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Author Topic: Drifter virgin up in Canada  (Read 164 times)

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rob f

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Drifter virgin up in Canada
« on: December 07, 2017, 10:30:33 AM »

 hello guys and gals. Rob from up here in Canada checking out your forum and looking for tips on Drifters.
 Didn't have a clue that they  even existed until one day this summer whilst filling up at my local  gas station, a cool looking bike pulled up at the next pump. Of course had to go look and say hi.
I asked the bro if it was an Indian or a Harley and was stupefied that it was a kawi ! I guess that resurfaced my one and only addiction.... owning motorcycles. My brain said that I had to have one.
But which one or both? asked the big head. After cruising your site as a lurker and seeing all the opinions it looks like i may have to find a 800 and a 1500.
 The pickin's are slim up here especially this time of year. So far I have found a 2002 800 about 4hrs away and a 1500 about a day and a half away. From comments I have read is that the 800 is more prone to mechanical issues which is sort of ok as I like to tinker (at home,not on the road). I would prefer the 1500 for power and the missing carb but like the looks and handling of the 800. Over the last 45 years I have owned a multitude of bikes from 125 to 1560 cc's . My first bike being a kawi 125 enduro at age 16. My next 2 were a kawi 350 Big horn and a brand new (1977?) KZ1000. Presently own a 650 v strom and a virago xv1100. An 800 and a 1500 would fit in there nicely. I haven't owned a kawi since 1977 and have strayed away mainly due to lack of Dealer support. Also, no disrespect, but Kawi was like the Mazda of the auto industry. I never had complaints about the ones i've had. It will be interesting to revisit this brand.
 I have a few questions for your members;
 Valve adjustments sound like a regular bitch to do and not a fan of the shim style.  Of course if I do get a Drifter I would check the clearance just because, but every 6000 miles? really? Any comments about what intervals you would use? Are vanishing clearances a problem with these engines or is this just a regular ( unnecessary) maintenance item? Oh yes I am aware of what tight clearances would do. My son owns a Honda crf 450 that is in need of shims once a year and on the other side of the coin, I owned a 1300cc Royal Star with 80,000 kms that had 16 shim adjusted valves . Only 2 valves were out by about .001"  Just kinda wondering where these Kawi engines fall.......... Always checking or do it once and don't worry?
 Mileage wise what is the average life expectancy?
 Not a fan of liquid cooled engines , so any common cooling system issues?
 Parts availability and costs?
 Vibrations at hyway speeds? Average hyway ride time before rider needs a break?
 Handling at slow speeds? I got rid of my Royal Star because it scared the crap outta me in parking lots. The combo of short legs  (30")and  a 950lb top heavy bike doesn't go well. I am sure that the 800 is fine but wondering about the 1500. Asking because buying at this time of year doesn't allow for a test ride.
   Thanks in advance for any replies and a pat on the back to those who keep this forum alive.
I belonged to the Royal Star Venture forum for a while and found them an excellent source for advice. It takes special people with a love of the product/ comradery to moderate and keep a forum going. I appreciate their efforts.
 rob f
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Old Drifter

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2017, 14:51:38 PM »

Hi Rob and welcome to the forum. I have a '99 1500 Drifter and love it! I'm sure others will chime in here especially CDNRatman, he likes the 800's so much that he has two. When you find a Drifter, I'm sure you'll love it too. Good luck.
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Gene

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OR Seedman

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2017, 19:46:24 PM »

Welcome....

I have both an 800 and 1500....as far mechanical issues on the 800...none so far but only 10k miles..I rescued the 1500 from the original owner off of ebay when he didn't want to pay to have a shop fix the front bevel gear bearing...got it for a steal..

differences to me:  800 is more nimble and handles better in traffic.  I changed from 17/40 sprockets to 18/38...much better on the highway with no noticeable loss of acceleration.  the 1500 is smoother on the highway (slightly longer wheelbase, heavier and shaft drive).  More low end torque.  but....it does not handle as well at slower speeds in traffic...feels a little "ponderous" compared to the 800....

My 800 gets 46-49 mpg depending on how I am riding that day...the 1500 gets about 35 mpg....

