Time to get ready for adventure!

The bikes have now had their first service, yes 600 miles have already gone, it’s not been much fun as February in Suffolk is cold and icy but hey, we’re there!

So this afternoon I rolled my CRF250 Rally into my workshop and set to.

First thing to fit a crash bar and skid plate combo from GP Kompozit in Istanbul, Turkey. Really well priced and the only bars and skid plate combo available in Europe.

They arrived extremely well packed in a larger box than I was expecting but I was really pleased to see they’d been packed to survive anything the couriers could throw at them.

The bars are really well put together and are much more substantial than I imagined. Welds are nicely tidied and the paint is good but chips if not careful.

Fitting the bars was fun, I had to remove the front plastics to be able to get in to tighten the clamps at the front and also remove the rear bottom engine mount bolt as a longer one is supplied so that the rear of the bars mount at the same point.

Getting the front plastics back on actually took longer than the fitting the crash bars, getting it all lined up, plastic pegs in their slots and the screws back into their threads needed 3 arms and four hands!

Now that I’ve got a solid aluminium plate under the engine sump I can finally use my bike lift to support the bike without breaking the plastic underbelly.

The bars are really well secured to the bike and very solid. It’s also given us some great grab handles for dragging the bike out of the mud and sand and a place for me to fit my crash bar bags. Of course, primary function is to protect the engine which they do nicely!

What’s also nice is that you don’t have to remove any of the original plastics, the crash bars and skid plate fit around everything, overall a nice design.

I’m now just waiting for the upper crash bar kit to arrive and the bars will be complete.

Next thing is to fit the Tusk pannier rack …

1st Service is nigh …

Mike’s CRF250 Rally

Just in from another winter evening ride, now got 575 miles on the clock, another 25 miles needed before Saturday for the first service. This little bike goes incredibly well, you’d never think it’s only 250cc. Cruising at 70MPH is easy and it still returns 89MPG. Can’t wait until I can open it up a bit as it really starts to get exciting over 6000RPM.

How fast does it go, Mister?

One of the first considerations when planning an adventure like ours is to decide what bikes you plan to use for the journey. We’ve all seen Ewan and Charlie manhandling their huge BMWs through Eastern Russia and some of us have seen Austin Vince and his Mondo Enduro group taking the very long way round on old, modified Suzuki enduro bikes.

The popularity of The Long Way Round/Down combined with the ageing motorcycle riding population has led to the rise of the “adventure motorcycle” sector which has given us a huge choice of potential mounts. Virtually every manufacturer now offers their interpretation of what an adventure bike should be, from the narrowly focussed CCM GP450 Adventure through to recently announced Harley-Davidson 1250cc Pan America. Many of the manufacturers follow a similar path of producing a “big trailie” bike similar to the way that car manufacturers are building 4×4 vehicles that will never go off-road in their life: most of them know that the majority of adventure bikes will be used for two-up with luggage touring on tarmac.

So the task began to search for our perfect bikes for this trip. Both of us have already bought into the adventure bike scene with me owning a Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and Mike riding a Kawasaki KLE 1000 Versys, both of which are excellent touring bikes but neither are really suited to the kind of riding that we envisage during this journey. I immediately narrowed the search by imposing a £5,000 cap on the price of the bike and both of us decided that the lighter the bike is, the better it would be: Triumph claim that the dry weight of the XCx is 205 kg and Kawasaki have the wet weight at 239 kg for the Versys 1000. These weights are without all of the add-ons such as panniers and crash bars that’ll soon get you struggling to lift the bike off its stand one last time at the end of a long day of riding, so the idea is to get something that’s light to start with and keep the weight as far below 200 kg as possible without too much compromise.

These self-imposed limitations immediately ruled out all of the flagship adventure bikes above 1,000 cc and the majority of mid-sized (650 – 800 cc) bikes. Even the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, which we both like, weighs in at a staggering 220 kg wet and, upon closer examination, we found that the ground clearance is that of a street bike, not something that can climb mountains, forge rivers and cross deserts. So this gave us a short list of four bikes… that doesn’t sound very many but I also didn’t want to go too old (DR350) or have to make too many modifications to the existing platform; I just wanted to add bags and go! The four bikes were the Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré, Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300, the Royal Enfield Himalayan and the totally left-field SWM 650 Superdual Adventure.

