Travelin' Around the World by Motorcycle
This page was in preparation for my trip, which was has now already been
If you're interested in the results see http://www.roadkill.com/~davet/worldtrip
This is an on going information seeking page. I'm compiling information from
where ever I can find it in preparation for a journey. Who knows when/if
it will happen. ...but as a goal, it's fun.
I'm putting it on the net to share ideas with other people thinking of doing
This Document contains
My main goal is to visit and experience diverse cultures. I'm not
in it for an endurance record. I'd like to do as much
of this as my money situation will allow. It's not important to me to
actually make it all the way around the world, but for starters I'll plan
my path that way. My itinerary is very loose. The purpose of it is to
keep my options open by being aware of possible routes and problems.
From past experience, I see myself changing my route based on information
I get along the way from locals and other travelers I meet, weather, mood, etc.
start from home (currently Champaign Illinois)
drive south through
At the Darien gap in Panama, the trans American Highway
ends, so I'll take a ferry from Panama to Lima (Peru).
Some Central American travel experience
- from Kevin Lee
I'd like to travel along the coast and in the mountain ranges along
West the side of South America. From
avoid the Peru/Ecuador border,
I'll travel to
down to Tierra Del Fuego, and then up Eastern Argentina to Buenos Aires.
I hope to pick up a ship in Buenos Aires to take me to Cape Town South
Africa. While waiting for a ship to sail, I'd like to twittle around
I might also consider flying to Cape Town. I expect the trip by ship
to take about 10 days.
At the moment I'm considering traveling along the Eastern countries
of Africa due to more political stability. I need to do more
research on this continent in regards to maps, carnets and roads.
While I hear the general disposition of the Sudanese (from Ted Simon)
is not friendly, I think it would be a blast to visit
by bike. However, Being in North East Africa there are a few
road blocks. Being a US citizen, I don't plan to enter
Likely I wouldn't be allowed anyway. Further, I'm not so interested
Syria. I've been told it's very difficult to get a
This means that I would either take a ferry from
or I cut across the Sahara desert up
and cross into
Crossing the Sahara is one of those been there done that things.
I've checked out the road maps across the Sahara and have been
considering gas tank size accordingly. The crossing would be some
what dependent on seasonal timing.
Where I enter Europe whether from
Spain will determine
the route. As goals, I'd like to travel up the coast of
because I think it's one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Also, I'd like to travel through Eastern Europe because it's one
of the most rapidly changing areas.
Because travel through
may not be possible due to visa
restrictions, I'll have to travel North of the Caspian sea.
Doing the silk road from
China sounds like an interesting
route. While traveling through China, I was under the impression
that land vehicle crossings are not allowed into China except from
Hong Kong. However, I've heard of several travelers who have done
this, such as Jim Rodgers (traveled on a million dollar budget).
I'd love to travel through China and then into SE Asia. If it's
not possible, I'd likely travel from Turkestan,
Nepal, back to India and then take a ferry from Madras
does not allow land entries and I've been told
it's not possible to cross
From personal experience
I know that it is cheap to go island hoping across
Indonesia and on to
Timor, I would take a ferry or plane to Darwin Australia.
Timor to Australia should be about $350 by plane. Cheaper by ship.
After bummin around Australia I'll likely fly to LA and drive home.
Much of the route will be determined by the seasonal changes. I'd like to
be following the summer. However, this puts some serious time restrictions
on travel that I'd rather avoid. Traveling close to the equator, this
shouldn't be as much of an issue.
I've checked on rates to get the bike from North America to Europe.
According to Luftunsa and American Airlines, it would cost $700-$1000
with a 3 day turn around from Chicago to Frankfurt. By boat, I've been
told that the price from Toronto to Amsterdam is about $350 with a
1 month turn around. In both cases, the bike must be crated.
For freighting info, call:
Freighter World Cruises (818)449-3106.
TravLtips Association (800)872-8584 in US, (800)548-7823 in Canada.
As far as time, I'm thinking along the lines of 2-3 years,
however, emphasis is on the cultural experience rather than just driving
around the world. While skipping two continents Thomas Fuller did his
trip in little over a year. Ted Simon however did his trip in 4 years.
Ted Simon (Jupiter's Travel) took a leisurely 4.5 months to travel from London
to Johannesburg, crossing into Africa via ferry from Sicily to Tunisia
and then traveling along the East coast. The distance was 12,245 miles.
