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Bike and Luggage

Bike choice

So far I have used rather old beat-up vehicles on all my journeys. A 800 GBP Isuzu Trooper took us to Ulaanbataar in 2008, a 1200 GBP Honda Transalp carried me around Chile and Argentina, a 250 USD magnificent 125cc Minsk served us well in Vietnam. We even got a speeding ticket two up with two 80L backpacks strapped at the back. I used a hired Royal Enfield 350 Bullet twice in India. Although the build quality was not that great, steel almost as soft as tin, they didn’t give me any problems and were easy and cheap to fix.

The journey I am embarking on now is however the longest and the hardest journey I have ever undertaken thus it requires a carefully selected and very well-prepared bike. I was torn between taking my old Africa Twin RD04/Transalp XL600V hybrid, my ass-kicking single cylinder XR650R or some simpler, less powerful, possibly air-cooled single cylinder bike such as e.g. Suzuki DR650, Honda XL650L, or Yamaha XT.

My “Transafr” is reliable, robust and not very demanding with regard to service intervals. The engine can go forever with 1,000,000 km on the clock before an engine rebuild not being unheard of. It can take any grade engine oil and will run without a single hiccup. With a low 9.0:1 compression ratio it will not complain when filled with lower grade fuel. It is generously designed and built to last. They only occasionally suffer from failing voltage regulators, sometimes failing CDI units (albeit this can be prevented by relocating the CDI unit(s) or shielding them from the seat), and a failing petrol pump which can however be replaced with a never-failing vacuum pump from a Yamaha XTZ750 Super Tenere. The problem with “Transafr” however is that despite of being chopped from all unnecessary bulky items it is rather heavy and, most importantly, it is boring to ride. Once in Africa what petrol head would not want to rip up the Sahara desert or the Serengeti?

Perhaps it is safe to have a less powerful and a heavier bike when one likes to ride with the throttle wide open, but when will I have another chance to ride hard across the Sahara? Also, I had a rather unpleasant experience with a shimmy on my XL600V Transalp in S. America which sent me flying over the handlebars and resulted with a haemorrhaging kidney and two days in a local Argentinian hospital. The bike was too soft, the luggage not evenly distributed on the bike and hence it was wobbly and prone to tank-slappers. Although I met the most wonderful people in the hospital who helped me a great deal with my bike and made me feel at home (Vilma and Victor Hugo, thanks again for your hospitality), I would not like to have such near miss situations again in Africa. Thus this time I am taking a well suspended, properly adjusted desert racer equipped with a steering damper to dampen the oscillations that may arise in sand. I chose the king of Baja, aka the Big Red Pig – a 2003 reg Honda XR650R.

Bike mods

  • 24L Acerbis tank
  • GPS steering damper
  • BRP upper triple clamp with handlebar risers
  • XRs Only case saver for a 14T/15T front sprocket
  • XRs Only high performance thermostat
  • XRs Only chain guide
  • XRs Only shark fin disc
  • DEVOL aluminium radiator guards
  • 1.8 bar radiator cap
  • FLOW exhaust
  • Side panel air vents to increase the air flow through the air filter
  • Electric fan from a KTM 450EXC controlled by a temperature sensor off a Suzuki Samurai with a manual switch override – thanks Natfor the tip about the temp sensor
  • XRs Only billet choke plate
  • Trail Tech X2 Halogen front light
  • Braided brake lines
  • Rear rack with extra mounts to take some weight off a XR’s fragile aluminium subframe
  • EXCEL rims
  • K&N crankcase vent filter
  • Extra heavy duty inner tubes
  • Lighter socket for charging satnav and other electrical devices while riding
  • Stearns A712BLK-00 Black ATV Seat Cover
  • Tyres: FRONT – half-used Continental TKC 80 (main), MITAS XT-644 Army Special (spare), REAR: MITAS E-07 Dual Sport (main), MITAS XT-644 Army Special (spare)
  • Front tugger strap


