ABR’s resident expert of all things two-wheeled answers your questions
Hi Dave, I’m in the process of buying a bike for a European trip this year, which will also be used for weekends and the odd commute. My budget is a little tight, so no new shiny ones. I’ve whittled my choices down to: Honda Varadero, Suzuki V Strom, BMW 1150GS. I’ve searched the internet for info, what’re your thoughts?
Three good choices there and all have a good reputation for reliability and ease of servicing. I’m assuming this is to be a two-up tour from your choices.
The Honda Varadero is a very understated bike. It has a bulletproof Honda engine and is known for its comfort over long distance. Plus, there are plenty of good, well looked after examples to be found.
Try and stretch the budget to a 2005 onwards model, these have a six-speed box and fuel injection, which, of course, means better economy.
The Honda luggage does the job well enough, but you’ll find that many are fitted with Givi cases, both a good choice.
The Suzuki V Strom is, again, an understated but also a very reliable bike. It might be fair to say that the finish isn’t up to Honda standard, but that very much depends on owner servicing and cleaning.
The 1000 is a great bike, earlier models did suffer with clutch problems, but most will have had a conversion by now, just try the operation on the test ride. Try and find one with the Givi luggage as it’s better than the OEM.
Don’t dismiss the 650 option, it has a smooth motor and is capable of pulling two up without problems.
With the BMW 1150GS, we’re now reaching iconic status. A well-serviced example will take two people almost anywhere.
The servo brake system on some models comes in for a bit of criticism from some for its unnecessary complication if it fails, so try and find one without.
The brakes will still be more than adequate.
The GS should be fitted with BMW luggage, good quality and keyed to ignition key for ease of use. Finding any of these bikes should be easy enough as there are plenty about. Buying from a long-term owner is probably the best option.
A deal can usually be worked out for any extras that may be fitted or removed for sale. Check for service history, many owners are keen fettlers and a mine of information on the model.
Buying from a dealer will cost more, but, dealers have to make a profit but will offer a warranty and generally the bike will be run through their workshops and be serviced. Plus, if you have a bike to move on a part exchange may be possible.
For more detailed information, try the relevant owners’ forums. There’s loads of good info, with the possibility of finding your choice of bike in their for sale section. Finally, trust your own instincts when viewing a bike, if it looks good and rides well and the seller seems ok, go for it.