First, members of this board, thank you; I’m learning lots here!
Work is shutting down for a couple months this winter and there is finally time to go on an new adventure! Top of my list is a motorcycle trip with my girlfriend in South America
. With little time to prepare, and little knowledge of the area, we need some help please to figure this out
. Posters with similar questions about “which route?” and “which bike?” are often asked to provide more specifics about their plans. Here is where our plans and thoughts have got to – I hope this is not too long or boring. We appreciate any pointers that we may receive; with any luck, this will soon turn into a ride report!
We are thinking about a loop from Santiago to TDF and back, beginning in early January. Thinking about down the Carretera Austral, back up Ruta 40, on to BA, then back through Mendoza to Santiago. We would like to keep planning, preparations, and luggage simple and so we are thinking about not carry full camping gear – maybe sleeping bags and pads for occasional nights out (like at hot springs), emergencies., etc.
Based on ride reports here and other reading, these are some things we would really like to do along the way:
A. Cross the Andes several times (the passes like the San Francisco Pass sounds amazing)
B. Spend a week or so exploring the Lakes District
C. Generally see lots of Patagonia (ideally find some cool places to stay for several days and explore from – maybe some hiking)
D. If time permits, make it to TDF
E. Spend 1-2 weeks really getting to know Buenos Aires
F. Find a nice spot in or around Mendoza and explore.
Our preferred style of traveling is finding a handful of fun base camps (hostels or B+Bs) and then using them to really get to know several areas, rather than just spending a couple of nights in many different places, leaving with just a brief taste of each area. We like to start with a rough plan but be VERY flexible.
First questions are:
1. Is this sort of trip doable in the time frame that is available, two months, or would it make more sense to bite off a smaller area?
2. What other areas should we also think about including in such a trip?
3. Is it possible to link together accommodation across some of the long distances in Chile and Argentina, or is full camping gear required?
I am finding this to be a tough decision. I am trying to figure out the best way to sort out a bike for this trip in terms of cost, convenience, safety, comfort, etc. I know that there is no perfect answer, and that whatever we end up doing will be a compromise, but I value the thoughts, comments, and suggestions from those that have been on this type of trip before. Our touring experience has been limited to Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and BC - the longest trip was about two weeks.
I have been going back and forth on whether to bring a bike down with us or to sort it out once we are there? Thoughts so far...
Option 1 – Fly a bike down with us. What I like about this option is that I can go over the bike and more easily put together the spares, tools, and other bits and pieces here at home (Nevada/British Columbia – don’t ask J ). Also, it seems that it would result in less time mucking about with paperwork etc. once we get there – with only two months, we really don’t want to spend too much time mucking about. The major negative here is obviously the cost to fly a bike down and back – i figure at least $3,000. If we choose to fly a bike down, we need to decide which bike?
A Use my current bike – 2002 FZ1 well set-up for two up sport touring with suspension, hard luggage, seat. I know this bike well and can work on it. As much as I like the idea of taking the bike I know well, I don’t know if a street oriented bike is the right bike for 1,000’s of kms of gravel or the more remote, rugged passes we hope to cross. It does not generate much low end torque and it is geared quite high, also I know from experience that dropping it messes up the fancy plastic. Also, I have no experience taking this bike off road - I have a wonderful 07 WR250F for getting off the beaten path, but it is definitely not the right bike for long distances or two up.
B Purchase a bike for the trip. I have been keeping an eye open for some good deals on bikes for the trip and have found several. The one that has most caught my eye is a 1993 BMW r100gs with about 50k miles for a good price. Reading other posts here, it seems like a good bike for such a trip. Big enough for two, fairly simple to work on, already has hard luggage, good protection for the inevitable lay downs, proven off road tourer, and low centre of gravity. I am concerned however that this BMW is basically getting to an age when things generally start to need to be rebuilt and/or replaced. My wrenching experience to date has been exclusively on Japanese bikes – perhaps a trip to South America is not the place to learn how to work on and find parts for an older BMW. Admittedly, the r100gs has a cool factor. I can justify the cost of actually owning this bike and thus actually keep the bike after the trip. The seller is a nice guy and lives very close to a well known BMW shop in Chico (you may know it) – I think it would at least be worth taking it in to have them give it a once over. After all, I don’t know the first thing about these airheads and wouldn’t know what to look for.
I have also looked at a very well set up KLR650 – F&R suspension, brakes, seat, beefed up frame, crash bars, etc., but after seeing it, I think we might end up being cramped and uncomfortable for long distance two-up. But... it was very well set up for such a trip and cheap.
The last bike I looked at was a lovely 2001 GS1150. Very nice bike but I am hesitant to jump on a bike with so many electronics that I am not familiar with and it seems very heavy. It’s also expensive – I can’t justify adding such an expensive bike to the fleet right now and would have to sell the GS1150 after the trip)
Option 2 – Find a bike out down there. What I like about this option is that there is less to prepare before leaving and there is not the $3,000 plane ticket for the bike. What I am concerned about though is the hassle to find a suitable bike and then get it set up. Some possibilities:
A Renting. It would be very convenient. There are several places that can provide bikes for the trip; however, it looks like it would be expensive. It would probably cost $6,000 to rent a something like a Honda Transalp for 2 months, but this would probably give us the most time to just enjoy ourselves. Not sure I can wrap my head around dropping all that money on renting instead of putting it towards another bike to keep!!
B Purchase a bike down there and sell it at the end of trip. This could work– although bikes are very expensive down there, which would result in much higher upfront costs, at the end of the day, this could ultimately be the cheapest option. It sounds like Chile is the easiest place to buy a bike as a foreigner and then ride it out of the country. Bikes are expensive, but seem to hold their value well. For about $7,000 we could buy something like a 2005 Transalp in Santiago and go. We could take the hard Givi luggage off my FZ1 and then just look for the correct rack to fit them to the bike. I like this option because the bike would still be quite new and presumably reliable. I do enough maintenance on my current Jap bikes to know what to look for when buying a used bike. At the end of the day, we could likely recoup much of what we paid for the bike and my guess is that as long as we don’t trash the bike, I expect we’d be out of pocket by less than the cost to fly a bike down and back. One concern here is that we would be committed to returning to Chile to sell the bike – not the end of the world unless we have to cut the trip short unexpectedly or if we can find a way to stay longer and go further.
So, at this point, is this rough route a good/sensible way to spend January and February two up on a bike in South America, and with six weeks to prepare, and without an unlimited budget, which bike strategy makes the most sense?
I am grateful for any and all words of wisdom.