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Riding The Honda Varadero 125 In A USA To Peru Adventure

Updated on February 20, 2009

I recently received an email through Hubpages from a reader (who I will be glad to identify if he wishes) requesting my advice on an adventurous motorcycle trek. This is the email:

My wife and myself want to buy a cheap motorcycle which can take us from the US all the way to Peru (South America) back and forth with no hassles. The restricctions that I have are money and fuel economy, meaning the bike doen't have to be expensive, just right and has to give me a good mpg and above all being reliable. I don't know if you ever heard about the Honda Varadero 125cc, some people not knowledgeable to my understanding told me to go that route. However I am sure you will have the last word on this.

First of all I want to thank the reader for his trust in my advice, and I will be more than happy to provide my opinion on his immensely exciting upcoming trip.

The Honda Varadero 125 is a truly wonderful lightweight on/off road motorcycle which is remarkably well suited to the highly differing road conditions you will encounter along the Pan American Highway and all the way down to Peru. Although it would likely perform faultlessly and exhibit the usual Honda lightweight models' legendary bulletproof nature, there are some elements that I would bring to your attention with regards to this bike.

First of all, we have to consider the load that you're asking the 125 V-twin to handle. Depending on your total passenger weight, two people astride a 125 will stress two critical components: The drivetrain which is going to be hard pressed to propel that much weight down the highway at freeway speeds; and the frame which will likely start showing signs of metal fatigue after thousands of miles of bumpy roads. These factors would not necessarily be significant if you were a single, medium-weight rider, but for two people (unless they are very small, light-weight individuals) could cause a problem for the 125 Varadero's 14 horsepower. Furthermore, stressing the 125 V-twin to that extent would cause a drop in fuel mileage which would essentially eliminate the economy aspect that you seek.

If you were dead set on a 125 Honda, you might be willing to consider going with a 125 single, as if you run into engine trouble they are absolute staples throughout Central and South America and you could likely find spare parts cheaply and readily available in any mid sized or larger town. The 125 V-twin is nowhere near as popular as the venerable old CB 125 single, thus if you break down two hundred miles from Ciudad Nowhere you might find it difficult to locate the spares you need.

The problem with the single is that its output is considerably down from its V-twin brother and that could run you into even more problems with the power to weight ratio. Another problem with the Varadero 125 is that I see no evidence that Honda USA is selling that model this year, so you might end up buying a used bike which would definitely be a no no. If you're going on a trip this long, you want a factory fresh, properly dealer prepped bike which you would ride for an absolute minimum of 1,000 miles and get the dealer to do a maintenance on before you set off. If you can find an earlier year Varadero 125 which is still new and has zero miles on the odometer, you might also want to look carefully at the cost. The Varadero 125 has always been extraordinarily expensive for the class and you can easily find a more powerful and capable motorcycle for your trip at around the same list price.

Considering all these factors, I would ask you to consider some other alternatives: If the total weight of yourself, your wife and your baggage is under 350 lbs., you could look at:

  • 2009 Suzuki DR200SE with an MSRP of $3,949
  • 2009 Yamaha XT250, with an MSRP or $4,549

You should not even remotely consider:

  • 2009 Kawasaki Super Sherpa with an MSRP of $5,599
  • 2009 Suzuki DR-Z400SM with an MSRP of $6,299

As they are WAAAAAY overpriced for what you get, so just skip them. That's the same reason why I'm not recommending any European bikes as the cost benefit analysis simply eliminates them at the start.

However, unless you and your spouse are borderline anorexics and plan to only take your toothbrushes and speedos, you are likely going to exceed 350 lbs. in total load, thus you really have little choice but to go with a much larger displacement motorcycle. My suggestions would be:

  1. 2009 Suzuki DR650SE with an MSRP of $5,299
  2. 2009 Kawasaki KLR 650 with an MSRP of $5,599
  3. 2009 Honda XR650L with an MSRP of $5,999

Out of these, the Suzi is by far the best deal as with a little finagling you could easily get a hard pressed Suzuki dealer (that brand is in big financial trouble) to let you ride away for somewhere in the low to mid $4,000 range. For that kind of money, you are getting a supremely capable, powerful, and utterly reliable ride that will take you to Peru and back in comfort, style, and peace of mind. Any of the Suzuki, Kawasaki or Honda 650s also benefit from the ready availability of parts, if not in the league of the Honda 125 single however, which has become the true Universal Japanese Motorcycle. Although you can't expect a 650 thumper to return the same fuel mileage as a 125, keep in mind that the load on the motorcycle will stress the 650s far less than the similar load on a 125, thus the effective difference in fuel mileage might be 10 or 15% overall. Definitely a small price to pay for ensuring that you're astride a motorcycle that can handle anything that the road can throw at it.

A word to the wise: There are various places along the Pan Americana where you will have to be extremely careful as they are rather lawless, and a $5,000 American motorcycle can be extremely tempting to banditos. But as long as you keep your wits about you and make sure that you have the bike carefully and thoroughly secured when you're not riding it, you should be just fine and I'm sure it will turn out to be the ride of a lifetime. What can I say? I'm envious! I'd love to ride along with you! What an adventure!


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    • profile image 5 years ago

      I want to do that trip, I am in Florida I would like to start in August 2013, anybody interested?

    • mysunsuion profile image

      mysunsuion 6 years ago

      Honda car is also great..

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Hi, Carlos! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support your initiative!

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to do that trip, but it does go through some rather gangster and swine flu infested places. It would be a challenge to stay safe! :)

    • profile image

      Zoltan 8 years ago

      WOW that is a nice looking bike but I'd never consider that taking on a trip like yours.... I'm really beginning to fall in love with the KLR 650 tho...

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I'm sure you can't go wrong! Please keep me posted as to how your fantastic and wonderful trip goes!

    • profile image

      Cesar 9 years ago

      Thanks Hal, EXCELLENT advice !!!! I will buy the DR650SE !!!!