Mike really likes the 660 Ténéré as he previously owned one that he did many miles on whilst touring around Europe. I agree that it is a very capable bike that I really like the look of. Some other friends have owned them and none have had anything bad to say about them. They are powered by an engine that has been around for decades: Yamaha’s 660 single can be traced all the way back to the 1976 XT500 and has been refined and kept up-to-date in many guises since. I had never ridden one (although I have had different versions of the engine in other bikes and I do like a good old thumper) so I decided to find one to test ride. This was a bit difficult as Yamaha stopped bringing the 660 Ténéré into the UK about 10 years ago and people who have them seem to like and keep them. We eventually found one at a dealership in Essex who was willing to let me have a test ride: he was asking for the top book price but when we looked at the bike, it didn’t seem in that good condition with damaged side panels and a jacked-up rear end. The test ride didn’t help as something just didn’t feel right: as though the bike hadn’t been looked after. This experience put me off a little, however, I did keep an eye out for another but none turned up.

Just before Christmas 2018, we were able to try out the 300 Versys-X which, looking at the spec sheet and sitting on it in the showroom, seemed like the ideal bike. At just 175 kg wet and nearly 40 horse power, it looked like a winner: light(ish) and quite powerful for a 300 cc twin, it should be able to cope with any terrain as well as the odd dual carriageway that we should happen upon. In reality, however, the engine seemed very buzzy – ideal for a street bike but not so good when negotiating a gnarly, boulder-strewn trail. This was a real shame as Mike really liked the bike on our 20 mile jaunt over to Sudbury, likening it to an old 2-stroke from his youth. I, on the other hand, wasn’t as enamoured as I didn’t like having to rev the little engine to get anything out of it: by the time you’re doing 30 mph, you’re already in 6th gear! I did have a little fun on the way back to Ipswich: on this rare occasion, the A1071 was empty and I was able to have some enjoy twisties on this little bike, winding it up into the “power band” and letting it flow from one corner to the next, I really did have some fun, however, this is not how I would like to spend 6 months travelling through distant lands.

The test ride to Sudbury gave us the opportunity to visit the Adventure Bike Shop so that we could have a look at the SWM 650 Superdual Adventure. This bike, to me, is a bit of an unknown: SWM is an Italian manufacturer who are owned by a Chinese company that are using a BMW derived Husqvarna engine in a light-weight bike that comes in several formats… I think. The shop had 3 of the bikes in stock for around £7,500, but none of them were the same: one didn’t have ABS and another had a 19 inch front wheel so I was a bit confused. They were also above my ceiling of £5,000 although Mike did find some at other dealers for a lot less than the list price. Both Mike and I really liked the bikes and I was willing to ignore my price limit as these bikes are basically ready to go with everything included: crash protection, auxiliary lights and sockets along with a full set of hard luggage. Add all of that to any other bike and you’re looking at another £1,000+ so, if we could get the bikes for around £6,000 or a little over, they wouldn’t be breaking the bank. On the down side, at the time we were looking at the SWM, their UK importer had just gone bust and we weren’t sure of how easy or hard it would be to source parts once we left Europe.

Then we have the Royal Enfield Himalayan. This is the bike that I really wanted to do this trip on: it’s an air-cooled, 411 cc long-stroke single that is totally unstressed in a chassis that is made how bikes used to be made: from steel. At £4,199 on the road, the Himalayan is a bargain. It’s not fast as it only has 24 horse power and it’s a bit heavy at around 190 kg but it does what it does with ease and comfort. The seat height is pretty low for this kind of bike but that means that Mike is able to get both feet flat on the ground, which can’t be said for all of the bikes we sat on! When you consider what the Enfield factory in India has been producing for over half a century, the Himalayan is a huge departure from their standard line-up of bikes that have hardly changed since production left the UK. We both really liked this bike and, for me, it was the front runner for the whole of the search. It is a bike that can be worked on anywhere if something fails or breaks and, being made in India, it is designed for conditions far harsher than you would encounter within Western Europe. It really did tick all of the boxes.

