|01-03-2011, 12:50 PM||#16|
from the land of Toto
Joined: Nov 2009
Sounds interesting, very BRAVE of you indeed.... Subscribed !
Ks-Rydr.... Two-lane blacktop isn't a highway, it's an attitude !
|01-03-2011, 12:54 PM||#17|
Joined: Feb 2004
Location: Cheshire, UK .
Fantastic Ela, really looking forward to reading about the whole trip.
You've captured some amazing images there
|01-03-2011, 01:05 PM||#19|
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Aztec, NM, USA
Great start and pictures! Looking forward to this ride!! Thanks for taking us along!
"Off road, but still on track..."
|01-03-2011, 03:11 PM||#21|
OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT
Joined: Nov 2006
Location: Bowling Green, Ky
Look forward to reading and seeing more, So how well did the DRZ hold up? What about oil changes? I'd be interested in how well it did and problems. Hope you've got time to get into that?
|01-03-2011, 04:17 PM||#22|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
Thank you all for your encouraging feedback! I'll try to get the next instalment out as soon as possible.
After fitting the luggage racks, the Clarke tank, tool tube, sump guard, radiator guards and other bits and pieces, the weight was about 165 kg including fuel (16 litre tank plus extra can of 5 litres incorporated in the rack).
When they weighed the bike at the airport it was 190 kg including all my luggage (2 tank panniers with parts, tools, maps and cooker; 2 soft panniers with clothes, shoes, washing kit, cooking utensils, first aid kits; 2 luggage rolls with camping equipment, sleeping bag and mattress).
No punctures, no problems with low fuel quality; I almost made the whole trip without changing the spark plug (ahem...), and there is still some life left in the chain and sprockets (which were cleaned and lubed every day).
|01-03-2011, 07:36 PM||#23|
I just....don't know
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Outer fringes of the Puget Sound Region
Fantastic start! The hook is in my lip, and I am being reeled in without much fight.
|01-04-2011, 05:56 AM||#25|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
A few background details...
... for the ones who don't know me:
Pumpernickel is the name of a distinctive black German rye bread and that’s what my English friends call me, subtly hinting at my origin. I was born and raised in Berlin, moved to Hamburg after the Wall came down and then on to the United Kingdom after meeting my English partner in the middle of nowhere in the Spanish Pyrenees.
I have been riding motorcycles for over twenty years and although I have taken every single bike I owned off the tarmac, I only seriously started trail riding when I came to the British Isles. Well, this enjoyable activity should have prepared me for the mostly unpaved roads in South America – that’s what I was hoping for anyway…
Photo courtesy of Timpo
Why South America and why now?
It was in my revolutionary teenage years when I first heard of Chile: a nation that believed that socialism could be achieved through democracy and the sheer will of the people. I was fascinated and even the fact that a military coup ended Salvador Allende’s ambitious project three years later and led to almost two decades of one of the most brutal dictatorships of the twentieth century, could not deter my enthusiasm. There was so much more to Chile: its history, its people, its literature and above all its geography. Wedged between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, never more than 240 kilometres (150 miles) wide, the country stretches over 4,300 km (2,670 m) and four climate zones from the Atacama Desert to Patagonia. One day, I wanted to travel the whole length of this amazing country.
In the late nineties, I started to prepare my dream trip more seriously by learning Spanish and going on a sort of test ride to Spain and Portugal – six weeks with just my R80GS and a small tent. But life took a different course; in the Pyrenees I met an irresistible Englishman and moved to the UK two years later, trading one big adventure for a possibly even greater one of living as a stranger in a strange land.
Settling in went really well though, I grew fond of my new home country and its people, and even after nine years I still enjoy the difference. However, in the back of my head there was still this dream lingering and the thought of “one day, yes, one day I will go… ” I might have woken up one day and realised that I was too old, too ill or too comfortably established to embark on this trip. But then, in October 2009 a big reorganisation was announced at work including the expendability of 50 employees.
