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Old 10-01-2011, 10:56 AM   #121
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9/26 Chugging through southern Namibia

After a decent night sleep, we woke up to a chilly and windy morning. We had breakfast at the gas station and made use of their wifi to skype home. We had another long ride ahead of us today, and neither of us was really looking forward to it. Our original plan for this trip was to average around 100 miles per day, but so far we're averaging many more. The distances between cities in Namibia is so great that we grinding out miles is our only option. Today's ride was made even more difficult by another strong headwind. Instead of cruising 45mph at three quarters throttle, we rode most of the day at WOT and could barely maintain 40mph. As we rode, the elevation rose to over 4500ft, and I adjusted the A/F screw one quarter turn leaner to try to minimize the power loss. As the day got hotter and our butts got sorer, the enthusiasm dwindled.

After refueling in Keetmanshoop, we decided to have a hot lunch and a cold drink in the air-conditioned comfort of the Wimpy's. Feeling a little cooler and happier, we continued our journey north. As my new 5 liter fuel jug had no gasket in the cap, I've only been putting 4 liters in it to minimize leakage, and for the same reason, we've only been putting 3 liters in Re's toilet jug. Up until now, this has been enough fuel to get us to the next stop. Today was almost the exception. The fuel stop between Keetmanshoop and Mariental is in a town called Asab, or at least it was supposed to be there. As we rolled into Asab and pulled into the gas station, I noticed that all the fuel pumps had their outside covers removed and that there were local people camping, both inside and outside of the gas station building. Knowing the outcome, I still pulled up to the pump and cringed when a man ran up and shouted, “No petrol.” Well, poop. With no other choice, we turned back onto the highway and continued north at an even slower pace. Today's ride became an economy run. We lowered our speed to 35mph and my attention was now divided between our dwindling fuel lights and my GPS as it counted down the miles to Mariental.

Maybe it was because my attention was focused on matters of fuel economy that the little black dots hovering over the highway ahead didn't register until the last moment. I reached up just in time to close my face shield before riding through a swarm of bees. They sounded like hail on my helmet and ricocheted off my jacket. Re later told me she just ducked and closed her eyes. It did have the effect, however, of getting my eyes off the gauges and back onto the road. The scenery has continued to green ever so slightly the farther north we get. The race between the fuel lights and the GPS countdown was over when I spied the gas station at the southern edge of Mariental, and we pulled in to the pumps for some much needed fuel. My fuel light had been blinking for almost 7 miles, and Re still had a little more than I did, but it was close. Partly because of this experience and partly because Re is tired of me calling her bike “Toilet,” she went into the spare parts store at the gas station while I supervised the filling of the bikes. She came back with the news of a used 10L jerry can for only 65 NAD (about 8 USD). I went in to check it out and was concerned that it would be too large. I carried it out to the bike and put it on the front rack of Re's bike and, sure enough, it partially blocked her headlight. But the four pump jockeys who had gathered around the bikes assured us that it would be OK. I paid the man and we rode away with our big new jerrycan.

We made have found the last room in Mariental that night, as there was some sort of fishing tournament going on in the area. I'm not sure what bait you use for sandfish, because I sure didn't see any bodies of water in the area. The two highlights of the evening, however, occurred at the local grocery store. The first was Rebekah riding in through the exit of the parking lot right past the universal “do not enter” sign, which was met by a whoop of the siren from the police car parked about 20 yards from the scene of her crime. Fortunately, we must have looked like more trouble than we'd be worth, as the policeman just waved. For good measure, I pretended to give Re a lecture, complete with oversized hand gestures. The second was when we were leaving the store and one of the usual group of men who gather around wherever we park struck up a conversation. The gist of the conversation was that when I was bored with my motorcycle, that maybe I would come to him and offer him a very good price for my bike. The people in Namibia know quality when they see it! We chatted with him for maybe 5 minutes, and everyone had a nice laugh.

