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    Essential spare parts, tools and accessories to be prepared for any eventuality on the most remote roads on the planet

    By Jef Le Saltimbanque | 02 May 2022 | 1 min
    Jef

    Jef Le Saltimbanque

    The author


    My name is Jean-Jacques, but when I travel I use the nickname Jef, in reference to writer-journalist Joseph Kessel, whose books fueled my imagination when I was a teenager, and since a nomadic life is a real lifestyle for me, I’ve decided to be Jef Le Saltimbanque. My father was an expat and I grew up traveling, in Turkey and in Portugal. During my lifetime, I’ve had several passions in turn – skiing, diving, underground diving, hot air balloons and, especially, horse riding. In 2003-2004, I took my first 16-month motorcycle journey through Africa. I wrote my first book about this adventure (The blue bandana: tales of a promise under the pen-name of Jean-Jacques Aneyota). In 2018, I returned to Asia for 16 months, and now I’m planning a trip around the world without any time limits. My role model is Hubert, who spent the last 14 years of his life traveling. And... Oh yes... I’m about to turn 60.

    In this article, I won’t be talking specifically about my motorcycles but about what I think is important to know, check or modify before embarking on a trip around the world – or, at any rate, on a particularly long and demanding journey. Obviously, the type of motorcycle used makes all the difference and I’ll also give you some examples of very specific alterations that I have made to my BMW G650 Xchallenge, which I’ll ride on my next adventures.   

    In general, I would recommend that you first have a full mechanical overhaul done and replace all high-wear parts, including the clutch plates. You should pay particular attention to the wheels’ bearings, the swingarm and the steering column – make sure they’re all new before you leave. If possible, do all this yourself, in order to learn more about your motorcycle’s mechanics and identify the essential tools you should be taking with you. You don’t need to be a mechanic in order to go on a trip – I was a total beginner when I traveled for the first time! Nonetheless, knowing how to perform at least routine maintenance on your motorcycle is useful.   

     

    Some essential alterations to be ready for anything: Dos and don’ts 

    Servicing all sorted? Actually, that’s not enough. Here’s a list of adjustments or alterations that I recommend doing:  

    • Increase the capacity of your fuel tank to have a fuel range of at least 500 km. Personally, both my motorcycles (a BMW R100 GS and a G650 Xchallenge) have a range of 700 km. It’s not absolutely essential, but I was glad of it on a couple of occasions. Moreover, it allows you to help out other motorcycle riders who are running out of fuel.  
    • Add fuel filters to avoid issues caused by impurities in the fuel.   
    • If necessary, have the saddle remade, to make it as comfortable as possible. You’re going to sit on it for several hours a day for months, so comfort is crucial.  

    • Protect the electrical wiring with a water-repellent silicone sleeve (it comes as a spray, and you can spray it on the wiring). This is crucial if you plan to travel in humid, tropical or equatorial regions.  

    • Check the air filtration system and, if necessary, replace it with a more efficient one. In Africa, I checked my air filter every night after a day’s travel. I didn’t do this in Pakistan and I had to replace the piston rings once I arrived in Nepal.  

     

    • If needed, add some protection on the crankcase. The one I put on the Xchallenge comes with a small toolbox.  

    • If there aren’t any, equip your motorcycle with handguards. In the sub-Sahel region, I saw handguards pierced through by acacia thorns – I can’t imagine what would have happened to the rider’s hands without them.   

    • Weld or attach a larger plate to the base of the side stand, to be able to park the motorcycle on soft ground.  
    • This is not essential for the center stand, though it can come in useful under various circumstances: If you need to repair a wheel, for example, use the motorcycle as a table, etc.  
    • Bring a spare “ready-to-install” clutch cable with you, i.e. a pre-assembled one that’s already in place. This way, you only need to connect the ends to the levers on the engine and handlebars, which can be done in 10 minutes if the original cable breaks.   
    • Replace the standard foot pegs with wider ones, to ride in a standing position without difficulty, feel more comfortable and have greater control of the vehicle in general.  
    • Install a reinforced shock absorber designed for the load you want to carry. For the record, the reinforced shock absorbers I mounted on the R100 GS never lasted more than 40,000 km.   
    • Install a powerful horn. In many countries, you need to be loud to assert your authority on the road.  
    • Install a water tank holding five or six liters. My main motorcycle has a 10 l tank, though I rarely fill it up completely, unless I want to cross a particularly dry region or set up camp away from a source of water for several days.  
    • Install a reinforced luggage rack. However, I can’t tell you whether to buy a soft or aluminum luggage rack, as both have their pros and cons. I still haven’t decided which one to choose for my next trip, though I’m leaning towards the soft model.   
    • Equip your motorcycle with a tank bag with map holder.  
    • Have the cigarette lighter and/or USB port connected, to be able to charge your electronic devices.  
    • Consider installing a GPS. I personally use two of them, a traditional GPS and my smartphone.   

