The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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Which Bike?Comments and Questions on what is the best bike for YOU, for YOUR trip. Note that we believe that ANY bike will do, so please remember that it's all down to PERSONAL OPINION. Technical Questions for all brands go in their own forum.
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if you want light, you have to get a sportbike, but then you lose a LOT of the capabilities that a dual purpose bike offers. from experience, a ninja 250 weighs 308 pounds, but ALL of that is low in the bike, so you dont notice it, most dual sports, you do because the weight is up higher.
the average 250 dual sport weighs roughly 200-300 pounds, with nothing on it here in te states, and it may be that I have a fair bit of muscle from working all the time, but I consider nothing heavy until its a KLR650, or an 86 ZX1000, which is a FAT PIECE OF CRAP.
an XT225 or XT250's the way to go!
In Oz the 225 model is sometimes badged as a 250.
The highlight for me at the HUBB meeting at Ripley was a comment made by Austin Vince, who said 'there was no better machine for adventure riding than a Serow'! Great praise indeed!
I'm surprised Austin said that. The Serow is OK ... but what about the bike Austin and company rode on their Terra Circa and Mondo Enduro rides? The Suzuki DR350 is better in every way ... save one ... it's a bit taller than the low seated Serow.
Remember Lois (Lois On The Loose) was a Noob starting out on her S. America trip, but had ridden big vintage BSA's off road, so not a Noob to riding, just to RTW travel on a bike. Her first major mistake was buying a totally clapped out bike to start a 20,000 mile Alaska to Argentina ride. Can't imagine why Austin did not intervene and either do a total top to bottom rebuild on that Serow ... or burn it and start over. Not to say Serow's are bad ... just that Lois's one was. Still, IMO, there are BETTER bikes for small women.
Readers may recall from Lois's book how that Serow caused endless delays from her first day in Alaska all the way South. Probably cost her a month just due to breakdowns and shop time alone. Not to mention money
I think she did a rebuild in every country!
Endless streams of half assed mechanics tried and failed to fix that sorry Serow beater. It was never made right according to accounts in the book. I am amazed she made it at all. I put it down to Lois's perseverance and out
right toughness. Lois can ride, and is strong ... and wily.
A better beginner bike, IMHO, might be the revised XT250 over the Serow. It's a newer design, lighter weight, better power. The 25 year old Serow design is strong and reliable (Lois's was not) but Dog slow and really quite heavy for a 225cc bike. The Suzuki DR350 is a lighter bike, faster, better suspension and just as reliable. So is the Yam XT250, Yam WR250R, Kawi KLX250S, Suzuki DR250, and probably a few others.
My personal favorite in the current 250 class of dual sports would be the KLX250S. Newly revised in '09, this bike is very good and about $1000 usd cheaper than the popular new Yamaha WR250R (F.I.) (current rave bike here). The KLX would need a better seat for travel but other than that should be a winner. (handles great off road ... and can cruise nicely at 70 mph on highway)
Both the WR and KLX are a bit tall for 5'2" Jeanie but with lowering links can be lowered in 20 minutes for about $50. Leave the seat alone ... actually ... buy a better, custom seat. You'll thank me.
Most bikes will get pretty heavy once you load them up for Africa. You'll need to buff up a bit and learn how to pick up a fallen bike. (back into it ... use your legs to lift)
Since you're in Oz, I'd get some off road training if you can. Will put you miles ahead in your learning curve and make you a better road rider as well. I'd get what's available in Oz and learn to ride it.
I think it was notable that Lois didn't take the Serow second time round when she went across Africa - she'd obviously learnt the hard way by then!!
I'm still veering towards the Yamaha XT250 as it seems to have everything I'm looking for. Although...I saw a photo of a Derbi Terra Adventure yesterday and thought they looked pretty good. Anyone had any experience on one of those?
Great tips, Mickey D and bobthebiker, about handling the bike weight too. I definitely need to "buff up", as you say, and go that extra mile at the gym, haha! Plus I've been trying to use the handlebars to right the bike, when in fact it sounds like you put your back in and push from your legs...
Have a look out at a TTR as well. They're pretty common in Australia and they're bulletproof. Just can't kill them, and my wife tries here best at that. More dirt ready and cheap. Ride as many forest roads as you can, and there are plenty in Victoria. Have a look on the aussie section of ADVrider.com and join some local rides to learn some trick of the trade like picking it up.
As you get more comfortable flicking it around go on some more single trails to get use to the bike moving around. Some people find the technical stuff easier and less intimidating because the speeds are heaps lower.
I'd suggest working your way to a DRZ400E eventually. It'll be a bit heavier than the 250, but you'll 'need' the extra power to carry your stuff around. Plenty of gear available for them like a Safari tank etc. Very well made, also bulletproof and just as easy to ride as a 250 and pretty cheap in Oz as well.
The WR250R is another option but they're pretty dear and heavy for a 250.
...are just as important as seat height and weight. That's not to say you need years of riding before you set off, but you will be surprised by how soon a 125 will stop feeling very big.
My Fiancee is also a petite rider. Here in the UK the most basic training (CBT) is done on a 125, you then have the option of riding a 500+ for your full test to enable you to ride any bike. She felt too intimidated by the 500 after only 1 day of riding a 125, so did her test on a 125, and passed. Just those few days of additional training were enough to boost her confidence, and after she passed be bought a low seated 650cc road bike, which she soon felt very comfortable on.
