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Common Tread

Dream garage: Pick two bikes with the same engine

Jan 04, 2021

It’s a simple challenge: build your two-bike dream garage under the one condition that the motorcycles have to share an engine. Take a minute. Weigh your priorities.

First things first, I can’t take credit for this idea. I spotted this on Twitter, posed as the same question applied to the auto industry. The thread is full of excellent answers, and is worth spinning through if you’re into cars. More to the point, before Mr. Editor Lance and I put this question of which two motorcycles to choose in front of your beloved Common Tread regulars, we established some rules. 

Screen shot of Stan Michael Cohen Tweet
My personal favorite suggestion in this Twitter thread was Plymouth Prowler and Dodge Caravan. Illustration by Zack Courts.

For one, crossing into sibling brands is allowed as long as the engine is the same — e.g. KTM 390 and Husqvarna 401. Also, crossing bike generations is OK (but not engine generations), so if you’re a fan of five-valve Yamaha engines you could select a 2008 YZF-R1 and a 2012 FZ1. Custom stuff is fine, too, like if you wanted a Yamaha MT-07 and an FZ-07R race bike, but one-off builds would be frowned upon. Come to think of it, a Triumph Street Triple and a Moto2 GP bike would be pretty keen. Sorry, I’m getting distracted.

Maybe you’re already certain what you want. If you don’t know where to start, here’s some inspiration in the form of CT staff picks. We can only hope you all don’t lose faith in us because of what you see here. I’ll go first.

BMW R 1200 GS & R nineT
BMW photos.

2012 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure and 2020 BMW R nineT

I dig BMW’s last iteration of the oilhead boxer mill. The 2012 R 1200 GS had tractor-like torque, good balance from the oddball Paralever and Telelever suspension, and great legs on a long trip, thanks to nearly nine gallons of fuel on board. Unfortunately, I’d also get a tractor-like transmission and I’d be a little sad about the dated electronics, but hell, heated grips and ABS are all I want, anyway. And while I might get laughed at for showing up to a track day with an R nineT, I think from a handling standpoint it’s one of the most underrated bikes around. I also like the way it looks, not to mention how it twists like a hot rod when you rev it and smells like gear oil when it’s parked. Longitudinal cranks are bad for wheelies, sadly — then again I should probably do fewer wheelies in general.

Triumph Scrambler 1200 and Speed Twin
Triumph photos.

Joe Zito: Triumph Speed Twin and Scrambler 1200

I got a chance to ride both of these bikes back to back quite a bit in 2019 and honestly had a tough time deciding which one I would actually buy. Mainly because the 1,200 cc Triumph twin with the 270-degree crank is fantastic. It feels like a beastly amount of power for the style of both these bikes, yet does not feel stressed or out of place at all. I love when a bike is just as happy when ridden casually or aggressively. The Speed Twin is like a brawler in a tuxedo. Nobody would suspect how nasty that bike is just by looking at it. I also love that the Scrambler 1200 is actually a pretty capable off-road and ADV bike with the retro vibe. Thankfully, Triumph actually has real history with these bikes, so the nostalgia thing actually works.

Yamaha XSR900 and Tracer 900 GT
Yamaha photos.

Lance Oliver: Yamaha XSR900 and Tracer 900 GT

Dammit, Zack, this is a tough one. My task would be far more difficult (read: impossible) if the two main things I wanted to do were long-distance travel and motocross. But fortunately, my two two-wheeled priorities are not so far apart. Both of my choices use the same 847 cc three-cylinder engine but the Tracer comes with good touring accessories and ergonomics, while the naked, differently styled XSR900 would be a great ride for shorter hauls and getting around town. And I wouldn't have any hesitation in taking the XSR900 to a track day. The tires are standard sport bike sizes so I could fit sticky rubber for the track or sport-touring tires for the daily grind, depending on what was on the agenda for the coming months. Neither is perfect for my intended purposes, but with that torquey triple (I like my triples — own two of them) I wouldn't be disappointed to be riding it in any sporting setting. Can I get the XSR from the year it came in the yellow speed-block colors?

Yamaha MT-07 & Tenere 700
Yamaha photos.

Spenser Robert: Yamaha MT-07 and Ténéré 700

The worst thing about this combination of bikes is how boringly reasonable it is. This is supposed to be a "dream garage" exercise, and I swear I tried to think of exotic sport bikes and high-end ADVs that called my name. But somehow I always ended up back with Yamaha's 689 cc, CP2-powered siblings. Whether it's commuting, touring, track riding, or dirt sliding, there's nothing these machines can't do and few bikes that look better doing it.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 & KTM 690 Enduro
Husqvarna and KTM photos.

