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Equipping the Bike - what's the best gear? Anything to do with the bikes equipment, saddlebags, etc. Questions on repairs and maintenance of the bike itself belong in the Brand Specific Tech Forums.
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  #1  
Old 5 Dec 2017
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Question Tyres & Maintenance Advice

Hi,


Will be doing a long trip (13 months - London / Nordkapp, Norway / Cape Aghulas, S. Africa / London) in 2019 and doing some long-range planning.


BIKE MAINTENANCE
I've always had my bike serviced by pros - but will I need to carry out my own maintenance while travelling in Africa? What are the essential things I should be able to handle? Any thoughts/suggestions welcome.


TYRES
It's been suggested that I should also prepare to change/repair my own tyres while in Africa. Does that make sense? Is it possible?


BIKE
I'm travelling two-up with my lady. Best bike? Should I go for oomph, carrying capacity, economy, lightness?


Any other ideas on looking after the bike while travelling the length of Africa are welcome.


Cheers,


Zenbiker
(Simon)
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  #2  
Old 5 Dec 2017
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It would be better if you could at least do basic servicing and repair a puncture as servicing is a bit patchy and of uncertain quality in Africa, if you are not familiar with working on a bike get a friend or someone to show you the basics.
I would say for two up travel something in the 650 to 800cc bracket would work well, you certain don't need much oomph or too much weight, comfort and load carrying are more important than speed, the roads there can be quite limiting as to how fast you go.
After a few days on bad roads or every couple of weeks I usually walk around the bike checking fasteners, checking wheel and swinging arm bearings and just checking it general condition and for anything that looks like it is about to fall off, washing the bike can also highlight any problems.
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  #3  
Old 6 Dec 2017
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I would say the essential things are knowing how the change the oil and filter, inspect/clean/replace the air filter and, as Mark says, check over the fittings after particularly rough stages (especially non-original fittings like racks and so on).

Apart from punctures and breakages, on a modern low-mileage bike in good shape, I really can't think what else can't wait until you get to South Africa.
I would rank your criteria as: carrying capacity [comfort], economy [range], lightness, oomph.

Lightness will be pretty redundant two-up, so, depending on your height/size, more important may be a low saddle height and centre of gravity making the bike manageable at low speeds. Sounds like a good case for one of those BMW R1200GSs. A bike like that ought to eat up a trip like yours.

Otherwise I'd buy the bike months before and ride it around two-up, so you can be sure it's the right machine for you two. Comfort is more important than power, but for two up riding that usually adds up to a big machine, which means more weight (and will be more than powerful enough in Africa, anyway).

Whatever you choose, get a bike with tubeless tyres; dead easy to repair with a plug and again, a good one like a Heidenau K60 or similar on the back ought to last till RSA where you can get it replaced at a shop.
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Old 15 Dec 2017
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Thanks guys.

The original choice was an Africa Twin - but it has tubed tyres. Obviously I have to make a compromise choice. For sure the idea of being able to easily mend a puncture is appealing - but the counter is that a damaged rim renders the tyre unusable anyway...

Cheers for the input, though.

S.
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  #5  
Old 15 Dec 2017
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I have to say the damaged rim argument against tubeless does not persuade me. Running the right pressures and a safe speed for the conditions, it's very unlikely compared to punctures and the hassle of repairing one..
I am surprised the AT went with tubed tyres.
Rally Raid do conversions (£££...)
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  #6  
Old 15 Dec 2017
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Come to HUBB UK and you'll learn a LOT, see a lot of travel-prepped bikes and talk to their owners, and you can also come to my tyre repair class and learn how to do it yourself easily and reliably, so whatever you choose you'll be well prepared.
I agree whole-heartedly with Chris - tubeless is the way to go, safer and better in every way. The only reason I can see for the AT being tube-type is it's cheaper and no development time required, since Honda doesn't have tubeless spoked rim/hub system currently that I know of.

A comment on size of bike - lighter and smaller is always better for travelling - EXCEPT when you're two up, and then you plan your route with YOU and YOUR BIKE in mind. Running a DRZ or DR350 or similar, running solo, the world is your oyster - two up and loaded, you're mostly restricted to good roads, preferably paved, good gravel / dirt is ok DEPENDING on your skill level too.

