They said it could not be done!
Or, more like I hoped it could be done but got lost in the research.
I keep playing different scenarios in my head. What if this breaks, how can I fix it. What if this breaks, how can I fix that..?
Parallel to this I already decided to bring some sort of foldable solar charger in order to charge laptop, camera and sat-phone. While traveling I can charge all these items using the alternator on the bike.
However, the trip is not about getting there really fast. Its about spending 12 months (or more) seeing a large part of the world. That, hopefully, also means spending 2-3 days on that perfect spot just because I feel like it. Picture it; Sunshine. Hammock. Book (kindle). Coffee. Blogging about the fact that I have found the perfect spot…
Sitting around will eventually sap the energy out of the gizmos I bring, and hence the Solar charger
But then I got to thinking; what if the motorcycle-battery dies for some reason, or just goes really low? Can I charge it with the foldable solar charger? It turns out, that yes! with a controller that is.. Happy days.
Me preparing for this in all likelihood means that it will never happen. But as theys say, “´tis better to have and not need, than to need and not have..”
Found my self alone in Bergen with time to spare after a great KFM-seminar, and I wandered into a nice little travel-store called Chillout.no.
Before long I had increased my research collection with the following titles :
1) Lonely Planet: “Mongolia”
2) The Rough Guide to: “First Time – Latin America”
3) The Rough Guide to: “South America on a budget”
4) The Rough Guide to: “Central America on a budget”
WHAT? A pre-trip trip?
In order to test all the equipment, packing practice, camping life, the ride, the rider.. ..one must have a shakedown. Important questions I need to answer are amongst others these:
What did I miss? What should I NOT pack? What is actual fuel consumption. Does all the equipment work as I expect? How well do all my electronics hold up? On the road blogging, feasible?
Since my main project is a 12 month around the world trip, I figure a 3 week shakedown is just the thing.
2 Rules to this trip. 1) All nights must be spent in a tent. 2) Avoid highways.
Andreas has already signed on for this trip. Others are welcome, given that they adhere to the rules stated above, that they are completely self-reliant in terms of equipment and finances, and that I like their company.
Planned route is as follows:
- Stavnanger, Norway
- Sigdal, Norway
- Malung, Sweeden
- North Cape, Norway
- Helsinki, Suomi
- Stockholm, Sweeden
- Stavanger, Norway
Estimated travel distance is 4.560 km.
Accounting extra travel distance for me getting lost, and or following spur-of-the-moment navigation decisions (last two points ad up as the same most of the time, or the latter leads to the first..) I would be surprised if this shakedown trip clocks in as anything under 5.000 km. Travel time is estimated to 66 hours.
I just need to drive an average of 217 km every day.
Man do I wanna go! This photo has been borrowed by National Geographic. It merely serves as a reminder of all the wonderful places I want to go, and that the clock is ticking. As of right now, there are 19 months 28 days and counting… it is a looong way to go it is..
Under is another “oh-my-god-I-wanna-go” photo from the plains of Mongolia. National Geographic is my new must have subscription..
Planning this adventure of a life time I have to figure out which ride to choose.
It´s not easy. There´s sooo much information out there. I had to start researching, and those of you that know me know that I can kinda go overboard on the detail-oriented research and any-scenario-based eventuality.
Safe to say I did the same thing once again…
In order to figure out what I needed I had to try to establish the parameters for the trip. In short order they are as follows
- Tarmac travel; A lot of places will have great roads; Europe, parts of Russia, Japan, South America, North America and Canada.
- Dirt road travel; A lot of the places I want to go to in Russia, Kasakhstan, Mongolia, South America and Canada
- Off road travel; A few of the places I want to go to, or through, may not have anything as grand as a dirt road. This is perhaps where the real adventure is. Kasakhstan and Mongolia, South America and Canada come up as likely hits here.
- Varying fuel qualities; from pristine 95 octane form a clean and pretty gas station, to something that resembles fuel that comes out of a bucket on a dirt road.
- Unreliable distance between gas stations. Range is an issue I have looked into a lot
- Varying access to MC service and spare parts. Where there are no roads, there is a good chance mechanical assistance will be few and far apart. So the ride need to be either very reliable or easily fixable without being a certified mechanic.
- 3 seasons; No its not a hotel. I expect to travel in three seasons; spring, summer and fall. I hope to manage a route so that I can circumvent the world in 12 months and at the same time avoid winter altogether
- A very long ride; Understatement. 12 months on a motorcycle, NOT taking the shortest possible way around the world. Rider comfort is an issue.
After a few weeks of research I think I may have a solution. -ish
For me there are really just two alternatives, and so I focused my research on these.
I tried to specify the technical categories that would let med try to quantify the differences. The rest is just gut feeling..
BMW R1200 GS Adventure
Overall: Easy to ride. Also described as very comfortable and forgiving. Or as my friend and fellow traveller Andreas put it:
“Its a couch. On two wheels. For old people”.
Being somewhat of a stubborn big kid that almost made me choose the BMW just to spite him. Yes, I know, Get over yourself..
Engine : Boxer engine, very reliable.
Twists & Turns: Due to well balanced and small-ish front wheel (19“) its really easy to ride in all twists and turns on a proper surface.
