WR250R – ready for the desert

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WR250R Index Page

While in Morocco last year and not riding around on my WR250R, I left it with a list and a bunch of stuff with Karim, a desert bikey mate with a lavishly equipped garage and some spare time on his hands. Over the weeks he tinkered away, finishing the job I’d started in the summer, converting the WR into a lightweight desert bike.

tecktemptektempThe list included a TrailTech engine temperature gauge (left). IMO it’s vital to be able to know an engine’s temperature – air or water-cooled; I don’t want to hope some warning light might chip in just as steam starts wafting up from under the tank (as happened to a 450 KTM in the desert once, below left: engine fried, end of his ride). The gauge’s pick up sensor can be mounted anywhere very hot including splicing into the radiator hose to read water temps – all you’re really looking for is a ktmfryrepresentative value from which to evaluate a normal reading. If it starts straying into unusually high figures you can choose to back off, or even stop and turn into the wind at tickover. On the ride back to London in a backwind gale the temperature varied from 85°C up to 115°C flat out or at the lights, but usually around 100. Another handy thing is it reads even when the engine’s off – a handy air temp reading when camping.
At the same time one fan blade got tippexed white to make it easier to see at a glance if it was spinning when it should be.

wr3-12vwrr-ramA RAM mount and wire for my Montana got hardwired in (left) to guarantee a reliable, clip-on connection, and some 12-volt and USB plugs got added to the cross-bar (right). Got no actual use for them but handy to have. There’s also a DIN plug tucked in by the seat base to power a heated jacket and the tyre pump.

wrr-krigstrapwrr-krigovlsI’m going to be trying out some new Kriega Overlander-S panniers – OS32 – which mount and strap on quite cleverly to an HDPE platform that’s clamped to the rack. I’ll do a fuller review of the system once on a road a couple of weeks, but as you can see, the volume means to large tailpack is needed, even with basic camping gear. I find that makes swinging a leg over the high saddle easier and a less cluttered look.

wrr-borkMy trusty old Barkbuster Storms are getting what must be their fifth fitting dorison the WR. Whatever came with the bike was all plastic and not really up to the job. And before I’d even loaded the bike to head back to London, the Barks saved the day when a gust from Storm Doris (right) blew the WR over.

wrr-lampThe headlight bulb has been uprated to a Cyclops H4 LED (find them on ebay) which emits a bluey light, and they promise will cut through the night sky like a meteor shower as well as consumed less juice?
And down by the front sprocket I added a wrr-sandSandman case saver kit from Basher in Missouri. I’m starting on a 14T (on 46), and swapping to a 13T (about 10% lower gearing if the speedo error is any judge), should the need arise.

wrmc23frwrr-rokriderTyres, you ask: I try never to use the same type twice and this time round I’m on Mitas (formerly Sava) MC23 Rockriders. I was hoping to go tubeless until I saw the back DID rim doesn’t have the lip (in which case this would work, were it in my size). I’m confident the Mitaii will easily last the trip of about 5000km, wrklamphelped with a splash of Slime and a few Hail Marys. I’ve also added a dinky rimlokMotion Pro rim lock on the back which weighs next to nothing, but will hopefully bite when the need arises. I can’t see me running pressures low enough where the scant torque of a WR250 will be able to turn the tyre on the rim. The whole point of running knobblies like the MC23s is – away from deep sand plains and dunes – you will get great grip on the dirt without the need to run them at 1 bar and risk flats.

flyandridewrr-fandrAnd that is that. The rest of the adaptions are here.) The bike is on its way to Malaga in a Fly and Ride artic which, at £595 return, actually works out quicker and cheaper than a ferry-and-Spain crossing.
fj12I readily admit the WR is no FJ12 on the open road and makes you feel a bit vulnerable dicing with fast European highway traffic – but then again it won’t be an FJ12 on rough backroads or the pistes either. So far I have a good feeling about the untried WR-R: I love the lightness and the better than average poke for a 250, along with great mpg and desert-ready suspension and tyres. But of course I’ll miss the comfort of last year’s La Mancha-munching CB500X. What we have here is a specialised, lightweight desert touring bike.
Stick around to see how the WR performs in Morocco and, if it behaves, in Western Sahara too.

