Preparation and choice of the motorcycle

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The motorcycle is a BMW R 100 GS of 1991, which I bought for the African road trip of 2003.

At first I’d rather choose an R 80 GS but I could not find any with a low mileage at a reasonable price.

In fact, my initial choice was the Africa Twin or the R 80 GS, so the R100 was an imposed choice.

Anyway these motorcycles are all very heavy for long trips out of ordinary tracks and I must confess that I hesitated to ride it again for the next trip.

The weight is the main enemy for any trip, and for many reasons:

  • Some tracks are so impracticable that riding alone with a heavy motorcycle is reckless, unless you weigh more than 100 kg and are a weightlifter
  • A big and heavy motorcycle consumes much more gasoline and once the tank is filled the initial problem is amplified.
  • The weight causes a faster wear of the tires, hardly replaceable in some parts of the world

So the rule should be to pack light. In my opinion a 250 would suffice for any trip.

Still, I decided to go back on the tracks with the same motorcycle, not always for objective reasons:

  • It has a simple and reliable mechanic that I know now
  • It is not too difficult to lift it for a man thanks to its cylinders
  • I like driving it, although in certain circumstances I rant against its weight. I must say that the time has probably erased from my memory some hard periods it had made me live
  • This bike is a real driving comfort as long as you don’t drive in the mud, and whatever the difficulties.
  • In the end and above all, it’s totally irrational: I love this bike, I suffered with it and traveled with it. I am very attached to her “chugging” and it is my traveling companion … for better or worse.



Initial preparation (African trip 2003/2004)


For the curious, here are the main points of the preparation done for Africa:

  • Complete mechanical overhaul of the bike and replacement of all wearing parts with new ones (including the clutch disc)
  • Protection of the electric beam with a waterproof silicone sheath (to be sprayed on the beam)
  • Change of original Seat by a single saddle seat.
  • Change of front mudgard
  • Move the oil cooler in order to protect it from possible falls
  • Change of bottom of housing, aluminum one
  • Wrist guards
  • Welding of a larger plate on the basis of the side stand (in order to Jack up in soft ground)
  • Wider feet rests
  • Changing the tank for a bigger one – 45 liters (plus fuel filters)
  • Reinforced shock absorbers
  • Additional removable head light
  • Cigarette lighter connected (in order to recharge electrical appliances)
  • More powerful horn (siren)
  • Changing the rear carrier in order to receive a gas can of 10 liters.
  • Installing a new duplicate clutch cable duplicate “ready to assemble”
  • Aluminum luggage and reinforced luggage track. The set of bolts provided by the supplier were replaced with larger diameter bolts.
  • Tank bag with card holder
  • “Washer” allowing to adapt all terrain tire at the back (specific to this bike)


After 16 months trip, the conclusion was as follows:


What was useless:

  • The additional headlight, which broke in the early falls. (I have always respected the golden rule: never ride at night, even if the tent has to be pitched in unlikely places. This avoids express delivery of a rim by airplane … is not it Luc J



What was useful: everything but especially

  • The waterproof protection of the electric beam. I have had no problems despite conditions of extreme humidity in the rainy season in the tropics.
  • the plate on the side crutch
  • Doubling the clutch cable. When it broke in Tanzania, 10 minutes were enough to trigger the new as it was pre-assembled.


What was missing or perfectible:

  • The saddle, too hard, poorly shaped, painful after several months of travel.
  • The air filter: original part, so I needed to have spare, not heavy but bulky.
  • Horn: animals are totally insensitive to the sirens (however, very convenient to break through some very congested capitals :-)). It is necessary to have a horn like “trumpet”.
  • No water reserve on the bike
  • Aluminum luggage, too fragile, poorly contoured (luckily I had the ratchet straps to fix the bike, since the origins ties were literally torn off during successive falls).
  • The seals of the pushrods should have been changed
  • The clutch disc should be changed by a ceramic disc and not an original disc.
  • Bearings (steering, swingarm) probably should have had been changed before departure


Mechanical problems during the trip (excluding breakage and standard wear of the parts – The bike was completely revised in CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA):

  • Steering bearings and swing arm
  • Disc clutch (changed in South Africa. When I saw it I still don’t understand how I have ridden without problem)
  • Shock absorber and gimbal (after about 40 000 km both broke down at about the same time)
  • Tumbler stem seals
  • The starter (replaced by a second hand Bosch in Ghana, more solid than the original Valéo which did not resist to the vibrations: polar masses, simply glued, were detached)
  • Ignition wires
  • Fork seal that broke down several times, I think because of a slightly veiled fork


What has never been a problem:

  • The engine
  • The frame and wheels
  • The electric beam




Current preparation


Thanks to my experience, here is the preparing for the second trip. Basically it remains the same, I have just focused on a refurbishment of the bike done by CASTERA JEAN:

  • Change all wearing parts and various oils
  • New exhaust pipe
  • Second hand front fork
  • New brakes stirrups
  • Aviation hose
  • New side stand
  • New housing guard
  • Repackaged shock absorber
  • Alternator refurbishment
  • Carburators refurbishment
  • Change of the carbons of starter
  • Gasoline filter
  • New hoses
  • Reboring of the engine
  • New timing chain
  • Small turning lighting
  • Bubble shield
  • New saddle (in progress, it will be a separate article soon)
  • New aluminium Luggage (the former is unrecoverable)


What have not been done for the previous trip::

  • Washable and reusable air filter
  • Aluminium handlebar
  • Ceramic clutch disc
  • Electric beam to be replaced
  • Water tank attached behind the seat (this is in my opinion the best place: both protected from the sun and from the fall. Right now the reserves were fixed on the front but it does not suit me. Two reasons: too much weight on the front and too exposed to falls)
  • Horn supercharged (I think I will fit a Goldwyn horn, I am seeking for a second hand one not too expensive)
  • Replacement of the gearbox by a reconditioned model with Kick
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