In December of 2010, I floated the idea of riding around the world on motorbikes past my wife. Fun, excitement, the open road, oh, and crooked border agents, rain and stifling heat, and “It’s gonna cost how much?!?”
After some discussion and basic research, we decided that it was a dumb idea. We had recently completed a nearly 9 month backpacking trip in SE Asia and were getting antsy to go somewhere again, but where? We settled on backpacking around India and then revisiting our favorite places in SE Asia with the idea of finding a place we liked and settling in to teach English for a few years. Plan decided, we started doing the research but never could get really excited about it. No other plan had the excitement, challenge, or potential epic nature of the motorbike trip. So in the end of May, we once again returned to the RTW idea, but with a twist.
We would do it on underbones. We were, of course, inspired by nathanthepostman
and our own travels
through SE Asia. We had rented scooters and underbones in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia and had enjoyed the slower pace that they enforced. We’ve found that 35 mph is the perfect pace for much of the developing world. Parts are widely available, mechanics know how to work on them, tires are easily available, and we wouldn’t look like invaders from another planet. They are also inexpensive (better for Carnet) and lightweight (better if they decide to take a nap or need to be loaded in a boat). We also chose underbones for more personal reasons. We had considered going 2-up on my V-strom, but Re (my wife) is too small (and short) to ride it solo if I was ever unable to. So we looked at taking two bikes. Most of the advice suggests taking identical bikes as to only have to carry one set of spares and tools. So what then? We considered CRF-230s and XT-250s but finally settled on underbones for the reasons mentioned above.
So which underbone? Initially I had thought of the CT-110s, but eventually settled on the mighty SYM Symba! Our local dealer was having a sale on Symbas ($1999 each) and they were about the same price as a good CT-110 but with the advantage of being 30 years newer. Some basic research into the Symbas showed that they are (probably) capable of the miles and hours we will be requesting of them. Another advantage is that there is a SYM importer on every continent we plan to visit (hopefully eliminating the 3-month wait other riders have encountered for a new final drive or other such nonsense). Additionally, they are just good old motorbikes, no ABS, no EFI, no computer of any sort - just a carb, a piston, a backup kickstarter, and one fuse. I can fix these with hand tools and a shop manual. All that and about 100 mpg!
These bikes will hopefully be our trusty companions for the next twelve to fourteen months as we wind our way across the USA (from Oregon to North Carolina), up to Toronto (where our bikes get on the plane), to Capetown, South Africa and through India, SE Asia, and (if our money and butts hold out) Indonesia and Australia, before flying back to Los Angeles and riding up the coast back to Portland.