I haven't decided yet which one I am going to keep and which I will sell in the spring....very tough decision as I really like both bikes....my daughter says to keep both...LOL
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OR Seedman

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rob f

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2017, 21:27:15 PM »

Thanks for the unbiased evaluation OR. That's the kinda stuff I need to know.
I'd listen to your girl as gals seem to know things we guys don't ( so I've been told)
Maybe she is eyeballing the 800 for herself?
R.
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CDNRatMan

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2017, 23:46:24 PM »

  Welcome rob f of Alberta. Where abouts in the province, I know a few Drifter riders in Alberta. Ok so your questions, lets see what we can talk about here. I have for the last few years been dealing with ankle and knee issues and so when buying a new bike I test rode a bunch of the 1200 to 1600 size machines and found them hard on the legs for one reason or the other. Then by chance I came across my Red. which I ended up buying. Ok I'll not post on the deal I got because some of the lads get upset.
   Not sure where you got the impression that the 800 was prone to mechanical issues. Could you be more specific on that one. When I bought Red I drained all the fluids and replaced them with new and started life out as it was new.
  Valve issues none, I had some thing 27000, on Red when I bought her and the valves when checked the front was supposed to be between 6 and 8 both mine were 7 and the rear was 8 to 10 and mine where 9, so living in North Bay and getting dry rain all winter long and lots of snow I decided to use the time to do valve checks every winter just because I can. Last winter all valves were within specs again. As for the liquid cooling never had an issue in all the miles with any of it.
  As anyone on this forum can say I have racked up some decent miles and long trips on my 800. I run a tad above speed limit speeds and so at 150 km I am looking for a fuel stop at 175 I am sort of really looking and at 200 km I am in a panic, but not on reserve yet. I ride about 2.5 hours and then take a break for about 5 to 10 mins and go again, I have put on 8 to 12 hour days and not an issue. This year I did from Antigonish the Cabot trail and back to Antigonish and we were on the rod for a bit over 12 hours. So the 800 can handle but can you.
   I have sat on the 1500 a number of times never really rode on far, but you sit vert different on each machine.
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CDNRatMan

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2017, 23:59:43 PM »

Rob F; here is my last three trips on Red, and the ride to Drift In 15 was 5,149km and a hoot, then to Sparta and out was and then home the trip was 6,946 km and I had a real blast,then this summer to PEI and covered 5,389km.
 I can say that after 17,484 km I have had nothing go wrong with the bike and had a blast riding it.
  Last picture is Red on the morning we left for PEI.
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OR Seedman

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2017, 06:57:33 AM »

Ratman is correct on the seating position....definitely a noticeable difference....but I am not sure how to describe it...I don't have the stock seat on my 1500, so I sit a little lower on it than you would with the oem seat....I am 6' and have no issues with my knees, so balance at a stop light on either bike is not an issue...both have low seating heights to begin with...but the weight difference between the two is a factor for some....anyway, best of luck finding the one you want...and when you do, post lots of pics....and check out the galleries here so lots of ideas on customizing....
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rob f

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2017, 10:07:02 AM »

Thanks for the input guys.
To answer some of Ratmans questions:
I am on a ranch about 1.5 hrs NW of Calgary.Most of my riding is local stuff and usually not more than 2hrs one way. Edmonton, Calgary, Banff and the odd trip into BC. Retired a few years back after doing 33 years of mechanicing. Thought that I would be doing  some long hauls in my retirement but have only done 1 so far from here to halifax with the Military Police Charity Annual run. Great cause and memorable ride but found out that I am not a pack rider, more of a loner.
Sold the Royal Star that took me on that ride and switched to  2016 Dl 650 V-strom that I gotta say is an incredible machine. Use it for the ugly rides where dust ,snow and mud don't matter. Have my Chromed out 98 Virago for putting here and there. But when I spotted that drifter last summer i thought that it would be a cool showpiece kinda bike for special occasions. So here i sit on the fence. Don't really need one but would be nice. Getting rarer every day so thought I would study up and ask questions. Am appreciating the input that I am getting here. Starting to lean more on getting one after reading your posts.
 As far as the 800 mechanical issues- i am not a fan of sprockets and chains or carbs which the 1500 has neither. Shim adjusted valves also turn me off. I know that i just have to get over it!
Sounds like valve clearance issues are not much of a problem according to your bike and that makes me feel a bit better. Single carb vs double (or Quads like the Royal star) is also acceptable. And I guess with sprockets you can customize (as OR has done) where shaft you can't. Kinda sounds like I am talking myself into an 800 doesn't it?
 I will send a pic of the 800 that I have been checking out for the last few months. looks like a good deal and has been up for sale for a time. Just gotta suffer thru 8-10 hrs of driving to bring it home :(
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UGLY

