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April 22, 2010

39

The Motorcycle Setup

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If you haven’t figured out that I’m doing a trip on a motorcycle yet then welcome to my blog.  I’ll get a few things out of the way right off.

  • No, I’m not crazy
  • No, I haven’t done this before.  I mean AT ALL, zero camp trips on the bike.  Nearly every weekend I had last year was spent finishing out my house or visiting friends and family out of state.
  • No, that doesn’t worry me.
  • Yes, I’m sure and ok maybe a little crazy

The bike I chose to go with is a 650 Suzuki V-Strom, also called a DL-650, or a Wee-Strom since there is a larger, 1000cc version.  It’s in the midweight dual-sport category of motorcycles built primarily for on-road riding with enough capabilities to handle some bumps and dirt.  An 80/20 bike, 80% on road and 20% off.  Not something to take up and down sand dunes all day.

Without any add-ons or luggage it weighs 425 pounds.  I’d guess there is now another 100 pounds on top of that with luggage, gear, and modifications.  This bike has been used for what I have planned many time before going from tip to tip through the Americas and every other continent out there except, probably, Antarctica.  It lets you sit upright in a nice comfortable riding posture.  The drybag I’ll have strapped behind me also provides back support when I choose.

I have 6 areas of varying sizes to store my stuff.  The workhorses are two 40-liter lockable plastic Caribou Cases, referred to as panniers in the bike world.  All of my clothes, kitchen items, electronics, other daily use items will be in these.  They are easily the highest dollar add-on I made.

I knew I wanted to go with a hard plastic case for their waterproof capabilities and size to weight ratio.  Caribou Cases specializes in this system and provides all of the support bars, bolts, and cases fit for my exact model bike.  The plastic is flimsier than what I’d hope for and I’m a bit worried how they will hold up after a few falls.  If I’d gone with the 35 liter Pelican Cases I (now) know they would be much sturdier, but smaller.

Next is a Teva Backpack/Drybag which will be strapped behind me on the rear seat/cargo area.  All of my sleeping gear is in here; tent, thermarest, sleeping bag, silk sleep sack, and a hammock.  This is a perfect setup.  All of those items are fairly bulky, but lightweight.  Storing them here won’t hog space in my side panniers or make the bike top heavy.

I built a tool tube that goes where the second exhaust would be on the DL-1000.  The tube is a 16″ piece of 4″ pvc spray painted black.  I have sockets and wrenches, small binoculars, and miscellaneous straps in here.  Nothing big, but it’s another 10 pounds stored fairly low.

A fairly small soft side cooler (not pictured) for beverages and maybe even food now and then.  Here’s a food blog if that’s what you want.  Underneath the seat is one more small toolkit, WD-40 … odds ends that I won’t need often.

Last is a magnetic tankbag that sits on the gas tank right in front of me.  I don’t need to keep anything in here for all my stuff to fit on the bike.  It will be used to hold things for that day on the road; camera and snacks usually.  It also has a map pocket on top.  I’d planned to be able to charge electronics in here while on the road, however that system isn’t function they way I’d hoped so I’ll have to find outlets along the way.

See the compass in the map pocket?  Doesn’t work to well since the bag is held on by magnets! No worries, I plan on getting lost a few times anyway.

Oh yeah, I also have a 12 liter backpack to wear while riding.  The main purpose for this is the 2-liter hydration system in it that I can use while on the road.  It will also be handy for day hikes and side trips.  In Thailand I bought something about this size and it barely left my back the rest of the trip.

The mechanical modifications I’ve made are:

  1. Symtec Heated Hand Grips
  2. Stebel Nautilus Compact Air Horn
  3. Pat Walsh crash bars, skid plate, and front engine shield – all designed to protect the engine and radiator from road debris and crashes
  4. Highway Pegs
  5. Cruise control – broke two days ago.  Need to figure something out for this stat.

