Adventure riders face one of the most difficult questions – which motorcycle do I buy?
How do you decide on the perfect bike for all seasons that will comfortably cope with five years of mileage in five months? We asked Julia Sanders, one half of the double Guinness World Record-holding GlobeBusters couple, how they chose the perfect motorcycle for the best expedition.
“Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for choosing a bike for an adventure,” Julia admits. “A lot is down to personal preference and what you feel most comfortable and confident riding. There’s a school of thought that you can use any bike you like but, in general, thinking about the key elements of your journey will help make the decision for you.”
It’s vital to consider the time and distance you will be on the road for each day and for how many days. If you’re away for several weeks or months, or plan long days in the saddle, a larger capacity machine is going to be essential.
Weigh things up
A few riders on our 38,000km expedition from Alaska to Argentina opted for middleweight adventure bikes for reduced size and weight to increase manoeuvrability. It does make them more manageable on the loose, but means a smaller, less comfortable seat, less room to move around while riding and reduced performance on the road sections.
Dig the dirt
What percentage of your ride is on dirt? If it’s low, then the weight benefits aren’t that important. Handling larger machines, such as the Tiger Explorer, on trails might be a little daunting at first, but it’s a skill that can be learned. Before setting off ensure you’re confident handling larger bikes on dirt and that you know the right way to pick up a fully laden adventure bike.
Regardless, the reality is that most around-the-world riders spend the majority of their time on paved roads.
Fuel for thought
It’s a harsh reality of motorcycle life that smaller capacity means less fuel and managing it can be a juggling act that may mean you have to carry extra cans. There won’t be a support vehicle when you’re travelling independently.
Length of trip and where you’re staying will dictate the amount of kit you’ll need. If you’re camping you’ll need the carrying capacity and cubes to haul a tent and equipment as well. Even more so if you’re taking a pillion.
If you’re going off-road or on paved roads in developing countries, ground clearance and suspension are important factors to consider. Try not to be tempted to lower your bike – some riders don’t feel secure unless they get two feet flat on the floor, but this is only about confidence and training. Spoked wheels are also a good idea as you can carry replacement spokes with you and repair at the side of the road.
Be crash conscious
Choose a machine that can be easily fitted with crash protection. Whether you’re riding on- or off-road for a long period, chances are you’ll go down at some point, and engine bars and bash plates save a lot of heartache.
If you’re going the distance in a relatively short time, it’s great not having to adjust and lube a chain or find a replacement en route. The 800 Explorer’s power is transmitted to the rear wheel through a low-maintenance final shaft drive while the 1200 is the most powerful shaft-driven engine in its class.
As a rule, crash or drop damage is what keeps riders most busy rather than mechanical failures, but a touch of vehicle sympathy and attention to the environment you’re riding in can reduce the risk. There was a time when we advocated avoiding complicated electronic wizardry and we even declined ABS on our machines, but the new Triumphs have changed the game with adaptable rider modes and cruise control.
Batteries sometimes give up under extra pressure from things like heated grips, heated vests, spotlights and extreme cold or altitude, so upgrade and update before a big trip wherever possible.
… one last thing before you go
Remember that on an extremely long-distance journey, your bike can be doing the equivalent of five years’ riding in five months, although most won’t go near that. Keep things proportionate to the context of where you’re heading and for how long. Ride sympathetically, choose your bike with the conditions you’re encountering in mind and the odds will be on your side for an unstoppable trip, irrespective of which family of Triumph you decide to ride.
Find out more about GlobeBusters expeditions to North America, Iceland, Mexico and beyond.