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2017, 10:28:44 AM »

Hi Ugly here in Coombs Van Island. I see on C/L a 99 1500 I used to own for 4400. I AM 75 AND 5.5 and found it a tad heavy in town.I sure would be happy to deliver it to you .l.o.l I have another 99 1500 that is customized to my frame, and ride for the last 4 years to Kelona, Beaverdell , Red Deer, Blackfalls. And on to Edmonton. I also have a Delray trailer hitch new for your1500 when you get it. I love the style of the 800 and I love the no problems of the 1500.   Good luck .Coming out your way this summer on my 1100 virago towing a trailer with my tent and coleman stove
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BEEN RIDING 58 YEARS. FIRST BIKE 1949 JAMES MY MOTHERS BIKE GIVENTO ME IN 56 OR7.  RODE A LOT OF BRITISH BEING FROM  NEW BRUNSWICK CANADA. LOVE MY 99 DRIFTER 1500. WISH I LIVED DOWN THERE WITH ALL THE BEAUTIES YOU HAVE THERE AT SUCH GREAT PRICES

CDNRatMan

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2017, 19:47:03 PM »

 Rob F; I will say that I did the sprocket swap on Red, from 17/40 to 18/38 and have been really happy with this set up since and will be doing it to Pearl this winter. Have not since done any adverse issues in town or at low speeds. On my first 2 trips I checked the chain every night after supper, and on those 2 trips I had no issues and had to make no adjustments during the trips but did once I got home. On my PEI trip I did run into an issue and was due to PEI mud and a flash flood and my chain developing a couple of tight spots. Now on another forum I am on there is a group of people who claim to never washing or cleaning their tires, These people (read sarcasm) are my heros. Come summer time I I spend about 30 mins every other weekend cleaning the white walls and checking the chain and the tire shape and wear.  Valve clearance, not an issue. Once you learn to do it, it is really easy.
  The is a decent looking 800. I will say I am a fan of the 800, and to try and explain to you the difference I notice on the 1500 you sort of sit down in the seat level with the tank sort of, where on the 800 you are perched atop the tank and off the bike if that sounds right once you get used to it it is really nice to see the view. I drove to Barrie from North Bay to buy Red, 4 hours down 4 hours back, then from North Bay to Kingston to buy Pearl and that was 5 hours down and 5 back so anything is possible.......
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greenbarn

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2017, 23:54:08 PM »

Welcome, Rob f to the forum.   I appreciate your indecision on which Drifter to buy.  I had the same problems deciding back when I was in your shoes shopping for my first drifter.   I see a lot more info here lately on this subject, 800 vs 1500, than was available then.   Then, "buy whichever one you like better" was common advice.   Well, with so few and so far between for sale, it's not as easy as that.  I ended up buying a 800, largely because of local availability at that time, and the price being a little lower.   Then later after a couple years, I bought a 1500, so now have one of each.  Here are the differences as I see them.
1500 has a longer wheel base and also a much longer distance from the seat to the triple tree.   Seat heights vary based on which seat you have - so they are all different.   

As far as the 800 having more "mechanical issues" I guess that's one way of saying it, but I don't think there are actually "issues" issues - just that the 800 has somewhat more "mechanical" systems, so yes there are more things to tinker with (ie. valves, carb and chain), but these things don't really cause "issues" per se.   My 800 has a little over 20K miles and never had the valves adjusted.  No symptoms of valve adjustment problems.  I'll probably try to check them this winter, but not big deal.  Lube and adjust the chain a few times, and make sure the carb is adjusted once and you're good to go.  On the contrary, the 1500 has a few inherent "mechanical issues" that the 800 does not -- i.e. the common clutch problem, and the clutch switch issue that happens sometimes.   Both have steering neck bearings that go bad, and need the fork oil and springs re-done when you get them. 

The 1500, IMO excels at longer distance high-way speed riding (compared to the 800).  This doesn't mean the 800 isn't good for long rides, just that IMO the 1500 doesn't have to work as hard to scoot down the interstate at 75 MPH.  If you do a lot of interstate riding, you might appreciate the 1500.  If I was to go on a longer ride where I was going state highways, and taking my time, I wouldn't mind doing in on my 800.