The months that followed were very unsettling; everyone had to apply for new jobs or, in my and my colleagues’ case, for their own jobs, which I found rather humiliating to say the least. Of course, I looked at the most interesting roles in the 'new' organisation, rewrote my CV, complied with all the required procedures but the risk of not making it through the selection process hung over my head day and night. “Don’t worry,” said the irresistible Englishman, “if you are made redundant then you can fulfil your dream and go to Chile.” Hey, that’s the right attitude – always see the opportunity in a difficult situation! It also helped that straight after this conversation I went to a meeting of motorcycle travellers who, naturally, all encouraged me to take the plunge.
After working for the company for over seven years, I was going to get a generous severance package that would help me to fund the trip without having to sell house and kids. So when the application deadline came, I thought: “Why should I wait for some manager to make the decision for me?” and opted straight for the redundancy. Still, it was not an easy decision for someone with a Prussian upbringing and hence a strong sense of duty, an orderly life and job security. There were quite a few nights when I lay awake and thought: “Oh my God, what have I done?”
My last day at work was the 28th of May 2010 and on the 31st I broke my foot whilst trail-riding... Still, I was determined to stick to the original schedule and fly out to Buenos Aires as planned on 17th August. A lot of things had to be squeezed into the time in between: surgery and bone healing, plenty of physio, preparing my bike and equipment, completing my qualification as a Business Analyst, getting CV and profile up to scratch, more vaccinations, and, and, and...
Since this was going to be the trip of a lifetime, I extended the route a bit so that my journey would take me not only to Chile but from Buenos Aires through Uruguay to the Iguazú Falls on the border between Argentina and Brazil, across to Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, from there into northern Chile, down to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and then up to Buenos Aires again.
Before I set off I was not sure what I would do after returning to the UK; travelling changes your perception of the world and the priorities in your life. I thought that I might miss all my colleagues too much and go back to my old company if there was an interesting vacancy. Or – having been a Youth Worker for over twenty years of my life – I might want to do something more meaningful in future. Well, I’m still busy re-adjusting to Europe; the journey has certainly helped me to get a clearer idea of what I don’t want to do.
So at the moment I am living of my savings and looking what’s happening on the market. Seeing the conditions in which people survive in South America has put things right into perspective: I won't starve and I won't have to build a cardboard-shed on the outskirts of Oxford; there is work in this country and even if I need to do something below my qualification for a while, I am pretty confident that the right job for me is out there somewhere.
You see? Nothing to be afraid of...
|01-04-2011, 11:19 AM||#27|
Joined: Sep 2007
Location: Belgium, wrong side of the river
Ok, stop teasing, bring it on.
Honestly, have you ever heard of somebody looking back on his life thinking: "Oh, I should have travelled less and mowed the lawn more often"? (Pumpy)
want to save on Smugmug? use this code (VoUO8M1ukmnMY)
|01-05-2011, 06:09 AM||#29|
Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
BMW GS's are really capable and versatile motorcycles, I had several models as my main means of transport since 1994 and I really enjoy taking my 1150 everywhere - but it is a bit on the heavy side, especially when you think about loading it up with camping gear, luggage, tools and spares for a four-month trip.
Photo courtesy of Clive
So after quite a few people had pointed out that I might be better off with a vehicle that I could comfortably lift by myself should I drop it, the focus shifted to the little dual sports bike that I use for trail riding – a DRZ400S:
Photo courtesy of Louisdut
The majority of the modifications necessary to turn the DRZ into an adventure bike was carried out by my wonderful personal mechanic - so I let Steve tell you about his work himself.
|01-05-2011, 06:19 AM||#30|
Joined: Jan 2004
Location: Oxford, UK
We’d already decided that a Suzuki DRZ 400 S would be the ideal bike for Ela’s trip to South America as it was reliable, had good aftermarket support and was relatively light (in comparison to her BMW R1150 GS anyway…), meaning that she could pick it up herself if for some reason the bike found itself on its side... Despite already owning a DRZ, we decided to buy another one specifically for this trip, one that was newer, in better condition and with fewer miles on the clocks. Another factor was that in November 2009, the chain had snapped on the old bike, holing the left-hand crankcase in process and dumping most of its oil on the road.
