Brighton2capetown - The Bikes

Brighton to Cape Town Overland by Motorcycle 









The Bikes

The bike of choice for our trip is the Honda XRV750 Africa Twin. 

The Africa Twin has a reputation for solid build quality and reliability, hence the choice for this trip.  There are some weaknesses, notably the standard fuel pump and regular Honda Achilles' heel the regulator/rectifier unit.  But the pump is easily upgraded in advance and we can carry a spare reg/rec.

I was very tempted by the younger, lighter, faster, sexier, higher tech and higher spec KTM 950 Adventure (right), but decided against due to the higher purchase price, more vulnerable plastic fuel tanks (my slightly paranoid feeling is there's the possibility they could crack instead of dent when the bike is dropped) and an as yet unproven reliability record.  For road use in the UK or Europe it would be a no-brainer, I'd go orange.  But on a remote African trail I'd not be able to make use of the extra performance.

The even lighter-weight and exceptionally capable 640 Adventure (left) was ruled out very early on despite it's bargain secondhand price.  Main considerations were the threat of single cylinder vibrations driving me insane over the distance, and its requirement for frequent tricky maintenance whilst providing poor reliability relative to the Japanese competition.  There's a reason they don't hold their value, after all...

The BMWs made so famous by Charley and Ewan are undoubtedly very capable bikes, but were dismissed from the list very early on due to cost - a factor both for the initial purchase and also for the Carnet de Passage en Douane - the document that permits the temporary import of a vehicle into a country without paying the import duties.  As the import duties in many African countries are 150%, the value of the bike makes a big difference to the cost of the indemnity required.  This cost argument applies to the R1200GS, older R1150GS and also the single-cylinder F650GS, all of which hold their value exceptionally well in the UK, due to their reputation for reliability and build quality.  Ultimately I found I could get a newer (and therefore more likely to be trouble free) Africa Twin for my money than any of the BMWs.

I bought my Africa Twin as a pretty much standard bike, in February 2007.  Here it is dwarfing my "normal" road transport shortly after I bought it.

It's a 2002 bike, and was sold to me with nearly 14,000 miles on the clock and a full Honda service history by a very nice bloke in Dorking, Surrey.  The previous owner had fitted it with crash bars, a Scottoiler, a very much lighter than standard Remus Grand Prix exhaust and at some point he'd had the standard seat modified for improved comfort over long distances.  Possibly of less use in Western Sahara will be the adjustable heated grips, but they've already proved their worth in the UK... :o)  

Ed's bike is a 1998 machine with more than double the mileage, and was in need of a little TLC after being well used by its previous owners.  The same mods are planned for Ed's bike as mine, but he's also had to take on some repairs to fix crash damage and corrosion issues.  Both bikes are mechanically sound, however!

Planned modifications to the bike are as follows (pictures added as they happen...):

  • Steel rack and aluminium panniers - the originally favoured option was Overland Solutions as Ernie builds the toughest luggage money can buy, but in the end we went for Metal Mule as Paul gave much more confidence in his ability to deliver on time. 
  • Relocated left hand rear indicator to clear left hand pannier 
  • Rear rack for additional small soft bag 
  • Touratech steel mesh headlamp stone-guard

  • Acerbis Rally-pro reinforced handguards 
  • SW-Motech centre stand
  • Continental TKC80 on/off road tyres
  • Facet fuel pump (the standard fuel pump is one of very few AT weak points)
  • Stebel Nautilus Compact horn (much louder than stock) on custom made bracket
  • Handlebar risers to improve standing riding position
  • Wider footpegs for greater comfort when standing
  • Large foot welded onto sidestand to prevent the bike sinking when parked on soft ground  
  • White paintwork in an attempt to keep the bikes cool in strong sunlight 
  • Washable foam air filter
  • Hard wired multi-cigar lighter socket on long flying lead stored under the seat for in-tent charging of batteries etc.
  • Ignition-switched DIN socket and  cigar lighter socket for powering electrical devices on the road
  • Autocom "Active" unit to feed signals to and from our helmet headsets, phones, MP3 players and bike to bike radios (powered from DIN socket)
  • Suspension upgrades: 
    • stiffer, progressively wound fork springs
    • thicker fork oil 
    • aftermarket rear shock unit with adjustable damping
    • stiffer rear spring than stock



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