264 miles, 8 hours riding. Bikes still not enjoying the altitude.

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Old 10-01-2011, 11:19 AM   #122
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9/27 Ride to Windhoek

After camping for 3 nights in dry and dusty conditions, it was nice to sleep inside, especially with air-conditioning and a comfy, comfy bed. The bikes needed no adjustments, but I did add about 2 ounces of oil to my bike. After yesterday's economy run, I made the decision to throttle back a little today, both for the sake of our fuel economy and for a less frantic ride. This decision was made easier by the fact that today's ride would only be about 200 miles, and for the first time in several days, there was no headwind. The temperature was more moderate today and we were both in better spirits. The landscape continued to become more green, and there were more trees.



Shortly before lunch, we ran into a police checkpoint. They were stopping all traffic, and when it was our turn, they asked to see our drivers' licenses. The young man in fatigues, who appeared to be in charge, handed our licenses to another man with a clip board, and then he suddenly noticed Re's new 10 liter jerrycan. While I rummaged in my top case to find our international driving permits (IDPs), the man in fatigues told Rebekah that the jerrycan blocking her headlight was unacceptable. I handed him our IDPs, which he again passed to the man with the clip board, and then he proceeded to reposition Re's jerrycan in a horizontal, non-headlight blocking position. As Re's jerrycan also doesn't have a gasket in the cap, it's a good thing it was empty at the time. Once the jerrycan business was taken care of, the smiles broke out. While the man with the clip board just stared at our licenses and IDPs looking lost, the man in fatigues spied my seat pad and decided to wear it as a chest protector. More smiles and laughter ensued until our licenses were returned and we were free to go. Re got them to pose for a photo, and then we were on our way. We both have enjoyed how friendly and quick to smile the people in Africa have been.

We made it to the outskirts of Windhoek by around 2pm and quickly made a wrong turn. Within about a half mile I realized our mistake and made a right turn (across traffic. Remember, we are now driving on the left) into the Windhoek Country Club to turn around. I made it safely through, but was shocked when I looked back and saw that Re was stopped, partially in a lane of oncoming traffic. I yelled to see what was wrong, and Re said her bike would not move. I hopped off my bike and ran to see what was wrong. Re revved the bike up, but sure enough, it wouldn't move. Another good thing about SYM Symbas is they only weigh around 200 lbs, so I grabbed the rear rack, lifted the back wheel off the ground, and wheel-barrowed Re and her bike out of traffic. Once in a safe place, I checked the front and rear brakes for free play, but they weren't the culprit. When I looked at the rear of Re's bike, I saw that both the upper and lower halves of the chain case were deformed at the rear sprocket. I popped the inspection plug on the chain case to see if the chain had broken, but it was intact. It was then that I realized what happened.



The bolts that I discovered had come loose on my bike in Ohio, had now done the same on Rebekah's. So out came the tools, and we got to work. We removed the chain case halves to see that one bolt had backed out so far that it caught on a swingarm tab that the chain case mounts to, stopping the wheel from turning. Over the next hour, we removed the rear wheel, sprocket and hub, found that all three of the remaining bolts were loose, and put it all back together, this time with loctite. The most time consuming part of the repair job was refitting the mangled chain case.



The tab that the bolt lodged against was twisted, and the chain case halves were bent and torn. I would again like to give credit to Nathanthepostman for the inspiration to carry the ball-peen hammer that we used to massage the covers close to shape. Fortuitously, another underboner stopped to see if we needed help and told us the location of the nearby nut and bolt store. Once Re was mobile, it was our first stop. They had a suitable bolt for 1.20NAD (about 15 cents). We made our way into Windhoek, found a guesthouse and opted for a room over camping once we heard the thunder and noticed the black sky overhead. We had heard thunder in Mariental the night before, and our hostess said the little rains might be early this year. Apparently, she was right. Yay.