That is fairly basic for this trip.  Much less than many do.  No gps, handguards, or shock modifications, fairly stock overall.  If I really get in a bind for something, I’m still going to be the consumer capital of the world and can add on whatever I need later.  Did I forget anything?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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39 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 22 2010

    No GPS? Pretty brave, you must have a good sense of direction. Even with one I’d be sure to find a way to get lost. Awesome post, love the details!

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2010

      Glad you liked it Anil. I do have a good sense of direction. That can get you in trouble when you trust it too much and are wrong though.

      Reply
  2. James
    Apr 22 2010
    • Apr 22 2010

      They look nice James, maybe once the ones I have wear out.

      Reply
  3. Apr 22 2010

    Cruise control on a bike is wrong, If you are not paying attention…. The only thing I was told by the blokes that do lots of this kind of thing is pack low. Try and keep the heavy stuff below the seat

    I was planning a trip through Namibia before deciding to do my big trip, Got lots of info

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2010

      I’ve figured out a stop gap. Good enough to free my hand for a few seconds. Maybe after I’ve been on the road a while it won’t be necessary, but for now I still need to stretch it out now and then.

      Reply
  4. Apr 22 2010

    I know you are already on your way, but to save you some trouble in the future, I would advise you buy another dry bag specifically for your tent.

    You will run into rain, you will also run into very damp dew in the mornings as you push further and further north.

    You will want to keep your tent separate from the rest of your dry goods.

    Have a safe trip Brian, and when you make it to the Pacific Northwest, feel free to give me a call.

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2010

      That’s a great idea. I happen to have a perfect bag with me. Right now it has rain gear, thermals, etc in it scrunched down. As I move north and start wearing those I can use it for the tent.

      So nice to get advice from people who have been out there before.

      Reply
  5. Apr 22 2010

    Don’t forget a first aid kit for motorcycles (smaller than for cars). I hope you’ll never need it, but in case…

    We’re planing to do a trip mostly round the mediterranean sea in two years, Slawia, Turkey, Jordania and so on… I’ll ride a KLX 250, because it’s lightweight. When bringing the motorbike back up 20 times a day due to the damn desert sand, it will be good so have a maschine that is not so heavy. 😉

    Have a nice trip!

    Rubber side down,
    Marc

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2010

      Your trip sounds great! A 250 is what you need for the sand. Enjoy it.
      I have two first aid kits, one in my small 12 liter backpack then a few more supplies in my main kit. Rubber side down.

      Reply
  6. Apr 22 2010

    I’m going to be the first woman to comment about motorcycles! Thanks for the educational lesson. I had no idea so much was involved when traveling on a bike. You sound pretty hardcore though to head out on such an adventure. No GPS? Are you not going to be a typical male and actually ask for directions? ha I think GPS tends to get you lost more anyways. I’m old fashioned and would rather just look at a map.

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2010

      Nice to see you here Suzy. Right now I think it’s more don’t know what I’m getting myself into than hardcore. Sure I’ll find a way to make it work though.

      Reply
  7. Apr 22 2010

    I love the whole thought of it, if I can get my bike working I’ll be doing some road trips on it as well. Although I’m a little leery because it’s an older bike, 83 Kawasaki 440 LTD not built for a world trip but enough for the US – I hope.

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2010

      Monkeys on bikes, what’s next? Check out your bike or have it done and you probably will be fine for the US, plenty of smooth miles out here to get you to beautiful places.

      Reply
  8. Apr 23 2010

    I’ve always loved traveling with a compass. I’ve always been surprised to find it useful but it almost always is!

    Reply
  9. PA
    Apr 23 2010

    Have a great trip. I am quite jealous. I took MY VStrom on a 700 mile journey over the weekend, not so ambitious as yours, but my heart was in the same place. I wonder how much cold and snow you’ll find once you get up to the Pacific NW and beyond. Anyway, best of luck. If you head to Alaska by way of Ohio, let me know and we’ll give you a place to crash. I look forward to your updates.

