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Old 08-25-2014, 03:59 AM   #1
sh4kes OP
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Canning Stock Route Unsupported 2014

I got home about a month ago from a 4 month blast around Australia. I covered a few of the iconic tracks (Canning Stock Route, Gibb River Road, Cape York), and wimped out of the Simpson Desert due to limited sand riding experience (at the time). I'll document the whole ride in a separate report, but here's the Canning Stock Route.

Canning Stock Route
The Canning Stock Route (or CSR) is an 1800km long track in the outback of Australia that traverses three deserts. It is known to be one of the toughest tracks in Australia due to soft sand, hundreds of dunes, intensely corrugated sections, and sheer distance and isolation. It's a given that if your bike breaks down out here it's unlikely you'll be able to get it out without a recovery bill of around $10k. It's usually a "hide it in the bush, hitch a ride out and come back later" deal (if you're lucky). There's plenty of grim reminders of this with numerous burnt out wrecks of both bikes and 4x4's along the route. The CSR is also famous for only having one fuel stop over 1600km! It's generally accepted that you must carry (or have carried for you by a vehicle) around 70L of fuel, and 10L of water (minimum). There are a number of deaths along the track - usually unprepared people, and those traversing the track in summer. (As an idea the temperatures can reach 50C in the summer, and still touch the low 40's (celcius) in the winter!) You must be resourceful and carry all required spares, food, and water to survive an extra day or two in the desert. That said, the track has become more popular in the later years, and there are plenty of 4x4's on the track that can often lend assistance.


The CSR

Over the next few days I'll be slowly getting my act together and getting the rest of the RR typed and and photos sorted, but for now, here's day 1, plus some teasers that I'll slowly move to the appropriate day as I write it.

Teasers

Jack's KTM700RR


Evan's DR650


Steve's XR650


Exiting Wolfe Creek Crater


KTM down


Lake Gravity


Re-attaching a runaway jerry can


Digging holes in dunes


At Lake Disappointment


Battered and speared jerries

Day 1 - Halls Creek to Lake Gregory
We set off in the morning to the petrol station to meet a Cam and Jess in their ute, and each filled up to the brim with 95 octane, knowing that from here on in was Opal unless we struck it lucky. Cam and Jess are old friends of mine that just so happened to be in the area on their own trip, so joined us for part of the Stock route. We still carried all our own fuel, water, food, etc to challenge ourselves to do it unsupported.


Al loaded up (minus fuel) and ready to set off

Just a quick note, Steve wore though his chain slider riding up to Broome to meet Jack and I (the chain has started to grind into the swingarm and weld). We couldnt get a replacement slider in Broome, but we managed to find an XR250 slider (which was a little short). This was bodged into place, fingers crossed.

Fuel loads (these are from memory, so correct if I'm wrong guys):
* Evan - 70L total (35L in my Safari tank, 2x 10L jerries in my panniers, a 10L bladder and 5L jerry strapped on top of each side of my panniers)
* Jack - 62L total (28L tank, 2x 12L + 1x 10L fuel bladders)
* Steve - 74L total (24L tank, 2x 20L jerries strapped to his custom bash plate, 1x 10L bladder)

After filling up and figuring out how to strap down our newly filled bladders we took off for Wolfe Creek meteorite crater. It's certainly worth the visit if you're driving past, but not worth the drive from Halls Creek just to see it (IMO). It was during our drive into Wolfe Creek crater that Steve mentioned my back end was bouncing around a bit. Turns out my rear shock was blown. Not a great start, but I'll just have to take her easy.


Wolfe Creek Meteorite crater

After the crater we high tailed it to Billiluna to get fuel, arriving there around 1pm. Oh snap...turns out the community store has a siesta, and was closed until 2pm. At 2pm the store doors open and the line up of drivers floods inside to get fuel cards. We thought that since there were two pumps and the others were all diesel we might be able to pump our opal at the same time. No dice. There's only a single card reader, so it was back to being patient.


