David Reiss' 1992 Yamaha XJ600 with touring bags ready to roll.
Who said you need a big bike to enjoy motorcycyle touring? I just took this little 600cc 1200 miles across five states and back again from Baltimore to Boston. I got the Joe Rocket tail and tank bags from eBay for about the cost of the tank bag ($120), and the soft expandable saddle bags are Nelson-Rigg brand - not as heavy duty as the Rocket bags but did the trick just fine.
I found a factory rear rack ($30 on eBay) and installed it on the
tail of the bike - it's not very big, but handy for the tailpack bag
and for bungee-cording extra stuff.
I could have easily carried camping gear as well but opted to stay in motels.
I did bring both my openface and full face helmets, plus clothes for a week and
other gear - all without expanding the saddlebags!
I also added a set of handlebar risers from GenMar - they raised the bars
without need for changing any of the control cables - it made a BIG difference
in long distance riding. I also put on new grips, and had the front forks rebuilt
- they were leaking oil due to old seals.
The other big change to the bike was the removal of the lower fairing - which
looked very cool but did not help in the running of the bike as it's an air-cooled
bike and the fairing just kept the engine from getting full air flow over the fins,
plus made roadside repairs a real pain.
Instead I opted for a factory new set of engine guards I found eBay for $40.
Below is the bike parked at a Scottish Inn just past the Poconos in Pennsylvania.
Nice place and great parking spot.
I added the bungee cord to take some of the strain off the saddle bags; it
seemed to help a bit. That's my fullface Helmut stuffed into the tail bag. I went
from full face, open face, to no helmet at all as Connecticut, Rhode Island and
Pennsylvania have no helmet laws.
I also had a handheld GPS mounted on the
handlebars along with a map in the tankbag for
A motorist snapped this photo for me at a rest stop. I wear a riding jacket,
gloves and full face helmet when cruising on the highway - even when it's hot.
It was cooler in the mountains, but when I left Baltimore it reached a record
Here is the bike with the magnetic tankbag taken off. It’s so handy how it goes
on and off. Once you have one it's hard to imagine touring without it.
The Seca II did just fine - would happily speed along with all the gear at 70mph all day - and was getting over 60mpg to boot! For the next trip I'll upgrade the windscreen with something a bit taller for wind protection. Aftermarket parts are easily found for the XJs - it was very popular and aftermarket stuff is still readily available.
With all the hoopla about $15,000 sport tourers and 1200cc plus cruisers - my little 400lb 600cc 14-year-old cycle toured just fine thank you very much. On the back roads it was a blast to zip around on, and on the highway it cruised just fine. I took a whole week off for the trip; the bike with all the gear cost about $2,000. I do my basic maintenance like oil & filter change and chain ajdustment, and my local shop knows the bike and is there to help out when I'm stuck. It's a solid, basic 4 cylinder, air-cooled motor on a tried and true frame and suspension.
I stopped at a local filling station on a back road in Rhode Island on the way home (12 hours in one day) and struck up a conversation with a fellow rider. He looked up and down my bike, loaded for touring, and said, "Yup, I'd go cross country on that bike any day." Turned out he was a Moto Guzzi owner, but was riding a late-model Yamaha 200 single. He added "the bigger bikes are sure nice to cruise on, but they are so much heavier and just plain hard to stop in a panic. If I see a deer run in front of me I'd want to be on a lighter bike any day. That's all you need right there," he grinned as we sipped some early morning coffee and talked bikes.
Sure - I saw allot of bigger bikes on the road (many great looking cycles), but I have to say when I saw a big cruiser, say in Rhode Island, it sported RI tags. It was pretty much the same in every state. My little ride w/ Maryland tags made it through Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and back again.
My smile wouldn't have been any bigger had I rode on a proper "Sport Tourer" or big "Cruiser," but my wallet would sure have been lighter. $2,000 bike plus 60+mpg = REAL FUN RIGHT NOW. Or another way to sum it up: 1,200 miles; 600cc; five states in seven days; $2,000 for bike & gear. Smile I can't get seem to wipe off my face: Priceless.
Read more about David Reiss and his love for Japanese motorcycles