200 miles in 7 hours, including 1.5 hours repairing the “final drive” failure and acquiring a replacement bolt. I'm just sayin', a final drive failure on a SYM Symba can be fixed in about an hour with hand tools for 15 cents.
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:59 PM   #123
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hmmmm, I think I'm going to go check some bolts on my Passport.

Are you guys seeing any wild life?
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Old 10-02-2011, 04:13 PM   #124
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The hammer

...is also useful for self defence!
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Old 10-02-2011, 08:53 PM   #125
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In!

Fantastic thread!
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Old 10-03-2011, 04:29 AM   #126
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I'm loving your journey and glad that you two have each other for company and comfort. Really sorry you had such a negative experience riding through the Ft. Collins area. I agree that traffic thereabouts is kill or be killed. I don't know why because Colorado people are, as a rule, pretty laid back and open to the offbeat.
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Old 10-03-2011, 07:11 PM   #127
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Originally Posted by MrBob View Post
I'm loving your journey and glad that you two have each other for company and comfort. Really sorry you had such a negative experience riding through the Ft. Collins area. I agree that traffic thereabouts is kill or be killed. I don't know why because Colorado people are, as a rule, pretty laid back and open to the offbeat.
Any time I have left the state of Colorado on a long distance trip and returned, I notice the rudeness and moronic driving behavior once I get into the Denver area...
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:50 AM   #128
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9/28 Quest for Tire




The first order of business today was to install our recently acquired bolt in Re's rear end (er, her bike's rear end). We set up our tools and tarp in the parking lot of the guesthouse and got to work. We've done this enough times lately that we have the routine down. Off with the rear brakes, off with the rear wheel, and off with the hub. In went the new bolt, complete with loctite, and we put it all back together. Out of an abundance of caution, I decided to loctite my bolts as well. Imagine my surprise when I removed my rear hub and found that the bolts I had tightened less than two thousand miles ago were slightly loose. Sigh. We loctited everything and reassembled it, paying particular attention to staking the tabbed washers that (should) hold the bolt heads. I don't understand why this system isn't working. I've used similar tabbed washers on other bikes before, and they have never loosened. The material that the SYM washers are made of appears to be too soft a metal, and I believe that this is what is allowing the bolts to loosen. Hopefully, the loctite does the trick and we won't be doing this again any time soon. We spent most of the rest of the day on a quest for tires. You may recall that we installed new Michelin Gazelle tires on the rear of both our bikes before we left Ohio. These appear to be wearing very rapidly, and although we each have a spare Gazelle, I'm afraid that these won't last until India. Consequently, the search was on. During our roadside repairs of the previous day, a friendly local stopped by on a Yamaha underbone of some sort and mentioned that there was a Yamaha dealer in town. He also mentioned that there was another brand of underbones, named Vuka. We Googled the location of the nearest Vuka dealer and went looking. The big problem we are finding in Windhoek is that nobody uses street addresses, and nobody knows the street address of anything. The Vuka dealer was supposed to be on Nelson Mandela at the BP. We cruised the length of Nelson Mandela twice, never seeing anything Vuka or anything BP. Hmmm. We also had an address for a Honda dealer that appeared to sell cars and bikes so we headed there next. They didn't sell tires, but told us of the Yamaha dealer, but the only directions they could give were that it was next to the cemetery in the Southern Industrial District. We went back to the guesthouse, fired up the computer, and Googled the cemetery in the Southern Industrial District. This at least gave us a cross street and we were off again. We rode to where we thought the Yamaha dealer might be, but instead found a Kawasaki and Suzuki dealer. We stopped here and found they did have a couple of tires that would fit our bikes. It turns out the Vuka dealer no longer exists and that these tires are the stock replacements for the Vukas. They were no brand I've ever heard of and were nearly 40 USD each. Considering the Michelin Gazelles were 16.99 each, these were some pretty pricey tires. They also felt very plasticky, and I couldn't figure out whether they were a front tire only or were universal. Either way, it wasn't a very impressive tread pattern. I asked the parts kid if he could tell me where the Yamaha dealer was, and he directed us there. We rode over to the Yamaha dealer, where I was informed that Yamaha underbones use 18” wheels, not 17” wheels like the Symba. Discouraged, we headed back to the guesthouse with no tires. We discussed the situation over dinner and decided that the Vuka tires were at least better than nothing, and as we weren't enjoying Windhoek very much, we'd get up the next morning, buy the tires, and head for the coast.



