After my 2006 trip, I did a write up on what worked and what didn't, covering the bike, gear, logistics and what not. For this trip, I've done the same. I have copied the 2006 review and added/changed pieces below to suit in color and italics.
I removed all the logos from the bike and painted the starter cover black. Since it's not the best looking bike in the world to begin with, this took care of the brand-obsessed youngsters.
I had both wheels rebuilt at Woody's Wheel works. New extra-strong spokes, new rims (Sun) and the standard lace pattern. After much abuse, they are still dead straight. The front wheel was converted to use standard roller bearings instead of needle bearings requiring a periodic pre-load check and adjustment. This conversion allows me to change the bearings with a screwdriver by the side of the road, if needed. After the 2006 trip, the wheels were trued again by a wheel builder in Vancouver (Tom Nelson). They were very marginally out of alignment. He restores old English bikes and said he'd never seen wheels built this strong. I never changed the bearings after they were installed initially by Woody's in 2003 or so. I still carry the spare bearings just in case.
4 millimeter thick inner tubes. It reduces the risk of punctures. The tubes are still the ones used for the 2006 trip. I think they went on the bike back in 2003 or so. I don't see the need to change inner tubes unless there are obvious flaws or wear points.
My front tire of choice is a Bridgestone Trailwing TW 41 90/90 21 54S. Sadly no longer made. As to rear tires, the choice is most certainly a Shinko 705 4-10-18 59P. It lasts forever, is blocky for off-road and grips like a sport tire. It's also incredibly cheap. By the time of this writing, it was about 50% worn and had just over 10,000 kms on it.
People in the Middle East and Asia seem to always want to touch what they are looking at. On numerous occasions, I had to prevent people from leaning on the front fender to get a better look at the bike. I changed the stock fender for an Acerbis one, including the $37 aluminum fender support. Supposedly the support allows you to carry a small pack up front, but I doubt this is a good idea for harsh road conditions. Without the brace, the fender would have self-destructed due to vibration and the constant pounding.
Progressive springs with an extra one-inch copper spacer and 320 ml of 15 weight fork oil did the trick. I did have to change one fork seal (left) due to a small leak. This was before the start of the trip, though. I had to change the right fork seal in Nepal. Also replaced the gaiters, as they were shot after the rough roads tackled in Pakistan. For the 2012 trip, I went down to about 190 ml of 10 weight in the forks. I had too much fluid in there earlier and the ride was too stiff. The gaiters I put on in Nepal started cracking in Mexico, but the cracks are small, so I am ignoring it for now.
I went to a local motorcycle shop in Vancouver and they cut a custom length stainless steel brake line with proper angles. I did this sometime after 2007.
I bought the bike with a MAP Engineering front brake conversion. It was an older one, but still worked perfectly. Prior to the start of the trip, I contacted MAP and asked them to put a new rotor on the carrier. Surprisingly, they also made a new carrier for it. It looks like a high-strength carbon piece. More braking power than I need, even fully loaded.
Sigma BC 500 speedo
An old cheap bicycle speedometer. It measures the wheel rotation with a magnet. It's as accurate as you'll get. Indispensable, as the GPS does not measure road distances accurately. (A GPS measures every second, so if you go through a curve, it measure a number of straight connection lines, not the actual curve, decreasing the actual distance traveled). The old Sigma speedo died somewhere prior to the 2012 trip. I bought a newer model Sigma and it seems to do the job just fine. I was able to advance the odometer count so as to keep continuity.
The headlight conversion was also present when I bought the bike. It's a K75 headlight, with LEDs replacing the regular filament bulbs. It's much bigger than the stock G/S headlight and puts out a lot more light. It's not stylish, but it works. I had to re-solder a few things that loosened during the start of the trip. Not a big problem and my own fault for not doing it right the first time. Since 2007 I've had a few issues with the headlight. At one point, a wire burnt and I lost power to the headlight itself. As it was part of the wiring harness, I fed a new wire along side. On the 2012 trip, I lost power to the rear light, which turned out to be a short somewhere triggered in the front headlight bucket but I was never able to pinpoint it. The fuse holder I used for the headlight melted at some point, but then it was the wrong kind too. The whole system needs an overhaul at this point for me to feel 100% ok about it, but I need a shop, access to an electrical supplier and a week to tackle it without feeling rushed.
