More on a good motorcyle for the Backyardsman

That is NOT me in the picture. Not by a long shot in fact… OK, so I dumped my new motorcycle the other day. Now harm, no fowl, just a skinned knee and twisted ankle. Oh, and a chip on one of the side panels. Hey, it’s a dirt bike, right? Well, one problem I didn’t mention was thet when I laid it down, it started bleeding – the bike, not me. Seriously, there was red fluid dripping on the ground from somewhere I couldn’t see. I looked it over, couldn’t find the leak, so I brought it home. Eventually I found a big pool of red liquid in the air box. Went to the shop I bought the bike from and asked about it. Turned out to be nothing – the engine has a vent that empties into the airbox. If the bike tips over and stays down too long, engine oil leaks into the airbox. At least I didn’t do anything expensive… So if the RS500 isn’t it, what is a good beginner’s motorcycle for the Backyardsman?

My little crash does bring up some points though. Is the SWM RS500R a good motorcycle for the Backyardsman? For someone who knows how to ride, hell yes. For me? Maybe eventually, but it’s far from the best choice right now. For one thing it’s really tall. For someone who knows how to ride this is good. The high ground clearance and long suspension travel make it easy to ride fast on rocky, rutted trails. For someone like me, it puts the center of gravity higher, so the bike is harder to keep up once it starts to tip over. The hard core dirt bike at the soul of the bike makes it too tempting to take trails that a beginner should probably stay off of. The knobbies are great on the dirt, but not so great on the street. It’s a little overpowered (OK, a lot overpowered…) for me. Finally, it’s brand new and it’s inevitably going to get banged up while I learn to ride.

A better beginner’s motorcycle for the Backyardsman

I’ve been posting a lot on dirt bike forums since my little crash, asking advice on a good beginner’s motorcycle. There’s the usual stupid bravado (“man up, lift weights, quit crying…”) BS to wade through. Then the bike snobs (“oh, you should have bought a $14K KTM ’cause they’re lighter and handle better…”). And then the common sense answer – for your first motorcycle, get a used bike. That way it won’t matter when it gets banged up while your learning. Get one with a lower seat height so it’s easier to keep right side up when you start to fall over. Make sure it’s not overpowered so you don’t have to learn throttle control while you’re trying to just learn how to ride without crashing. To paraphrase one person…

The answer to the question “What is the best dual sport bike for a beginner?” is usually a 230 – 250cc trail bike.

So that’s what I’m looking for now. I don’t regret getting the RS500 and I’m going to keep riding it, I’ll just be a lot more careful for now. Especially about not talking myself into trails that are too much for my current skill level just because I have a badass enduro bike. Not sure what I’ll get yet, but I know it will be air cooled (easier to work on, cheaper to rebuild), carbureted, and as light a bike as I can find.

I’m kind of thinking about the Yamaha TTR230. It meets all the requirements and it’s pretty cheap, even brand new. The only thing wrong with it is the suspension is marginal. For learning, that might not matter. What I really want though is an older bike, like late 1970’s to early 1980’s. I don’t see them often, but when they do come up they’re pretty cheap. I guess I’d need to check parts availability…

Oh, and one more thing, if you’ve never riden and you’re getting your first bike, CHECK YOUR EGO. One of the guys at the shop I bought my bike from offered to met me and give me some pointers… I should have taken him up on the offer. Also, when I got to the crash trail, I should have listened to that little voice saying “not this trail, not yet…” But, you know, ego…

Also some randome thoughts… I was just wearing my normal hiking boots. If I had been wearing proper riding shoes, I wouldn’t have gotten a twisted ankle. I was also wearing jeans, which offer almost NO protection for your knees if the bike goes down. Finally, I was riding in a semi-remote area with no cell phone or ham radio with me to call for help if I needed it. One stupid thing after another…

Anyway… get outside, enjoy life to the fullest, but use common sense. I didn’t, and even though theday turned out OK, it could have gone really bad.

Peace out,

365 Photo Project, Day 61

Walked by myself today. Didn’t see much new because I’ve taken this route many times. This time I walked it in the opposite direction so I did notice the sign… which I agree with 100%. I try to do just that, as often as I can. Also noticed the tress are starting to bud even though we’re still getting freezes at night.

Peace out,

A Backyardsman motorcycle – the SWM RS500R

To be honest, the SWM RS500R wasn’t my first choice for a motorcycle. That honor fell to the KTM 500 EXC-F. The KTM is the biggest, baddest, lightest, and fastest dual sport motorcycle you can buy in 2021. I know it’s too much bike for me, but I didn’t care. What I did care about was the price – almost $14,000 out the door. No can do. My second choice was the Suzuki DR-Z400S. That’s actually a much better choice for a first bike, especially one that’s going to spend at least half its time on pavement. But… the local dealership was fresh out, and couldn’t tell me when they might get another one in. They did have a nice Yamaha WR450F in stock that can be converted to street legal. OK, about $11K out the door, another $1K to make it street legal, and I’m almost at the KTM price – might as well suck it up and get the KTM. Buy once, cry once, right?

I was talking it over with some friends, and one of them asked why didn’t I just get an SWM? “Just as good as the KTM but about $4K less.” So I checked them out. I’d never heard of the brand but from what I read they’re Italian bikes made in [artnership with a Chinese company. That didn’t sound too promising but I kept reading. I’m glad I did because they’re actually a legit company. There history has been well told so I won’t repeat it here, but basically the SWM is a 2010-era Husqvarna with an updated suspension.

It’s made in Italy in a formerly Husqvarna factory for former Husqvarna engineers and workers, using 2010-era Husqvarna technology. In reality, it’s more genuinely Husqvarna than the current Husqvarnas, which are actually KTMs with different suspension and plastics. Confused? So was I. But I’m glad I found out about the company, because imo it’s a better trail bike than either the KTM or the current Husky line (which like I said is really a KTM at heart).

The RS500S has a few things I like and a few that… lets just say are a compromise at best. First of all the things I like… For one thing, this is actually an old school (OK, 2010 era, but things move fast in the dirt bike world) Husqvarna. Being old myself, I like old school stuff. I love that it’s a Husqvarna and not just a KTM with different paint. Being older (but brand new), it has smoother power than the newer crotch rockets, so I’ll be less likely to kill myself on it. It’s a 500, so it should have plenty of power for going up steep, rocky trails. Finally, I love the way it looks. It should work perfectly for climbing hills and fast trips down power line roads.

So what’s not to like? For one thing, it has a tiny gas tank so range is very limited and noone (yet?) makes a large aftermarket gas tank for it. I’ll probably hang an auxilary tank off the left rear end once I replace the dual muffler setup with a single muffler. Which brings up another thing, this bike is heavy – about 288 lbs. compared to 245 for the KTM. The single muffler will shave about 13 pounds and also make it possible to mount the auxilary tank. The stock tires are pure dirt, so I’ll replace them with something a little more rideable on the street. Probably Dunlop 606’s. And that stock license plate holder is butt-ugly. I’m going to make my own out of sheet aluminum. I like working with metal so no big deal.

Anyway, it will be here this week and I’m ecstatic. It’s about a 90% dirt/10% street bike, which is OK for now. I can’t really see myself commuting on it though, so that DR-Z400S might end up in my garage sooner rather than later. Can’t wait to give you guys a ride report on this one though… Until next time…

Peace out,