Overland Motorcycle Trip: ALLLLL the Preparations

Posted by Justin Lewis on Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Countless hours have been spent scouring google leading to a black hole of blogs and Instagram pages. Overland travel comes in many different forms. Some people choose bicycles or the classic VW Vanagon or Land Cruiser. There is no right answer. Every mode of transport is so conditional depending on the journey ahead and the level of comfort and adventure being sought after. For this adventure we’ve chosen an overland motorcycle journey! Would it have been nice to have a roof over our head and a van stocked with surfboards, fishing gear, and bikes…sure, but being out in the elements soaking in the smells and senses seems like the only way to truly experience it.

We are far from experts but both have an INTENSE desire to learn what makes these lady’s tick. Both of us have owned our bikes and been riding for approximately three years, only doing one big trip previous, which was to Baja, Mexico. For intros to the team see the About Section.

So how do two novices actually prep for a multi-month trip to Central and South America with zero actual plan or route? Planning what gear to pack, shots to get, and the overall logistics of a long haul trip were actually the familiar part due to Justin’s previous adventures. Where we were clueless was in the bike maintenance and preparation department. What do we need to do to make these babies overland ready? Luckily for us we had our good friends Dustin & Ben and their SWEET CLUB HOUSE. Over the summer we made mistake after mistake, learning by losing/stripping screws, forgetting how we took parts off, and through general clumsiness while putting our bikes back together. At the end of the day Ben passed us from motorcycle maintenance 101 to 102…now just to figure out where this handful of extra bolts go!

Our trusty steeds are comprised of the little Yamaha XT 225 (La Tortuga) and the beastly Kawasaki KLR 650 (El Tractor). Both bikes are proven and reliable. The KLR had remained unchanged from 1987 to 2007 and is no stranger to overland adventure travel. The XT 225 on the other hand, most people would laugh at. It’s small and slow and typically classified as a beginner or kid’s bike. In other words, it’s perfect for Justin as he is no goliath of a human.

Yamaha XT 225  

Mitch’s bike was kitted out for an overland trip fairly well when he bought it, while Justin’s was bone stock. The first order of business was distance. While La Tortuga achieves outstanding gas mileage (approx. 70 mpg) the 2.1-gallon tank was no match for the large tank of the KLR, and was quickly replaced with a Clarke 4.1-gallon tank. Next up was storage. It would have been nice to have locking storage, but the extra weight simply didn’t seem necessary. A set of Ortlieb dry bags (on a set of Happy Trails pannier racks) and one small Wolfman Luggage duffel bag would be the pack mule for the trip. For anyone who knows Justin camera gear was essential, and it needed to be secure. A pelican case mounted to the tail rack would do the job!

Kawasaki KLR 650

Mitch was lucky enough to find a bike on CL that had recently been completely re-tooled.  The previous owner, Sledge, was planning on riding from Alaska to Argentina on El Tractor and had put several G’s into modifications/upgrades.  Everything from a Moose Racing pannier set (side bags) to heated handle bars, the guy had thought of everything!  Thankfully, Sledge had eaten one too many tacos and concluded that the KLR just wasn’t going to be sufficient for his increased bust size – he upgraded to the F800GS BMW and Mitch scored a helluva deal while perusing Craigslist right around Xmas 2013 (Thank you Baby Jesus).

Leading up to the trip the following maintenance was performed:

  • Front/rear sprocket and 0-ring chain (both)
  • Front/rear wheel bearings (both)
  • Front/rear brakes (both)
  • Air filter (both)
  • Clutch & throttle cable (both)
  • Brake line and flush (La Tortuga)
  • Valve adjustment (La Tortuga)
  • Over-sized footpegs (La Tortuga)
  • Shinko 705 tires (La Tortuga) TKC70 (El Tractor)
  • Rear preload adjustment (La Tortuga)

Other Gear

Without going into the technical details of our remaining gear too much it is comprised of a few different categories: spare parts, electronics, camping gear, and clothing. Here it is dispersed out moments before departure.

Mitch’s Gear

Justin’s Gear