Dual Fiamms are not a luxury. They got a lot of use on the trip. One of the horn mounting tabs broke twice due to vibration. An easy fix. They are mounted in an esthetically unfortunate spot and I will remove them after the trip and go back to stock. I tossed the Fiamms in the spare parts bin and went back to stock.
Datel volt meter
A luxury item that is strictly speaking not necessary, but since I was riding with a new alternator system, I decided I'd mount it to keep an eye on the charging voltage. It's FAA-spec and performed as such. It better, for the amount of money it cost. The Datel voltmeter finally proved its worth. (see further on the Enduralast)
Acerbis hand guards
Standard hand guards, but still useful for being the first point of impact when the bike tips over, saving the mirrors from cracking. Also keeps your hands protected from the bugs and rocks kicked up by the numerous trucks coming the opposite way. In replacing the steering head bearings, I dismantled the hand guards and given their pinched clamp design was unable to get them to properly hold the handlebars. I bought new ones in Quito, Ecuador. Still Acerbis, but now they have proper clamps..
This contraption holds the GPS in the right place and at the right angle. It did its job well. I replaced the stem of the RAM mount with a shorter version. This let me situate the GPS a little closer to the handlebars so it wasn't sticking up so high.
Acerbis 43 liter tank
It holds enough fuel for about 700 kilometers, 650 to first reserve. Not always needed, but it's nice to not have to think about fuel too often, or to plan stops around gas stations. It does get dirty, due to it being polyester and not nylon. Strong too, as few deep gashes testify to numerous rocks hitting it, mostly from oncoming trucks. Before the 2012 trip, I had to replace the steering head bearings. I think in part this was because I had routed the tank vent into the top nut on the triple clamp, with any fuel or fumes getting too close to the bearings. I re-routed the vent line to the outside.
G/S stock seat
Most people do not like the stock seat, complaining about a lack of comfort, but I found find
it to work just fine.
A front-to-back stainless exhaust system. It sounds great and will outlive me. I did, however, have to fix it once, after it showed minor cracks around the right header. The right header is also a tad too narrow, requiring some buffer material to seal properly within the head. All this was solved before the trip.
Custom rear frame
I managed to crash badly before the trip 2006 even started. The custom rear frame from Overland Solutions did the trick and a few hammer blows later, things were straight again. A stock frame would have not survived the impact but either ripped at the welds or cracked. Also, the bags are mounted without the Touratech setup, which hinges all the weight on one of the sides and causes a lot of damage even in a tip over.
A non-stock side stand, set back near the foot peg, allows the side stand to take quite a bit of weight. It did crack at one point, probably due to my accident in the Netherlands. I never noticed it, but had it welded in Turkey when someone pointed this out. It also does not retract automatically, a good thing when kids sit on the bike and upright it. They can just let it drop back and run away when you come running at them, wielding a stick. With a stock side stand, which retracts when the bike is righted, the machine would topple over. I noticed on the 2012 trip that I was dragging the side stand in fast sweepers. I stripped one of the U bolts and had to replace it. In Colombia, when I took the bike out of the container, I noticed the side stand had cracked at its weight bearing point. The second time this happened. I had it welded up in Cartagena. I am going to replace with a side stand from a place called Flying Tpod when I get a chance.
I talked to Works a few years ago about the suspension requirements for my trip, and after some back and forth, settled on a shock built by them. It did the job perfectly. Spooked by the many shock failures people seem to experience when traveling for prolonged times, I decided to ship the shock back to Works for service prior to the 2012 trip. It was after all around 10 years old with around 60,000 kilometers on it. They basically reworked the thing, including a new shaft, as there were some noticeable grooves, and sent it back with the old parts in the box. Interesting to see how worn some of the parts were. Their analysis in talking to the techs later was that it was basically still ok but as a precaution they replaced everything, which is what I had asked for.
