View Full Version : The Best & Worst of everything 2005-2007

28-10-07, 05:51
Best & Worst of our journey and equipment between 2005 & 2007.

Best Rides:

John: Denali Highway-Alaska for beautiful scenery whilst riding on gravel; Guetamala for rough roads
& scenery; La Paz to Sucre-Bolivia for the beautiful & barren Altiplano; the 200 in Mexico for
so many bends that he eventually ended up yawning !!

Mike: From Uyuni to San Pedro de Attacama in Chile for staggering beauty in the wilderness on gravel
and sand tracks; Guetamala for rough roads and scenery; La Paz to Sucre for the beautiful &
barren Altiplano. Highway 128 in USA which had 318 bends in 11 miles-Not the fastest of
driving as the bends were so close together but entertaining and the USA’s bendiest road I

Worst Rides:

John: Kansas-USA when it just rained & rained & rained on a very straight road across the best part of
2 days; riding for about 4/5 days across Uyuni-Bolivia to Chile in sand and gravel and just not
being able to enjoy it.

Mike: Riding on Cassier Highway with a really stinking cold trying to make 300-400 miles per day for
3-4 days to try and join an Horizons Unlimited meeting just outside Nelson. I was so weak after
one stint I almost fell off/over when I was getting off the bike at a petrol station.

Both: India (& to some degree Nepal) at anytime-their complete lack of respect for any road rules or
discipline made this/these the worst country(ies) in the world that we’d driven on. (See our entry
on driving and surviving in India.)

Best Moments:

John: Swimming upside down under a Manta Ray in Mosambique; Seeing 3 sticks of dynamite
exploded on the surface of a mine for fun after a tour in Potesei(the Worlds’ largest Silver mine
housing approx 12,000 miners) The men lighting the dynamite had the lit stick in their mouths for
a while & one was actually doing press-ups over a stick very close to the deternation point.
Seeing the moon rise on the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. (One of our least hit entries on this forum
and possibly one of the best for photos…after the first few.)

Mike: Driving onto the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia & just being there-seeing the moon & sun-rise within
14 hours of each other and just being out in a white wilderness camping on hard packed salt. I
also particularly enjoyed this time of driving with Phil, our English friend, and Rolf & Katrin(our
German friends). Night dive on Lake Malawi-after banging my head on the bottom of the boat at
the beginning of the dive, it was the most relaxing and enjoyable dive I’d done to date. Tour of
silver mine at Potesei-Bolivia. I was quite proud of myself after this one as I can suffer from
claustrophobia (quite badly sometimes) and we had to wriggle through some very small holes in
awkward and hot places and went relatively deep into the mine for an hour or two. Seeing the
dynamite exploded was also very good fun too.

Worst Moments:

John: Driving on gravel/sand in Bolivia and not being able to embrace/enjoy it.

Mike: Johns accident in Wyoming where he was hit by a 16 year old driving a 4 x 4. Waking up in the
Cloud Forest in Ecuador with extreme pain in all my joints to the degree that I was struggling to
concentrate on anything but the pain, then thinking that it may be Altitude sickness, having to
drive on a dirt/mud track in the rain for 100km & a further 100km to our next stop. (It took me
about 5 days to recover. I still don’t know what it was to-date.)

Biggest/Nicest Surprises:

John: Friendliness of strangers across the World. The enjoyment of Scuba diving.

Mike: That Bolivia was as exciting for me as I'd hoped. The generosity of Gerbing heated clothes- My original heated gloves were stolen along with my
jacket in Peru and they sold me a new pair at a very kind and generous price.

Both: The friendliness, generosity and trust of Americans, in particular our friends Kent, Carol, Sierra,
Rachel, Garry & Jill. Friendliness & helpfulness of South Africans & Indians/Nepalise. Free
shipping of our bikes from Mombasa-Kenya to Mumbai-India by a shipping agent inspired by our
trip. Captian M. Afcari of Kenya. He gave John and I’s bikes free passage from Kenya to India on one of his ships.

Biggest Dissapointments:


BMW waterproof clothing. (See Biggest Worst equipment/service below.)