 Spare parts

  • EBC clutch plates
  • Extra heavy duty inner tubes (front and rear)
  • Bearings: wheel (front and rear), headset, swingarm, rear shock absorber linkage
  • Extra Heavy Duty DID 520 chain
  • Chain links (x4)
  • Renthal aluminium rear sprockets (x2)
  • Front sprockets (13T, 14T and 15T)
  • Motion Pro 3″ extended throttle cables
  • Clutch cable
  • Brake pads: front (x2) and back (x2)
  • Chain rollers
  • Chain slider
  • Clutch and brake lever
  • Fork seal set and retaining clips
  • Fuel filter/strainer
  • Oil filter (x6)
  • Exhaust copper seals (x2)
  • Head gasket
  • Clutch cover gasket
  • Alternator cover seal
  • License plates (x2)
  • Puncture repair kits with lots of glue and patches of different shapes and sizes
  • Spare light bulbs


  • Leatherman Wave multitool
  • Tyre levers (x2)
  • Plastic rim protectors (x3)
  • Spark plug wrench (original Honda)
  • Swingarm socket tool (off Ebay)
  • Park Tool allen key wrench
  • Set of combination spanners: 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 17mm, 19mm
  • C spanner for suspension adjustments
  • Multigrip pliers
  • Small ratchet wrench
  • Set of sockets: 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 17mm, 18mm, 19mm, 22mm, 27mm, 28mm
  • Scredriver with bits
  • Hand pump


  • PRIMUS OmniFuel stove
  • Travel cooking pots and utensils
  • MSR Hubba Hubba with a footprint
  • Foam Roll Mat
  • GARMIN Oregon 400T satnav with OpenStreet Maps
  • 15 yield old Fjord Nansen sleeping bag
  • ASUS Netbook with a spare battery
  • NIKON D5100 with Tamron 18-270mm lens
  • Old mobile phone (courtesy of Anna)
  • MP3 player
  • Chargers and cables
  • Electric shaver with a charger
  • Glasses
  • First aid kit
  • ALPKIT Gamma head torch (x2)
  • Walther Pro Secur BEAR 225g gas for self defence (x2)
  • GERBER Parang Bear Grylls machete – I know.. a bit lame. I’ll erase his name off the blade if I can.
  • LIFESAVER Bottle 4000UF – a truly awesome invention, a 15nm membrane filtration unit (low end of ultrafiltration with log 7. 5 (>99.999995%) retention of bacteria and log5 (99.999%) retention of viruses)  placed inside a 750mL capacity bottle allowing to disinfect roughly 4000L of water without the use of any chemicals such as chlorine or iodine
  • Contact lenses
  • Contact lens solution bottles
  • Two tubes of the Himalaya herbal lip balm
  • Flint stone fire starter
  • Two tubes of 30% deet gel insect repellent
  • Microfibre towel
  • Lightweight bike cover. You may think it’s unnecessary but colourful bikes draw more attention than the covered ones. Keeping low profile is better than sticking out like a sore thumb
  • Lightweight chain and lock to slow the thieves down a bit

DIY and consumable accessories

  • Silver tape
  • Thread and needles
  • Chemical metal
  • Electrical tape
  • Thread locker (medium strength)
  • Aluminium grease
  • Glass fibre mat and resin
  • WD40
  • Chain wax
  • NO TOIL filter oil and cleaner
  • Spare engine oil
  • A small mix of nuts, bolts, washers, hose clamps, cable ties and pieces of wire


  • Three pairs of underwear
  • Three pairs of socks
  • One T-shirt
  • One sleeveless shirt
  • Short sleeve smart-causal shirt
  • Short sleeve thermal shirt
  • Long sleeve thermal shirt
  • Thermal trousers (thin)
  • Thermal trousers (thick)
  • Craghoppers Nosilife walking trousers
  • Craghoppers Nosilife long-sleeve shirt
  • Shorts
  • Swimming trunks
  • Fleece jumper
  • Windstopper jacket
  • Enduro light gloves (2 pairs)
  • Winter gloves
  • One piece rain suit
  • Rain jacket
  • Helmet
  • Two pairs of goggles
  • Spare goggle lens (x3)
  • Body armour jacket
  • Shin guards
  • Hein Gericke Gore-Tex leather motorcycle boots
  • Brasher Supalite II GTX walking boots
  • Enduro jersey
  • Kevlar jeans
  • Buff
  • Palestinian scarf
  • Balaclava
  • Climbing shoes

This is quite a long list of things. Let’s hope my bike does not look like this after I put all my stuff on it :).

overloaded swiss bike


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