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Posted in AMH News, Project Bikes, WR250R | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Reviewed: Klim Outrider pants

kot-jakkot-3As I wrote here last year, I’ve been looking for some riding pants that make me feel protected but don’t weigh a ton like my well-worn leathers, but aren’t sweaty membraner overpants. There are these kevlar impregnated jeans, but who actually wears jeans these days?
aspecAfter  a while I decided the Klim Dakar ITBs were just too race-focussed, under-pocketed and too nylony for my tame level of desert touring. At the 2016 NEC Adv Spec put me onto Klim’s forthcoming Outriders – normal looking, jean-like riding pants with well thought out armour. Something you can wear on or off the bike – in other words: ideal do-it-all travelling trousers. They cost £165.

Fyi: I bought these Outriders at a discount from Adventure Spec in return for advertising in my books 

What they say:
The Outrider is designed to traverse the environments and demands of the multi-sport enthusiast.  Scrambling out to your favorite fishing spot, hiking from the trailhead to the lake at 9,000ft, or cruising the boulevard to the pier at sunset.  Wherever your next odyssey takes you, the Outrider is ready for anything.  Built with the quality you expect from KLIM®.

What I think

tik
• Usual Klim quality
• Not plastered in Klim branding
• Exterior knee armour easily removable
• Can pass as normal jeans
• They didn’t go pocket-mad, as many do
• Cotton-Cordura fabric feels tough, but will breathe
• Fast delivery and good comms from Adv Spec

cros
• Regular size way too long in the leg
• Could do with less volume at the ends to avoid snagging
• Expensive


Review
klimoutridersI was pretty sure I’d like the Klim Outriders and out of the box I wasn’t disappointed. I’m around 6′ 1″, 94kg, 37″ waist and inside leg of 32″. So 38 x 32 Regular was my size.
These pants are actually a yard long in the leg and once worn standing up, sag at the heel, like the image at the top of the page. Once with the armour in and with some riding up when sat on a bike, they actually look just right, and if you wear them in-the-boot (good idea to eliminate snagging the baggy ends), it won’t matter. Better too long than too short.
My 38″ Regulars weigh 1440g with the armour, or 1090g without. More than half my leathers and a bit less than the chunky Dakar ITBs.
Unsure if the Outriders would be available in time for my trip, a week earlier I’d chanced on some similar looking Dickies Eisenhowers for a tenner in a saledikeisen. Nice enough looking and with slots to slip in some knee armour, but a level of pocketure you’d not even find on a paramilitary fishing vest. There were even pocketed flaps inside the pockets, handy for a market stall trader or builder’s screws, maybe? OTT for me and soon snipped off.
Back to the Klims; you get two front pockets with a jean-like coin slot inside one; two at the back, one with a flap and stud, and a mobile phone slip-in on the left thigh so you can check in without taking your hand off the throttle.
kor-mrInside, mesh takes the slim D3O hip armour pads (left), and at the knees you slip the armour in from the top, position with unobtrusive velcro and do up a stud. Even without the armour these long, double thickness knees will give some extra protectionkot-mika, and feature drain holes at the lower ends for those deep BAM crossings (right).
At rrp the Klim Outriders cost nearly five times more than the Dickie cheapies, but of course you get what you pay for. The 75% Cotton-Cordura fabric is much more hefty without feeling like a scout tent fabric or being unduly sweaty. The attention to detail and triple-stitching is confidence inspiring and my shade of dark brown works for me. Maybe it was all part of the grand business plan, but it’s good to see Klim getting away from the sporty race wear and into more mainstream riding gear which will have many more buyers.

More impressions of my do-it-all Outriders from the desert road in a week or three.

Posted in Gear Reviews, Jackets & Trousers | Tagged ,

Golden Tyre FTS tubeless tyres

gt-ftsAs you may know, I’ve been experimenting and following various tubeless tyre solutions over the years as tubeless is the way to go on the long road. Why? because punctures – your most likely breakdown on the road – can be easily and reliably fixed in a jiffy (see the link for the long explanation).

