The Trip and Preparations
This trip is the dream of a lifetime: since I was little I’ve been passionate about adventures and motorcycles. I’ve done many trips, but none as ambitious as this one. The idea is to go around the world on my motorcycle for as long as it takes. If you want to know more about me, click here.
In my opinion, choosing a specific route before leaving would be non-sensical. The only thing I’m absolutely certain about is the bike that I will use and my strong ambition to travel and explore the five continents.
I’ve been shaping this project over the years, day after day and kilometer by kilometer. There’s always been a little flame inside me… a burning desire. As time goes by it has become more and more intense to the point where I’m not able to hold myself back from exploring the exciting world we live in. I’m changing my house for a tent, my family and friends for the people on the road and the office for the road. The only thing I keep with me is my motorcycle, which will be my faithful partner during many adventures.
THE MOTORCYCLE FOR THE GREAT TRIP
WHY DID I CHOOSE THIS MOTORCYCLE?
I’m facing this adventure with a Honda Transalp 650. It’s not a brand new motorcycle, quite the opposite. It was manufactured in 2005, powered by carburetion and simple but robust mechanics. I chose this one because, among the motorcycles capable of making a trip like this that are available on the market, this one stands out for its reliability and for its low price. These two requirements, especially the first one, are very important to me on this journey.
Another feature is its good load capacity, and this bike has enough power to maintain a normal travel pace. A key thing for me is to have spoked wheels instead of aluminum rims. The front is 21″, which is good for travelling in the country. The distance to the ground allows you to travel tracks and even broken roads, always with caution. As for autonomy, it has an almost 20-liter tank. This will be enough for most places, but I will carry a jerry can with several extra liters in case I need it. As for the weight of the bike, it’s not so light, but it’s not so heavy either.
In general, it is a very simple, robust, versatile, and great value motorcycle. I hope it performs as well as it has up to now and that we are able to have many adventures together.
PREPARING THE MOTORCYCLE.
I like to fiddle around with my motorcycles, so I improved some elements of the bike and added a couple of extras that I considered important for this trip. I would’ve liked to prepare it a little better, but once again, the budget is limited …
- Tires: for an adventure like this you have to choose them very carefully since it’s the element that keeps the motorcycle attached to the ground. I chose knobby tires with relatively high durability. They are made for the country rather than the asphalt because my intention is to travel as many kilometers as possible on the track. Even so, they will be effective and reliable in any circumstance and in any terrain.
- Review: the review and set-up was done by the guys from Moto Center Mallorca, who have been fixing, preparing, and customizing motorcycles for more than twenty years. They have that touch of design and craftsmanship that is hard to find. In fact, they don’t settle for the basics, instead, they do magnificent work with each motorcycle. They have done an excellent job adapting the new suspensions and all the accessories that I decided to put on the Transalp before starting the trip. For me, more than a workshop, it’s a dream factory.
- Air filter: for convenience, I use a washable air filter that doesn’t need to be replaced. Every few km you just wash it and re-impregnate it with its oil. It is a huge advantage if you forget to get a spare part along the way.
- Cases: I decided on the TRAX ADV from Sw-Motech, these are aluminum cases that provide great resilience and comfort. They are sealed with rubber to prevent any water or dirt from entering. In addition, the anchors are pre-installed and are very easy to mount. Although they are not so cheap, I consider them essential due to the advantages they offer: rigid, good load capacity, and safety. On the latter, the metal locks protect your luggage and help you to forget about it without worrying. The only bad part is that these cases make the bike wider and heavier and, in relation to the top case, it suffers a lot of fatigue on the “worst” tracks. That is why it is convenient to travel light, with little weight.
- Fenders: they are from Sw-Motech, moderate in size, and quite discreet. So far they’ve held up perfectly.
- Shock absorber and fork springs: we don’t usually give them the attention they deserve, but for me, the suspensions are one of the most important parts of a motorcycle. Those that come with the Transalp 650 are okay. The front springs are too soft, and the flaws are more noticeable on the track. Since I’m going to travel thousands of kilometers on all types of roads, I decided to change the suspensions for a YSS suspension. This brand is not yet commonly known in Spain, but it’s slowly getting into the market worldwide. I asked for slightly higher suspensions than the original ones, thinking that the motorcycle gains a few centimeters of “ground clearance”. The front springs are progressive, and the difference in performance compared to the ones that came with the motorcycle is huge.
- Central stand: essential to travel, I would even say that it’s also essential for day-to-day use of almost any motorcycle. It allows you to perform maintenance tasks that would be extremely complicated without it, such as greasing the chain, fixing a puncture, changing the tires, and much more. Sw-Motech is one of the few brands that make the center stand for the Transalp 650.
