Dual Thu 10 January 2019

Travelling - The 13 tips for the bike

1. Study your bike, take it apart and re-assemble it 1000 times.
To know your vehicle is definitely the most important thing when you plan to use it for a long trip. Discover its weaknesses and how to solve them on your own and take what could be needed to repair it with you. Before leaving, practice removing the wheels and changing the tires, it isn’t pleasant to do it for the first time directly on the road without knowing how. Learn how to change the oil, how to pull the spokes and how to replace a transmission kit, and especially a bearing. I often had to make repairs without having the slightest idea how to do them, and in Asia, more often than not, you will be the best mechanic for your bike; so better to have the know-how than to hope for help from a mechanic.

2. Use the best protections.
The more your protections are good and resistant, the more likely you are to continue your journey. Nobody wants a punctured tank, a displaced cylinder head, a broken radiator or a perforated clutch crankcase simply because no proper protections were used. When travelling falls can happen, and the longer and more adventurous your journey will be the more falls will occur. Often even a simple fall from a standstill positioncan cause expensive damage if your bike isn’t equipped with the proper crashbars, handguards and sump guard.

3. A small checkup every morning doesn’t hurt.
What better way to start the morning than to carefully check liquids, chain tension, screws and tire pressure? Well, I have several in mind, but traveling by bike also requires small sacrifices and a lot of accuracy.

4. Use a good transmission kit and if possible, an automatic oiler.
The "the more you spend the less you pay" rule fully applies here; why? Because not only will a good quality transmission unit last much longer than a cheaper one, it will also need less maintenance, since grease remains longer, and the links are stronger and less prone to seizure. This results in fewer stops and less maintenance in the early morning, less lubrication (which is very expensive), and less risk of breakage. I met several motorcyclists who adopted an automatic oiler and after talking to them I can only recommend it ... shame about the price, but it gives the transmission unit a longer life, even up to 40 thousand km.

5. Be aware of your mileage per liter and with a full tank.
This is a piece of advice I could have used but which I learned the hard way in Myanmar, when my gas pump gave out. You must always know how many miles you can do with a full tank; if you experience a drastic drop then you better stop and check. An increase in consumption can be caused by many things: the fuel pump, the piston rings, the valves, the distribution chain, all things you don’t want to ruin!!

6. Use a fuel filter
If you intend to travel to countries where fuel may be dirty, consider buying a fuel filter. This will help the fuel pump to run smoothly and will prevent ahiccupping stop in the middle of nowhere and having to remove the tank and the fuel pump. I use a Guglatech filter that works greatly.

7. When travelling stay hydrated. This is one of the most important things to do on long routes, whether it’s hot or not.
Staying hydrated is essential to maintain concentration and the right level of minerals. I use a camelback in my backpack with the straw fixed to a shoulder strap. In Iran and Pakistan, during really hot journeys, where to stopmeant to feel the heat even more and to overheat the engine, this solution helped me a lot. Be careful because if you don’t stay hydrated and reach peaks of dehydration while riding in a proving situation, your level of anxiety and stress will rise to the stars leading you to experience a "panic attack" that no one, I think, would like to struggle with in the middle of the desert.

8. Hit dirt roads and sleep in a tent: here the "take backroads" rule we talked about in this article (Link the 15 rules ......... ..) applies, but, as a rider, I can add that dirtroads help to expand riding skills and to learn more about the bike and its dynamics; moreover, you can easily find a beautiful spot where to set up your tent to rest.

9. Leave heavy-weighted and continue light-weighted: yes, overloaded bikes are fascinating and beautiful to prepare but, often, also a nightmare to ride on. We all want a bike ready and maybe even beautiful, but is it worth it if,as soon as we hit a dirt road, it becomes unmanageable, if at the first fall we can hardly pull it up, if it takes us 30 minutes to re-arrange luggage after we removed it for safekeeping? When I left in March, I was overloaded, I had 4 small cases on the crash bar, a tank bag, a second tank bag placed behind me full of food, the tent, a 60-liter roll bag, and the two side cases. As I spent most of my days straddling my bike, paking and unpacking luggage, I realized how many things, clothes and tools I never used;without second thoughts, I soon enough gave or threw them away (don’t dwell on it too much otherwise you will never get rid of anything, keeping everything.)

10. Trust mechanics but trust yourself even more.
This is a lesson I unfortunately learned the hard and expensive way. On a similar journey, the bike or any other vehicle you are driving will be fundamental and often the only person who will really care about its survival will be yourself. This is why you should know about your bike and how to fix it as much as possible. Good and professionalmechanics are really rare in Asia, don’t be fooled byrenown-brand signs, often they won’t know your bike, nor will they have the right spare parts and despite this, they will try to convince you to trust them. Always work side by side with the mechanic, or supervise his job, admonishing or advising him on how to carry out the repair: the bike is yours and you almost certainly know it better than them. In Iran, a "brand skilled" mechanic broke the cap screw of the fork tube and, to make matters worse, he let me ride off without oil in one of the tubes. This happened because he didn’t listen to me when I told him that we would work together the following day and did everything on his own, unfastening the bolt using pliers and a hammer ...

11. Toolbox and spare parts.
It is a good idea to have some essential tools and some "smart and studied" spare parts based on your bike and the maintenance it needs. As for the tools, buy only good quality tools and, more important,only take with you the ones you know how to use!! For spare parts, on the other hand, take even the ones you may not know how to replace, you can always have the work done by good mechanic; brake and gear levers and pedals, a governor or a fuel pump, it all depends on the weak points of your bike, something we talked about at the beginning.

12. Organize your luggage.
The layout of your luggage will affect the bike far more than you think. It not only affectsyour safety on the road, as different weights between the two sidecases can cause dangerous and annoyingimbalances, but also your long-term mental health. I have come to store as much as possible in small containers, one for electric things, cables, sockets, cards etc., one for socks, one for underwear and so on, while when I started off everything was mixed and every day the same thingmagically moved from one bag to another driving me crazy.

13. Low center of gravity!
When organizing the layout of your luggage, try to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. The standard travel bikes are already high enough and with a high center of gravity, so avoid stackingheavy stuff one on top of the other or having it protrude too much. Place the heaviest things below (even inside the case or bags); for example, don’t place tools and spare parts on top of a packed roll bag positioned on the bike tail– better to fix a toolbox to the sump guard! This will reallyimprove the overall balance of the bike on bends and onslow and steep dirt roads!

I hope you will find my experience useful!

Text and photos: Carlo Di Todaro

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