Bike preparation for long distance dirt road touring
Bike Preparation for long distance dirt road touring
by Frank Warner
This article is about bike preparation for long distance dirt road touring, drawing on my experiences, conversations and reading. It is not detailed as this would have many variations depending on the bike and the rider (I get many more flat rear tyres than front ones, but I've meet a rider who had many more flat fronts!). I've tried to make this as universal as possible but used a Suzuki DR650 as an example. The collection is rather disjointed!
I've used my spelling - tyre, colour etc. You'll find other places spell things differently, accept it and get on. Where different names are used I've tried to include those, it gets even more complicated with different languages!
Please read the end bit! (Just in case I've left something out [probable] or made a mistake.)
The examples are for a DR650 and me. They must be modified to suit you, your bike, your gear and your trip.
This means different things to different people.
Let us eliminate scheduled maintenance - oil changes, filter changes, adjustments. These are all covered in bike specific maintenance manuals - these you should buy for your model bike. You should be able to perform normal essential servicing on your bike, learn at home where you can get assistance. Do a major full service on the bike before you leave.
What is 'essential'? That if left undone would cause failure or premature ware. Adjusting a loose throttle cable is not essential, but a tight clutch cable is (can cause the clutch to slip and excessive ware). For those with bikes that plug into a computer for their service ..I think that is not essential, have it done when convent, but don't put off the oil change!
One hint for maintenance and travelling - try to have all the maintenance happen at one time rather than several small maintenance sessions. Three 2 hour sessions on three separate days over a month are much worse than one whole day. Those 2 hour sessions tend to take the best travel parts of the day.
DR650 air filter cleaning is required every 2,000km. If you use filter skins at 2,000km and have 3 of them you can extend the cleaning until 6,000 km where you also change the engine oil - thus you have oil available for re oiling the air filter. Possibly 5 filter skins would be good - allows for those dusty times when you may like to clean things more frequently. Some report cheaper pool filters can be used as filter skins. For 'dry' air filters ... well a prefilter exists for BMW R12s (UNI filter snorkel precleaner (pk2) - Part no. NU 7306 see www.UNIflow.com.au) - it goes in the air inlet tube ... basically a long plastic sock. Some use pantyhose wrapped around circular paper filters.
You'll find most of this is simply you getting to know your bike. Understanding what things are, what they do and where they are. This is essential if something does go wrong.
- When to do this?
- Make things easy.
- Weight reduction
- Damage prevention, reduction
- Running submerged - water crossings
- Storage, hiding places
- The rear shock absorber
- Spare parts
- Universal repair parts (consumables)
- Hazard negotiation
- Cleaning for air/sea transportation
Now is a good time. Try to have it all done say 3 months before you set off on the big trip. This avoids the early failures that occur with new stuff (why new stuff carries a warranty). Do not trust new stuff until you use it for a month at least. Having time to go on smaller test trip/s would be good to sort out any things that are not ideal. Starting now gives you the maximum amount of time to sort things out, and you'll find things get more hectic as the leaving time approaches.
Basically you should be able to ride all day and not feel any discomfort at the end of the day, the same for the next day and the next etc. Any discomfort or pain indicates a problem with the interaction between your body and the bike. Stretching both before and after a ride can aid pain/stress prevention and relief. Yoga may be beneficial. There is little on the web about ergonomics and motorcyclists compared to other motorcycle subjects. It is your body and your bike so take any general advice as just that. If you have a specific problem get expert help.
You should be able to easily go from the sitting position to a standing position. You should also be able to move freely on the seat backwards and forwards. For both standing and sitting riding positions, the straight line through your forearm should align with your wrist line. Any angle indicates that you need to adjust something. Obviously the front brake and clutch leavers would need two positions one for sitting and the other for standing. You will need to compromise here. Some set the bars up so that rotating them back a bit gives a good siting position, rotating them forwards gives a good standing position. Experiment.
Your spine should not change from its normal relaxed position just because you are riding the bike.
The seat is a sore point with some. Trail bike and enduro bike seats are made with the though that the rider will be standing most of the time, and need to be able to quickly more from the front to the back of the seat, so they are narrow. A solution is to widen the seat, especially at the rear where the extra width will not restrict the riders movements too much. If you do this be aware that sitting at the back may curve your spine too much, and upset your arms, wrist, knees.
Try any changes first. And you'll need to try them over some days of riding. This can be very time consuming. Do look at what others are using and ask what they have found.
The HUBB on motorcycle ergonomics.