       

    As part of your preparations, I strongly advise avoiding a top box. Bumps and vibrations on off-road sections almost always break the support plate and, in the worst cases, the motorcycle’s rear frame.   

    To secure the saddle bag, I’ve been using a ratchet strap for years, which has the advantage of withstanding pretty much anything. Nets or other elasticated means should be avoided.   

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    These are my general tips, but you may still need to make some further alterations depending on the specs of the motorcycle you choose. For example, I increased the engine oil capacity on both my motorcycles to improve their cooling ability. On the Xchallenge, I had the steel rear frame remade so it could take the weight of the luggage – the original aluminum frame was lighter for sure, but it probably wouldn’t have held up. In addition, in some countries it’s basically impossible to have aluminum parts repaired.   

     

    Wheels and tires for long journeys 

    Spoked wheels only. Alloy wheels will become irreparably damaged on off-road stretches. As far as tires are concerned, I believe that road enduro tires are the most suitable, as the tread is light and they work well both on asphalt and undemanding off-road stretches. Personally, I’m very satisfied with the Continental TKC 70 tires, which perform quite well in any situation, except for mud. In addition, they last a relatively long time, which is good. I have tubeless tires on my R100, but I always keep a set of inner tubes ready to take with me. Knobby tires should only be used when riding on very long off-road stretches, as in Congo. Their great disadvantage is that they don’t last that long, especially when traveling long distances on asphalt.   

        

    What should you always have with you?  Spare parts and repair tools    

    Here’s a small list of tools and spare parts you should take with you. Once again, this list really depends on the kind of trip you’re planning and on the availability of spare parts in the areas you are traveling through.   

    Tools:  

    • An essential kit for your motorcycle. What the kit includes depends on the motorcycle. Two tips: Optimize space and don’t skimp on the quality of the tools.  
    • A foot pump. In some sandy stretches, tires may need to be deflated. I prefer foot pumps to electric pumps, first of all, because they don’t break, and secondly because if you have to inflate tires in a very cold region, a foot pump will save you from straining the battery unnecessarily.  
    • A tire/inner tube repair kit   
    • Three tire changing levers  
    • Some mechanical grease – useful to check that the air filter is airtight, for example. Sand, especially very fine fech fech sand, tends to go inside everything.  
    • Ties and sheath for electric cables 
    • A roll of duct tape 
    • You could also take something to repair a hole in the fuel tank (such as liquid metal or resin, depending on the type of tank)  

     

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    Essential spare parts:

    • Oil filter and related gaskets. No need to bring oil, it can be found everywhere.  
    • 1 set of front and rear brake pads  
    • 1 set of spark plugs  
    • 1 headlight bulb   
    • Assorted fuses 
    • A set of wheel bearings and swingarm  
    • 1 set of fork oil seals  
    • 1 pre-assembled clutch cable   
    • 1 throttle cable  
    • 1 set of inner tubes  
    • If you have a bike with chain drive, a chain link  

    If you think you won’t be able to find them, ship spare parts in advance to some of the cities you will visit; for example:  

    • 1 transmission kit (chain, crown, sprocket) or universal joint, as needed. On my first trip, my motorcycle’s universal joint broke. I think it’s a good idea to remove it and check it every 30,000 km.   
    • Tires. In Asia, especially on the Silk Road, finding motorcycle tires is quite easy nowadays. However, in some regions of Africa it can get more complicated – that’s why you should plan in advance.   

     

    Some comments on shipping spare parts by courier 

    Shipping spare parts by courier is a rather lengthy and, above all, expensive operation. In addition to shipping costs, which can easily reach 200 euros even for a small package, you need to add customs clearance costs, which in some countries are very high (sometimes more than 100% of the declared value). Therefore, I strongly recommend using this option only if there’s no other choice. Often, it’s actually best to ask a friend to reach you where you are. 

    Essential equipment

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    Adventure helmet

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    Gore-Tex® Jacket

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    Gore-Tex® pants

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    Waterproof boots

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    Back protector

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    Waterproof gloves

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    Technical jersey

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    Technical long underwear

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