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Author Topic: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size  (Read 1101 times)

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ThinRedPaste

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Hey all, I was hoping you could help me out with a couple of general purpose questions about drifters, so I can decide if I want an 800 or the 1500.  I've test ridden an 800, but I haven't been on the 1500 yet.  I spent the last 10 years with a 98 Valkyrie, and then late this summer I decided to try something different and sold that in favor of a BMW R1100RS.  Now that THAT's out of my system, I'm looking to get back on a cruiser.  I've decided I want a drifter, but the question is which one?

On the one hand, I'm considering the 800 because my usual rides have changed.  I used to live in the country and did a lot more highway riding, but now I'm in the city and mostly just take short rides around town.  The 800 didn't seem under-powered for that kind of riding, which I had been a bit concerned about.  That said, there's a thing I go to a couple hundred miles from here 2 or 3 times a year, and after test riding an 800 I wasn't sure it was up for that kind of trip.  Are they happy running at the revs they need to do 80 mph for 4 or 5 hours at a stretch? I also had some concern about excessively soft rear suspension, but maybe that can be adjusted out.  I weigh about 230 lbs and it seemed like the bike was in danger of bottoming out on a bad bump.  Is that something I should be concerned about with the 800?  Is 2-up riding a problem?

But on the other hand I'm used to big bikes, and the 1500 seems to have a lot of advantages like fuel injection and shaft drive.  How is it in stop and go traffic, though?  Does it get cumbersome in parking lots?  One of my biggest issues with the Valkyrie after I moved to the city was the heat off of that big flat 6 engine cooking my legs.  I imagine that's less of a problem with a v-twin, but since the only v-twin I've ever owned was a 650 and that was over a decade ago, I'm not sure how the bigger ones are in that regard.  There's also the appearance problem - the 800s look better, but is it worth trading a little of the retro look for more modern tech?

Finally, what kind of longevity should I expect from the two different models?  Like I said I'm used to Valkyries that are basically immortal, so I'm not sure what constitutes high mileage for Drifters.  I've been seeing some 800s listed with about 21k miles, and a 1500 with 49k miles, should either of those numbers scare me off?

Thanks
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RockinRollin

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2019, 05:24:54 AM »

I've had a 1500 for some time now and I can tell you why I finally decided to go with the 1500 over the 800 and it has nothing to do with the power issue as I have owned a 750 Honda that was just fine on the highways and was awesome in the city.

My reasons for choosing the 1500
1. The 1500 is fuel injected, no fiddling with or cleaning carbs,
2. Shaft drive, no adjusting or changing out chains,
3. Fuel gauge, really nice after so many years without one.
4. Self cancelling signals, just a little thing but again really nice not driving 2 miles with signal flashing because you forgot or didn't push the cancel switch hard enough.
5. No need to pull heads and set valve clearances on the 1500.

This is just me, I do my share of maintenance on vehicles (2 cars an ATV, snow blower, lawn mower and bike) I want to ride in my spare time. But I wish the 1500 had the mono shock like the 800, just looks more retro and I miss the nimbleness of the smaller bike size, 1500 is a little harder to maneuver in parking lots and such but probably not any more than a Valkyrie, probably less. 49 K is a few miles but not excessive if it was well maintained, I find the 1500 a little warm on the exhaust side of the bike in warmer weather but that could be the custom exhaust on my bike. Not the greatest braking system either but it's 20 years old.
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mittico68

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2019, 11:09:37 AM »

I'll add my 2 cents.
It's 20 years now, since I've got my 800 and I'm so happy with her that I'll pass it to my boy, once I'm not able to ride her any more.
Now, just to explain my own reasons for choosing the 800, here I'm gonna follow RochinRollin's diagram:
1. the 800 is carbed, but IMHO it's more simple to deal with it, especially if you're gonna upgrade with new exhaust and airbox, as I did with ma-deeuce;
2. yes, she's got chain, but in 20 years I've had to change it only once;
3. no fuel gauge: who cares? I'm used to use the secondary trip meter as a fuel gauge, setting it to zero once the bike goes into reserve mode; not to tell you that's more a romantic way to ride…  ;)
4. the 800 has got self cancelling signals, too;  8)
5. valve clearance? no need until now.
And I'll add:
6. the 800 is such a smooth ridin', on highways and around town, and most of all she's got a great handling on curvy roads and even in park lots;
7. sometimes I ride 2-up, and I don't feel any lack of power, in any condition;
8. the 800 has got a real Indian style.  8)
And here's ma-deuce:
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I love my swingin' bike!