- Dome: the original one was way too small, so I ended up buying a tall dome. It protects better against the wind and rain, so it’s more comfortable. The bad part is that it’s too wide, and it removes the wind that is so appreciated in summer. I’ve only used it for a few km, so I don’t have a clear conclusion yet.
- Complementary lights: the lighting that comes with motorcycles is usually quite limited, even more so in the Transalp and others of its generation. Because of this, I’ve added some extra headlights. Sw-Motech EVOs are quite easy to mount and they give you that extra light that the motorcycle lacks. It helps you to see and to be seen, which is essential when riding a motorcycle.
- Crankcase protector: highly recommended, and even a must for broken tracks. The Transalp comes with a plastic one. It’s fine for small scratches or small stones, but if things get serious, you need a metallic one. Once you assemble it, you’re gonna be able to see the times it saves you… literally, it’ll get engraved into the protector. In my case, it’s already saved me twice… before the trip even started! I have the Sw-Motech one, which is very robust and resistant.
- Raised fender: it’s not recommended to leave the fender as it comes with the motorcycle. It is only one or two centimeters away from the wheel, so as soon as it gets dirty, it sticks to it and covers the studs completely. Then the wheel gets locked and stops going. To avoid this, I can think of two solutions: the first is to remove the fender and the second, which is the one I prefer, is to move it a few centimeters away from the wheel. In my case, I made sliding metal plates that create a separation of three to five centimeters, depending on the need.
- Foldable shift and brake pedal: The Transalp comes with fixed pedals. The problem with that is that if you fall, it’s very easy for them to bend or even break. I discovered that the Africa Twin of the time had folding pedals and they were compatible with the Transalp. The change is a centimeter longer, which is great for the boots. Folding the ends of the pedals makes it much more difficult for them to be damaged.
- USB socket and cigarette lighter: I incorporated these two elements to charge the electronic devices along the way since my intention is to camp very often. This way I have access to electricity whenever the motorcycle is running. Being very cheap, it’s such a huge help that I just can’t say no.
MAINTENANCE AND SPARE PARTS.
For budget reasons and for mere romanticism, I will be taking care of the maintenance and repairs.
No motorcycle is perfect and each model tends to fail in the same places, so it’s better to know which parts tend to break down and be prepared for when it happens. I take various utensils and tools with me, as well as some spare parts that I will need during the trip.
The list of spare parts that I take with me is:
- Oil filter.
- Clutch cable.
- Return cable.
- Throttle cable.
- Front and rear brake pads.
- Mileage fuse (usually breaks down in the Transalp 650)
- Air filter cleaner.
- Chain grease.
- Extra tire set.
- Wheel bearings.
- Both brake and clutch levers.
- Clutch plates.
- Reinforced front and rear cameras.
- New gaskets for valve adjustment.
- Brake and gear shift pedal.
- Fork retainers.
- Light bulbs.
- Drive pinion washer (usually fails on Transalp 650)
- A couple of spare radios.
In my opinion, the most important thing is to be certain about what you do, to know why you are doing it, and to be able to sacrifice some things in order to pursue your dreams. I think that with this in mind, the most difficult step is already taken.
In my case, like everyone else, I’ve been through rough patches. Not only did I save up little by little while finishing university, but I also had to give up hobbies that I used to love. I’ve been able to speak with people who know the countries that I pass through my route, I’ve navigated online for many hours and learned mechanics and first aid.
As I said before, planning a route would take away part of the adventure. One of the things I like most about travelling on a motorcycle is being able to decide “where” and “for how long” almost every day. To have the freedom to set the course that I want without rushing or conditioning.
All I know is that I intend to travel the five continents. I will start in Africa, probably the purest and also the most difficult. My idea is to cross it from north to south, starting from the west coast all the way to South Africa. Once there, I would like to use the pole star for guidance, up the “east” coast and reach Egypt.
Then I would like to go from Africa to Euro-Asia by boat. As I see it right now, Turkey would be my gateway to the huge Asian continent. I have the rest of the route in my head, but I would rather focus on this part first and I will let the rest come with time.
A lot of things can happen along the way, that’s for sure. So what I do is stay calm and be open to changes.
CAMPING AND SURVIVAL MATERIAL
With such a goal, I think it’s important to bring decent material. Due to my limited budget, it can’t be top-notch in the market or top brands, but searching and asking questions I was able to find high-quality alternatives at affordable prices.
One of the main challenges of travelling by motorcycle is the limited space and weight. It was an absolute must that the luggage was reduced to the minimum and essential.
