Originally Posted by Cycles East
----- AFTER ACTION REVIEW -------------------
First off, thank you for all of your interest. This was an excellent experience and sharing it made it all that better. Yes, it was shared between FB and ADV. Really, we dont care. More in life than wondering if you are sharing enough pictures on the net. Now, for all of the desk jockies, get that gut out of the cubicle and create your own adventure.
We had plenty of miles and hours to think about what we would do if we did it again on ct90's. To answer that, you have to keep in mind that Cycles East does not like being part of the crowd, doing something the "easy" way, and we ALWAYS do it on the cheap.
Sure, we could of taken KLR's, XL's, or even a GS, but how is that challenging? We could of even went east to west but once again, why? Too easy and we are just another cow in the herd. We were going to do the trail on modified Honda CB750's at first. Decided not to due to the weight and price of builds.
For this trip the average price paid for the trip (motorcycle purchase, build, and trip) was $2000-$2500. Once again, this amount included the bike purchase, modifications, new engine, new lights, new tires, new everything!. You cant even touch a bike with new everything for less than $5k now. This is also another reason why we chose the trail 90's. The cheapness, the redundancy of parts, and lets face it, it was a challenge.
We only stayed in a motel about once a week. This is 5 dirty guys crashing out in a room just to get a shower. We washed our clothes twice the whole time. We lived off of tuna, dehydrated beans, dehydrated fruit, tortillas, and instant coffee. We would would get a nice meal in a town about every 3 days or so. You start craving a steak and a cold beer!!!
So now knowing that we did this on the cheap and unsupported, we had to pack a lot of parts, fuel, and food.
Fuel is cheap for these bikes. We were getting 80 mpg. With the extra fuel we carried we had a 240 mile range. I dont think there are many other bikes that have this for a $12 fuel up. This is $0.05 a mile. That is twice as cheap as my XL600!
I think a Honda XL/XR 250 would be the perfect bike for the trail. My XL250 gets 70-60 mpg, has plenty of power for a single rider, lightweight, reliable, and good enough suspension. If you bought and prepped an xr/xl250 for the trail, you would be into it for $2000 alone. Now to stop the cubicle workers from disagreeing with my prices, save it, we dont want to hear it.
Ok, now for the rebuild.... Definitely run the LIFAN 125 4speed again. Without a doubt, we would ditch the stock Honda 90 and run the 125. Multiple reasons why,,,, THEY ARE AFFORDABLE!!!!!! $275 for the engine, carb, electronics, AND SHIPPING !!!!!! A top end rebuild on a 90 would cost you this much alone if not more. The Lifan will push the CT with a 180lb rider and 70lbs of gear to 55 mph on flat land with no headwind. A ct90 engine will not do this. Keep in mind, the LIFAN maxed out provides 11 horsepower. I believe this is with with intake and exhaust. With the stock exhaust on our bikes, it choked the engines out pretty good. I bet we had only 8-9 horsepower. One bike had CT70 muffler on (1/8" wider) and it would SMOKE us on the straight aways. No catching him at all.
I would run the early CT200 double sprocket rear hub though. Trying to climb Cinnamon Pass, that extra (58-65 tooth) rear sprocket would of been great. I would run a 15/48 sprocket setup. We ran 15/45. I think the 48 would of been perfect. Just a hair more lower end and I think it actually would of gave it a bit more on the top end too. On the higher speeds, it would get doggy. I think the lower 48 would give it a bit more torque on the higher speeds.
The stock suspension must go. They are too weak and will cause you to wreck. Even the conventional stock forks suck. The Honda XL125 front forks are great. We never rebuilt them, changed seals or anything. We just slapped them on and rode. By the end of Oregon, all the forks were leaking oil and were too soft. Cap full of brake fluid fixed this for a bit. The rear shocks were blown out by Nevada. These were XR500 shocks. I do not know if they were old and worn or if we just beat them. I doubt we beat them too much though. The suspension upgrades gave us 3" of added ground clearance. This added clearance is not needed. I would would run the Honda SL125 front forks and stiffen them up a bit. The SL is the same height of the stock CT90. I would run Honda CB750 or similar style shocks. Find something off of a heavier street bike with the same length as the CT's. Around 13".
You defiantly need the heavier suspension but not the added height. I believe the added height was one factor leading to a squirly bike.
The 17" wheels SUCK!!!! They get stuck in every rut and are not tall enough to climb out or over anything. Preferred set up would be 18 rear and 21 front. If we were doing it again, I would still run the 17's for the reasons of redundancy, cheapness of tires, and the spirit of CT90's. I do understand if you are modifying them, well modifiy it. If you modify them enough, you will be riding an old XR125.
I would actually rake the forks out a bit too. Maybe just an inch from stock. This would stabilize the bike significantly. Pretty easy to do too.
Knobby tires suck on these bikes. They wear our very quickly and the side knobs grab every rut and throw you eveywhere. 100%, run trials style tires. No question about it, run trials style tires. They have the same amount of traction as knobbies but handle way better and last 5 times as long if not longer.
