February is already here and it is crazy how fast time passed by. Today I was going to reply to a friend’s comment on fb when I was interrupted by one of those “memories” to be shared with the public. Instead I just sat back and thought about all the wonderful moments of that picture. The picture was in fact the very first picture I took of Natalia in Hanoi.
That picture made me think of my life dreams and all of those I have achieved and the ones that I still have not done so. One of those dreams was to get an ADV motorbike. In case you don’t know what ADV stands for, it’s simply a short version of adventure bike.
I’d say our lives are adventures, some of us decide to live a dangerous one some others prefer a rather chilled version of it, but in the end it is always an adventure any way you look at it.
Yamaha DT175 & DT220
Going back a decade when I got my first adv, a Yamaha DT 175cc I just felt in love with it, it took me at least three weeks to get used to the clutch and gears but eventually and as time passed shifting gears became so natural that riding an automatic (scooter) never crossed my mind. I went everywhere.
It was with the DT 175cc that I had my first and (so far) only serious motorbike accident due to (an idiot driver and me being on the blind spot). But you do learn from those mistakes and after that things have been good.
Yet, we know Venezuela is not and has not been the safest country on earth and one day my bike it got stolen due to my negligence. I forgot to put the lock. Then I got a DT 220, which I think it is the outside-of-Japan-version of the mythical Serow 225cc. The big difference between the two is that the DT 220 is a 2 stroke bike whereas the Serow has been 4 stroke I think since its conception.
Sometimes I wonder why DTs are only available in LATAM and Australia and I presume it has to do with reliability and easy as well as cheap maintenance.
Anyway, since I didn’t have any friend with a similar motorbike or even a friend thinking to get a motorbike I went on my own but I just couldn’t get enough of it. I would go off-road along the coastline (some 2 hours away from Caracas ) as well as down to the center of the country and cross mountains, little rivers and even get on the sand.
Seldom I miss the lush and green of Venezuela (but I won’t lie Europe has gorgeous roads). I guess my longest ride was that time when I went down to the Brazilian border. Unfortunately due to the 2 stroke engine getting water I had to go back to Caracas when I was some 600kms away from the border. Still it was a nice experience, to sleep on a tent with pouring rain. Good times.
When I decided to leave Venezuela I remember I said to myself well here I come to the place where I will work my arse off and get a decent bike and ride this beautiful continent and beyond.
Yamaha Xmax 250
Moving forward 10 years and after having lived in many countries I currently live in Barcelona and after a successful trip to SE Asia where I showed my girlfriend that bikes are not dangerous and that in Barcelona is impossible and pointless to buy/own a car, I though perhaps I could ride the whole European continent on the Yamaha Xmax 250, but the truth is that after riding with it for more than 500 kms on a single day I said to my self “I need to get a proper motorbike and not just a max scooter”.
Do not get me wrong please, the Xmax has been a great scooter. I have treated her nicely, I wash her almost every week and I have taken her to get serviced every time the dashboard asks for oil change. Yes, it is true I could have saved a lot of money but I just wanted it to be as nice as day one. That is why it has been and will always by my first European motorbike or max scooter, call it whatever you prefer calling it and it will keep a special place in my and my girlfriend’s hearts. Honestly it is a great city and commuting scooter, capable of going at 127 km/h on the motorway when riding alone and 120 km/h when riding with a light pillion like my girlfriend.
However, 250cc is not a big engine and that means that you can’t keep up that speed for longer that 5 mins unless you want to burn the engine out. I was aware of this, but well I had to show someone that riding on the motorway is also posible, at least for a short distance.
I still remember that only time that I decided to go to a national park located 255 kms away from Barcelona. The journey on googlemaps showed me that it should have taken me around 2 hours 51 mins. But in the end I had to stop to take a break and let the poor xmax breath and rest a bit. The actual journey took me around 3 hours and a half and I had to go back to Barcelona on the same day so it was 510 kms and around 8 hours spent on the scooter. I just could not go faster than 90kms and 5700rpm you just could feel the engine and how it was struggling to keep up with the distance and heat. In the end end I arrived in Barcelona and nothing happened but I just said to myself “ok Xmax, I love you so I won’t do this again to you.”
Perhaps you are wondering and why didn’t get an actual motorbike in the first place. Well, that can be easily answered, I just wanted my girlfriend to get used to riding with me in Europe and to show her that it is not as dangerous as some people make it look. And yes, of course there are risks but so does driving a car.
Nevertheless a year has passed and I needed something that could take me around Europe and why not the whole world, but since investing on a motorbike is not something you should take easy I started doing some research. I might have watched over 100 hours of the main ADV motorbikes available in the European market. Honestly, if you could have a look at my youtube history you would say “ok, this guy is serious about his next move”.
After watching many ADV videos from different YT channels from the UK, DE, IT, ES I ended up with the following options:
- BMW – GS800 Adventure
- Honda – Africa Twin
- KTM – 1090 Adventure
As you can see I left Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki out of the list simply because well Yamaha doesn’t have at this moment a nice ADV bike and the T7 will be available (one of these days), and I have never been fond of Kawasaki and Suzuki, although I’ve got nothing against them. And yes, Kawasaki has the KLR which is not available in EU and both of them I consider them to be better at road bikes than ADVs, but that is my opinion and yes I know I am very ignorant and narrow minded in this sense.
After watching tons of videos, the next move was trying them out which I did and honestly I hit the height wall. I am a short guy at 1.68 mts (5’6”) and that was a problem when riding them. The BMW is a giant’s bike, good bike but too tall and also too expensive when it comes to maintenance. Then was the Honda AF that after lowering the seat left me a nice impression (woohoo I can reach the floor! haha XD ) and trying both manual and DCT. And finally was the KTM which is an amazing bike. I mean honestly, it is the perfect bike but the price tag and the fact that also and once again the height of the seat is too high left me which just one option.
Africa Twin – Manual or DCT?
Oh boy I did read analysis and watched videos of pro-riders and riding both versions and coming up with different verdicts. Some riders hate and even call the DCT a boring bike. Well let me put it this way, I think it really really depends on what you will do with the bike. The manual is a manual bike, there is nothing new to it, except with the fact that is a bit lighter than the DCT.
Yet, when you plan to use your bike to commute and to also ride in a city with narrow streets like Barcelona, the DCT is the best option, because you can simply forget about the clutch and shifting gears. Even if you really need shifting gears you can do so with the DCT, of course is not a normal manual since there is no clutch but eventually you can get used to it.
Then you have two options, D”rive” and S”port” modes and I have used both on and off road and I have to say that D is the best option for city and motorways whereas S is best for indeed off-road but it also can be used in a packed and traffic-prone city like Barcelona where you can have a shoot start reving up the first gear to the max rpms, but that will always depend on your city riding style.
So far I have done 300kms (186miles) and I am happy with its performance and the sound of the exhaust which many people hate or dislike I think it is fantastic.
I am not an expert rider like some demons on yt that really know how to ride a 1000cc engine.
But I am defo looking after long trips around Europe and make my dream come true.
Here are some pictures I took over the weekend around the Montseny park.