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CA$H MACHINES With budgeting becoming an everyday exercise for most of us, just how much does it cost to get a set of wheels between your legs? Transmoto unearths the best buys between $1000 and $10,000. MARTIN CHILD

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hat sort of dirt biker are you – are you flash with the cash or prefer to keep holdin’ the foldin’? Whatever your personal situation, the truth is we all love a bargain. Here at Transmoto, we love getting more dirt for our dollar, more machine for our money and more

cubes for our cash, so we’ve been on the lookout for the best dirty home for your hard-earnt. In the process, we’ve dispelled myths about one-time safe havens. From long-time favourites, to rank outsiders, which are the machines that – in terms of cost, possible maintenance issues and resale value – will see you right?

We’ll even show you how to dirt bike for free – that’s right, get your dirty kicks for nix! We’ve set realistic budgets to find our biking nirvana – up to $5K to grab the best of the used market and $10K to take on the new. So kit-up and get ready to experience the best bang for buck currently available in Australia… 87


BIKE METAL

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MR ‘LOW MAINTENANCE’ $1500 – $4000 HONDA XR400

urely there’s no better home for your cash than Honda’s evergreen go-to machine? Mechanically as complex as a postie bike, the air-cooled single has seen service lugging fair-dinkum arses around our continent for a decade and a half, and can now be had for as little as $1500. But before you rush out and embrace the Medium Red, consider this – the last new XR400R was sold over five years ago and the range of spares, although still plentiful, are on the wane. Also, being air-cooled, the oil has a much tougher job as it acts as the engine’s coolant. Reckon on 500 clicks between engine blood transfusions. And if

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aybe not the sexiest thing on two wheels, but it’s hard to argue against Suzuki getting your play money in return for a new DR-Z. Obviously, it’s as ‘new’ as the air we breathe as it’s remained pretty much unchanged since it invaded our shores in 2000. Since then, we’ve had road, enduro and supermoto versions, but the basic DNA has remained as stable as ice on a hairy mammoth. So what’s the appeal that has seen this bike stay in the top-ten sales chart through its entire life? It’s motorcycling’s KISS theory in 3D. Steel frame, reliable engine, decent components – simple. It’s not gonna set your pants on fire like a night with Liz Hurley, but then it needs a helluva lot less maintenance than Shane Warne’s face. Buy a bigger tank and ride a lap of Oz, or take her down the local state forest and ride all day for the price of a tank of gas. Forget about the crazy schedule of valve checks on the 450s; you’ll be the north side of 30,000 clicks before worry clouds your fun. New to riding? The DR-Z will see ya through your ‘Ps’ and ‘Ls’ while getting you to work everyday.

you’re thinking of removing the swingarm axle from a decadeold XR – good luck! We’ve seen, firsthand, the absolute battle to remove the greaseless spindle from its welded-in abode. Needless to say, it involved the world’s largest hammer, industrial grinder and language that’d make Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson cower. Find a good ’un and the picture’s more rosy. But don’t forget to addin the price of consumables. Those new tyres, chain and sprockets, brake pads, un-broken plastics and major service could see you match the purchase price of an absolute howler. Remember, a good cheap bike’s a great buy. But a crap, cheap bike will always be just that.

H DOLE’S TAKE… Transmoto’s resident mechanical genius, Nick Dole, lays his dog-eared cards on the table.“If it was my money, I’d go for a Suzuki DR-Z400. The Honda’s too long in the tooth now and the water-cooled DRZ’s a generation better. Spares are easy to

find and cheap and, unlike the steel bolts on the Honda, the Suzuki’s alloy items come apart and go back together lovely. A good tip is to take the digi dash off the Suzuki and eBay it – I’ve seen them go for up to $600!”