Golden Tyre – the unfortunately named Italian tyre maker – has come up with a new idea to the old problem of running tubeless on a spoked rim. The Flite Tubeless System (FTS) has a thick inner tube bonded permanently to the carcass of a hard wearing GT723 Rally Adv tyre creating a new thing: a tubeless-tubetyre.
This means that unlike a foam mousse, you can meddle with the tubeless-slimerpressures, but also unlike a mousse when the tyre is punctured it will go flat. But! – like a tubeless tyre, you just do the ram-plug thing and jog on if you’re not running Slime (right) or a similar sealant were hoping for the best.
Because the tube is bonded to the tyre you imagine there’s less heat tubeless-graphicfrom tube-to-tyre friction at low, flexy pressures, and mounting should be a little easier – certainly easier than mousses, they say. The FTS is lighter than a mousse too. And of course they’ll fit and work on any rim, whether it has the all-important tubeless tyre lip (left) or not. That was the problem I had on my WR recently: all outexset to fit an Outex tubeless system (right, not my wheel) to the back wheel until I noticed it had no tyre-bead retaining lips. Without them slow leakage is likely.

The drawback – well they only come in two sizes right now, and they cost from £150 each from Adventure Spec, but if you factor in the possible cost of needing to convert to tubeless rims (as I could have done with the WR), maybe it works out. A regular GT723 is only some wrrockriders£30 cheaper – pretty expensive tbh, when my similar Mitas Rockriders (right) cost about half that. And for travelling, when your FTS GT723 wears out, where will you get a new one? Well that’s always been the problem with getting any good tyre on the road – and is why long-wearing ones like the Heidenau K60 or Mitas E07 are worthwhile.

lyndtyreAdv Spec rider Lyndon Poskitt (left) got 10,000km from his tubed GT723 on his 690, including a rally in Mongolia. So you’d imagine a less racey traveller might get half as much again.

If they ever come in my bike size, I hope to try one, although the bodger in me wonders if you could bond a regular inner tube to the inside of a regular tyre, and achieve the same effect? Thing is, I bet GT do more than just glue a tube into the tyre – I suspect it’s vulcanised or something. Otherwise, it would have to be a brilliant DIY glue job as any heat might see it all delaminate.

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At the 2016 NEC bike show

At this year’s Motorcycle Live bike show at the NEC I had a chance to see the bikes I speculated over a couple of weeks back from Milan’s EICMA. This is what caught my eye.