Handle bars suck. They are too narrow. You have no control and you have to suck your elbows in too much to ride. You have to use your biceps to steer instead of your entire body. Set of regular dirt bike or 4wheeler handlebars would of been a huge upgrade. Once again, this comes down to if you want to ride a slightly modified CT90 or a heavily modified one. Your choice.
The front and rear storage racks are a MUST. These are small bikes and you need all the space you can get. A backpack takes up an entire rack. When you are living off of your bike, this space is very valuable. Tack weld the rear rack to the bike. They rattle loose.
Exhaust,,,, I would run a multi purpose muffler instead of the stock muffler. Just run a 1 1/8" tube from the engine to a muffler off of a riding lawn mower or pit bike. Put the muffler under the rear rack somewhere. Either on the right side or behind the rack. The stock mufflers fall apart, rattle, and are restrictive.
Intake.... The snorkel setup worked PERFECT for these bikes. The only down side of them is all you hear all day is the engine sucking air. I would run the snorkel again but place it under the rear rack, behind the rider.
Wiring.... the bare bones wiring that we did was PERFECT!!! We didnt even blow a single fuse, burn a cdi, or anything on the entire trip. Just a simple engine kill switch and an on/off switch for the lights. This is all thats needed. You dont even have to run a battery with the lifans. You can run all of your lights on AC if you like. We ran a battery for the GPS, phones, and air compressor. The lights were not the greatest but they worked. If you plan on doing long distance at night, buy a headlight that cost more than $25-.
Gear.... One extra pair of clothes, tent, sleeping bag, parts, tools, stove, food, water, cold weather gear, etc. This all adds up very quickly. Keep in mind we did this on the cheap. We could of bought the newest, smallest stove, tent, and sleeping bag but we just grabbed what we have had for the last 20 years. I am certain that we could get down to a 40lb load but it would be hard and a lot of sharing with the other riders. 1 stove for 5 riders, etc... stuff like that. Tent is a must. One rider tried it with a tarp. It is doable but sucks. You get rained on, its cold, and a tarp big enough takes up almost as much room as a small tent.
Food, you could carry 1 day of food with you if you were sleeping in motels and wanted to spend more money. You could get a meal in every town you came to. Once again, we were doing it on the cheap so we carried about 7 days worth of food with us and would restock at every larger town we came to. Some gas stations had canned goods but who wants to pay $3- for a small can of tuna. The week's worth of food adds up the weight real quick. Real quick.
Its all how you want to do the trip. If you had a bike with better suspension and more power, you could hit a town every day, sleep in a motel, eat at a restaurant, and only pack a snack, water, and minimal tools. You could put all of this in a fanny pack and be the coolest dude ever.
If we tried again, probably could camp and eat like we did with two bags weighing in at 40 lbs total.
Frame..... the only structural issue we had was two shock mounts broke off the swing arm. These are only tacked on from the factory. Make sure that you weld them to the swingarm on the outside of the arm. The studs didnt break, the stock weld on the inside of the arm did. Nothing else on the frame broke or cracked. We put these bikes through hell and they held up.
Navigation... We could of cut our time down by 1/3 if we went from east to west and used the roll charts. Once again, its what you want out of life. Be another one in the herd or do your own thing. The maps that we bought from sam for the most part was accurate. We used a compass and the odometer. The gps started acting up and we would use it to double check our position a couple times a day. I do think that the map is outdated with a lot of roads missing or some of the maps are too vague. Yes, I know...... The maps are designed to be used with the roll charts and also are to be used from east to west. We are giving OUR opinions from OUR experience from OUR trip. For a couple of the states we ended up buying state maps and using those to navigate instead of the TAT maps. The state maps had more detail on them. This allowed us to use other roads, landmarks, and such to help us navigate the trail. Keep in mind, when you are tired, hungry, hot, and drenched in sweat, the last thing you want is to look a three roads at a fork when the map says there is only one. You get the idea. YES, we chose the difficulty.
So, all in all, I believe that a bone stock honda CT90 could infact do the the trail. I would even do it with a leading link front end. It would be slow, tiresome, and it would beat you but it is doable.
Thinking about doing the trail from east to west, using roll charts, sleeping in motels, eating at restaurants, and riding a newer bike would be a walk in the park. Some might disagree but that is my opinion.
Using the roll charts is turn by turn directions and even tells you what landmarks to look for. Sleeping on a mattress, eating quality food, and a shower every day or two would be awesome. This would give you so much physical and mental strength. There were plenty of nights with hardly any sleep, dehydrated, and hungry. This makes for a horrid next day.
We ran into a couple groups of guys here and there on newer bikes. They climbed and maneuvered the trail with ease. Plush suspension and power were two things we did not have.
To sum it all up,,,, We went out to challenge ourselves. We set out to do one of the longest and hardest trails in America with unfavorable navigation, unfavorable motorcycles, and on an unrealistic budget. It comes down to what you want out of life.
---- Cycles East