The new 1200GS is remarkably capable two up, is plenty low enough for most anyone to get their feet flat on the floor, and ridden well is amazing off-road too. Depending on your size, a 650 may work well, but you both need to be small to be comfortable. I'm 6 foot tall / 185 pounds and Susan is 5'4" and she hates every 650 she's been on - too crowded. She loves the 1200. Get the standard GS and save a lot of weight. We've fallen over in the mud a couple of times and the boxes and cylinders protected us perfectly, with good riding gear never even a sore spot. Just don't try to save it - that's when you get hurt!

Perhaps think about an off-road course or 2 or 3! - so that if you do have to ride some dirt you're ok with it. It's a LOT harder two up than solo. Make sure she's ridden off-road with you, there are courses the two of you an take to improve your off-road skills once you've been through a solo class or two.

Hope that helps, and keep us posted!
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  #7  
Old 18 Dec 2017
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Hi Grant,

We're already booked in to the HUBB UK (14th-17 Jun, yes?) and will seek you and your seminar out.

I will be doing an off-road course and I'm looking for a decent 'distance-traveling-bike-maintenance' course to do as well. I know the BMW people in the Brecon Beacons do one, so that may be the one.

I won't be choosing to do any off-road on the trip - I like to keep things simple, but from what I've read, some roads we encounter are likely to be off-road-like and I want to be up to the task when it presents itself.

Had a thought about the new KTM 1090. Any views?

Thanks for your input. Have a good Christmas. See you!

Simon
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Old 18 Dec 2017
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14-17 June, yes!
Sign up for the on the day off-road course if you want to do that.

Roads are "under construction" all the time and landslides etc can block roads and force detours. My own experience - hundreds of miles of the Pan-American highway washed out and bridges down - the only roads were mud, for days and days. See the South America story on our page.

"Which Bike" is a permanent never-ending discussion - see the forum for it!

Main thing - ride what you LOVE. If you love it you'll forgive it's foibles - and they all have foibles - but if you don't, at the first issue you'll end up hating it, and it will spoil your trip. Careful of "new bike lust" too!
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  #9  
Old 19 Dec 2017
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Great ideas, Grant. I'll bear them all in mind.

Another question: what, in your experience, is a sensible or doable average miles per day in Africa on a long trip? I know that's a 'how long is a piece of string'-type question, but although I've ridden many miles on tarmac, I have no experience of the type of roads you've just alluded to and have no idea what we'll encounter on the Dark Continent.

Over a lot of years of European journeys I concluded that 80 miles per day is a good average. It allows for/takes into account the occasional 500+ mile day on motorways - early start, tough it out; recognises that you'll want to do no more than a couple of hours on other days and also leaves time for comfortable days off. But in Africa?

Cheers,

Simon
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  #10  
Old 19 Dec 2017
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zenbiker View Post
Thanks guys.

The original choice was an Africa Twin - but it has tubed tyres. Obviously I have to make a compromise choice. For sure the idea of being able to easily mend a puncture is appealing - but the counter is that a damaged rim renders the tyre unusable anyway...

Cheers for the input, though.

S.
IMO, the Africa Twin is a GREAT choice ... and for couple reasons. It's lower and feels smaller, narrower and lighter than BMW GS ... about same as KTM 1090
but LOWER ... and about 3K less expensive. (at least here in USA)

I'd do a test ride on several if you can.

As far as the lack of tubeless wheels on the AT ... you can convert the wheels to tubeless.

A pro wheel shop may do it ... or you can do it yourself. Many good tutorials on line and now much better materials for sealing up the wheel to make it tubeless. IT WORKS! Much good progress in area last few years and I imagine you'll find quite a few new AT owners who will convert to tubeless.

IMO, I would leave the front tube IN for safety and only convert the rear wheel.
Changing a front tube is not bad compared to rear (which is a PITA).

You are doing the perfect thing taking the off road course. Miles per day will depend on road conditions, easy or hard border crossings and ... WEATHER.

If flooded out and muddy ... just park it and WAIT IT OUT. Riding in dry season
will save a lot of misery.
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  #11  
Old 19 Dec 2017
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I'm going to have to seriously disagree with mollydog here on converting wheels.

