Preparation of a motorcycle trip that will last for more than 6 months and on a distance of over 20000 km is not made lightly. This is certainly not an improvisation exercise and requires careful and meticulous planning in order to minimize risks and ensure that the time spent travelling is done so for the adventure and not spending time handling problems!
I have prepared in different ways, for almost 10 years!
The first step was to choose the right motorcycle. This is a matter of preference and taste and the options are various. Mine is a BMW R1200GS Adventure. But lets se how this came about.
In 2007, I bought a R1200GS.
That summer, I travelled for more than 20000 km. loved the bike but never the less, some issues pushed me to turn to the Adventure model of the same series, which offers the following benefits:
- Substantial increase in autonomy with a bigger tank (600 km compared to 350)
- Enduro transmission providing easier off-road driving or when the bike is loaded with heavy luggage with a shorter 1st speed
- Better protection before with a larger windscreen
- Better protection of the legs against the wind with a bigger gaz tank
- Electronic suspension for adjustments in various conditions such as bumpy roads, off-road or with passenger and luggage
- A more powerful electrical system for accessories such as a heating jacket, heated gloves, GPS, phone charger
- Higher driving position, an advantage in trails or rough roads
- Metal panniers that are more solid, offer more space and safer agains possible thiefs
- Better lighting with the additional fog lights
- Electrical outlets for accessories
- Spoke wheels
In 2008, I purchased a new GS but this time, the Adventure version. In July of that year, I travelled across Canada for 6 weeks, up to the Canadian Arctic Circle, in Inuvik, NWT. (Link to the blog for this trip)
Here’s what I learned from this experience.
GPS: mandatory! The model chosen (Garmin Zumo 550) was perfect. Yes I know, some will say that the good old maps make are sufficient, but for my part, I have no time to lose toget lost. There are so many interesting things to see that I do not have a couple hours to spare each day to find an address or a motel. This is a tool I use to the maximum and even if things wiil be different (inacurate maps) in Central and South America, I intend to use this tool everyday.
Lockable Touratech GPS mount: Provides peace of mind when leaving the bike a few minutes and the necessary strength to cope bad roads or trails in poor condition
Widder heated vest with sleeves: I could not imagine doing a motorcycle trip without this piece of equipment, it’s as simple as that! The advantage of the Widder was its strong connections and dimmer which offered the possibility of fine adjustments to the desired temperature (I now have the Powerlet model, allowing the addition of heated gloves).
ASC Suspension: This option offered on the new GS actually provides clear advantages when driving off-road, especially with a heavily loaded bike
Throttle Lock: Although this is not a cruise control as such, this little mechanism used to lock the throttle grip and to, time to time, rest my arm. In addition, I could handle things with my right hand (zipper, helmet, food …) which is a great advantage. I could not imagine such a trip without this equipment!
Tire change, basic mechanics: Having practiced tire changes and making basic maintenance to the bike, I felt prepared for possible problems.
BMW AllRound Gloves: These gloves made of leather work 95% of the time, but does not offer enough protection against the cold and rain. I now wear heated gloves and a waterproof Art’ericx shells in cold or bad weather and a pair of BMW GS gloves for hot days
Sleeping bag: I tried to save space with a +7C sleeping bag. Well, it was ultra compact, but made in the majority of my nights uncomfortable. Unfortunately, a -9C bag is essencial for this kind of trip with the consequence more volume of luggage
Luggage transport system: My strategy was simple: nothing should be free, unlocked on bike. This was simply not possible. The solution is to add extra carrying bag and lock them with a PACKSAFE net
Lights: GS stock lights are not sufficient to comfortably drive at night, even with the fog lights turned on. Frankly, it’s unsafe. I modified my system to HID
Seat: The original seat of my BMW R1200 GS Adventure is firm, durable and comfortable for many situations, but is not designed for long days of driving and was certainly one of the most negative points of the trip. Despite the addition of an AIRHAWK cushion, pain appeared quickly and became unbearable. I purchased a saddle Sargent, what a difference!
Helmet: I used a helmet Nolan N102 for 2 reasons. The first is that it is modular, allowing me to raise the entire front. For me it is a priority! It gives me freedom of action, but mostly makes hot days much more pleasant, besides the fact that you can more easily communicate (gas station, Customs and others). But frankly, I hate the helmet. Just too heavy, very noisy (wind), poor sound (music), bad sealing (rain enters the visor even when completely closed, very fragile ( I lost parts from the helmet because of the wind), the connectors must be handled with care, because the internal welds easily brokes (2 changes under warranty), expensive (with accessories, almost $ 1000 !!!).For a trip to South America for example, it is not an option. I turned to the BMW System 6 helmet that I’ve now used and loved for 3 years!
These changes were tested in 2011 during additional long trips (Labrador, Newfoundland, California) and other shorter but off the beaten track in Vermont and Quebec. Nothing is perfect but I’m comfortable with my equipment and I am confident that everything will be perfect for a trip to South America. The preparation of this trip and the experiences I’ve had will be key to this journey.
In 2010, the bike had already over 130000 km so I decided to sell it and purchase of the same model from 2010, in order to travel to South America (initially scheduled for 2012 or 2013). It is on this bike that I will do my journey in 2016. It has 53000 km on the odometer and is in very good condition.
The preparation of this adventure is therefore done in 6 steps:
- Motorcycle purchase
- Practice, practice, practice
- Adjustments and tests
- Listing equipment or items to bring
- Listing, taking photos and storage (many dry runs!)
- Maintenance of the bike (just before leaving)
The last 3 points are divided into 9 categories:
- Accessories for the motorcycle (farkles)
- Medical, health, insurance
- Parts for maintenance
- Motorcycle clothing
- Equipment for camping / hiking
- Electronic equipment
- Documents, maps (GPS / Paper), itinerary, budget
The next posts will focus on each of these preparation steps!
Farkle (also spelled “farkel”) is a term common among adventure motorcyclists. Enthusiasts will “farkle up” their motorcycles with aftermarket accessories such as radar detectors, GPS units, tall windscreens, steering stabilizers, carbon fiber bits, cushy aftermarket seats, and so on... The BMWR1200GSA comes standard with an impressive list of equipment, but ... Read more
When I tell my friends of this project to cross the Americas on my motorcycle, I see all kinds of reactions but they are all similar to this example: "You are leaving for six weeks to Argentina, that's just amazing! ". I gently respond, "No, no, not six weeks, I'm leaving for 6 months ... Read more