His Route was London->Europe->Africa->South America->Central America->USA->
SE Asia->Middle East->Europe->home. Total trip was 63,400 miles in 4 years.
More comments on routes...
Carnet are a major obstacle for traveling around the world with a
vehicle. A Carnet is insurance to the country that one is about to enter
that one will take the vehicle back out, otherwise an import duty must be
paid on the vehicle. In some countries this can be a huge sum.
Iran charges 600% import duty for a vehicle entry. Fortunately only
150% if it only has two wheels. India will charge 250 - 300%.
Before getting a carnet, you must know which countries will be visited,
so that you'll know how large of a carnet will be required. You'll need
to keep the equivalent of the maximum amount of the carnet deposited
at the bank for the duration of the trip. If you don't leave the country
with the vehicle, your deposit goes to pay for the import duty charge.
If your bike is stolen, this seriously increases the magnitude of your grief!
AAA once offered insurance based carnets but has dropped this due to lack
of interest. I've heard that European auto clubs offer carnets but I
don't yet know if they are offered to foreigners.
The Canadian Auto Club CAA, offers carnets. Contact Susan Danas at the
Ottawa CAA branch (613) 247-0117/(613) 226-7631. They issue carnets for both
Canadians and Americans. She can send you a carnet FAQ.
Chris Scott in his book 'Desert Biking' mentions Campbell Irvine Insurance
as a source for carnet insurance. I'm in the process of checking into
what this company offers. Campbell Irvine Insurance, 46 Earls Court Road,
London W8 6EJ.
For travel in Africa, a carnet is required. Most countries in South America
require a carnet. Australia requires a Carnet. Europe does not.
A good source of info on Carnets can be found in the Lonely Planet's Travel
guide to Africa.
A carnet deposit is incentive for getting a cheap looking used bike.
I'm still researching this aspect. I'm under the impression that
motorcyclists in Europe are required to have proof of insurance.
Apparently, a standard green card is required and typically
costs $100? per month... others have told me $50 per year.
I haven't checked out the details. One lead I have for green insurance
cards is: Michael Mandell (800-245-8726).
Published info on the subject:
Some of these books can be picked up from Whitehorse Press: (800) 531-1133.
I found Ted Simon's "Jupiter's Travels" at my local library.
- Ted Simon did a trip around the world in 1973-1977 on a Triumph Tiger.
He describes his journey in the book "Jupiter's Travels". ISBN 0-385-15571-9,
Lib of Congress# 79-7626, copyright 1979, Published by Doubleday & Company Inc.,
Garden City, New York 1980. Availible again through Ted Simon. Call
(800) 879 4214. Ted Simon has a web page page which tells about his
travels. It's at http://www.mcn.org/b/jupitalia. This is one of my favorite travel books.
- Ted Simon wrote another travel book called
"Riding Home". I don't know if this is a continuation of Jupiter's Travel,
or another trip. I haven't been able to locate this book yet.
- Chris Scott has written a book called
It's more of a how to prepare/outfit for a desert crossing. Good info.
Contact: The Complete Traveller, 199 Madison Avenue, New York City, New York
10016, Tel.: (212) 685 9007, Fax: (212) 481 3252
- Jim Rogers recently wrote a book on his tour of the world on a R100RT.
His book is "Investment Biker On the Road with Jim Rogers" (new book)
- Ed Culberson wrote a book describing his crossing of the Darien Gap
on his '81 R80G/S (Amigo) in 1985. The book is called "Obsessions Die Hard".
ISBN 0-937281-04-2, The book is currently out of print, but you can order
a spiral bound xerox of it for $17.95 + $2 s&h from Teakwood Press in
Kissimmee, FL, 800/654-0403 (excellent book)
- Danny Liska traveled the Americas by motorcycle from Alaska to
Tierra Del Fuego on an R60 and described it in his book "Two Wheels to Adventure".
This is great picture book and full of interesting tidbits of info, however the
cliche overkill writing style made it hard for me to finish reading.
availible through Whitehorse Press (800) 531-1133. $37.
- Richard & Maupsa English wrote a book: "Full Circle: Around the World with
a Motorcycle and Sidecar". (out of print)
- Peter Femming did a trip around the world starting in Australia. The
book is called "Motorcycle Touring and Travel". (out of print)
- Thomas Fuller is doing a trip on a Honda through Europe, Asia & USA.