Then, without fanfare or forethought, up pops the Honda CRF250L and CRF250 Rally. I know that Mike had been following Steph Jeavons on Instagram or Twitter who had travelled over 50,000 trouble-free miles on a CRF250L, so I think that I just searched for the bike on the Honda website and was amazed to find that the L model was around £4,600 with the Rally at around £1,000 more. I had a quick look on our local Honda dealer website (Lings in Ipswich) and found that they had one of each model in their showroom, so I suggested to Mike that we should pop in to see them at the weekend. So there we were, at the beginning of January, 2019, in the Lings showroom bouncing up and down on a pair of CRF250s… and enjoying their lightness and size: not too small and not too big. I was thinking that a pair of modified L models would be good, even though I preferred the Rally with its screen and slightly better weather protection and then Mike sat on the Rally and was surprised that he was able to get both feet on the ground: the seat height on the Rally is a massive 895 mm, nearly an inch higher than the L model and a whopping 2 inches more than the much coveted KTM 790 Adventure R which, if money was no object, we would have both chosen for this trip. The reason for Mike sudden leg extension was actually down to the fact that the suspension compresses a long way once the rider sits on the bike. We got chatting with the sales chaps and found that, as the new models were coming in soon, they had a red CRF250 Rally for just under £5,000 on the road. This really got the little grey cells working and, after an hour or so of chat and looking around the bikes, Mike and I retired to the pub across the road for a bit of refreshment and to regroup. We both really liked the bikes and decided that, if they could get a black one for me at the same price, we would do the deal and buy a pair. That was it: the deal was done and all we had to do was wait a couple of weeks.

Two weeks later, we turned up at Lings at 9 o’clock on a Friday morning with that child-like expectance on a Christmas morning. Neither of us had even had a test ride on these bikes but here we were, handing over nearly £5,000 for a brace of Hondas that would be our transport for the trip of a lifetime. Well… they’re Hondas; maybe not the most inspiring engines but something that we know will do this kind of trip without any fuss as long as we look after them and change their oil every few thousand miles. They are so prolific that we should have no problems finding any parts that we may need in most major towns anywhere along our route. We’ve both owned Hondas before and we both like them.

TOTU CRF250 Rally

As Mike has already said, the first big step has been taken and it’s now, finally happening. We have already looked at virtually every after-market gadget and gizmo available to make these two World conquering bikes and I’m sure many will make it on to the bikes. Here’s to the next year of farkling!

Adventure Travel Show

David and I took the unusual step to take the train down to London and visit the Adventure and Travel Show at Olympia.

Neither of us really knew what to expect and so we went completely open minded.

Panoramic View of the show entrance

The show was made up of many interesting little booths each selling their adventures or providing information. There were a number of different sized seminar rooms where well known individuals were giving talks on a wide variety of subjects.

David and I were particularly interested in the seminar by the the now famous Austin Vince and his wife Lois Pryce. Two intrepid adventure motorcyclists in their own rights.

There were a number of representatives at the show from various Embassies providing information on visas and travel arrangements. This was of particular interest as it is great to be able to ask questions directly to the people who really know what the rules are.

Kazakhstan was of particular interest to us as this is one of the countries on our route. We spent some time at the booth and eventually left with the contact details of one of the visa processing team at the Kazakhstan embassy in London.

Another booth of interest was the Fleet Street Clinic where the extremely well information nurses were able to advise us on what vaccinations we needed for each country.

The very helpful nursing team from the Fleet Street Clinic

It wasn’t long before we had a tick sheet detailing exactly what vaccinations we needed and detailed information why they were so necessary. Some of the nurses were also seasoned travellers so it was interesting to hear their experiences too. David was sweet talked into entering a competition to win a first aid kit so here’s hoping we win it!

The highlight of the show was of course the 2 hour seminar by Austin Vince and his wife Lois Pryce. Two extremely interesting people to listen to who are very experienced adventure motorcyclists in their own right.