This was a bit of a shot in the dark at first. I heard about the new alternator John Rayski put on the market around 2004, removing most if not all of the common flaws with the stock system. After talking to him a few times, a new alternator system arrived on my doorstep, gratis, which I tested out for a few months on my RT before mounting it on the G/S. It's done the job well, giving me full charging at all speeds, with more peace of mind versus a stock system. It also puts out 400 Watt, if you want to hook up more electric toys like heated vests and extra lighting.
After the initial success of the Enduralast on the G/S for the 2006 trip, I purchased a system for the RT as well. My RT is an 1983 R80RT. With the system on the RT I started to have a few problems in 2009 and in 2010 it required more invasive action. To follow the ups and downs of the Enduralast process, a few points of note:
- Both the G/S and RT have near identical setups in terms of electrical wiring and both have a PC680 Odyssey battery.
- The wiring harnesses I made for the G/S and RT are such that I can “plug and play” rectifier units between bikes if needed. I initially did this for both rectifier units associated with the G/S in case I needed to swap the spare in.
- Both bikes have Datel voltmeters installed. These are identical and very accurate.
- When I received the initial system from John Rayski in 2005, I also received an extra rectifier unit. In the following, I will refer to system 1 and rectifier A and B. System 1 and rectifier A & B are associated with the G/S. System 2 and rectifier C is associated with the RT.
- System 1 was installed into the G/S on Feb 23, 2006 after testing it on the RT for a while. Rectifier A was installed, rectifier B packed as spare.
- System 2 was installed in the RT on Feb 1st, 2008. Rectifier C was installed (no spare purchased).
A few years after installing system 2, I noticed intermittently voltage spikes, to 18.3 volts for short periods of time. These were not gradual, more like someone flipped a switch on and off. The spikes lasted for about 30-40 seconds before the voltage flipped back down to 14.2 volts, as normal. This became an increasing occurrence and at one point, the voltage “stuck” at 18.3 volts. At that point, I pulled rectifier B (from system 1) out of the spares box and plugged it into the RT (system 2). Strangely enough the voltage issue was still there! 18.3 volts all the time. The immediate analysis was that the problem was not with the rectifiers but somehow associated with the wiring, stator coil, battery or other part of system 2. As a double blind test, I put rectifier A (from the G/S) in the RT and things were normal (14.2 volts). I also put rectifiers B and C in the G/S and both showed 18.3 volts. The puzzling thing here was that rectifier B had never been used earlier as it was just a spare for the initial trip and although wired the same as rectifier A, I had never tested it until I plugged it into the RT.
I sent both rectifiers (B and C) back to John Rayski and although incredulous at my findings, he sent me a new rectifier (rectifier D) for system 2 for free. This was wired up with the same harness as the others, installed and works flawlessly to this day.
In June of 2011, I purchased a new spare for the G/S (rectifier E) and installed it in the G/S, keeping rectifier A as a known-good spare for the 2012 trip. So far, so good.
In messing around with all these issues, I did discover some other quirks of the system. Initially, in 2003, the rectifiers were shipped without decent connectors to the wiring, with John pressing the issue that you had to clip off the attached connectors and attach proper connectors (supplied by John) instead of what came out of the factory. With rectifiers D & E, I noticed proper connectors (SAE trailer plugs) had been used from the factory and given the change, decided to use them. This was a mistake as the black wire into the rectifier seems to very sensitive to voltage changes and I had some issues on system 2 with Rectifier D. I even completely rewired the system front to back with all new wires and connectors, but it wasn’t until I clipped off the SAE plug attached to the white (voltage regulator control light) and black (switched power to activate the rectifier unit), that things went back to happy.
All in all, despite the issues I’ve had so far, I am happy with the setups and can’t foresee any changes here. Hopefully the rectifiers (Italian electronics) don’t act up again.