Anything that is a slight annoyance on a small trip/commute or even when you service the bike will become a major annoyance on a longer trip. Eliminate it, change it but make it good. Some bolts on the Suzuki DR650 are 6 mm thread but have an 8 mm hex head, they are soft and tend to deform with an open ended spanner. I have replaced many of these with cap head (allen head) bolts. The ones still left are ones I'd not normally have to use unless I were needing a complete engine rebuild and in that case I'd need a workshop of sorts.
Some clamps may be arranged for appearance, you want them arranged for easy servicing. If the bolt comes loose, can you tighten it as easily as possible?
If something does go wrong on the trip, knowing where things are, what they do and what they are called helps communicate with the 'experts'. You may not know exactly what is wrong, but the experts may be able to determine the fault ... sometimes with some more information from you, or more investigation by you. Note that some answers are 'best guess' based on what happened to them, or their knowledge of the most frequent cause of the failure. So don't take the advice as being 100% certain. Only when the bike has been repaired for some time can you be certain of the 'fix'. The more you know about your bike the easier problems will be to solve.
The other thing to consider is what you will be leaving behind at home!
All those cleaning implements and products. Amongst mine are a paint brush - it gets into the cooling fins on the motor, in crevices etc. a hand spray to squirt water in places and the usual bucket and sponge. Of these I think the paint brush is the one that I'd carry as those are unusual in cleaning implements Some bolts on the bike may be hollow - all well and good to keep the weight down... but cleaning these is a problem, seal the holes with plastic chair tips, pen tips, rubber bungs, etc. There is also soap, kerosene, degreaser and polish.
Special tools for tyre changing, tuning. Try to exist with what you are taking away with on the trip and see how it goes.
Some places will have you bring the bike inside. It is handy if the maximum width of the bike will fit through the door! Check your bikes width and the size of your doorways at home (mine are 710 mm), does it fit? Can you reduce the bikes width without loosing much?
Most trail bike riders do a lot of this. But they are not too concerned with longevity e.g. the removal of chain guards exposes the chain to more dirt! Nor are they too concerned with remaining clean, shorten mud guards may look good ... but the dirt may well end up on you. So a balance between what can be removed without detriment and those components that can be replaced (at some cost) while achieving weight reduction. Please be aware that weight matters more at the top of the bike - when you lift a bike up the weight at the top has to come up something like 1000mm, where as the bottom of the motor only comes up 300 mm. Saving 0.02 kg on a 300kg bike is not as significant as on a 100 kg bike.. bike choice is a very large beginning component in the total weight.
Exhaust - standard to Staintune approximately 2kg saving - all of that in the muffler which is up high.
Handle bar to Renthal 0.06kg saved, more a strengthen exercise
Handle bar end weights - eliminated 0.47 kg
Rear vision mirrors - Orion 0.4 kg saved
Pillion pegs 0.92 kg eliminated
The idea here is to look at what items on the bike would be damaged in a fall or by the 'road' - loose sticks, stones, mud and dust.
Barkbusters help avoid damage in a fall to levers, perches, switch gear. Saves carrying spares!
Some weaken front levers by drilling holes in them, with barkbusters I feel this is not required. Similarly loose perches are suppose to swivel before damage occurs, this is a reasonable idea but don't over do it. An alternative is to use Teflon tape (as used by plumbers on pipe threads) between the handle bars and the perches.
Fitting the rear vision mirrors to the perches (standard on many bikes) means the mirrors can break the perches in a fall, I fit the mirrors to the barkbusters. Apply the same slippery method to the mirrors.
A sump guard ('bash plate') also helps avoid damage to the engine sump, if large enough it may help prevent damage to other components (oil pump, water pump etc). The HUBB on sump guards, add your comments here.
If you have tube type tyres then not clamping the valve to the rim means if the tyre goes flat the valve can move a considerable distance before damaging the tube.
I include here the side stand switch ... these are in a very dirty place and fail frequently, removal is one option. On some Honda's these are connected to a warning light and could be left not connected to the starter/ignition system - a good compromise.
I have replaced the front fender with a larger unit - it has a longer section at the rear reducing the amount of mud thrown on to the motor. The reduced mud means more cooling as the motor remains cleaner longer. The longer guard does reduce air flow - but some added slots cut so the mud will go onto the frame down tube helps.
I also include here (as protection) chain derailing guards (sometimes called a case guard)(the argument that the bolts used to hold this on will damage the central case holds true if they are there anyway), generator guards etc. I have extended the chain guard to reduce the amount of mud that the chain might get off the rear wheel. The extension is where the rear wheel goes past the chain, covering from the top chain run to the bottom chain run between the chain and tyre.
A perspex cover (toughened perspex is better) for the headlight can save a lot of money. Some prefer a wire mesh guard, I think these can let small stones through that can still crack the headlight. The HUBB on headlight guards, add your comments here.
