How much planning,
thinking, saving and guts or lunacy does it take to leave your job for
a one year motorcycle trip? During the next months I will enter my thoughts
on the subject in this chapter, so be prepared that it will grow with
time, and probably not be too consistent, as often is the case with crazy
|Our current Rocinante saddled up
for a trip to northern Norway. We were gone for sixteen days, where
will the necessities for a year on the road fit.
In reality we are not lunatics, I think. The project ahead of us is as
sane as any sailing adventure, hiking adventure or car journey. The motorcycle
both simplifies and complicates matters, but I guess you can say that
all in all it's a lot easier, both planning wise and cost wise, to travel
with a backpack, while it's probably a lot cheaper than a sailing adventure
of the same duration.
With a motorcycle you can access almost any little corner of the world
where there's a house or any other sign of civilization. We are not limited
to bus schedules and routes, while we are limited by access to petrol,
spare parts in case of breakdowns and a costly vehicle with valuables
that need guarding 24 hours a day. Of course, to me the feelings I have
towards motorcycle travel ruled out any other mean of getting from A to
B long before I set the pros and cons up against each other.
All that really remains undone of the important factors that must be
resolved before the trip, is our house, which we need to rent out, preferably
to a company, to be able to pay the mortgage on it. We may have to sell,
but we believe we can avoid it. We bought the house last year, and have
grown to love it, nicely situated by the sea in a small community, overlooking
one of the main ship traffic lines to our area.
We have the necessary funds, we have a plan and a bike,
and we intend to head south. How much more complicated can it get?
Well, quite a bit more I guess. Taking a vehicle into South American
countries is not as easy and painless as touring Europe. Many countries
fear that you might sell the vehicle in their country. It's based on the
rightly suspicion that you might sell it without paying proper import
tax. To avoid this, they might require that you carry along a "Carnet
The Carnet is a document issued by the Canadian Automobile organization.
To get it we must pay a deposit that is the highest possible import tax
in any of the countries we are planning to visit. So, if Bolivia decided
they want to charge 200% of the bikes actual value in import tax, then
the Carnet would cost us two times the bikes value in deposit. We get
the money back when we return the Carnet book, properly stamped by immigration
and emigration as proof that you brought the bike back out. Some fees
are also added to this. The problem with a Carnet is obviously that we
have to lock up a significant amount of money all the while we're traveling.
There is an alternative, a "Libreta de Paso", issued by the
Venezuelan Automobile association, that works like a Carnet, except you
don't have to lock up funds in a bond. It costs a few hundred dollars,
and we won't get the money back. This sounds ideal, and would be, if it
hadn't been issued only in Venezuela. We haven't decided yet whether we
want to skip Columbia and Ecuador and head straight for Peru. If we need
the Libreta, the choice will be simple, either drive all the way from
Venezuela, or fly us and the bike from Venezuela to Peru. The decision
will probably be made there and then.
The third alternative is to take our changes and not carry either of
the above. It has been done before, and probably could be done again.
The drawback is that we would have to rely on luck when approaching the
border officials, who can decide at their own will, whether we should
be let into the country for free, for a huge amount of "border tax",
or be denied access all together. Even though it sounds a bit dodgy to
go for this option, it's actually our favorite at the moment. With our
flexible time schedule, we should be able to take a delay of days or weeks
at a border crossing, without going berserk like our ancestors did.
What do you bring for a trip that will last one year,
when you're limited to a single bike to carry luggage for two people plus
spare parts, laptop and tools?
It's an intriguing question, and it has been swirling around in our heads
for months. One of the main questions is whether or not to carry a tent
and sleeping bags, with all the extra gear that goes with it; mattresses,
cooking gear etc. We realize that in particular USA and Canada would not
be the same experience without a tent, and will therefore try to incorporate
these items in the first part of the trip. We can always send them home
later. But it will be one of the last items to pack, so space will decide.
The following bags will be used:
- Aluminum panniers, 35 liter each
- Original Triumph topbox, 50 liter
- Tankbag 15-30 liter, not decided which yet
- Tank panniers 10-15 liter each, not decided which yet
This totals at 155-180 liter of storage space, and in addition we can
store luggage on the top of the panniers, although we would rather not
due to the danger of theft.
We plan to take as little clothing as possible, limiting ourselves to
one extra pair of jeans, a few sets of underwear and a couple of shirts.
