Back in December 2019 I purchased 2 x Crosstour 4K video cameras for the trip and spent money getting the mounts such that they could be fixed to various locations on the bike and crash helmet.
After very little use I started to get problems with them both. First the sound developed issues. Using an external mic fitted in the helmet the sound gradually got quieter and quieter. I initially thought that perhaps the mic had developed a fault and so I tried some other external microphones but, the problem was still there. The internal mics in the cameras were fine but, useless when on the move.
The second problem that gradually got worse over time was the on/off buttons. Sometimes they would work and other times they wouldn’t. Eventually they gave up entirely and it was impossible to switch the cameras on!
Both cameras have now been returned to Amazon for a full refund and I’m now looking again at cameras for the trip. I was hoping to have been able to produce some video footage of my local rides by now but, alas not! So , I’m currently considering GoPro, Insta 360 One R, DJI Osmo Pocket and a few others.
The DJI Osmo Pocket looks extremely good for doing pieces to camera and some general hand held video footage as the 4K camera is on a 3 axis gimbal which is able to give professional levels of stability. It also gets great reviews and there are plenty of accessories available for it at sensible prices. The DJI app that accompanies the camera gives access to a pro set of controls for the device including the ability to follow a person or object as it moves.
The other idea I really like is the 360 degree video capability of the Insta 360 One R.
Having just one camera mounted but, capturing a full 360 degree view at all times will be very handy whilst riding. Whether the camera itself is actually up to the rigours of off-road riding is a concern though.
Lots to think about and much research to do but, I’ll blog about it as I go along.
On an almost daily basis I get asked questions about the setup of my Honda CRF250 Rally that I’ve kitted out ready for my trip to Mongolia and what gear am I taking with me. Since I’m often asked the same question over and over I thought I’d put the definitive set of answers here in a blog post so that I can just refer everyone to the same place, so here goes!
Q: Have you made any modifications to the engine or exhaust to get more power? Are you using an EJK ECU? Have you fitted an FMF exhaust?
Simple answer is No.
I’ve not made any changes whatsoever to the engine, ECU, exhaust or any other component connected to the engine. I’ve deliberately kept the engine completely original so that I have maximum reliability.
When I purchased the bike I knew it only had 24HP and I am happy with that. If I’d wanted more power then I would had bought a bigger bike.
Q: What tank bag are you using?
I have fitted a Givi 6 Litre GRT706 tank bag that fits nicely on the tank and doesn’t get in the way when I’m riding in either the seated or standing positions. The tank bag is mainly for carrying my Canon 1300D DSLR camera and a map that’s visible in the clear plastic water proof top pocket.
Q: What USB device is that you have and where can I get one?
The dual USB and 12v socket with integrated voltmeter I picked up from Ebay. All the information of how to wire it into the AUX 12v feed already on the bike is in this post on the blog. For completeness I’ve also included the details of where you can get the 12v connector really cheaply.
Yes! I was fortunate enough to negotiate a free pair of Oxford Heated Grips when I purchased the bike from my local Honda dealership. They really do get hot and are great in the winter months. All the information on how to fit and wire them to the CRF250 Rally can be found in this blog post.
Q: How will you keep your chain lubricated during the trip?
Q: What crash bars are they you have fitted? What skid plate do you use?
I use a great integrated skid plate and crashbar combo from Inpreda/GPKompozit. The bike has been dropped a few times on the trails now and it’s protected everything really well. The bash plate has also taken a few hits and has done a great job at protecting the engine sump.
I’ve fitted a Tusk pannier frame to the bike, it’s really solid and can handle the weight I’m going to put on it. All the details on fitting it correctly and the adjustments I had to make are detailed in my blog post here.
Q: What size Rotopax fuel canisters are you using?
Due to the cost I decided not to use Rotopax fuel canisters however, I do need to be able to carry extra fuel with me to make it between fuel stops on the trip and so after much research I went with some ChinoPax fuel canisters that I found sensibly priced on Ebay. They are really well put together and are very strong. They’re made from a very thick plastic that isn’t brittle and so they can take a fair amount of bashing. Noraly of Itchyboots fame uses the same cans and has dropped her bike on them many times without incident. I got 3 x 5L canisters with fittings for less than the cost of 1 x 1 Gallon Rotopax can. Since the two front canisters will only be used on certain parts of the trip when fuel is difficult to get I didn’t see the point in spending a fortune on Rotopax cans when they would be empty most of the time.
I’ll also being using petrol to cook with and so the rear 5L tank will always have fuel in it so that I can cook at the end of each day. Full info on fitting etc is on the blog right here.
Q: Are you using hard or soft panniers?
I’m using soft panniers from Givi as I didn’t want the extra weight and bulk of the hard panniers. I looked at a lot of soft pannier options including the very cheap Lomo throw over bags but, eventually I settled on the Givi GRT709 Canyon 35L lockable soft panniers.
I really like the Givi soft panniers, they’re well put together, have a separate waterproof inner bag and have a separate water proof bottle carrier on the rear facing side of each pannier making it easy to gain access to drinks without having to open the main bag.