Some bikes come with plastic protectors for their radiators - they stop sticks and stone damage, mud from clogging. May be adapted to other bikes for the same reasons. An alternative is mesh guards, they should be small enough to stop small stones, strong enough for large stones.
Gear levers tend to be punched metal - leaving a rough edge facing the bike - smooth this off, the rough edge can damage the engine cover. They also tend to be too strong placing strain on the gear box when hit. I've drilled 3 holes in mine so it may brake before the gear box.
Fuel filters prevent dirt blocking jets in the carburetor If you have a fuel injected bike - it already has a good fuel filter, but carry a spare! Some filters can be reverse flushed, fuel injected ones cannot - they do absorb water and that blocks them up (the paper swells with water). The HUBB on fuel filters, add your comments here.
Some engine side cases are very thin - it keeps the weight down, you can place say 2 mm thick aluminium plate over it to reinforce it - hold it on with silastic RTV 732 or similar.
Indicators (blinkers) are the most frequent casualties in a fall. The front ones I try to place under the barkbusters - so they are in part protected by the bark busters. The rear ones should be inside the line of the luggage so that will protect them. Better still if it is inside the luggage frame - that way even if the luggage is removed (for riding through a hazard where you need the weight reduction) they will still be protected.
While talking of the bike falling over give some consideration to fluid loss when fallen. The fuel tank breather hose should reach at least the bottom of the fuel tank. The battery breather (if it is not a sealed type [I like the sealed type - less maintenance]) can leak acid so it needs to be well clear of any items. The HUBB on long fuel breather tube, add your comments here.
Sump guard - Whipps 2 kg
Rear chain lower slider aluminum reinforcement
Front mud guard - larger UFO generic Honda/Suzuki RM replacement
Chain derailing guard
Indicators ... why are standard ones so expensive and damage prone? Replace with? Buell Ulysses/Gas Gas trial bike ones have been recommended.
Gear leaver modified - smooth and drill.
You may not think you will need this. But you never know when you may come across a bridge that is down and you'll need to ford the river. Best prepare the bike now and then you should be ok.
The carburetor may have a number of tubes/holes on the external surface. Even BMW airheads have a hole - on the bottom surface of the float bowl. (NOTE: And on the top of the float bowl near the main body too - Grant)
The easiest way to see if water will effect the motor running is to block each tube/hole in turn. Whatever tube/hole that effects the bike running is something you will need to keep above water when you cross. If you run these permanently above their standard position you run the risk that if something goes wrong you may have more of a problem - there is a reason why they are where they are. Any problem should start with returning things to standard. For water crossings - put the sensitive tube inlets higher than the water. You may like to mark the sensitive tubes, possibly some heat shrink tubing could be used.
... you're laughing. Treat the electronic brain box as per the ignition box. It will have one air pressure sensor - but that should be fairly water tight.
The most vulnerable parts here carry the high tension voltage. The spark plug should have a good seal to the spark plug cap, and the cap should also seal to the Hight Tension (HT) lead. The lead should then seal to the coil. Any of these components (spark plug, plug cap, HT lead, coil) should show no signs of cracks, be clean (clean with soap and water ... use methylated spirits (white sprites) if oil contaminated). The HT lead should be flexible. Viewing these at night should show no blue flashes (like lightening - but on a smaller scale). Using a household water sprayer (set for a mist spray) can prove the system is good if you are not certain. Replace as required. If you find them faulty just before a water crossing - clean, let dry and coat with silicon sealant (RTV732 or similar). If you don't have sealant then clean grease or even oil could be of use.
Most bikes run a 'black box' for the ignition system - they usually have good water seals - check them as per the HT components. Treat the same way.
Should be as high as possible - and any joints sealed (don't use silastic - it reacts with petrol). The height of the inlet will set the maximum height of water the bike will tolerate. Some people arrange snorkels.
All oiled systems have breathers to allow for venting - modern engines vent to the air box so the fumes can be burnt off by the motor. The bike will stop when the air box has too much water, if you make it across then the engine oil is probably ok. Those with separate oil compartments (e.g. shaft drive) will need to look at the breather from there - run it upwards so it does not ingest water.. or check for water later using the follow method
There are a few possibly causes of the engine stopping in the water. Possibly the engine has ingested water, meaning that the combustion chamber now has water in it .. if you try to start the bike like this you run the risk of damaging the motor! To drain the water - remove the spark plug so the water can come out - then spin the motor over .. if substantial water comes out you may have to turn the bike upside down to ensure you get most of the water out. Water may also be trapped in the air inlet tract - remove the air filter to check - if water is there you may have to remove the carburetor. There may also be water trapped in the exhaust system, that will need to be drain to ensure air flow. If you're doing a lot of this drain plugs in the air box and exhaust speed things up considerably!
