“What If?”: A Look Back at My Decision to Ride The World on a 250

August 11, 2016

As I said before I ever left over a year ago, there is a place and time to take a big bike on a trip around the world, and there’s a place and time to take a small bike. For the trip I chose to take, the small bike made a lot more sense. But, what if I had chosen to take my 1200cc Yamaha Super Tenere?

Below is a comparison of various costs of the last year on the XT250, versus the same route (mileage) on the 1200 (okay, realistically, you probably wouldn’t go some of the places on the 1200 that I went on the 250).

Miles Ridden: 32,270

 

Fuel

The XT250 averaged around 72 miles per US gallon of gas. My Super Tenere averages around 46 mpg. So while I used around 454 gallons of fuel on the 250, the 1200 would have used around 686 gallons for the same miles, which adds up to an extra $834 spent on petrol over the year.

 

Shipping

The cost of shipping the bike from Panama to Colombia on the Stahlratte sailboat is the same regardless of bike, but the other three shipments I made were by air: Buenos Aires to Capetown, Nairobi to London, and Zurich to Houston. The air shipments are based on volumetric weight — the size of the crate (unless the actual weight is more). I was able to put the 250 in a crate that measured approximately 2.0 cubic meters, whereas the 1200’s crate would be a bit larger at 2.6┬ácubic meters. This larger crate would have cost an extra $1500 over the three shipments.

 

Maintenance

The 1200 wins when it comes to drive system maintenance. I had to replace the chain and sprockets on the 250 in Argentina, which meant spending an extra $130 over the price of just changing the shaft drive oil in the 1200.

Although I could have done with only two sets of tires on the Super Tenere (the Heidenau K60s are very, very hard tires and last a long time), I used five sets of the soft knobby tires on the 250. Part of this has to be attributed to the different route I took on the 250, which I wouldn’t have taken on the 1200, but I’m trying to compare actual cost for the mileage here. So in the end, the cost of five sets of tires on the XT250 is actually $15 more than the cost of two sets of tires for the Super Tenere.

The difference in the cost of oil and filter changes is a bit more significant. I used synthetic oil as much as possible, which is expensive, but worth it in my opinion, and I changed oil every 3,000 miles. The 250 only holds 1.5 quarts of oil, whereas the 1200 takes just under four quarts. So the cost of ten oil changes works out to an extra $330 on the Super Tenere.

I used six total sets of brake pads on the 250: three front and three rear. On the Super Tenere, I estimate that I would have also used six sets: two rears and four fronts (dual discs), although this might be generous given the weight and conditions. If I did use these numbers, the difference would only be about $40 more for the Super Tenere (the pads are a bit more expensive on the bigger bike).

 

Other Considerations

Besides the above costs, here are a few other considerations when determining which bike to take:

If you are going to countries where a carnet is needed (and if you are going to ride the world, you most likely will), keep in mind that the cost of the carnet is based on a multiplier of the value of your vehicle. Thus, a 2014 Super Tenere versus a 2014 XT250 can mean a difference of $30,000 valuation on the carnet (value times as much as three hundred percent for certain countries). An older big bike might be a worthwhile consideration here.

In some countries you’ll feel more secure if you can park your bike inside the lobby or courtyard of a hotel. This may or may not be possible on the larger bike due to the width of a hallway or the stairs leading up to it. In all honesty, I can only think of one hostel I stayed at (in Peru) where I wouldn’t have been able to get the Super Tenere up the steps and through the door, but it’s something to bear in mind. Sometimes removing the luggage and having someone else to act as a spotter might be enough.

On either bike, if you’re going alone, be sure to practice picking it up, especially with it fully loaded. This might mean removing the panniers and other luggage first where possible to reduce the weight. If you’re going where I went, it’s probably not a matter of if, but when you drop it, and there might not be anyone else around to help for hours. Learn the tricks to getting it back on its’ wheels before you leave home.

And if you’re taking the big bike, be prepared to stand out like a “Rich American” (or Brit, or Aussie, or whatever your license plate says you are). While none of us will ever blend in with the locals, my 250 attracted much less attention overall than the guy in Argentina on the BMW 1200 GS with the fancy paint and all the lights and the two extra tires strapped to it, which looked like a two-wheeled version of a Hummer pulling into the small villages. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be that guy. Just realize that you may be treated differently by the locals. It may be a bit more work to negotiate prices on hotel, border crossings, etc and the prices will likely start higher.

So as I said in the beginning, and even before leaving on my trip, which bike you take is really a matter of what kind of trip you plan. Yes, taking the big bike can be more expensive. But if you can afford it, and are planning more pavement, and/or are going two-up, then the bigger bike probably makes more sense. On the other hand, if you want to spend more time off-road, or on the less-traveled and more challenging dirt roads in the mountains, don’t want to stand out quite as much, and don’t plan to have a passenger (much), and are looking to either save money or make your money last longer thus being able to travel further, consider the smaller bike.

 

 

15 thoughts on ““What If?”: A Look Back at My Decision to Ride The World on a 250

  1. These are the same rules sailing cruisers use too!

    It’s not so much size, but what the boat looks like. If you pull into an anchorage in a 50′ newish looking sailboat, you are more than likely going to be robbed. If you have named your super cool dinghy the same name as your sailboat, it’s even more sure you’re going to be robbed of your dinghy on the way to the sailboat. If you have an older beater kind of sailboat (at least that’s what it looks like on the outside), nobody messes with you.

    Ours is an older beater kind of sailboat, but she’s very hearty in big waves. She’s also cheaper to cruise on, and can go just about anywhere.

    When will you leave again???

    • I met a guy on the Panama to Colombia crossing on the Stahlratte that had a large new bike, and had spray painted it primer gray and put pieces of black duct tape all over it to try to disguise it. It was definitely ugly and I would’ve probably passed it up if I was a thief looking to steal one.