Q: What GPS are you going to be using on your trip?
I’ll be using two effectively, one on my iPhone in the Ultimate Addons waterproof case mounted above the instrument cluster and a Garmin inReach Explorer+ with SOS capability. I also have a Garmin Zumo 350LM that I may take as backup but it’s worth noting that Garmin do not supply maps for Central Asia for the Zumo GPS units and you have to create your own using OpenStreet Maps.
Q: What side stand foot is that in your photos?
It’s another Chinese made item from Ebay I’m afraid. When it arrived it didn’t actually fit so I had to re-engineer it but, it fits perfectly now.
Q: Have you changed the suspension and if so what have you done?
Yes I have changed the suspension as the OEM suspension isn’t really fit for the kind of punishment I’m going to be giving it on the trip. There are quite a few options available suspension wise for the CRF250 series of bikes these days but I opted for the HyperPro uprated progressive spring for the front forks and a completely new custom built Hagon shock for the rear.
The difference these two changes have made is stunning! The bike now handles so much better and to date I’ve not managed to bottom out the front or rear suspension even hammering along the trails.
There are a number of articles on the blog with regard to suspension. Links to all the articles are detailed below:
Most suspension questions should be answered between those 3 articles.
Q: Does the Hagon shock reduce static sag? If so, what is the seat height?
Yes, the Hagon shock with the spring that I have along with the Hyperpro fork spring reduces static sag considerably. With the bike off the side stand and standing free without load the seat height is increased to 93cm (930mm).
Q: What tyres are you using on your trip?
I’ll be setting off on a pair of Continental TKC80s. These are great 50/50 tyres for road and off-road use. I am aware that people with high power bikes complain that they wear quickly on the tarmac but, on my little 24HP CRF250 this isn’t going to be an issue. Whether I’ll be able to get another pair of TKC80s as I travel I don’t know, so it may be a case of just buying whatever is available when they wear out. I imagine I am going to need 3 or 4 pairs of tyres over the duration of the trip so we’ll see what I end up using as time goes on.
Q: What hand guards are you using? Are they any good?
I’ve fitted a pair of Zeta XC hand guards to the bike. I like them because the plastic hand guard can be unscrewed and replaced if it gets broken and the aluminium mount bar provides great protection for the brake and clutch levers in the event of a drop.
Are they any good? Well they saved my hands a few times now from bushes and branches and the levers didn’t get broken in the falls I’ve had off-road so, I guess that must mean they are good.
Q: Where do you get your stuff from?
A multitude of places! Ebay, Amazon, local motorcycle dealerships, overseas … there are many. I’ve put together a list of suppliers on my suppliers page.
Q: Are you going to change the chain and sprockets?
Yes, I’ve got rid of the cheap and nasty OEM chain and sprockets and replaced them with a DID 520VX3 chain and JTS sprockets. I’ve kept the sprocket sizes standard, 14/40.
Q: Have you changed the handle bars and/or fitted bar risers?
Yes, both! On my first venture off-road with the CRF250 Rally it was immediately clear to me that I needed to raise the handle bars up a bit as I was having to lean over too much to reach them when standing.
I decided to change the bars for a better quality item as the OEM handles bars flex very easily and I could see them getting bent out of shape very quickly.
This is a good question! I’ve spent ages trying on different skid lids trying to find one that really fits me well and that isn’t too heavy or noisy in the wind. Time and time again I kept coming back to the Nolan N702X. I have a Nolan helmet for road riding and really like it and this 702X really works for me. It’s great in that it’s convertible so I can remove the peak if I want, remove the chin bar and make it an open face helmet and wear it with the visor or goggles. It just ticks all the boxes. The other great thing is that my Sena headset will also fit. Money now spent, I’m really pleased with my decision.
Q: Are you wearing KLIM motorcycle clothing for the trip?
Simple answer is No. KLIM maybe nice clothing but it should be. At almost £2000 for a pair of trousers and a jacket they ought to be gold plated too! I’ve been using RST motorcycle clothing for some time and really like it but, it’s a bit hot in the summer months. After looking around and trying many different outfits on I opted for the Rev’It OffTrack jacket and Sand3 trousers. The reason I got the different trousers is that no one in Europe had the Offtrack trousers in stock and there wasn’t going to be another manufacture run until mid 2020. On the plus side, the Sand3 trousers are made of a slightly heavier material which should wear better especially when kneeling fixing punctures or repairing the bike. Both the trousers and jacket can zip together and have the complete 3 layer system meaning that in the really hot areas like the Gobi Desert I can remove the inner water proof layer and the warm quilted layer leaving me with just the thin outer shell with the back, elbow and shoulder protection.
Q: What tools are you taking with you?
I’ve based my tool pack on the tools I’ve needed to do the jobs on the bike during the preparation stage. I’m sure there are tools in the pack that others wouldn’t take and tools that others take that I’m not. It’s a personal thing and also takes into account my attitude towards risk which may be different to everyone else.
