I should point out that some preparation took place well in advance of other decisions being made, especially the choice of bike. Although my inspiration had come from Mondo Enduro, the Suzuki DR350's the boys used didn't really fit the bill for us. We were looking at a very tight schedule without too much room for overrun; this meant where possible we would need to notch up as many miles as possible and to do this I calculated large sections, particularly through Western Europe we would need to be clocking 70mph or more all day.
As an everyday motorcyclist I had been through the motorcycle spectrum, starting with the trusty Yamaha Fs1e followed by a succession of nails, then a couple of years loan of my Dad's Norton Commando followed by a time with a CBR1000, then a BMW R1100R and then I woke up one morning to realised I now owned a BMW R1200C, the cruiser thing that James Bond tootled around on, something had gone wrong and something needed to be done!
I narrowed my choice of bike down to the legendary XT600 Tenere (favoured by Chris Scott) or the fairly unlikely Rotax Engined Harley 350. I had already ruled out any multiple cylinder bikes, anything with too much electronic wizardry, anything too nickable, anything too shiny or anything too feeble. The Honda 90 Crunch was looking good but the Pizza boys had taken all of those and so I took a trip to Forces Motorcycles near Litchfield to give the Harley a once over, it was quite a surprise, sounded lovely, looked the part especially with the forward mounted panniers, it rode well and seemed very comfortable and with the belt driven cam, maintenance looked to be fairly straight forward, this would be an important consideration because none of us are mechanics and although I had spent enough time with unreliable bikes and cars to give me a decent head start we would all need to get up to scratch with whatever bike we took. Things were looking good for the Harley, well if it was good enough for the boys in Kaki, then it was good enough for me! Ah but that was to be the rub. It was after all a military bike and being a born coward I was not too keen on making myself any kind of target for possible mistaken identity. Rightly or wrongly I thought that riding anything looking remotely military could have severe consequences, especially as there was potentially 6 of us, mmmmm that’s nearly a platoon, isn't it? I may well have been wrong but we were going to be heading into fairly unstable areas and I wasn't ready to risk it. The Harleys were off the menu, there was only one thing for it, XT600 Tenere's and plenty of them!
I sold my shiny cruiser and then went along with Herman to Freddie Trott’s motorcycle emporium in West London. There we bought two Tenere’s, “don’t wrap them, we’ll ride ‘em home” Adam had located another one in East London, Martin found one in Devon and Andy eventually bought one off a South African guy who had suddenly gone off the idea of riding back to Cape Town from Peckam (to see how this should be done see – http://www.loisontheloose.com) He had spent a small fortune with Dave Lambeth Overland having this bike brought up to bomb proof spec. Andy got himself a bargain!
Herman’s Tenere blew a head gasket and the cam ate itself after just 200 miles. This was taken in good spirits as were most disasters which befall Him. Herm went out and bought another one; this one was later stolen from his front garden, along with the KDR125 and the Landrover wheel it was chained to. Incidentally the KDR had only just been returned by the Police a few days earlier having been stolen the previous year from the very same garden. This was taken in good spirits as were most disasters which befall him. Herman then bought his third or was it possibly his forth XT600, which I believe is still with him to this day. It’s worth mentioning that we fitted another engine to the original XT600 Tenere Herm bought and it was leant to Baz (see final line up) for a weekend of fun in Derbyshire although this all ended horribly on a snow covered Stannage Edge and bike has never run since – This was taken in good spirits etc.…………………………… to be continued
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