    Reply
  10. Apr 23 2010

    Very jealous! I’ve never ridden a bike solo but ever since I watched the Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman vids, Long Way Around, Down & Dakar… I’ve been hooked.

    Now just to get the licence and some skills.

    Good luck for the trip!

    Reply
    • Apr 24 2010

      I also watched those Charlie and Ewan things. They saw nothing, They rode as if though they were trying to get there as fast as possible. They should have called it the Wrong way down.

      We are doing a similar trip later this year into next year, but in a old VW bus

      Reply
  11. Bill Doyle
    Apr 23 2010

    No mention of food or cooking gear. Are you going to travel with some staples and alternate with restaurants or play it by ear? Remember there is no such thing as getting lost on a trip like this. Just seeing things you might have missed had you gone the other way. I did a little trip through Utah in Oct. Spectacular is just one word that comes to mind. One thing that surprised me was how easily you can get tired at just a little altitude. It can sneak up on you.

    Reply
    • Apr 23 2010

      Well said Bill. Far as food goes I’m hoping the campsite next to me invites me to their feast. Smells yummy!

      Reply
  12. Awesome! This type of article really gets me thinking about bike travel. It must feel so free and close to nature during some long rides. Great detail for those looking to do the same.

    Reply
    • Apr 23 2010

      If you get serious about it lots of people drive south and them want to fly home. The motorcycle forums on my Links page can get you going. What does your other half think about the idea?

      Reply
  13. looks like a pretty solid set up. I am amazed with how it’s a well prepared trip and not just a sudden decision. That makes the journey a safer and enjoyable one.

    Reply
    • Oct 27 2010

      Certainly I thought about the trip for a long time. Being on the road has been different as it’s tempting to put off the little things that need attention. I need to get better about that to keep them from becoming big things. Thanks for coming by!

      Reply
  14. Jan 23 2011

    Hey, just found your blog through a friend and it looks great. I actually just finished up a somewhat similar 2 month trip around the US, 8600 miles by motorcycle and 600 miles of hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. So it makes me insanely jealous to read about your trip as I’m now once again desk bound and limited to just day dreaming.

    I documented the trip on my blog at rubberontheroad.wordpress.com feel free to check it out!

    Reply
    • Jan 25 2011

      Buck, I’ve spent many, many hours at home reading about other people’s trips dreaming about my own so I know where you’re coming from. Sounds like a nice trip you had already, the pacific coast is simply gorgeous for both riding and hiking. I’ll check out your blog as well.

      Reply
      • Jan 26 2011

        Yeah, it was a pretty fantastic trip. The PCH was really incredible and I was really blown away by Montana as well (that’s not even bringing up the hiking in Washington).

        Let me know if you ever find yourself in the area of Beijing and want to go for a ride around here!

        Reply
  15. Bruce
    Feb 9 2011

    Hi Brian,
    I’ve been reading about your trip through the western US, Canada and Alaska with great interest. I am planning a trip this summer from Florida to Washington of appox. 8500 miles. While I had planned to ride with a friend it is looking more and more like this is to be a solo trip as we may not be able to coordinate the timing.
    My question to you is; how did you manage the security of your bike and belongings when out hiking, sightseeing or otherwise wandering around away from your mount? While I have generally found campers and hikers to be an honest group, it would seem that a bike loaded with gear, even one with locking boxes and an alarm system, might be a vulnerable target when parked at a trail head or other remote location. Did you ever have any problems with this? Did you take any special precautions?

    Reply
    • Feb 9 2011

      Don’t know about Brian, but I just did a similar trip around the US and from my experience, I really found no problem. I made sure that I slept with all my valuables. I think that for motorcycles in the middle of nowhere it’s somewhat easy to loot but you also have to be prepared with the tools etc. to take advantage of it. So if you’re not in the same place two nights in a row, it’s kind of hard to be scouted out. As long as all the irreplaceable stuff was near my head, in my sleeping bag at night, I slept pretty easily. I also did take a month in the middle of my trip to go hike. For this, I was able to find a family to store my bike and valuables in their garage for the duration. I was also researching a few different places to store it long term as well.

