Brighton2capetown - Kit

Brighton to Cape Town Overland by Motorcycle

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Kit

From chatting to people who'd done this sort of thing before, the usual problem had been trying to carry too much, so we tried to keep it light.  We were also careful to camp in France and Spain.  That way, if we had found there was anything we'd not had that we really needed, we would have found out while we were still in the familiar environment of western Europe, and could have bought it en route...

Naturally, with two of us going, some of the following was shared, and some was taken in multiples.   No product sponsorship of any kind was available to us, so you can rest assured the following are completely honest reviews!

Clothing

  • Synthetic zip-off trousers (one pair each): Craghoppers Nosquito worked well, practical, easy to wash, quick drying and supposedly keep mozzies away, too. Nice.
  • Synthetic T-shirts (three each):  Helly Hansen's finest, comfortable, quick drying and great wicking.  Cotton is dead, long live technical fibres.
  • Synthetic underwear (three each):  We chose undies  from Helly Hansen and Berghaus both of which provide great comfort in hot conditions and are quick drying on wash day
  • Micro-fleece (one each):  Nothing too fancy required here, Dan used a ski-holiday veteran which cost about a tenner from Wildday.com years ago and travelled through Africa complete with a candle-flame burn hole in the sleeve.  Good ratio of warmth to packed volume.

Riding Kit

  • Arai Tour-X helmet with clear and dark visors:  Disappointing for the money as a UK road helmet (noisy, leaky, misty and fiddly to change visors) this lid really comes into it's own on a trip like this - comfortable, well ventilated and those fiddly screw-on visors are far more robust than any quick-release. The removable peak (best removed for high speed work) is a godsend in bright conditions and the aperture large enought to wear goggles in dusty conditions is a great plus point, too.

  • Dan wore Hein Gericke Rallye LC3 trousers, modded to zip to a black Alpinestars Airflo mesh jacket that was already part of his normal road-riding wardrobe.  Waterproof liners for both were left at home and a Hein Gericke waterproof overjacket taken instead as this would be easier to put on at the road side (see below).  Trousers were left without waterproofing. The combo worked really well except when at a standstill in strong sun where a paler jacket would have been better.  Everywhere else the ventilation of the mesh jacket was untouchable by all but Chris' sixsixone armoured shirt, and still provided a decent level of abrasion protection (though that was never really tested with all spills being on soft ground).  All the zips on both the jacket and trousers were still working when Dan rode home from Heathrow, and the only damage sustained was the burn hole caused by the un-shielded part of the Africa Twin exhaust which runs just next to where the rider puts his right foot down
  • Ed rode in a Rev'it Off-Track two-piece suit.  Equipped with numerous zip-open vents, the entire sides of the jacket can also be zipped out to reveal mesh panels for ventilation. The use of paler colours all over helped with controlling the temperature, too.  As with Dan's kit the suit stood up well to numerous little spills, and again the only damage sustained was the Africa Twin exhaust burn hole. Again the kit came with waterproof liners which were substituted with a basic Hein Gericke over jacket for convenience on the road, which worked well. 

 

 

  • Enduro boots:  Dan had Alpinestars Tech3 ATs - entry level motocross boot but with an "enduro" all terrain sole to provide grip in muddy conditions.  Great level of protection and durable enough to still be in use now for UK trail riding even after eighteen thousand miles in Africa.  Ed took Diadora boots, which happened to suit the shape of his feet better - it's all about getting the right fit.

  • Road and motocross style gloves: Dan's Hein Gericke Gore-tex summer gloves had burst their (disappointingly weak) seams before leaving Europe, which was a shame for such a versatile glove. The lining had also completely disintegrated by the time they got back to the UK, and the black leather on the backs had faded back to the colour of the animal from which they had come by Mali. However, they proved themselves to be comfy throughout the trip and the No Fear motocross gloves were only substituted on the hottest of piste sections.
    • Wet weather riding oversuit:  Hein Gericke Basics waterproof over-jackets, cheap, effective, still in use now. 
    • Goggles:  Oakley O-frames with a selection of lenses - great in dusty conditions where Dan's contact lenses would otherwise have taken a battering.  The other advantage over a visor is that no dust gets on the inside, and they don't mist as badly a Tour-X visor can.  That said, they don't keep your face clean...
    • Running shoes:  Camping footwear. Ed and Dan both took their trusty Asics running shoes as they were the most comfortable shoes either owned.