He put out an article on his experiences in the International Herald Tribune
Sept 2, 1994 pg 8 entitled "World Biker". The article talks about his
experiences in India, Albania and Texas.
- Bernd Tesch has a boook on Africa Motorcycle traveling. ISBN
3-9800099-2-0. cost is DM 26.80. It's only availible in German. Call
Tesch travel 0241/33636 (Germany)
- "Travels with Rosinante" by Bernard Magnouloux, 1988 ISBN 0-586-20828-3
was recommended to me. It details Bernard Magnouloux's trip around the world
by bicycle. I'm told it's loaded with good information as well as appendices
covering general info and country specific info.
Choose a Vehicle:
Which motorcycle to choose:
Calling from experiences of traveling through South East Asia by motorcycle,
the bike will need to be suited for situations where road conditions can
can be as bad as no road at all.
Nothing can compare to a pure dirt bike that seems to
prefer bad conditions. However this class of bike can be extremely
uncomfortable on long trips. The dual sport class bike was invented for
just this reason creating a hybrid between a cruising bike and a dirt bike.
Examples of dual sport bikes would be:
My wife and I chose to go with a BMW R100GS and an R80G/S which I've
added custom PD extensions. It might be an advantage for us to have the same
bike however for part exchanges. The important spare parts that we'll be
carying such as spare ignition system is for the most part interchangeable.
The primary reasons for choosing these bikes are:
To see the net discussion on this topic,
- very reliable
- easy access maintenance; relatively easy to do repair work on this bike.
- off-road suspension system.
- can purchase a 12 gallon tank which should be good for 450 miles.
- relatively lower compression which allows for low octance fuels.
- good luggage systems available
- air cooled
- comfortable dual sport ride
In preparation, I've been teaching myself about motorcycle maintenance and
repair. I've been compiling information on BMW motorcycles particularly in
this area and keep the info on line. see
BMW (R) motorcycles
Also, I run the bmw-tech mailling list for techinical discussions on bmw
A couple good reference books on maintenance and repair for BMW motorcycles
- Clymer BMW R Motorcycle 1970-1988
- Haynes BMW R Motorcycle 1970-1993
Later Note: The Yamaha Tenerre bikes (esp. XT500) are choice bikes
for North Africa Desert crossings due to reliability, fixability, and other
dirt bike characteristics. For crossing deserts, lightness of the bike
counts for alot. A true dirt bike might be almost half the weight of a BMW GS.
If I were considering a dirt bike, I would look into this one.
Modifications to the motorcycle:
I have a stock '92 BMW R100GS that I'm starting with.
- Got an extended fuel tank. Up to 15 gallon tanks are available which
would allow up to 600 miles between refueling. I've found some
for various extended gas tanks. I decided to go with the Acerbis 10.5 gallon
tank for the R80G/S. I like the low forward weight distribution with this tank.
This tank won't work with the R100GS since the oil cooler and roo bars get
in the way. I'm considering a custom aluminum tank from Evan Wilcox (an aluminum smith).
- outfit with bash plate (protects the oil pan) and skid plate (protects the
exhaust). BMW sells both of these. However, an after market vendor promises
to have skid plates available for the R100GS for half the price very soon.
- luggage system. Hepco-and-Becker and Darr both manufacture aluminum
saddle bags. The advantage of Al is that if they are impacted, they will
likely only be dented in which case they can be pounded back out. Plastic
could shatter. I picked up some AL boxes from Bernd Tesch in Aachen, Germany.
He also makes a custom frame which is stronger than the R100GS rear sub frame.
Advantage of Tesch's box's and frame over all others is that in the event of
a crash, the driver is protected from the bike falling over on his legs.
The box/frame will support the bike off the drivers legs. Also, Tesch
sells mounts for up to four 10L gerry cans that mount to the AL boxes.
I've attached two of these. Very nice for extending mileage between gas pumps.
Al Jesse has developed a nice set of AL panniers that conform to the contours
in the rear maximizing storage space and minimizing width. Al Jesse's panniers
store 100L and sell for US$1000. (they're worth the price) I've ordered
some of these for the R80G/S.
- hand protectors, heated hand grips. When driving in cool rain for long
distances, these become necessities.
- volt meter to notify driver if the charging system is working.
A charging system failure unnoticed can leave one stranded with a dead battery.