Austin’s CRF250L Adventure Bike

Austin has ridden around the world taking the longest route possible and crossed the Sahara desert whilst Lois has travelled Alaska to the southern tip of south America and all the way down through Africa, both trips solo.

Routes that can be accomplished in 6 months

The two hour seminar soon went by with Austin and Lois sharing information on why they recommend using small capacity bikes, the type of luggage to use and why, clothing, food, routes, off road training and more.

Mike, David, Austin and Lois

It was a fun day meeting lots of people from so many different countries albeit a long day with a very early start. It’s certainly well worth anyone who is thinking of going on pretty much any kind of Adventure around the world visiting the show as there is something there for everyone.

Booking seminars in advance is highly recommended as they sell out fast!

First big step taken!

Today marked the first big step of our adventure.

After 3 months of research, watching videos, test rides, bike shows, conversations and disagreement, we finally collected the bikes that we both agreed were ideal for our trip.

To say we were like two young lads getting their first ever bike is an understatement. The excitement of getting a new bike always puts more than a smile on every biker’s face but for us it was more than that, it was about us taking the first big step into our adventure.

Out of the blue came a bike that caught our imagination the moment we sat on it. The feeling of the long legged suspension, the feather weight, the ruggedness of design, the ground clearance, comfort and simplicity of function was everything we had been looking for and yet it had never made our list for consideration. How had we missed such a pearl?

Honda have a long history of building trail and adventure bikes and with the launch of the new Africa Twin bringing such technology as DCT to the adventure bike market they have once again moved into one of the top spots in the sector.

Unfortunately as much as we both loved riding the Africa Twin, especially the DCT model, it wasn’t within our budget, weight limits or Mike’s short legs.

So we needed something smaller, lower and much lighter but just as functional and capable and that’s where the Honda CRF250 Rally comes in.

The featherweight Honda CRF 250 Rally

Weighing in at 157KG this bike is light, its peppy little 250cc single cylinder engine only makes 25hp but it’s ample, torquey from way down low in the rev range but eager to please. The 6 speed transmission is a peach, no false neutrals, lovely clutchless changes and a good spread of gear ratios, everything we need and to top it off Mike can touch the ground, with both feet … at the same time!

TOTU Honda CRF250 Rally
Black or Red?

The bike comes with ABS as standard but the great thing is it can be turned off for off-road use with the press of a button, no hunting through menus, no selecting modes, no trying to find the right setting just a simple on/off button, just what us old boys love!

So after parting with our hard earned cash, the signing of documents and shaking of hands we were finally on the road. Initially it was a bit of a shock, the bikes were so light, turned in so easily and the knobbly tyres so strange compared to what we’re used to but we persevered and soon found ourselves on the coast at Aldeburgh.

David, Tom, Mark and Mike at Lings Ipswich (Photo by Millie)

Some 70 miles later the tyres had settled down and were much more confident on the wet salty roads, we’d both started to get to know the bikes and how they behaved, stopping frequently to chat with excitement in our voices.

This is the beginning and it is good!

A huge thanks to Tom, Mark, Steph and Millie at Lings Ipswich for putting up with us, we’re not the easiest of customers and we know we go on a bit but this has been a big thing for us and it had to be right.

Kawasaki Versys 300 Test

Following our continued search for the ideal bike for our trip we decided to take the Kawasaki Versys 300X out for a test ride after having a look at one at our local dealer.

There are many reviews on this little bike on YouTube some of which claimed that it really does make an ideal lightweight adventure bike. Coming from the factory with spoked wheels (19in/17in), a good sized seat and panniers it certainly seems to have potential.

We arranged with our local Kawasaki dealer Orwell Motorcycles in Ipswich to take the bike out for a few hours and give it a good ride.

I went first whilst David followed on his Triumph 800. Throwing a leg over it and planting my pert cheeks on the seat the very first thing to strike me was how hard the seat was, it’s beyond firm and well and truly into the realms of hard to the point where I even wondered if they’d forgotten to put the padding in it. Initial shock over, the handle bars are exactly where my hands naturally fall and the foot pegs are a good distance down and back to be comfy.

Pressing the start button the little 300cc parallel twin bursts into life and purrs quietly out of the rather large exhaust can.