Check the oil/s once out of the water. Let the bike sit for a while, this lets the water settle to the bottom of the oil, crack the drain plug and let the water out drop by drop .. once oil starts to flow close the drain plug. All the water will not come out at once, repeat the next morning and again as long as water reappears. If the water that come out is dirty it is vital to change the oil at the earliest opportunity!
If you suspect that the bike will drown crossing the water a better method might be to walk the bike across with the motor stopped and sealed (air filter covered with a plastic bag - another bag over the exhaust), this would minimize the chance of water getting in to the motor even if submerged.
There are many different hiding places on any motorcycle. Your knowledge of the bike is the limitation of how many you know! So remove the headlight shroud, side covers, seat, fuel tank, disassemble the stop light, indicator assemblies and look for them. You want these to store small bits of grease, spare nuts and bolts, spare globes (legal required in some countries), emergency money (Australian money is plastic - shrinks if it gets too warm!, UK money may be both heat and water resistant, as might be US money), (NOTE: BUT no money is safe from battery acid, so keep it well away from the battery! Grant) copies of documents, spare keys, replacement brake pads, etc etc. Note that most of these places could be subject to water so anything stored should be waterproof, and some places can get hot too. Any place will be subject to dust! The HU page on hiding spare keys.
Old film cannisters can be zip tied onto the bike and used for carrying things, try to place them out of sight. For a larger box try the kitchen area, they have good sealed small boxes.
One thing overlooked by many - the inside of the side covers can be used to store information - write on it! Same with valve covers - write/engrave the required clearance there! If you have removable panniers consider putting reflective tape on the inside as a red reflective triangle. If you need to indicate to traffic on a dark night you can use these to indicate your there at some distance away from you! In some countries this is required for car and trucks.
Most long distance people start out carrying too much. This places a large load on the bikes frame, and leads to its failure in the long term. Rear frame reinforcement is usually needed to avoid frame failure. Please consider this! It will depend on how much weight you carry, road conditions and the characteristics of your suspension system. A bit of bracing from the rear of the frame towards the center (near the foot peg for triangulation) is usually best done before setting off.
Quickly releasable luggage makes taking all of it into a hotel easier and aids bike cleaning. If you can arrange it in a secure manner all to the good.
If you do make some tubing additions (e.g. pannier frame, rear rack) - leave the ends clean and plug them with plastic chair tip ends - more hiding places. The HU page on making your own luggage rack.
The HU page on Mounting panniers.
A HU page on panniers.
The HU page on making your own panniers with water storage.
Another HU page on motorcycle panniers.
One of the most frequent failures on long distance motorcycles is the rear shock losing damping. The thing does a lot of work with very little oil. What usually occurs is the seal fails allowing the oil to escape. Servicing these things usually takes special tools and pressurised nitrogen, so roadside servicing is not possible.
The sponsored dirt racers have these things serviced at least once a year. You should have yours serviced say 3 months before you start out. If it is described as "sealed for life" go to a specialist of motorcycle shock absorber place and ask them... most of the time they can do them, but any significant ware may be terminal due to a lack of spare parts. After market shocks are better in the respect of having spare parts available... but they do cost more. They usually do a better job at absorbing shocks than the standard shocks on most bikes. The rear shock should be serviced say every two years. How frequently do you change the oil in the front shocks? Yearly would be good.
The HUBB on rear shocks on the Africa Twin, add your comments here.
The HUBB on reliable shocks, add your comments here.
The HU on the rear shock.
A big help to your shock absorber is to have the suspension set up correctly. Most new bikes are set up for the average conditions; one rider, no luggage, short journeys. You and your luggage are well beyond that, and you'll be doing longer distances too. Much has been written on suspension set up. Be aware that some is intended for road racing bikes, motocross bikes etc. You want a touring set up.
The springs should be set up so that 20 to 30 % of the travel is use up by the weight of the bike, you and your luggage. If required then adjust the spring preload to achieve the setting. Now measure the suspension used by just the weight of the bike - it should be around 5 to 10%. If you cannot achieve this then you need a different spring(s).
Damping is another matter. But you cannot mask the incorrect spring by adjusting the damping. Get the spring right first.
The real test is on a 'normal' road (not a supper smooth highway) with you and your luggage under normal conditions, the suspension should be using around 80% of the travel. If the suspension is continually bottoming out then you need to change something! If you are using less than 60% then the suspension is too hard. You have paid for that length of suspension, you may as well use it!
