Thanks, Mark. I've been planning the trip for almost a year and have extensively read publications about the area as well as whatever I could find on HU and other sites. I've also read a good number of travelogues. I have arranged the compulsory guide through Algeria too.
Riding experience: Just under 20 years of blacktop and the last 5 years dirt as often as possible. Rode through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia. Also Swaziland, Lesotho (several times), Botswana and Namibia. Most recent was Cape Town to Johannesburg (South Africa) on dirt.
Of course 4x4 vehicles would be OK - if traveling together is cumbersome because of different tempos, we can always start off together and meet at prearranged places. The recent unfortunate incidents in west Africa are a concern, but I'm not sure a South African is such a great prize considering that our government's budget is substantially less than that of European countries'!
In terms of expectations: none really, except to enjoy good riding and uncomplicated company (if available). I am on a rather tight schedule though, so I won't have too many rest days.
Thanks for responding!
"The fates lead him who will; him who won't they drag." - Anon