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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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  #46  
Old 9 Nov 2010
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This has been a great thread to read and it confirms my new way of thinking.

I've done journeys across southern Africa on various bikes including a CJ750 (with sidecar), XT500, BMW R60/6, newTriumph Scrambler and a Honda AG200 farmbike with an auto clutch.

The best of them all was the Honda 200. It was light, rugged and basic, free of any vices except clutch-lag, which I could live with. Best of all, though, it was low-key, which I find quite important when riding in Africa.

Our next bike journey, from SA to Mozambique and back via Malawi and Zimbabwe, will be on either a Honda CD200 courier bike (ridiculously cheap to buy in SA and easy to find spares for) or a Yamaha TW200.

I believe the bike has to fit into your journey, and your life, not the other way around which is often the case with bigger bikes. Small bikes work fine for slow African journeys, even two-up, if you can keep your kit to a minimum.

I often mix boat and train travel with my journeys so a smaller bike is vital.

Small bikes are easier to cope with on river crossings in small boats (it happens), easier to push when the roads turn to mud, and they usually don't look much different from most other bikes you'll see people riding. Carnets are cheaper, train travel is much cheaper ...

As for speed? This is Africa. You need to go slowly. Stop worrying about the miles. You're having the experience of your life, so why hurry?

Happy riding.

Paul
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  #47  
Old 28 Nov 2010
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Hi Jeannie,

I'm new to Horizon's Unlimited and just been reading and enjoying your thread. I was in your position about 16months ago. I got my motorbike licence in June 2009 and took the plunge and bought TWO motorbikes... why you ask??? so did I... Mid life crisis... maybe but one bike was the CRF230L for trailriding and BMW 650GS for roadriding. I was given good advice by my boyfriend that if I wanted to riding in Sydney traffic I needed to learn to ride on dirt/trails so I can react to any conditions. That started me on a quest that saw me 12 months later riding a trailbike with 10 guys from Perth (Western Australia) right across the middle of Australia via the Gunbarrel Hwy to Ayers Rock then across the Simpson Desert, Birdsville, Longreach and finally to Airlie Beach in Queensland (5500km of which 90% was dirt). I only dropped by CRF 10 times (one guy on a KTM 640 dropped his 29 times). I agree with previous posts I went on many dirt riding courses (the best was the Yamaha Riding Academy in Bateman's Bay run by Heffo).

Like you I'm 5f2 and wanting to tackle CapeTown to London on a bike. I have just purchased the 5 DVD set from Horizons and slowly working my way thru them. I want my dream to come true so I think I'm looking for a third bike... an 'adventure' bike... So far all my dreams have come true its only a matter of time and planning. If you are interested in hooking up sometime happy to ride down..

Have attached photo of me in the Simpson on one of the 1500 sand dunes we had to ride over....
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  #48  
Old 28 Nov 2010
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TTR250 rocks!

Hi Jeanie,
I'm a bit late to this thread, so maybe you've already got a bike and you're on your way! But just to say that the TTR250 was absolutely great for me in Africa (and, in fact everywhere). It is still going strong today and I use it as my everyday bike around London. When I left for Africa it had 7000 miles on it but I set off with new brake pads, sprocket/chain, cables etc and nothing, yes, NOTHING went wrong with it on the entire trip. I didn't even have to adjust the chain until the day before I arrived in Cape Town! And that was 10,000 miles through very rough terrain - inc. the Sahara in Algeria/Niger, Congo, Angola etc - it got a right ol' hammering! I am short, although not as short as you (I'm 5ft 4") but I lowered it with a lowering link and I can get my toes down. There's more info about the bike and what I did to it on my website if you want to have a look and you can email me through my site if you have any questions.
Good luck and have a fantastic adventure.
Rock on!
Lois
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  #49  
Old 28 Nov 2010
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Hi Lois,

So great to get your advice. I'm halfway through reading your book Red Tape and White Knuckles. I was looking at the TTR250 to setup as an adventure bike. Did you do any special mods to it for your trip from London to Capetown?

Kat
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  #50  
Old 29 Nov 2010
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Three cheers for the TTR!

Hi Kat,
Thanks for the message - hope you're enjoying Red Tape & White Knuckles and that it's getting you in the mood! That trip certainly was an amazing adventure.
As for mods on the TTR, I didn't do anything major - just fitted a big 22 litre tank, bash plate and super heavy-duty inner tubes. I replaced all the consumable parts with original Yamaha parts before I left too. Oh yes, and the all-important sheepskin on the seat! Very important... although it had rotted to a horrible smelly mess by the time I got to Angola!
Good luck and have a look on my website for more info about the bike and the kit I used etc. You can email me through there as well if you have any questions.
Have a crazy time out there!
Lois
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  #51  
Old 29 Nov 2010
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Hi Lois,

Which tank is that cause there is no official Safari or Acerbis tank for it? Mars has a TTR also and we'd love for it to be able to go further a bit. I know some people have used XR tanks on them, but they're also pretty rare.

