Our Equipment Feedback
Well, we made our choices, equiped our motorcycles, filled the panniers and set-off into the unknown, for us anyway. What did we learn, how did the items perform and what useful feedback can we provide and how did our selection criteria stand up? Given the fast pace of product cycles today, most of these items may have already been superseded but hopefully this feedback will provide an indication as to how those companies products performed for us over the longer term when subjected to almost continuous use for 15 months, riding RTW over 32,000 miles or 51,500 kilometres through 34 countries on 4 continents in 2014/15. Temperatures have varied from 0 degrees C (32 degrees F) to 45 degrees C (113 degrees F) with wind, rain, dust and sand thrown in from time to time. For good measure we retested the same equipment in 2017 riding for 6 months over 18,800 miles or 30,000 kilometres RTW again. Currently, mid 2019, we are still using most of the same equipment and exploring the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
Motorcycle (BMW F700GS)
Overall we have been very happy with our decision to purchase the BMW F700GS. They have performed almost flawlessly, with one problematic exception. Our decision to select more road than dirt orientated models, partially for saddle height reasons, was vindicated and the motorbikes coped better with poor roads, dirt and gravel than did the riders, well me (Anthony) anyway!
Both motorbikes, still being under warranty during the first RTW trip were regularly serviced by BMW authorised service centres in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Lima and Denver before returning to North Oxford BMW for a final service on return to the UK. Interesting service record. We also visited BMW service centres in Chang Mai, Santiago – Chile, San Jose – Costa Rica and Santa Fe – New Mexico for diagnostic and warranty work. I can say that we were well received and assisted at each location. Our thanks to all whom we met representing BMW Motorrad dealers for the assistance and servicing on our journeys.
We travelled with few spares as the motorbikes were almost new. In discussions with North Oxford BMW and others we considered clutch/brake levers, brake pads, clutch cables and range of bolts as the most useful spares options for the route we were taking. None of which we needed to use – probably just like insurance, if you have it you do not need it. In today’s world of internet and global shipping companies, one can usually arrange for parts to be shipped anywhere in the world in a matter of days, local customs regulations permitting, which is why we carry these basic spares. Depending on the country you are in, any relevant import regulations may cause your part to be held pending customs approval. It is also worth noting that your motorcycle manufacturer’s local dealer may have to wait up to six weeks for parts as they are likely shipped with others to keep costs down and may require a full box/pallet before dispatch.
Spares most used: light bulbs. The life of the regular main bulb for us was about three months. The expensive long life bulbs we purchased lasted a month and both failed within a couple of hours of each other. Not worth the price, just carry a couple of standard spares. We did not need our other spares and perhaps a case could be made to leave them at home. We have added a fuel pump, fuel filter and wheel bearings to the spares pack, the former largely influenced by our experiences with Anne’s motorbike.
We were probably unusual in that we travelled with the motorbikes under warranty for almost the entire journey. We did have one long running problem with Anne’s motorcycle which, for a variety of reasons, took over six months to diagnose and fix. Caused by a mixture of an undiagnosed problem, no simple error code to look up when the BMW Motorrad computer was hooked up, and the view of many service departments that a computer reset would solve the problem, which it did not, this took over six months to identify and fix, finally done in Denver with the replacement of two parts. Anne, bravely in my view, rode with a throttle that would die from time to time for more than six months, especially when needing to open up to overtake or go up steep hills.
Motorcycle Extras/Spares (Various)
Both motorcycles fell over on a few occasions, usually at walking pace in crowded environments or rutted surfaces. The engine bars, high and low , handlebar protectors (Barkbusters) and soft panniers all did their part in protecting the motorcycles and riders. The bash plate also did its job from time to time on rocks and pipes in one case. The only nitpick I have is that the engine number is not visible when the bash plate is on and some customs officers want to check it against documentation. A small appropriately placed viewing slit would help when designing the next version please. We had a photo they accepted.
We used standard plastic hand protectors for the first trip, which gave minimal protection in colder/wet weather. On the second RTW we replaced these with fabric Barkbusters for colder and wetter weather we expected in Canada/USA. Very happy with these even in hotter climates and they remain on today.
Given the weight and space a spare chain and sprocket set would take up, * 2, we chose to have installed a Scottoiler system to extend chain life. While we cannot say how much additional distance this added, we achieved over 17,000 miles / 28,000 kilometres on my chain/sprocket set from London to Lima. Anne’s went from Dubai in 2014 and lasted till New Mexico in 2017). Do take the extra Scottoiler drip feed tubes as they can and do get lost.