African prices, particularly in Tanzania & Kenya. These countries have discovered what the first
world countries like and are milking them/us for all they can. On our climb of Kilamanjao we
were spending approx $125/day each ust for park permits….. which has basically no facilities.

Best Equipment/Service.

N.B. We weren’t sponsored by anybody so all of the following endorsements are freely given and just because we liked the kit and thought it may be useful for someone else to know.

Arai Tour X helmet. Absolutely fantastic. Excellent visibility, surprisingly effective streamlining, useful peak for keeping sunrises/sunset’s out of your eyes & very comfortable.

Gerbing gloves & jacket. We were sceptical of the quality of Gerbing when we first took delivery of their products but having testing both regularly in very cold conditions, we were very impressed by their effectiveness and ruggedness.

Hein Gericke bike covers. We paid about 32 pounds for these and whilst they have finally lost most of their waterproofness, they help keep the sun off the bike, still keep prying eyes and hands off the bike and haven’t torn or deformed in anyway.

BMW F650’s. Tough, reliable & economical. Only let Mike down once when side-stand switch shorted
on exhaust(as retaining circlip had fallen off.)

Overland Solutions luggage. Ernie assisted us from the beginning in determining what was important
and always helped us when we needed equipment made/shipped or advice. An example is after John had his rear-end shunt in Wymoing, Ernie built a whole new rack/pannier assembly in a very short space of time and had it shipped out to the States along with some larger panniers for me. There are also many more examples of his support. Cheers Ernie.

Remus exhaust: tough and still looked good at the end, allowing us to run leaded petrol in some parts of Africa.

Dell Laptop: worked in temperatures from -35C to + 45C without any hassles.

Continental TKC80’s Excellent tyre in all conditions. Only gave us one puncture on the whole trip.

BMW Savanah boots. Tough as old boots applies to these. Waterproofing went after the first 4-6 months but the boots still look good after a clean now. (40,000 miles later) I had them re-soled in South Africa but that’s about it. They’re easy to put on and take off, just one Velcro pad & two adjustable clips.

Paul Gowen at the RAC who arranged our Carnets & International Driving permits. Personal & professional. Every time we needed something it felt more like a friend was arranging it than a business.

Voltage LED’s indicators we bought in America. (Sorry but can’t remember their name.) Necessary as we were drawing a lot of current for the heated clothing & spot lamps…as it was sooo cold. On a few occasions prior to buying these our bikes wouldn’t re-start even after a few seconds of being stopped as the battery was that empty. (see also comments on Hawker Odessey batteries below.)

STA travel insurance. Complete travel insurance which let us ride motorcycles pretty well where we liked as long as we didn’t put ourselves at unnecessary risk where a safer alternative was available. Our policy included unlimited medical cover in America and covered the laptop & camera equipment. My camera and I ….errr, ahem…fell into a swamp in Peru which resulted in the camera/lens being written off and paid for promptly without hassle.

Jump leads that John had the foresight to suggest and make, thereby obviating the need to remove the faux tank panels if one of us needed a jump start….which often was the case before our Voltage LED’s were bought in America.(see above.)

Scottoiler: excellent product that never failed despite mud/sand & you name it. We both are confident that they extended chain life substantially and meant we never had to oil the chain !

Worst Equipment/Service:


Garmin 2610 GPS. 3 units failed over the 2 years with the protective screen peeling off resulting in the first actually failing completely in the end. Garmin were good about honouring their warranty globally but the unit we have now is basically of no use as it’s no longer waterproof !! I heard from a dealer in Australia that Garmin eventually withdrew the IPX7 (waterproof)rating on this unit. (IPX7 means that a device can withstand being submerged in water depth of 1m for 30 mins without leaking.)

BMW dealers with the exception of South Africa. Sloppy services with major checks being missed and threads stripped, cam cover bolted on so badly that it was twisted and leaked after. Rear light cluster left unplugged for an evening collection and font brake caliper securing bolts left undone….. for starters.

BMW waterproof clothing. Our Gore-tex lined Rallye II suits leaked heavily if rain was intense or continued for more than 15 mins…even after re-proofing our near-new liners & scotch-guarding the outer shells. This really was very disappointing and appauling from such a high end and expensive Manufacture.