As the bike had covered the best part of 20,000 miles already, rather than strip it down to replace the case, I simply filed a piece of aluminium to shape that filled the 25mm x 5mm hole in the clutch arm housing and had a friend TiG weld over the top. Prior to this, I picked out all the debris I could and then changed the oil and filter twice before running the bike as normal. Not wanting the outcome of Ela’s trip decided by what could turn out to be an unreliable bike, starting afresh with another bike was the best option in our opinion. Ela eventually bought a tidy, low mileage (2,600 miles) 2004 DRZ 400 S from MadMikey near Bridgend, South Wales that had been advertised on www.UKGSer.com.
The bike was standard with the exception of a DEP silencer, decent bashplate and handguards. Ela had already bought a second-hand 16 litre Clarke fuel tank in blue whilst the newly purchased bike was yellow. Swapping the panels between the older blue bike and the newer yellow bike achieved two things, firstly, the tank was now the right colour and secondly, the blue panels were scuffed from trail riding and once the graphics were removed, it made the bike look less attractive to thieves but more importantly, it also looked less “flash”, important in poorer parts of the world.
I then drew up a list of modifications that were required to transform the bike from humble trailie to what could be termed an Adventure bike. I soon discovered that as soon as I crossed one item off the list, another idea or part cropped up and was added to the list, at times the list of things to do was growing faster than I could accomplish the tasks I’d set myself; what started out as base list of about 20 modifications ended up at just over 60 and that’s not including the little things that I did along the way that I never noted down.
Most of the ideas were a combination of common sense, experience from 26 years riding and spannering and also reading DRZ related threads on various online forums such as Advrider.com and Thumpertalk.com. As a former DRZ owner myself, I had a good grasp of the basics anyway. Having worked on and serviced all of our bikes for many years, owning a double length garage equipped with an old lathe, decent pillar drill, MiG welder, tyre changing equipment and a good selection of power tools meant I felt confident in tackling just about every task on the list.
For those tasks I knew I’d struggle with, I’m lucky enough to have a good friend in Simon Moore who I often run ideas past even when doing all of the work myself, just in case I was doing it the hard or the wrong way. Where I have what I term “hobby” equipment, Simon has industrial tooling to hand including a mill, lathe and all types of welding gear plus he’s into bikes big time, so could appreciate where I was coming from and what I was trying to achieve.
We bought a set of used tubular steel Givi pannier rails originally destined for an airhead GS. Once all brackets and mounts were removed, I was left with the hoops which are hardest part to manufacture yourself in my opinion.
I bought several metres each of 25mm x 6mm thick flat steel bar and 16mm diameter steel tube with a 2mm wall thickness. It was always our intention to incorporate a 5 litre fuel can in to the left hand pannier frame, an idea shamelessly stolen from Louisdut’s BMW HP2. The fuel container was in fact from a boat and measured only 70mm wide which made it ideal. I started by bending lengths of steel bar to shape to form the support for the fuel can before welding them to the pannier hoops. Once completed, I lined up the pannier hoops on each side of the bike via brackets I’d welded in place and through an existing 9mm hole on each side of the subframe that I drilled out to 10mm. Once happy with the location of each hoop, I started fabricating the necessary mounting hardware to hold it all in place.
I’d already decided to weld a 6mm thick steel plate to each side of the frame above the swingarm pivot point to which the pannier frames would be mounted via steel tubes. The idea (not my own) was that additional bracing to the bike’s frame itself would also help brace the DRZ’s aluminium subframe and help spread the load. In addition to the 10mm mounting in the subframe, I welded a bracket to each side of the DRZ rear rack to provide another mounting point via a welded on steel tube and another 10mm stainless Allen bolt. From there, mounts were fabricated to fasten the frames to the footpeg mounts on each side and to the previously mentioned lugs welded to the bike frame.