      Reply
      • Bruce
        Feb 9 2011

        Thanks Buck. I have a small tank bag that detaches from the bike which I will keep all really valuable stuff. More concerned about my bedroll and tent which will ride on the seat behind me and which will not fit in my boxes. They will be strapped on but easily removed without tools. Could make for a very bad day if they turn up missing!

        Reply
        • Feb 9 2011

          Yeah, that stuff I always kept very close by. I camped very lightweight particularly for that reason, so that whenever I was leaving, my easily detachable stuff came with me.

          Reply
    • Feb 10 2011

      I didn’t have any problems with that on my trip with just a few precautions taken on my part. Everything that went missing is because lost it and that was nearly all during the last week of the trip.

      Both of my boxes lock as does my tool tube. I never took my tank bag off. The only thing of value I kept in there were my gloves which are one of those things worth much more to you than anyone who would take them. My wetbag/backpack behind me wasn’t ever locked and it had my sleeping gear in it same as you are talking about.

      I did have a 6 foot cable lock that I could use to wind through my helmet, jacket, and pants as I felt necessary. The only times I really worried was in towns at grocery stores, libraries, etc. When camping I was close enough to the bike that I felt secure.

      Anything of real value (cash, passport) I kept in my backpack that I rode while riding and hiking then used as a pillow often at night. Works out great when the water bag is half full. Good luck on your trip, if you have any more questions let me know or send an email to bikeandboots -at- gmail.com.

      Reply
      • Bruce
        Feb 10 2011

        Thanks Brian,
        I have had similar responses from others, including from Mr Perley above. I had planned to keep all really valuable/important things with me at all times in a detachable tank bag I have but really didn’t want to be lugging my sleeping bag, Thermarest and tent if I should decide to hike up a trail or visit a museum. I rather like the idea of the cable/lock for securing jacket, pants and helmet and of course plan to rarely be out of sight of my bike anyway. Riding a BMW K1200LT which has locking bags and an alarm system so makes me fell a little better!
        Really like your site and blog. Keep up the good work! Any more trips planned?
        Bruce

        Reply
  16. Mar 14 2011

    Your bike is a house on two wheels. Cruise control i would say is a must to get fixed. Really like the heated hand grips.

    Reply
  17. Dec 26 2011

    Nicely set up. If there is any chance you could email me some more info about the bike, fuel usage with that weight etc. please i would really appreciate it.
    I’m presently in India riding a Karizma 223 up to Napal where i will sell this bike and head to the UK where i am looking at possibly buying a DL650 for northern europe and possibly a ride down to cape town and back over the next 2 years ish…
    But go for it touring is fun i’ve been doing it for years and love it, just be careful or you may end up like me. Quiting work and just leaving to ride the world until i run out of money lol.
    Enjoy your life

    Reply
  18. Red Stam
    Feb 5 2012

    I used to take a short motorcycle trip with my friends met on my-travel-mate.com.Although it’s not a long distance,it’s really a big challenge~~I think the real meaning of this kind of travelling is not what u have completed,but what u don’t know what will happen in next step,,

    Reply
  19. Francis B
    Oct 12 2012

    Brian… greetings from Australia from a fellow VStrom rider.

    You’ve got it well set up. I think a GPS is essential here in Oz when you are out in the bush with no road signs, or for that matter, roads.

    The other piece of kit I’d take if travelling alone is an EPIRB or something similar, so that if you have an off and you are far from civilization you can send out an emergency signal.

    Spare keys? Security locks for the panniers. Paranoid, me, nah.

    Tell us more about the highway pegs. Did you make them? How are they fitted?

    Ride safe!

    Reply
  20. Apr 12 2013

    Cool blog, thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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