    • Hat and mosquito head net: Trekmates "Bush Hats" - come complete with a useful mosquito head net hidden in a pocket in the top.  Dan's also had "cooling crystals" in the front of the headband.  Genius.

     


    Camping

    • North Face Roadrunner 23 tent (one each):  The inner is basically a self-supporting mosquito net so when the weather gets hot and sticky this tent with the flysheet left off is ideal.  Small and light when packed up, loads of room for a man and all his stuff when up.  Genius, and highly recommended.

    • Therm-a-rest Pro-lite 4 mattress:  comfortable in all conditions, still in (occasional) use now after five months of being unpacked, inflated, slept on, deflated and rolled up every day for five months. Awesome piece of kit.
    • Sleeping bag and liner: nothing particularly special on the warmth front required for Africa, but a coolmax or silk liner is indispensible to add warmth in Europe and be used on it's own on humid African nights
    • Coleman Sportster Stove: Dan's owned his since 1995, and whilst it's not lightweight or high-tech, it is both cheaper and hotter than an MSR, simple and reliable.  If it's burning orange and sooty, change the generator (the brass tube that heats the fuel in the flame).   
    • Fuel bottle:  Sigg fuel bottle to carry a convenient supply of (preferably unleaded) fuel for the stove. 
    • Mess tins:  cheap, light and robust. Dan's had homemade lids he'd made for a cycle tour when he was sixteen.
    • Cutlery:  a clip together set each to ensure none got lost
    • Sharp knife for food preparation
    • Penknife:  The original multi-tool, sharp knife for non-food purposes
    • Head torch:  Petzl Tikka Plus. Every overlander has one. Indispensible. If you haven't got one, get one.
    • Toiletries/wash kit
    • First aid kit: Lifesystems Traveller First Aid kit. Rather than build our own bespoke kit we opted to start with one of the more popular commercial offerings and supplement it with extra items, such as eye wash, a selection of broad-spectrum antibiotics, burn creams and a tick-removal pencil (which was used twice, no less).
    • Dental kit:  A temporary measure for use in an emergency until you are able to find a dentist (includes temporary filling paste, sterile needle and syringe and clove oil to help numb the pain of toothache). Unused.
    • Insect repellant:  DEET based - 50% strength (Boots "Tropical Strength") is ideal, anything more and it'll eat the container it's sold in.
    • Sun Block - Riemann P20:  A great product and highly recommended for normal holidays but, as it turned out, not ideal for this trip.  We were rarely clean enough to make use of it's miracle properties.  

     

    Tools

    • Tyre levers (modified to provide an improvised bead-breaker set up for the Africa Twin rear wheel): set of three Buzzetti levers: 2x350mm + 1x200mm for easy tyre changes
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Mole-grips 
    • Spark plug wrench: Genuine Honda tool for the Africa Twin's four completely inaccessible plugs 
    • Pliers:  Teng Tools
    • Screwdriver & bits: Teng Tools
    • Selected sockets and ratchet: Teng tools, 1/4 drive (Dan) and 3/8 drive (Ed).  
      • The 1/4 drive set proved adequate for all normal maintenance jobs
    • Allen keys:  Teng Tools ball-end
    • Tyre valve key: readily available on ebay for a few quid and indispensible when fitting tyres
    • Drift:  length of steel bar in case we needed to replace wheel bearings

    • Hand-pump:  Dan's cheap plastic double-acting bicycle pump, perfectly adequate for inflating motorcycle tyres if you're not in a hurry, though originally only intended as an emergency back up to...
    • Mini compressor - cheap 12V tyre inflator with the fancy plastic casing removed to make it smaller to pack.  Cost less than a fiver and with a bit of care lasted the trip

     

    Spares  

    • Brake levers and Clutch levers:  none of which were ever used as our Acerbis bark-busters did their job perfectly
    • Clutch Cable:  Ed's was replaced before we went, Dan's was replaced just after we got back - down to two strands courtesy of a mixture of sand and grease collecting at the gearbox end of the cable
    • Throttle cables:  Taken but not used, the thinking was these were small and easily carried, and difficult to improvise if we got stuck at the side of a dusty piste in the noon saharan sun
    • Inner tubes:  We took heavy-duty ones but would travel with standard tubes in the future as they pack much smaller