Brakes: ABS & Traction control plus the tele-lever front suspension gives the the BMW R 1200 GSA an aoutstanding in its ability to break, hard, fast. Especially on a hard surface like tarmac and the like.
Overall Dependability: Outstanding
Ease of maintenance: Easier of the two.
Electrical: Alternator: 720 W, Battery: 12V / 14 Ah. This is a LOT of electricity, great for all the extra gismos I will need on such an extended trip. GPS, Laptop, cameras, iPod (Can´t ride for 12 months without music. Impossible), Heated handles and a lot of extra lighting on the bike.
Range: Standard 33 liters fuel tank! With an average speed of 90 km/h consumption is stated to be 0,46 liters pr 10 km =>; 710 km. With an average speed of 120 km/h consumption is stated to be 0,61 liters pr 10 km =>; 540 km. Add a few spare fuel cans from Touratech and I should be fine. Total fuel range would then be 39 liters = 847 km
Length: 2.240 mm
Width: 990 mm
Height (seat): 910 mm
Clearance: Could not find any data on this 😦
Price: New price is NOK 240.000,- Used around NOK 200.000,- Which also brings up Carnet price
Engine: Boxer engine, very easy to damage the cylinder heads, setting it down at any speed. That would suck given that there is a higher chance of setting it down on the side (and the cylinder heads) in places where mechanical services are few and far apart..(!). Solution is of course engine guard crash bars (standard on this model) but still…
Suspension: Good on hard surfaces, but not ideal on off road surfaces due to the tele-lever suspension in the front.
Wheels / Rims: 19“front wheels. Both tubeless. Higher price, Smaller front wheel is a definitive minus on off road conditions. Tubeless tires have great merit when fixing or getting new ones is easy. If not, I think I prefer the tube-tires. So I would have to spend some cash on fitting tubed tires instead..
Transmission & Shifting: Dry cluch, «clunky». It works but has gotten a few less than stellar reviews.
Weight: Roadready (33 liters fuel) 256 kg
Rekitting: Nessecary, Touratech and others. Its just not road ready in its stock state, in my opinion.
In short: expensive, reliable, heavy, easy to ride, poor off road..
KTM 990 Adventure
Overall: More for the adrenaline Junkie
Price: Plus! 199.000 for a brand new, 150.000 for a used. Considering the budget for this major adventure; 12 months on the road, this is an almost unfair positive factor.
Brakes: Good. ABS, no traction control, just not as good as BMW.
Transmission & Shifting: Very good. A few Bike magazines described it as a «Masterpiece». However I also read many collaborating reports on people having to change the transmission every 40.000 KM or so.
Range: Standard 20 liters fuel tank. Average consumption is reported to be approx. 0,65 liters pr 10 km. So a standard tank would give a range of 307 km. However if I choose this ride for a world tour companion I would upgrade to a 45 liter tank from Touratech. In addition I am seriously considering a rear fuel tank. Dakar-rally bikes from KTM often sport a solution where they lead two exhaust pipes into one muffler, thereby gaining both extra torque on low revs and also space for a rear fuel tank of 2,2 gallons or 8,3 liters. In total these adjustments grant a total of 53,3 liters = 820 km range with no loose extra fuel tanks..
Suspension: very good, especially on less than perfect conditions.
Wheels / Rims: 21“ front wheel, better for off road, a sacrifice on tarmac? Smaller front wheel is better for fast tight turns on tarmac..
Weight: 249 (45 l bensintank)
Height (seat): 880+20 (mod seat) = 900 mm
Clearance: 261 mm
Rekitting nessecary (Touratech): less then the GSA.
Twists & Turns; not the best due to the large front wheel. 21“ front wheel, a sacrifice on tarmac? Smaller front wheel is better for fast tight turns on tarmac..
Overall Dependability: Not fantastic apparently. Need to watch fuel pumps (2), all filters and the like.. Get it serviced before I leave, in Japan and in Dallas.. One rider had this to say: (I forget where I found the quote right now, I specify it is not mine, and pray forgiveness for the repost..)
«The frequent need to change the water pump seal can lead to enormous problems if unattended to, and the clutch pump seems to be an issue year after year for riders. Set aside those few glitches however, and again, this is an extremely reliable motorcycle. «
Ease of maintenance: Hard. Everything is more complex.
Electrical: Alternator: 450 W, Battery: 12V / 11,5 Ah. Need to get an alternator with a greater output. I would have to replace the battery with a GEL-battery anyway.
Length: 2.240 mm
Width: 990 mm
In short: cheaper, less reliable, not as heavy, fun to ride, great off road, worse fuel consumption…
Now, I have yet to test ride any of these two alternatives properly. The local BMW dealership is giving me a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure for a test run soon-ish. And my friend Andreas has agreed to let me try out his KTM 990 Adventure. (…fool… he may never get it back..)
Without having properly tried out each of these bikes, just looking at the facts; I am angling towards the KTM based on price, off road capabilities and the lower need for refitting with third-party parts to make it (off)road ready..
Planning this adventure of a life time I have to figure out a way to do it so that this is just the first in a series of horizon conquering trips..