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Choosing a motorbike

   When I was back from my trip in Italy, I started to work on my dream. I got a job and saved some money to buy a Honda Africa Twin 750. I was riding it tenaciously for one year on every terrain to learn riding it at difficult conditions. I rode it in very high temperatures, in very low temperatures, on rocks, rubbles, mud, sand, even on snow. Then, I could ride it on every terrain I would meet during my trip. However, it’s huge weight (dry weight 207.5 kg (457 pounds)) makes off-road riding undesirable when the situation of the terrain becomes a little bit difficult.

By my Africa Twin

At the snowy Olympus, Greece by my Africa Twin

   So, after a lot of research I decided to use a much lighter bike with better off-road ability. That’s Honda XR 250S (dry weight 122 kg (269 pounds)). Many believe that it’s engine is very small for that use. However, in a trip like that I was not interested on speed. I did not want to go fast and I could not go fast at the roads of these countries. I enjoy traveling slowly. At those rare occasions when I didn’t stop at any interesting place during the day, I was riding for an average distance of 500 km (311 miles).


In the desert of Kaluts, Iran by my Honda XR 250 S

   The only characteristic that the motorbike must have is reliability and XR is undoubtedly one of the most reliable motorbikes. The advantages and disadvantages of riding a 250 c.c. bike for such a trip are :

Advantages :

  • Simplicity! That means it’s easy to repair on the road. There are less parts on a small motorbike, so there are less parts to break down.
  • Very light! That means it can be handled in tougher off-road conditions and it’s much easier to move through the mad traffic of India and big cities.
  • Much less fuel consumption than in a much bigger motorbike. Except economy, that means much less amount of fuel was carried on the motorcycle. Liquids are the heaviest load that is carried, so by this way the total weight reduced.
  • Safer and legal because I was constrainedly travelling slowly.
  • During a trip in so different places that I haven’t seen again, I like to travel slowly to enjoy the scene.
  • Much cheaper, so I had the option to leave the bike and return by airplane in an emergency.
  • Less impressive for the locals. That means it’s not so suggestive target for thieves. Also, the behaviour of locals is not so jealously, because my motorbike is more similar to their ones. When someone is traveling in these countries by a huge, shiny motorcycle, he is travelling by a treasure between millions of people who struggle every day to find something to eat.

Disadvantages :

  • If I need to travel fast in an emergency, the motorbike may not be able to do it. However, I wouldn’t be able to travel fast even by a faster motorcycle, because the majority of the roads are in a terrible situation in these countries, except Turkey and Iran.
  • Less power on altitude higher than 4,000 m. (13,124 feet), due to the thinner atmosphere. I covered many kilometers on those altitudes and I rode on the world’s highest road pass at 5,602 m. (18,379 feet) altitude. However, I couldn’t travel fast on those roads anyway, so it wasn’t an issue. For more about the behaviour of my motorcycle on high altitude look at the Equipment review.
  • Engine oil replacement every 2,500 km. (1,553 miles) instead of a bigger motorcycle that usually needs to replace the engine oil every 5,000 km. (3,107 miles) or more.

   It’s clear that the advantages are more serious than the disadvantages and that’s why I chose the Honda XR 250S. I am absolutely satisfied with my choice because off-roading was a game I was enjoying without problems. In some occasions, like when I got stuck in the middle of the desert, I succeeded to save my motorcycle on my own, because it’s not too heavy. That’s critical on a solo trip. I was riding easily in the mad traffic of cities too. For details about mechanical faults, spare parts etc. look at the Equipment review.

   The motorcycle I used was second-hand when I bought it. A new motorcycle would be a big waste of money since a lot of improvements must be done either at a new motorcycle or at a used one. In Greece the XR 250 has never been imported with electric start, except the new Super Motard models. However, the electric start was very important for me for such a long ride. So, I searched and I found 5 or 6 grey imported XR 250 with electric start (some of them were Honda Baja). I got the one that was in the best condition. That motorcycle constructed in 1997 and it is a rare version (the S), 100% made in Japan, that was sold in U.S.A. and Japan. Its mileage is unknown because the counter wasn’t working. The seller told me that its mileage was about 35,000 km. (21,748 miles). As it seems and as the seller told me the motorcycle hadn’t been used for off-roading.