Taco
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  #52  
Old 29 Nov 2010
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TTR big tank

Hi Taco,
Good to hear from you! Hope you and Mars are doing fine. The tank I got for my TTR250 was an official Acerbis one but they don't make them any more, I don't think they have made them for several years now as I got it second hand via the TTR250 Yahoo group - someone just happened to be selling one. You may find one somewhere if you're lucky I guess. I do believe the XR 400 Acerbis tank fits (I think?).
Good luck.
Lois
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  #53  
Old 4 Dec 2010
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Choosing a bike - is it ok to go for looks as well as practicality?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lois View Post
Hi Jeanie,
I'm a bit late to this thread, so maybe you've already got a bike and you're on your way! But just to say that the TTR250 was absolutely great for me in Africa (and, in fact everywhere). It is still going strong today and I use it as my everyday bike around London. When I left for Africa it had 7000 miles on it but I set off with new brake pads, sprocket/chain, cables etc and nothing, yes, NOTHING went wrong with it on the entire trip. I didn't even have to adjust the chain until the day before I arrived in Cape Town! And that was 10,000 miles through very rough terrain - inc. the Sahara in Algeria/Niger, Congo, Angola etc - it got a right ol' hammering! I am short, although not as short as you (I'm 5ft 4") but I lowered it with a lowering link and I can get my toes down. There's more info about the bike and what I did to it on my website if you want to have a look and you can email me through my site if you have any questions.
Good luck and have a fantastic adventure.
Rock on!
Lois
x
Hi Lois,

Thanks for your steer (haha!) re the TTR250 - it was actually Red Tape and White Knuckles that got me thinking maybe I could do an Africa trip on a bike, so I've already had a good look at your website and read up on your bike and stuff, thanks. The TTR certainly looks really durable and not too heavy to pick up if it goes over...!!

Last weekend, I was at the Motorcycle Expo in Melbourne and sat on a few bikes to get a feel for different saddle heights, weight, etc. I sat on a few dirt/trail bikes...but aesthetically the bikes I'm drawn to fall more into the Triumph Scrambler mould (more classic bike look, but they can go off-road to a degree...)

So I'm wondering, is it wrong to think about the look of the bike as much as the practicality of it? I know the dirt bike would be a practical option but the image I have in my head of me biking across Africa is on something a bit more classic... Or am I just being completely impractical here?!

Jeanie
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  #54  
Old 4 Dec 2010
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Cape Town to London by motorcycle...

Quote:
Originally Posted by KatGirl View Post
Hi Jeannie,

I'm new to Horizon's Unlimited and just been reading and enjoying your thread. I was in your position about 16months ago. I got my motorbike licence in June 2009 and took the plunge and bought TWO motorbikes... why you ask??? so did I... Mid life crisis... maybe but one bike was the CRF230L for trailriding and BMW 650GS for roadriding. I was given good advice by my boyfriend that if I wanted to riding in Sydney traffic I needed to learn to ride on dirt/trails so I can react to any conditions. That started me on a quest that saw me 12 months later riding a trailbike with 10 guys from Perth (Western Australia) right across the middle of Australia via the Gunbarrel Hwy to Ayers Rock then across the Simpson Desert, Birdsville, Longreach and finally to Airlie Beach in Queensland (5500km of which 90% was dirt). I only dropped by CRF 10 times (one guy on a KTM 640 dropped his 29 times). I agree with previous posts I went on many dirt riding courses (the best was the Yamaha Riding Academy in Bateman's Bay run by Heffo).

Like you I'm 5f2 and wanting to tackle CapeTown to London on a bike. I have just purchased the 5 DVD set from Horizons and slowly working my way thru them. I want my dream to come true so I think I'm looking for a third bike... an 'adventure' bike... So far all my dreams have come true its only a matter of time and planning. If you are interested in hooking up sometime happy to ride down..

Have attached photo of me in the Simpson on one of the 1500 sand dunes we had to ride over....
Hey Kat,

Great to see your post - welcome to Horizons Unlimited!

I totally get how you've already ended up with two bikes and are thinking about a third! I bought my current (and only) bike soon after getting my L-plates back in July - it's a Suzuki Marauder 250cc cruiser and has been perfect for learning to ride on and building up confidence (lightweight, low seat height etc).

But fairly quickly I realised that a cruiser isn't going to be the ideal bike for going across Africa! So I've been looking at maybe getting another bike that will go off-road as well as on-road, and have been frequenting motorcycle shows and conventions to size up what's out there and, more importantly, what would be right for me. It's a hard choice though, as so many bikes seem designed with guys in mind and don't make me jump up and down going "Yay, I'd love to across the whole of Africa on this!!" (still waiting for that "light-bulb" moment, hahaha!)

