Our Equipment Selection Philosophy
Where does one start? The range and variety of motorcycle oriented equipment for adventure travel is vast and the choices seem endless. Reading other people’s opinions only heightens the sense of confusion. Research seems to take forever, prices vary considerably for what we perceive to be similar equipment and most of the items we reviewed we think would do the job, but what is best for you and your circumstances?
In deciding what to take, we feel that a number of factors come into play: route or destination, climate, budget, current equipment, previous experience and expertise, new or second hand options. All of these will shape your decisions as you plan your specific journey. We believe there are no right or wrong choices, just different ones that may or may not be tested depending on the circumstances you encounter en-route.
Since we made our decisions in 2014 as we prepared for our first RTW journey, most, if not all of the equipment we purchased has been superseded by newer and improved products. Therefore our “Equipment Review” page can only provide historic guide of the companies’ products’ function and durability based on our usage over the last five years in the case of many of the products.
A lot of reading and research was done before finally deciding on any item and purchasing it. It was at times overwhelming with the number of choices and opinions available. Once we had decided on a number of items, it was wonderful to discover the existence of The Adventure Bike Shop www.adventurebikeshop.co.uk which stocked most of the items we’d decided on.
Not only did they stock all those items and more, they actually have experience in long distance RTW motorcycle riding and were able to provide advice on items we didn’t know about. We could not recommend them highly enough. They know their stuff, are very helpful and their prices were very competitive.
Having virtually no experience in long distance adventure motorcycling apart from one group tour in India and Bhutan and a few week-long hires in Spain, Morocco and the USA, we relied on the views of others to start framing our needs.
Thanks to hearing someone’s comment in a forum somewhere, we decided that having the same bike could be extremely useful for diagnosis, in case of electrical/mechanical failure: one can take a part out of the working bike and replacing it into the broken bike until the broken part is identified. Also, in case of accident/illness or whatever, both of us could ride both bikes – Anne would feel uncomfortable riding an extremely high seated bike for example.
In determining our specific motorbike criteria, we needed to take into account: no real mechanical motorcycle skills or experience, our age (over 50, closer to 60). We have been fortunate in one sense that we were in a position to purchase mostly new equipment, but sadly this came about through my, Anthony’s, mother’s passing away late in 2013 and leaving us enough to make this possible. I would like to think that she was with us in spirit on the journeys and would have been pleased that we have chosen to use some of her legacy in this positive way.
Where did we start? Well, motorcycle boots purchased at the Birmingham International Motorcycle show in November 2013! I digress but it is easier to start at home rather than on the other side of the world.
We went to the show to be able to see all the latest motorbikes and compare models. At home we had a Triumph Street Triple, sadly written off, in a “no fault” on my part, accident in December 2012, and a Triumph Thunderbird Cruiser. Neither bike met our view of a RTW bike for us, enjoyable as each is in its own way. We have both found that for long distances, a more upright seated stance is more comfortable, something to do with the genetics from our parents, age, personal preference and the passage of time. We also wanted a bike where Anne’s feet could be firmly on the ground.
We had seen many people at the Horizons Unlimited event in Brisbane in September 2013 riding large single cylinder Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha adventure bikes. While excellent machines we saw issues with these bikes, mostly out of availability in Europe for over five years due to Euro emissions rules, a high seat position, therefore seat lowering required and very few second hand models seemed to be available. We did look at the smaller off road bikes and the interesting CCM 450 which was about to be launched, but all seemed to require a higher level of modification to meet our perceived needs and carrying capacity.
In the end we narrowed it down to the BMW F700/800 and the Triumph 800 and 800XC. We had experience with Triumph as manufacturer and we had hired and ridden BMW’s in Spain and Morocco so were familiar with the smaller GS models.
Both Triumph and BMW helped arrange test rides with dealers who had the low seat options on the more off road orientated models. Our test rides narrowed the bike choice down to the BMW F700GS which offered us a bike we could both ride without lowering the suspension. The BMW F700GS met this criteria but also had the most natural riding position for Anne who has a neck problem that can be exacerbated by certain riding positions . While the cast wheels of the BMW F700GS are potentially an issue for adventure motorcycling with the increased risk of cracking on rough terrain, we decided we could live with the risk given our slow riding style and the benefits of being able to fit tubeless tires making puncture repairs simpler. We did however pack a rubber inner tube just in case.
We then looked at the cost of a new BMW F700GS, which along with the factory fitted options we were interested in soon pushed the price to over £10,000 per bike. This was far too much. Anne then researched the dealers who were offering low milage 2013 demo bikes. We did not know at the time, but dealer demo bikes are usually fitted with all the extra options to show the customer. BMW Oxford had 2 BMW F700GS demos for sale and we then negotiated with them and reached a satisfactory deal for both. We had our bikes on the 30th January 2014!
We had decided that we wanted to keep the bikes as light as possible, hard to imagine since they weigh 209kg empty, but every kilo counts. We negotiated with BMW Oxford as part of the motorcycle deal to replace the existing plastic bash plate with something a little more robust as well as different pannier mounts for the planned soft luggage. So in keeping with our planned minimalist approach, we only added the following fixed items to the motorbikes:
– Heavy Duty Aluminium Bash plate
– Lower engine protection bars
– Handlebar protectors (Barkbusters)
– Scottoiler (For increased chain life)
– Higher Givi screen (wind/bug protection)
– BMW Pannier mounts (for soft luggage)
– High engine protection bars
– Side stand foot extenders (for soft ground)
– A pair of LED running lights
– Anne added pivoting ROX risers to give a more comfortable riding position, I followed later
If one looks at the Touratech catalogue, there are many, many extra options to chose from. A number of travellers seem to add a headlight guard, we did not, but have had no damaged lights in either of our RTW trips, probably just lucky.
