Yamaha Serows for trans-Africa: which spare parts?
I just purchased two used Serows for a trip across West Africa. I'll be visiting remote Fulani nomad camps for a documentary project (PULAKU | the fulani photo project).
I got both bikes in Accra, and had them checked out by a good mechanic. After a little tuning they sound/ride great now, but I want to be prepared with replacement parts, because I know it won't be easy to get parts in much of West Africa. Opinions, please?
Bike details: Yamaha Serow 225cc (also known as "XT225"), both are approximately 1992-1994 models. One of them has a rear disc brake, otherwise they're identical. One has 17,000km, the other has 42,000km.
Bear in mind that we are trying to travel as light as possible, so we can't carry every imaginable spare part. So far, I'm thinking:
-2x cogs front/rear
-1x timing chain
-1x piston rings
-2x spark plugs
-2x clutch cables
Current cogs are 14F/45R. Should I stick with that combo, or would you suggest something different?
I'll probably also grab a sent of F/R tires once I'm back in Benin to start the trip. I'm currently in Europe for a few weeks, so I'm trying to stock up on parts before I return to Benin. Any suggestions on the best place to order Serow parts for quick delivery in Switzerland?
PULAKU | the fulani photo project
Spare bulbs, fuses, relays, air filters, inner tubes, FRONT SPROCKET RETAINER! (your screwed without it!), spare chain links, brake and clutch lever, oil filters, etc
I find it funny you should take a spare timing chain, for if one of them snaps you'll need a full set of gaskets too! Plus consideration as to the damage to the valves, etc. Why not replace the timing chain prior to setting off then you'll know they are good, esp on the 42,000km bike, I think that would be a must!
I'd order through The UK’s biggest choice of motorcycle parts for Japanese and European machines. a German comany, cheap and genuine parts. (Yamaha XT 225 Serow W/WE (4JG1-4) (Japanese Market) 97 - Parts at Wemoto - The UK's No.1 On-Line Motorcycle Parts Retailer) they have options for your particular model, so be precise when ordering. I've used these guys before, they've always been prompt and precise with my orders.
I'll be watching your progress, sounds interesting. Have fun!
Sounds like an interesting trip. I rode a Serow from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego a few years ago and have had three Serows over the years. One weak point seems to be the seal behind the front sprocket which tends to leak, so pack a few of those, they are very cheap and of course, small and light. Also, it's worth taking a complete gasket set which doesn't take up much room either, just in case you have to end up taking things apart. Also, worth getting is the rubber seal/O-ring for the rocker covers - have a had a few leaks from them in the past.
Drip, drip, drip... when you've only got 1.1 litres of oil you don't want to lose any of it!
Good luck with everything - sounds like you have the ideal bike for the job!
I totally agree with Geoffshing and Lois. No point in carrying the cam chain, when you can fit it with ease at home. I wouldn't bother with the piston rings either. If you have an oil consumption problem then deal with it before leaving. By the way I had a 250 Serow that covered 75,00 miles, without having the head off.
They can go through throttle and clutch cables rather easily, so I'd run them in parallel with the existing ones, to save space and to ease their fitting. Just seal each end with a finger off a rubber glove and zip ties.
As they use foam/oiled air filters then I'd suggest that you keep the spares pre oiled, in air tight containers, again to ease their installation.
Electric wise, well I've only ever had a single bulb blow, an indicator reply failed and the ignition barrel replaced twice (due to the road salt over here in winter).
Also add fuel filters before heading off.
As for the brakes, well they can go through them pretty quickly when getting contaminated, so pads and/or shoes won't take up too much space.
Don't forget to give the suspension linkages a good lubing!
So my list would be (per bike)
chain links (x 2)
front sprocket retainer
front sprocket seal
o rings for valve covers (x 2)
brake & clutch lever
air filter (pre oiled)
oil filter (re-useable but it's always nice to have a spare)
drain plug washer
full gasket set
a length of fuel tube
a few spare nuts/bolts/zip ties/gaffer tape/oil (enough for a change)
It goes without saying that you should be fully prepped with suitable tools and that you strip the bikes down to your level of maintenance skills, so that you know you can remove, and replace, any of the bolts etc! You'll be surprised just how easy these bolts can be removed at home, and re-torqued up to the correct settings, in the comfort of your garage, rather than fighting with them in the middle of nowhere, after all a bit of preventative maintenance is priceless when on the road.
And don't forget to carry extra sets of keys!
Most of all is to enjoy yourselves and post of your exploits on this website.
If you're doing oil-changes in tricky places, a spare oil-filler plug may be a good idea. I lost one once, and it's not an easy thing to improvise out in the wilds. The filler hole will leak like crazy unless it has a well-fitting stopper in it!