The 1500 also has a lot more room for 2-up riding.  800 can do it too, but there's just more room on the 1500 saddle.

As for looks, they are both beautiful bikes, but IMO the 800 has a slightly more retro look,  the chain and hard-tail look add to it, whilst the shaft drive on the 1500 detracts somewhat. 

So there you have it -- you probably need one of each.    That will give you the best of both worlds, LOL.
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mittico68

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2017, 03:07:11 AM »

Welcome aboard Rob!
As a 800 owner, I just can tell the pros and cons of it.
It's 18 years now, since I bought her and the only big issue she had was due to the chain front sprocket having lost a tooth...
I've been ridin' her on highways and on backroads, with a 2up and a solo configuration: the bike always runs great (even though I prefer to ride solo...  8) ).
The real thing that back in the day made me choose for the 800 instead of the 1500, was the more retro look of the first one: I just love the way its rear fender stands out! Oh, and obviously, the lower cost played its part...  ;)
So, if your pocket is full enough, go get both of them: you'll duplicate the joy and fun, for sure!
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kw-retrorider

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2017, 10:32:08 AM »

Rob: You probably need one of each, but I think you need to ride one of each first.  A lot depends on which one fits you better. I bought my 800, because I rode one and it fit my frame without mods..period.

Will agree with Greenbarn....800 is more mechanical, but it does not have more issues...just read the forum closely and see how many more posts there are about 1500 idiosyncrasies. Less is more sometimes. Once the 800 is set up, it stays that way. I've done 30K in the last 5 years...only tires, tubes and one chain/sprocket change out. Also checked the valves to find they didn't need adjustment. I ride one up and it's all I need. So also depends on the type of driving you are doing to do, solo or one up. Have driven my 800, 500 plus miles in a day...it is comfortable just how it is on the highway with no mods.

So again, it's personal...you need get in a few saddles. Good luck. Any decision will be a good one.  For everything else, there's plenty of talent and experience on this forum.
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Ontargetbill

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2017, 16:35:44 PM »

Hi Rob,
I own a 99 1500 and love it. I've been wanting an 800 also, been looking for a 800 for Mom.. Well at least thats what I tell her even though she says its too big for her. I want to drive it though.. lol

I've owned my 1500 for over a year and love it. I'm 6'1" and big she just moves like a dream. I drive mixed highway and backroads the maneuverability is great except in traffic can be a bit heavy if driving start and stopping for long periods of time.

I've shy'd away from sprocket and chains in the past but keep them oiled and due regular maintenance you'll be fine.

Welcome aboard and good luck hunting..

To be honest finding aftermarket parts are a chore to find but with perseverance you can get what you want mostly.
I found more parts are readily available for 800's than 1500's from my internet searches.

Also you might pay a tad more than more for parts and accessories than would for common bikes.

With that said you will also be driving a bike that is by far one of the best looking on the road.

Ontargetbill.
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rob f

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2017, 18:29:55 PM »

Thanks to all for the welcome and input. Looks like your posts convinced me to buy. After 12 hrs of drive time this weekend I now own a 2001 red vn800 with 25,00 kms. I just got started on teardown and inspection and am coming up with some questions.
Will get off of the Introduction  segment and drift over to the tech section with them.
Guess that I am now a citizen of Planet Vulcan. What do you guys call yourselves...... Driftheads,
Vulcanites,Cheiftains.........?
R
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mittico68

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2017, 01:44:40 AM »

Thanks to all for the welcome and input. Looks like your posts convinced me to buy. After 12 hrs of drive time this weekend I now own a 2001 red vn800 with 25,00 kms. I just got started on teardown and inspection and am coming up with some questions.
Will get off of the Introduction  segment and drift over to the tech section with them.
Guess that I am now a citizen of Planet Vulcan. What do you guys call yourselves...... Driftheads,
Vulcanites,Cheiftains.........?
R
Well done! But now, your first aim should be posting pics. We DO LIKE PICS!  ::)
I'd call ourselves "Drifter addicted"...  ;D
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Old Drifter

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2017, 08:59:04 AM »

Congrats on you're new (to you) Drifter, and as mittico68 said..."we like pics".  8)
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Gene

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rob f

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Re: Drifter virgin up in Canada
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2017, 17:58:29 PM »

sorry guys but no pics untill spring as it will be tore down most of the winter while i pick away at it.
R
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