Finally, I added a removable crossbrace that ran across the rear of the bike, beneath the tailpiece and behind the rear wheel but positioned high enough so that rear wheel removal did not require removal of the crossbrace. This crossbrace would help strengthen the rear of the luggage racks. Extra lengths of flat bar were welded in place to protect the front leading edge of the fuel can in the event of a crash.
Whilst there, I incorporated a Tool Tube in to the left hand frame & tucked in tight to the bike to mimic the location of the right hand mounted silencer, this is to carry tools and tyre levers but was originally intended for a Tractor Operators manual and is a popular addition to this type of bike.
As Ela’s using Ortlieb soft panniers, I welded a steel hoop on to the top of each frame through which to pass mounting straps. All fasteners are 8mm and 10mm stainless steel Allen bolts retained with stainless washers and Nyloc nuts. Where fasteners screw directly in to the frame, longer bolts were utilised with stainless Nyloc nuts and washers on the back, locking the fastener in place to prevent it coming loose on the rougher sections of the trip.
The complete rear rack and pannier frames were powder-coated black at Oxford Industrial Finishers for £20 and weigh just over 5kg including fasteners but not the fuel can itself. The end result is a rack system in three parts, each of which can be removed from the bike independent of the other sections, making it easier to remove and fit to the bike.
As mentioned above, waterproof Ortlieb panniers will be mounted on the racks themselves with Wolfman Expedition Dry Tank Panniers up front. Across the back of the bike are two 30 litre waterproof sacks from Motorrad Louis in Germany. A Kriega US5 pouch is mounted on the front mudguard to carry two spare inner tubes. I extended the Velcro crossover straps on the Ortliebs with lengths of the necessary Velcro riveted on to the standard straps. Slots were cut in the rad shrouds through which the tank pannier straps passed, in addition to straps around the frame above the swingarm pivot.
Additional fuel capacity
The 5 litre fuel can was sourced from an online marine chandlers; it came with a cap but no spout. Trying to pour a full can into the bike fuel tank led to us losing at least 0.5 litres each time as the fuel dripped down the side of the can. To prevent fuel wastage, I cut a hole in the centre of a spare cap and using silicon sealant, stuck the plastic spout from a 5 litre oil can to the cap; Ela just screws it on as and when needed.
To keep the bike manageable for Ela, I fitted Talon lowering links to the suspension linkage to lower the rear of the bike. To maintain a level bike and retain decent steering geometry, the front needed to be lowered also, this entailed pushing the forks through the yokes but the position of the handlebars prevented me from doing so, a problem resolved by fitting Talon handlebar risers which allowed us to push the forks through by 20mm.
We used the seat from the other DRZ which had already had about 20-25mm of seat foam removed by a local guy, reducing the seat height even further. The seat was topped off with a sheepskin Ela had given to me years ago but which I’d never used, so it was “appropriated” for the trip, cut to shape and held in place with Cordura straps.
Ela had always found it a bit fiddly to remove the DRZ front spindle as once it was pushed through from the left; there was only a short section of greased spindle to grab on the right. This was remedied by making a spindle puller for each bike. I started by cutting the hex spindle removal tool in half, drilling the centre out to 12mm to save weight and then drilling a 6mm hole near one end of each piece at right angles. Into this hole was inserted a 100mm length of 6mm round steel bar which was then welded in place before the whole thing was welded in to the end of the wheel spindle for ease of use and to save space in the toolkit.
Having experienced the trauma of a snapped chain, I doubled the thickness of the stock case saver to 6mm with the aid of a steel plate cut to shape and then welded to the standard part. Footpegs were also swapped between bikes as the older bike had significantly wider footpegs that offered greater support in the event of needing to stand on the ‘pegs for any length of time. I also cable tied every pair of spokes where they crossed over, hopefully preventing any broken spokes from catching in calipers and discs etc.