BMW colour fading. My Rallye II suite is a red one(after the original grey one was stolen in Peru.) and rapidly started turning pink after a few months. How can BMW sell a Enduro-style suit which doesn’t have a UV resistant dye in it is beyond me. The Jacket now looks 3-4 years old instead of just over 1.

BMW waterproof clothing. We bought higher-end BMW oversuits to do what the Rallye II’s were supposed to do. We’d still not met anybody who said they stayed dry in their Rallye II’s so we bought these over-suits. Their waterproofing lasted about a week, basically from Montana to Kansas, by Kansas the crutch started to leak on mine. Same story as Rallye II suits, bought expensive re-proofer which still didn’t have the desired effect. (NEXT TIME RUKKA.)

Touratech products in general. The 2610 lockable handlebar mount is a joke. John managed to ‘steal’ ours in about 3 secs using a pair of pliers to just slightly bend the securing tab. The lockable oil cover leaked oil on both bikes(and we had to use a gasket sealant for a while) and was a real pain to try and lock/unlock-we had to replace them early in the trip with the original BMW ones which we had to re-buy !! The fork protective sliders broke on my bike after my first tumble which is ridiculous when looking at the market they are supposed to support. The quality of the fixtures on most, if not all of their products is rubbish. All the nuts/bolts and screws used are normally mild steel so they rust or corrode very quickly leaving us struggling to undo some fixtures as they would round so easily. E.g the inside of an allen/star bolt on their sump guards.

BMW Colorado. Despite a very deliberate and careful preparation by John for the spares manager with respect to John’s bike and needs after his accident in Wyoming, this guy managed to just about do everything wrong. We’re not going to list it here as we can’t even remember half of it but it made an already semi-complex situation far tougher than it need have been. By way of making a mends they offered us first pickings of their sale items !! Big deal. It was mainly XS -shirts and other stuff they couldn’t shift anyway.

Nikon D70(s)/18-70mm lens. The lens packed up after about 3 months and doesn’t have a world-wide warranty(such as Canon) so I sent it back to the UK-that was the last I heard of it. I had to buy another. ( Perhaps not totally Nikons fault for the loss of postage but failing after 3 months !) After falling in the swamp in Peru, Nikon Argentina wouldn’t even look at the camera. When I finally did buy a d70s after claiming on my insurance, the on/off switch wouldn’t allow me to switch the camera off after about 2 months of ownership so I had to drop the battery out every time I didn’t want to use it-not helpful on a Kilimanjaro trek. Later on the flashgun wouldn’t stay retracted in the housing. Finally I had to get these two faults fixed in Kathmandu for about 160 pounds. The repair wasn’t great but necessary. I spoke to a number of camera dealers in Kathmandu about reliability and whilst the verdict wasn’t completely unanimous, Canon sold far more units with far less problems.

Hawker Odyssey Batteries. Despite all their claims, mine was completely finished after l years use and was unable to even hold its charge over night after extensive riding. Johns gave up the ghost after about 18 months use. We really wouldn’t recommend them at all-even when they were working they didn’t seem especially good and certainly not worth replacing the stock BMW battery with. I eventually replaced mine with an original BMW 1200GS gel battery which was a tight squeeze and needed the compartment and leads modified for space and the positive and negative leads extended and re-positioned as they are on opposite sides to the original. After that though, it worked great.

Autocom Intercom. We bought the best unit they sold at the time(the Pro 7) and the walkie-talkie they recommended(the Kenwood.) and spent the best part of two years trying to get the system to work for a distance in excess of 750m !! The best we managed was after John spent a lot of time in Colorado with a radio company who adapted the walkie-talkies to allow for an extension/external aerial. We then installed the extension aerials on our top-boxes. That gave us about 1km or 1.5km if the conditions were favourable BUT we spent too much money and time trying the get the things to work properly and it regularly frustrated us both that we couldn’t be heard or only part of the message was getting through to the other. John’s aerial eventually broke due to some tyres he was carrying and we never re-found this distance again. In fact at one point we were within sight distance of each on the salar in Bolivia and still couldn’t talk to each other ! I have dealt with Autocom subsequently for other issues and they have been extremely helpful(thank you Richard) but we can not truly advocate their system using the Kenwood radios. I also had problems with the volume generally in my set, had it checked out in New York but they said it was ok. Over time it proved to be an intermittent fault and sometimes I had sufficient volume and others I didn’t. Whatever, it is not good enough for a product of this price !