A few months later, and we were choosing bikes for our own long trip, and now each have a BMW F800GS. Hers is lowered, but it is still quite a tall, heavy bike, and she loves it - a bit of time building her experience and confidence on the road, plus a small amount of off road training on a tall but lightweight trail bike, and she rides confidently on a bike that would have scared her silly not long ago!
I'm in no way saying that this makes an 800 the perfect machine, simply that it might be worth buying a bike to build your experience and confidence on now, but then reconsidering the ideal bike for long distance travel when you have a few more miles under your belt, closer to your departure time. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much your confidence and capabilities have improved, and how many more bikes seem ridable.
Wise words, Ewan, thanks - and I'm really encouraged to hear yet another story of a petite gal handling the bigger bikes absolutely fine: I think I had this image in my head that all lady bikers must be strapping ten-foot-tall bodybuilder types, hahaha!!
As you say, it might be best to buy a first bike to practise on now, then "scale up" nearer the time of my big trip to something with a bit more oomph that feels good for Africa.
Meantime, round and round the airstrip I go, practising clutch control and gear changes...
I would absolutely reccomend training also! I have a "normal" not Adventure 1200GS and a 28" inside leg, suspension at a slightly hard setting and not wound down at all, and no low seat cos its really uncomfy!! I did struggle initially, and didn't buy the taller adventure cos it felt too tall. But after several visits to a pucca off road school height is no longer an issue for me. It will be harder in some situations of course, but the training means my riding both on and off road improved so much that falling off is so much less likely, and having been shown how to pick it up thats not the struggle some people turn it into anyhow! Learn how to get on and off both sides is handy for side slopes. Heavy is still a bad thing when its on top of you though
Also Patsy Quick was one of the instructors, who is not only nearer 5' than I am, but is a very slight lady riding a big chunky 1200 Adventure and of course put everyone to shame
I recently bought a more compromise walking/riding boot made by Altberg in the UK. These have a much thicker sole than those I previously wore and thought that was why I could suddenly just touch both sides with toes extended. A while later I realised its actually because they flex a great deal more at the ankle, so use the older, stiffer more protective boots more often now!
Hey thanks for the post, grizzly7! Really good insights - and thanks too for reminding me about Patsy Quick. I saw her doing the Dakar Rally on Charley Boorman's Race To Dakar a couple of years back, and remember thinking what a cool chick she was. Really inspiring. And a petite lady too! There's hope for me yet...
I wouldn't focus on not being able to touch the ground but more getting to the point that you don't need to touch the ground. Hence thrashing a little traily through the state forrests of which there should be plenty. For this I would certainly not use walking boots but full on trail boots. There is a reason that most if not any courses don't allow you to join them without anything but those.
My wife used to drop the bike coming to a halt on dirt road intersections where the camber gets pretty steep. Than I told he to look around herself before she stops. As long as you've got forward momentum you shouldn't need to touch the ground. The trick is to have the courage to keep the feet on the pegs on the difficult stuff. As soon as you see guys with the legs wide the bike goes all over the place. Everyone struggles with this technique but it's the main basic one.
as many others said - after a couple of weeks of riding your motorcycle you will feel so much more confident and automatically learn a lot more about bikes! The excitement of riding will make you ride so much that it all comes automatically! It is probably unlikely that the bike you are buying now will go to Africa with you. But your first bike will give you all the experience to decide, what's good and bad on a bike, what things to look for, how to do minor repairs and maintenance. And it will give you the confidence to say what is possible on a motorbike and what is not.
Personally I am in a not too dissimilar situation. Got my NSW learners licence in January this year and it made me love riding so much that Africa is on the horizon for me too. My first choice of bike in January was the Yamaha XT250 which I believe is a great bike. However, being 6ft3 it was too small for me and I took the bigger DR-Z250 instead. Just go to a motorbike shop, they usually let you sit on their bikes and you know, which one is a good size for you. Once you know which bike you will feel happy on, you can check around for deals. I would strongly recommend a 250cc. Anything smaller may limit your enjoyment, anything bigger is heaps expensive to insure as a beginner rider in Australia.
Hey thanks for your encouragement, Marco - nice to hear from someone else who's at an early stage of their riding career! I can't wait to get to the stage you're at, where the riding comes more naturally and I can concentrate on the more exciting aspects...like concretely planning my journey across Africa!
I've got my next motorcycle training session tomorrow and am determined to take to heart all the great advice I've been given on this forum - it's been invaluable so far!!
Have fun planning your own Africa trip, Marco - rubber sound down, eh?!
Im in a similar situation with my wife learing to ride and also being quite tiny.
I bought a 6 year old 2nd hand honda xl125 for my wife to practise on before trying for her full bike license.....she can drop it all she likes (and she has), it already has scratches. My wife has gained plenty of confidence.....it was a good purchase. This will be sold once she has passed her license and possibly replaced with a XT250.
I have the XT600, 2002 model......I dont know much about the XT250. Which years model is the best to buy for reliability and ease to fix ? - are there any similarities between the 600 and 250 which could mean us taking fewer duplicate spares on our Africa trip?
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Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events such as this one (18 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
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