nec-rallinec-raliThe Honda CRF250L Rally (left and right) was attracting a lot of attention, and quite right too. Who’d have thought it’s only a 250 kid’s bike. I have a soft spot for the ‘Rally’ look. After all, the original ‘adventure smt-xlmbikes’, not least the 650 Africa Twin, XL600M (right) and the Tenere were all based on the looks of big-tanked Paris-Dakar nec-crf17desert racers. As for being a useful travel bike, acres of plastic apart, the 10L tank will be good for 300km and, away from the gloss black, I did notice a bigger sidestand foot. Good thinking, Honda. You wonder if the rear subframe might have been beefed up a bit, too. A mate of mine in Switz has already ordered one for February delivery.
The regular 250 (left) looks less flash but has the same slight power increase and ABS for Europe which will put it up to 150kg+. We’ll probably be riding these new CRFs on next year’s Morocco tours.
nec-b310nec-bm311The BMW GS310 also looked great in the flesh. I predict this bike will be a hit, just like the full-size GS. With an 11-litre tank, 19-inch front  wheel and a low seat 310spexheight, it’ll be a comfy road bike, but officially weighs a staggering 169.5kg dry so  may be a handful in the dirt. Sounds like a chip off the old block then! Detailed official specs on the right.
nec-kawaxOver on the Kawasaki stand, the new Versy-X 300cc twin also looked promising in real life. The spec board was incomplete bar the £5149 starting price, but the fuel tank is said to be a huge 17 litres which, again, will easily manage 400km, and nec-kawazxkerb weight is 170kg, same the BMW 310 dry. Seat height and power were unlisted but ought to be similar to the BMW, with the twin cylinder motor being a bit smoother. I don’t just make this stuff up, you know!
nec-klxSidelined in the shadows alongside the new 300 was the venerable KLX250 (left) getting it’s annual rearrangement of the green-black-and-white paint. For four grand in the UK, there’s nothing wrong with this 250 (as I can attest)  – but no one seems to notice it.
versyxthaiExcepting the enduring cult of the KLR650 in North America, of all the Jap dual sporters, Kawasaki are the least popular travel bikes, certainly in Europe. I’ve never seen one in North Africa. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because Kawasaki never officially (and rarely privately) contenec-vstrom250sted the Dakar Rally or similar events. Doubtless in domestic circuit racing their KXs are on par with RMs and YZs, and as flat trackers Kawasaki do alright too. More VersyX pics here.
Loaded with lots of plastic luggage isn’t a great look to me, so the Suzuki V-Strom 250 twin (right) appeared a less sprightly than the similar VersyX, but maybe the mini-tourer look will catch on with some. Of the two the 300-cc Kawasaki looked a bit more like it.
nec-swimnec-swmmOutfitted in a similar clunky touring set up rather than as a lithe overlander, SWM’s Super Dual didn’t seem to be a triumph of Italian design, and to finally see it was a disappointment. Nineteen incher on the front and laden with crash bars and plastic luggage, it’s a long way from the sporty TE630 whose expote630motor the Dual uses. Expedition Portal did a overlanding rs550makeover on a TE (right) in 2015 – that’s what I hoped SWM might have done. In fact the same-engined RS650R (left) looks much more like it, especially with a claimed 144kg dry weight. Tank is 12 litres and it’s only £5700, but reviews call it ‘agricultural’. As it is, all the accessories help pile up the Super D’s weight up to a claimed 187kg so it’s not the new XChallenge, more like an XT660 Tenere, but I liked the rear shock remote preload knob. Price is £7599 with Givi luggage. Me, I’d save two grand and 40 kilos with an RS.
nec-himnec-kotsThe Enfield Himalayan had it’s own exclusive sandy stage behind their well-known modern vintage bikes. They’ve elected to bring it in to Europe with ABS nec-himbiyaand fuel-injection to achieve compliance. They do things differently in India, which is refreshing – I like the tankside storage but I can’t help thinking that by the time they’ve emissioned the motor down husky17to Euro 4, there won’t be much left of the 28-hp.
The 2017 Husky 701 was also on show (right). I was riding a 2016 model in Morocco last week – impressions here. Next year’s model has a lot more power – the last thing it needed, IMO – but does it look better?

The adventure world needs a new kind of motorcycle that can offer the genuine long distance versatility and pure durability of the original Ténéré, combined with contemporary design plus cutting edge engine and chassis technology. Yamaha T7 promo-blurb

nec-t7The T7 Yamaha – a Tenereised MT07 concept bike – looked great, an agile, rally-styled bike. But it’s not a serious Dakar contender so what’s it for and will it happen? I’d pessimistically imagined the new Tenere twin would be closer to a Tracer than this T7, with all the unwanted weight that entails. t77In other words, a disappointment. All that in exotic alloy and carbon made me merely assume it was just an experiment rather than a prototype but the latest issue of Bike magazine is much more confident: ‘… make no mistake. This is going into production and you’ll be riding one in 2018’. I’ll take their word over mine.
2017_yam_t7-conceptJudging from Yamaha’s page, it looks like Yamaha are imitating Honda’s gradual seeding promo strategy of the Africa Twin – and that didn’t turn out too badly. I loved the engine when I rode an MT-07 last year. Fitting it in a light, ‘180-kilo dry XT700Z’ sounds a bit radical for the Japs, but it will be like a a blend of Rally Raid’s CB500X and the CRF1000L Africa Twin – both very popular machines whether you’re a traveller or not.
So it does appear some of us are getting what we wished for – lighter, smaller adv bikes with genuine off-road utility for regular riders, not tank-wrestling stuntmen. It will be interesting to see if any of these shape up to be potentially good travel bikes in the next few months.


