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Thread: Prep work on the X-Challenge

  1. #1
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    Prep work on the X-Challenge

    With 5 weeks to go, the X-Challenge was finally ready to pick up from Touratech and the Off Road School in Wales on the 20th Feb. Visas all done up to and including Mongolia. Not sure whether to get China, India and Pakistan now or leave them till Almaty on the way out. A new logo has been finalised by none other than Matt Hill - the round the world motorcycling graphic designer from Terra Circa. The logo was inspired by an “Udarnik” badge I picked up on an earlier ride thru the former USSR … its a badge for productive communist labour. If anyone represents productive communist labour, it surely is not me. The new logo is now proudly now displayed at the top of each page of the website.



    Exhausting stuff: I thought I had sorted out an exhaust supplier but that fell thru 2 days before I picked up the XC, so naturally I threw a “tizzy” and tore that aftermarket exhaust manufacturers poster off my office wall. I mean, how dare they?

    Simon Pavey came to the rescue. He had a spare unused remus XC exhaust lying around for his rallying needs, but as it turns out BMW will be racing the 450 model this year. The ‘09 Dakar was the last race for the XC so the spare was about to be returned. I convinced him I was a more worthy recipient of it. I had been thinking of even putting up with the extra 2.5 kgs and going with the stock exhaust, but I had a dream last week of the cat converter clogging up in remote Siberia on all the leaded fuel in central asia, rural Russia and Mongolia so Pavey’s remus came in at just the right time to ease my mind.




    Hard Parts: Having picked up the bike, next project was to get it over to Holland ASAP for what the Germans like to call some “hard parts” prep. I guess for me, the 3 sets of modifications a bike “needs” to go overlanding are related to fuel, luggage and protection. Obviously there are a whole bunch of “wants” as well … but those mods are the 3 needs. (I have done big overland trips with neither fuel, or protection mods, and only the most amateurish luggage mods - but its far from ideal).

    Protection will come from old mate Nick Plumb at Touratech UK. A radiator guard, rally bashplate and handguards are to be fitted whenever I can get back to Wales to pick them up, along with a number of other minor protective pieces, the sort of stuff at which Touratech really excel.

    Fuel: The fuel mods and luggage mods were to be handled by Dutch metal working guru and bike prep maestro, Erik Bok, from Hot Rod Welding. Erik was ‘hip to my cause’ when I said I needed the lightest possible solutions. He makes the only metal aftermarket fuel tank for the X-Challenge, a neat 7.3 litre add on unit called the X-Tank, that weighs just under 2kgs, as it is made from pressed aluminium alloy. For the Sibirsky Extreme bike, he added 60mm of width to the tank, giving us an extra 5 litres in the Xtank for a total of 12 litres. The additional weight for the wider tank is only 0.4 kgs. The tank feeds directly into the 10 litre standard tank. So now, one fuel stop will give me 22 litres of continuous fuel, and on the super economical XC, that translates to 600 km of range.



    Next it was onto the luggage. To minimise weight, the bike will have Ortlieb soft luggage ; Bicycle panniers (weighs around 1.25 kgs for 2 bags) at the sides and a roll bag at the back. I have never subscribed to the germanic notion of steel or aluminium boxes. They are heavy. The frames required to support them are even heavier.


    I needed a framework for the side bags and a rack for the roll bag. Erik built a set from 15mm tubular steel which included a rear rack, side mounting bars, and fuel tank protection, weighing less than 3kgs. As there is no room to double on a XC anyway, we moved the luggage as far forward as we could get it, right behind the rider. With the side bags being 1.25 kgs a pair, plus less than a kilo for the rear ortlieb roll bag, we have come up with a complete 3 piece 130 litre totally waterproof luggage solution (including rack) for 5kgs. Thats a 15-20 kg !!!!! saving on many hard luggage solutions.



    Seating Arrangements: The stock bike seat needed to be changed. I can ride 15 hours a day, 7 days a week on a good seat, but 1 hour on the X-Challenge and my butt needed changing. It is not a sustainable proposition. Modifying the seat is essential. The Dutch connections again came into play. Ray de Vries is unique among motorcycle seat makers. He actually rides bikes all over the world himself. He knows what it means to do long days on gravel roads, sitting down as much as standing up. And he knows what to do to seat to make it comfortable in that role. Ray is crafting a new X-Challenge seat in black.



    Suspension: In a final Dutch link up, Hyperpro, the guys with the purple springs, have convinced me that the air-shock at the back of the bike is not really up to the job. Hyperpro don’t just set up the shock absorbers, they have also built a reputation for the best progressive springs in the world. I cant wait to try out the new bike and feel the difference. :-)

  2. #2
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    Headlamps, Cockpit

    First up was building a custom headlight bracket. I dont like the original lights that come with the touratech front end, so substituted them for some proper headlights. These puppies are headlights for an Audi A6. They are proper factory high/low bi-xenon lights, so rather than one high beam and one low beam, as is the standard setup, I have projector lamps that function as both high and low beam, just on low beam, a solenoid controlled screen cuts off the top half of the light. Its a proper twin “bi-xenon” sustem, and the Audi A6 headlamp unit is widely considered to be the best in the business. It’s a lighting man’s wet dream of a system. And as a lighting man, I love it. All it needed to work was the right mounting bracket, and thats where Hot Rod Welding stepped up to the plate, yet again. Nothing seems beyond Erik. He has built a pretty damn snazzy set up.



