Properly proofing your bike can make the difference between going home early with a cracked sump, or chucking your bike into a Mongolian sand pit with a smile, so who better to provide some top tips on saving your bike, and a few quid while you’re at it, than ‘round-the-world adventurer Andy Davidson
We love slapping extras onto our bikes… until we see the price tags. But don’t worry, adventure proofing your motorcycle doesn’t have to cost a mini fortune, and you certainly don’t need every trinket manufacturers say you do. It is important to get your motorcycle ready for serious adventure riding though. It will save huge stress while on the road, hassle, and money in the long run. Plus, a few small extras here and there can prevent pretty serious breakdowns. Here’s our top tips for getting your bike ready for the rough stuff.
The single most important extra is the sump guard. Plenty of adventure bikes come with one as standard these days, but a lot of them are as good as glass. Check that yours completely covers the sump and looks and feels solid. If it’s a tiny plastic vanity guard, then swap it for an aftermarket heavy-duty option. It’s the number one reason people go home early. The same goes for crash bars, make sure they actually cover the engine and fan. Get these two right and you won’t wince with worry every time you have an off.
The crash bars and sump guard are your top priority and biggest expense, but here’s where you can save money on the little things. There are delicate and exposed parts of your bike, which also need a little looking after. I remember a friend’s trip being cut short in Tajikistan after a stone punctured his coolant pipe – something that could have been avoided for less than a pound. Grab an old piece of hose pipe and slice it with a knife. Wrap it around the exposed parts of your coolant pipe and cable tie in place. It should stop the vulnerable piece of rubber from fraying and getting damaged. Protecting your oil casing is another cheap fix. I’ve also seen a brake lever put a serious dent in an oil casing after a crash. Attach a strip of steel to your casing with either metal epoxy or metal glue to protect it.
Opting for a foldable gear lever is a worthwhile investment. Trying to pull your fixed lever out of a clutch casing or trying to reattach a snapped gearbox spindle is rather upsetting to say the least. Changing it for a collapsible lever takes a few minutes, they’re inexpensive and can save a lot of heart ache down the road. Foldable brake and clutch levers are also available.
Handguards seem to divide opinions. You can go for the simple plastic guards or the ones with a reinforced aluminium bar that’s covered by plastic. Some people say that guards only need to stop your levers from getting snagged on branches and to provide wind protection, and that reinforced bars can hurt your hand in a crash. Others say the bar protects your hands and levers. It’s up to you which camp you fall into. I’ve used the reinforced bar for years and had too many crashes to remember (seriously… a lot of crashes) and haven’t hurt my hand or damaged a lever to date. Having the plastic cover over the bar is always handy too, as they do a good job of deflecting wind, cold and rain on miserable days.
Headlight and radiator
This one really comes into play if you ride with mates. Chewed up stones, rocks and debris that get spat out by your mate’s rear tyre will always seem to aim for your vulnerable radiator and headlight. It’s worth protecting the two, and the easiest way is with metal mesh. Aftermarket radiator and headlight guards flood the internet but they’re always overpriced for what they are. Nab a bit of aluminium mesh from your local hardware store and bolt or tie it down over your radiator’s standard plastic guard. Same goes for the headlamp. It’s worth spending a few quid on this before you go, rather than having to fork out for a new headlight or radiator on the road.
Andy and partner Alissa have been motorcycling in far flung corners of the world for the last 10 years. But on January 1st 2018 the pair gave up their lives in the UK for an indefinite life on the road. You can follow their round-the-world adventure online at www.madornomad.com or on social media as Mad or Nomad.