The higher Givi screens saved us from sand, bugs and hot winds for many a day. Well worth installing. While they are sand blasted and in one case broken and bolted back together again, they continue to do a sterling job. Anne found the side stand foot extender too large to easily put the side stand down and Anne now uses a mat/pad that is placed under the side stand when the ground is soft.
We added extra LED running lights which significantly increased our visibility and apparent width from their location on the crash bars. Some people who see a single headlight can make assumptions on the width of the motorcycle, not taking into account the panniers width.
Anne’s pivoting ROX risers did give her a more comfortable riding position. I have done the same but not sure I can feel the difference as much.
Panniers (Adventure-Spec Magadan Panniers MK2)
Apart from the slash proof aspect which, luckily, was never tested to our knowledge, we were very happy with the panniers’ other features and performance. The waterproofing aspect worked flawlessly provided one does not overfill the liners and then not close them correctly as I did on one occasion. We should note our route saw little rain over 15 months. Our panniers were made lockable, by using the PacSafe WrapSafe cables. After 5 years the waterproof tape has come off one and we have had water seep into the liners. Fixed with good old duck tape.
Top Box (Jesse Luggage Odyssey)
The Jesse Odyssey top box started with a great rubber waterproof seal – you could hear the air hissing out when you closed the top box, and 15 months later, you could still hear that hissing. Water and dust proof par excellence! We did have some internal wear and damage from loose metal items rubbing, but the box is so solid that it makes no difference. Well done Jesse. The only addition that I wished for was an automatic small drain plug as leaky bottled water, smoked fish and an iPad do not play well together!
Motorcycle Clothing (KLIM Clothing)
I, Anne, looked for practicality over style and back in 2014, it was still difficult to find a ladies’ jacket that was practical for a rider. For me it had to have useful pockets, ventilation, long enough arms with comfortable shoulder/underarm movement and long enough back. I narrowed it down to the Revit Sand and Klim Altitude. The Altitude won it because of the length of the jacket and unrestricted arm/shoulder. The white colour suffered over time but I was looking for comfort and usability over style. The neck fastening could be improved by providing more adjustability but using my neck buff made it more comfortable and the open neck fastening is strange and not the best. Apart from that I was extremely happy with the jacket. We did follow the care instructions and washed them in soap flakes every 6 months which restored breathability when dirt and sweat had clogged up the jackets.
After my, Anne, Draggin jeans kevlar ended up feeling like sand paper after 6 months, I purchased Heald men’s waterproof trousers (couldn’t find practical women’s riding waterproof trousers while in SE Asia) but found them too hot and sweaty riding in hot conditions. The worst feature was the leather seat patch. While it made riding comfortable, the seams were not waterproof so when it rained, I ended up with soaked bottom and eventually legs. Horrible. Either way, whether in dry or wet conditions, they were wet!
In 2016, I, Anne, eventually purchased KlimOverland trousers – once again looking for practical trousers, with vents and useful pockets. Although these are men’s pants, they fit me perfectly – I like the high back, there is no gaping and the leg length is spot on for me (5ft5). Riding in hot summer temperature, the vents are great. Very happy with them. Anthony purchased (July 2016) a pair of Klim Lattitude trousers.
Having both ridden with the Klim jackets for a both our RTW trips and the Klim trousers for one, we are happy to report that we have been extremely happy with them. The second RTW trip exposed us to colder weather, rain and snow which the Klim clothing handled well.
A few minor adjustments would make them even better, probably done by now – an easier neck fastener, a different adjustable cuff on the Klim Latitude jacket and turn the hip belt on the Klim Badlands inside out so that clothing worn underneath does not fray from the repeated catching of the velcro. The Klim Latitude issues that Anne had were addressed in the Klim Artemis jacket and trousers which Anne purchased in 2018 and is riding happily with today. Here we have seen Klim products being improved with customer feedback which means we all get a better product.
I, Anthony now need a new jacket as mine is showing signs of wear after five years of use. I will be back to Klim for my replacement, probably in 2020.
We absolutely love our men’s Klim Teton Merino Wool base layer long sleeve shirts. So light, yet so warm. They have proved to perform exactly as per their website blurb ie “everyday functionality including multi-day odor resistance, warm and cool reactive temperature regulation, comfort and breathability”. Anne also wears the men’s Teton Merino wool baselayer pant – extremely comfortable and warm too.
Motorcycle Helmets (Shoei NeoTec 1)
We wanted a full face helmet in white for visibility and heat reduction given most of our riding would be in summer in both hemispheres. We had decided on a flip-top helmet to give us the full face protection while riding and to flip top when meeting locals, police, border officials etc. This not only shows your face for communication but allows easy comparison with passport photos. We found this to be helpful in our travels. Ventilation was good in full face mode. The helmets lining has worn out, but easily replaced as were the visors from time to time. Would be happy to purchase a Shoei again and have done so getting the last couple of NeoTec 1 helmets last year.