I also replaced the standard 5mm and 6mm screws that retained the headlight cowl as they were fiddly to use, especially the 5mm screw beneath the light that screwed in to the front of the top yoke. All three were replaced with long stainless Allen bolts with two Nyloc nuts screwed on to the thread and then tightened together before being fitted to the bike. These extended length fasteners made cowl removal and refitting a lot easier. One of the last things to be done on the chassis side was to weld a large diameter washer to the underside of the sidestand foot to increase its footprint, the idea being to prevent the stand sinking in sand or soft ground.
Not wanting mechanical issues to delay or even ruin the trip, the chain, both sprockets, brake pads and wheel bearings were all replaced with new parts. The stock rubber brakes lines were replaced with plastic coated stainless lines with stainless fittings from HEL Ltd. I also replaced the seal that sits behind the front sprocket along with a stainless spacer instead of the stock mild steel part that corrodes and then chews up the up seal, causing the bike to dump its oil with the inevitable consequences, a known DRZ fault…
Replacement stainless rear wheel spacers were purchased online and fitted in due course. The matching front wheel spacer was no longer available, so Simon Moore kindly turned two up on his lathe, one for each of Ela’s DRZ’s.
Another weak point of the DRZ is the brake pad retaining pins that are hard to remove and prone to either rounding out or corroding in place (both if you’re really unlucky). Stainless hex headed versions were purchased from Leisure Trail in Nottingham and fitted when the calipers were overhauled and new pads fitted, money well spent in my opinion. These pad pins designed for the Honda CRM250 which uses the same calipers as the DRZ.
The bike came fitted with nearly new Michelin AC10 tyres, which although great for trailriding, were not ideal for the trip due to the limited mileage Ela would get from them; they were replaced with Pirelli MT21’s front and rear along with 4mm thick heavy duty tubes to hopefully limit punctures. I replaced the rear sprocket bolts with heavy duty plated steel items as the ones I’d bought from Talon were too short as they were intended for use with one of their billet hubs.
I also used two nuts on each number plastic number plate screw, locking them together to prevent them shaking loose. The stock mirrors are not that great and screw directly in to the clutch lever and front brake perches. Dropping the bike can tear the perch clamps off, rendering the bike unrideable. This potential issue was resolved by buying a set of Double Take mirrors from Adventurespec.com. Basically the mirror stem is connected to the bike by a set of GPS RAM mounts each side, the idea being that in the event of a crash, the mirrors are pushed out of the way on the ball mountings.
As many as possible of the stock mild steel fasteners were replaced with stainless Allen bolts and Nyloc nuts where safe to do so. Stainless is strong but has a low sheer strength and is not ideal for mounting parts that are subject to high side loads such as brake calipers etc. Plenty of Copperslip was used as despite its low mileage, there were more than a few seized/corroded bolts on the bike, all of which took time and in some cases, brute force and power tools to remove. I also turned up a series of six aluminium top hat shaped spacers that were glued in place in to the rad shrouds, they help spread the load of the fasteners and the glue prevents them being lost if the shrouds are removed for any reason.
Not wanting to overload the bike’s electrics or to complicate things for Ela, I limited the electrical modifications to relocating the fuse holder to beneath the seat for ease of access as the stock location near the battery would have meant stripping the left hand pannier frame from the bike to access it. I fitted a 12v cigarette lighter socket to a one-off steel bracket I’d made, mounted on the right of the headlight and fasted via the top yoke bolts.
Ela bought a Garmin Zumo 220 GPS system that was powered by an internal battery that could be charged up by plugging in to the 12v socket. Having an internal battery meant that when the Zumo was not being charged, the 12v socket could then be used for charging other electronic devices on the move.
