Heading out on a big trip? FTR gets expert advice from Kevin Sanders – Double Guinness World Record holder for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the World by Motorcycle and the Trans Americas by Motorcycle. We speak to Kevin about his advice ahead of embarking on a serious journey. However, some of these are pretty useful for everyday riding too. Below are his top tips…
I’d wager a fair percentage of riders have little mechanical knowledge of their bike. Most of the time it doesn’t really matter as modern motorcycles are – on the whole – very reliable; dealers are plentiful and within easy reach; average annual mileages are pretty low and the majority of those will be clocked up in relatively sedate road and weather conditions.
Take your machine into a less developed country, to a remote region or through challenging terrain and weather though and the importance of understanding your bike’s inner workings, and having the skills to put them right if they go wrong, can make the difference between a short break in your trip and it ending altogether.
Of the issues we deal with on our expeditions, only a tiny number relate to mechanical issues. But that does depend on the age and condition of your bike and the amount of pre-ride work and checks that have been undertaken.
Check, check and check again
No matter how thorough you’ve been, don’t be under the illusion that your bike will look after itself. Checking over your machine at the end of each day is a must, particularly after high-mileage stretches, poor road conditions and extreme weather. What to look for is common sense really. If you’ve been riding somewhere dusty, you’ll need to clean your air filter; if the roads have been rough, check for anything that could have shaken loose.
As a matter of course, look over your tyres for any damage. Punctures are by far the most common problem, so you’ll need the wherewithal and know-how to fix them. In a lot of developing countries, it often isn’t worth doing the work yourself as there is always a man at a tyre repair shop who will do all the work for a minimal fee. If you do have to, you will need the proper tools and plenty of patience.
Breaking the bead is one of the most awkward bits. If there’s more than one of you, you can use a second bike’s side stand. If you’re alone, you’ll need to find something else. Some tyres can be done just by standing on the sidewall, others will need more force. We watched a Peruvian tyre repair man break a bead with a pickaxe once. He’d obviously done it a few times as the strike was perfect and never touched the rim.
Prepare for the drop
After punctures, the most common thing we experience on expeditions is damage due to static and low-speed drops or travelling on poor road surfaces. This can be minimised by fitting engine bars, bash plates, etc. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, but you will need to know how to replace bits like brake and clutch levers, indicators and spokes (if you have spoked wheels).
If you are going to tackle rough roads/routes, I’d strongly recommend spoked wheels. On our 2003 Guinness World Record, I was able to repair a wheel that had six broken spokes – only by luck mind you, as I had no spares so had to re-space the remaining good ones – and carry on riding. With alloys, that’s not an option.
Clearly not everything is fixable, but by having some essentials you could resolve a whole host of relatively minor issues without having to wait for help. Where there is no easy way out, you’ll soon develop a way of overcoming the problems. It’s surprising just how resourceful you can be when the crunch comes.
Know your bike
The main thing is to get to know your machine before you go and be prepared for its weaknesses, and yours; if you’re prone to low-speed falls, you’ll need to know how to change your levers.
Take time before your journey to familiarise yourself with your tools, puncture repair kits, etc, and have a dry run changing tyres, removing and refitting your air filter, changing the oils, etc. It’s better to spend the time in the comfort of your own garage practising fixing and changing a few things so when it does happen for real, it won’t be such a drama.
Don’t leave home without…
A puncture repair kit and mini compressor or CO2 gas cylinders. If you’re running tubes, you’ll need tyre levers too.
Duct tape Great for fixing a cracked screen, holding bodywork in place after a drop or sticking bust indicators back together.
Cable ties Also great for holding things together, especially if bolts or screws have worked their way loose.
WD40 It has many uses: keeping damp out of electrical parts and throttles; and keeping lever and pannier hinges moving, to name but a few.
Multitool Really useful for those quick jobs and retightening the things that have worked loose – screen and bodywork fasteners, frame bolts and pannier attachments, etc.
Set up in 2002, Kevin and Julia’s overland motorcycle expedition company, GlobeBusters, specialises in taking riders on amazing journeys to unusual destinations.