Beru ignition coil
Not very exiting, but I replaced the stock ignition coil and wiring with a Beru system. It's the same one used on new BMW's and has proved to be 100% reliable.
The ignition module in my bike was the one it came with prior to the 2006 trip. It failed in Guatemala but I had a spare Transpo BM300 aftermarket ignition module with me. I bought a new spare in Quito, Ecuador.
Many people laugh at this one, but the alarm on more than one occasion warned me when people were trying to move the bike. In most cases, this was well intended, but still. A few times people were curious and got a bit too close. The alarm died in Pakistan. The tilt sensor still works, but a tap or kick does not set it off anymore. I didn't replace the alarm system for the 2012 trip, I tossed it in 2007.
A lot of wiring was added to the bike. Heavy-duty wiring to feed the Enduralast alternator, extra wiring to get power to the right case, accessory plug on the left and a few leads to the front for instrument lighting, volt meter and the GPS. I used water resistant in-line spade fuses instead of a central fuse box. It's easier to find space for these and tuck them away in various places.
Odyssey PC680 battery
It worked as advertised. Set it and forget it. It's sealed and doesn't need any maintenance. Another boring yet vitally important piece of expensive equipment. Also nice to not get acid all over the frame when (not if) the bike tips over. The 2005 battery is still in the bike (Apr 22, 2013)
The engine was built by Mat Beekers in the Netherlands. The original engine spun a cam bearing race, blocking oil flow to the engine. I used the top end and pistons from the old engine, but a complete new case and bottom end was shipped to me from Mat. Sadly not for free. After 85,000 kms on the new engine, not a single issue. I need to replace a weep on the pushrod seals. The valve train is unbelievably steady. It's been 30,000 kms since I had to make ANY adjustment to either intake or exhaust valves.
Dick Casey supervised my rebuild of the transmission. It's the second time we rebuilt a transmission together. The first one is now resident in my RT. We opened up the (previously unopened) RT transmission after 140,000 kilometers and could not find any noticeable wear.
I went with 1/4 inch lines instead of the BMW spec of 6 millimeter. The difference is negligible and the cost of 1/4 inch lines a fraction of the BMW lines. I routed the cross-over around the back of the transmission, reducing the risk for airlock, as the original location runs the cross-over between the transmission and the engine.
Fuel line disconnects
To allow quick removal of the tank, I installed fuel line disconnects. They work well but the O rings seem to suffer from the action of connection/disconnecting. I took a handful of spares.
These look great but are not too strong. Water and dustproof when purchased, I was able to fairly easily beat them back into shape after crashing. Ernie, from Overland Solutions, prepped the bags. This included lockable clasps to hold them to the rear frame, lockable lids and anodizing the inside and outside of the bags and lids. It's easier to clean the anodized bags, but the main reason is that your gear does not get the black stains from rubbing bare aluminum against most materials. Also, since the bags are instantly removable, they are not left on the bike at night and as such another theft risk is removed. After 3 crashes, one big one in the Netherlands, 2 minor ones in Iran and Pakistan, they are toast. The point welding at the bottom is not strong enough even for a minor crash. I will have new bags made when I get back to Canada, with a few improvements I picked up from others while on the road. Email me if you want the list. Eight months after I returned home from the 2006/2007 trip a new set of custom made bags was delivered. I had them made in Germany by a guy named Roger (www.rms-rogers.de). Roger used to be a welder for Sauber, a German Formula 1 team. The reason I picked him followed an encounter in Pakistan, where I met a German couple who were traveling two up and crashed in Iran, sliding their bike a ways. Their boxes, made by Roger, held up like they'd experienced a mere tip over. A few emails between Roger and me settled dimensions, price and details of what I wanted. I also shipped some locks to him to mount. The bags were more than I hoped for. They are double side welded, with flush aircraft rivets for the small loops on the lids and a shouldered welded interior for the lid. Having struggled with the Touratech bags, I was glad to get these. They have been proven to be 100% waterproof, very rugged and resistant to being slammed around narrow hotel corridors, sat on by multiple people at once, and bounced around in a rental car for a week. They are made of some light aluminum that seems amazingly robust. If you want details of what I ordered, drop me an email.