Learning to be patient

Around 3pm we finally rolled out of the community - a little later than we'd planned so we decided to just ride until about 4:30, then look for a suitable spot to stop. The road was nicely graded for about 50km, then we hit the track! I noticed my back end felt a bit squirrely, but thought it was a combination of blown rear shock, heavy load, and sand. Rode for about 15km, then checked the tire. Flat!! It's now 4pm. I quickly offload my bags and remove tire and find out the apprentice in the bike shop in Broome replaced my heavy duty tube he pinched when changing my tires with a regular duty tube!! I put in my spare heavy duty tube.




Bback on the track around 5pm. Find a nice camp spot 10 minutes up the road near Lake Gregory. Setup camp, have dinner, then fix the flat on the normal duty tube. Looks like a lever pinch - most likely the bike shop again!! Not happy.


Night 1 - Lake Gregory

sh4kes screwed with this post 08-27-2014 at 06:22 PM
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Old 08-26-2014, 03:29 AM   #2
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I'm in, keep the pics and words coming.

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Old 08-26-2014, 06:38 AM   #3
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Old 08-26-2014, 06:51 AM   #4
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This is exactly the thread I'm looking for!! So stoked to hear you did this, but I may need you to hook me up with some information!

I am planning on doing this route next year on a KTM 690 Enduro like the 700 up there but not as cool looking. How did you go with fuel consumption? I saw you posted he was carrying 62L. How did you find the km / litre fuel consumption? And where abouts did you fuel up between Halls Creek and Wiluna! it's really concerning, I've heard its 950km from Wiluna to Kunawarritji (from what I've heard is the most common fuel drop or town??), and from Kunawarritji to Halls Creek is a further 850km!

I also have a friend on a KTM 530, how much fuel would you suggest for him?

I am really looking forward to the rest of this RR, def excited!
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Old 08-27-2014, 07:49 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Wanted View Post
This is exactly the thread I'm looking for!! So stoked to hear you did this, but I may need you to hook me up with some information!

I am planning on doing this route next year on a KTM 690 Enduro like the 700 up there but not as cool looking. How did you go with fuel consumption? I saw you posted he was carrying 62L. How did you find the km / litre fuel consumption? And where abouts did you fuel up between Halls Creek and Wiluna! it's really concerning, I've heard its 950km from Wiluna to Kunawarritji (from what I've heard is the most common fuel drop or town??), and from Kunawarritji to Halls Creek is a further 850km!

I also have a friend on a KTM 530, how much fuel would you suggest for him?

I am really looking forward to the rest of this RR, def excited!
THe KTM was converted from EFI to carby, and drank the most fuel. Because it didnt get to the half way point under it's own steam I cant give you an accurate figure on fuel consumption, but I'll do my best to guesstimate.

From Billiluna to Kunwartji (spell check both) is approx 650km of predominantly soft sand. Fuel consumption for this leg was:
* DR650 - 45L (14.44 km/L)
* XR650 - 50L (13 km/L)
* KTM 700 converted to carby - 55L (guesstimate)
Bear in mind most of the 650km was lugging through soft sand in second gear, so those were our worst case figures.

The second leg from Kunwartji to Willuna is approx 950km long. The first part is a lot of soft sand, however the last approx 300km (from well 10 to Willuna) is mainly hard packed, so good fuel economy. There is also the option to cut out to Cotton Creek (Panngur) for Opal (although call first as this is not guaranteed). The route to Cotton Creek is from Georgia Bore (near well 23) via the Talawana Track (80km each way). It's a good road due to a mining group setting up shop at Lake Disappointment, and you can sit on 110km for almost the entire 160km round trip. We filled up at Cotton Creek (although in the end we actually didnt need to as we would have had enough fuel) and I clocked 765km from Cotton Creek to Willuna.

Your final option is to cut out from Well 9 to Carnegie Station for fuel. I've done this in a 4x4 a few years back, and the track from the Canning to Carnegie was excellent back then.

Fuel consumption in the second leg wasnt measured, but I would have comfortably made it from Kunawartji to Willuna with 70L fuel total.

And as a final note, riding economically the DR650 will do 20 km/L on the tarmac. Giving her a bit of herb she'll do around 17-18 km/L, so the 14.4 km/L isnt too bad!