20 miles of riding in tons of traffic.
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:52 AM   #129
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9/29 Ride to Swakopmund

It rained overnight again and was still sprinkling in the morning, so no bike maintenance today. We were on the road by 8:45 and were at the motorcycle store by 9:00. I went upstairs to the parts department, picked up the tires, and took them to the counter. Not relishing the thought of paying nearly 80 USD for these unlovely rubber donuts, I asked if there was a discount if I bought two. The parts kid looked them up in the computer and said he could sell them for 470NAD (59 USD) for the pair. Sold. I carried them back down to our bikes and strapped yet another tire onto each of our loads. I am afraid our bikes are beginning to resemble the Clampett's truck as they pulled into Beverly (Hills, that is). At least it had stopped raining as we headed west out of town. The ride was cool this morning and the scenery changed from green scrub and low trees to desert by the end of the ride. Around 1pm, they temperature warmed dramatically and stayed that way until about 40 miles from Swakopmund, when it dropped noticeably. During the ride we stopped for gas in Karibib, where we saw several BMW R1200GSs in the parking lot and pulled up next to them. While I walked the gas can to the pumps, Re met the rider of one of the GSs, who was an Edelweiss tour leader. We ended up chatting with him for 10 minutes or so while his group reassembled and compared notes on our two completely different rides. I had to smile a little when I noted that not only did they have a chase vehicle for the luggage, but that they were also carrying a spare R1200GS in the back. Makes our tool pouch look kinda chintzy by comparison, doesn't it? Back on the road, we did see a hornbill and some sort of humongous eagle, but no other wildlife today. We made it to Swakopmund around 5:00pm and found a place to camp for the night. I would like to mention, we are carrying the 2010 edition of the Lonely Planet Southern Africa guidebook, which is the most recent edition and is supposed to be “fully updated.” Well, it ain't. The prices have been wrong by about half again, and even the maps are wrong. A few years ago, Namibia changed the names of many streets to those of important figures in Namibian independence, but the maps in the Lonely Planet don't reflect these changes. Also, for instance, the book lists a tour of the Hansa Brewery, which has apparently been closed for three years or more, according to the proprietress of our guesthouse. And just about every guesthouse they list as having internet access does not.



235 miles in about 8 hours. Bikes are wheezing a little and did not enjoy the all day headwind.
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:57 AM   #130
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9/30 No Welwitschias for You




Our plan for today was to ride through the Namib-Naukluft Park, specifically the Welwitschia Drive. The welwitschia is an extremely long lived desert plant, living up to 1500 years. In reading about Namibia, we've seen plenty of pictures and wanted to see them in person. Also not mentioned in the Loser's Planet is the permit required to drive the loop. When we went to get the permit, Re found out that motorcycles are not allowed in the park. Even though there are no lions in the Namib desert, there is a blanket exclusion in all Namibian national parks. Boo. Re spoke to the Chief Warden of the park and found out that we could at least ride part of it without a permit since part of the loop is on public roads, and we might see a welwitschia in that section. But we didn't.






But we did have a great ride and saw lots of other cool stuff, including springbok, two herds of ostriches running across the desert, and some spectacular desert scenery. Re also enjoyed riding the dirt and gravel D road that took us back to the main highway. We also experienced our first Symba watersplashes on this same road. The Swakop River crosses this road, and enough rain fell recently for the crossing to be muddy and have a few inches of water in it. We powered our way through!