- Tent: it must be small and light, with a high degree of impermeability, with good perspiration and resistant fabric. I have a mid-range one with good waterproofing and about 2kg.
- Sleeping bag: as with the tent, we have to avoid excesses. In my case, it’s a feather bag that weighs approximately 1 kg and has a comfort temperature of 0ºC. It’s warmer inside of the tent, but for extremely cold nights I have an inner fleece sack sheet. This, apart from being more hygienic (it can be washed), theoretically, provides you with an extra 10/15 degrees. From what I’m seeing, it’s not as much as that, at least in my case, and it only adds about 5 degrees. Another advantage is that it allows you to use it as a summer jacket on hot nights.
- Mat: The mat I chose is inflatable and lightweight. You can grab it with one hand and once inflated, it’s 9 cm deep and 195 cm long. It’s got insulating fabric inside, something essential when camping, as it prevents heat loss due to contact with the ground.
- Stove: I take a gasoline stove with me because of the easy access to gasoline. It is very versatile, works with several substances, and will allow me to cook and eat hot food.
- Water purifier: I have a Sawyer brand purifier cane, theoretically, it’s ready to purify about 1000 liters of water. It works by direct suction and eliminates most bacteria and protozoa, doesn’t take up too much space, and it can be very useful when needed. The most important thing that I carry on the bike is water.
- Flint: The good thing about the flint is that it works in almost all weather conditions and it doesn’t matter if it gets wet.Of course, I carry a knife, lighter, rope, duct tape, and all those things that are always helpful when doing any kind of work.
- Helmet: I use Shoei’s Hornet ADV. I chose a closed one for security reasons. It’s very similar to a full-face one but has a chin guard and upper visor. It is actually a hybrid between a regular road one and an enduro one. The advantages are that, while maintaining the safety of a full-face helmet, it allows you to breathe better in case of suffocation, it has a visor that protects you from the sun and branches and offers a wider field of vision.
- Jacket: it’s probably the most useful thing after the helmet, so it is important to choose carefully depending on each person’s needs. In my case, I’m going to go through very cold, very hot, rainy, and dry situations. I need a jacket that is very versatile, that is why I have chosen the Nabor model from the iXS brand. It has good protection and incorporates the Gore-Tex membrane, which gives it excellent waterproofing without sacrificing breathability. It has three removable layers, making it perfect for all kinds of weather conditions.
- Gloves: I travel with two pairs. One of them is the iXS «Cuba» for cold weather and when I’m off the bike. The glove offers good dexterity and excellent protection. The others, the “Fresh”, are ideal on hot days. Although they are very ventilated, that doesn’t mean they have worse protection. For very cold situations I have finite under-gloves that fit inside the Cuba gloves, giving them a few degrees more.
- Pants: I am wearing the iXS «Harron» style. They are the perfect complement to the Nabor jacket, also incorporating Gore-Tex and three removable layers. I find them very comfortable and adaptable to many situations.
- Boots: to go through tracks it’s important to use high and rigid boots, but not as rigid as motocross boots. The model I use is the iXS «Trail». At the moment they are holding up well and are quite comfortable to walk on.
It’s hard to distinguish between need and whim. Space is very limited on a motorcycle, so you have to think a lot about what to bring and what to leave behind.
- Computer: there are ultralight models that are ideal for travelling, but that’s not my case. I’ve got a normal laptop, I edit my videos with it. It also helps me if I want to make arrangements and save photos. This is the first trip I will take a computer with me, so we’ll see if it was a good idea.
- Powerpack: a small external battery that is used to charge electronic devices. If this wasn’t enough, it makes it possible to start the motorcycle in case the battery fails.
- Photo cameras: I have a mirrorless type camera. Theoretically, for the same price, the quality is slightly lower than a traditional SLR. They are evolving over the years and they say it will soon have the same quality, or even surpass SLR cameras. Once again, due to space, it’s a type of camera that fits my needs. By not having so many crystals inside, it’s more resistant to shocks and the constant shake of the motorcycle.
- Action camera: I’ve chosen a GoPro sports camera, for its versatility and resistance. Everyone knows them and we have seen what they are capable of.
- Drone: a Mavic Pro, one of my most expensive investments. It’s incredibly small, given its characteristics. The quality of the camera is acceptable and you can almost fit it in a pocket. I consider it totally expendable, but I like it a lot and I think it can provide a different vision.
- Intercom: I chose the Sena 10C. I mostly use it to listen to music while riding. On the other hand, this model incorporates a video camera. The good thing is that it allows you to record spontaneous situations that otherwise wouldn’t have been recorded, it’s quite small and is well integrated into the helmet.
