Andy loves riding goat trails on an FJR1300. Kyle recently bought a new Tiger 800, but before that he was going on goat trail expeditions on a 675 Daytona. Sara's Hypermotard might be a bit more obvious of a choice, along with Duncan's 1050 Tiger. Certainly both are more obvious than Steve's choice of an R1100S. The list can go on and on with a variety of choices. Which one is best?
The best bike for riding goat trails is the one you have. Simple. If not having some ideal bike is keeping you from having fun, so you think you need to wait for the perfect bike, you're missing out. Aermacchi to Zundapp, run what you got.
Okay, now that we got "best" out of the way, are there characteristics that might make one motorcycle more pleasant/fun on a goat trail than another? Sure, and here follows a list of some characteristics I favor:
- A bit more suspension travel - because many goat trails have rough surfaces, anything between 6" and a foot of travel at each end is desirable. This spans from bikes the Brits call 'tall-rounders' like my Versys, to full-on plated dirtbikes.
- An upright riding position makes it easier to keep your weight off your hands and keep your eyes scanning the road while skittering down some steep, bumpy goat trail.
- More than 100 miles of fuel range. Many of the most enjoyable goat trails are far from any opportunity to re-fuel. It is a shame to be shut out from riding them because your bike doesn't have enough range.
- Flexible and manageable power. There's a lot going on when riding goat trails, and having a motor that can tolerate you being a gear or two too high/low is a blessing when you're trying to take it all in. Further, power that is easily manageable makes dealing with the sometimes tenuous traction on bad surfaces that much easier.
This post was prompted by events of the recent BARF Spring Rally where I led the goat trail group on my beloved Versys. During the weekend I began envy Andy and Bud and others with their 100+ horsepower bikes, and the ease with which they could overtake slow moving vehicles, leading to daydreams of a 1200 Multistrada or maybe a big GS.
While taking a break with my group on Sunday, George who has ridden with me many times in many places offered up this little gem, "I've never seen you ride faster than you did on your KLR." What's this?! I'm pining for a big increase in horsepower, and George says I was faster when I had only 36!? Is big power the answer, or is power that you have the confidence to utilize the answer? Hmmm, maybe there's more than one right answer to the question of what is "ideal" in a goat trail bike.