Heated Grips from Oxford Products were fitted; these later versions are a massive improvement over the primitive items I fitted to Ela’s DR350 a few years ago although the mounting bracket supplied as part of the kit is next to useless. To remedy this, I turned up four aluminium spacers on the lathe to fill the recesses in the Talon ‘bar risers normally occupied by recessed heads of the Allen bolts used here and then mounted an aluminium plate across the riser mounts to which the heated grips switch was stuck on using the supplied adhesive pad. The control box was located beneath the seat with all wiring cable tied to the stock wiring harness.
We thought that replacing the rear bulb with an LED equivalent would be a good idea, in practice it was a waste of time as all of the LED’s faced rearwards with no light aimed at the reflector, resulting in a small dim glow instead of the high intensity light I’d expected, a full refund was soon obtained...
A cheap 12v compressor that plugs in to the 12v socket was stripped of its casing to save space and weight. All accessible electrical connectors were taken apart, cleaned and greased prior to reassembly to limit corrosion etc. The ignition switch bracket was disassembled, flipped through 180 degrees and mounted on the ‘bars using the original handlebar clamp tops that had been rendered surplus by the use of the Talon risers.
After rough jigsawing to shape, I turned up three round plates of differing sizes from 2.5mm thick sheet aluminium on the lathe and stuck them to the clutch, generator and starter motor covers with black automotive silicon sealant. As DRZ cases are not known for their strength, these will hopefully save them from being holed, similar parts on my KTM 950SE seem to have worked on more than one occasion...
Simon Moore then TiG welded an aluminium extension plate I’d made on to the bashplate, to protect the water pump and oil filter cover. A 1” cube of closed cell foam was then “siliconed” in place between the welded on plate and the oil filter cover for additional cushioning and to prevent the plate being pushed inwards in the event of a spill.
I was given a sheet of Perspex by Steve of UKGS’er from which a headlight guard was fabricated, held in place by two aluminium brackets and a few stainless Allen bolts and Nylocs.
Unabiker rad guards from the US were ordered and fitted, only requiring a minor mod with a die grinder to ensure a good fit. We’d originally ordered some UK made rad guards for the DRZ400E, thinking I could modify them to fit Ela’s 400S. Unfortunately there was no way they’d fit, they were then sold on to Timpo as he had a 400E only to find they didn’t fit his bike either? He thinks they’re intended for the very early 400E which is different to the later E versions and all 400S versions. An aluminium front fender brace was also fitted for protection and to provide a decent support for the Kriega US5. A Kriega Haul Loop was also fitted to the forks in case it was ever required.
The valves were checked, with one exhaust and one inlet valve found to be tight by 0.05mm. Once shims of the correct size were fitted and the head reassembled, the spark plug, oil, oil filter and air filter were replaced plus an inline fuel filter was fitted in case Ela ended up buying dirty fuel at any point. The filter was sleeved in a block of closed cell foam to protect it. Although the DEP silencer was significantly lighter than the heavy steel Suzuki item, it was also significantly noisier. To resolve this, a length of 25mm OD stainless tube was cut to length with one end crushed in the 3-jaw chuck on Simon’s lathe to close the end up and hopefully reduce the noise level. Simon then TiG welded it in place, resulting in a quieter bike.
Spare tubes, levers, selection of fasteners and fuses, brake pads front and rear, spare throttle cables, lubed spare clutch cable with sealed ends cable tied in place for quick renewal.
Shortened Buzzetti style tyre levers, chain tool and 24mm spanner/ tyre lever combo from Motion-Pro, spoke key milled from 6mm flat steel bar courtesy of Simon Moore, a selection of spanners, Allen keys and 3/8” drive sockets plus an extension bar. The Motion-Pro spanner/tyre lever came with a hex insert that featured a 3/8” drive tool in lieu of carrying a ratchet or T-bar. Other items in the toolkit include stainless lockwire, emery paper, small Molegrips, various screwdrivers plus Ela’s Leatherman, tow straps and spark plug spanner in addition to small tubs of Copperslip and grease plus a small refillable plastic can of oil for lubing the chain.
The Adventure Bike
A very happy adventuress
... and her personal mechanic
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