Old queen size mattress cover
Another one that makes people frown. When the bike is parked and covered, it barely gets any notice. It's not appealing to begin with, lacking polished and shiny bits, but the gray cover, with some Parisian and Syrian bird droppings, make the whole thing disappear from popular interest. I also took 4 mini-bungee cords to tie it all down. Two of the mini-bungies were stolen in Damascus, so a few spares would have been welcome. I brought more bungies this time and a new queen sized cover. However, I found out in trying it on the first time in Costa Rica, that the 2006 cover was a King sized cover... I threw the cover and the bungies out somewhere in Chile. Too bulky and not enough use.
LED rear light
Sometime after the 2007 trip I bought an integrated (license plate, rear and brake) LED rear light from a small company on Vancouver Island called Brake!. It's worked fine and it brighter than the original.
A cheap air compressor, robbed of its housing, reduces to something you can hold in the palm of your hand. A simple in-line switch and a connection to the battery. Very useful to "upload" some more air into the tires. It even sets the bead on a new tire, if you're using inner tubes.
An indispensable aid to navigate European back roads. It's a multitude handier to have the GPS route you through a previous selected set of roads than using a map to try and decide at each turn where to go. Even beyond Europe, having a base map (World Map) allows you to at least see major and minor roads, as well as cities and villages. Riding the back roads in small towns and out in the country, you can always find your hotel again. It's a great aid to exploring with the certainty you can get back to where you started from. The Garmin V was swapped out for a Garmin 60 CSX. I have a 2 GB memory card in it to store maps. It's smaller and the screen size is the only downside. Upsides are long battery life (measured in days), AA batteries, and much smaller than my standard use Garmin 276C. Earlier in 2012, I rented two motorcycles in Thailand and basically tied the GPS to the handlebars, vibration be damned. It worked just fine. It's the best GPS I've owned and outclasses all the newer Garmins which have since come on the market. Sadly Garmin and most of the other vendors have dumbed down the feature set and options to appeal to a wider audience. A used 60 CSX (they are no longer sold) retails for 2-3 times the original price on the used market.
The camera of choice was a Canon S2. A fast 2.7 lens, 35-400 mm zoom, image stabilizer,...., and it runs on 4 AA's. Great camera and great software as well to organize and sort pictures. I carried two 2 Gig memory cards. I have been bitten by the photography bug and have acquired a different set of equipment. I am carrying a Nikon D700, 24-70 2.8 lens, 105 2.8 lens and a Canon S95 as pocket camera. This is a wholesale change from before. The right set of lenses would be 14-24 2.8, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8. That would have covered the range. Initially I was debating whether the trip was more about motorcycling, traveling or photography. It turns out photography is a constant (but happy) nag in the back of my mind and I find myself missing my 14-24 and 70-200 more and more. I’m also running Lightroom 4.4 on a fast but small computer (Acer 1830T-68U118). One incredible find has been the use of B+W XSPro ultra-thin filters. They have some new fangled nano coating that basically does not get dirty. On previous trips, or even when I am in Vancouver, you end up blowing the odd bits of dust off the filters. With these, weeks go by before a spec of dust manages to settle. Well worth the exorbitant prices.
Edit: In October of 2012 I flew back to Vancouver and dusted off some lenses out of my storage locker. I brought back the 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 and a fast 50 mm. I also bought a ThinkTank Airport V2.5 bag. All the camera gear now takes up the entire right case (Yikes!)
A small charger, able to handle 4 AA's and 4 AAA's. I can charge batteries while I ride or by plugging it in at a hostel using my 12V shaver adapter. I did have to repair it twice, as a small coil inside had vibrated loose. I replaced the 2006 charger with the exact similar model for the 2012 trip.
