Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Just nipping out for a test ride!

I'm not one for the big bike v small bike argument. We all have our reasons for riding whatever we ride. I guess the only question for me is - Has MY choice of bike served me well? 

Too small! 
I chose a small bike for various reasons. I wanted a simple but effective machine, and I wanted something light and narrow. These factors combined would give me the confidence I needed to go off the beaten track and venture more into 
the unknown. As a solo rider, this was particularly very important to me. I was not about to compromise on the adventure for the sake of comfort. I didn't want to go as extreme as a Postie bike or a Vespa. They look like great fun, but I love my off road and you can only go so far with either before you have to get off and push! 

Taking in the trails
Choosing your routes is important whatever your ride. I always intended to take the back roads and dirt tracks where possible, so speed was never going to be my priority. 

Fun is not all about speed for me. I’d rather get dirty! 

You may remember I wanted to keep the modifications to a minimum. Before I left, I fitted the following: 

Getting a health check in Thailand
Belly pan - This has saved my engine on several occasions. It may add a little weight, but it’s better than a hole in your casing, right? Because of my riding through the Iranian desert, Dubai and India at the hottest times of the year, my friend in Dubai, suggested we drill some holes in it to allow the air through. That’s just what we did and I guess it helped! She certainly never over-heated. That’s more than you can say for me! 

Extra clutch cable - This was wired in ready just in case I snapped the original. A genius idea (not mine) that thankfully, so far, I have never had to use. I am still on the original but it continues to give me peace of mind.

Heated grips, screen and racks were fitted for comfort and luggage.

In Turkey I added bar risers. This made a big difference to my comfort. My position on the bike, both sitting and standing, was greatly improved.

So after 40,000 miles how is Rhonda doing?

"She looks OK to us"
The CRF250L was not designed for long journeys. What 250 trail bike was? The seat is narrow and about as soft as a prize-winning pickled conker. I did buy an Air Hawk before I left, and used it occasionally. I find they get in the way as you get on and off, and I don’t appreciate the extra height it adds to the bike, either. Every inch counts when you have short legs like mine! Now, it gets used as a camping pillow (very handy). 

Choose interesting routes
I added a bit of width to the seat whilst in Thailand. Here I found a willing local upholsterer at a very reasonable price. I am not sure it made that much difference in the end, though. No matter what you ride, your bum is going to get a little sore after a while. I find it only becomes a pain on long, uninspiring days. That is when I notice it and start shifting around to ease the pressure points. I try to keep my days to 200 miles or less, and take quality over distance wherever possible. 

Choosing an interesting route that keeps you engaged is really the key to successful and enjoyable long-distance travel. Don’t blame the bike if you are bored and uncomfortable! 

Some situations MAY not have been possible with a bigger bike
I have squeezed this small bike into so many living rooms or corridors. She been lifted by cranes and balanced in the smallest of boats. She has been dragged up stairs and over small obstacles to make her safe for the night and I have found that people want to help. They appreciate what it means to you to keep your bike safe.  I believe that if I had been traveling with a bigger bike though, most of the time it would just have meant finding a bigger solution. Two people might have helped instead of one, or a bigger space would have been made. With so much goodwill to all bikers in the world, there is always a way – and never more so than in most Asian countries. 

So how is she doing Mechanically?

The one puncture in OZ.
After 40,000 miles I have replaced the chain and sprocket about four times, the tyres five times (amazingly just one puncture so far), and the oil every 4,000 miles or so (half the distance that the book recommends). Both fork seals were replaced - one at around 30,000 miles and the other shortly after, at 35,000 miles. I also replaced the head bearings at 35,000 miles. The wheel bearings are still the originals. 

Parts such as filters and sprockets have been easy to find with the exception of in Argentina, where I could not find even the basics for love-nor-money. Anything I needed would have had to have been shipped from the U.S, taking 3 weeks and costing twice as much as anywhere else in the world. I rode back into Chile rather than wait and pay through the nose.

Can you fix it?
The CRF has a skinny frame. It was not designed with heavy luggage in mind, and so I found my sub-frame snapping in Indonesia (around 20,000 miles) after hundreds of miles of corrugated and rough roads, not to mention being trampled by the stampeding Hindu’s back in India! This was easily repaired and caused me only a day’s delay. I have known bigger bikes to have exactly the same problem under such extreme conditions. There are no guarantees, whatever you choose but I guess there was always more chance with the thinner frame. I don’t regret my choice to leave it as stock. If I had strengthened it, we would never have known what it was capable of. I am actually impressed with the results! 

What is my conclusion after riding a Honda CRF250L for 40,000 miles?

I’ll take it! 

At altitude
This little Honda has guided me through the extreme heat and dust of the Iranian desert, squeezed me through the unforgiving traffic of India, dragged me up the muddy tracks of the Himalayas in rainy season and sailed with me through the freezing blizzards of Antarctica. We have ridden together up to 18,380 feet, and we ALMOST managed to stay upright in the Patagonian winds! She has never missed a beat. What an amazing little bike. Who would have thought a single cylinder 250cc trail bike was capable of so many challenging miles?