Dropping it into 1st gear we were off and before I knew it I was up into 3rd gear and already hunting for 4th. The first 3 gears are so short that you are looking for 4th gear by the time you reach 15mph, by 30mph I was into 6th gear and from then on it was rev, rev, rev!

The little twin cylinder engine revs incredibly freely, in fact the more you rev it the more excited it gets!
There is very little in the way of torque at the bottom end but once rolling it revs out all the way up to 13000RPM making 40hp. It’s not a huge amount of power but it’s enough to have a lot of fun.

The only problem we both had with the bike is the amount of buzzing through the handle bars and foot pegs that’s present when up in the high revs, it really is bad and after sometime makes your hands go numb, not something we want on a long trip. The suspension is also firm to hard which added to the hard seat makes for quite a hard ride.

The bike isn’t light either, coming in at 175kg and being tall it feels much bigger than it really is. The front brake isn’t bad but the rear doesn’t do much at all and so I found myself dropping gears and leaning on the front brake to bring the bike to a stop smartly.

Since there is no low down torque the engine really wouldn’t be suited to off-road adventures and lends itself purely to road use, which it does well however, the really surprising thing is that the most comfortable way to ride the Versys 300 is stood up! In the standing position the ergonomics really are very good with the bars and switch gear being perfectly placed as are the foot pegs. Such a shame the engine, gearing and suspension aren’t more adventure oriented.

Overall it is a fun ride, buzzy and sure footed it’s more like a sports bike than a serious adventure/touring bike and would suit a taller younger rider looking for some fun in the twisties.

For me it’s not the bike I want to take on a 20,000 mile trip and Dave’s overall response was pretty much the same.

Thanks to Orwell Motorcycles for letting us take the bike out for a few hours.


It’s really happening!

Welcome to the new blog site of Trails of the Unexpected.

Trails of the Unexpected
Trails of the Unexpected

This is where we are going to be blogging in almost realtime our “Once in a lifetime” motorcycle adventure trip.

Who we are, where we’re going, what routes we’re taking, what bikes we will be riding, equipment and more will all be appearing on this site as soon as we can get the articles written.

We’ll be covering every aspect of the trip, from the initial ideas, planning, equipment, bike test rides, purchases and shake down trips, it’s all going to be here.

So if your an adventure bike enthusiast then add us to your favourites and drop by regularly to see what we’re up to!

Inspiration comes in many forms

For many trips, inspiration can come from something that has happened in a person’s life such as recovering from an illness, retiring or coming into money in some way. I’ve read many ride reports where something has jolted the author into action as they’ve embarked on the “bucket list” or a “once in a lifetime” trip. For me, it’s not like that: this trip, or something like it, has been at the back of my mind for nearly 30 years when, in my early 20s, a girlfriend and I talked about selling our houses, packing our jobs in, heading over to America to buy a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide and seeing how far around the world we could get. 

That was around 1990 when the furthest I had ridden on a motorcycle was over to Duisburg in Germany to see my sister who was studying there. That was me and a mate riding pillion on a Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster with another mate on a Kawasaki GPz550 riding down from Lincoln to Dover to catch the ferry over to Calais and then a quick run through Belgium and over the border into Germany. 500 miles in a day and we were gods! Of course, we were totally unprepared: I was riding a bike with a 2-gallon tank that would only manage 100 miles before needing a refill and, of course, I didn’t take a toolkit… so, by the end of the trip, my chain was so loose that I was having difficulty changing gear. 

Over the years, the trips have continued and, as I have explored further into Europe, I have always been restricted by time and money. A two-week trip seems to be the limit when you’re working and, as my work has never really brought in a huge pay cheque, the cost of travel has limited how far I can go before heading back home. 

My limit seems to have been reached when, in 2016, I took a wonderful, 5,000-mile journey up to the top of the World: Nordkapp in Norway. The trip took in 10 countries as I did a clockwise loop of the Baltic Sea, heading up through Denmark and Sweden, then back down through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland into Germany. The problem was, although it was a wonderful trip, I felt like I was always chasing the clock: so much so that, on the north-bound leg, I missed out much of Norway thinking that I wouldn’t have the time to see everything. Then, on the return leg, I rode from Poland to the Netherlands in one day to catch the last ferry at 9pm. It was quite exhausting. 