The above image shows all the tools that I’ve included in the pack so lets go through what we have here.
Spanners: 19/12/10/8mm. Tyre Levers: 3 x including a Motion Pro tyre lever/ring spanner combo for the rear axle. Allen Keys: 6mm Long and short, 5mm long and short, 4mm & 3mm Long. Electrical Screwdrivers: Large, medium and small flat head and large and medium cross head. Sockets: 17/14/13/12/10, 10mm Sparc plug socket, 17/14mm Hex for front axle, Bahco 1/4in socket set and 3 x socket to ring spanner converters so that I don’t need to take a socket wrench with me. Electrical: Multimeter, cable/zip ties, insulation tape and a length of electrical cable. Miscellaneous: Valve removal tool, pliers with wire cutter edge, stanley knife, Hagon rear shock C spanner, Tutoro priming magnet, plastic fuse puller and tyre pressure gauge.
I also have an electric 12v tyre pump and head torch that are not shown in the picture.
I also recommend you take a look at Matt Boyle’s video about his tool kit that he takes on his CRF250 Rally adventures.
Q: What spare parts are you taking with you?
I’m taking the following spares with me:
Complete clutch plate set and clutch housing gasket. Front and rear brake pads. 5 x oil filters and gaskets. 1 x air filter Front and rear wheel bearing kits Head stock bearing kit 2 x spark plugs Spare bulbs and fuses Puncture repair kit Spare inner tubes Front and rear sprockets
Well I think that just about covers all the questions I get asked regularly online. If I have any more I’ll add them to this page.
With only 21 days left before I leave blighty I’m going through the last few items of preparation.
Today it’s been checking over the camping gear whilst the weather is good and getting the camera mounts sorted on the bike.
The tent hasn’t been out since it’s last visit to Wales and the subsequent cleaning and drying after the torrential rain we had there. Glad to say it’s all dry and clean with no mould!
I’ve also been sorting out the camera mounts on the bike. So far I’ve got a mount on the front of the bike and one at the rear. The rear mount is actually a selfie stick mounted to the Tusk pannier rack so that I can extend it and do pieces to camera easily. It’ll also hopefully give me good rear and forward shots too whilst riding.
The front mount is quite handy as it can look forward and aft so hopefully I may be able to get some shots of me riding … or falling off!
I have been looking for some places to mount the cameras on the side panels of the bike but everywhere I have tried the view is blocked by something. I’ll have to do some more research into interesting camera angles to see if I can improve the current setup at all.
Ever since I was young I’ve always got excited about getting new motorcycle clothing and never more so than now.
Getting organised for this trip has been a mammoth task spread over many months and I’m still not completely ready as I’m still waiting to hear about my Russian Visa application.
The last few days have been great as all my new gear has been trickling in.
One thing that’s very clear is that the small stuff is often more important than the big stuff! Things like fuel and water filters will be critical to my health and the bike’s, without both we could come unstuck in some of the countries I’m going through.
A good set of paper maps and an old fashioned compass will certainly come in very handy when navigating across the Kazakh steppe, the wilds of Mongolia and Siberia, especially if all the electronics fail.
Tools are extremely important as I’m going to be totally self sufficient throughout the trip so I’m trying to ensure I can cope with most breakdowns but, without taking too many heavy tools.
SD cards aren’t a life saving item but a nice to have for the two Crosstour and Canon cameras I’ll be taking with me. Of course, the latrene shovel is to be considered a necessity these days when wild camping!
Since I already have a Trangia cooker I decided to stick with it and have purchased the multi-fuel burner for it. This new burner will allow me to cook using petrol for fuel, this means that I’ll only need to carry one type of fuel with me for all needs. I’ll be testing the new burner this coming weekend!
During the trip I’m going to need to be able to cope with extremes of temperature so I decided to purchase some new biking gear that has the facility to remove both the warm winter lining and the inner water proof layer. This will I hope, keep me relatively cool in the hot desert temperatures and warm in the below zero mountain climbs.
I’ve tried on loads of outfits over the last few months and not really liked any of them apart from the Rev’It! OffTrack jacket and trousers. The jacket is fairly light for a 3 layer system but also well put together. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a pair of matching trousers from anywhere in Europe and so have gone with the Sand3 trousers. These are made of a slightly heavier material but should be harder wearing. Again the trousers consist of a 3 layer system so should work well in both hot and cold climes.
My Nolan helmet that I use for road riding has now reached it’s end of life, it’s serviced me well over the years but like all good things in life, they never last forever.
Like riding gear, I tried many helmets but kept coming back to Nolan, they just tick all the boxes for me.
I finally decided to go with the Nolan N702X crash helmet. It’s a great design which allows the chin bar to be removed as well as incorporating a full face visor and dark sun visor. I find the Nolan helmets fit my odd shaped head very well and are comfortable enough to be worn all day without problem. The other big bonus is that my Sena headset will fit perfectly too!
The only other thing I’m waiting for now is the Hagon rear shock absorber for the bike, once I have it I can finally get the bike back together and on the road for some test rides.