Sunday, September 17, 2006
This is the official Honda press release for the "Baja" and "R":
They both have the MD30 frame and MD17E engine. So the difference between the Baja and the "R" is the Baja has a 14lt tank, two big round lights and a kickstart and electric start combination.
So where does Rensche's Baja fit into the picture. Either it's a standard "R" with a kickstart and Baja sticker on the tank or it's a Baja with a "R" standard light and tank with a Baja sticker on the tank.
Someone somewhere is palming these psuedo Baja's off as the real thing and the dealers in the UK are either clueless or in on the game.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Route 1(Blue): Our first choice would be Uk, France, Germany, Poland and then through the eastern European countries and Turkey into Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa.
Route 2 (Green): Our second choice would be the same as Route 1 but cutting out Egypt if we find we can't afford the 800% Carnet and if Sudan does not get it's politics and rebels sorted out in time, then we will go from Jordan to Ethiopea via, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Djibouti.
Route 3 (Red): Our last choice which we have not yet investigated is heading down the western route: UK, France, Spain, Morroco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, DRC, Angola, Namibia, South Africa. The decision to take this route will depend on whether the current unrest in the Middle East escalates or subsides.
As I had no clue about GPS's I decided to get hold of a cheap entry level basic one that I could used to find out exaclty what I wanted to progress to. After a bit of hunting I found the best for my needs was the Garmin Etrex Vista (http://www.garmin.com/products/etrexVista/). I bought one from some one at the Divvy Club for £120 and found a Touratech mounting cradle for sale on Ebay.
It worked well but it quickly became clear that it had too little memory to cover more that 500miles of road. So it has served it's purpose of getting me to experience the capabilities of GPS and to see what functionality I am looking for in them.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Monday, May 01, 2006
First consideration was the DR350SE. It's a nice size bike with a punchy engine which had been use sucessfully by the Mondo Enduro guys (http://www.webbikeworld.com/motorcycle-videos/touring/mondo-enduro.htm) in the early 90's or so to ride the longest possible route around the world. Buy the movie; good indication of what you are letting yourself in for when taking on a RTW trip...no it's not like Ewan and Charlie's farce. My first concern was that the last DR350 to be made was in 1999 so spares will become more and more scarce over the coming years. We found one close to home so went over and took it for a test ride. Surprisingly quick steering and this specific bike had oval tyres, clearly from trail riding abuse. We could also not find any others to have a look at and those that we found were all a bit rough around the edges.
I had a fleeting idea of taking Royal Enfields (http://www.royal-enfield.com/). Our local bike shop SJR Bikes (http://www.sjrbikes.co.uk/) owned by Stuart, Jim and Rob had recently become agents for RE and they strongly agreed that these bikes would do the job. They could be lowered significantly and they had a good range; and they were certain that with a bit of motivation the Royal Enfield company could be pursuaded to sponsor us to take their new model through Africa. What put us off the bike was: 160kg, 500cc...but only 28bhp.
We came across Lois' site http://www.loisontheloose.com/. Lois had ridden a XT225 Serow from North to South America and was planning a trip across Africa on a TTR250. There were also a number of other people who swore by the idea of taking a small capacity bike such as a 250cc to do RTW trips as they are so light and small and although they might be slow on the highway they make up for it in the rough stuff.
Further research indicated that there was a general consensus that out of the three major motocross bike makers, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda; that Honda was the most reliable and had a bulletproof engine. Considering they build the likes of the VRX Africa Twin (my dream bike), Transalp, CBR, Hornet, Pan European and yes even the Goldwing; they have a clearly solid reputation.
So now that the list had been narrowed down to a 200-400cc engine on a Honda we were swiftly directed to the XR250 in it's various forms. After some more brief searching I found that Paul Jenkins (one in the group of like minded RTW travellers that I am on a mailing list with) had got himself a XR250. I contacted him and Rensche and I rode up to him and had a test ride on his wife Zoe's lowered bike. The bike felt very comfortable and surprisingly nippy for it's small 28bhp engine but then it only weight 110kg. Rensche sat on the bike and even though she could only get one set of toes down she was more confident on this bike that on the Funduro with both feet (10 toes) down.They had the XR250 Baja '98 model with two big round headlights. This model also comes standard with a larger 14lt tank which gives the bike a 200mile range. That was it...we were sold!!!!
