Does it have to be your own bike?
The first question to ask yourself when choosing the bike is whether it has to be a motorcylce of your own. When travelling around the globe on your own vehicle, there are several hurdles to overcome. Many countries, which often lie on the only route, are either insecure, refuse the entry of foreign vehicles (Thailand amongst others) or require a substantial budget to hire obligatory tour guides (i.e. China).Some countries require a Carnet de Passage when importing the vehicle (e.g. Iran, Japan). The carnet is like a passport for the motorcycle and assures the host country payment of possible customs duties in case the motorcycle is not taken out of the country. Depending on the value of the motorcycle a certain amount of money has to be deposited with the agency issuing the document. In addition, there are considerable shipping costs when travelling across several continents.
And while the individual value of your own motorcycle will only grow over the period of such a trip, the resale value will tend to move in the opposite direction. It can therefore make sense to buy a locally available motorcycle or rent one locally, depending on the length and destination of your trip.Since our route to Lake Baikal only leads over land, we very quickly decided to take our own bikes on this journey.
Which one is the perfect travel bike?
Basically, riding aroung the world is possible on every kind of vehicle. From Honda Cubs to the Yamaha R1 to the GS 1200 Adventure every imaginable type of motorcycle has already been ridden around the globe. Therefore the first and most important point is: You have to enjoy riding your paticular bike. Depending on the destination and your style of travel, there may be some other factors to consider as well. Which motorcycle to chosse is always a personal decision based on your own wishes and needs, the ultimate world traveling motorcycle fitted for everyones needs simply does not exist.
The destination of your trip usually determines the bike, depending on the availability of petrol and the required fuel range of the bike. The availability of spare parts should also be checked in advance. Not all tyre and chain sizes commonly used in the home country are available all around the world. The planned total distance of the trip should also be considered when looking at the maintenance intervals.
Two-up or on your own:
Personally, I would never make do a long trip on a motorcycle two-up. But if that’s the plan, then the choice should be a larger enduro from 700cc upwards, unless you have masochistic tendencies. The subframe should also be designed to carry two people including their luggage over bumpy roads without succumbing to fatigue after a few weeks. Moreover, aluminium frames are often difficult to weld in isolated areas.
On trips with a high percentage of offroad trails, weight is a decisive factor. If you did not think of this before, you defintely will when attempting to bring the bike back into its natural position for the first time. Especially lone travellers should choose a motorcycle with 650cc or below, which they can pick up on their own, ideally without having to unbuckle all their luggage. With high percentages of offroad tracks you should also pay attention to long suspension travel with a good chassis and a high ground clearance.
Modern motorcycles like the GS are much more complex than single-cylinder Enduro bikes from the 90s. Their new technologies, especially in modern Enduros, are usually not prone to errors and last a long time. Should a failure occur, however, it can become impossible to get on without acquiring critical spare parts first, and it can be impossible to realize a purchase without weeks of waiting time. Simpler components, on the other hand, can be repaired by yourself or by local mechanics. Examples are injectors vs. carburetors, water vs. air cooling, aluminium vs. steel frames or a modern control unit vs. a simple CDI.
Suzuki DR 650 SE
In addition to all the factors mentioned above, the personal budget always plays a role in the selection process: The lower the cost of the bike, the more money remains to spend on the trip itself.
What if there was unlimited budget?
After all, the perfect travel bike exists. Meiner Meinung nach zumindest. In my opinion at least. A KTM 690 Rally Factory replica, rebuilt for long distance travel, like Basil Bike bilt by Lyndon Poskitt for his Races To Places project, is the closest thing to the concept of a perfect travel bike. But it’s not for sale and so you have to build it yourself (expensive) or have a professional like Lyndon building it for you (even more expensive).
Amongst series production motorcycles, the BMW XChallenge is probably the best base tu bild a travel bike. However, there are also some modifications to be carried out until you are ready to go, which require quite the budget.