Thanks Geoff, Lois, Cameraman, and McCrankpin!
I really appreciate the advice. I'm now wrangling the various retailers to see what I can get shipped to Switzerland before I fly back to Benin next week. So far the trickiest thing to find is the piston rings. Since the engines are running pretty well now, I might live on the edge and go without. Your thoughts?
I'm thinking replace the cam chain on the older bike (42k kilometers) but leave it on the newer one (17k).
Should I order special oil for the air filters, or just use whatever I find en route? Seems simple enough to keep a clean spare oiled in sealed container.
if the compression's OK I'd forget the piston rings.
Have your mechanic check the timing chains and if worn then replace but don't do so just for the sake of doing it.
Pre oil the filters with the correct oil and seal them. Install new cleaned filters ready at the start of your trip and have a pre oiled spare ready and you won't need to carry extra oil.
Enjoy your experience.
How do you inspect a timing chain....?
as long as there's no sign of excess wear on either the chain, or the sprocket, and the chain tensioner is working correctly then you'll be OK.
Sounds to me like you might want to carry a manual--either hard copy or electronic on a netbook, thumbdrive or whatever you're using to back your photos. Sooner or later there'll come a day when you want to look up a spec, parts diagram or maintenance procedure.
Some of these parts lists sound like overkill to me, though I've not had a Serow. Filler and drain plugs can always be whittled out of wood if you should lose one....and you can't very well carry everything you might lose, can you? I agree that rings and cam chains can be checked and dealt with before leaving Accra more easily than you can carry them. Filters can be oiled with anything, but real filter oil (or chainsaw chain lube, which might be difficult to find in Fulani country!) works best. And I'd generally start with a new set of sprockets and chain, then forgo carrying spares unless I was planning fairly rugged abuse on a long trip. Good ones will last 15,000km+ even under severe duress; how long a trip are you planning?
My real reason for posting is that I've been looking for a good motorcycle mechanic who can work to Western standards in Accra. Know one? I know other people who're looking for the same guy....
Thanks much, and good luck with your project.
Yes, a spare chain is a lot of weight to carry and should be unnecessary if you fit new chain and sprockets before departure. I was a little surprised at how well my chain lasted all the way, 20,000 miles London to Cape Town, on a slightly larger Yamaha.
But I did keep it properly lubricated all the time. Just use engine oil, it's fine.
But even if it does fail, there's always the 'rustic' option, as you can see here:
Designing and building a wooden chain that would actually work without breaking proved the greatest challenge.
Regarding the oil drain and filler plugs, yes, not really necessary if your oil-change interval is a few thousand miles. But my little TTR was 1000 miles max, (same for the Serow) meaning that there's often not much choice of the sort of location to do an oil-change. So I wouldn't be without a spare of each. It only takes one very charming and curious child to innocently wander off with one and you're suddenly very stuck for a while.
(Two small TTRs and a Serow on our trip. Oil changes every few days. The most "interrupted" oil-change was here:
Oil change in the midst of Tanzanian hospitality)
Another thing worth considering. When you have all your spares ready for packing, make sure they all actually fit your bikes. I had Serows a while ago and never needed many replacement parts. But I did find out that many parts are different between kickstart models, electric start, and combo starting models. And also between disc rear brake and drum rear brake.
Then my daughter bought hers for our Cape Town trip.
It turned out, we're fairly certain now, that is was either made in Brazil, or made for that country.
(All Serows are 'grey imports' to the UK, imported not by Yamaha but by private individuals and sellers. It may be the same in Africa).
Someone on this thread recommended WeMoto in England for spares. I've used them in the past and my daughter ended up living not far from them, so started getting all her spares from them.
But they couldn't find her VIN No. anywhere in their Yamaha data, which is quite comprehensive. By some means or other they identified Brazil as the originating country.
By then we'd found that the rear sprocket they supplied was wrong, and the chain too long (we shortened that easily enough), and other stuff incorrect that I don't remember now. It was all sorted in the end.
So the conclusion was that there's a wide range of different versions for Serow spares, so check they all fit before departure.
It's probably too late now (have recently read your blog), but you can fit a Yamaha TTR250 'Raid' petrol tank and seat to the Serow, doubling the fuel capacity, just in case you find those things where you are.
And on your blog, someone left the comment, "the Serow is the Swiss Army Knife of bikes." That's an excellent description!
Hope your project is successful.
that was me Good Sir.
And I also have a Brazilian XT225!
Makes it even more of a mystery why Yamaha never sold it in the UK.
I spoke to a senior member of staff, from Yamaha UK a couple of years ago, who admitted it was one of their poorer decisions, not to bring in the Serow!
They were convinced that the changes to the provisional bike licences would've removed the market for such machines!
How wrong they were eh.
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