We ate our picnic lunch around 1pm and headed south toward Walvis Bay. The route we took went along Dune 7 most of the way. Dune 7 is a humongous sand dune- it must be several hundred yards high and miles and miles long. We pulled into the public dune riding area for the photo op. Walvis Bay was kind of, meh, but we did see dozens and dozens of motorcycles in town and riding toward town as we headed back north to Swakopmund. It suddenly occurred to me that I had read it was bike week in Walvis Bay this weekend in another ride report. It was again a chilly and foggy ride back to Swakopmund. The high temperature has only been in the 60s with lows in the 40s at the coast. We have now been on the road for two months and celebrated with a self-catered dinner of toasted cheese and creamed spinach with feta (and maybe too many Carling Black Labels).



118 miles in some number of hours. The bikes ran well and handled the sand and watersplash with aplomb.
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Old 10-04-2011, 01:00 AM   #131
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10/1 - A Three-Hour Tour....

Re and I were planning to start our trip toward Victoria Falls today. We had a choice of two routes- one that was paved the entire way, and another that involved about 200 miles of gravel roads. Initially, I was planning on the paved route but had heard from many other people who had driven in Namibia how good the gravel roads were. Mistake #1 was that I listened to them. It rained overnight and the power went out in the entire town near morning. We woke to a wet campsite and no electricity for the coffee pot at the guesthouse. We dawdled around, hoping the rain would stop but were honestly freezing our butts off. Fortunately the water heaters that fed the showers at the guesthouse still had enough hot water for both of us to shower and warm up before we packed up the bikes and started out at around 9:30. Our first stop was the gas station for a quick fill-up, but it didn't happen that way. While our bikes were being filled, two Africa Twin riders pulled in and hopped off their bikes for a chat. It turns out that one of them was Onno (1NiteOwl) and one of his friends, who were in the middle of a ride from South Africa through Botswana and Namibia and back home again. While we were chatting with them, some other bike week revelers pulled up and also wanted to chat with us. We again told our story, shook hands, posed for photos, AND declined the invitation to ride with them to Walvis Bay for bike week. Mistake #2 was not going with them.



After at least 30 minutes at the gas station, we headed north up the C34 toward Henties Bay. It was still drizzling and cold as we rode further north and eventually turned east on the C35. As we rode toward Henties Bay, the theme song to Gilligan's Island was going through my head. I kept looping on the three hour tour part. I'm not a superstitious person, but I think ignoring this “sign” was Mistake #3 for the day. The first 10 miles or so of the C35 were nicely groomed, hard-packed dirt and sand and was easy riding. Suddenly the road surface changed to imbedded rocks covered by larger gravel and drifts of dusty sand. Our speed went from 45mph down to 30, and even to 20 on some of the more roughly corrugated sections. Maybe Mistake #4 was continuing on after Re saw one of her spare tires rolling through the desert, since the roughness of the road caused the bungee to let loose. But we persevered. With visions of broken spokes and punctured tires dancing in my head, we continued. That's when Re apparently decided to see whether the sand in Namibia tastes the same as the sand in America. We were in one of the smoother sections and were riding close to the left edge of the road at about 35mph when, in my rear view mirror, I saw Rebekah drift farther to the left and into about 4 inches of soft sand. Well, fuck. Re put up a valiant fight against the forces of physics, but like all of us, she eventually lost. I could see her bike fishtailing and then saw the puff of dust and nothing more. Well, double fuck. I spun my bike around and went back to see what the damage was. Re was lying face down in the sand, not moving and more concerning still, she was not swearing. She said she was okay and that everything was working but was clearly very shaken up. She spent enough years at the racetrack with me to know that the first concern is the bike, so after she got her leg out from under the bike, we assessed the damage. I figured it was better to keep her focused on something besides what just happened and sent her off to pick up the various ejecta from the bike. Her one spare tire was, once again, in the desert, along with her bike lock.



