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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 26 mile commute to work on mostly lightly traveled country roads; 6 miles of it is gravel. It's not at all a bad commute, but I've been thinking of ways to make it more interesting, one of which (much to the dismay of my mother) would be getting a motorcycle :)

I am completely new to motorcycles, though I have friends who ride. I have been toying with the idea of getting a smaller bike as I won't need to take it on the freeway (though freeway legal would be nice as a "just in case" measure). The only real requirements (other than things I'm overlooking!) are that it can handle both dirt and pavement, and can comfortably keep up with 60 MPH traffic (on paved roads of course).

I was wondering if anyone can point me in the right direction as far as what type of bike would be appropriate for this sort of riding?

Thanks!
 

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Retired twice: Navy and as a govt contractor
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6 miles of gravel? Depending of the road conditions and amount of gravel it could dictate what you ride.

It will also be the hardest part of your ride.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'd plan on not taking the bike if wet/muddy conditions are anticipated.

I actually have two roads I can take (without going massively out of my way)

One is pretty bumpy with a little bit of loose gravel. That's the 6 mile one.

The other is better maintained and usually smooth, and 5 miles of dirt, but with a lot of loose gravel. A few minutes longer route (by car, anyway).

I can avoid dirt roads completely if I go way out of my way (adding about 15 minutes), but this would only be a backup plan in case of unexpected rain.

Without knowing bikes, I figured I'd probably be looking at something with some off road capabilities, not a pure road bike.
 

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You can ride anything you want when it comes down to it. 6 miles isn't that much although it's twice as much as I ride. If you have belt drive just be sure all guards are in place. With chain you handle like you would a dirt bike. With shaft I would assume just normal maintenance. I don't know if they require more frequent maintenance or not but I really don't see why it would.

Point is, all bikes can be ridden with those conditions. Now one final thing to consider, rain can make gravel roads turn to slime under certain conditions. Like a lot of gravel dust or dirt from below. That would be my only concern given you requirements.
 

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I've ridden my ninja down a five mile gravel road with tons of loose rock and six-inch washboarding. Of course, I was going five to fifteen mph the whole time. That road actually leads to my favorite ride, so I take it on semi-regular occasions.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys! I think I've come to the conclusion that I don't really know what I want yet! I was scoping out routes on Google earth. The pavement-only route is not as far out of my way as I thought (maybe 10 minutes) so I'm not ruling that out yet. On the other hand, I enjoy gravel roads, and I suspect I would want to take them when I'm riding for leisure (weekends, etc). For this reason I'm starting to consider a 250cc dual sport. I'm guessing it might end up being a little impractical for my daily commute, but might be a good way to start? I hear most of them you wouldn't want to take on the expressway, or ride over 50 MPH for a long period of time, but maybe I could live with that for a starter bike.
 

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If you're really wanting one I'd say go with something that is 500cc or maybe 600cc. Dual sport may suit your needs for the dirt roads as well as gravel but if you are anything like me i wwould take the longer route just so i can get more riding in :)
 

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A dual sport is ideal to learn on, as long as you are tall enough to reach the ground. The Yamaha TW has a pretty low seat, but I'm sure there are others if height is an issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'm 6'1" with long legs, so I wouldn't expect height to be a limiting factor.

I scoped out another route to work that was almost all dirt. I took that route home in my Escape last night. It was ton of fun and didn't take any longer than my normal route, though I realize on a bike it'll be a different story as far as what speeds are safely manageable. The entire commute I didn't come across another motorist, so avoiding traffic is a big plus too.

The small dual sport idea is starting to make a lot of sense for what I want to do initially. I'm not going to start shopping until I've taken the basic rider's course (Michigan) but I wanted to have an idea of what I might be getting myself into.
 

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Some people are afraid to get off of hard-surfaced roads. Don't let that deter you. When I started riding, I rode on gravel and dirt roads more than highways. For ten years, my commute to work was half on gravel roads. On rainy days, just slow down.
 

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I 'm a little taller than you at 6'4", It sounds like an Enduro bike might work well. Depending on if you will need to go on the highway for extended distances a 400cc-650cc will easily do highway speeds. You can get dual purpose tires that are a little better for road use that will work well on dirt roads too.
 

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A dual sport is, IMHO, the best starter bike

My first bike was a Honda XL250. This was back in the 70s so it was heavy and had relatively short suspension travel compared to what is on offer these days. I rode that thing all over Nashville and wasn't afraid to hit main roads.

A 250 is a good starter bike considering your height. You'll out grow it at your own rate so stepping up to a bit larger bike will be in the cards. Get a used bike for your first as you're going to drop it. It hurts less if it is pre-scuffed when this happens for the first time. You can also enjoy off roading with it if there is anywhere to ride in your neck of the woods.
 

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Riding a bike is not like driving a cage. In a car a bit of looseness in the steering can be an excuse for a bit of fun. On a bike it means losing your balance and eating dirt. If you must travel on loose gravel or dirt, go slow and ride a dual sport. (what we used to call an enduro) If you can avoid dirt or gravel roads on a street bike, avoid it.
I have ridden my 900 pound, 1731cc Vision on dirt and gravel roads but only when I could not avoid them. Street bikes are just not made for that kind of riding.
 

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Dirt and gravel can be very interesting on a large heavy street bike.
 

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And I can confirm that gravel makes it very hard to pick one up. Either the bike slides or your feet do. So don't drop one. PERIOD!:D
 

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Yep, deep/loose gravel road plus fully loaded Valkyrie equate to clenched butt cheeks.
Well everyone knows you need to keep a loose grip on the handlebars, so you have to hold on somehow! :icon_cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I probably don't have my terminology right, the roads in question are more "dirt" than gravel. Where I'm at, the loose stuff is just a dusting on top of the road. It's certainly affects traction, but it's not something you will sink into. More of a "monolayer" of pebbles on top of hard packed earth. I'll watch out for the deep stuff, but so far I haven't seen it during my commute.

Another thing I'm excited about...Possibly making a dirt track on my property after harvest. I just need to find a way to pack down the soil so I don't bury a bike. Maybe start to pack it down with the quad first.
 

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Yep, deep/loose gravel road plus fully loaded Valkyrie equate to clenched butt cheeks.
Traversed a short dirt road to look at an old house I used to live in, not more than a block long. Hit some deep sand at the turn, lucky I was only going about 5 miles an hour, and I don't want to do that again.
 
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