    • One spare rear tyre:  Definitely better to carry it than to air-freight it out when you need it, as you'll avoid paying extortionate import duties and airport taxes.  We could probably have done the whole trip on one front tyre each, but 21-inch front tyres are readily available if required as they fit all the little dirt bikes ridden by the locals
    • Fuel pump:  Weak point of the Africa Twin, both OE Honda pumps were replaced with a Facet pump before we left, Dan's OE pump carried as a spare just in case
    • Regulator/Recifier:  Another weak point of these aging steeds. Ed's bike used the original by Mali and the replacement by Namibia. Certain Yamaha reg/recs work when modified (see www.XRV.org.uk

     

    • We should also have carried:
      • Oil filters - we knew we'd need to do an oil change after 8000 miles, carrying these little filters would have saved us the expense of having them DHL'd in

      • Front sprockets - these wore much faster than the rear, and were shot by Congo even though both rear sprockets and chains were still fine - old and new pictured together here when the replacements arrived in Brazzaville

     

    Other

    • Stills camera:  The majority of stills on this site came from Dan's Canon S5 IS - this was an excellent piece of kit, only bettered by a DSLR.  Point and shoot convenience and excellent image-stabilised picture quality.  Only real weakness is a slightly narrow range of aperture settings (can't stop it down enough to get misty-looking moving-water shots) and the lack of a fitting to take a polarising filter.  The convenience of running on AA batteries the same as the eTrex GPS units and various other equipment meant that only one battery charging solution was needed.  Dan also carried a Canon Powershot A550 (also powered by AA cells) for pocket-sized convenience.  Ed took with him a Canon IXUS 60IS until it was stolen in Namibia

    • Memory cards (lots of them!):  Dan got through sixteen 1GB Sandisk Extreme III memory cards during the trip shooting at 8MP to jpeg format
    • Video Camera:  The majority of video footage on this site was taken with a Canon MVI630i using standard definition miniDV tapes, AV-input to allow a bullet camera feed and SD card slot for VGA still photographs
    • Mini-DV tapes (lots of them!):  Ed got through 20 tapes, Chris got through a staggering 50!
    • Helmet Camera:  Ed opted for an RF Concepts (http://www.rfconcepts.co.uk) 1/3" Sony DSP HQ1 Super HAD CCD 550 line bullet cam with interchangeable 92 and 78` lens
    • Rechargeable batteries:  NiMH AAs and AAAs from www.7dayshop.com supplied in handy snap-shut clear plastic carry cases
    • Battery charger (one each):  7dayshop.com V8000 allowed us to charge 1,2,3 or 4 AA or AAA batteries at a time in the evenings in record time.
    • Mobile phone:  We took our UK phones, but eventually cottoned on and bought basic Nokia 1110i handsets in Cameroon for approx £25 each.  We then bought new local SIM cards for a couple of quid in every country after that.  Our friends and relatives could then call us using www.telediscount.co.uk discount international calling service for as little as 7p a minute in some countries and never more than 25p a minute in others, and we could keep in touch with each other and send text messages to the UK economically too.  More useful than a sat-phone?

    • Pocket PC: Originally bought by Dan in 2005 as a UK and Europe sat-nav solution, we took the HP iPaq RX3715 with a high-capacity battery. Most of this website was written on the PDA, then cut and pasted into the website in internet cafes across Africa.  Also used with TomTom software to provide sat-nav in Europe, and as an MP3 player to keep Dan sane on the long straight road of Western Sahara
    • Think Outside folding bluetooth keyboard: to make it less painful to type 30,000-odd words of web-text into a pocket PC! Awesome piece of kit, still on it's original two Duracell AAAs now
    • Holux GPSlim 236 Bluetooth GPS receiver for PPC:  To allow the iPaq to be used as sat-nav in europe, and provided a back-up for positioning at least anywhere in the world.  Great bit of kit, stood up well to being in a tankbag for 18000 miles across Africa

    • Autocom "Active" intercom (12V power):  Great bit of kit, but could do with being even louder to help it get through earplugs sometimes.  VOX took a bit of setting up, but this and the noise cancelling microphones work well and the functionality is excellent.  We'd not travel without one