So, the inspiration to do this trip, for me, has been to push further and to take on a challenge that I have been dreaming of for most of my life. The only way that I can do that is to quit the day job and sell the house. Although I love my job, life has become hum-drum and I’m not getting any younger. 

We only have one life and I intend to enjoy it while I can! 

MotorcycleLive NEC Birmingham

Phil, David and I went to the MotorcycleLive show at the NEC Birmingham this week to have a look at the new bikes coming onto the market next year, in particular the new adventure bikes.

Royal Enfield 838 KX Concept
Royal Enfield 838 KX Concept

There were a lot of exciting motorcycles there, the new CCM range of modern retro bikes look particularly interesting as does the new Royal Enfield 838 Concept KX.

The first of the new adventure bikes that we took a look at was the new 700cc Tenere from Yamaha. It looked really well put together in its blue, white and matt black livery.
The new upside down forks are an improvement on the old 660 Tenere as is the MT-07 derived 700cc parallel twin engine. Climbing onto it, and it is a climb, the seat is firm but comfy with great presence. The new LCD dash looks interesting but wasn’t on so we have no idea what the display actually looks like.
Ground clearance is excellent as is pretty much every thing else on the bike with the only problem being seat height. Once on board my feet were a good 6in from the ground, much to everyone’s amusement. My XT660z Tenere was tall but I could get to the ground, just, but this new Tenere is considerably taller making it impossible for me to ride. A theme that kept coming up throughout the show.

Fantic Cabellero 500
Fantic Cabellero 500

We stumbled across the Fantic stand where we spotted the new Caballero 500, a 450cc single cylinder scrambler type bike. It’s well spec’d and looks really cool with it’s twin pipes, upside forks and retro scrambler styling that seems to be the rage at the moment. Both David and I could see us doing some sort of trip on one of these bikes some time in the future.

The BMW stand was of particular interest to us as the new F850GS is one of the bikes we were looking forward to seeing for the first time.

There was also an excellent riding demo of the new R1250GS, I’ve no idea who the rider was but he had total control of the machine and made it look a breeze to ride.

BMW F850GS
BMW F850GS

Getting back to the F850GS the first thing that surprised us was the sheer presence of the bike. From the front it looks huge with a vast amount of plastic that would almost certainly get smashed to bits in no time on our travels.

Plastic galore seems to be the thing on a lot of adventure bikes today, all of which would require some pretty hefty crash bars to protect. Once again I struggled to touch the ground on the 850GS and certainly wouldn’t consider taking it off-road as I could never get my feet planted on the trails should the need arise.

As always, the build quality of the BMW was excellent, seat was firm but comfy and overall riding position was excellent, such a shame it was so tall.

Moto Guzzi V85TT
Moto Guzzi V85TT

Next up was the Moto Guzzi V85TT, not a bike I liked the look of until I saw it in the flesh. In it’s bright red livery with yellow rear shock and black engine the V85TT looked stunning in the flesh. Weighing in at 207kg dry in standard guise with a lovely looking 850cc transverse V-Twin the V85TT really does make an interesting adventure bike. With all the kit fitted on the bike at the show the price was £15000 which takes it into the somewhat expensive end of the mid-range adventure bike spectrum. Once again, height was an issue, no contact with the ground for me once again and so another bike off the potential list.

Honda Monkey Bike in Red
Honda Monkey Bike in Red

Passing by the Honda stand Dave and I made a beeline for the Monkey Bikes! These great looking little machines have a huge following globally and you can see why. Beautifully put together, retro styling and the most amazingly comfy seat in a tiny format that just makes you smile.

With wide tyres, high mudguards and good ground clearance

Honda Monkey Bike in Yellow
Honda Monkey Bike in Yellow

these little bikes would be a scream off-road. Coming in a multitude of colours, there really is one for everyone!

Could this be a potential bike for the trip? We certainly think so!

