Which bike? One of the most vexed questions for newbie travellers, which bike?
All types and sizes at HU meeting, Ripley, 2006
It of course depends on where you are going and how. Two up needs a few more horses, whereas trail riding needs better clearance and suspension. It became clear to me, after seeing the DVD that shall not be named, that a GS on the rough is not a good option. A 600cc or 650 is adequate, and judging from the Dakar Rally reports, more than adequate for the job. I didnít want to throw my money away on a bike that didnít suit me, so before my final purchase I decided to buy a good 2nd hand BMWf650 and get some road miles under my belt.
A bike I saw on ebay caught my eye and I became the proud owner of a 10 year old Funduro. (Stupid name, but thatís corporate marketing for you!!)
One of my criteria was that I had to feel comfortable with parking it in a lay-by and walking away from it if it all became to much. Now you canít do that if youíve just spent 10 grand on a bike. I know, it sounds defeatist, but it is practical. Secondly it is older technology, so I should be able to fix most of it myself with a few basic tools if it breaks down on me somewhere remote. Anyway for £1600 I had a 10 year old bike with less than 5000 miles on the clock. Even though it had not reached its first proper service at 6000 miles, I had the history that showed regular services almost every year from new. Thank you previous owners, you did great. Compared to my 20 year old Yamaha XJ550, this bike was a dream to ride the 300 miles home. Responsive to the throttle across all the gears and a power curve that looks like a straight line graph, I felt quite safe and in full control on the motorway. Not until about the 250 mark did my bum begin to feel uncomfortable, but I found the cure for that, get better underwear. Sitting on a gusset seam for 4 hours does have its disadvantages. The next couple of weeks I put another 1000 miles on the clock, did a service with the aid of ĎThe Chain Gangsí website, and headed out for a weekend camping trip to Wales. Tip, know what way to turn the fuel tap when you start into reserve. I spent several frustrating minutes at the side of the road near Telford trying to get her started, until I got off and looked at the tap; yep it turns the opposite way to the XJ550. Oh the feeling of freedom just on a 2 day jaunt.
By a waterfall in Wales
I dropped it on a lonely road in the Welsh valleys as I pulled onto some shale to take a photo and not knowing the right way to pick it up, had to flag down a rare passing car to give me a hand. In my younger day I could pick up my heavy old BSA 650 Rocket Gold Star, but I was fitter in those days. Image my chagrin at seeing the lightly built ladies at the HU meeting a month later achieving what I couldnít. Itís all down to technique. Richard, who camped next to me at Ripley also showed me another technique and both are admirably displayed in another Richardsí blog, that of Richard Lindley. So if you donít know how, go there and find out, if you are a rider you need to know. Oh!Oh I can hear some saying under their breath; this guy hasnít got a chance, a disaster waiting to happen. Well letís just wait and see, we all have weaknesses in our knowledge but admitting that I am ignorant is not one of mine, nor is giving up. On returning from Wales I sat down and thought about it and yes the f650 was all that I wanted from a bike. A few mods required true, but basically I felt right at home with her and gave her the name ĎChristineí. So me and Christine are off to see the world, but first we got rear ended just outside Nottingham in the summer, 2 weeks before the HU Meeting I was going to in Belgium, so yet another experience, (albeit one I would prefer not to repeat) to chalk up. I was interested to note my attitude during the first moments after the crash. Pinned under my bike, trying to figure out what had just caused me to launch into space, I felt a great anger as the white van driver, yes a white van, strode towards me saying, ĎYou must have overtaken me on the inside!í If I couldíve gotten up just then there might have been fisticuffs, but he immediately retracted saying that it was all his fault. After that I was a little surprised to feel myself amused at the whole thing, I was OK, only superficial damage to the bike and raring to get back on and get to the weekends racing at Donnington. First a few ad-hoc repairs to the smashed rear light and pray that the rear wheel or frame were not bent. A few miles up the road and no juddering or pulling to one side, so I guess not. Later a dealer confirmed that all was ok. So I learned Lesson #2, If you arenít leaking body fluid and it donít hurt anywhere, relax and be glad about it.
New Boots for Christine
The hired Honda and I at the HU Belgium Meeting
Now about those Mods
Fork Gaiters to stop dirt and sand from wearing out the seals. Also from stones chipping the chrome. Job Done
Engine Crash Bars to stop damage to vital parts when going over (me and the bike) Job done. (Another ebay buy, when he found out about the ATW trip the seller said that he did 7000miles across Australia 10 years back and they were the best days of his life. Q. What tips for a newbie. A. Talk to the locals, campsites are full of tourists like you, so you will get a false impression.)
