As we have completed our RTW trip, we thought it appropriate to review the equipment we selected in early 2014 and provide feedback on how this performed for us on the road from June 2014 to September 2015. Given the fast pace of product cycles today, most of these items may have already been superseded but hopefully this feedback will provide an indication as to how those companies products performed for us over the longer term when subjected to almost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 over 32,000 miles or 51,500 kilometres through 34 countries on 4 continents. 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. I think this is a good long term test, definitely a harder workout than most items would be subject to in regular motorcycling usage.
Links to our suppliers can be found on our links page.
BMW F700GS (2013 Model)
Overall we have been very happy with our decision to purchase the BMW F700GS. They have performed 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 anyway!
Both motorbikes, still being under warranty during the 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, San Jose – Costa Rica and Santa Fe – Colorado for diagnostic and warranty work. I can say that we were well received and assisted at each location and by combining the best features of each locations hospitality suites we will have a blueprint for the perfect BMW Motorrad showroom and service centre. Our thanks to all whom we met for the assistance and servicing on our journey.
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. 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.
Spare 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 will be adding a fuel pump, fuel filter and steering head bearings to the spares pack, 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. I plan to cover this in a separate article regarding motorcycles, warranty and world wide travel.
Given the weight and space a spare chain and sprocket set would take up, 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. Annes has gone further being replaced in Dubai and still going strong. Do take the extra drip feed tubes and they can get lost.
Adventure-Spec Magadan Panniers MK2
We opted for soft panniers. Reports we had read on Magadan’s durability, waterproof removable linings and slash proof external material were the main selling points for us. 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 not close them correctly as I did one occasion. We should note our route saw little rain over 15 months. Our panniers were lockable, using the PacSafe WrapSafe cables.
Jessie Odyssey top box (2013)
Our aim was to have a lockable top box in which to store our helmets, and if we had not filled the top box with everything else, that plan may have worked. 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 can 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!
Shoei Neotec Helmet
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.
Sena S20 dual pack
We were able to obtain these bluetooth headsets from Sena just as they came onto the market. As they were not available in Europe prior to our departure, Anne had contacted Sena who kindly gave us a pair of S20’s to trial for them. As we travelled they provided an essential link to allow us communicate on road and traffic conditions effectively giving both of us a second pair of eyes. They worked flawlessly in line of sight up to one kilometre on level ground. Large trucks, bends and rises did case some interference with communication. We did not try many of the other integration options such as music, gps or phone so cannot comment on them but were more than happy with the Sena S20 dual pack and would use again. We have purchased a Sena S20 dual pack (July 2016) as we left our original set in Australia! We do like the product.
Klim Badlands Men’s Jacket (2014 Model)
Having ridden with those jackets for 14 months now, we are happy to report that we have been extremely happy with them. A few minor adjustments would make them even better – easier adjustable neck and a different adjustable cuff on the Latitude jacket and turn the hip belt on the Badlands inside out so that clothing worn underneath does not fray from the repeated catching of the velcro. We did follow the care instructions and washed them in soap flakes which restored breathability when dirt and sweat had clogged up the jackets.
I, Anthony, have purchased (July 2016) a pair of Klim Lattitude pants and am currently road testing them in France and Spain. Very happy so far.
Klim Altitude Ladies Jacket (2014 Model)
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. It responded well to 6 monthly washes.
After my Draggin jeans kevlar ended up feeling like sand paper after 6 months, I purchased Held 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 Klim Overland goretex 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.
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.
TCX Track Evo Boots (late 2013 Model)
We wanted more than an everyday motorcycle boot, but did not feel we needed a full off road boot. We chose the TCX Track Evo as we felt they fitted our requirement the best. These boots have shod our feet for 15 months and have overall done a magnificent job. These are also our walking boots around town and in the country. They also protected 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 provided 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 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.
I have worn out three pairs of summer gloves in 14 months. Three different manufacturers’ products were used and all I can say is that while normal usage has seen similar gloves last me a couple of years, this type of treatment is just too demanding and a short life can be expected under similar conditions. No recommendations here.
Jack Wolfskin Yellowstone III tent (2013 model)
We love this tent and while we camped much less than we had expected, 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.
The choice of this particular stove was influenced by the fuel type. Having a petrol/gasoline stove meant having an extra litre of emergency fuel, which came in very handy on one occasion in South America after battling strong headwinds all day. 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!
Just as important as any piece of equipment if you run into medical difficulties, is a good personal travel insurance policy. While we realised that insuring the motorcycles for a RTW trip would be prohibitive, if not impossible, but we have always taken out personal travel insurance when we are overseas. A couple of points we look out for with personal travel insurance for motorcycle trips are:
any potential limitations on engine capacity, some policies limit cover to mopeds or small cubic capacity motorcycles only.
the countries in which your insurance company will provide you cover for. Exclusion, in addition to war, civil unrest etc, is usually based on your government travel advisory policies: where travel is not recommended by the foreign affairs department, which seems to err on the conservative side, you may not be covered under the insurance policy. This can of course change as you travel and you may find a country you planned to visit no longer covered. It may then be worth trying to source local travel insurance, if feasible, for your time in that country.
It is worth looking at reviews of travel claims for the insurance company you plan to use, to see where claim differences between insurer and insured have occurred and the causes. This can help you understand how the policy wording is interpreted by the insurance company.
Be aware that the insurance company may have very narrow definitions and in medical cases, their medical staff may reach different conclusions regarding approval for early return etc. than your treating physicians.
We had comprehensive motorcycle insurance for the UK, where we purchased and registered our motorcycles. This also provided cover for travel within Europe, do check which countries as inclusions within ‘Europe’ can vary from policy to policy. Outside Europe we purchased third party cover for our motorcycles where obligatory and/or possible. We preferred to have insurance cover and the cost in many countries was not excessive. We noted that this may be due to the low payout amounts for injury/death etc in some jurisdictions.
In some countries it was just not available, e.g. Ecuador; due to a change in the law this meant no third party insurance for foreign visiting vehicles was being sold for a period of six months. In most countries we found that vehicle insurance was available at or close to the border crossings, in others such Kyrgyzstan it took much detective work on Anne’s part to find the insurance company offices in the capital. Most of our insurance purchases are documented in our ‘visas and borders’ section. It is worth noting that in some countries regardless of what insurance you have, in the case of small incidents, the settlement will be in made in cash on the spot by the guilty or richer party.
We were lucky enough not to have any incidents that required us to use our motorcycle insurance.