In small towns I'm not too worried by theft, but in larger places the rate increases. Bike theft is one problem, but more frequent is theft of things from the bike. The more difficult/time consuming you can make the removal the more likely it will still be there when you return. An example. Those small front fender bags used to carry tyre tube/s can have the zipper pull removed, a key ring placed instead, and that key ring threaded through a sewn on loop. The bag it self can be bolted to the mud guard rather than just clipped on. Many insurance companies will no longer cover items left in/on a vehicle over night such is the rate of theft. A cover that goes over the bike and luggage is a good theft deterrent - it slows the thief down, if the cover is old and dirty all to the good. Same can be said for a physical locking system - especially if fastened to a large tree/power pole.
Grant Johnson says electronic alarms don't work in remoter places - the kids think it is 'fun' to activate them and watch the owner run up looking around and then deactivate it .. only to repeat the exercise in another few minutes. The HUBB on alarm or no alarm, add your comments here.
The actual theft rate in poorer places may be less, my personal view is that it is highest in those places where wealth and poverty meet. Think through the process. Also think through... if it is stolen what are the consequences? If you can survive without it... why are you carrying it?!
A center stand (DR650s don't have one standard). This makes servicing so much easier! Not mentioning flat tyres.
Large Fuel Tank, I'm an Australian ... we like big tanks! They are expensive but if you need the range...
Side stand foot. Most of these will sink in sand or mud. They need to be about twice the size so they won't sink.
I've included this as a separate section as this is my 'field'.
You will have added some things to the wiring. If you are not certain (or even if you are) it is wise to check the battery voltage with the engine at a fast idle - the voltage should be over 13 volts, less and the battery is being under charged - you will need to reduce the electrical load. If it is over 14 volts check the voltage regulator, you may have a fault!
Those worried by electrical failures could add a voltage indicator to their list of accessories.
Even if you have not added anything electrical the following change is recommended.
Most bikes don't provide quick access to the battery to enable emergency disconnection. If an electrical fault develops this could result in the bike burning to the ground. So .. take a look at the battery negative terminal - there will be one thick lead going away - this is the one you want. Follow it to its other end... move that end so that it easy to get at, and then make the end 'open' so removing it just requires loosening the bolt so the lug can be slid out. If there are other wires going to the battery negative terminal then re rout them to the old large wire end point. In this way they are still connected - but will be disconnected from the battery if you separate the large battery wire. Do not use the battery positive wire to do this... that should run to the fuse box by the shortest safest route.
Any accessory should be fused. And that fuse should be as close as possible to the battery positive terminal. After the fuse things are protected, before it things are not. I'd try not to run off the standard wiring unless the accessory is very low power (less than say 60 watts). For more than 60 watts that you want controlled by the ignition switch, run that off a relay - the coil (or control side) of the relay is very low power and can be run off the standard wiring. The contacts of the relay then switch the supply (fuse to battery) to the load.
Car type plugs and sockets are available from boating stores in rust free components. The normal car ones will rust. Some reports that car type plugs and sockets are not reliable with vibration (corrugations/washboard). BMW motorcycle plugs and sockets certainly withstand vibration (proven on many miles of Australian outback dirt roads). They are a DIN standard plug and socket and used on tractors and other farm implements. There is also available a plug that fits both the BMW style socket and the car style socket.
If you have more than one fuse blow in succession you may soon run out of fuses. Use a light globe instead of a fuse! The globe won't blow - it simply lights up. Headlight globes are good - 55 watts would be 5 amps, join hi and low beam for 10 amps. Most fused circuits don't draw anywhere near the max current most of the time so the added voltage drop through the globe will not be much of a problem. Some lengths of wire with the correct fittings will allow the use of a globe instead of blowing up endless fuses. Make the wire length such that you can have the globe central of the handle bars - this way you can see when it is limiting the current. Blowing fuses due to an intermittent fault will eventually run you out of fuses - using the globe means you don't run out of fuses. Setting up one of these before you leave means you won't have to fuss making one on the road.
Motorcycles sold in Asia have horns that work and of reasonable volume. Most bikes sold here in Australia have horns that croak, and fail after rain, mud and dirt. Replacing the standard horn offers some hope of gaining noise and reliability. The Stebel Nautilus has a reputation of being very loud, but is prone to dirt in the air inlet, and is not very repairable. BMW RS and RT model motorcycles have dual electric horns with reasonable volume, and even if one fails make some noise. You should be able to get some (with their dual spring mounts - these help the horns make noise) from a wreckers for reasonable money as they are not a high demand item (reliable). The HUBB on horns, add your comments here.
These are a blessing. Get them. Good for cold morning starts, wet weather, frost etc etc. They don't consume that much power (say 40 watts), are relatively cheap (compared to gloves) and fairly reliable.