nec-girderEnec-tronye-catching apparitions elsewhere included a Tron bike and on the right, a distinctive girder-framed overlander with a positively subterranean saddle height and jerrican panniers that were clearly copied off my 1982 XT500 desert bike.
hy-bajahanec-ducscramIt has to be said Ducati’s Desert Scrambler (left) has something going for it with some serious off road intent, not just retro looks. It brought to mind the similarly cool-looking Husqvarna Baja concept (right) of a few years ago. Make one of those with a detuned 701 motor, please.
nec-krigAs for gearKriega’s new but as yet unnamed plate-on-rack-mounted panniers were on show, but not for sale yet. I had a close look at them a while back and may be trying a set later.
nec-aspecNearby, Dave Lomax showed me Adventure Spec’s new meshy desertwear (right) – a breathable kevlar mesh jacket similar to Rev It’s Cayenne and Klim Induction. I had a couple of guys on the Morocco tour wearing these sorts of jackets, but they did do a lot of stopping to put on or remove layers. I get the feeling such jackets are for full-on, high summer or tropical riding where even with all the vents going, you don’t want Cordura, far less a waterproof/breathable membrane.
nec-klimKlim are about to ditch their Overland jacket – a new look Traverse is taking its place, or an altogether new Carlsbad (right) with an integrated hip belt to help take the weight of the jacket (seemed to work) and velcro-free arm cinchers. Price will be around £600 they say, and it’s not all black! Must say, klimpoxnow I’ve added some mesh ‘drop pockets’ inside (right), I’ve grown into my functional Overland which may still be going for just £300 at A Spec if you’re quick.
nec-bellsAnd finally, over at Bell Helmets, no great surprise to see they brought back the Moto III lid from the 1970s and early 80s (right)bell84. But now of course it’s being pitched as hipster/retro wear, not a proper dirt biking helmet. Trying it on it’s a lot more comfy that the original brick – not hard to do – and I must admit I like the plain widget-free exterior. Made of fibrelass, it costs £280 and comes in a bunch of snazzy colours.

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Husqvarna 701 quick review

husk-2The first generation Husky 701 is a slightly toned down KTM 690: a bit less power, less fierce delivery and less suspension travel with different settings – but still plenty to be getting on with. Possibly excepting SWM’s hefty Super Dual (based on the old Husky TE630), these days there’s nothing much like these husk-6two bikes since BMW’s Xchallenge was dropped in 2009. They’re hardcore, dirt thumpers where light weight (146kg dry) and performance trounce the comfort and equipment of your typical Tenere or KLR sofas, while still delivering excellent economy and RTW-usable service intervals.


Quick stats

  • 67hp with 3 maps + bad fuel map
  • 146kg dry
  • 10,000km oil changes
  • 36.6” / 927mm claimed seat height
  • 13 litre tank (~390km possible range)
  • ABS disengageable at the rear (or altogether with a widget)
  • 18/21-inch wheels
  • 2016 model £8000 / US$11,300 (or about two KLR650s)
  • The 2017s are a lot more powerful, along with other changes

tik

  • husk-4Quiet pipe and motor
  • Impression of quality and solid build
  • Minimal transmission lash
  • Light for what it is
  • Usable low-down power
  • Smooth hydraulic clutch
  • Powerful but usable brakes
  • Great WP suspension on all but roughest trails
  • Great economy with a potential range of over 350km
  • 10,000-km oil changes

croshusk-3

  • Vibration at >80kph
  • Seat height
  • Bit of a Picasso to look at, IMO
  • Fuel filler will be under a tail pack
  • Low-speed ABS gave me a fright – but it’s switchable