After searching and phoning the whole of the UK we found a company that was importing them from Japan. They are due to arrive in the UK in a weeks time so we will keep you posted!!!!
Well after reading up on how difficult it would be I finally built up the corrage to fit a tyre on my own.
I had bought a set of Buzzetti tyre levers, from MX World in ferndown. The levers had come recommend from other travellers on the HU site.
Compared to the horror stories I managed to break the bead of the tyre quite easily...well that was after fighting with the levers until a got the knack then it come off worked off quite easily.
Putting the new tyre back on was a doddle...apply loads and loads of washing-up liquid.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
All about the luggage on the bikes:
I have faith in Touatech's system as it is very simple and proven BUT I don't like the idea that you can only loosen the boxes by opening the lids of the boxes to get at the backing bolt inside. I therefore wanted a similar system but which would be locked/loosened from the outside. IT had to be simple enough to repair in the middle of Africa and maintenance free. These were my first sketch ideas.
I posted my sketch on the Yamaha Diversion Club website (http://groups.msn.com/YamahaDiversions) asking if anyone could help me and Ian Reece came to my rescue. Ian is a metalwork lecturer and had a break in his calendar and kindly offered to make the spacers for me.
Mounting on template
As said before I like the simplicity of the Touratech system therefore I went for the luggage rack which a small, light and solid.
Template in position
I liked the idea of the Hepco & Becker boxes but they were too expensive. I found the Darr boxes (http://www.daerr.de/) at a bargain price but then at the same time I found exactly the same style boxes were available from IECB (http://www.eibcltd.co.uk/). I prefer the libs and simple build quality of these boxes over the Zega boxes.
I got a the C29 box from Daerr in Germany and bolted it to the rack on the bike
I bought a 35lt Ortlieb waterproof bag from Touratech which worked perfectly in keeping all our cloths dry on the back seat.
I bought a pacsafe mesh to secure the Ortlieb bag to the seat. It's a wire mesh that is perfect for snatch and grab theives but any committed dodgey charater with a pair of pliers will and a bit of dtermination could get through it in a few minutes
Bought a Baglux tank cover off ebay and bought a new tank bag from Baglux www.baglux.co.uk
Spotted it on Ebay and went to have a look. All looked fine so they cancelled the bid and we paid cash. '96 F650 Funduro for £1500 with 37,500miles on the clock. So far there have been no surprises although we do suspect the battery is slightly toasted as it runs down very quickly when standing with light on. The battery was found to be low on water.
Accesories and modifications:
1. Kouba 2" lowering kit. US$100 arrived in the post within a week and fitting it was a doddle.
2. Lowered the forks through the jokes by 2" on the front.
3. Had 1" of foam cut out of the seat to lower the ride height
4. Standard BMW tall screen
5. Renthal bars (#749)
6. Hand guards off Ebay
7. Wunderlich adjustable brake and clutch levers from SPC BMW.
8. Oxford heated grips
9. BMW engine guard
10. Voltage regulator Flay to stop the battery boiling (common fault with Funduro's)
The lowering was a very long winded iterative process of trial and error but by the end of it we had cut the seat out, fitted Kouba links, lowered the front forks through the joke and fitted a shorter Hagon shock. The sum effect of these was a new lower seat height of 720mm with Rensche being able to get all ten toes down at the same time.
Somewhere along the line we bought a set of red plastcis off ebay and converted the bike from a normal white to a flashy fast Red.
Well after 6 months of riding almost every weekend and taking the bike for a trip over the Pyrenees and back over two weeks it has finally be confirmed that the bike is very manageable on paved roads but it will be too risky to take the bike off-road. It's just just too high and heavy. If the BMW seat was marginally narrower it might have been a different story.
So on the 29th July 2006 we sold her to another vertically challenged rider for £1300 and we wish him all the best and are sure that the bike will serve him as well as it did us.
Well I was keeping my eyes open for a F650 and I spotted this one on Autotrader. As the bike shop selling the bike was in Poole I popped around, put down a deposit, took it for a spin three days later and bought it. £1300 for a '95 N-Reg F650 Funduro with 33,500miles on the clock with full MOT and they through in a new back tyre; not bad!