Most people take rechargers that work off household supplies. The problems here are different voltages and plugs required around the world. As you are traveling with your motorcycle why not use that to charge stuff - thus only one set of connectors and voltage is required? It does solve the problem of all those connectors. And it means you don't need to find a household supply that works.
Some bikes don't have headlight switches standard. I'd advise putting one on - it can be used to ease the starting of the bike (essential if the battery is low in charge), reduce the electrical load (if you have too much electrical load switched on the battery may not get enough charge to start the bike the next morning). Some countries require the headlight to be on at all times while the engine is running. In those places remember to turn the lights on after the engine starts. I place mine close to the starter button so it is a constant reminder when you operate the starter.
Some people fit LED replacement indicator lights in an effort to reduce the electrical load. As the indicator lights are on so infrequently the total reduction in electrical load is not worth the time, effort and money! The same hold true for LED tail and stop lights - as an exercise in reducing electrical load they are not worth it. There are some advantages to LED stop lights, they are faster to light up reducing the total reaction time of the driver behind you. LEDs are also more reliable than normal globes, but getting a replacement when touring will be very difficult. If you are going to fit LED stop and/or tail lights fit them in addition to the normal fittings giving you the advantages of the LEDs while retaining the ease of replacement globes of the original fittings.
What spares should you carry? Those that will wear out, or fail (very high probability of failure) between now and the next good service center. If you don't know it fails - then don't carry it. For example a rear tyre tube (even on a tubeless tyre - these can be used if the hole is too large for normal repair), clutch cable, brake pads, chain links, fuel filters, filter(s), spark plug/s. Most people carry front tubes as these will fit the back, but my flats are mostly on the rear. If you don't know what fails - then carry nothing other than those that wear out and those that everyone expects - flat tyres being a prime example.
If you know something has a high probability of failure during your trip due to its age/mileage but a new one may well not fail, replace it before you leave and than you don't have to carry it as a spare part. I would have thought that would be obvious, but as a reminder here it is.
Front and rear brake pads 0.4kg (bolted inside the sump guard)
Clutch cable (along side original)
Fork seal (only one, buy two at the next parts place and replace the other one there)
Counter shaft seal (about the only rotary seal on the motor)
Oil filter 0.05 kg
Spark plug (under fuel tank)
Spark plug cap (under fuel tank)
Lower chain slider (luggage rack)
swing arm chain slider (?)
Chain links and short length of chain(?)
Front sprocket (inside sprocket cover)
Gear lever (bolted to rear master cylinder protector)
Rear tube 500 17 (front mud guard)
Globes (inside front headlight shroud)
Fuses (along side fuses in use)
Oil Drain washers (behind frame plugs)
Collection of nuts and bolts as used on the bike
Tyre tube, I carry a rear as that is where I get my flat tyres. Most advice is to carry a front as that will also fit the rear if needed.
Possibly a trigger coil for the ignition?
You may observe that some of these parts are wear items and others may not be a high probability of failure, but for the weight and size I think they are a reasonable compromise. Again things that are heavy should be mounted low.
The HUBB on spare parts, add your comments here.
These can be used to repair various things!
Metal epoxy The HUBB on metal epoxy, add your comments here.
Silastic (RTV 732 etc)
Tyre patch kit
Grease (wheel bearing, copper slip, petroleum jelly)
Hose clips [Jubilee Clips] (sizes from 10 (fuel line) to 30 mm (exhaust/frame tubing)
Another hot topic! I carry enough tools to do the servicing (minor and major) and remove broken stuff.
NOTE: Of course you should always adjust these recommendations for YOUR bike! I try to use my bikes toolkit exclusively, not my "good" tools, so that I know when something is missing - or redundant. Grant
Open end spanners (8x7,10x11,12x14,13x17)
Rings spanners (10x11,12x13,19,24) [may remove the 19 and 24 - see sockets]
Tube spanner (16? spark plug)
1/4 inch sockets (17,19,22) [would like 24?, maybe an 8?]
1/4 inch tee bar
Screwdriver (multi driver)
Allen keys (10,8,6,5,4,3,2.5,2,1.5 mm)
Pair of tyre levers (some like to have 3, I use 2, Grant uses 3, some use 1 and a screwdriver!)
Bull nose pliers (with wire cutter jaws)
small triangular file
Feeler gauges (pick what YOU need instead of the whole lot GRANT Some types will go rusty)
Hacksaw blade - or part of it.
Valve adjusting tool
Small vice grips
DMM (digital multi-meter)(small - with a 10 Amp range... leads are failure points)
Soldering iron (gas power ones are popular - but cannot be transported! They also run out of gas. 12v ones are required for air/sea transportation..)