    Next was the cockpit: I wanted a map holder for the A4 maps I had scanned and reprinted from several dozen original atlases and full size maps. As my route is pretty well known, and full atlases cover vast amounts of terrioty I dont plan to go to I can save a lot of space by picking and choosing what section of maps I need, scanning them, enlarging them, and breaking the whole route down into upscaled clear A4 maps, which are printed and laminated. All I needed was a clipboard where a rally bikes roadbook would be. The space behind the fairing provided just enough room to house A4 sheets both horizontally and vertically and an idea for a map holder was born … but it took a clver metal worker to figure out what shape and size it had to be and how to attach it. I also need enough space for power sockets and switches. And voila:


  3. #3
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    Prep - Seat & Suspension

    Then came Ray de Vries … Ray is a motorcycle seat maker. But he is not just any seat maker … Ray travels the world on adventure and enduro bikes. In fact he is the only seat maker I know on the whole planet who is also a hard core moto-tourer himself. That pretty much means he is the benchmark when it comes to knowing what to put into purpose built adventure biking seats.



    The new seat was formed with a couple of different foam densities … one to shape the seat, and another to provide proper cushioning. The seat is narrow at the front (as the original is) for standing up, but unlike the original, Ray widened the seat considerably on the part of the seat that you actually sit on. The difference is enormous. On the ride to Holland, I had to stop every hour to stretch the legs and get some blood flowing back into the painful and numb buttocks. But on the ride back to the UK, it was 4 hours straight to Calais, and no noticeable feeling. Now thats a satisfying piece of bike prep



    The last piece of Dutch prep work was the suspension. The Dutch are masters at suspension … Koni, White Power, Hyperpro and others are among the world’s top suspension companies, and all started in Holland. Its kinda what they do. Just like the British build the best race cars (formula one cars, Indy cars etc), the Dutch build the best suspensions in the world. Koni however dont do bikes, and White Power are now Austrian since being taken over by KTM. That leaves Hyperpro all to themselves carrying on the tradition as Dutch motorcycle suspension specialists.



    Hyperpro are the orginal guys who built proper progressive springs … a variable spring rate right thru the spring. More recently they developed their own dampers, because they couldnt get what they wanted in terms of quality and performance from anyone else in the market. The end result is totally customised, ultra high quality spring and shock combination, with no compromises.

    Hyperpro reckon that stopping distance on a bike with progressive springs is 15 - 20% shorter than with linear springs.

    Bas fine tuned the existing front shocks, replaced the front springs and put in a progressive coil over fully adjustable shock at the rear end.

  4. #4
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    Prep - Electrics

    Final part of the prep puzzle was the electrics, which was taken care of by extraordinary bike electrician Steve Hallam in his secret workshop in South London. Steve is one of these guys that you only ever hear about thru word of mouth, yet his workshop has no fewer than 30 bikes in it, in various stages of electrical rebuild.



    Back Street Heroes once described him as “the most famous guy youve never heard of”. Steve mentions this with irony as I remind him of that title, that its the spray painters and engine builders who get all the glory and the wow factor with custom bike work or rebuilds, and the bike sparkys work is all hidden.

    Steve wired in 4 power sockets, both custom headlights - hi and low beams, rewired the indicators, parking lights, GPS, heated vest and glove circuit, added a new fusebox, and in general tidied up my amateur electrical bodge work. The result is a completed bike.


  5. #5
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    Fekkin brilliant ..........really looking forward to this trip ( vicariously of course) ......Jon was giving me a little heads up about it at our NW pub meet earlier this year.

    I've seen some of Eriks work on Advrider before . Proper.

    How it all goes well for you and really looking forward to seeing your updates

    Ian
    As the great philosopher Keating once wrote " Life is a rollercoaster, you just gotta ride it!" ------Amen

    My current stable of "adventure bikes"
    2009 Guzzi V1200 Sport 8v Triple Black..my weekend sex kitten
    2014 VFR1200X Crosstourer Highlander DCT Camo.. my big trip missile

    My BMW history, all gone but not forgotten. K1 , R1100GS, R1150GS, G650 XChallenge, R1200GS TB

  6. #6
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    Now that is what I call a well prepared bike!
    Good luck.
    Mark
    Just when you've got this rat race licked, here come faster rats!

  7. #7
    Nice but unfortunate husband.
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    Interesting stuff. Good luck with your trip.
    There are two opinions of the GS. There are those who have ridden one who think its fantastic and there are those who haven't who know its crap.

  8. #8
    Great bike I'm hoping to get down to the TT event at the weekend and catch up with you.
    Tim
    KEA

  9. #9
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    Click here to find out how to remove these ads

    I do like that headlight
    Sell my bike?
    I would rather stick wasps up my arse !

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