- GPS: I only use Maps on my phone. Without an internet connection, it only shows you the map and a small blue dot that is you. I prefer this to other alternatives since a browser also takes away the possibility of many adventures, meet people and immerse yourself in the country. By preventing you from getting lost, the browser also avoids many adventures.
- Mini compressor: I found a tiny one online for an affordable price. It’s supposed to be able to inflate the wheel of a motorcycle in a few minutes and works with a battery or connected to the electricity/cigarette lighter. I have some doubts, I have yet to see if it works …
Again, due to space, I can’t carry everything I want, so I had to select my tools carefully. I only carry the ones that I use the most on my motorcycle.
Until the free space is filled, just enough to go for a week or two until I need to do laundry.
First aid kit, slackline, diving goggles.
DOCUMENTATION AND VACCINES
For me, bureaucracy is the most boring and nerve-racking thing of all: slow, difficult, not very human, and often corrupt. But it is part of the game, and today you need papers for everything, and travelling by motorcycle is not an exception. I am lucky to live in a so-called “rich” country. This gives me the privilege to enter almost any country in the world simply because I was born here. Unfortunately, there are still many borders that are not two-way.
- Passport: logically, it must be in order and have enough validity months. Many countries ask you for at least six months. In addition, you must have enough blank sheets to complete the trip.
- Visas: I don’t like the idea of getting the visas from home, because I don’t know what dates I am going to arrive or if I am going to divert the trip to another country. What I’m going to do is to get them at the border itself, but there are countries that don’t allow that. In those cases, they can usually be acquired in the capital of a neighboring country. We will see how it works. I prefer to have total freedom even if it involves some fuss along the way.
- Carnet de Passages en Douane (CDP): this card is something like a temporary import permit for the motorcycle, to make sure that you are not going to sell it in any country. It is necessary if you are looking to cross certain countries with your own vehicle. It’s controversial because, to get it, you must go to a bank and deposit a large amount of money. This depends on the value of your vehicle, although the minimum is €2,780. They give you a guarantee with its corresponding management and maintenance costs (banks have to live off of something) and, if you want to get that guarantee back, you have to return the CDP with all the stamps of entry and exit from the country.
The validity of the card is one year, and its cost ranges between €250 and €280, depending on the number of countries you are going to visit. It has quite a few risks. For example, if you forget it, if you don’t get the exit stamp from a country, if your motorcycle is stolen or you have a breakdown and you can’t continue, you automatically lose the guarantee. The only institution that manages it in Spain is RACE. I haven’t found any alternative or a way to not get the card, since on my route there are several countries in which it is “essential” and many others in which it is highly recommended.
- International driving license: it costs approximately €10, it is processed at the DGT at the moment, it allows you to drive through any country and lasts one year. From my own experience, in many countries, they don’t have the slightest idea what it is. You could show them a library card with conviction and it would be the same.
- Travel insurance: essential in an adventure like this. It’s valid for one year and covers you in case of illness or accident along the way. If you don’t get it, healthcare can be very expensive in some countries.
- Motorcycle insurance: the one I already have in Spain. Our insurance covers a large part of Europe. Even Turkey and Morocco, if I’m not mistaken. From there you have to take out insurance for the days you’re spending in the countries you are visiting.
- Vaccines: To cross certain borders it’s necessary to be vaccinated, especially against yellow fever and meningococcal meningitis. You must prove it by presenting the international vaccination card, which can be obtained from Foreign Health. There are others that are recommended in many countries, especially in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. In the Foreign Health offices, they recommend certain vaccines based on the destinations you are visiting and the time you are going to be travelling. Some vaccines are supplied to you by the Foreign Health Department upon payment. Others fall under Social Security, so the price is not too high. It will also depend on the vaccines that one has had previously. At the moment it’s quite difficult to find the one for Hepatitis A, as I have heard there were problems in the factory and there is low stock. It was super hard for me to get the first dose. I will have to look for the second one in Africa. I hadn’t been vaccinated for any of my previous trips, due to this, I have decided to take several vaccines. The vaccines I took were: yellow fever, meningitis and rabies (International Vaccination Center), typhoid fever, and cholera (bought at the pharmacy, I took them orally). I left a reminder for the tetanus vaccine (Social Security), and also the vaccine for hepatitis A. In my case, I had to take the B since back in the day it didn’t have any effect on me. On the other hand I got the “Malarone”. It’s like a shock treatment for when you are having the first symptoms of malaria until you reach a place where you can be treated. Everyone must decide whether or not to get vaccinated and what vaccines to take. All depending on where you are going and how long you will be travelling.
- Finally, I bring photocopies of the documents with me. They really have no value, not even if they were certified. In any case, I hope that, if I mess it up, they will help me …