If notified in advance, shutting down non-essential electrical components
like the head light, starter, etc, can extend the range on the beemer
by a factor of 3. The R100GS doesn't have a nice way to mount a stock
BMW voltmeter. I ended up with a digital LED voltmeter sold by Aerostitch
for $54. It's made by flight products international. I mounted this inside
the hand protector on the accelerator side. For the R80G/S, I'll likely go
with a stock VDO or motometer voltmeter.
- Fiam "extra loud" dual horns for moving those Water buffalos out of
the way and commanding a little more respect from other drivers :-)
- Parabelum makes a big wind screen which will make things much more
comfortable than the tiny stock wind screen.
- I've heard rumors of modification to the alternator or charging system
that will give maximum wattage output at around 2000rpm instead of 4000rpm.
The R100GS has a meek 280W max output charging rate.
Since travel through some areas will be at slow speeds. I will need to look
into this. I'm a little wary of modifications to the ignition system.
It wouldn't be worth it if it made the ignition system is less reliable.
Also, 3500rpm is the recommended low end rpm for the BMW engines for extended
periods. Slower speeds may put more wear on the engine bearings.
Here's a higher power modification.
- Picked up a cleanable Uni air foam filter
so that I won't have to carry additional air filters. More info on
- I've removed the fuel/vapor solenoids. This will save approximately
27watts, and will help out warm starting problems that plague R100GS with
- I've added a fog light with mesh stone protector which mounts onto
the GS's crashbar. I wished for one of these one rainy night while driving
along a nasty ~100km pot holed road on Flores, Indonesia. It uses a
relatively common found Halon H3 bulb of which I carry spares.
- I've added a front head light switch. Primary reason for this is to
save power either during a charging system failure or if driving at low engine
rpms for an extended period. Also, in places like Thailand, everyone will let
you know that you have *accidentally* left your headlight on if it's
on during the day.
Motorcycle related things to take along
- BMW tire repair kit. This kit not only comes with the stuff to mend
the tire, but also comes with 3 CO2 cartridges for filling up the tire. cool.
Ted Simon (Jupiter's Travels) mentions a cylinder adaptor that will fill a tire
from pressure from a spark plug hole, provided the other cylinder is running.
check it out... carry a small bicycle pump. BMW makes one that slides
up into the frame, however mine has never worked.
- pocket charger. BMW makes a 230mA pocket size battery charger available
for both 230V and 120V.
Umgo sells 500ma one for about $13. Yuasa also makes a 1 amp charger for ~$20.
I've opted for the 1 amp, since I'll be using it in emergency situations, and
1 amp versus 500ma halves the time spent in a potentially unpleasant place.
The tradeoff being the 1 amp charger takes up an extra 3 cubic inches, and
can more easily overcharge the battery.
- jumper cables. While jumper cables take up a lot of space, without
them, it may make a rescue more difficult. If a kick start was installed,
this would not be as crucial. However, general concensus is that a BMW will
not start with a kick start or push on a dead battery. I haven't confirmed
this yet. I've fitted some small motorcycle jumper cables between the airbox
and the frame.
- small multimeter for electrical diagnostics
- I picked up an oil cooler bypass kit. If the oil cooler or oil cooler line
gets ruptured, this will prevent being stranded. ~$39. from Cal BMW.
- extra bolts, nuts and washers. I hate it when I take off a nut and it
slips out of my big hands into some inaccessible crack. That could be a real
drag without an hardware store nearby.
- All tools necessary for maintenance. The BMW tool kit comes close. Include
a sockets and a torque wrench plus metric hex and alan sockets.
Some of the open ended wrenches are two short for the torque needed.
I've been compiling a list of tools I use everytime I tear up the bike.
- spare oil. Since cars and motorcycles exist everywhere in the world,
I'm not worried about finding the oil I need. I'll just take enough to top
off what gets burned off.
- small film size container of some MoS2 grease.
- emergency concentrate octane booster. Rumor has it that places in
Africa exist that sell 70 or lower octane level fuel. I hope to get around
this by carrying more higher octane fuel with the huge gas tank, but just
in case. This rumor came from Jupiter's Travel (mid 70s info) and other
sources. I'll probably cary a couple ounce one shot deal.
- Bulb kit containing headlight, turn signal and spare brake light bulbs.
- set of spare cables, (clutch, throttle)
- spare plugs. including one set of cooler plugs depending on
type of driving done. I'm concerned with driving the engine at low speeds
for an extended period.
- I'm working on a parts list of repair related small parts.
- set of drive shaft bolts. These four bolts need to be replaced if
they are removed. cary a spare set.
