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  #1  
Old 16 Mar 2010
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Rookie goes south

I'm on my first trip ever in late may/early june, from texas to Costa Rica. What do I need to bring, and what should I leave behind? I've backpacked before, so I understand the necessity of packing light, but for a bike trip like this, should I bring

a gas can for extra fuel (how do you pack that?)

extra tire?

tools

food

...?
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  #2  
Old 16 Mar 2010
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Mason,
Begin reading the Latin America threads on HUBB and elsewhere and keep reading. It's all here and more.

You're backpacking experience will serve you well, stick to that style as much as you can. A light weight bike is easier/safer to ride. Realize you can buy nearly anything you need down the road. So bring MONEY, twice what you think you need.

Bring a camera and buy a local cell phone once in Mexico.

Depending on which bike you have, you probably will not need to carry a gas can. You need to have range of 150 miles minimum. Starting with brand new touring tires should get you to Guatemala or El Salvador where you can buy NEW tires.

Start your ride with :
1. New tires
2. New Battery
3. New chain and sprockets
4. Complete service on bike, checking everything twice.

Learn your bike.

If the bike is in good shape you now should be ready to ride 12,000 miles without doing much to the bike. That should get you to Costa Rica and back.

If you've never done a bike trip before I would think about doing some weekend trips locally. This will get you used to spending 10 hours a day on the bike and you can figure out how to pack up the bike and carrry your stuff. Who knows, you might hate it and decide not to go by bike?

May/June your biggest problem will be heat, humidity and possibly rain further South in sub tropical lowlands.

Good mesh gear a must. Get your miles done early in AM, by 2 pm you should be done. As a novice I would NOT ride at night, even though with cooler temps it is tempting. Don't do it.

Plan riding days and set a destination for the day. Keep it short at first, like 150 to 200 miles max. Pick a town and get there. As you get better, you can extend your riding days. Take your time getting used to crazy driving styles down there, good defensive driving skills a must.

Tools. Yes. Build a good lightweight tool kit and make sure you can actually work on the bike with the tools you have. Bring tire repair stuff too, spare tubes or plugs and glue if running tubeless.

It's all covered here 50 times over. Start reading/searching.

Have fun!
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  #3  
Old 18 Mar 2010
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Mickey D, thanks a million. It helps to have some direct input. I'll definitely start with those weekend trips, and I'll talk to a mechanic about a tool kit.
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  #4  
Old 19 Mar 2010
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Keep reading!

Mason,

Alot of good advice here.

Me, I go VERY light. I prefer a 650 or smaller bike. I carry NOTHING except a few tools, some tie-downs, a spark plug, a clutch cable, 2 tires iron and cold patches. I ride bikes that HAVE parts most everywhere in Central and South America, have 18" and 21" tires and a standard 520 chain...

Carry tires!?? Way to ruin your fun riding. Tubeless tires?? No way! Camping?? I want to meet people, and I rarely pay more than $6 a night (WITH hot water). You CAN'T cook your own food for less than eating on the street, so WHY do it??

South American culture is based on hospitality, so why come to South America if you don't want to be with the people?

You can ALWAYS get by with less! Make it an ADVENTURE!

Toby
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  #5  
Old 19 Mar 2010
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Well, for starters no one's talking about South America....

Best thing you can do (more important even than lurking here and reading everything you can find) is take some long trips before you actually leave home. No one can do this for you, and it won't really help to do wee little overnight trips here and there. Try and grab a week and go someplace unfamiliar and awkward. That'll give you a fighting chance at discovering the drawbacks and inadequacies of yourself, your gear, your bike...plus the character defects, insecurities and other deficiencies of your friends, relatives and other concerned individuals. It'll also give you a sense of your strengths and resilience, without which you'll be miserable long before C.R.

Don't forget to bring humility and a sense of humor.

Hope that helps.

Mark
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  #6  
Old 19 Mar 2010
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Well what you take depends all on you and the bike.

Gas cans are strapped on the back of the bike and unless you really have a small tank you will never need it. A pop bottle will work gust fine even if you do.

Tools well if you can use them on your bike take what ever you use. To find out try changing both tires, changing the filters, replacing the spark plugs, replacing the cables and gas line, cleaning the carb. if you bike has one (add a inline fuel filter if you do) and any other things listed in your shop book on your bike (get one if you do not have it.) you do not every wrench made gust the ones you use toss any tools you do not use get ones you need.

Small first aid kit

Tire well depends on you, have an odd size and it can be a pain to find a new one. Once you need may need find a shop a week or so ahead of you and have one sent there and call and have them hold it for you. If you like to change them or go off road a lot you may well need have one on the back. Tubeless tires are fine some people hate them I like them have put 2k on a plugged tubeless there are patches made for tubeless and if need you can put a tube in.

