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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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  #1  
Old 11 Sep 2010
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Question Need Advice: small bike for rural West Africa

Hello Friends - I just signed up for the HU forum, though I've been reading for many months. I'm eager for your help and advice!

I'm in the midst of organizing a photodocumentary project that will take me across West Africa. In a nutshell, I'll be travelling with a friend from Cameroon to Senegal, visiting camps of nomadic Fulani herders to share their stories in the face of climate change and development. My travel partner is a young Fulani man who's motivated to share the stories of his people.

Here is the project website:

PULAKU | the fulani photo project

Travelling by moto is the only reasonable way to reach these rural camps, and we're both experienced with motorcycles. I've been living here in Benin the last 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I'll dive into this project when I finish my service in December.

Although we were finalists for a National Geographic grant, we didn't get selected. That means we're financing this project grassroots style, by selling photo prints. Knowing that our budget will be very tight, it's time to start thinking about our equipment.

Here are our considerations:

1. We need two identical bikes - easier for service and a carrying spare parts.
2. Cost - we can't afford anything fancy.
3. Reliability - easy to fix in the bush, and find spare parts in small towns
4. Discrete - we'll be visiting Fulani camps, and we don't want to show up on big fancy bikes. As much as possible, we want them to be able to relate to us (my collaborator is Fulani, after all). Ideally, we'll ride something similar to the bikes often used by Fulani men - cheap Indian/Chinese imports.

I've got two ideas in mind:

Bajaj "Boxer S" - these are Indian bikes assembled in Nigeria. 4-stroke 125cc. Amidst the wide variety of junky bikes sold here, these are hands-down the best quality. The motorcycle taxi drivers use these all over Benin, even in rural regions with terrible roads. From talking to locals, they say these are quite sturdy and require little maintenance aside from regular oil changes. Since they last several years under the abuse of moto-taxis, I assume they would suffice to get across West Africa. They'll cost us just under $1000 each. Anybody familiar with them? Can we find spare parts outside of Benin/Togo/Nigeria/Niger/Cameroon?

Yamahah DT125 - these are available all over the region and are commonly used by NGOs and other development projects. They're obviously a bit sturdier, but also more conspicuous. Spare parts are harder to find in rural areas, but definitely available in all big cities. 2-stroke engine is probably a little peppier than the Bajaj, but less fuel efficient. They're pretty pricey here ($3000 new, $2000 used). Anybody know what they sell for in Accra?

I'm open to other possibilities, perhaps shopping around in Accra. I'd consider a Yamaha Serow 225 if I could find two identical bikes.

Also, does anybody know the license requirements for other countries in the region? I've got a US moto license plus international license. My project partner has no license because nothing is required for motos here in Benin. Will he need a license for other countries (Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, etc.?)

Please chime in with your opinion/advice. Thanks in advance!

Please bear in mind that I have limited internet access, so I may not be able to respond quickly - I'm eager to hear your opinion.

Cheers,

Christoph Herby
Pulaku - the fulani photo project
PULAKU | the fulani photo project
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Old 11 Sep 2010
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Yesterday I threw away the quotes I'd assembled a couple of years ago for various bikes in Accra, including the DT 125. Sorry. On the other hand, others have posted from time to time about this, including at least one or two who actually purchased bikes in Accra or Ouagadougou. Maybe a search on The HUBB would be productive--use Google rather than the HUBB search function, and include "Horizons Unlimited" in the search terms.

Presumably you're up to speed on the disadvantages of Chinese bikes. I've spent a bit of time on those little 125's, and in my experience they rapidly start yielding to entropic processes at molecular levels as well as in terms of bolts disappearing, seals wearing out and parts mysteriously failing. Your desire to blend in--an illusion anyway, of course--and your desire to avoid getting stranded at random remote places might be at odds.

I can add only that for my own purposes I concluded that I'd be better off buying a bike in America or Europe and riding it down via the west coast route. Bikes can be imported into Ghana (and perhaps other countries) duty free if they're owned by a registered NGO. This might be worth investigating, since Senegal is only a couple of weeks riding from Europe.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

Mark

PS: nice images on your website!
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  #3  
Old 11 Sep 2010
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I would highly recommend the Suzuki TF125, the ever-reliable farm bike that Suzuki have been making for more than 30 years. If a Kiwi farmer can't break them, then nobody can! Low seat, handle bar protection, foot control protection, strong fitted carriers and the legendary TS125 motor, tuned for low down torque. What more do you need?! Medicins Sans Frontiers has used them in Africa.

I don't know about availability for you but they are available in East Africa.

Cheers bloke

Nigel in NZ
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Old 11 Sep 2010
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Talking

this one?
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Old 11 Sep 2010
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Thumbs up

Hehehe..

I can tell you that by the background and the way the guy is dressed, that's almost certainly in Australia, and it's an TS185ER. They are great bikes too, but hard to get outside of Mexico and a couple of other countries these days. They have been made mechanically unchanged since 1978. I own two. How many bikes can you name with that kind of production run? Even Enfields have had major updates in that time.

If anyone if interested in the TS/TM/TC series of Suzuki two-smokes, here's a website I help run for those bikes:
Suzuki TS TC TM Forum • Index page

Cheers bloke

Nigel in NZ
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Old 11 Sep 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bugsy View Post
this one?

I think this illegal in most countries!
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Old 12 Sep 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dave ede View Post
I think this illegal in most countries!
Yeah ,neither of them is wearing a helmet !
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Old 13 Sep 2010
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V funny Dodger!! ATGATT!
Thanks for giving me a laugh today!
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