A handful of various sized OR bags is what I pack most of my belongings in before they go into the Touratech cases. The bags are waterproof and some are even submersible. Maybe a bit of overkill. I have been using OR bags for the last 15 years while hiking and climbing, so I knew they would hold up well. I replaced all of them under the lifetime warrantee for free before my trip. The OR bags were still like new prior to the 2012 trip. I love it when companies make good gear.
Less is more. I lived with one pair of Tevas and riding boots. Two pair of near-identical North Face pants with zip-off legs and 6 black polypro t-shirts. Polypro undies as well. All of it can be washed by hand and hung to dry, which it does quickly. I had other (warm + climbing) clothes as well, but I mostly used what I described here. I also had a pair of hiking boots but only used those on the treks. No change here in the setup. I took both 2006 vintage pants along again. North Face quality has lagged in the last few years and since I couldn't get Fjallraven pants in North America, I took the North Face ones along again.
I rode with vented mesh gear pretty much all the way. Both jacket and pants (First Gear). I had a set of rain covers which were used on a handful of occasions. Deerskin leather gloves, Sidi Onroad boots and an HJC flip-up helmet. Gauntlet-style deerskin gloves would have been better, as the space between the sleeves of the riding jacket and the gloves got constant sun exposure, leaving me with two funny dark marks on top of my wrists. The First Gear vented jacket and pants came along again on the 2012 trip. Between 2006 and 2012, First Gear came out with two new generations of vented gear, both of lesser quality than the original. Also, it now includes an inner waterproof liner for both jacket and pants. This sounds like a good idea but it is not. It's impractical to stop, have to take your pants off and zip in a liner when rain approaches. Also, once wet, the vented gear won't dry quickly in humid climates. Better to quickly throw some rain slicks over the vented gear. It's faster and you can swap out of the rain gear. Lined vented gear is also far too hot in warm climates. A new set of boots, this time Alpine Stars, Wilson leather gloves and a new HJC flip-up helmet rounded out the gear. I kept the original First Gear rain jacket I had and replaced the pants with Outdoor Research light hiking pants that have a full zip from the waist down. I bought some non-motorcycling waterproof gloves but they proved to be leaky.
My trusty 1997-vintage Serengeti's did the trick. After having been dropped numerous times, sat on a few times, they still happily bend back into shape. Still going strong for riding, but they are so beaten up I have a more respectable pair for when I am off the bike.
On a number of occasions I slept under my mosquito net. The bigger the net, the better it fits around various bed sizes or accommodates awkward mounting angles.
I bought a Katadyn filter before the trip and it served it's purpose well. It can pump a liter a minute and it filters particles to 0.2 micron, the best possible (and most expensive?) single-stage filtration in a small format. On the treks in Nepal, most people used Iodine to purify water, until I showed them the residual particles in my filter. I was also one of the only ones who didn't get sick on the treks. I'm not sure if there is a connection.
A strange discovery was that in a lot of places I could not log into my web mail. Services like Yahoo mail, Hotmail and MSN seemed to work. I could not get to www.berettainc.com
or any of my other sites. The solution was to use my own computer in internet cafes, where possible. This seemed to work most times. In Iran and Pakistan, it was not possible to get to my outgoing SMTP server, so although in a number of cases I was able to access my webmail, I had to send email from a Yahoo account on most occasions. I set up a Yahoo account to pull in my regular POP mail. A friend in Switzerland uploaded my updates to the web from there. I got wise to proxy servers, TOR and some other tricks to get around all of the above.
The only phone/voicemail system I used during the trip was Skype. Wherever I connected, I was able to make a call at Skype rates, a fraction of what calling costs in most of the world.
The backup system I took along consisted out of two Sandisk 4 GB thumbdrives. They did the job until Pakistan, after which one of them packed it in. Also, I had to reformat them once or twice as they were no longer recognized by the computer. I'll look at other options next time. Most internet cafes I encountered had facilities to burn CD's. The camera memory and a USB adapter for it will allow you to transfer the pictures and get a backup made. How times have changed. I paid $370 EACH for the 4 GB Sandisk thumbdrives back in 2006. Now I carry a 1TB USB powered small drive and am using www.crashplan.com for my offsite storage. Their backup process is amazing and I managed to back up 110GB over the course of a month using internet connections in the various hotels.
