A trip like the Trans Americas Expedition requires a lot of preparation and planning, even if a significant
proportion of the hard work and research is done by Kevin and Julia and the
team at Globebusters. It's still an expedition, though, and despite their
organisational prowess, I'm still responsible for my own equipment and
preparation. This page explains a little more about the equipment I'll be
taking on the trip, from the modifications made to the bike through to my
I'll only know whether I've got this right once the trip
is underway... so keep your fingers crossed!
The most important piece of equipment for a motorcycle adventure is obviously the motorcycle.
Mine is a 2005 BMW R1150 GS Adventure, the same model that took Ewan and Charley
round the world in The Long Way Round (the first and best of their motorcycle
adventures). This bike is designed for the purpose of big adventures, and is a
joy to ride, even if it can be a little intimidating due to its size.
As standard it comes with a number of extras designed to cope with long
adventures, including ABS, heated grips, engine crash-bars, low first gear and
I've modified the basic bike with a number of things to make it more robust, or
to improve comfort, or simply to enable me to cope with riding it for 19 weeks
and over 21,000 miles... The list is long and includes:
Seat - BMW optional low seat, so I can reach the floor
Airhawk comfort seating system - an inflated cushion
to avoid numb bum syndrome
Wunderlich handlebar risers - to lift the bars up and
back, reducing strain on my back/shoulders, especially when riding stood up
Fastway footpegs - wider, more sturdy footpegs,
necessary when riding stood up for hours on end
Tobinators - raise the screen and make it more
adjustable, helping cut wind blast and buffeting
HID headlight - converted dip and main beam to Xenon
High Intensity Discharge bulbs which turn night into day
Pair Micro DE foglights on special GS mount -
additional lighting, to make me more visible...
Exhaust Y-piece - removes the catalytic converter to
allow poor quality fuel to be used and to improve responsiveness of the
Touratech handguard extensions - help keep my hands
out of the windblast and the rain
Touratech sumpguard extension - protects the underside
of the exhaust from rough terrain
Touratech headlight protector - to protect the
headlight from flying stones
Touratech "Hard Part" - a special piece of protection
that fits the front suspension wishbone and prevents damage to the steering
headstock in the event of a tumble
Touratech oil cooler guard - to protect the oil cooler
below the headlight
Touratech crud-catcher plate - allows removal of the
standard crud-catcher mudguard which clogs up when riding off-road
New BMW shock absorbers - replaced front and rear
shocks as their service life is approx 30,000 miles and the bike has already
done 24,000 before the trip starts...
Stebel Replacement Horn - with 136Db it's loud, very
loud, but necessary given some of the traffic conditions we'll experience...
BMW Navigator III Sat Nav - loaded with Garmin's North
America and World Maps, to help with my navigation and allow me to keep a
record of where I've been (whether intentional or not!)...
Touratech Zega Special Pannier Kit - side panniers
that fit close to the bike and provide lots of carrying capacity
BMW Adventure Top Box - the original BMW top box,
which I'll only be using for my waterproofs, documentation and first aid kit
Tyres - front is a Michelin TKC80 off-road adventure
tyre, rear is a Metzeler Tourance adventure tyre - a mis-matched combination
but recommended for the trip by the experts, the off-road front necessary
for the gravel roads in Alaska and the rough terrain in Central and South
Autocom intercom - wired up to the Sat Nav and my MP3
player, which sits in a waterproof case on the handlebars
DogCam DV500 video recorder and bullet camera - for
that all-important on-bike footage...
Touratech 2 litre petrol can - mounted to the front of
the offside pannier
Touratech bottle carrier - mounted to the front of the
Touratech number plate mud deflector - to try and keep
the crap off the rear of the bike
Tools and Other Bike Essentials
In order to keep the bike going on the trip, and in anticipation of the
inevitable need to tweak things by the roadside, I've collected together a
simple set of tools that I will keep on the bike at all times. They are:
Standard BMW tool kit - comprising various Allen Keys,
Torx sockets, spanners and a screwdriver with various bits
Stop'N'Go Tire Plugger - puncture repair kit (it's America, hence
Miniature Compressor - to re-inflate the tyres
following a repair, or when they've been let down by vandals...
Additional tools - to supplement the basic kit,
including pliers, stanley knife, socket wrench, tyre pressure gauge, oil
filter removal tool
Plastic Metal, Cable Ties, Insulation Tape and Duct Tape - emergency
Bike Service Kit - including air and oil filters,
spark plugs and rear brake pads
Spare fuses and bulbs - including standard halogen
bulbs in case of HID problems
Padlock and cable - more of a deterrent than real
Spare bike keys
Map case - sits on the tank held in place by magnets
Cargo nets and straps - so I can carry yet more junk
on the bike...