- Complete ignition system parts for swapping. (rotor, diode board,
ignition coil(maybe), ignition wires, regulator, ignition trigger,
control unit, spark plugs) Fortunately, this packs up small.
- spare rear and front tire + tire iron. This takes up a huge amount
of space, and is cumbersome to carry. A replacement tire may not be
available within the distance that a tire patch will last. An alternative
idea is to take along inner tubes for the tubeless tires. This will help
extend the distance of a punctured tire. Typical lifespan of a Metzler
Sahara 3 is 5k rear, 10k front (YMMV). Avon Gripster's may give more than
twice the life at half the cost.
- duct tape and tie wire. duct tape saves the day.
- List of parts vendor phone numbers that will ship overseas. I'll
bring a parts catalog too.
- pantyhose. This can be stuck in the air intake to keep sand out when
crossing the Sahara desert :-)
As far as parts I may need while in the middle of no where, I'm planning
to take along a couple phone numbers of part suppliers in the US.
Since there isn't a BMW parts dealer in Champaign IL, I'm use to mail ordering
all of my parts. I figure it won't be much different in Zaire, except
that the mail order parts supplier should have a relationship with an
international delivery service. Most places deal with FedEx, and since FedEx
acquired Flying Tigers international should be covered. I checked with DHL for
shipping costs. Delivery of a drive shaft (which is likely the heaviest
item to fail) from the US to Zaire would cost about $228 with a 4 day delivery.
$196 to Argentina with a 5 day delivery. For such a rare severe failure,
this seems a reasonable price. However, for smaller things more likely
to fail, it's a good incentive to take some spare parts. I haven't checked
prices with Flying Tigers (FedEx). DHL phone number in US is 1-800-225-5345
international is 1-602-921-8831.
Calling from experiences in South East Asia, I think it is possible to
live on < $500 per month in third world countries. There is a little
slack factored in there to help average out costs in more expensive countries,
and also the occasional splurge tendencies. This includes food and
housing. In many of the countries in South East Asia, I was able to
get a meal from between $.20 to $2.00 with an average around $1.00.
I'm hoping that bringing a tent along should bring down the housing costs
in North America and Europe. A camping stove should help with costs of
food in these same countries. However, the five months I spent traveling
SE asia, I'm glad I didn't cary a tent or stove because there wasn't much
opportunity or desire to use them. Campings sights are for a leisure activity
that doesn't exist in many third world country cultures.
For gas, I'm figuring 60k miles / 38 mpg = 1,600 gallons x $2.00 per gallon
= $3,200. The cost of gas varies radically depending on the country so does
mileage. One of the cheapest places in the world to buy gas is in the USA.
Oil producing countires like middle east, S SE Asia, Central and
Northern S America, I expect the cost to be around the same or cheaper.
On the other extreme, I paid over $4 per gallon in Scandinavia.
I just returned from Germany where gas was $5 per gallon (66% tax).
It's cheaper to fuel up in Belgium ~$2.5 per gallon and then drive through
Germany if I can carry enough fuel. For prices on South and Central
American Gas, click here.
Tires I think are the most expensive maintenance cost. Currently I'm
considering Avon Gripster. 1 rear tire costs $80 and lasts >10k miles.
Front tire costs ~$60 and lasts ~15k miles. Total cost is $720.
Metzler Sahara 3 is one of the nicest tires all around, but is costly
and has a short life span. Estimated costs with Sahara 3's is $2000.
More tire info here. Of course, choice of tire is dependent on
availability in the area that I'll need it.
I'm figuring on $8 of oil per change x 15 times = $120. oil filter is
$7 x 15 times = $105. oil gaskets = $1 x 15 times = $15.
The R100GS is known for having driveshaft u-joint failures around 30-50
thousand miles. This is $250 part replacement in the US. Three times
this price in Isreal.
An amount of money should be set aside for surprise repairs along the
way. Depending on how much of an optimist I am at the time of departure
will determine this amount.
The route and time will be influenced by how well the money situation is
holding out. If money is running short, the trip is sped up.
Other travel related web sites
Bernd Tesch has been researching round the world trips by motorcycle for the
last 15-20 years and has published a couple books on the subject (in German).
He is an excellent source of information and runs a shop which custom
makes equipment for this kind of travel. He has a catalog available for travel
equipment and can be reached at:
Zur Fernsicht 18
Some more info on Bernd Tesch