Once I got the bike home though I started looking through and started finding one problem after another:
1. Swing arm had to be replaced as the chain had eaten through and into the bearings of the swingarm pivot
2. The Monoshock damper adjuster screw was siezed....with brute force and ignorance I stripped the thread thereby rendering the shock useless. Bought a 2nd hand from Motorworks (www.motorworks.co.uk) for £150.
3. Bent rear brake pedal and the chain had eaten through the metal shaft of the roller. Replaced with 2nd hand from Motorworks
4. Damaged circlip to front sprocket. Replaced when both sprockets were replaced.
5. Centre stand mounting bush was missing so very wobbley stand. Replaced with new bush.
6. Petrol overflow discharging onto engine
7. Engine coolant at half.
8. No brake fluid in the resevoir.
9. Most of the bearings to the rear suspension assembley siezed
10. Thermostat not working
11. Fan not working
12. Valve clearance on one shim was zero.
13. Loctite used on front forks so was very hard job to replace the leaking fork seals.
14. Rubber seal missing in carborator hence poor running.
15. Back wheel bearing disintegrated and had to be replaced.
Accesories and modifications:
1. Voltage regulater flay (http://faq.f650.com/FAQs/FlayingtheVRFAQ.htm)
2. Puig touring screen (Bought from a german company via Ebay...but you can get them from wunderlich)
3. Hepco & Becker engine and tank guard on special from www.motobins.co.uk
4. Touratech bash plate www.touratech.co.uk
5. Hand guards with aluminium bar bought off ebay
6. Renthal bars (#690) second hand from a guy in Poole.
7. Luggage rack and boxes (refer to Luggage Solution post)
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Then I fell TWICE in front of the TESTING CENTRE with an audience. Very difficult turn especially for short people (me being 5'1") -The road falls away to the left and you have to turn right at an angle onto a road that falls away on both sides. So you're basically perched on a hill turning right onto a hill! Oh excuses. Needless to say that is the FIRST turn you take on the test...PRESSURE The first fall was at tea time just as I imagine the examiners sitting in their tea room looking out the window and the second was right infront of them as they were about to start another round of testing with cars. Probably thinking "I hope I don't get her tomorrow...". Crowds gathered, cars stopped, old people stared as I struggled out beneath the bike cursing like a sailor. By this time they were probably calling their friends over to come and watch as there she goes again.
Then I had to do my test. I had to buy new gloves about an hour before the test because I was getting frost-bite in mine. Luckily they had a XS at the bike shop. It was a difficult desicion because I worried about losing clutch control on the other bulky gloves which has happened before but after about 20 min out in the cold my hands were actually getting painful and my instructor had to ferry me back to the bike shop for heat. So new gloves. We thought they might even cancel the test because of the cold (-1DegC). Then I got the same examiner that failed me last time.....Did the test - frozen to core and not really caring anymore. Did I say I fell 3 times? No it was FOUR! As I got off the bike after the test walking back to the centre I fell over my own two feet and came crashing to the floor just trying not to crash my head and damage my helmet. Now I have 2 knee-guard patterned bruises on my knees. For those who are bikers out there the patterned side of the soft guards go on the OUTSIDE!!
Oh dear you have to laugh. I gathered my dignity and struggled back to the centre my examiner following far behind. Very professional man. Asked me if I was ok and then told me I passed. Not a trace of a smile or any emotion. Poor Nick (my instructor) thought I had fallen off the bike again.
SO VERY VERY VERY VERY relieved.
Thank you for all of you that held thumbs.
I was riding my own bike absolutely perfect which is good. Problem came when I tried a too tight u-turn and when I didn't get it right 100% the bike went at an angle and I couldn't hold the weight. So at least I won't do any u-turns on it. My licence is now restricted because I did it on the 125CC which means my poor little BMW has now been fitted with a restrictor kit which means some the horse power has been taken away. So not too bad doing it on the 125CC. It's not like I'm going to be racing all the over the place.
I am a pioneer for all short woman bikers all over the world.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Well here we go: "Charlie and Rensche are riding on motorbikes from London to Cape Town at the end of 2007!"
There we have it then...
NOW THE FUN BEGINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!