MR ‘SAFE AS HOUSES’ SUZUKI DR-Z400 $8999 (RRP NEW)

aving been the bestselling letters of the past decade, Yamaha’s WR400/450F range litter the classified ads like a shortsighted garbo missing the back of an open truck. Five thousand bucks buys you into 2006 WR450F territory, with the usual pitfalls for buyers to beware of – such as seized suspension linkages, ham-fisted ‘repairs’ by home mechanics (aren’t we all?) and electrical problems caused by the ingress of water and dirt. Speaking of which, engine dusting, where muck gets past the filter and sucked into the inlet tract, will cost you dear. But this isn’t the mother of all repairs. That mantle is held by the crankshaft. The Yami 450 crank incorporates the bottom timing chain gear, and when the teeth on that puppy resemble the ivories on the mad woman that lives in her car, reckon on $450 for an aftermarket replacement and a grand in labour to fit it. That’ll take the shine out of your riding for a while. Buy wisely though and you’ll feel safer than a salad in a fat girl’s fridge. The winner of various national and international enduro titles, the WR-F offers much to the beginner and expert alike. That’s a lot of moto-pedigree for five big ones.

MR ‘POPULAR’ YAMAHA WR450F $4500 – $9000 Blue and green should never be seen? You tell the WR-F it clashes with the scenery...

DOLE’S TAKE… “The WR-F is an excellent home for your money but I’d be tempted by a KTM 450EXC. With the link-less PDS rear suspension now better than ever, and the quality sandcast engine cases meaning

fewer stripped threads, it’d be a solid bike. There’s so many parts available and the faults of old – cam and waterpump bearings – will have been cured by the use of upgraded spare parts.”

MR ‘OUTSIDE BET’ ODES MCF450 $6700 (RRP NEW)

I ROY’S TAKE… Roy Kunda, owner of Cape York Motorcycle Adventure tours, depends on a fleet of 20 DR-Z400s. Here’s his expert view; “These bikes are brilliant for all levels of riders. Our basic mods are re-routing

the carby breather pipes either into the airbox or under the tank (for deeper water crossings), cranking up the preload on the rear by 25mm (to level out the bike) and fit bar risers to increase the space in the cockpit.”

t’s not quite as risky as placing your house on red at a Vegas casino, but buying into a new company’s bike has a certain daring about it that you won’t get from one of the big four. That could be magic or tragic. The Chinese-made Odes MCF450 has that ‘bike next door’ look about it, especially if he has a CRF in his garage. But is it to the Honda what a fat man in a white suit singing ‘Lonesome tonight?’ down your local Indian is to Elvis? Recently imported into Oz, the MCF has a price on par with a threeyear-old CRF. That might be all the

tempting you’ll need, and the bike’s participation in the Finke Desert Race could seal the deal. With the importer keen to establish the brand, any issues with the bike should be sorted in a professional manner, though there clearly isn’t going to be a dealer in your hood anytime soon. Odes are in the process of obtaining ADR approval, which means the MCF450 could become registrable. If pricing remains similar, that will make it our cheapest 450 enduro by nearly $5000, though what it will be worth secondhand by then is as unknown as the brand itself.

EXPERIENCE TALKS… “Running an unknown can either be a joyous affair or see you take up golf. I had one of the first Aprilia RXV450s in the country and she was the most beautiful thing ever. However, I felt

like I was an unpaid development rider as it took a year to get the best out of her – by that time, I was longing for the get-on-and-ride simplicity of a Yami or KTM.”

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BIKE METAL

MR ‘TICKING BOMB’ SUZUKI RMX250 $1200 – $3500

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uzuki’s quarter-litre smoking enduro bike was a crowd favourite for much of the ’90s. Simple, snappy and stylish, it left a smokey-blue trail around vast tracts of this big land. But, like Honda’s XR400, time moves on and it’s been more than a decade since the last brand new RMX was prodded into a life of coughing, smoking and moto-heart attacks. Now advertised on fleaBay for not much more than a grand, what could possibly go wrong? Hello! Have you not been paying attention? That nearly 20-year-old bike has had more riders than Debbie from Dallas and has been stripped more times than a free prostitute at Mardi Gras. The biggest problem is the power-valve. When it

gets worn, it gets hungry. For starters, the underfed valve likes a side of piston, with a well-cooked cylinder for mains and, let me see, maybe a nibble on a crank to finish. Wafer thin mint, sir? No, I’ll just take the bucket to throw the whole engine in. Expect the result of this mechanical munching to be about $2000. And don’t forget the tip (as the actress said to the bishop…). The only way to make sure that this is one meal that the table’s not in your name is to get receipts for recent replacement. Aside from that, get an aftermarket exhaust (the original is heavy, twin-skinned and will be as cokey as a rock band’s tour bus) and the soft metal of the frame will have the footpegs heading south faster than yer granny’s chest.