Fuel prices (from memory):
* $3.60/L @ Kunawartji
* $3.00/L @ Cotton Creek (no bowser, just estimate quantity and suck on a hose to siphon out of a barrel)
* Billiluna I cant remember - it was somewhere in the $2.XX mark though.

All in all, I'd suggest 70L of fuel for the bottom "half" of the CSR, and 55L of fuel for the top "half" of the CSR. If you're part of a group and look like you're running short just put all your fuel into one bike and he can nip ahead the last 50km and fill some jerries and bring it back.

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Old 08-27-2014, 09:30 AM   #6
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Day 2 - Well 50 to Well 46

Location: Well 50 (Lake Gregory) to Well 46
Distance travelled today: Approx 180km
Total distance travelled (of 1800km): 424km

Woke up at 6am, packed up camp, and got on the track around 8am. (Had a bit of a leisurely breakfast and a good check over of the bikes.) Cam and Jess were ready to leave around 7:30am, and as we were sure we were faster than them in a 4x4, we said go ahead and we'll catch up. Well, that turned out to be a fateful comment...it wasn't until day 4 and a spray painted note on the track we re-located them! More on that in a later post.

Today the track started to become more of the "true" Canning Stock Route (CSR) as we started to get into more sandy sections, heaps of "slappy sticks", and far too many termite mounds. The CSR is a particularly nasty style of track for an unsupported rider. The track is traversed predominantly by 4x4's, and as such can be imagined as two wheel ruts carved through a sandy desert for the bulk of it's 1800km length. Inbetween the wheel ruts is a soft sand mound, and along each side of the track there are long sections of bushes. I dont mean just bushes every 50m or so, I mean a constant line of sticks trying to spear you - AKA "slappy sticks". The 4x4's nip through these tracks and clip the trees back to the edge of each wheel rut, which is awesome for them, but not, as you could imagine, for a biker with pannier bags!! So here we are, sitting as close to the center of one of the wheel ruts as possible, constantly in a slight front wheel plow along the edge of the center mound of soft sand, with our outside pannier bags (as well as bikes and bodies) being constantly whipped by branches and trees. Every so often the front wheel grabs, and the only hope of staying on the bike it to give it some herb and try and hop over the center and get it together as you land in the opposite rut. Turning corners was also very "slappy", as you tend to lean a motorbike into a corner....or in this case into the sticks! Then there's termite mounds. For those non-Australian's out there, these are nasty little (or big) turds, that are as hard as rock and hide everywhere. The ones that get us as bikers are those right on the edge of the track...which are often hidden in bushes etc. So aside from trying to preserve bags, bikes, and self from the slappy sticks you've got to be extra vilagant with keeping as close to the middle as possible. They also have a name for breaking legs as your toe hooks on one as you zip on past....spiral leg fractures in the middle of a desert track with 1000km between fuel stops is not nice. Anyhow, hopefully now you get an idea of the track...

Back to the story - I am not a good sand rider at the best of times. In fact I avoid riding on any beach tracks because I hate the sand. Maybe I should have done some better research on the CSR, as it is almost all sand!! However, luckily for me the sand started off as reasonably firm, and slowly got softer, so I eased into it. What I can say is it demanded all my concentration to sit as close to the center sand mound as possible. I tried to itch my nose today, maybe 3s worth of hand off the handlebars and I almost crashed!! Another time a tree was half on the track at a corner, and instead of focusing on the corner I focused on not getting beaten by branches. Before I knew it I'd hooked the middle sand, launched over the other side of the track, through a few bushes, up a berm, and got thrown over the front of the bike (at around 60km/hr), using my head and one shoulder as a brake pedal.


Sand sand sand

Steve was finding his "low jerry cans mounts" (off the bash plate) were perhaps a little too low. When he sat in a 4x4 wheel rut he was pretty much plowing the track. He could manage this by careful riding, and more often than not fanging it down the soft sand center ridge. However cornering became a big issue. In the end Steve ended up standing and leaning his body into every corner, while holding the bike upright - which of course meant he took a fair old beating from sticks and branches!! He also speared one of his 20L jerries with a stick today, and has worn through almost all of his ocky straps and tie downs holding his jerry cans on! (On more than one occasion I was riding behind Steve when a jerry bounced off and was dragged 20m down the track before he could stop.) Our makeshift chain slider also went AWOL today!! Now he's back to slowly grinding through his swingarm and weld!! Had an idea to screw part of a chopping board onto the swingarm, but no chopping board!! If we ever catch up with Cam and Jess we'll have to "borrow a piece" off theirs.


