Dear motorbike travellers. I would like to take some time to give my opinion on the equipment that I have used during my trip, the pros, cons and modifications done and improvements for the next time around…
Bike: BMW R1100 GS
The bike was all I hoped it would be: a super reliable companion, powerful as hell. All bikes can break though…
Modifications done before the trip (mostly Touratech):
- Frame reinforcements: hard parts at gearbox sub-frame, on front lever
- 2 extra 12V plugs (worked well!)
- Wunderlich ergonomic seats (perfect)
- Extra broad footpegs (you need that)
- 41 liter Touratech tank (the best improvement I did)
- Comfort, from 50 km/h dirt roads to 120 km/h highways
- Surplus power even being two-up full luggage
- Engine strength (no internal problems for 42.000 km)
- Easy handling, also off-road (less so for sand..)
- Easy standard maintenance (you only really need the standard tools)
- Heavy weight, not helpful in sand, mud
- Weak sub-frame (it broke and had to be welded)
- Weak standard back spring (broke it)
- Had to replace the battery for a Chinese one, half its size, in Mongolia
Improvements next time around:
- Better back spring (I installed a new one halfway)
- Cruise control
- Change the windshield (too low for me at 1,88 meter)
- Remove the front guard before the trip (no use in mud)
Touratech side boxes
These boxes are just what you want.
- Waterproof and solid
- Can be banged back into shape after a crash
- Touratech bags work perfectly with the boxes (buy them)
- Easy to tie stuff to
- Easy locking / unlocking
- System for unloading/loading the boxes from the frame is hard to repare when damaged (after a while ropes were necessary
Metzler Tourance and Continental TKC80 tyres
These tyres both proved to be very good. Use Tourance for roads and dirtroads. Use Conti’s for roads (not too long), dirtroads and sand. For really rough conditions in sand and mud, the TKS 80’s are not up to the job IMHO. A very good allrounder though. By the way, you can easily pick up 18K-20K on both tyre types!
Arai Tour X helmet
Very good stuff.
- Sun guard
- After sales repair (see cons)
- Weak visor system (broke, had to throw away visor, but after the trip Arai completely repaired the entire helmet!)
BMW Rallye 2 suit
- Excellent and versatile, but not sufficient in heavy rain and extreme cold
- Many ventilation options, perfect in heat
- Many pockets
- Easy to wash
- Since the outershell is not watertight, water will get through and make the suit very heavy. The innner liner will keep out the water but cooling off will happen quickly
- The connection between the pants and jacket is not easy to use
- The next time, I will bring a full rain suit, very light, to put over my motorbike suit
Ramble Ogre Thumb lightweight tent
Perfect for the job
- Lightweight and compact
- Easy to put up (outer and inner tent are attached)
- Small front tent
- 2 sleeper for a couple
- No 2 sleeper for non-couples
– And, the following is a summary of the other things I brought along:
Fennek sleeping bag
A good one for cold weather, sticky in warmer climates. Down has one great advantage over artificial fibers: it packs smaller. Higly important!
Very good functionality. Square area for map reading is a must. Find a bag that fits in the tankbag and holds all large valuable items (to take with you). Also, put in the tankbag a 2,5 litre plastic jerrycan for drinkwater. The best place to keep it cold and within reach.
BMW Savanna boots
Probably the only item that gets no critisism whatsoever. Sublime. Make sure it’s not too small…
I got them a few days before I left. I have no idea how I would have survived without them. It makes the difference between between being tyred or ready to go for a few hours more.
Electric 12V tyre pump
For the few tyre puctures I had, the satisfaction of having the battery doing the work was priceless. Changing tyre pressures on a regular basis, as in Mongolia, was much easier this way as well.
I brought brake pads for the full trip, oil filters, a benzine filter (delivered halfway after not having one in the beginning and needing a car filter installed in Russia), levers, all cables (the speedo cable broke three times), sparkplugs, nuts, bolts, fuses, bulbs. Also, I brought the special oil filter removal tool. That is a must have. I also had the poly-V string with me, but never changed it. Lastly, I included in the repair kit some gaskets and rubber rings.
For the trip I bought as many visas as I could in advance. It was relatively easy to buy new visas along the way:
- Russia (second visa): took 10 days in Ulaan Bataar
- Kazakhstan and Kyrgistan: 4 days in Ulaan Bataar
- Tajikistan: same day in Almaty
- India: 1 day in Dushanbe
- Pakistan: 1 day in New Delhi
- Iran: same day in Peshawar (TIP!! takes weeks in Islamabad)
- Turkey: at the border…
Next to the visas I had the following items (and needed all of them!)
- International driving license type 1 and 2
- Carnet de Passage (just get it, don’t even doubt)
- Bike owner’s papers
- Bike insurance (in many countries you buy a new one at the border)
- Worldwide medical and travel insurance
- Drivers license
- Credit cards (VISA more common than Mastercard, but get both)
- BMW manual on a CD. Proved essential during repairs
- Optional: medical shots history
- Digital and paper copies of all documents
Canon Powershot S1 IS, iPod and Belkin card reader, penlite battery charger
This combination proved to be a good team. The camera was chosen for its use of penlites and quality in photos and movies. I stored on the iPod through the Belkin card reader. All devices and penlites were charged on the bike. Although having the 220V charge option available makes life even easier. I could have done that, but all grams count.
armin GPS 12
In my opinion, a gps was only needed in Mongolia. Although finding a way out of Russian cities is challenging at times and a gps can be helpful. This GPS plotted the route travelled, which helped comparing line on the maps.
Disk brake lock
I don’t think one needs more than a good disk brake lock. Extra locks are heavy and annoying.
What to bring? I took a first aid kit and some clean siringes. Next to that I brought malaria pills and antibiotics. The last ones I really used in more sessions than one. Bring them.
I did not bring, and for a reason:
- Pots and pans (ridiculous for too many reasons)
- Extra tyres (too heavy!)
- Maps (many are not available outside their country)
I did not bring but should have brought:
- A more complete tyre repair set
- A full one-piece rain suit
- Waterproof gloves
- A good matras