Jumper cables (if you have a electric start only bike)
I don't carry a hammer (too much weight for too little use), a large local rock will do until I can get to a garage.
The HUBB on tools, add your comments here.
The HUBB on tools - more, add your comments here.
Standard tool boxes tend to be too small and insecure. Some have attached tubes to the front of the engine to contain tools ... gets the weight down and forward. But they are vulnerable to rocks. Another method is to make up a dummy exhaust muffler - slung under the standard muffler. The standard tool box may be made more secure by placing a metal band around the lid and using a hose clamp (jubilee clip) around that to secure it. The HUBB on tool storage, add your comments here.
The HUBB on tool storage tubes, add your comments here.
Errrr The advice is use a 300 21 front and a 400 18 rear ... these are available in most places as they are used by farm and trail bikes.... exceptions? Russia? China? I don't know. I have used a 400 18 tyre that was not good once... its load rating was way low and I had to pump it up to 45psi to stop it squirming down the sealed road.. it did get me to the next major city (Alice Springs to Perth, Australia) where I could get what I wanted.
Some people are very conscious of getting the best gripping tyre they can. The long distance tourer will be after a long wearing tyre! This means less grip so speeds may be slower but when obtaining tyres is difficult and may take some days a slower speed is a good thing for better mileage.
The HUBB survey on tyres, how long they last etc, add your comments here.
The HUBB on long life tyres, add your comments here.
Tyres have at least 4 important specifications: the size (rim diameter in inches e.g. 17, 18, 19, 21 and the tyre width either in inches 300, 400 etc or in millimeters 120, 130, 140 etc), the speed rating (as a single letter A to Z, Z being the highest speed) and the load rating (as a number, something between 20 and 80 for example, the larger the number the higher the weight the tyre can withstand). You should aim to obtain tyres of at least the same rating as those that came with the bike, lower speed ratings would be accommodated by travelling slower. But the load rating should not be reduced especially as you are travelling loaded!
Tubeless rims have an internal lip to stop the tyre going into the well if the tyre goes flat. This makes the tyre removal very difficult. Some modern bikes with tube rims have this lip too (eg KTM 950s, Suzuki DR650s). Removeing the lip by machining (possibly only doing it for one section of the rim rather than the whole lot). Another alternative is to replace the rim... opening the opportunity to go to an 18 inch rear wheel for those with 17 inch ones and possibly going to a higher quality/greater load bearing rim.
NOTE: I do NOT recommend machining the lip off, as it is designed to retain the tire in the event of a flat on a tubeless tire - if you remove the lip, the tire can move too easily, and you will have a catastrophic flat where the tire breaks free and flops about, totally and suddenly. (The other name for this bead is a "safety bead".) Tube type rims do not have this extra bead, as the tube prevents the problem - mostly, but on a tubeless, as soon as the seal is broken, it loses ALL the air instantly.I've never seen this bead on a rim designed for a bike with tubes. Grant
For those running not so easily obtained tyre sizes using long wearing tyres may be a necessity. Knobby type tyres will not last as long as street touring types.
The valve has a nut that is used to hold the valve to the rim, while this is good when first inflating the tyre it is harmful if things go wrong. If the tyre slip on the rim then the tube is dragged around on the rim too... if this goes too far the valve will be torn out of the tube. If the valve is not clamped to the rim it will tend at first to bend at an angle indicating the slip. If more slippage occurs then the valve will tend to be drawn into the rim.
NOTE: For use on higher speed road bikes, you should lock the nut to the rim, as the valve stem can vibrate at speed, and eventually literally cut through the valve stem. (damhik) For off-road, lock the nut to the cap and keep an eye on it. Grant I take the nut off - I've seen the stem start to enter the wheel - it won't do that if you leave the nut anywhere on the stem. Frank
One of the more frequent questions is "Can I use a tubeless tyre on my tube type rim?" Yes, but you must use a tube with it, and the speed rating of the tyre will be decreased. (NOTE: by one speed rating - Grant) The HUBB on a tube tyre on a tubeless rim, add your comments here.
"Can I alter my tube type rims so I can eliminate the tube?" Not easily. Some have tried. (See NOTE: above - Grant) The HUBB on altering a tube rim to tubeless, add your comments here.
These are far easier to repair for most flat tyres. Simply plugging the leak from the outside is effective, quick and long lasting. I've made several repairs with a 'string' type kit that have lasted as long as the tyre. Some say these are not meant for a permanent repair and you must replace the tyre, but if you are weeks away from another tyre?