husk-7

Husky’s 701 proves you can have nearly all your cake and eat it. It must be the lightest road-ready big thumper around, while not compromising on great suspension, brakes and response that can be mellow or a blast, depending on your needs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been curious to try out the 701 or its KTM cousin, and had a chance to rent one while on one of my Morocco tours. Although the trails we ride are easy enough, I was expecting it to be a handful, based on a short 690 ride a few weeks earlier.
In fact, once I got accustomed to the knobblies on the road (worn MT21 rear, Mitas Rockrider front) the 701 surprised me by being very manageable both there and on the trail. The thing would happily plod along at XR250 speeds (the bikes I rode with) without any impression it was straining at the leash. The suspension took it all in its stride and the brakes required no more finesse than you’d apply to any big thumper on the dirt.
husk-1The engine was torquey and felt much less harsh than what I recall of my BMW XCountry (some 10kg heavier with 20% less power). Like most modern, lean-burning engines it runs hot – the fan kicked in while pootling along on a warm 20°C afternoon at 1800m with a strong backwind, but the fuelling remained steady. (I don’t know which of the three engine maps I was on – the softest I suspect. There’s a switch under the seat – righthusk-switch). Only trickling along on a virtually closed throttle did it hesitate a bit, but that never affected the riding. The hydraulic clutch never varied in feel either, the gear changes were slick and even with a cush drive in the rear hub there was a welcome absence of the transmission lash commonly found on Jap equivalents. (This bike had around 5500 rental kms on the clock.)
husk-10When the time came, it was great to be able to blast from 100 to 130kph with confidence – a typical overtaking manoeuvre. And all this achieved while returning the high 70s mpg (27.3 kpl  – 77.3 mpgUK – 64.3 mpgUS). With the claimed 13-litre tank, that’s an very useful potential range of over 350km  when herding a bunch of feline XRs.
This all makes it sound like a great travel bike now that the remaining Japanese thumpers: XR650L; DR650; XT660Z, Kawasaki KLR650 (some in production for over a quarter century) clock in at 200 kilos and with little more than half the Husky’s power, even if they are up to half the price.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For me the fly in the ointment was vibration on the road. It may have been exaggerated by the knobblies, but you just can’t get away with it on any 690cc single banging out nearly 100hp/litre. Have I got so used to smooth bikes like 250s and Honda’s CB500X? It shocked me when I tried the 690 after riding my WR250 the other week – and it felt even worse on the 701 at over 80kph. My throttle hand was going numb, and you’d have to be in a real hurry or somehow immunised to want to sustain over 100kph for long. Softer grips might help. The seat while hard, was over a full day actually no less butt-numbing than the XRs I rode, and rode with. It’s the same on my WR – a narrow seat need not be a write off; it must be down to the foam. But when I took a well-used XR250 for a quick spin I was staggered by how smooth and cushy it was. A week earlier I rode everything the Husky managed with near equal ease and as much fun. Man I’m getting old!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt rest I got my toes down OK but getting your leg over the 36-inch + seat height will become a pain when you’re on the road with all your clobber and getting tired. A weekend’s trail biking might not be a bother, but travelling for weeks or months it might just get on your wick.

As a travel bike I’d say it only suits those committed to uncompromising off-road touring (like this guy), but even then do you really need 67hp OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAto manage the BAM track; the gnarliest Sahara crossing or highest Himalayan traverse? Even on some sort of semi-competitive event or just rec’ riding with your mates, using it to it’s full potential, the weight – modest though it is – would soon become hard to handful. So you do wonder if the forthcoming Husky Vitipen 401 cafe racer might get the adv treatment.

I’d be happy to lose 10-20% husky17offOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA that peak power if it corresponded to much less vibration and so a more usable travel machine which would still have amazing (or perhaps even better?) economy and oil change intervals with the light weight. That bike probably isn’t the SWM RS650R (basically a Husky TE630), but anyway, cushy travel bikes not what KTM (Husky brand owners) do, or is presumably what the market demands. These days it has to be all or nothing – or an overweight Japanese dinosaur. Still, KTM/Husky at least prove that an economical, sub-150-kilo big thumper with a useful range and rideable engine can be produced.

A review from Dirt Rider (US).
Some pics by J-M and Y VdL

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News from Milan: lightweight or just small capacity?