MSR Whisperlites are sold as multi-fuel stoves. They ran fine on white fuel whilst we were in the States but as soon as we introduced petrol/gasoline one wouldn’t work at all and the other would soot up verey quickly and need too regular cleaning. After a number of very disappointing failures with them, especially when trying to get our bikes warm enough to start in Bolivia, we got rid of them. We replaced them with the MSR expedition which is also a multi-fuel stove. John and I never got around to properly using it after an initial test in South Africa but Sylvia and I have used it regularly over the past 6 weeks and I’ve only had to clean it once.

Brytlite lamp from the States. Bought to make our camping evening a bit brighter but required a sup-human amount of pumping to keep it burning brightly. It also didn’t like running on petrol. Eventually after I almost burnt it to pieces we gave it away. Expensive piece of nice looking rubbish.

Mountain Hardware Hammer Head 2 Tent. The ground-sheet started leaking near the begining of the trip in Canada but as we didn’t use it for a while/didn’t rain I left it. The next time it rained hard was in Nairobi-Kenya, and wherever I placed any part of my body on the groundsheet water would come in. Mountain Hardware replaced the Inner tent/groundsheet last Christmas as their warranty is for lifetime. I however bought a North Face tent for Sylvia and I as John hadn’t had any problems with his. (So far so good- The Merlin model.)

Things we couldn’t haved lived without(Well, wouldn’t have liked to live without !)

GPS, despite the problems with the 2610, it got us around the world and saved many a wrong turning. Even though we only used the basic World Map after we left the States it helped us through many cities and across many countries. (I particularly liked it for confirming the route I could see on a paper map on the Tank bag. - In fact I found myself looking at the steering wheel of a borrowed car at Christmas to make sure I was going the correct route. The steering wheel being roughly where I’d look for the GPS !)

Gerbing Heated clothing. We rode in Canada and the States when you could see snow on the trees initially and then huge plumes of snow by the side of the road. When we finally left Colorado and drove across Wyoming it must have been about -50/60 with the wind chill factor. We were asked at one gas station if we were getting paid to ride in these conditions, and when they learnt that we wern’t he surmised we must be crazy. Without Gerbing this would have been impossible. The gloves keep the worst off by far, and although our finger tips still did get cold, we were generally able to ride for about 75 mins between stops. The jacket was great too.

Iriver MP3 players we bought in Canada. The first morning we put these units on we had about 400 miles to ride. Our riding transformed overnight. No more just sitting there bored for hours. We both grinned for the first few days of owning these.

Tough securable luggage. Being able to wander off and not fear having your baggage stolen is very helpful when travelling to see so many things. There was one attempt to break into one of my Overland Solutions panniers in Cape Town but the thief couldn’t break the hasp/staple. I also fell off my bike in Ecuador without the pannier losing it’s shape and it probably helped save my leg as I slid along. I’m now using Jesse’s in Australia but it is nowhere near as robust as Overland Solutions.

High Quality camera. If you’re spending so much money to see the World, the likelihood for most of us is that it will only be for the one time. To not record your journey with some high quality photos would be a travesty to me. Even if you don’t use them all as you travel, you can always look back at them in the future. The Nikon takes nice pictures but I would look at how robust the competition’s cameras are getting, and check for a Global warranty, very closely before buying Nikon again.

96Db horn from Nippy Normans. We bought them for India and in an abstract naivety both thought that they may be over the top. They weren’t and may well have helped keep us alive.

Scott Oiler. Worked very well for the whole trip. They were robust and reliable, constantly feeding oil to the chain. As a result they kept our hands clean and reduced the need for daily/weekly maintenance to a zero. Kept chain adjustments to a minimum. (About every 1000-2000 miles) and the chains lasted for about 50% longer than we would have expected. Fantastic.