rob f

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2019, 10:15:30 AM »

Only one way outt'a this dilemma bud. You need to get both! I have been struggling with this problem for many years and that is why I own 3 bikes. The drifters are inexpensive and can pick up both cc's used for half price of a used Harley. If you have the room to store 2 is the question.
 You will never be happy with an 800 with 2 up or on a hwy that needs you to travel 70mph +. For town and secondary hwys no problem. The boys here will tell you that you can sprocket up for the hwy. I tried this and can tell you it robs engine power and brings first gear up too high for slow maneuvering. I went back to original gearing and have to rev the heck outta her on the hwy. This is my opinion only and am sure that it will spark a whole flurry of gearing posts. If you have spent time on a Valkrie then you will surely miss it when you ride an 800.
Having said that, it appears that you are changing your riding venues. If you are older and have had enough of manhandling the big beasts then the 800 is for you. You will find the 800 is more mechanically tinkerable hands on, if you like that kind of stuff.
I have been riding for many years and have had many bikes and can tell you that the 800 is very smooth, easy to handle, cool and fun for the majority of my riding. Between the Drifter 800, V-strom 650 and the Nomad 1500, I find i put more ass time on the Drifter.
 You can read all the comments you like, but the only way to find out is to get it ,ride it and then keep it or sell it.
Rob
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"I saw a white rider on a painted horse come my way"
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jmbo

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2019, 08:42:55 AM »

After riding Triumphs for years, I finally bought my 1500. I've ridden 800 and did not see that much difference in close quarter riding. When and if you do go highway riding the difference is significant. For me , the 130 pounds difference means a lot when it comes to stability on the road plus having a little more hp and a lot more low end torque makes it an easy ride even in the city.
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Jimb

ThinRedPaste

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2019, 10:07:51 AM »

Thanks for the input, everybody.  I brought home a black and silver 04 800 last night.  Got a few things I need to address on it, like the kickstand is real wobbly in its mount and drags the ground on left turns, and i think it could use a carb cleaning, but I'm really liking it so far.
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Bucko

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2019, 22:16:51 PM »


My reasons for choosing the 1500
1. The 1500 is fuel injected, no fiddling with or cleaning carbs,
2. Shaft drive, no adjusting or changing out chains,
3. Fuel gauge, really nice after so many years without one.
4. Self cancelling signals, just a little thing but again really nice not driving 2 miles with signal flashing because you forgot or didn't push the cancel switch hard enough.
5. No need to pull heads and set valve clearances on the 1500.


Interesting: these are the same reason I bought my 1500 (with the exception of the fuel gauge - it's a great option but not critical for me)
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kw-retrorider

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Re: Decided to get a Drifter, got some questions to help pick which size
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2019, 03:14:24 AM »

Thin Red: On my second 800 ( a 2005) after an accident on the first (a 2002). You won't be sorry...it's a matter of fit. I'm just under 6 ft and 185 lbs. The seating position fits like a glove. I also ride one up only, so I appreciate the comments about two up riding on the highway where you might want more power. That said....
- Have driven over 500 miles each way to a Drift In on the stock seat with the stock gearing with no issues.
- Mechanically, the 800 seems to have less gremlins if you count threads on this forum.
- Carb and chain are old school and contribute to that feel without being a extraordinary maintenance burden.
- Carb is not a problem if you keep your fuel clean and use anti-ethanol additive
- The monoshock needs a one time adjustment to suit the weight of the average American
- The stock windscreen works just right
- Once you find the right brackets, adding bags is handy
- The stock exhaust can be surgically de-baffled to a reasonable but not loud note without other mods
- Although there are ways to pull more HP out of the engine by de-smogging, I haven't felt the need to screw with the consistency and reliability of the stock set up.

Works for me. The 1500 is heavier, has a different seating position and airflow, is more advanced mechanically but I like the hard tail look and aesthetics of the 800 and simply didn't need more power....and in the end...when I sat on and rode my first one....it just fit.

You'll find this forum and its crew very helpful. Good luck with your new ride.
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