Not a great picture, but hopefully you see the problem with the low jerry can mounts when he sits in a rut!!

Jack has had a particularly bad day. He had a slow speed soft sand off early in the day that knocked his confidence a little bit, and a few more offs later in the day that caused him considerable fatigue, especially as late afternoon bore on. His weight is packed very high which would not be helping matters! One of his crashes was when he clipped a termite mound. This popped his bash plate off (and we later found had sheared an 8mm bolt as well as bending part of the bash plate mounting brackets!), tore one of his Kriega saddlebags, and ripped off some of the mounts that held the bags to the racks. Cable ties were used as a temporary measure to hold the bags in place, but these broke so we ended up using the dependable old "piece of rope" to lash them on. Later we found he'd lost his tomohawk and one of his spare tubes out of the rip during the crash.


Re-securing the pannier bags


Inspecting the damage - the mounts were ripped completely off the Kriega bags! Note the three fuel bladders on top of the seat - 34L of fuel up high didnt help!


Picking up fully loaded bikes is balls.

We went as fast as we could all day but never caught up to Cam and Jess due to our numerous problems today!! We later found out they went and checked out a soak (water spring) off the track, and when they got back on the CSR they saw some otorcycle tracks and assumed they were us so kept driving until 7pm trying to catch us. We however were behind them - they were old motorcycle marks, and with only a handheld CB radio we couldnt hear them!! After a long hard day we set up camp at Well 46. (which is drinkable btw - the brown color is due to the Tea Trees nearby leaching into the water - this gets less and less the further south you ride)


Well 46 (which has been restored to working order, including bucket). The generator and pump unit are from another mob pumping water into their tanks!


Flat ground for camping!!

About 10 minutes after arriving a luxury tour group called "Outback Spirit" showed up in two 6x6 Mercedes machines, and two 4x4 Mercedes wagons, each towing trailers. These guys certainly werent roughing it with one of the 6x6's having a pop top shower and flush toilet unit, and the other filled with 8 Engel fridges and freezers!! As one your guide/driver called it, it's "glamping for the scone grabbers" (old folks) as its around $10,000 per person for 3 weeks!!! Anyhow, they smuggled over some cold beers (mores the pity myself and Steve dont drink beer!!), and invited us over for dinner. It turns out the cook always cooks way more than he needs (you'd probably complain too if there wasnt enough food at $10k a pop!!). What they cant eat each night they bury to keep the dingos away. Tuck in boys. Two helpings of gourmet stirfry stuff and we were chokkas!! (Still counts as unsupported though right??? ;p)


4x4 and trailer - note the free space at the back of the trailer....stay tuned for Day 3...


6x6 Merc (electronic diff lockers for all diffs!)

Oh I almost forgot, today we got into our first dunes!! Someone told me there 880 odd dunes total...which is possibly correct. Despite my hatred of sand riding, these dunes were OK. Jack was finding them a bit harder than me with his weight high up (hes a short guy anyways, so it makes it even harder to successfully "outrigger" with his legs when required!). He had a couple of offs where the bike pinned him and we needed to lift the bike off him. Something to be wary of!
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Old 08-27-2014, 08:51 PM   #7
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Day 3 - Well 46 to Well 41 / 42

Location: Well 46 to in between Well 41 and 42
Distance traveled today: Approx 153km
Total distance travelled (of 1800km): 577km

The day started off well, getting packed up early and asked over to have brekky with the Outback Spirit guys. This was a nice touch as it meant no dishes, and we could pack everything away in one go. We also figured that in Jack's infamous termite mound crash yesterday he had also split both his octane booster and spare oil in his pannier bags!! To say it made a mess on the pearly white insides was an understatement. Luckily it was in the bag with all his tools and spares, and no camping equipment or clothes were ruined! We all put fuel into our tanks. Estimated fuel used over the last 400km:
* Evan (DR650) - 16L
* Steve (XR650) - 18L
* Jack (KTM 700 w/carby) - 20L