    • Cobra MT750 two-way radios:  Connected to the Autocom units to provide bike-to-bike functionality. Bought in a four-pack for £40, we went for these cheapies despite recommendations from Autocom to buy the ten-times more expensive Kenwood ones they sell.  Strictly these were only legal in Europe, but may or may not have been in use for most of the trip.  The thinking was that if we took cheap ones we'd be less sorry to have to surrender them at a border if required.  Each of us also had a spare one buried in a pannier, only one of which was required when the headset socket on Dan's failed in Spain.  All the others lasted the trip without incident.  Run on AAA batteries, for which we used NiMH rechargeables which were charged daily
    • Etrex Vista HCx GPS:  Genius piece of kit. Sensitive enough to have recorded a track of Dan walking around inside a Cape Town backpackers' hostel.  Fitted into a Ram-Mount cradle to provide waterproof easy to use on-bike satellite navigation and the ability to store all the waypoints we could possibly have wanted.  Robust, waterproof and disinctly cheaper than the bespoke motorcycle-oriented units also available
    • GPS Maps:  We equipped our Etrex units with the excellent Wanderlust Africa map (www.smellybiker.com), consequently we had usable street maps for all of Africa and even routing sat-nav in some African countries!  Most African cities have only one main road leading into and out of them in a given broad direction, so the GPS mapping does not need to be pinpoint accurate.  If you're shown to be running parallel to the road you want, you're almost certainly on it. Heartily recommended
    • Paper maps:  Still the best for route planning, Michelin Maps are the only ones worth having in Africa. Three sheets cover the entire continent in more up-to-date detail than any other maps we've seen. Shown here in a Nigerian car park, illustrating just how much of Angola there really is to be crossed with a 5 day visa. Heartily recommended
    • Medical Insurance:  We had cas-evac cover from www.Medjetassist.com, but thankfully cannot provide a review of the service
    • Sink plug (bought in Spain) - essential for clothes washing, and for Dan to avoid losing a contact lens down an African plughole

    • Washing-up-bowl (bought in Niger and pictured here in rural Congo) - none of your lightweight carbon-kevlar Touratech folding wash-solutions here, just a basic plastic bowl.  Slots cut in it just below the rim allowed it to be slipped over one of the luggage straps holding Dan's fuel can and stuffsafe bag on, so transporting it was not an issue. Variously used for clothes washing, beer cooling and even washing up
    • Travel documents (Passport, Carnet, Driving licence & IDP)
    • Vehicle documents (Registration document, Insurance certificate)

    Luggage

    • Metal Mule panniers - expensive, but perhaps the very best adventure-spec hard luggage solution on the market. Metal Mule agreed to make us two sets in white powder-coat, which kept the contents cool in the harshest of African sun
    • Metal Mule pannier racks and rear carriers - again expensive, but again amongst the best off-the-shelf racks.  The weak points are:
      • The rear loop on the Africa Twin rack (which holds the lower rear corners of the panniers away from the rear wheel) hangs too low, is too flexible and is consequently prone to fatigue failure (Ed's failed in Gabon, both racks were subsequently reinforced with salvaged chair legs and jubilee clips in The Rupublic of Congo)
      • The mounting points are formed by crushing the tubes flat, without a spacer inside to maintain a strong cross-section, consequently the mounting points were cracking on both bikes by the time they returned to the UK, and would not have lasted many more miles of extreme riding.  That said, the Touratech racks on the KTMs we met in Gabon also failed at their (even weaker) mounting points, and there are few off-the-shelf racks that don't have a weakness somewhere

    • Oxford "First Time" magnetic tankbag - budget kit given a real work out on both bikes. Selected for the simple reason that they were about the right size and Dan had owned one for 3 years already and had no problems on UK or European jaunts. The design of the top closure was ideal for allowing the cables running to and from the Autocom units inside to pass without affecting waterproofing. By Cape Town, both bags had suffered zip damage from all the dust (a chunkier zip may be more reliable) and on very rough roads the magnets were not up to the job (the strap-on version Oxford also produce would have been better suited) but this is hardly criticism for an entry level item designed for tarmac touring

    • Pacsafe Stuffsafe 80 - 80-litre roll-top dry bag encased in steel mesh and secured with a padlock and steel cable.  The steel cable could be looped through the handle of the fuel can and around the rack, which meant that all of the luggage on the rear of the bikes was secure - whenever we left the bikes, we only needed to take the tank bags with us to keep everything safe.  Good concept, and given that it's not intended to be used as luggage they stood up well.  The mesh would eat into anything it was allowed to rub against however, and that included the steel tie-down loops on the top of the Mule panniers and even the roll-bag inside - fine for our purposes but don't rely on it staying waterproof
    • 30-litre Ortlieb Drybag - used inside the stuffsafe bags to keep sleeping bags and sleeping mats dry even if the tents went into the packs wet - great product, really tough and completely waterproof
    • Assorted nylon stuff-sacks - used inside the rigid panniers to keep things organised.  One for tools, one for clothes, one for puncture repairs, one for battery chargers and other gizmos and so on 

     

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