crflrMilan’s 2016 EICMA bike show saw the emergence of several new ‘lightweight adventure bikes’, as some of the biking media have been describing them.
Me, I’d sooner call them ‘small-capacity adventure-styled’ bikes between 250 and 400cc. In some cases they’ve mini versions of established models, a ploy to lure the curious to a brand’s globe-trotting look.
bmw1From the specs available, the weight, and therefore suitability for actual adventuring along rough tracks, is nothing to get excited about. The 34-hp BMW 310 single will have more than enough power to achieve this, but is said to weigh some 170kg. And I doubt the Versys 300 or DL250 (below) will be much lighter.
And yet for travellers I suspect light weight is the primary reason for choosing bikes around this 250 category. Seat heights aren’t always so low and their economy isn’t substantially better than say, a CB500X, let alone an NC750, once you balance it against the performance loss which can make you feel a bit vulnerable riding at elevation, uphill in a headwind, as I was last month on my KLX250X.
tornadamzonemapBut that usually applies in wealthier countries outside the AMZ (right) where the vehicles aren’t old bangers as they are here in Morocco. For the last two weeks we’ve been riding around on XR250 Tornados (left) which compare very well with current CRF-Ls: less weight, same power and mpg and better suspension. On the road even clapped-out examples running over 88,888km can indicate 120 clicks. And the great thing on the dirt is they’re so unintimidating and forgiving anyone can soon feel comfortable on them.
versys-1vstrom1Some of the bikes, like the 300 Versys (left) and Suzuki V-Strom DL250 (right) are parallel twins and unlikely to be any lighter than the BMW 310. You do wonder why make a small twin – some say it helps constrain emissions. More likely it’s to connect the small version with the bigger twins they’re based on. They’re not trail bikes.
An often overlooked benefit of small-capacity singles is the lack of vibration compared to a 650 thumper. I was reminded of that as soon as I started a KTM 690 after riding my WR250R recently. Minimal vibration adds a welcome, if small, concession to comfort which some 250s otherwise lack.
That’s why 450 is the real segment that interests me, not something in the low 300s cc which I presume fits some licensing category in a promising market. Decent ‘get-out-of-jail’ poke with ideally, not much weight or vibration. Right now all we have ccm450is the CCM 450GP (right and reappraised in Rust mag #17). I just had a couple of GP owners on my tour (but renting the XRs), and both confirmed what I’ve suspected without ever having ridden a CCM: for all their amazing light weight and great suspension they run highly strung motors for something pitched as a travel or trail bike, rather than an out-and-out racer. Extensive after-market engine re-mapping may help get round that, but it’s no XR400.
01-enfield_himalayanTalking of 400s, they say the 411-cc Enfield Himalayan (right) will be coming to Europe. But by the time they squeeze it through the emissions regs, I bet it won’t have more power than a 2017 CRF250L. (It’s said to produce 24hp and weigh over 180 kilos, wet). That was my impression after riding a similar capacity Chinese 400 last year. Outside of India, Enfield won’t be able to depend on its trusty old plodder cache for ever.

crf250llBased on looks alone, my favourite is the Rally-styled ‘HRC’ CRF-L (left). The best info and nearly full specs are currently at Honda US. Power is up 10% they say, to 24.4hp, with the weight claimed to stay at 144kg for the standard version (above right – same as the current 250L), and 155kg for the Rally rep. There’s an easy to use comparison table here.
crf250l_2017_18The Rally version is not just a quick makeover; Honda have taken it quite seriously. Changes include revised headlight, an inch more rear travel, bigger front disc and tiny differences in castor, rack, wheelbase, suspension damping doomo13and seat height. The Rally’s tank holds 10.1 litres against 7.8 litres on the regular bike. This short range was one problem I found on my CRF-L in the US (left). At  my average of 30.5kpl that means the Rally ought to be good for 300km which is OK.
In the US you’ll pay $5100 or $5900 for the Rally. ABS is another $300 on either and that will add some more weight on the European models where ABS is now mandatory.
This rally look: tall screen, large tank, good suspension, lack of bulk, is not just for the kids. An all-terrain adventure bike traveller benefits from all that too. All Honda need to do is win the real Dakar Rally one of these years, and surely they’d crack and finally produce a CRF450L rally rep. What will there be to grumble about then? Oh, it’s just too red!
More impressions on these and other travel bikes at next week’s Motorcycle Live show at the NEC.

Posted in AMH News, CRF250L Project Bike | Tagged , , , , , ,

Tested: Kriega Saddlebag Duo 36

klx-27The the custom-retro scene is encroaching on the adventure biking boom. Bonnevilles now have more spin-offs than a Hadron Collider, Klim have a Belstaff-mimicking retro jacket in the works and Kriega have come out with the Saddlebag Duo 36 throwovers, much like what we ran in the 70s and 80s, but not made of PVC-coated cardboard. Fittingly, the promo video features a Ducati Scrambler in a post-industrial, brick-and-iron setting.
klx-5More just plain unshaven than waxed and groomed, I used the Duos on a ten-day trail ride between the Colorado Rockies and Phoenix, slung over a KLX250S. No rack is not recommended (by me or Kriega) but that’s how my KLX swung.
Listed at only 18-litres each side (will actually be hold much more: see this) they’re on the small side so not pteropitched at long-range travel bikes. But throwovers are throwovers, whether outside the barbers on Shoreditch High Street, or fighting off pterodactyls in the Lockhart Basin.
They cost £289.