Also we will try to use thin fabric clothes that will store at minimum
bulk. The main bulk of clothes will be the cold weather riding gear, including
warm underwear, warm gloves, sweaters and thick socks. Several times along
the route we are bound to cross mountain passes of thousands of meters
above sea level, so the extra clothing is necessary.
The laptop with it's peripherals will be bulky and needs to be stored
in a manner that reduces shaking to minimum, and at the same time keeps
it from thieves. The topbox will have to do the job, although I'm uncertain
how the equipment will handle the heat generated inside the box in Mexico
in summertime. In the topbox cover I have a net that will support a laptop.
Since we're bringing a laptop and a digital camera, we need to be able
to charge the batteries on the bike while on the road. I will mount chargers
feeding on the bike battery in the topbox, and we will also have to carry
power adapters for the local voltage in the different countries, adding
to the bulk. Even more, to be able to back up and send home photos from
the trip, we plan to carry either a CD-burner or a zip-drive. The share
volum of photographs rules out sending them over a FTP-link or e-mail.
Spare parts and tools will take up a siginficant amount of space and
weight. The following list is preliminary, but gives a picture of what
- Bulbs, Plugs and Fuses
- Electrical cables and connectors
- Fork seals, wheel bearings
- Drive chain links
- Tubes for tyres, valves
- Throttle cable
- Assorted nuts and screws
- Small amount of engine oil and grease
- gas filter, mounted inline between tank and carbs
- Clutch/brake levers
- Bit set including all necessary "formats"
- Spanners, screwdrivers, pliers, multitool(gerber or alike)
- Circlip plier for fork and wheel bearing replacements
- Small multimeter
- Duct tape, isolation tape, tie-wraps, thin steel wire, strong but
- Tire replacement tools and puncture fix
- Liftstick as replacement for the centre stand
- Air pump
- Repair handbook, electrical drawings
- Flash light
The list has been updated after feedback(thanks) and reconsideration,
but will most certainly change again by the time we hit the road, especially
during our trial packing. If you read this and have any more comments
to the list, please mail us.
The good thing about starting in the US, is that most necessities can
be bought there at a reduced price compared to Norway. Hence we will probably
start the trip with less luggage and equipment than we really need for
Latin America, and buy and install the necessities during the month or
so we intend to stay there.
Time will show, as they say....
More to come later!
January 18th - 2000
Not much have happened during the one and a half month since the last
entry. We took a brake from the planning to celebrate Christmas and new
year, and have just started again.
We have now decided to air-freight our bike to New York, hence abounding
the plans to buy a bike in the States.
We will most probably try to travel through the southern continent without
the Carnet de Pasage or LIbreta de Paso. Other travelers along the way
might enlighten us on this before we make the final decision.
February 16th - 2000
A lot of research has taken place the last month. A few things have been
finalized and more questions have been raised.
The new domain was established in the beginning of this month, and a
Compuserve subscription has been ordered to assure easy connection to
the web wherever we are in the world.
The alumnium boxes have finally arrived from Germany, and I'll be in
the garage within days - just have to get back from Pakistan where I have
worked the last month. Grant from Horizons Unlimited suggested to strengthen
the pannier frame. I might do this. A little Liftstick that will replace
the centre stand has also arrived. This little thing works together with
the side stand to raise either the front or the rear wheel off the ground,
and is a lot lighter and less bulky to carry along than the original stand.
We have two offers for motorcycle insurance in the States, so this will
not present a problem. The regular travel insurance is another story,
and we have just started to penetrate this jungle. The problem is that
our regular insurer will not cover us for the duration we need, and the
only alternative we have found this early in the investigation costs about
1250UKP for a year, way over what we initially wanted to pay.
With most bags and boxes in place and soon all or most spares and tools,
I will do a trial packing within weeks. Rocinante will be stripped down
to her bare bones and every little corner and empty space scrutinized
for possible storage of spares and tools. Things that we will carry but
hopefully never need, like clutch and brake levers and tyre levers, will
be hidden away somewhere under the tank, under the swingarm, behind the
headlights and so forth.
Another purpose of stripping the bike is to get to know it better. I
have never seen her naked, sort of speak, and it is an oppurtunity to
practise dismantling the air filter, the front drive chain sprocket, changing
tyre and other small jobs that needs to be excercized. Especially the
air filter and front sprocket are items that are akward to access on the
Tiger, and practice is the key to knowledge. I know, to some I sound like
an amateur. I am.
