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  • Archive for the ‘route planning’ Category

    18.000km on the road

    Monday, December 3rd, 2007

    Our motorcycle journey is over, so it might be the time to have some conclusions.

    First why don’t we take the bike in south-east asia. The reasons are two-fold. The first one is the cost of transport, we would have to fly the bike from Kathmandu to Bangkok and then again from Bangkok to Bucharest which would be quite expensive. The sea-shipping from Kathmandu is much cheaper.
    The second reason is that Vietnam doesn’t allow big motorcycles (more then 200cubic cm) on its territory. As we want to make a tour (Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos-Thailand) we can’t really leave the bike anywhere and come back to pick it up.

    The bike performed admirably throughout the 17.800 km of the trip. The damage to the bike is pretty minimal: the left rear view mirror was broken in an encounter with a van in Iran but I managed to buy a (second-hand!) iranian honda mirror that fits, the lid of the right-hand pannier had a dent from a truck on the Manali-Leh road, and the bottom of the same pannier is dented from a fall in Rajastan. All this incidents took place at very slow speed or even standing still 🙂

    Apart from the fuel pump which left us stranded on the side of the road twice, we had effectively 0 problems with the bike. This was probably due to a bad case of beginner’s luck as we didn’t even had a flat tyre the whole way…

    If you think of doing the same trip with same enormous amount of luggage (and two-up) it would be a good idea to change the rear spring to a stiffer one. The stock spring is much too soft for such a load and you lose a lot of suspension travel due to sagging. A high performance shock is not strictly necessary (although is certainly nice if you can afford it). If you decide to keep the stock spring try to distribute some of the load to the front of the bike. We had all the weight on the rear and the front was very light and prone to wobbling.

    A long-range fuel tank is both very expensive and un-needed. We had a 6 litre jerry-can (less then 10Euro), and we only used in Baluchistan and in the Himalayas. Even there we could have managed without it, as there were people selling fuel from jerry-cans on the side of the road.

    The Metzeler Tourances performed admirably, the back tyre is squared after the trip due to the load, but the front is still in very good shape. They are not off-road tires by any means so on the sandy and muddy parts you have to be careful but they have decent grip in the wet and are very hard to wear down. A good choice if you decide not to carry spare tyres.
    The panniers performed reasonably well (although I still thing they are a bit flimsy). They are rated for 10kg each and we carried almost double…

    One of the things that you might want to consider is an alarm. I’ve installed a cheap car alarm with a pager. It has a shock sensor, a leaning sensor (set to engage when the bike is taken off the side-stand) and a trunk-opening sensor wired to the seat. The alarm is installed in the toolbox under the seat. Also a bike cover is a must have especially in India.

    we kept records about our spending, this will be detailed in another post.

    One question that is likely to be in you mind if you read this contemplating a similar trip is “How difficult is it ?” . While difficulty is a relative thing so my assessment doesn’t really help, it is almost certainly that you will find the trip easier that you think. Once you are on the road you solve the problems as they arise and you don’t have much time to worry about it. There were some tricky parts (baluchistan etc) but they aren’t as daunting as they look from back home.

    This being said, expect some very long days when things don’t go as planned and you are quite stressed (our worst day was between Sukkur and Multan), but after you get through them they don’t affect your trip too much. There is so much beauty and excitement along the way that the difficulties that you encounter are comparatively too small to matter.

    Before we left there was much discussion among our friends if it’s wise to leave with a single bike. It’s quite clear that with a larger party some of the problems are easier to be dealt with, but it also causes additional ones. If you decide to go in a larger group be sure that you really know (and really like) your travel companions. We were lucky to met very nice people on our way and we went together for a while, but it’s a big difference between riding together for few days and riding together for 6 months, if you choose your companions poorly you will compromise your whole trip.

    We are quite happy with going alone, we managed to get over the hard parts by ourselves and I think it added to the feeling of freedom and unburden inherent in this trip.

    After almost 4 months and 18.000km we are convinced that riding is the best way to travel and hope we will be able to repeat this trip.

    Without any real connection 🙂 , I add some pictures from our second forced stop. Repairing the fuel pump in Madhya Pradesh with some 20-30 spectators.

    gorakhpur01.jpg gorakhpur02.jpg

    gorakhpur03.jpg gorakhpur04.jpg