What they say:
1468662589876Kriega Saddlebags are available in either SOLO or DUO options. Universal fit* to modern retro-styled bikes, combining classic design with modern performance.
They are 100% WATERPROOF and constructed from super-tough abrasion resistant Hypalon™ + 1000D Cordura®.

kriega-saddlebags-duo36A roll-top closure guarantees total weather protection and the white liner makes it easy to find your kit and is removable for cleaning.
Aircraft grade anodized alloy strap connectors and heavy-duty cam buckles hold the bags firmly in position. 
Mounting straps are included for single or double bag set-up, plus an adjustable shoulder strap for use off the bike.

*Requires saddlebag supports fitting to the bike. Not included.

What I think:

tik• Usual rugged Kriega built quality
• Durable hypalon panels
• Thoughtful locating loops on the base to attach to frames.
• Can be used singlely and convert into a large shoulder bag (strap included)
• Bags come folded inside a nifty zipped pouch

cros

•  Closure straps were a bit short once crammed to the max
• The throwover straps may be a bit short too
•  For regular use, the closure system was a little convoluted


Review
krigdupakWith nothing else at hand, at the last minute I grabbed the Duos Kriega had given me to try, to relocate my KLX via a scenic route to Arizona. This meant turning up at a remote house in the Colorado Rockies, getting the dusty KLX running, loading up (left) and hitting the road.
That worked out better than expected, but I was well aware that having the Duos resting on the 250’s side panels was not how they were supposed to be used. I’ve had enough throwover fires and melts, so loaded the Saddlebags as lightly as possible – probably less than 6kg each.krig-6
As I was heading straight for the dirt, I used some chunky Rova Flex cable ties (left) to stop them swinging around, using the handy loops sewn to the bags’ inner bottom corners. I admit this was all a bit of a bodge, but riding appropriately and in an underloaded state, they worked fine. I mounted them as far forward as possible to reduce inertia loads and pressure on the side panels, and only once I dropped down into baking Phoenix, AZ did the pipe-side side panel go soft on me and wilt towards the silenkrigmeltcer (left).
Inside, the Saddlebags use Kriega’s signature white TPU-coated liners velcro’d to the shell – white means easy to see inside – copy that. The proofing on similar looking liners didn’t last on an R30 backpack I used a while back, but on this trip it was only dust that needed to be kept out. Mostly motelling, at night I just unFlexed the bags from the frame and carried the lashed-together bags indoors.

A big hypalon flap closes over the Cordura body roll-and-clip opening and connects a flat hook to a loop strap krig-33from below. You then tension down with a shorter alloy buckle on the edge of the flap. You need to stoop-and-grope a bit to catch the back strap to join with the flat hook. I’d have preferred the higher adjustment buckle to also be the connection, or a loop to keep the under-strap in place, but perhaps there are sound reasons for doing it this way.
All the straps also felt a bit on the short side, when you consider how wide a high-piped bike rack can be. Of course, your typical retro sled will usually sling its pipes low. Longer straps also enable tucking other stuff under them, outside the bags.
As it was I didn’t get into the bags much during the day; all my day stuff was in the included pouch strapped on the back on the seat. On the dirt I kept the pace down to reduce loads on the sidepanels – the thoughtful hypalon patches all kept wear to a minimum – or pretty much zero.
raftersIn case you don’t know, krigduduhypalon is the very durable rubber-based fabric they use to make white water rafts. And those things last 20 years. A bit overkill on panniers, but very few plastic-based fabrics such as PVC abrade anywhere as well.
There are other thoughtful touches like extra straps to make a shoulder bag, and another set to attach the bags directly to a rack and so eliminate the over-straps which may get uncomfortable for a pillion.
I didn’t use the Kriega Duos long and hard enough to really get a good impression, but a picnicking hipster will have nothing to complain about, providing the bags are solidly mounted. They demonstrate all the features you expect with Kriega gear and for overland travellers whose loads are modest, I’m sure the Duos would lap up some hard travelling. The simple, crash-proof design and rugged detailing will see to that.

kriga

Posted in KLX250S, Luggage | Tagged , , , , , ,