H DOLE’S TAKE… “Instead of the RMX, I’d be more tempted by a KTM 250EXC. Built till 2002, it doesn’t suffer from powervalve issues, is ultra reliable and easy to get parts for. As it’s the same basic

unit as the SX model, plastics and radiators are plentiful and KTM have been using the same air filter since ’97. This all adds-up to more ride-time and less down-time.”

DAMO’S TAKE… Transmoto tester and Aussie enduro legend, Damian Smith, on two-banging love. “Unlike motocross, enduro riders aren’t all about outright power but good handling. First, get the spring rates to suit your weight and then make the bike comfortable to be on. Change the handlebars to suit, and then add protection to cover the levers and a bashplate to guard that expensive expansion chamber. Also, heavy duty tubes will see you puncture-free and riding more.”

ey, want to ride for free? No, it’s not the offer of a dream job here at Transmoto, but the chance for your riding to cost nothing. ‘Nah, mate, can’t be done,’ we hear you say. But you’re wrong. Remember Honda’s CR500 – you know, the two-stroke ’crosser that’d pull the arms off a grown man and filled Accident and Emergency wards across the country every Sunday afternoon? Well, if you’d bought one back in 1989 (and lived to tell the tale), you’d find plenty of buyers willing to repay you the $5499 purchase price today. Give it ten years and they’d also be re-reimbursing you for every litre of petrol and oil, tyres, chains and even for every hour spent being made un-broken by a bloke in a white coat with bad breath. You’d also have gained a pretty heroic nickname along the way. Nearing the end of its life at the turn of the Millennium, Honda Australia ADR’d the remaining 200 CR500s so that riders could now scare the bejesus out of old ladies in Barinas as well as state forests, but the legend – and that crazy engine – still refused to die. Now there are companies in the

MR ‘SMOKING GUN’ HUSQVARNA WR250 $9995 (RRP NEW)

ow long’s it been since you threw a leg over a two-stroke 250? If you’re counting on your fingers or looking to the sky, chances are you’d be shocked after a rip on one of the latest two-banger

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Scratch this picture to smell two-stroke oil and the scent of freshly-broken bones.

USA sticking the motor into a range of alloy frames (and charging up to $16,000!) for the privilege of rich, fat, middle-aged men breaking themselves all over again and being ‘Tsk, tsked’ at by the bad-breathers. Bones heal, but anything less than the evil-handling original’s a pale, if not saner, imitation.

DOLE’S TAKE… “The CR500 is a great engine and the gearbox is much better than its natural rival – Kawasaki’s KX500. The only problems are pistons that can crack on the inlet side and clutch baskets that get

notched and leave you little control on take off. The barrel runs a steel liner that can go 2.5mm overbore, so no problems there. The frames are a bit soft so check footpeg and shock mounts.”

MR ‘MOTOCROSS MASTERCLASS’ SUZUKI RM250 $9390 (RRP NEW)

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MR ‘WIDOWMAKER MX’ HONDA CR500 $4500 – $7500

offerings. Husqvarna’s WR250 comes in smack-bang on our budget and proves that $10K doesn’t just buy older models or outdated technology. For a while back then, our love affair with the humble oil-burner waned as the lure and appeal of her four-stroke sister had

us dashing for our wallets, not once, but twice. Like all the beautiful things in life, high maintenance costs soured that relationship for many and thoughts returned back to a simpler, happier time. Husky’s 2011 WR benefits from improved ignition and electrics that helps an

extra couple of ponies run from the punchy engine. New owners, BMW, have ensured that spare parts are even easier to order. Add this to the freedom and flickability that is inherent with a well-designed twostroke enduro bike and it seems that it’s a safe home for your ten-large.

henever next year’s model is released and ‘bold new graphics’ have been mentioned even before the motor has been kicked into life, you’d hope the lack of changes are reflected in the price. Suzuki’s evergreen (alright, yellow) RM250 is the same price today as back in ’02, even if the in-between years have seen the price $400 higher. At just under $9400, it’s $1400 cheaper than its four-stroke RM-Z brother to buy but it’s the ongoing maintenance costs that sees these highly-strung, low-tech bikes retain a strong and loyal following. Barely over 100kg fuelled, the latest incarnation of the RM is a torquey beast that’ll flick, dive and drive to your riding ability – and beyond.