Camelbacks inserted in the lining of our Rallye II jackets. Indispensible for long riding days, and critical if you want to stay alive in hot countries as your concentration suffers significantly if you are not well hydrated. I will add though that 2 of mine did leak and both Sylvia and I’s insulated valve covers eventually fell off and mine was totally lost. The leak is apparently covered by a lifetime warranty so I will be claiming on the that when I come back to the UK.

Security of comprehensive tool kit and spare parts. My clutch cable broke twice over the whole trip and the inlet manifold tore and collapsed once. Having the spare parts with us made these type of situations a no-drama occaision.

Humour ! - If we’d taken it too seriously we’d have found it all too hard going.

Cheapest Accomodation:

Nepal whilst trekking. $1 for a night in a Tea House John paid.

Most expensive Accomodation - Read as the most surprisngly expensive for its location)

Anchorage-Alaska: just outside of San Jose in Costa Rica, Austin in Texas & Mumbai in India.

Best Accomodation: The Hilton in Hurghada, Egypt. We had an excellent quiet room and a bowl full of fresh fruit when we arrived. The food was good in general and the staff very helpful. I think we were paying around 38 pounds per night for bed & breakfast for both of us.(We got this through expedia.co.uk)

Worst Accomodation for a 1st world country it has to be Donnas in Canada on the Alaska Highway. When she realised the straights we were in as it was raining and freezing cold the room rate went up. (or so it appeared !) The room was damp and chilly and the shower was awful. Looked liked it had been painted by someone with psychological problems !

Worst accomodation for a 3rd World country, there are two equal firsts for this title. Both in Bolivia. A Hotel we stayed in by Lago Colorado. It was -30 outside and perhaps -29 inside. We had to wear about 3 layers of clothing under our sleeping bags and blankets to keep warm, and that included our hats and gloves. When we went to leave the owner tried to charge us double so we gave him what we knew he’d charged another of our friends. He accepted it without argument.

The other Hotel room was also in the middle of nowhere(San Juan about 200km’s South from Uyuni) and really was like a prison cell. It was grey concrete(no paint at all) and had a bit of old netting over the window for curtain. When we woke up in the morning at 6am to start heating the bike engines with the cookers it was awful, freezing cold, no water as it was frozen, and pitch black as no lighting. However, humour prevailed and John and I spent a few minutes before getting up discussing how standards had fallen-no shagpile carpet, no heating, how bad the staff had got lately…you get the picture.

Special Credits.

These credits are for people or services that went way beyond what we could have ever asked for or expected.

Our friends in Colorado. Kent, Carol, Sierra, Rachel, Garry & Jill whose trust, kindness and generosity was never equalled anywhere.

Mary at Toadrock campsite Canada(nr Nelson). For her trust and the general kindness and friendship she showed us.

Kushroo in Mumbai, India. Never tired of helping us find things or services, took us out to dinner and was generally very kind and generous with his time.

Quacheem & Freddie in backpackers in Miraflores, Peru. Always pleased to help or assist in anything we needed. Freddie in particular always had a ready smile and was very welcoming every time we saw him. He was a real hugger which took John and I by surprise at the beginning but we could see it was genuine and was always welcome after the many tedious days John spent trying to get his bike and possessions out of customs.

Jeff at the Norton rats tavern in Cusco, Peru. For being very keen to help me try and get my Nikon repaired after falling in the swamp & for arranging a Birthday cake for me !

Chris Hammon of Hammon BMW just outside of Capetown, South Africa. For his friendliness, never tiring of assisting and with his workshop being creative in finding solutions to overlanding problems.

Shane & Johan of BMW at the Waterfront Capetown. For letting us use their garage space, fitting us in to their already busy schedule, finding us the most cost effective solutions. Shane was already under a lot of pressure and did his best for us even though stretched. Special credit goes to Johan for taking us to African drumming lessons !!! with his wife and for a few other good nights out as well.

John, Iain, Liz, Samual & Howard. Christian Missionaries from Scotland to La Ceiba, Honduras. For taking John and I in when John had broken his leg. For taking very good care of John and I and for treating us more like family than an encumberance. A special mention goes to Samual who let John and I have his bedroom for the two weeks we were there. He was about 10.