We looked at both hard and soft panniers, and we could have purchased the hard shell BMW panniers and not had the cost to replace the existing dealer demo pannier mounting bars. Our reasons for choosing soft panniers were as follows, again based on reading other people’s experiences:
– We felt hard shell panniers can be damaged or deformed more easily
– Damaged hard panniers may no longer close properly or remain waterproof
– Soft panniers act as cushion when the bikes go over (which they will do)
– If you use your leg for balance while moving, your calf may hit the pannier, soft hurts less
– Less damage to other vehicles/people if you hit them with your soft pannier
We chose Adventure-Spec Magadan Panniers MK2 based on reports of their durability, waterproof removable linings and slash proof external material.
Our aim was to have a lockable top box in which to store our helmets (in addition to documents), and if we had not filled the top box with everything else, that plan may have worked. We chose Jessie Luggage Odyssey top box for the strength of construction and excellent carrying capacity, which still surprises me today.
While much our effort seemed to be expended on motorcycle equipment, we did not neglect the clothing aspect. A couple of factors influenced our decision. We knew that we would be travelling in mostly hot countries on our first RTW trip, up to 46 degrees Celsius as it happened. We also wanted maximum protection as we knew in the event of an accident we may be many hours from medical care. Better protection = less injuries.
The main features we identified included several effective vents, light in colour, practical pockets, waterproof & breathable (the practice of having to take a jacket off in the rain to insert a waterproof layer never made sense) and with good armour. This does mean Gortex type products which are more expensive. We found the Klim jackets ticked all the boxes for us, and more. Anthony’s Klim Badlands model also has chest armour. The armour Klim use is incredibly thin, yet more effective than thicker versions we’ve had previously and wonderfully supple making the wearing of these jackets very comfortable. We have subsequently replaced Anne’s original Klim Altitude jacket and trousers with the 2018 Klim Artemis model which incorporates a number of improvements that Anne had wished for.
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. We chose the Shoei Neotec based on comfort and the fact I have used my head to stop in a Shoei at 80km. / 50mph. and survived, although I have no memory of the event. Pays to have a good product for protection.
We wanted more than an everyday motorcycle boot, but did not feel we needed a full “off road” boot. These boots would be our primary footwear for over 12 months so comfort was as important durability and protection. We would be walking and sightseeing in these boots. We chose the TCX Track Evo (late 2013 model) as we felt they fitted our requirement the best. We now use SIDI Adventure boots for the extra protection they provide.
We felt it was important as we travelled in unfamiliar regions to have the ability to talk while we rode providing an essential link to allow us communicate on road and traffic conditions effectively giving both of us a second pair of eyes.
We narrowed our choice down to the the Sena S20 from the various reviews we read. We were able to obtain these bluetooth headsets from Sena just as they came onto the market in June 2014. 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.
Anne thought she had found the perfect tent when reading about the Redverz motorcycle tent. It had everything: workshop area, covered parking area for the bikes, kitchen & dining area, 2 porches, and the height to allow you to get dressed standing up. Perfect! That was until we saw the tent all set up at the Adventure Bike Shop: it requires such an enormous footprint to put up – no discreet camping with that enormous bright orange tent! It does help to see equipment in the flesh so to speak. So the search continued. Balancing the ‘perfect’ tent (space, weight, venting, porches ) and price while taking into account the number of times we were expecting to camp.
While visiting a fantastic camping/outdoor store in Munich, the Globetrotter, www.globetrotter.de, we found our tent: the Jack Wolfskin Yellowstone III Vent. It had all the above criteria but was also free standing and could be put up as a complete mesh tent for the hot countries we were about to visit. But the colour was a little too bright green and a little more than we wanted to pay.
After researching it on the internet, Anne found it also existed in a sand colour which would be perfect in the desert landscape we were expecting to mostly camp in. But that was the old model. While online sites showed it in sand colour, only the bright green was available on ordering. Much research later, the last sand colour model was found online and purchased (after double checking that the vendor was an approved reseller and that they did have it in the required colour). We put it up indoors but because we didn’t read the instructions first, took 10′ to put it up – it goes up much quicker than that now.
We selected the Lifeventure Downlight sleeping bags – the 900 model for Anthony and eventually, the 1200 model for Anne as the 900 was simply not warm enough for her. I was sure the 1200 will end up proving too warm in Asia but not being able to sleep when it is too cold would have been too unpleasant. Once again, the Adventure Bike Shop was very helpful and happily swapped Anne’s 900 for a 1200.
Looking for light yet comfortable mats has proved difficult. 2cm thickness on our ageing bodies is no longer working for us. After much research, and a couple of changes since we started in 2014, we have now opted for the Exped Down Mat Light – it is ultra light, packs very small, inflates up to 8cm thick and has a built in thin layer of down for extra warmth. It comes with an ingenious “schnozzle” air tight bag to inflate the mat: you connect the schnozzle to the mat, wave the bag open to let air in, roll the schnozzle close and push the air into the mat. 3 bags of air and the mat is fully inflated. The advantage of this over blowing extra air into ‘self inflatable’ mats is that no moisture gets into the mat – such moisture can freeze overnight making it an ice block to sleep on. The thin layer of down also provides extra warmth.
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 chose the Soto brand. We found the instructions easy to follow and to use.
PillowHaving tried several extra light pillows that made me feel sea sick for some reason, we found the TrangoWorld Pillow – it is wide, self inflatable and we still use it every day at home now or when we’re travelling generally! The best pillow ever.
For ladies only …
The Sheewee Bare bottoms will be a thing of the past! This little device could end up being extremely useful…. See reviews for important tips on successful usage. Practice while fully clothed is imperative!!
So that sums up our how we arrived at our selections, visit “Our Equipment Feedback” for our views of how the products performed.