Extreme cold
There were a handful of times I wished for a faster bike with a wider seat. If you were following me down Ruta 3, you will remember the sheer frustration and boredom I felt during that time. Overall though, my priorities were met. I wanted reliability, off-road agility and little weight. I got it. 

So am I still enjoying my ride?

We wanna be together
Whatever ride you choose, you will undoubtedly develop a bond with your bike, forged from a long-term commitment to work together through thick and thin. You will forgive the shortcomings and tackle all obstacles together. If you are like me, you will thank her for the good days and forgive her for the bad. If you are lucky, you will see it through to the end - together! 

Will we make another 40,000 miles?

Its a long way...
We still have a long way to go. My choice to ride up to Alaska and across Canada means a lot of extra miles. We also have to deal with the change of seasons. This will slow us down and means I have to hang back a little before crossing over to the U.S if I don’t want to get stuck in Alaska for the winter. 

More camping on the horizon
Finances are an issue after a few recent set backs (both here and at home), and the extra time we are taking has blown the calculations we made before we left right out of the window. We have some expensive countries ahead of us. However, I may take the Trans Canadian Trail across Canada (if I can. It’s not an easy ride solo and there is a lot of gravel!). This will mean a lot more camping (which means cheap) and it will also set me a new challenge. In fact, so far, there are only 5 groups who have completed the entire route since it was set up 2 years ago. (See website HERE). It’s a long way and it’s pretty remote in many places. One British guy has already completed it but no women at all so far (info from the organisers of the route who hold the GPS tracks).

From the East Coast, I will ship to Africa to touch down on my final continent. Where I land, will depend on funds and timing. At this moment it looks like Morocco but I am still looking at other routes, just in case. Never say never! 

Can we do it?
We still have a lot of challenges ahead of us and a lot of bumpy roads. Another 40,000 miles? Personally I believe Rhonda could make it. Me? Given the opportunity to keep going - Yes I think I could. Realistically, I think we are likely to get another 20,000 miles in before we have to call it a day. Those twenty will include riding to, and then home from the 7th and final continent whatever happens! Our original challenge is yet to be achieved and if we have to sacrifice smaller ones on route to achieve that, then we will. If I have to push Rhonda home - I bloody well will (she says - with faith in her engine and fingers crossed!) 

It ain’t over ’til we get back to the Ace Cafe - Together. 

So how have the accessories fared?

Kriega Luggage

I can’t fault it. It’s still going strong, although after our little spill in Colombia, it now has holes on one side. I’ve enjoyed having soft luggage but I did decide on a hard top-box to protect my valuables. The combination has worked well for me. 


RIP X-Lite 
I used Halvassons for my off roading before this trip and so I knew they worked well. I am now on my second suit after a trip home in June. After 15 months of every day use, it was still working as it should, but….well a girl does like a change of clothes every now and again and Halvassons were kind enough to offer me the new season stuff to try out. Same style,  just updated with more vents and a slightly better look (in my opinion). The extra vents are a blessing! 

X- Lite Helmet

My lovely personalised helmet did not last the full trip. After my taste of tarmac in Colombia I decided it was not worth risking continuing with it. It took quite a knock. It did me well for 17 months though.

Sidi Boots

They are STILL squeaking! They are also quite bulky for when you’re walking around, off the bike. I think if I had my time again, I might choose a slightly shorter boot. Having said that, the extra protection was welcomed on many occasions. 

Anything I missed out? 


  1. Bloody excellent. What an adventure! Great reading about it and look forward to reading the next one. Best of luck with the finances and be safe. Rich x

    Richard Georgiou
    (One Man on a Bike)
    (had to put that in as I'm logged in as Fiji for some reason I can't fathom)

  2. Thank you for sharing. Very interesting perspective. All the best with your further travels. Will you be visiting South Africa at all?

  3. Great manual for someone contemplating an adventure ride. I never doubted your choice of motorcycles! Your projected travels through North America probably will not bring you near Mississippi, but if you do come this way (on the coast), look us up... you've got a place to stay and a swamp tour!

  4. Yes you forgot the tent and accessories :-)
    Keep going, as you might start to feel, the last part is very often the most difficult as we start to loose the motivation ! But you have all your fan watching so that should bring you a boost

    1. Ah! ha ha! Sorry. Ok just hitting the road again now but I will rectify that tonight!

  5. What helmet did you end up buying as a replacement?

  6. You are an inspiration! Amazing! I have been loving following your posts, best email list/blog i ever signed up for! :) If you make it to the South East on your US journey towards Savannah GA you have a place to stay with a fellow CRF250L owner :)


  7. What a bike! Great choice in Rhonda the Honda Steph. Keep riding safe and happy. Lisa x

  8. Steph, you really make me proud to own a CRF250L. Ride safe and keep it up with your great adventure!

    Daniel from Malta

  9. Loving the latest compositions! Having an amazing time!!