Category: Choosing the bikes

I’m a very happy man. We have just put a deposit down on two new V7 Moto Guzzi’s. Speedaway Motorcycles in Blackheath have done us a good deal, so buying two bikes does have its benefits even if it is quite scary. They are coming with the optional main stand, crash bars and rear luggage rack. Speedaway are going to fit the hand protectors from a KTM, which are available in black as well as orange, together with heated grips. They are also going to see if they can source a re-usable air filter to replace the standard paper one. One less thing to carry.

We have also decided on our luggage. After some discussion we are going with hard panniers made by Stahlkoffer who are based in Stourbridge, West Midlands. The guy behind Stahlkoffer is called Bernie and a nicer, more helpful bloke you couldn’t hope to meet. He drove over to Speedaway to meet us and to show us his very well made aluminium panniers and mounting system. He looked over the V7 and we discussed fitting them to the little Guzzi, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

So all in all a great day and major steps taken forwards, and only a month to wait for them to arrive from Italy!

What bikes are we going to go on?

It’s only a short question. A mere 8 words. But it’s the question that has been zooming around and around in my brain, and the longer that it doesn’t get answered then the more insistent that it is becoming.

We have been racking our and friend’s brains, looking at manufacturer’s web sites, scouring bike magazines and most recently visiting bike shops and arranging test rides.

A friend has a Yamaha Tenere 660 which is a solid proven bike that has the Yamaha lowering kit fitted, but I can still only barely touch the floor so it’s out.

Tony with the BMW Adventure

Benhams BMW in Wolverhampton were very helpful and we test rode their new Gs1200 and Gs1200 Adventure. The Adventure has all of the mods that we could need and has a gigantic petrol tank so fuel range would never be a problem. On the road it felt rock solid and dependable, was great to ride too, but again it’s quite tall. Touratech do make a lowered seat which would address that…however…it’s very heavy – 259kg and that’s without any luggage! Wheeling it around was difficult enough on tarmac. Sarah didn’t know if she could cope with pushing it on grass, let alone mud or sand, and seriously doubted that when fully loaded she could pick it up. I had to agree.

Pure Triumph in Birmingham were also keen to help and answered loads of questions whilst letting us sit on several bikes. We took the Triumph Scrambler out and both liked it, but we both agreed that we would have to change the high level exhaust pipes as they get hot and felt in the way. It has an optional main stand and bash plate, but is still quite heavy at 230kg.

Speedaway motorcycles in Blackheath let us ride the Moto Guzzi V7 classic. Now I have to be honest here, I have a soft spot for Guzzis. I have been riding them for years and, having bought a couple as projects and totally rebuilt them, I know them quite well. I knew that I would love the little 750. Pretty, nimble, sure-footed, practical, low seat height, shaft drive, easy to work on, economical, etcetera….I could go on and on…But I didn’t want to be selfish and push Sarah down the Guzzi route unless she was convinced that she would enjoy riding them too.

She set off and I waited with bated breath. Would she like its character or hate its idiosyncrasies? I waited some more but no Sarah on the little Guzzi. The guy who had booked the next test ride slot turned up a little early and still no Sarah. Then I heard that unmistakable V twin exhaust and there she was,

That was fun!

with a great big grin on her face. She had been enjoying herself so much that she had missed a sign and got lost in an unfamiliar area. I was chuffed to bits. She liked the Guzzi. Big Grin.

We went away and have been thinking about it, after all buying 2 new bikes is not something that either of us has done before. In fact I’ve only ever had one new bike and Sarah has only bought second-hand till now.  However we have decided that we are going to go for the little Moto Guzzi, something that I am very pleased about.

So why the Guzzi then?

It is big enough and powerful enough to cope with big roads, luggage and the miles that we are going to do. It is also small enough that we can get our feet down easily so we will be less likely to drop it when the tarmac runs out. Also the light dry weight of 182kg is going to make picking it up after dropping it, and getting it into things like hotel lobbies for secure parking much easier.

Another major bonus is that I know Guzzi’s quite well and what goes wrong with them. The V7 is very similar to my 30 year old V50 and so I have no worries about doing any mechanical work on them. The V twin design means that you can even adjust the tappets without taking the petrol tank off. Guzzi’s are also quite robust and if anything over-engineered.

As they are road bikes we are going to have to make some modifications, but there is a factory option main stand and the standard fuel tank should be okay – at 17 litres it should give a decent range because the V7 is quite economical.

Lots of thinking, planning and sorting to still do, but I’m really glad that we have picked our bikes, and that it’s the lovely little Moto Guzzi.

Deciding to ride around the world on motorbikes was the easy part. What has proved far less easy is choosing The Bikes to do it on! We started out avidly reading all the books and articles we could get our hands on. We picked the brains of various folk who’ve been on long overland trips. We’ve been out test riding various options. It would appear that there is no perfect bike for the trip – everyone has their own opinions, favourites and views, and of course everyone’s journey is their own.

It’s fair to say that we are in a complete quandary! Everything we’ve thought of is a compromise of one sort or another. How much road riding will we be doing? What about when the tarmac runs out and we’re on dirt or mud tracks? How much luggage can we carry? Will we be able to pick the bikes up when we drop them, as we’ve been assured we most definitely will?

We started off really not wanting to be Ewan and Charlie clones on BMW GS’s. Tony was keen to stick to his beloved Moto Guzzi’s, maybe even setting off on a pair of 30 year old V50’s that he owns. Small, light, reliable and easy to fix are all big plusses. Old, high mileage, on road design, and spares issues are the down side.

So we thought we’d take a look at the BMW’s after all, as they do seem to be built for the job. First off we test rode the GS800. A good bike, but too tall (we’re not!), not a particularly comfortable seat, chain drive, and most importantly, Tony just didn’t feel at home on it. Next we thought, to hell with it, we’ll give the GS1200 a go, as we’d seen one out at a friends and realised how much lower than the 800 it was. Bizarre with it being a bigger bike overall, and worth a go. That and the fact that every one of our friends that we spoke to who owned a GS1150 or 1200 absolutely loved them. It was a lovely, bright and sunny week back in October 2009 – you know the sort, of the warm Indian Summer variety. Every day that week except the day that we had booked the test ride – that day it absolutely tipped down! We were soaked by the time we’d ridden the 20 or so miles to the BMW dealer. Tony went out first, seemed to be gone for ages, and came back dripping but with a big grin on his face. I went out and did the same – rode nearly 30 miles around the back roads and up the motorway and felt like I could just have kept on going! A good omen – we both felt very at home on the thing, and as if it would really look after us. We were still a bit high up and couldn’t get our feet flat on the floor, but there were options to lower the bike enough to take care of this. I was still concerned about the sheer size of it though – how would we manage with them when we were off road?

We decided to think about our options for a while, partly as we just didn’t have the dosh to buy them then and there anyway – we had other vehicles to sell before we’d be in a position to shell out that kind of money, and October was not the best time of year to be selling bikes, even if they had been done up to saleable condition. We were also concerned about the cost of the bikes which would have a huge impact on the cost of the Carnets for the bikes (the bike “passports”), as this is based on the value. Hmmm, time to take stock and think…