Patrick Garvin: Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 and KTM 690 Enduro

I'm definitely biased because of my recent purchase and subsequent love fest with my Svart 701. Interestingly, I was originally looking into purchasing the KTM, which eventually brought me around to the Husky. I probably would have pulled the trigger on the 690 Enduro but I already have my trusty Kawasaki KLX450R trail bike so I opted for the more street-oriented 701. But I can't think of a better stablemate for my 701 than the 690 up here in the Black Hills. The efficiency of the 693 cc thumper was the reason I was initially drawn to both bikes. The 70-ish horsepower in the 350-pound machines pushes them around really well on the street or the dirt and the motor is really forgiving. You do have to rev it just a little to keep it in the power, but the smooth and consistent power delivery makes for easy riding. It will yank wheelies up no problem and cruise down the interstate at 80 mph with no issues, all while getting around 50 mpg. What’s not to like?

Kawasaki Versys 650 LT and Z650
Kawasaki photos.

Ari Henning: Kawasaki Versys 650 and Z650

My inclination is to find two bikes that offer the biggest difference in riding experience. Turns out, that's really hard to do when it's the same powerplant! Honda’s CRF250L and CBR250R spring to mind, as do a number of Big Red’s 500 cc models (e.g. CB500F and CB500X), but I don't want to restrict myself to small-displacement stuff. And the fact is, I need a Versys 650 in my garage. So, I think I'd go with the Versys and a Z650, or maybe even a Vulcan 650, since that does check the "different riding experience" box. And as far as cruisers go, it's a pretty good one. 

Husqvarna FE 501 and KTM 500 EXC-F supermoto
Photos by Ryan Hansen and Husqvarna.

Brandon Wise: KTM 500EXC-F and Husqvarna FE501

I currently live in Philadelphia and I don't do as much touring as I once did. Instead, I fight angry Yankee drivers and destroy my spine on streets littered with potholes. What Philly does have is close proximity to a lot of excellent dirt riding in New Jersey, which I venture to almost every weekend. Now, you're probably thinking a KTM 500EXC and a Husky FE501 are pretty much the same bike, and I'm not saying you're wrong. But, here’s my plan: The KTM would be my supermoto daily hooligan machine to save my skeleton from the craters scattered throughout the city’s streets, and the Husky would be set up for my weekend adventures through the woods. This is my dream garage so there are no wrong answers. OK, that's not true, there are plenty of wrong answers, but this ain't one.

Suzuki SV650 and V-Strom 650 XT Adventure
Suzuki photos.

Andy Greaser: Suzuki SV650 and V-Strom 650XT Adventure

Dream garage of two bikes, huh? Which means no more than two motorcycles... Uh oh. I went practical where some of my colleagues dreamed big, but with the same goal in mind of being as versatile as possible so I can keep enjoying a wide range of riding styles. I refuse to give any of them up. With some wrenching and a few parts orders, I can build these two bikes into enough configurations that I can keep all the forms of riding I enjoy. The SV's an excellent street rider right out of the gate, and with a little work it can be a track bike, canyon carver, and commuter. The Wee-Strom can tour, do adventure rides, and even take me through some single-track with the right upgrades (I chose the XT Adventure specifically for its wire wheels). My choices aren't anything special, aside from their ability to become many different motorcycles. It's SV and the Wee for me.

KTM 890 Duke and 890 Adventure R Rally
KTM photos.

Spurgeon Dunbar: KTM 890 Duke and 890 Adventure R

I hate this assignment. I don't ever want to imagine a world where I could only have one engine. However, if that world did exist, I would have to go with the KTM 890 cc parallel twin. Most of my experience is with the 790 Duke and a 790 Adventure R, but I can only assume that the 890 is approximately 100 cc better. For what it's worth, I actually prefer Yamaha's 689 cc engine found in the MT-07 and Ténéré 700 (respect to you, Spenser), but I feel KTM does better with the chassis, suspension, and electronics. So, if I had to live with one engine and two bikes for the rest of my days, my vote would go to the Austrians.

What’s your pick?

No big surprise, a lot of people chose a naked bike and an adventure bike, for the sake of versatility. Also, lots of KTM and Husky love. Maybe we didn’t learn much here. I think Joe gets the nod for most stylish, but credit to Ari, too, for mentioning a cruiser. I was secretly hoping someone would pick the dynamic Harley-Davidson duo of V-Rod and VR1000 — I feel like that would count. Spenser’s alternate choice was Honda’s X-ADV and NC750 (or you could go with a CTX700). Not exactly a thrilling garage but, hey, different dreams for different genes. Greaser rolled a bunch of Bimotas around in his head but said he couldn’t come up with anything juicy. Fair enough.

You could say it’s a sad sign of the times when manufacturers are forced to reuse engines and frames to create different models. I prefer to think it offers different riders the same wealth of engineering knowledge and effort. Andy also pointed out that it would be a dream garage in the sense that you'd only have to stock one kind of oil filter and spark plug in your shop. Whatever your dreams, it’s a fun exercise. We’ll probably all change our picks anyway, when we see what you all have to say.