One thing to consider is the 'safety rim' making tyre remval difficult, some need a 'bead breaker'. If you do need to use a tube for what ever reason then you will need to be able to remove one side of the tyre - thus breaking a bead is esential. Try it at home to find out what you and your bike need to break a bead. The HUBB on tubeless tyre repair, add your comments here.
But the rim(s) can and do fail â€“ some bend (and then leak air)... while others crack. In either case a tube can be installed so you can ride out. Note that the bead must be broken - and on tubeless tyres this is difficult. Either a 'bead breaker' or another bikes side/centre stand must be used (unless you carry around a tyre changing machine). A bent rim can be undented, a cracked one can be welded (not legal in many places... and not to be trusted but a 'good' fix to get you to some place where you can easily get a replacement).
The HUBB on tubeless wheels, add your comments here.
The valve is usually mounted in a rubber grommet structure. These tend to be a one time use thing .. if you ever have to use a tube then the original valve will be destroyed. To prevent this obtain valves that have a metal base and use a metal nut to mount them - you can also get these at various angle to aid pressure checking. I like the ones that have the securing nut on the out side of the wheel - if it comes loose you can retighten it without removing the tyre. do be aware that the angled varieties do put strain on the mounting - as the speed increases so does the strain. If you don't have it tight enough you can find your self with a flat tyre but no hole in the tyre nor leaks around the rim. Even checking the stem at rest reveals no leaks... but as soon as I went over 100km/h a slowly going flat tyre.. twice before I worked out what was going on!
"Can I use a tube type tyre/tire on my tubeless rims?" Yes. Some have found that the tyre will not hold pressure so a tube may be required. The HUBB on tube type tyre on tubeless rims, add your comments here.
Do a riding course for adventure tourers! This increases your skill level - in particular at the lower end of the speed range where things are safer if you do come to grief. This is more preparing you for the trip than the bike, but you will find the course should advise bike adjustments to make riding slowly easier.
If the hazard is short, reducing the weight will aid crossing the hazard but it depends on if you think it is worth while. Pillions and/or luggage are a substantial weight difference. Quickly releasable luggage is required here. Courses usually insist on luggage removal to make the learning easier.
Letting tyre pressures down gains traction and some additional suspension, but you risk damage to the tyre and rim. Personal I only do this if I'm stuck. Re inflation afterwards is normally required (adds work and time).
NOTE: On big bikes like BMW GS's, it's well worth airing down and then back up. Carry an electric pump to make it easy enough that you will be willing to do it. Lower air pressure makes a HUGE difference to the ease of riding these beasts off-road. Minimum pressure would be in the 20psi / 1.5 bar range. Electric pumps tend to be VERY reliable - but also carry CO2 cartridges to reseat a tubeless tire/tyre, and a hand pump if all else fails! Grant I don't recommend the CO2 cartridges as these are limited and can be hard to find in remote places. If you cannot get the bead to seat use a tube. Frank NOTE: You should ALWAYS carry spare tubes! Grant
Your biggest enemy is fatigue - this makes hazards harder and is a hazard in itself. Do not ride until you are tired, stop well before that so you have the energy to set up camp (or find accommodation), cook/eat, check over the bike and your gear and wash yourself! Remember you will be doing the same thing tomorrow and the day after so you need to have a sustained work practice. And it should be enjoyable... not torture. Look after yourself. Get as fit as you can before setting off.
If going international... or even to some remote island the local quarantine may look at your bike as being a hazard that could bring things (insects, plant seeds) that they don't have or want. If they want they can make things expensive by insisting on having the bike steam cleaned... and that will be expensive as they will want the waste (water and all) treated so it does not contaminate the local environment. Best to have the bike clean just before it leaves - as the waste will not have to be treated and you can do the cleaning yourself. This clean should consist of
1) a normal clean
2) air filter (may as well do an oil change too?)
3) followed by removing the side covers, fuel tank, seat, headlight, mud guards, chain guards, sump guard and rear wheel. Clean all the removed items and then go over the rest of the bike. You want it like new!
Going over the bike with a rag damp with WD40 will add a shine to things and probably ease the passage of the bike. It leaves a coat of oil behind that would help prevent any corrosion. But it will tend to pick up dust, I'd tend to clean it with a degreaser when the bike gets dusty next time.
The above is one view point .. it is not an absolute anything. I hope this has added to your ideas and make your trip more successful. I (and probably others) would like to see your ideas too, please add them on the HUBB - links above. And some of it is probably 'do as I say, not do as I do'! One final thing - when you are on the road, what you used at home may not be available, so use what the locals use, or be inventive e.g. use diesel to clean the chain instead of kerosene. You should be able to buy that most places and in small quantities.
NOTEs: added by Grant, and a few minor edits.
Version 4 - Some spelling, added items and more links. Nov 08
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