Bike number three!

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Zanie's picture
Joined: 2013/11/21

Points: 2

I may be asking for trouble posting this on a BMW forum, but I'm so excited, so here goes!

I have finally bought my first ever brand new bike! And isn’t it absolutely beautiful!!

I’ve been ogling the Rally now for over 4 months; ever since the test ride at the Honda demo weekend. It showed me where this bike shines. Test-riding it on tar is doing it an injustice. I got to test it on rocks…


…and even on falls:

The itch wouldn’t go away, so I decided to gift myself a new bike. This is the first time I have bought a vehicle (car or bike) motivated purely by my own wants (it feels like a “need”, but let’s be realistic here), rather than recommendations. It’s also my very first new bike.

Many moan about this bike’s small engine, but the rides that I enjoy the most are usually with Lance and maybe 2 other buddies; exploring the back roads. Power has never been a thing for me. Lance is also one of those incredibly rare creatures that is happy to stick to the speed limit. Anyway, we try to keep off highways.

Lance’s skills are good enough to tackle almost any road on his 800GS. Mine are not. It has led to countless cases of abuse for my old work-horse 650GS. I bought my 650 when it was already 12 years old, with only 30,000 km on the clock. Almost 5 years later, it’s now on 100,000 km. It has suffered much.

 suppose people recommended the 650 to me as the best gravel cruiser; knowing that I planned to go off-road. I guess not even I knew where I’d be taking it. It wasn’t meant to do this…

…and it let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it was past this type of work. I managed to pop the fork seals on almost every ride where there was rougher terrain. No, they were not worn. It would happen no matter if they were replaced even a month beforehand.

I’ve had to replace a front axle. I’ve had to have the rear shock reconditioned. My front wheel has a lovely smiley despite riding at 2 bar. I’ve replaced mirrors about 5 times. I’ve replaced levers about 3 times (I now know how to ride minus a front brake or a clutch lever). I’ve had to replace sub-frame screws. Quite a bit of my bike is held together by cable-ties.

I replaced front fork springs, because the standard ones were much too stiff, especially with my weight. I had to replace the rear tail-light section of my bike at least three times, because when the rear shock bottoms out, the number plate catches on to the rear wheel and the whole thing goes.

The final straw was when the tail-light section got fed to the front and jammed my rear wheel solid while I was doing 80km/h on a gravel back-road. Thank goodness I wasn’t on a corner.

I modified the entire rear as a result, also adding a more visible LED tail-light:

I have been left stranded twice thanks to battery sudden death, despite daily commuting and intermittent battery maintenance charging. Batteries would last an average one year; spanning 3 months (!!) to a maximum of 18 months. The one that lasted only 3 months also did me the favour of leaking acid all over my bike’s innards, requiring the replacement of both coolant hoses.

I’ve had to replace my entire instrument cluster (found a second-hand unit) thanks to water damage and corrosion (apparently a known issue with this bike – I guess you weren’t meant to ride it in the rain).

Within the space of 3 months, I was able to use my tow-strap twice: once thanks to a dead battery; the other time thanks to a stone that hit my radiator.

At least I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences.

I have spent three times more on maintenance on the 650GS than I have on its capital cost (I have a spreadsheet). Perhaps an average running cost of just under R3.80/km in 2017 Rand value for everything (capital, maintenance, fuel, insurance and licencing) is not too bad. Yet I was starting to get tired of being the one that usually broke down and I wanted to get a bike that was more fun on the more technical sections.

I knew I would have fun on a smaller bike, because Lance had convinced me to get a plastic. This time people recommended a Honda CRF230F. I am having an absolute blast on this bike. Its small size, light weight and very forgiving tractor-like personality just builds confidence. This bike also takes one hell of a lot of abuse (compared to the GS) without even blinking.

Rescuing the 230 from a ditch:

Its usual territory:

Learning some skills:

I started learning how to do my own basic maintenance on this bike (its service intervals are measured in hours); above and beyond the usual chain-cleaning/lubricating, puncture repair and battery acid level maintenance. Oh wait…that last one is quite 650GS specific.

But the CRF230F service intervals are miniscule, it doesn’t like going over 80km/h and it is not road-legal. See the gap? The obvious conclusion: must have third bike!

My 650GS will now be retired from commuting and the rough stuff. It will serve as my breakfast run or gravel highway big group ride bike where higher cruising speeds are required. That is, after it is fixed... The day before I fetched the Rally, the GS sprang a fuel leak in protest. It also has some other rough riding/random jerks symptoms (started 3 months ago) that is proving hard to diagnose. Then there’s the 100,000 km service. Eish.

A battered bike plus fuel leak on the side, just under the seat:

The one that started it all, plus my newest baby:

The CRF230F is my funduro bike and my “go ride in the bushes” bike (usually every Sunday).

The Rally will serve as everything in between. It will now be my main bike. I’ll use it for commuting (it has excellent fuel consumption of 30km/lit a.k.a. 3.3 lit/100km and I expect a much longer tyre lifespan) and for any outrides where it’s just our small group and where we go explore the roads less travelled.

I’ve only had the chance to go on two longer rides with the Rally, but I absolutely love it!

Many mini-bikes!

The professionals may complain about the too-soft suspension, but it’s perfect for my skill level (I won’t be doing ramps at speed) and I suppose my lighter-than-average-rider weight helps. I was giggling to myself on a ride with Lance on his 800GS; watching him take the safer line around a rock while I would just go straight over. This is a “brainless” bike: I don’t even have to bother about picking a line!

Others say the bike’s too high. Though I’m not that tall (164cm), my legs are incredibly long (longer than the legs of some guys who are far taller than me), so I have not found it to be too much of a problem. I really like its seating position. Though, of course, no bike will ever have a seat as comfy as my GS.

I had to get used to the fact that the bike likes revving higher than the 650GS (seems to like 6000 rather than the GS’s happy-spot of 4000). Smaller engine. Duh! I also suddenly have some very strange modern features that I’ve never had before. ABS? Hazards? Fuel gauge?! How incredibly odd.

The mirrors make me feel as if I can see the entire world behind me. The 650’s after-market mirrors (couldn’t afford to keep replacing OEM parts) have absolutely huge blind spots.

The Rally’s engine is beautifully quiet and smooth compared to my other bikes (I don’t dig loud exhausts). The first time I test-rode the bike I wondered whether it was indeed switched on! Where are the teeth-rattling vibrations?

Some people ask whether I want to have kids. I tell them I have three kids already. The eldest is a bit of a problem child; being a teenager and all. The middle child is the wilder one; obviously seeking attention. Now to see how my newest grows up. Meanwhile, I hope my friends won’t get tired of all the “baby pictures” on Facebook!

Mwendo's picture
Joined: 2011/04/13

Wow Zanie! You've pretty much proven that you're indestructiblewink.

That 650 came off 2nd best just about each and every time!

Congrats on the new bike!
I hope it gives you at least as many good stories to tell as the 650 has.

The only problem with hindsight, is you don't see it coming!


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