AdventureMobile: Saga GY-250 Enduro Dirtbike

Everyone has a different opinion about what an adventure mobile should be like. Some like them small so they can get in out of tight places and don’t require much gas to do it. Some like them big and comfortable so longer trips are much nicer and you can fit more friends and gear. I think there’s a place for all different kinds. Most trips I’ll take my Toyota 4Runner because it’s got more space for gear and people. If I’m just going to explore an area or am going with other riders, I’ll head out on my 2007 Saga GY-250 enduro motorcycle.

What I like

  • Lightweight
  • Cheap on gas
  • Inexpensive
  • Very easy to manoeuvre in the woods
  • Tall for good clearance
  • Fun to ride

What I don’t like

  • Not comfortable at speed
  • Hard to find parts
  • Not the quality of big brands

Pro: Lightweight

You can’t get much more lightweight than this motorcycle is. You could use a bicycle but you total distance covered drops dramatically as soon as you go human-powered. It does have space for one person on the back but if I’m carrying a backpack that doesn’t work so it’s really only a one-person vehicle. That doesn’t work for a lot of people. The size and weight comes in when you are exploring. With a bike this size you can get almost anywhere. You can slide it under downed logs, ride it through single track trails and on roads, be it dirt roads or paved.

Pro: Cheap on Gas

Aside from scooters, which might have a tough time off-road, $8 to fill the tank is about as cheap as you can get for a vehicle. With new electric and hybrid vehicles coming out, driving will get less and less expensive but it’s hard to argue with a couple hundred kilometres on $8.

Pro: Inexpensive

I picked this bike up when it was a year old for only $1600. Models from other brands were going for at least $5000. The price was most of what sold it for me. I’ve had great luck with it so far and not had any problems. I do make sure that I’m with other people when I ride further into the woods. That might just be common sense when exploring places hours away from civilization. No matter what the brand of bike you have, there’s still a chance you could crash or something could break and you’ll be walking home.

Pro: Easy to manoeuvre

The dirtbike style of the bike and the tall frame makes it very easy to get over or around anything in the woods. If I get stuck I can pretty much just pick the bike up or work it up over the obstacle while I’m on the ground. Try some gnarly single track trail on a big adventure bike and you’ll be sticking to the dirt roads in no time. I’ve got the back spring lowered a bit so I can actually touch the ground on the road as I’m not very tall. The height of it does make it nicer for clearing obstacles in the backcountry. On a lower bike, you’d be scraping the frame on rocks and logs but I can roll right over them in the GY-250. But with all vehicles, there’s always a limit to how how you can go.

Pro: Fun to ride

The GY-250 isn’t very hard to ride at all and because it’s so small and light, I can just hop on and go through any kind of trail or dirt road. It’s nice to ride on the road at slow speeds as well so as soon as the weather is decent, I spend most of my driving time on the bike instead of the 4Runner.

Con: Not comfortable at speed

That same nimble lightness I talked about above makes it a bit of a pain to ride at highway speeds. It’s doable but it’s certainly not comfortable like a bigger bike would be. There’s not much weight to throw around so it’s unstable in the wind and doesn’t have a fairing up front to protect you from the air hitting your chest and face.When I bought the bike, it was geared quite low. I could get up to about 80 km/h but that was about the top of it’s comfortable riding speed. I had a cog with fewer teeth put on it recently to lower the gear which brought the top speed up to about 100-110 km/h. It’s not incredible comfortable but I can make it all over Vancouver Island instead of just being stuck in town here.

Con: Hard to find parts

Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find any replacement parts. Saga isn’t a mainstream brand and the closest location was a few hours away that might have what I needed. Initially, I got the few parts that I needed by matching them up with other brands. I bent my clutch handle and broke a chain so those needed to be replaced. Last year a new bike and scooter shop opened up where I live and just happened to carry Saga scooters and could get the parts of the bikes as well. I was definitely lucky with that one. I went from hardly being able to find parts to having a shop within walking distance of my house. Maybe someone was listening when I was thinking about a new bike shop!

Con: Not the quality of big brands

This con is more from what I’ve heard about Saga bikes compared to other ones. There is usually a reason they are cheaper than the other big brands of motorcycles. When I heard people talk about them initially, I was worried I had bought some second-rate piece of junk. So far everything has run very smoothly and I’ve been very happy with the bike and the cost to maintain it. If everything keeps going this smoothly, I’ll be very happy with the fact that the bike was a quarter of the price of similar models.

There have only been a couple issues with it and nothing major. The pegs that hold the headlight assembly in have broken. They were brittle plastic that couldn’t stand all the bumps of riding off road. I could just get a new assembly to replace it but it was easier and probably stronger just to wire it in myself. A few of the plastic covers on the sides and the front fork have cracks in them after I’ve run into things. The plastic isn’t quite as strong as it should be. Again, I could replace these with new higher quality parts but they’re just plastic and don’t serve a purpose when I’m riding so I’m going to leave them for now.

2 other pieces I’ve replaced have been the clutch handle and the chain. I bent the clutch handle falling over one day so that was my fault. I believe the chain breaking was also my fault after putting it on wrong when it slipped off. I was on a steep hill and all that torque applied to a chain that wasn’t lined up properly broke one of the links. Luckily I was travelling with another truck that day and just threw it in the back and drove back home.

Recommendation

Just the fact that the Saga GY-250 was a quarter of the price of other similar bikes is enough to make me love it. I’ve had no major problems with it (knock on wood) and it continues to be an awesome way to get around during the drier weather. I don’t have any thick waterproof gear with armor for riding yet so I’ve been hesitant to ride in terrible weather. Once I get a jacket, pants and boots, I’ll be set for riding all year!