever tried. Somehow I just don't think that I would be able to enjoy it on the gravel roads as much as a down to earth scrambler. The Duc is also pretty expensive while the Aprilia can be had for quite a bit less. The hypermotard is a bike that I want, but just not enough to justify the price.


The pseudo adventure Category



This is tricky. Plenty of offerings here. Whether or not they all belong to this category is certainly debatable. These are do it all bikes that excel at nothing and that's not really a fascinating sales point.

PROS
- little of everything
- practical
- comfy
- value for money

CONS

- weight
- fragile
- too much of a compromise

The Honda NC750X had me sold at one point. It's many virtues included fuel efficiency, storage space, low center of gravity, price etc. I still sometimes think that I might have been better of with an NC given what my riding actually mostly consists of (commuting). Despite the marketing talk, it's not a dream machine, far from it. Nor is it really built for the rigors of off roading. Similar bikes like the CB500X, Kawasaki Versys have an adventure look to them with plastic "bash plates" and such but really require some modification to be actually used as rough road adventure bikes. Now the definition of "adventure riding" is such that I'm not even going to try, but to me an adventure bike should be able to do roads that your family car can't. Nothing more nothing less. In that respect there's nothing pseudo about a CB500X for example. Most likely it will perform just fine. Dual sports and dual sporting are a different thing.

Is there a conclusion?

Well sort of. Something interesting is bound to pop up by the time it's time to upgrade, so these thoughs are probably dates by then.



My top three plans of action are
1. 250cc dual sport OR maybe a KTM 390 Adventure???? (rumors are getting stronger...)
2. a pseudo adventurer
3. a scrambler


My reasoning for the 250cc bikes taking the top spot are:
- relatively cheap, you can buy a brand new one and still have money for food
- they are relatively simple machines that don't have a million things to go wrong
- light and easy to handle
- rugged, I'll drop it eventually anyway when off the pavement
- cheap to fix, the plastic bucket panel material pays of again
- good fuel economy

[UPDATE July 19th 2015]
Now that the trip up north is done, I must say that there is just absolutely nothing wrong with 690. The bike did everything that I asked it to do and had plenty of capability both on and off road well beyond my own capabilities or skills.

In this respect there is nothing that would justify changing the 690 for something else. At some point, it maybe sensible to trade for a newer bike simply to minimize the probability for general wear and tear related technical issues. The 690 E truly is an exceptional machine.

[UPDATE March 2017]

The 690 is gone and a brand new Honda CRF 250 Rally is waiting for me at the bike shop.
The story continues here https://honda250rally.com/







7 comments:

  1. I was about to ask you about the 390 Adventure, or are you interested in the bike. Seems you are! Maybe someday we will get one, or a WR450R or something like that.

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  2. Very interested, it just seems that it will never be more than a rumor.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Have you heard about the SWM RS 650 R, a reincarnated Husky TE 630?

    Ja tulossa myös Suomeen: http://www.offroadpro.fi/uutinen/mp-racing-oy-aloittaa-swm-maahantuonnin

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    1. Thanks for the link! This was news to me.

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  5. I'm in a similar situation right now. I have a KTM 690 Enduro R 2013, and the only thing it lacks, in my opinion, is real touring capability - like that of KTM 1190R or BMW F800GSA. Other than that, it's good enough in offroad department, and powerful enough on tarmac. Of course, you can use it for touring "as is", but it still won't be very comfortable. I looked at the new KTM 1050 Adventure, but it looks like a cheaper and at the same time more road-oriented version of 1190 R.

    I do not ride in a hard enduro style - nothing really tough for a bike. Ideally, I would like to have a motorcycle that is as light as KTM 690 Enduro, crash-proof (at least to some extent) and at the same time comfortable for touring. The sad thing is that such motorcycles simply don't exist, as you have showed in your post. It's either light weight or comfort, and I think that comfort starts winning me over :)

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  6. I had KTM 690 Enduro 2008. Then I figured it out on KTN 990 Adventure. Then I changed from 990 Adventure to 690 Enduro R 2012. Then I bought KTM 990 Adventure R and used both. It was very difficult to compare and choose. Two seasons, I used 990 and 690 on the road and off-road. This year I sold 990 R and left for me 690. This is the best motorcycle for all that I need: the local travel and adventure off-road. And I do not like highways."I must say that there is just absolutely nothing wrong with 690" - You said the most correct opinion about this bike. Now I do not see other options to change the 690 to another model. But Honda is making a new intrigue: http://www.cycleworld.com/2015/07/24/2016-honda-crf1000l-africa-twin-adventure-motorcycle-review-photos-specifications-new-details-released/ But I do not believe in advertising and will be glad to personally test. Thank you for your blog. It's very interesting, useful and objective.

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