The bike actually crashed well- nothing was broken, only a bent footpeg, the headlight out of adjustment, and a bent turn signal mount. The real casualty (other than Re's confidence) was her MSR Dromedary water bag, which was now crying all over the desert. Re's only complaints at this time were a bruise near her elbow on her right arm, her right pinky finger, and her right shoulder. All were working but sore. After we repacked the bike, we continued on for maybe 10 more miles at no more than 20mph, and the road never got better. And then, we discovered that Re's tire had gone AWOL once again. Re was still looking a little upset, so I said I would go look for the tire while she took a break. I headed back from whence we came, figuring there was no chance I would actually find this tire, that it would have rolled off into the desert someplace, gone for good. It was a pleasant surprise, when about 6.5miles back, I found it laying on the shoulder of the road. At least one thing went right today. Not wanting to find a place for it in my pile of crap, I wore it like a necklace for the ride back. When I made it back to where I'd left Re, she giggled at my new jewelry.



We consulted the map and realized we were only about 40 miles into this 150 mile gravel section. At this point, I started doing the math to determine how long it would take us to reach our destination, and it wasn't going to be tonight. It was at this point that Re suggested we admit defeat, put our tails between our legs, and slink back to Swakopmund. This was the best idea I had heard all day. Re knows that I do not like to backtrack, but in this situation, it was the wisest thing to do. We retraced the nearly 90 miles back to Swakopmund, only to find that most of the guesthouses were full (it was Saturday night). We didn't want to camp again since our tent and gear were still wet, and it was still cold. Re did find a nice place for us to stay that was a little beyond our usual budget, but in light of everything that happened today, it was well worth it. The ride back was miserable for a couple of reasons: first, it was genuinely cold, and our hands were nearly numb by the end of the ride, second, we were fighting a fierce headwind for the final 40 miles of the ride, finally, it gave me plenty of time to think about Re's crash. Back on her KLX650, she's tipped over at a near standstill several times, but this was her first real crash. She seemed to be okay with it, or was at least putting on a good face, but it's a bad feeling to watch the woman you love crash in the rear view mirror. It also made me consider, why are we here, and why are we doing this? We spent the evening talking about a lot of these issues, and Re is fully committed to going on. But we did agree that we are going to have to realize the limitations of our little bikes and stick to paved roads for safety's sake.



161 miles in 7 hours. Re's bike took a nap and my speedometer cable vibrated loose.
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Old 10-04-2011, 01:09 PM   #132
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glad to hear Re made it through ok. that first hard off is the hardest one to get over. but she sounds like a tough chick!
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Old 10-04-2011, 06:03 PM   #133
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I'm loving your writing style and explanations of your day, its the next best thing to being there. Hope you guys have a safe adventure. I check in a couple of times a day and enjoy reading your updates. I know you will inspire my wife to get out on her CT 90 a bit more.

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Old 10-04-2011, 07:53 PM   #134
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One of a kind....

A story well told is music to the mind and plays a Samba on my soul... keep on up
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Old 10-04-2011, 09:25 PM   #135
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I'm about to reach new heights of pretentiousness by quoting myself, but the common theme is so striking I can't resist:

Quote:
Originally Posted by TangoKilo421
I love this report. This is true adventure riding, which of course has nothing to do with having the latest GS with all the farkles (not that I don't want one!)

Rather it has everything to do with challenging conventional notions of what one can or can't do on a particular bike, or indeed, bikes in general, coupled with a willingness to face the possibility of spectacular failure.
That was in reply to a thread about a group of guys riding across the country and back on "inappropriate" machines. I feel the same way about this adventure, but I'd make one significant edit: I'd remove the phrase "spectacular failure." Truth be told, I think the only way you could have failed was to dream this adventure and NOT do it. Failure went out the window as soon as you put the first mile under your tires!
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