We should definitely keep in touch as, like you, this Africa dream won't go away and I'm keen to do it sooner rather than later - carpe diem and all that! I'm taking my full motorcycle licence test next weekend and if that all goes well, I think that will give me the confidence boost I need to start concretely working out how to make the Africa dream come true! Apart from anything else, it will be SO nice to get those L plates off and start being taking seriously by other road users, hahaha!

Jeanie
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  #55  
Old 4 Dec 2010
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Three cheers for the TTR and Serow!

Hi,
Have just come across this thread, so will offer this:
Three of us set off over a year ago, London to Cape Town. Two on TTR250s, one on a Serow. It's all here:

www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/thomas

My TTR250 took me all the way to Cape Town, 20,000 miles in 13 months. (A zig-zag route). I just returned home a month ago.

The bike was great, now has 68,000 miles on it. But is a bit rattly, will need checking before another long adventure.

My daughter and son-in-law, on a Serow and another (pretty old) TTR250 were with me to Nairobi, where their bikes are still stored. Wonderful adventures through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia.

They had jobs open back in England, and needed to work a few more months before continuing on from Nairobi.

But in Africa unexpected things send you in unexpected directions, and while we were in Khartoum they both received offers that couldn't be refused, of proper paid work. So after a short while back in England, they moved to Khartoum six months ago where my daughter now teaches English and my son-in-law teaches western music at the University.

They plan to return to Nairobi early next year, get back on the Serow and TTR, ride around for a few months or so, and then back to Khartoum to continue their jobs there.

So we all recommend those bikes very highly!

Good luck with your adventure!
Ken
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  #56  
Old 5 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeanied1 View Post
So I'm wondering, is it wrong to think about the look of the bike as much as the practicality of it? I know the dirt bike would be a practical option but the image I have in my head of me biking across Africa is on something a bit more classic... Or am I just being completely impractical here?!
I don't think there's anything wrong with this at all.

95% of people wouldn't go out on the piss dressed in 'any old rags', so why should you go on potentially the trip of a lifetime with something you don't like the look of? The bike is a major element of a bike trip, so you've got to be comfortable with it.

You may struggle to find any modern bikes with a 'classic' look that would suit your riding plans though. Triumph scrambler ain't light. And the first couple of years worth of 'new' bonnevilles were renowned for poor build quality (probably half of all bikes that left the factory had wheel spokes snap from ordinary road riding) - Would put me off 'new' triumph that.


A 'real' 'classic' might be your best bet, though it would be prudent to set off on a long distance trip on an older bike with a sound understanding of how everything works, and a capability to get stuck in with the spanners when it don't. Though it's a myth that old bikes have to be unreliable; I did 18000miles on a 1976 honda round nearly all of europe for three months a couple of years back with only two minor breakdowns the whole way.
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  #57  
Old 5 Dec 2010
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Ah, the romantics of travelling. That stuff goes out the window at the first muddy patch.

Noel has made a good movie which you can find here showing the conditions that you'll end up facing.

YouTube - Crossing Africa full version part 1

In the end you can do it on anything, but I'd stick with something light weight. That scrambler is twice as heavy as a TTR. Seriously, try going on a trail ride and you'll quickly change you opinions.
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  #58  
Old 5 Dec 2010
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Yes I think we had the romantic idea of travelling around the world what fun on two bikes, that soon was blown out of the water.

I am only 5.1 and riding a BMW F650GS which has not been lowered, too heavy and too tall and in some situations I have had to get Lucas to ride it through the rough bits mainly deep mud, and some river crossings.

So after nearly 2 years of travel would I change the bike if I had a chance?

Yes, I would love a lighter bike, something that I don't have to struggle with to get off side stand when it if fully loaded.

Having a lower bike would be good but I'm not sure that I want to sacrifice the ground clearance, we were going to have mine lowered but in the end I decided that I wouldn't this did work out good in the end because of some the rough stuff that we have been though particularly in East Timor and Lao the lowered bike would have been a problem.

I guess it is not until you have been travelling for a while that you are able to work out what it is you want, then of course it is too late.
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  #59  
Old 12 Dec 2010
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Xt 250

My wife and I are half way thru Africa, she is on a XT250, I am on a F650twin,
she really loves the bike, it is light and nippy. She to was a relatively new rider until she got to Egypt and I think that was worth 10 years riding experience for her.[url]http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/attachment.php?attachmentid=4176&stc=1&d=129213105 2http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/attachment.php?
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Which bike for a petite learner with dreams of riding across Africa?-img_9979.jpg  

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  #60  
Old 14 Dec 2010
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Paul D great Pix
& Somemustard just had a read of your blog
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