Back in the pits your involvement deepens with jetting, power-valve and gear ratio settings to think about between motos. With Honda drawing a line in the sand under their CR250 a few years ago, many thought a wholesale smoking ban was within sight. But the faithful have been rewarded and the ‘blue fog’ seems set to continue into the foreseeable future, as many motocross and enduro riders vote with their dollars and stick to a cheaper, cam-free existence. And even if the emission police eventually arrest all new twostrokes, the RM250 could go the way of the CR500 and be worth the same in 20 years, while the same age RM-Z sits in pieces waiting for a (by then) $10k rebuild.

HAMMY’S TAKE… Former Pro rider and Transmoto MX tester, Danny Ham, puts you on pole; “First port of call is for a full race exhaust system and jetting to suit. This is the biggest improvement over all the bolt-on stuff. Then you’ll need to gear

for the track you’re riding before making any suspension changes via the clickers or aftermarket units. With the power and suspension sorted, it’s just left to having the right tyres for the terrain – the rest of the equation is you, the rider.”

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MR ‘TASTE OF ADVENTURE’ SUZUKI DR650 $3500 – $6000

f you’re more of a big picture kinda rider and the local scenery leaves you wanting more, your $5000 budget gets you as much DR650 that you can shake a map at. We’re talking buying into an ’08 model, barely two years old and more likely to have travelled to the local shops and work than on anybody’s personal voyage of discovery. If it looks low-tech – that’s because it is. With a lusty 644cc single-cylinder engine, and more steel than Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, it’s strong and dependable. The list of aftermarket parts is only limited by your imagination and your chosen destination. It’ll effortlessly carry you around this place we call home, though

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ith a list price of just $8499 new, the current economic climate, coupled with the lessthan-sexy looks of the big Kwaka, means that you should be able to negotiate a brand spanker out of your dealer’s showroom for less than eight large. That means that it’ll still be worth six grand in a couple of years – time enough to see every destination you’ve ever dreamt of riding to for a third of the price (and a lot less depreciation) of doing it on a BMW R1200GS. Like the DR650, the KLR is built on a budget out of steel girders, and most problems that may arise can be fixed with a can of VB in one hand and a large hammer in the other. With a name born in the ’80s, the KLR’s DNA has evolved into a reliable, though hardly awe-inspiring machine, that gets the job done with no fuss and no flair. The only real update to the KLR650 was back in 2008 when the bike was modernised, rather than redesigned, with problem areas of the earlier machines – such as weak brakes and an uncomfortable saddle – addressed. Bigger forks, better lighting and improved wind

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fitting a long-range tank will stop you looking like a travelling Jerry can salesman. Suzuki has learnt from other bikes and the DR’s frame is made of stronger stuff, so mounting a rack is not only possible but essential, along with wider footpegs that should stay horizontal all the way to the horizon. Then you just need to work out your own level of fruit needed – handguards, bashplates, front screens, heated grips, exhausts and handlebars are all hanging from the aftermarket tree and good for the picking. Internet forums will put you in touch with the adventurous and then all you’ll have to do is decide on a destination and point the whole shebang in that general direction.

DOLE’S TAKE… “The DR’s a great bike, easy to work on and with no real faults. If it’s lacking anything, then the front brake disc is too small and thin. If you’re loading her up, get a bigger disc. Also, get a Staintune

exhaust – no rivets or screws to replace out in the desert. And fit some alloy handlebars to replace the stock steel ones. The soft suspension can be improved with firmer springs if carrying more.”

MR ‘FREEDOM CYCLE’ KAWASAKI KLR650 $8499 (RRP NEW) Carrying more bulk than beauty, the KLR is more business than pleasure.

protection from the new bar-mounted fairing meant the ride was more relaxed and controlled. With an impressive 550km range from the standard metal tank, the Kawasaki will chug you happily to the corners of the country with barely an oil change needed inbetween.

STEVE’S TAKE… Adventure rider, Steve Crombie, gives you the low-down on getting away. “Leave the engine stock and reliable. Aim to take as much weight out of the bike as possible – start by removing the

heavy exhaust and finish with anything that’s not doing an important job. Fit a higher screen, better handguards, heavyduty bashplate and alloy bars. Then stick a pin in a map and get gone.”

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