People who know me well know I like my toys. My laptop (Fujitsu P5020, US spec), used as my sole computer for work and pleasure for the last few years, was a loyal companion on the trip. Without it, I would not have bothered with updating a website and keeping up with my pictures. Having the laptop made it easy to fill the empty hours here and there and write more at length than one would sitting in a noisy internet cafe. The P5020 is still alive and well, but it is in my storage unit. The current flavor du jour is an Acer 11.6 inch laptop with lots of juice and space (model 1830T-68U118).
- CAT 5 extension. A small retractable CAT 5 cable allows you to reach under the desks at internet cafes, while keeping your laptop on the desk.
- Female-to-female CAT 5 plug. Indispensable. This enables you to connect the CAT 5 from the internet cafe to your extension cable. Cables are now useless in internet cafes in a world of WiFi.
- Ear buds with in-line microphone. Smaller than a true headset with a boom mike, but with the same qualities. I got mine at Radioshack. I bought a set of www.urbanears.com. headphones which are far superior to anything I've owned before for both music and voice.
- Targus multi-voltage charger. Allows you to run and charge a laptop with either AC or DC power. It came with multiple connectors and works fine with the new laptop. I got it in 2002.
I shortened a lot of the longer accessory cables, such as my Garmin GPS cable, to save space. Doing this with 5 or so cables makes a big difference in packing volume. The power cables to the adapter need to be full length, as in a lot of cases power can be hard to access in lodges.
I got a Tupperware case for the laptop. I lined the bottom with thick fleece material and made a fleece slipcover for the laptop. It's stored flat when I ride. I can charge it while I ride as well. I didn't bother with the Tupperware box this time. The Acer is pretty strong and light and gets tossed on top of my clothes in one of the cases.
One oversight on my part was shipping and receiving. Receiving a parcel when your destination is fluid is not the easiest. What I should have done was get an American Express card. They have travel offices in most major cities in the world and will hold parcels. I didn't do anything on the shipping end of things.
Carnet de passage
For US and Canadian registered motorcycles and cars, you have to deal with Suzanne Danis at the Canadian Automobile Association. She's incredibly knowledgeable on all the current issues around carnets and was very professional and prompt to answer any and all questions sent her way.
I have two passports and took them both. Depending on the cost or need of a visa I switched between them for various countries. For Iran, I could not get a visa with one (Canadian) so I used the other (Euro). Very useful for Argentina as they now charge an exorbitant fee to Aussies, US and Canadian folk.
Maps and guides
Buy all the maps and guides you'll want for the entire trip. I mistakenly assumed that maps can be bought locally, which is not true in a lot of cases. Available maps are usually locally produced and lack accuracy and detail. Guide books are even harder to find. I did Syria and Jordan without a map or book, and it actually worked quite well. For this trip, since it was so long, buying guides and maps was not an option. Reliance on the GPS maps, some internet research and reading other traveler's websites and forums has provided the majority of information.
In 2006 I tossed a backpack across the rear with a rain cover over it. It worked ok but not stellar. I also used 2 straps and a bungee net to hold everything in place. For 2012, I bought a large cheap top-loading duffel bag, basically a duffel bag for a backpack, and tossed the backpack in it. It takes care of all the loose backpack straps and blends in more with the bike. Also, having the zippers on the top loading bag (positioned to the left of the bike), allowed me to use some of the space there to stow rain gear and odds and ends needed when you stop briefly. I don't have a tank bag. I used two simple straps to keep everything in place.
I bought a 120L Pacsafe wiremesh net that wraps all around the duffel bag and can be attached to the frame, lovingly named "Mexican Lace". It sure helps in alleviating the unease when the bike is left while you run between buildings to get stamps and entry permits at sketchy borders.
Link to original page:http://www.nohorizons.net/2012/what%20worked.html