Thinking Small

Jan 29, 2013 View Comments by

Thinking SmallWhat displacement does a serious two-up touring bike need to be? I haven’t taken a survey, even an informal one, but my guess is that most people would say that true touring capability starts at around the 1000cc mark.

I started looking for a bike suitable for touring in 2003. Our children were getting old enough to allow us to slip away for a few days, and as good as it was, my aging Honda Transalp didn’t have the two-up comfort or luggage capacity that we desired.

With college expenses looming, money was a major factor in our decision, which eventually took two full years to make. The winner was, to my surprise, a 2005 Suzuki 650 V-Strom.

I had ridden quite a few bikes, including the 1000 V-Strom, but the 650 just felt “right”. A big part of my brain was screaming “but it’s only a 650…how can you tour two-up on a 650?” The answer is, quite nicely. I still have the bike, as anyone who attends the Touring Weekend knows, and I’m heading towards 60,000 miles on the odometer. Even after eight years of ownership, the bike still earns my renewed admiration and respect every time I take it on a tour.

It has enough low-end torque to pull us through any situation and enough mid-range power to propel us effortlessly up a mountain at eighty miles per hour if we choose. And I’m talking about a bike that is loaded to the absolute limit with two riders and camping gear. With nearly six gallons of fuel capacity, I’m able to go around two hundred fifty miles if needed between gas stops, and the last time I did any fuel consumption calculations, I arrived at around 52 mpg.

In the spirit of the “Outside the Lines” theme of my blog section, I’d like to challenge the idea that sheer displacement dictates whether or not a bike is fit for touring duty. In my opinion, if a bike is comfortable, has adequate luggage capacity, and can comfortably maintain legal highway speeds all day, it is a serious touring bike. I regularly ride with bikes having nearly triple the displacement of mine, and frankly, I don’t feel underpowered in any way. How much of that extra power is used simply to propel several hundred pounds of weight that my bike doesn’t have?

This one should be fun to sit back and watch the comments roll in on…I’d like to hear opinions from both sides of the fence.

Tags: , , Categories: Outside the Lines