      I would think naming your super cool dinghy the same name as your sailboat just announces to people on shore that you are not onboard so go ahead and rob me now.

      No idea on a new departure date. Lots of plans and places to see in the meantime. You know how addicts are….it could be a year, or it could be tomorrow if I fall off the “work” wagon.

  2. 32,270 miles is impressive on a 250, the Tenere would have covered more ground but I doubt you would have seen as much. Glad to see your travels went well with very few hiccups mechanical or otherwise. Awesome job on keeping us all up to date with the blog

    • Thanks. It was a blast and I can’t wait to hit the road again. I spent $17 on a bunch of o-rings to take care of a few minor oil weeps that I had, and that’s it. The 250 is ready to hit the road again…just waiting on me.
      You’re absolutely right: if I had taken the Tenere, I could have covered more ground, but I definitely wouldn’t have seen as much, because I would have been going faster AND I most likely would not have gone down some of the roads I took the 250 down.

  3. I’m curious if there was a comfort factor. Did you ever stay somewhere a bit longer to avoid riding because the XT was less comfortable, but when you would not have hesitated if on the Tenere? Or.. frustrated that you could carry a little less on the XT than the big bike?

    • Randy,
      This is going to sound strange, but when I got home I jumped on the 1200 and spent four days and 1000 miles camping around the Texas Hill Country. The seat on the 250 (aftermarket Seat Concepts seat) is actually more comfortable than the Super Tenere stock seat, even with the AirHawk cushion on it! To be fair, I tend to only ride around 200 to 250 miles a day most days on the 250, and I probably did a couple of 300+ mile days on 1200. I also noticed that the Super Tenere had more wind buffeting and wind noise with the windshield, which was more tiring than no windshield on the 250. I know, crazy, but true. Yes I can carry less on the 250, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However there were a few times that I would have liked to have been able to buy a souvenir but I didn’t have room to carry it.
      If I had planned to ride the PanAmerican highway and was on a time schedule where I had to cover more miles per day, I probably would have been happier with the 1200 just because I could go faster than my usual 55-60mph on the 250. But the route I took had very few places where you could do more than 50mph.
      I hope that answers your questions.

      • Yes, thanks Pat! Sounds like you missed your Tenere when you got back..or you just didn’t want to stop being on the road. I may think about a Seat Concepts one day for my XT250, but I don’t ride nearly enough too justify it just yet. (Also, I had a SC on my NC700X but it wasn’t much better than stock.)

        Your desire to keep rolling when you returned is a testament to many things, including your pace on the big trip. You obviously didn’t wear yourself out trying to push too hard and fast.

        But ugh, buffeting is horrible… It is very draining and I can’t take much of it.

        Thanks again for the stories and bike choice info from your very extensive experience.

  4. Here goes another example of why you are my hero. Excellent write up comparing the bikes. My research prior to reading your post revealed the same results helping me decide to use the 250, mostly because I am a short woman and will have to pick it up alone. Your posts have been amazingly educational and I truly hope your addiction’s schedule coincides with mine. Australia, Indonesia, Cambodia, India, China, Kasakhstan and Russia are waiting for you. Thank you for sharing so much of your adventure!!

    • Don’t forget Thailand, Romania, Croatia, New Zealand, Mongolia….there’s a lot more on my “to-ride” list yet! I hope you have as many good experiences on your XT250 as I did on mine, and hopefully we will meet up in one or more of those countries in the future. You are an awesome example to women everywhere that a trip like this is possible with the right attitude and planning.

  5. Wish I knew u were in town, my boy n I drove by a wimberly exit sign on i35 around 1130 am yesterday, we would’ve stopped by to say hi, and so today me n Doug started planning a week long mid-October ride to da pacific via old Mejico on mostly paved roads on our bigger bikes, u interested ?

    • Sorry I missed you. I was in Austin yesterday but could have easily met up. Next time. Sounds like you have a good ride coming up with Doug. I’d love to go, but I need to work for a while and save some money first. Seriously considering that same ride around Christmas.

  6. Thanks for all the great information! Can’t wait to attempt something similar. I was wondering how often you had to do valve adjustments? I’ve been told my XT needs them every 4,000 miles, but this seems excessive. Any input you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi Josh. Glad to see you and Johanna on XT250s! The Owner’s Manual recommends checking valve clearance every 3,000 miles, but here is my personal experience: I checked the valve clearances for the first time in Boquete, Panama, at 7900 miles on the bike. The exhaust valve was in spec, but the intake needed a very slight tightening. I next checked them in Mendoza, Argentina at 15,741 miles (so 6841 miles between checking) and they were right where I set them in Panama. I checked them again in Namibia at 23,554 miles and they were still right where I set them. Today the bike has over 33,000 miles on it and I haven’t checked them again since Namibia, 10,000 miles ago. This may or may not be your experience, but basically, unless you notice a drastic drop in mileage and performance (valves too tight), or you can hear them ticking (valves too loose), they’re fine. Also, just a heads-up: it takes a 24mm wrench to remove the tappet covers, and there isn’t one in the tool kit. A flat 24mm axle wrench (like the 22mm one that comes in the tool kit) works best and is easy to carry on the road.
      Hope this helps.
      Cheers,
      Pat

  7. Hi Pat,

    I just found your website and impressed with how you share your knowledge, thank you!. Just curious, why the X instead of the WR250R? My first bike was a Suzuki DR650 that was reliable but heavy to pick up, so I dropped 400 cc’s and about 100 pounds. With all my camping gear on the WR I can still pick it up at age 69. Ride enough backcountry and you will be dropping your bike. I have 14,000 miles on my 2015 WR and have no problems whatsoever.

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