Leatherman Wave and Swiss Army Knife - man gadgets...
Naturally my most important items of clothing are my bike suit,
boots and helmet, but I also need to pack clothes for when I'm not actually
riding the bike. But with limited space in the panniers, I need to pack light.
And I need to pack clever clothing as well, as it's got to last over 19 weeks in
all weather conditions
Schuberth C3 flip-front helmet - bought specifically
for the trip, so I can lift the front and grimace at border guards...
Ear Protection earplugs - moulded to fit my incredibly small ear canal
and very comfortable. Fitted with filters so I can still hear my music
whilst reducing wind roar
BMW Rallye Pro 2 Jacket and Trousers - the definitive adventure motorcycle
gear... so much so, that almost everyone else on the trip will be wearing
them... so much for "rugged individuality"...
Alpinestars Tech 6 Motorcross boots - extremely protective and also very smelly.
And that's before we set off...
Berghaus Gore-Tex outer jacket - bought in XXL so it fits over my riding jacket,
keeping it and me nice and dry...
Berghaus Gore-Tex over trousers - as with the jacket, but fits over my riding
BMW GS riding gloves - very comfortable and nice and light - with heated grips
also suitable for relatively cold conditions
Leather gloves and thermal inner gloves - a combination that's suitable for even
colder conditions, as I don't really get on with bulky winter gloves
Camelback "hydration system" - a 1.5 litre bladder in a small rucksack so I can
drink and ride...
Klan electric heated jacket - only for use in very cold weather, as it's like
wearing a 3-bar electric fire...
Rab "Generator Smock" - a thin synthetic filled inner jacket that's also very,
Lowe Alpine Thermal leggings - for when it is so cold I'm not too embarrassed
about wearing "tights"...
Fox Knee Protectors - not sure if I'll wear these or not, as they're not very
comfortable, but they offer increased protection over the ones fitted into the
trousers, and Kevin recommends them...
Buff - to keep my neck warm, and so I
can see if I can make it do any of the other things its supposed to...
Pair of Gore-Tex Boot liners - bought cheap from the Army Surplus shop, not sure
if they're any use...
The list of off-bike clothing is somewhat smaller, reflecting the balance of
time spent on the bike vs off it...
3 short-sleeve tee-shirts
2 long-sleeve tee-shirts
1 trekking shirt
2 pairs trekking trousers - convert into shorts
1 pair Converse All Star lows - trainers for everyday
1 pair Crocs - I was going to get some more Teva
sandals, but thought I'd give these a go... and they're very comfy!
1 mid-layer fleece jacket
6 pairs of underwear - will need washing regularly!
5 pairs of socks - also will need washing regularly...
2 pairs long socks - for when it's cold...
1 baseball cap
1 pair swimming shorts
1 vest top
1 pair running shorts - just in case...
In addition to all the above, I also have to find room on
the bike for:
And this is what it looks like, spread out on the bed ready to be packed...
First-Aid Kit - containing all the usual things plus:
Imodium and Dioralyte (for the inevitable dicky tummy), Malaria Tablets (9
weeks supply), general purpose anti-biotic (for those nasty tropical
diseases not covered by the endless vaccinations), Lamisil (foot cream as my
feet will be in motocross boots for most of the time), Paracetamol, Co-codamol
and Alka-Seltzer (hangover medication) and 22 weeks of my blood-pressure
medication (although as I won't be at work...)
Sterile Emergency Kit - Tracy's idea this one,
consisting of sterile syringes, gloves, and scissors... to be given to a
qualified medic to avoid complications...
Toiletries - no hair dryer, but I do need: Beard
trimmer and razors, shaving foam, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap,
nail clippers, tweezers, deodorant, lip balm, bath plug, suncream, after
sun, wet ones, travel wash (doubles up as clothes wash), and alcohol hand
Mosquito prevention - deet and mosquito net
Sleeping bag and silk liner - for when I get chance to
Documents - various sets of original and photocopies
of passport, bike documents, insurance documents, driving licence,
International Driving Permit, vaccination certificates, etc
Camera, spare batteries, charger and spare SD cards -
must not forget this!
Dell Mini 9 netbook, with external hard drive - so I
can update the blog as I go...
Cowan iAudio MP3 player with extra SD cards - lots of
music, and the rest is on the hard drive so if I can vary it if required...
Maps - one for each country...
Spanish Phrasebook - "I from Barthelona, I shpeak
Eeenglish very well"
Small pocket calculator - so I can tell how much I'm
being ripped off when buying stuff or converting money
Credit cards - and a dummy wallet with expired cards
in case of mugging...
Pass the Pigs - the essential travel game
Small notebook - in case I can think of something to
write when I don't have the netbook with me
Travel adaptor for US mains
and finally... some photos of Tracy, the kids and