Captian M. Afcari of Kenya. He gave John and I’s bikes free passage from Kenya to India on one of his ships. When he heard of our journey he said he felt inspired and wanted to help us along.

Holiday Inn, Mumbai. All the Hotel staff bent over backwards to help us in anyway they could, which we gratefully used. When we finally left a number of the staff stood outside as we rode off and they applauded us !! This really was a great experience here.

What changes would we make if we did the trip again.

John would: use a lighter and lower bike, something like Kawasaki’s KLR650 as he found the BMW too heavy off road. Have left no stuff in storage from his house as it drains your funds and may become more expensive than your possessions are worth. Far more planning before going. (Whilst there must be room left for spontaneity, very little planning means a lot has to be done whilst travelling which adds to the stress you experience anyway.) Test things more thoroughly as some of the items we bought really were not suitable such as the Touratech oil filler caps. Travel slower to enable more to be taken in. Start riding earlier in the day and no night riding to obviate looking for hotels late in the evening which often resulted in late dinner and no time to relax equalling poor sleep. No night riding also just to keep yourself alive.(By India we made this a rule as the driving there really was too dangerous.) Make sure everything possible was tied up in the UK before leaving as having one foot travelling and the other still sorting stuff out at home is stressful. No phone contract as it really is too expensive to use your phone overseas.

Mike would: do far more planning as travelling on the hoof means your far more likely to miss the things you really did want to see.(I almost missed Mt Rushmore in the States.). Travel slower where it’s interesting and ride hard and fast between sights. Tighter budget planning & control. Money will slip through your fingers faster than grains of sand if you don’t watch out. John and I tried but still spent far more than we budgeted for. Take far more adventures off road as opposed to safer and predictable highways. Be far more ruthless with the luggage I took-a hard balance has to be struck between comfort off the bike and ease of riding when on it but I would make sure that I had that balance sorted out before leaving. Choose a camera with a word-wide warranty and look into the ruggeddness of the camera in general as many digital cameras just aren’t that robust. (By the time the trip is finished I will have killed 2 x Nikon D70’s and an Olympus 720SW(yes the waterproof and shockproof one !!!) As a matter of interest Nikons D200(now superseded by the D300) has a good reputation for being tough BUT still has no world-wide warranty. Have spent more timing learning the main other language(s) of the trip-In our case Spanish. It really did add a lot of stress for a while as we could say so little and the Latin Americans speak so little English….and you ultimately miss so much of who they are and their culture if you can’t communicate. No stuff in storage as John-I ended up spending around 1200 pounds to keep my gardening tools valued at around 400 pounds !!!

Summary/Views of World-wide travelling.

John: If you’re wondering what’s out there, go find out ! ( See also he’s parting comments when he heads home on this forum)

Mike: It frightened the life out of me that I was spending so much money(from the sale of my house) at my age(then 46) ..with very little chance of being able to recoup the money or house security ever again but I soon learned to appreciate that being English I would always have a roof over my head and food to eat. This is something many people we saw will never reliably be able to experience. It has really helped me realise how fortunate I am, helped me become more grateful and ultimately appreciate what a privaledge it is to have such an adventure and be born where I was.

28-10-07, 08:53
Thanks - learnt more from that one post than reading many books:thumb

jonnie comet
28-10-07, 09:17
Thanks - learnt more from that one post than reading many books:thumb

+1...:thumb2 :)

28-10-07, 11:36
Now that's what I call a product test! :thumb2

Thanks to you both. :clap

29-10-07, 09:00
thanks east riding 2002
just followed into this link useful info ... :thumb2

29-10-07, 09:40
Good write up.. some eye opening comments about BMW and Touratech stuff :eek: as already mentioned a lot of info here.

Paul G (BHT)
29-10-07, 18:37
Mike, I have only just caught up with this post. Many thanks for sharing your experiences and reviews with us here, this 'in a nut shell report' is superb and to echo Welby's words now that's what I call a product test! :thumb2

As with all your posts it has been enjoyable to 'follow' John and yourself during your travels.


29-10-07, 23:15
some very wise words:thumb2:beerjug::clap