Evan, Steve, Jack

Today was straight into the sandy stuff. 10km in Jack hooked a bush and got pulled off the track. Later we realised his Contour helmet cam was missing, and this crash was the most likely culprit. As we rode along we came across Jacks chair on the track, probably loosened in the crash. Steve stopped and picked it up but it was broken. I find that once I start to have a crash or two I get frustrated, and more errors start creeping in. It seemed that perhaps this too was what happened to Jack as a little further up the track Steve came around a corner and found jack pinned under his bike. He'd been there for 5 minutes. Jack, being a shorter bloke, and the weight being high up on the bike was unable to get the bike off. As Steve and I lifted the bike off him we found he'd twisted his leg. He could hobble on it, but only just. This was in addition to a fused ankle suffered yesterday. He wasnt in any shape to keep riding (let alone on soft sand). We were fairly close to being half way between the fuel stops, and according to the blokes last night the part we'd done was the easiest part, but even so Jack wouldnt be able to ride back.

And so begins the dilemma...the options were as follows:
* Option 1: Hide the bike off the track in the bush and cover it with a tarp. Record the position on the GPS and come back at a later stage to recover it.
Problems -
1. Try and leave your pride and joy - it takes some serious mulling over
2. Can you find the exact spot again??
3. What are the chances of a fire coming through? (for non-aussies they conduct regular "fuel load reduction" burns out here in the cooler months to prevent out of controlled fires in the hotter months)
4. To come back you'd need a 4x4 and trailer - which Jack didnt have. And borrowing a 4x4 for this track is next to impossible. Its thousands of kilometers from home, and a good 400km into a rough as guts 4x4 track in the middle of a desert. Not most guys idea of "I'll lend you my fourbie for a slab"

* Option 2: Try and ride back the way we'd come
Problems -
A last resort option.

* Option 3: Wait it out and hope someone comes past with a half empty ute tray or similar that would be OK with taking your bike.
Problems -
1. Not many vehicles go past with enough room for a bike. *Maybe* one a day.
2. Of those vehicles not many are willing to put a bike on the back. It sounds selfish, but this is a proper 4x4 track, and they have enough on their plates getting through it themselves. People will always help where practical, offering food, water, and a lift out, but most will tell you that they will not take the bike.


Every option had it's downsides, however Jack was hopeful that he might be able to talk to the Outback Spirit tour and maybe, just maybe, get his bike on the roof of one of the trailers. I got on the blower, and in short order they were pulling alongside. To the oldies on the tour it provided some entertainment, but as soon as they realised what Jack was asking some of them turned disgruntled. There were four guides. Three of them flat out said "nope, we're not taking the bike", but the fourth was receptive. "Nah mate, we'll get it on". Still 3 vs 1....not great odds for Jack. It took a lot of persuasion, but eventually they grudgingly gave in...agreeing to transport the bike as far as possible. Hopefully to the mid-point of the CSR where there was an aboriginal community and a gravel road out. Worst case they'd take the bike off the trailer if it caused a problem and ditch it. They also had one spare seat that Jack could use to get a ride out.

We set about helping them reshuffle gear on the roof trays and soon we'd free'd up enough room on the back of the trailer to fit the bike. During the reshuffling we drained also the fuel from Jacks tanks into Steves and my tanks, and removed all removable items (panniers, tank bag, gps, etc). Up she goes, onto the top of the trailer, down onto her side, and lashed down tightly. We stuffed the rubbish sack underneath to try and protect the fairings, but even so I expected the front "wind breaker" fairing to be torn off by passing trees (luckily for Jack I was wrong!!) We also did a deal with the tour group - we'd camp where they were and give them a hand lifting the bike on / off as required. This would limit our daily progress, but that didnt bother us too much.