Honda XR 250 S (MD30)

Engine :  250 c.c., single cylinder, air-cooled

Starter :  electric

Year of construction : 1995

Mileage before the trip :  Unknown (maybe around 40,000 km. (24,855 miles))

Mileage during the trip :  73,000 km. (45,361 miles)



Motorcycle’s dry weight :

                                            At front wheel: 56 kg (123 pounds)

                                            At rear wheel: 66 kg (146 pounds)

                                            Total: 122 kg (269 pounds)

Motorcycle’s dry weight with all the accessories (with the rack for panniers, but without the panniers) :

                                            At front wheel: 58 kg (128 pounds)

                                            At rear wheel: 71 kg (157 pounds)

                                            Total: 129 kg (284 pounds)

Motorcycle with all the accessories, panniers, 22 liters of fuel, oil :

                                            At front wheel: 72 kg (159 pounds)

                                            At rear wheel: 77 kg (170 pounds)

                                            Total: 149 kg (328 pounds)

Motorcycle with full load, all the accessories, panniers, 22 liters of fuel, oil :

                                            At front wheel: 73 kg (161 pounds)

                                            At rear wheel: 134 kg (295 pounds)

                                            Total: 207 kg (456 pounds)

Left pannier with full load :  19 kg (42 pounds)

Right pannier with full load :  24 kg (53 pounds)

Rider :  57 kg (126 pounds)

Rider’s equipment :  6 kg (13 pounds)

22 liters of fuel :  22 * 0,737 = 16 kg (35 pounds)

Motorcycle with rider wearing his whole equipment, full load, all the accessories, panniers, 22 liters of fuel, oil :

                                            At front wheel: 98 kg (216 pounds)

                                            At rear wheel: 172 kg (379 pounds)

                                            Total: 270 kg (595 pounds)


Preparing the motorbike

   Of course, such a trip needs not only the preparation of the rider but also the preparation of the motorbike. Α very detailed service was done. Every part that estimated to work for less than the total trip was replaced by a new one. The suspension was adjusted for the load it was carrying, because that was much heavier than the normal.
Specifically, the service that was done is :

  • Reconditioning of cylinder
  • Replacing of piston
  • Replacing of piston’s springs
  • Replacing of valves
  • Replacing of camshaft
  • Replacing of camshaft’s chain
  • Replacing of clutch’s discs
  • Replacing of clutch’s springs
  • Replacing of clutch’s cable
  • Replacing of clutch’s lever and lever’s mount
  • Cleaning of carburettor
  • Replacing of fork’s springs by tougher ones
  • Replacing of fork’s oil
  • Replacing of rear suspension and replacing of spring by a tougher one (after mechanical fault at the beginning of the trip)
  • Painting of the frame and the sub-frame
  • Replacing of rear brake disc
  • Replacing of front and rear brake pads
  • Replacing of brake fluid
  • Replacing of air filter
  • Replacing of oil filter
  • Replacing of spark plug


In addition, some accessories that I needed during the trip were added :

  • Replacing of the headlight by a brighter one. I chose the Acerbis Cyclope.
  • Addition of windshield for protection from the wind. I chose the Kappa KA610-33A.
  • Addition of hand guards for protection of my hands from the wind and crashes and protection of the levers from crashes. I chose the Acerbis Multiplo T.
  • Addition of heated grips, because it’s the only way to warm up my hands when it’s cold. I chose the originals of Honda but in 14 months the electronic switch was broken down and I put a simple switch with the grips serially connected. This way I lose the adjustment.
  • Addition of Global Positioning System (GPS) for accurate location of my position. I chose the Garmin GPSmap 76, although it was an old model without a proper map, so it was pretty useless.
  • Addition of handlebar bracket for the Global Positioning System (GPS). I chose the one by Touratech.
  • Addition of 12V socket for charging mobile phone, camera batteries etc.
  • Replacing of horn by a bigger one because it’s essential and it is used at every turn at the mad traffic of Pakistan, India and Nepal.
  • Replacing of tank by a bigger one because I needed to cover long distances (up to 550 km (342 miles)) where there wasn’t any fuel station. I chose the tank of Acerbis for XR 250 whose capacity is 22 litres.
  • Improvement of the seat to avoid extreme pain when I was riding many hours every day. A harder foam was added over the existing one.
  • Addition of a wider surface at the bottom of the side stand to park the motorbike at smooth terrains, such as sand
  • Addition of aluminium panniers for protecting my belongings from crashes, water and thieves. I chose the ones by Touratech.
  • Addition of a rack for the panniers.
  • Addition of tail light with turn signal included at the back of each pannier, in order to be more visible by the drivers behind me.
  • Addition of a holder for a 2-liter canister at the front of each pannier for water and oil. This way there is a better delivery of the weight. I chose the ones by Touratech.
  • Reinforcement of the sub-frame to stand the extra weight of the load carried.


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