So the Pyrenees trip indicated that the F650's were just too big for our purposes so I headed back to the internet and kickstarted the search for a new bike.
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!!!!
Monday, May 01, 2006
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.