IF the rim is a tubeless-type rim - with a proper tubeless SAFETY BEAD it's ok to convert, otherwise it's ABSOLUTELY NOT SAFE to convert a tube-type rim.

Woody’s Wheel Works (recommended highly for anything wheel related) will do it for $99 per wheel. However, note that they won’t guarantee the seal, and they absolutely WILL NOT seal tube-type wheels that don’t have a safety bead. There's a hint for you.

As for miles per day, I'd say Africa is a 1/10th or a 1/4 of Europe - VERY much dependent on where you - MANY places have roads as good as Europe, but others, not so much, and mollydogs comments on mud and rain - yup, dead on.
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Old 19 Dec 2017
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Originally Posted by Grant Johnson View Post
I'm going to have to seriously disagree with mollydog here on converting wheels.

IF the rim is a tubeless-type rim - with a proper tubeless SAFETY BEAD it's ok to convert, otherwise it's ABSOLUTELY NOT SAFE to convert a tube-type rim.

Woody’s Wheel Works (recommended highly for anything wheel related) will do it for $99 per wheel. However, note that they won’t guarantee the seal, and they absolutely WILL NOT seal tube-type wheels that don’t have a safety bead. There's a hint for you.

As for miles per day, I'd say Africa is a 1/10th or a 1/4 of Europe - VERY much dependent on where you - MANY places have roads as good as Europe, but others, not so much, and mollydogs comments on mud and rain - yup, dead on.
Your right Grant, but I guarantee the new AT will have a safety bead tube type wheel. Probably a DID wheel ... similar to the one on my DR650. With the safety bead it is REALLY Really hard to break that bead ... I rode two hours at 50 mph on a rear flat ... bead never broke! The front is totally different and caution should be used.

You're also correct about Woody's Wheel Works ... and to add ... they will NOT convert a front Wheel to tubeless. And I agree with that mostly, although using the new materials being in use now ... a failure is much less likely than in the past. The seal just does not fail ... and if it does ... it's like a slow leak.

It's certainly not for everyone ... but once you've had to break the (safety) bead a few times and spoon off a few rear tires in 100F Sun ... you may join the converted
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Old 19 Dec 2017
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All interesting stuff, chaps. Thanks.

Spoke at length to an employee of a Honda dealership here in UK - super experienced long-distance rider - who rides an Africa Twin. He replaced his wheels - at some cost - with tubeless, telling me that you definitely can't convert the existing wheels but insisting that tubeless is the way to go.

I'm inclined towards the AT, but want tubeless. Let's see.

Starting to arrange test-rides now.

Appreciate the input, thanks.

Simon
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Old 19 Dec 2017
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Quote:
Main thing - ride what you LOVE. If you love it you'll forgive it's foibles - and they all have foibles - but if you don't, at the first issue you'll end up hating it, and it will spoil your trip. Careful of "new bike lust" too!
Great line. Sticky that on the 'Which Bike?' forum and we can all go home!

For options on tubeless conversions, see this page.
One idea might be to fit TL wire rims from a KTM V-twin which runs the same sizes / spoke count. Or buy an off the shelf DID or Excel spoke rim with the safety lips then seal it. As MD suggested, the flat-prone rear is a priority.
But really, a native TL bike is best.

What about an NC750S? I think Motoden up in Dalston know them well.
Cheaper and more economical than an AT - and also comes in DCT if you're erring that way. Will need a suspension upgrade.
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  #15  
Old 19 Dec 2017
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Hi Simon,

I would keep the wheels with tubes. If you hit a huge poth hole and bend a rim you are done with a tubeless setup.

If you have a flat with a tube type setup you have 2 options: change it now if you are in the mood or just use a tire sealent spray can to seal the puncture. Let it sit a few minutes and take off. You can then deal with the flat tire later when you want it. Most small towns have tire repair shop. They'll do it for you a dollar or two.


If you want to avoid mud in Africa, better plan to avoid crossing from Gabon to Congo during the raining season.


Another tip: find a shop that is willing to ship parts to you in Africa before leaving. A verbal yes is not enough (don't ask me how I know). Define with them how they will be paid, how they will know it is not a scam from someone else in Africa,...

Patrick
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