Motorcycle Boots (TCX Track Evo & SIDI Adventure boots)
These are also our walking boots around town and in the country. They also provided some protection for my ankle from being more severely crushed in a motorcycle accident in Argentina. In heat and cold they are comfortable and have worn exceptionally well, all buckles and clips have stood the test of time. We like the boots so much we purchased a second pair, BUT sadly because of the rigidity and inflexibility of the TCX customer service policy for faulty products. The tag sewn into the boots says “Waterproof”, it was the only part of the first pair of boots that was!
We had not had rain during the times we rode preparing for our RTW trip, unusual in the UK I know, and only first encountered continuous rain between Berlin and Warsaw. Within a short space of time, both of us could feel water moving in the boots while changing gear. We later learned from the internet that a faulty waterproof seam had been found in some early production models of these boots. We contacted TCX Customer Support in Italy explaining we were on a RTW trip but were firmly told that we had to return to the store we purchased them from, back in the UK, to make any exchange or refund. Not particularly helpful or practical in our situation as we headed in to Russia and very disappointing given our circumstances. As our route kept us mostly in summer conditions across Asia, this and plastic bags we used over our socks provided us dry feet. I hope that TCX will rethink their replacement policy in situations like this, where riders are a long way from home using their products which are faulty. We purchased a second pair for Anne while in Australia in January 2015, but guess what, they were from the same batch as the first.
We were able to return the original boots to the UK Distributor on our return to the UK after 15 months on our RTW trip. They promptly refunded our monies which was much appreciated. Head office take note.
We have since changed to SIDI Adventure boots for our second RTW trip, which we read would have more support after my ankle injury in Argentina in 2015. Since I have not crashed again and crushed my ankle, I cannot attest to this, for which I am grateful. They are waterproof, which was tested in both Canada and Europe and keep our feet dry the whole time. These are our current boots.
Bluetooth Headsets (Sena S20)
We found they worked flawlessly in line of sight up to one kilometre on level ground. Large trucks, bends and rises did cause some interference with communication. The impact varied according to the size of the object between us.
We did not try many of the other Sena S20 options such as music or voice GPS so cannot comment on them. We have used the phone connection feature but not outside Australia. but were more than happy with the Sena S20 dual pack and would use again. We had to purchase second Sena S20 dual pack (July 2016) as we, well I Anthony, left our original set in Australia ahead of the second RTW trip.
Tent (Jack Wolfskin Yellowstone III Tent)
We love this tent and while we camped much less than we had expected on both RTW trips, having the tent gave us an extra accommodation option which proved invaluable at times. We found the construction to be excellent and the layout gave us all the space we needed with the covered entrance areas providing enough storage space for panniers and other motorcycle equipment such as helmets boots etc. The extra internal space and height make dressing easier being able to partially stand. The ability to have just netting on a starlit summer’s evening was magical. Currently under test in Iceland (July 2019) and performing well.
Sleeping bags (Lifeventure Downlight)
We selected the Lifeventure Downlight sleeping bags – the 900 model for Anthony and eventually, the 1200. We have both been happy with the bags which work perfectly in warmer weather. Currently under test in Iceland (July 2019). They pack small which is perfect for packing on the motorcycle being all down although mine, Anthony’s, seems to like depositing down each morning on my clothing giving me a feathered look and the source of these tiny bits of fluff remains a mystery?
Sleeping mats (Exped DownMat Lite sleeping mats)
We recently upgraded our sleeping mats to the Exped DownMat Lite – our bodies suffering too much after a night on a variety of Thermarest and Lifeventure mats. We have found the Exped, with its ‘schnozzle” airtight inflation system, easy to inflate and extremely easy to pack. No longer do we feel rocks, stones or tree roots under our mats. The added warmth provided by the thin layer of down has provided us both with repeated good nights’ sleep. A significant investment but well worth it in our view.
We found the instructions easy to follow and to use. As with the tent we did not use as much as we expected too. It could probably use a larger wind shield, but I have had this issue with every stove I have owned. I should probably place the stove better in windy conditions! Knocks and dents in the bottle have had no ill effects.
For ladies only …
The Sheewee (Ladies only)
Anne has tested it a number of times times now – the first 2 were a complete success, no leaks. However, used with a full bladder was not so successful – so if you buy one more practice is needed before being used ‘on the road’.
Hope that this feedback on our selection criteria and usage helps in making your choices. There are many good motorcycle forums such as Horizons Unlimited whose members can provide a wider range of experience and opinions than ours to assist you.