The techno gear is yet another investigation well done. The combination
of a not to small, high class colour display, light weight and minimum
size plus the need for a cd read-write unit, did narrow our search for
a subnotebook quite a bit. It didn't narrow down the price though. We
cannot have it all, and somewhere we will have to pay for the compromises,
either in hard currency or in weight and bulk. We have a few alternatives,
and I was happy to find that cd read-write units were getting smaller
and smaller. Now we can buy one the size of a discman which plugs straight
into the USB port, PCMCIA port or on any scsi/paralell interface. The
world is moving fast, and I like it.
We will come back with all the details when the details are in place.
Ah, and yes, the departure has been delayed about four weeks, to end
of May. My work contract lasted longer than first assumed. This doesn't
cause any problem for us, since we haven't booked any flights yet.
End of May is awfully far away though....
March 28th - 2000
I'm on my last shift in the offshore seismic business, at least for now,
and our departure is getting closer. The house is still for rent, but
now we are going more aggressively at work, with ads in the papers and
on the net. Fingers are crossed.
We have made a preliminery sponsor deal with the Norwegian Triumph distributor,
Colbjørnsen AS, where they have agreed to pay for a pre-journey
check and upgrade of Rocinante at Classic Motorcycles, my local dealer.
They have the bike in custody now and I have given them my wishlist for
upgrades, which they will put a total price tag on and confront the distributor
with it. The distributor has also agreed to help us along the way. If
we get stuck in South America somewhere with a technical problem, they
will help us with expert advice on telephone or via e-mail, and, in the
case of needing spares, they will send us parts via a courier company.
This is maybe the most important help we can get for the journey, which
will lead us through unploughed Triumph territory, and where we might
be stuck several thousand kilometers from the nearest Triumph dealer.
A short sunday test ride, where we filled up
the boxes and bags with whatever we found, proved that this will
work, but also, that the rear shock need at least to get it's spring
rate higher and maybe even to be replaced.
All the bags and luggage compartments are now sorted out, and as some
people have suggested, we have way too much space. If any changes should
be done, it would be the tank panniers that needed sacrificing. But the
advantage with 15l in each completely water tight pannier is ease of packing.
Imagine when we need to carry extra fuel, how easy it will be to just
stick a couple of 1,5 liter plastic bottles in the panniers. Of course,
this means that we cannot fill the panniers up completely to start with,
and that is our aim.
A few weeks ago we got a very nice e-mail from a German motorcycle equipment
company called TM-accessories. I had never been in contact with them before,
and was surprised and delighted when Thomas Meyer wrote that he had seen
our page on the net and was wondering how the company could help us. Would
we be interrested in for example a Scottoiler system for free. They asked
nothing in return. We were very grateful for the display of idealism,
Thomas said simply that he liked our plans a lot, that it was in fact
a old dream of his to do a similar journey. The funny thing was that I
had ordered the Scottoiler - which is an automatic drive chain lubrication
system which can prolong the life of the drive chain with many thousand
kilometers - the same day. I hurried to cancel the order and accepted
the offer from TM.
I must also confess that I have been in doubt about the whole project
at times. To drive a Triumph through South America is by some people considered
rather stupid. Why not buy a Honda and be sure there is always expert
knowledge around the corner, it being the most sold motorcycle brand in
the world. And why drive a motorcycle through those contries at all, as
some other people have asked with incredulous voices. And how do you think
you will manage to handle a freight train like yours through muddy and
narrow dirt trails? And why be on the road for a whole year? Aren't you
afraid that you will be sick of sitting on the bike, packing off and on,
dressing up like a ice hockey player every morning and off every night,
being scared of all the criminals that are waiting for you around every
corner, knifes in hand, morality long gone out the window? You must be
cracy to take a 12000 dollar bike through bandido country with no insurance,
not to mention driving in the crazy traffic of Latin America, where your
life depends on the the size of your vehicle, and where a motorcycle is
a pygmee among giants. What if one of you get sick of the whole journey
and not the other? What if the bike brakes down and is unreparable? How
do you plan on repairing the bike, not being more experienced as a mechanic
than you are? What if someone steals your laptop, camera or other expensive
equipment you carry along? What if you're not wanted in any job when you
get back? What if, why do it, how, when? The questions have been many,
and we can only answer a few of them. But they have all been raised behind
the walls of our home, all have been discussed, and we have agreed that
it is all part of the deal. The trip is not a two week holiday in the
sun, all prepared. Much can happen, but even so, the trip will be rewarding,
at least if not the most feared happens, that one or both of us suffers
serious physical injuries. It's important to raise the questions though,
and let people raise them. That way you figure out whether it's a journey
you really want to make, or if it was a dream that was better off left
at that. And by and large, most reactions have been positive and supportive,
and quite envious at times.