Camping I love it in some places in the America people do camp some places they do not a tarp, bag and rope will come in handy if you camp or not. But you will get to know the "gringo tax" so as some people get $5 rooms you may get $15 or so rooms. Yes it dose happen yes it sucks, some places even go so far as to post it. Still not a bad price and if you do not like it talk them down a bit or look around. There is couch surfing, communitys on the HUBB and people there are not like the USA no people sewing each other for a quick $ they may well let you stay a night with them or put up your tent in the back.

Food well I try to have some with me all the time a quick bite looking a some place you can not believe is grate. But for me eating what the people there eat is best, tasting the difference in food from one area to the next in some thing you gust can not get from anything else. I like street food It is hot fresh (more or less) cheap and alwas some thing new. If locals are eating it, it is good bet it is ok for you to eat.

Get some good riding gear toss out cotton if you can even underwear too heavy and dose not pack down will not dry well. A set of clothing in the pack and a net bag to dry them in.

Your bike dose not matter I like the 650 range as well but a 250 is even better not many roads will you need to go over 50 on. Small and light is my idea. But a full dresser HD with a big bore kit will do fine as well any thing you can pick up your self is grate.

Camping kit you know better than me on what to take just know you are on a bike on a road heading in to a town not the wilds of the Alaska.

There are packing list most are way over the top for me some are so small there is no way that is all they have.

Paper work, there are list all over but off the top of my head. Passport, drivers licence, insurance (yours stop working at the border of Mexico) tabs, registration, may want a international driving permit you will not need it but fun to have. think i missed something but any way GOOD copies of each like 5 or so to give out to the cops so when they demand a bribe to get them back you can say ok let me go get some $ and off you go fun!

On bribes I hate paying we all do but I do not want stand in sun all day bugering about $5. I find a smile a picture and sit on my bike for a nice picture will get out out more than most think, not speaking their language helps, and a small token will get out of all but most hardened. I like $1 cigars small cheap and who bugs there new stupid gringo amigo? Most will stop in 5 min. from looking at you point at passing cars and making money finger rub. Funny but true.

Not to take
too much crap
Do not take guns a big knife swords or any thing like that. Way to big and illegal.
too much crap
Drugs unless the DR. gave you note.
too much crap I know it is listed 3 times but most all of us take way to much crap with us. unless you use it you do not need it. If you can not get it on the way how do the people there get along with out it?

You did not list If you have any trips or riding you have done or not and it looks like you did not give your self much time to get any in. And no HU meeting in the US from now till you go. So off the deep end we go.

If it was me I get all the gear on my bike I think I need pack gust the way you think you will do it and go for a run. Not you and the bike gust you, a long run till you can not run any more then push you bike over. If you stuff fall off you need a new way keep it on If you can not pick it up you need get rid of some stuff. well the when you get that all done and it works.

The first trip something like ride out to California but not on a Inerstate (like I told you it is the deep end) Find out how you take days of riding? 200 miles is grate but how long can you go if you need to? How well is the bike set up for you? how are you on dirt roads with a over loaded overland bike? Do you need and use all are pack? Can you take all that time with just you in your head? Did the people you tell go nuts when you told them you are going to LA?

Now ride back home. On roads you did not take use a map only this time. That will get you started on long range riding. How you take to it is up to you.

I like long range riding some people hate it.

2x the money you think 2x the time you need and half the stuff you are taking is just about right.
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  #7  
Old 19 Mar 2010
Mickey D's Avatar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
Try and grab a week and go someplace unfamiliar and awkward. That'll give you a fighting chance at discovering the drawbacks and inadequacies of yourself, your gear, your bike...plus the character defects, insecurities and other deficiencies of your friends, relatives and other concerned individuals. It'll also give you a sense of your strengths and resilience, without which you'll be miserable long before C.R.
Don't forget to bring humility and a sense of humor.
Hope that helps.
Mark
Great stuff Mark!
Lets make sure he does the whole trip on a clapped out Shock with NO damping and forks with NO oil in them and sacked springs
Worked for you on your KLR, right!

And to toughen him up even more, he could take the seat off and sit on the frame rails for a month or two .... just to build character, doncha' know!