Back into it, now only two bikes. The dunes yesterday were relatively small. Today they started to get bigger, with poo run ups. The usual suspect comprised of:
* Ride along the base parallel to the dune
* 90 degree corner at the bottom of the dune
* Ride up the dune with minimal speed carried from the run up. (If you were on an unloaded bike it'd be 10x easier to maintain speed through the corners!!)
* Often the dune would crest and just over the rise the track would promptly change direction again, then dip down in the middle before cresting again
* Ride down the other side, then another 90 degree corner at the base of the dune, riding through deep crisscrossed 4x4 ruts from their varied run-up points.


No dune shots from today, so this will have to do


Steve checking out a burnt out Jeep


The mag wheels have melted, and there was an exploded metal jerry can under the roof tray!

There was however a (lets call it 30km) section (my maps are at my other house) of straight dunes!!!!! Oh boy did we have a ball! The bikes were tracking well and we could flog it up the dunes! Well, about 2:30pm my rear end felt squirrely again. Another rear tyre puncture!!!! I'm super glad Steve was there to help me as I havent done many punctures. Around 5pm we got back on the trail (bead locker problems). The sun was starting to get low, and with the dramas of "KTM down" and the puncture we'd only made 100km today. Besides, we'd made a promise to the tour mob. So we decided, stuff it, lets just smash out the last 50km (even if it's dark). Well, this section of the CSR happened to have a heap of spinifex grass covering the edge of the track, and riding at night meant the grass directly in front of us caught all the light. It was challenging to see ahead, especially as we were riding on sand and had to keep our speed up. The dunes were a particular challenge as we could only see directly ahead of us, & most dunes had a 90 degree at the base, and thus we often realised we were at a dune too late, and hit them too slow! I had a few low speed, soft sand offs. At 6:20pm we rolled into camp. The Outback Spirit guys "made" us eat their leftover dinner again, and even gave us cheesecake and offered us showers!! (It's still unsupported right?) Legends.

We are now around 240km from our mid-way fuel stop. Cam and Jess are still somewhere ahead of us. We keep hearing stories from guys coming north who have talked to them. Apparently they taped a paper note to a well for me, but it was one of the well's Steve and I passed in the dark! I may try to call the aboriginal community tomorrow (via sat phone) and get a note put up so they dont keep pushing ahead to find us!
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Old 08-27-2014, 08:56 PM   #8
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P.s Please let me know if it's too wordy, not enough pics (I actually got lazy many days so dont have too many!), etc. I'm basically copying it down from what I wrote in my diary.
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Old 08-27-2014, 09:26 PM   #9
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It's perfect for me.

Great report.

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P.s Please let me know if it's too wordy, not enough pics (I actually got lazy many days so dont have too many!), etc. I'm basically copying it down from what I wrote in my diary.
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Old 08-28-2014, 06:38 AM   #10
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No such thing as too many pictures or words mate. Great report


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P.s Please let me know if it's too wordy, not enough pics (I actually got lazy many days so dont have too many!), etc. I'm basically copying it down from what I wrote in my diary.
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Old 08-28-2014, 06:47 AM   #11
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Great report man it really is, very interesting to read! I'm kind of intrigued as to why the 700 got a a carby conversion, I would have thought the FI would be a lot more efficient and reliable! I think from all the CSR reports I've read so far, a few months of training specifically in sand wouldn't go amiss before attempting it
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Old 08-28-2014, 07:21 AM   #12
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Keep going - great report. Thanks for taking the time
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Old 08-28-2014, 07:23 AM   #13
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awesome trip!.... y'all got big ones!

i got one word for ya' for tires in the sand.... IRC M5B 140/80
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Old 08-28-2014, 08:21 AM   #14
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Wild stuff and very nice co-campers you got matched up with in the Benzs, some top notch guys for helping out so much.
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Old 08-28-2014, 08:23 AM   #15
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awesome trip!.... y'all got big ones!

i got one word for ya' for tires in the sand.... IRC M5B 140/80
I ran Michelin Deserts front and rear (I did have to grind the edge of the knobs off on the right side of the rear to get it to fit though!) I haven't run (or even heard of) IRC before, but I've been very impressed with the Deserts. (About half tread left @ 5000km)

The punctures I had were from a pinch flat from the bike shop, and a shoddy tube out of the box for my second tube - more on that in a later post.
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