Next we made a beeline for the KTM stand and the new 790 Adventure. The stand was busy, probably one of the busiest we came across and the 790R was centre of attention.

KTM 790R
KTM 790R

The striking colour and overall design of the new mid-weight adventure bike is breath taking. With its WP suspension, radially mounted brake callipers and futuristic headlamp the 790 has all the right components that we’ve been looking for. Climbing on the bike (more on this later) the seating position is perfect, bars are exactly where your hands fall naturally with a spacious seating position. Standing on the pegs the controls fall perfectly to hand with the tank providing a good knee grip stance. Overall I absolutely loved the bike and would dearly love to test ride one except for one deal breaking problem, yup you’ve guessed it, I couldn’t touch the ground!
It seems to be the case now that unless you are 6ft tall with legs in the 34in+ department it’s impossible ride these new adventure motorcycles. Is the world really now full of people over 6 foot and I’m actually a 5ft8in midget?

To say I left the KTM stand disappointed was an understatement.

Nathan Millward
Nathan Millward

We dropped by to have a chat with Nathan Millward who rode his 105cc Honda CT110 from Australia to the UK and founded The Garbage Run Tours.
Nathan is a really nice chap full of useful information, so we took the opportunity to pick his brain on the Royal Enfield Himalayan, David’s bike of choice for the trip. Nathan had a well equipped example at the show which gave us plenty of ideas when it came to carrying all our kit. After a good 45mins we’d gleaned a lot of very useful information and tips from Nathan with his parting gift being “just get on and do it!”.

We also bumped into Sam Manicom at the Adventure Bike Shop stand, another extremely nice chap who again is extremely knowledgable when it comes to adventure riding. He also recommended reading “In Search of Greener Grass” by Graham Field so I’ve ordered a copy and will be making my way through it later this week.

Royal Enfield Himalayan
Royal Enfield Himalayan

Of course we had to visit the Royal Enfield stand so that David could sit on his dream machine, the Himalayan. This is one adventure bike on which I can get two feet securely planted on the ground whilst sitting comfortably. The 411cc air cooled single cylinder bike weighs in at a hefty 190KG but on our recent 30min test ride the little long stroke engine pulled it along well. My only concern is build quality and reliability, other than that I do agree with David that it has the potential to be the ideal bike for the trip. We’re hoping to have a full day test riding the Himalayan soon and so I’ll post an update on my thoughts then.

Benelli TRK500
Benelli TRK500

The last bike I want to mention in this post is one that neither David or I had even considered, in fact I’m not sure we even knew of its existence. Benelli isn’t a brand synonymous with adventure bike riding but the TRK500 certainly looks the part. With it’s spoked wheels, 17in/19in combination, low sweat height and adventure styling the bike certainly looks the part. On closer inspection there is a lot of plastic up front that would be extremely vulnerable in a fall with rubber coolant pipes dangerously exposed to the elements on the left side. Sitting on the bike it was extremely comfortable and I made good contact with the ground, something of a rarity on new bikes these days. The switch gear felt a little on the cheap side but the rear rack was one of the most solid I’ve seen in ages.

Benelli TRK500
Benelli TRK500

Could it be a potential bike for the trip? Well if the MCN write up is anything to go by I doubt it very much, a shame because it is a good looking machine that has potential.

Mash 400 Adventure

Mash 400 Adventure
Mash 400 Adventure

The Mash 400 Adventure is a bike that neither of us have seen in the flesh. Based on the Sinis serious of bikes out of China the 400 Adventure has a Honda XBR400cc single cylinder engine built under licence in China.

The XBR400 platform is known to be a good solid, reliable power plant and so if this has been built to the same standards then it could have potential.

Coming in at around 150kg this bike would certainly meet our weight considerations but how it would hold up on a 20,000 mile trip is an unknown.

The bike is cheap, at £3999.00 including luggage, it’s hard to beat price wise.

As for parts and dealer backup on a long trip we’ve no idea what to expect.

We’re seeking out a Mash dealer that actually has one in the showroom for us to have a look at and maybe even a test ride.

If you own one or have first hand experience leave us a comment below as we’d like to know more about this good looking little bike.