I had never really noticed this motorcycle before, but after riding one in Turkey I now see quite a few people in those overlander groups on Facebook have them set up as ‘traveler’ bikes and along with the venerable KLR650 are a popular choice for riders on budget doing extended journeys. I chose to rent this bike also from a price point of view it being the cheapest option.
The XT660R I toured on had seen a lot of miles already, the odometer said 14,000 but it was at least 114,000km. The plastics were faded, the seat cracked and the suspension a bit tired. But the engine started up fine every time, idled and ran well. The clutch felt ok and the gearbox shifted easy and found neutral easy. The final drive was bit tired, the chain already binding in places and the sprockets worn. I bought a large can of Motul chain lube and applied it frequently to try help.
The front brake wooden and lacked power, the rear brake had strong bite, just the state of the pads. I never use rear brake on tarmac but on this bike I started to as the road surface in cities was hotmix with no grit and glassy smooth. This coupled with dual purpose tyres had the bike sliding and stepping out on me to the point I had to ride as if on wet roads in urban areas. The rear tyre was a Chinese copy of a Michelin Anakee and the front was a Bridgestone Trail Wing that was squared off making the transition from upright to lean rather abrupt.
I’m not a fan of spoke wheels and tubes. I have been very lucky but I know it’s a numbers game and sooner or later I am going to be in a spot of bother when I get a puncture. Tubeless you can plug the tyre and be on your way in no time, or just carry a can of fix a flat, tubeless leaks slow so you might notice then still be able to make your way to a suitable place for repairs, but not tubes. You need to fix it on the spot which requires jacking bike up and removing wheel. Then you need to get the tube out and find the leak which really requires a mini compressor, then patch and put all back together. If I had a flat on this ride it would have been a problem as I lacked everything needed and would have had to sought help. In SE Asia that would not be far away but there isn’t that many people riding here and I never saw any vulcanizer shops. I really should stop renting bikes with tubes in future but that is easier said than done.
Despite this the bike for the most part was fine for my purpose and the less powerful front brake along with tyres that offered less grip than I would have liked made me slow my pace right down. That turned out to be a big positive for the tour and allowed me to keep out of trouble a number of times when encountering dangerous situations. Turkish drivers are some of the most aggressive I have encountered and speed is very fast. It was good to have a bigger than normal buffer zone on a couple of occasions.
The seat and riding position was very comfortable. The suspension was soft but comfortable and at low pace never an issue. There is basically no protection from the wind and I found above 90kph wind blast became strong but the engine was smooth up to about 95kph on highway then started to get more vibrations so I just stayed around that speed or less. An extension screen would be good.
The instrumentation is speed, time, trip meter and odometer and you get a low fuel light – basic but enough once you establish the fuel range. I was averaging 240-250km to reserve. Its a 15L tank, so about 21km per litre, 320km range. If you had a 5 litre jerry can you would have a 400km range thereabouts.
The engine is said to have about 47 hp and that was fine for my use but not suitable for Turkish highways where everyone is doing 160kph. I read the weight is 177kg and MCN say that it is heavy which is not true when you consider newer bikes like the Africa Twin and GSA1250 are 250kg+. It never felt heavy to me and was very easy to ride off road, I never hesitated to turn off and ride over to a spring water wells or explore Capadoccia.
Road handling was affected by the suspension that I think was probably due for a rebuild and tyres that were mismatched and seriously squared off at the front. I still managed ok and I think with those things improved I would have had no complaints.
Odd thing – why go to the expense of fitting two mufflers on a 660cc single then fit a old style cheap removable gas tank cap. Funny how manufacturers think sometimes. I once had a car from the BMW group and was always bemused that they installed a digital clock that could not keep time. I mean even a $2 digital watch is fairly reliable, what thought process decided saving a few cents on the timepiece would be a good idea. But I digress.
When you consider you can buy these very cheaply I think a XT660R could be good choice for someone wanting to do some adventure touring. No need to spend huge amount of money on a KTM or BMW, I saw a couple 2013 models low km with extras under $5000 AUD. No need for expensive insurance either. Actually with the $20,000 saved from a optioned European bike you could do that ride around Australia or Pan America or just about anything.