But seriously, good advice. This adventure travel sh*t ain't easy! I just read an interview with Dan Walsh in BIKE. Man, talk about inadequacies, misery and self doubt. Dan has run the gamut. Fact is, one tends to go though lots of emotional roller coaster rides on the road. At least I do.
Staying positive and hanging onto that sense of humor will challenge many of us. (Saints, Martyr's and Hero's accepted! ) I'll never forget the guy I saw on the highway in Ecuador carrying a full Jesus sized wooden cross, complete with crown of thorns, loin cloth and sandals. NO support crew. He did have water at least. (Bota bag) He was not happy.
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  #8  
Old 1 Apr 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post
Mason,
Begin reading the Latin America threads on HUBB and elsewhere and keep reading. It's all here and more.

You're backpacking experience will serve you well, stick to that style as much as you can. A light weight bike is easier/safer to ride. Realize you can buy nearly anything you need down the road. So bring MONEY, twice what you think you need.

Bring a camera and buy a local cell phone once in Mexico.

Depending on which bike you have, you probably will not need to carry a gas can. You need to have range of 150 miles minimum. Starting with brand new touring tires should get you to Guatemala or El Salvador where you can buy NEW tires.

Start your ride with :
1. New tires
2. New Battery
3. New chain and sprockets
4. Complete service on bike, checking everything twice.

Learn your bike.

If the bike is in good shape you now should be ready to ride 12,000 miles without doing much to the bike. That should get you to Costa Rica and back.

If you've never done a bike trip before I would think about doing some weekend trips locally. This will get you used to spending 10 hours a day on the bike and you can figure out how to pack up the bike and carrry your stuff. Who knows, you might hate it and decide not to go by bike?

May/June your biggest problem will be heat, humidity and possibly rain further South in sub tropical lowlands.

Good mesh gear a must. Get your miles done early in AM, by 2 pm you should be done. As a novice I would NOT ride at night, even though with cooler temps it is tempting. Don't do it.

Plan riding days and set a destination for the day. Keep it short at first, like 150 to 200 miles max. Pick a town and get there. As you get better, you can extend your riding days. Take your time getting used to crazy driving styles down there, good defensive driving skills a must.

Tools. Yes. Build a good lightweight tool kit and make sure you can actually work on the bike with the tools you have. Bring tire repair stuff too, spare tubes or plugs and glue if running tubeless.

It's all covered here 50 times over. Start reading/searching.

Have fun!
Thank you for the post.
Hi guys, Im a newbie. Nice to join this forum.
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  #9  
Old 2 Apr 2010
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Quote:
and buy a local cell phone once in Mexico.
What for?

That he can try to explain someone where he'll have been died five minutes later??

Need a charger for it and thinking like that will bring you to the electronics-gagdets-box I'm carrying around... never again!

But sitting in traveller places nowadays it seems to be usual. iPhone, netbook, videocam, cam, GPS-tracker, GPS, Backup GPS, e-book reader with the manual "how to read a map", ...

I'm afraid I'm a bit ironic
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  #10  
Old 3 Apr 2010
Scrabblebiker's Avatar
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Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DLbiten View Post
2x the money you think 2x the time you need and half the stuff you are taking is just about right.
This is great advice. Coming from Canada or the USA we're usually in for a bit of a shock at how long some stretches take to ride. In Mexico you can take the toll roads (Cuota). They're substantially faster but insanely expensive. Google "Traza tu Ruta" for Mexico's rudimentary version of Mapquest. It'll give you the tolls from point a to point b.

On the free roads, expect everything to take anywhere to 1 1/2 to 2 times as long as it would to cover the same distance back home. Roads tend to weave along the contours of the landscape with curve upon curve with very few passing opportunities. Think Hwy 1 in California minus the passing lanes, then add a bunch of slow trucks.

The best advice I can give is LEARN SOME SPANISH. At least bring a dictionary. It never ceases to amaze me how many people travel down here without speaking a single word of Spanish. Even learning "good morning" and "thank you" seems to be too much for some. The more you make an effort at learning and speaking Spanish the more the people here will love it. Tourist ghettos are a different matter and my efforts at Spanish in those areas is sometimes met with disdain.

Think of it this way. How would we feel if a tourist from ...say Slovakia came to our workplace and insisted on speaking Slovak. We'd be a little annoyed at his arrogance.

If nothing else, speaking some Spanish makes for a much richer experience while hanging out with regular Mexicans, Guatemaltecans, etc, etc.
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  #11  
Old 26 May 2010
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Thanks for the help. I'm checking out the mexican mapquest right now.
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  #12  
Old 26 May 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post
Lets make sure he does the whole trip on a clapped out Shock with NO damping and forks with NO oil in them and sacked springs
Worked for you on your KLR, right!
I'm pretty sure I've still got a bit of oil in my forks. In other respects, right on target.

I'm not in favor of needless suffering. But neither am I a big fan of spending massively on upgrades....and then suffering.

Mark

(from Cayenne, where the food is Parisian quality and pricing)
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