For us it's definately what we want to do, and it won't be left a dream.
Just imagine the whole thing, close your eyes and let your mind wander
off while you think about it; One year, total freedom, a motorcycle, Grand
Canyon, British Columbia, California, Maya land, Costa Rica, the Andes,
Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego. Taste the names and say it's
not worth it. Try and fail. Vamos pronto, muy pronto....
April 20th - 2000
The house is sold. After trying in vain for several months to convince
possible tennants that the monthly rent was reasonable, we were asked
if we considered selling. We quickly agreed on a price and with a snap
of the fingers, it was gone. Now everything is coming together and tickets
have been ordered for the 25th of May. The bike will arrive a couple of
days later, so after a few days of big city fun, we'll be on the road.
Oh yes it feels good. The unresolved house business had a dampening effect
on our excpectations, and now that it is solved there's no stopping us.
The film "The Horse Whisperer" with R. redford was shown on
the local "cinema" onboard the ship I work on the other night.
After three hours of pure Montana PR, our planned route had one more "site
of interest" added. I almost missed the story in the film, taken
aback as I was by the never ending yellow plains backdropped by white
cliffed mountains. I told Bente over the telephone, she went to the video
store and another three hours later she called and said "Let's go
When I get home after easter, all we have to do within the next three
weeks is move our furniture to several storage locations - good to have
family in the area, take Rocinante for a test ride with all items onboard,
do the last fixes on the bike, deliver our tax papers - which need scrutinization,
arrange our insurances, pack the bike in the box it will be shipped in,
get international drivers licences and new Visa cards, get our last vaccinations
done, and leave. Not much, but enough to get the blood pump going. It
will be done with smiles on our faces though.
May 18th - 2000
Ten more days and we should be on our way. We have moved to my parents
house which will be our base until departure. Tickets for all three of
us have been ordered for the 25th of May, most papers are in our hands
and, to our great satisfaction, the test trip to Gotenburg last weekend
proved that things fit well into our luggage. I changed my mind regarding
the tank panniers and went for the smaller ones we used last summer on
the Lofoten trip. Even with the significant reduction in loading capacity,
we had plenty of space when all was loaded. The pure numbers are, weight
total (including us) 480kg, bike and luggage 310kg, bike (with spares
and some tools under the fairing and sidepanels, and with crashbars and
some minor alterations, almost empty of gas) 255kg. This means we only
have about 55kg of luggage which by the time we leave probably have grown
to 60kg. I am actually positively suprised by the numbers, especially
the weight of the luggage. Our own weight were the topic for a while,
but Bente concluded that the driving gear we were wearing was very heavy.
I agreed to maintain peace.
Although it may look like a lot to carry, all
the above fits snuggly into the panniers and bags, leaving a little
room to fill up along the way.
Both tyres were replaced a couple of days ago - this time going for Pirelli
MT90 since the Michelin T66 were out of stock everywhere, and with all
the work put down by Classic Motorcycles, the bike is now ready and should
have been in mint condition, except for some bruises left by earlier midhaps.
But unfortunately the front is weaving a lot, even when going solo, so
Classic will get another visit before we leave. The Scottoiler was mounted
in no time, and it really does the job well - no more lubrication stops,
or "Damn it, I haven't lubed the chain for god knows how long".
This last phase of the preparations is slightly quieter than the last
few weeks. Being finished with the house has released a lot of time to
catch up on other things, and also, whatever preparations we haven't finished
by now will probably not be done in time of departure anyway. Not to worry
to much about, I mean, we're going to the States first, the one place
in the world where everything can be done - given that money is at hand.
I hope it will last.
Next time you hear from us we will be on the road. Hence this chapter
ends here. Wish us a good trip.