LED Lights, so no bulb worries. To Be Done
Touring Wind Shield needed. If you get to talk to Dennis Brown, ask him about his windscreen story, hilarious. TBD
New Inner Tubes. I saw a forum note somewhere that you can get heavy duty 4mm tubes. Gotta check it out and buy some. TBD
Wheel Bearings. Check and replace as required. Shouldn't need to replace, not after only 10,000 mls, but better safe than sorry. TBD
Power Take Off Socket. Some bikes have this already fitted, mine hasn't so I must fit one. TBD
Petrol Filter. There is dirty petrol out there, and not just in far flung places. TBD
Quick Release Fuel Line Couplers. Makes getting fuel for my stove and cleaning filters much easier. Also change the fuel lines foe new ones. TBD
Chain Lub Unit. I'm going to attempt to make a smaller, simpler chain lub unit. Watch this space. TBD
Radiator Hoses. 10 years old, so it makes sense to change them now. TBD
Sump Guard. The one supplied is plastic, and I'm not sure it will stand up to bashing it against the odd bolder. Also the design is poor because it is difficult to get to the sump drain plug. May either strengthan and modify or fabricate my own. I would like to see a bit of shock proofing built in, so that the full force of hard knocks doesn't get transmitted to the engine casing. TBD
Side Stand Mod. The side stand could do with a bigger foot so it doesn't sing into soft ground, and possibly something to help it grip on smooth sloping ground. I'll have to think on that one. TBD
Spare Cables. While I've got the bike in bits it makes sense to ty-wrap a spare cable along the route of the existing one, then if one breakes, hooking up the other can be done quickly at the side of the road. TBD
Radiator Screen. The Radiator looks exposed to flying stones and rocks, but it should not be difficult to make a screen up, and possibly improve the oil drain plug arrangement. TBD
Heated Grips. It gets pretty cold in the mountains so I've heard tell, so these will need to be fitted, along with Hand Shields. TBD
Cruise Control. This just slides over the throttle grip and enables you to relax your grip on those long straight prairie roads, using the palm of your hand to contol your speed. TBD
Oil Temp. Guage. Another easy fit. The f650 has a dry engine sump and the oil is held in a reservoir in front of the petrol tank. Replacing the existing filler cap with one that incorporates a temperature guage is simple. TBD
Gel Battery. A Gel Battery has better output than a standard one, and it will not spill acid onto everything if it takes a knock. I think it is also acceptable to leave them in place, but disconnected, during transit, even by air. TBD
Off Road Front Tyre. Or a semi-off road to be exact, I may be travelling on unmade roads, but I don't expect to be going anywhere where I need a full knobbly.
Off Road Rear Tyre. Having got Sam to help me change my worn out rear tyre at the HU Riply Meeting last year, in a record time of 1hr47mins :o), I don't need to change this to an off-road tyre yet. Also I would be amazed if I couldn't pick one up in Halifax,Canada during my first few days stay. No point in carting one across the pond for no reason. (BTW the tyre change time did included breaking a rusty bead and sanding down the rim to remove rust and corrosion.)
Top Box. The top box I have is neither big enough nor strong enough. I want at least 1 metal box for securing valubles. I'm not sure if I will buy one, adapt one or make one. Must ponder a bit more on that. TBD
Panier Rail. Its not worth the fidling about to make them when you can pick them up for around £100. When they are fitted I can work out the next item. TBD
Panniers. Another vexed question that creates a great deal of debate, until you commit yourself that is, and then of course your choice is the DBs. I am inclined to soft panniers as the will absorbe low speed (no speed) topples, although hard panniers can double up as seat and table. Hmmm still thinking on that one. TBD
Tank Bag. has to have a clear map pocket, although I have a small GPS I still like maps, or at least a list of towns I'm supposed to be passing through. TBD
Tool Box. I'm looking for a piece of heavy duty plastic pipe, like the stuff the use for water and gas mains. I think I know where there are some abandond pieces. Light and almost indistructable, will mount low down at front somewhere. TBD
Well thats my current Bike Preperation list, I'll put it somewhere where I can update it without causing a new entry each time. I'll let you know when I do.
Next to consider is my Camping equipment, but thats tomorrows task.
Posted by Derek Fairless at January 17, 2007 07:06 PM GMT