Sahara - XT500 - 1982

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Chris S, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Greetings A Riders.

    Let me tell you how it was back in the day, before the inch-thick Touratech catalog, when you sent postcards not texts (and usually beat them home), when you made your gear out of scrap metal you found in skips, and when you navigated with a rosary, not a GPS. This is the story of my first big motorcycling adventure; a plan to ride across the Sahara to the Ivory Coast on an XT 500 in 1982.

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    #1
  2. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Southern England, 1982. Like a lot of you I was dirt bike crazy, ate US Dirt Bike Magazine in one sitting and spent every spare hour bouncing my bikes off the scenery just for kicks. Here, after a brilliant day on a Cornish beach we got caught by the tide, rode out over the dunes but found ourselves trapped inside an army camp. The only way out was to do a Steve McQueen and jump the gate.

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    #2
  3. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    But man cannot live by jumps alone - he needs an adventure but in the UK we have no Nevadas, no Utahs or Arizonas. We don’t even have a Colorado! We have Welsh bogs. Apart from Doncaster, the nearest bit of wilderness was the Arctic or the Sahara in North Africa. I didn’t know anyone who’d been to the Sahara but figured it must be humanly possible and the Ivory Coast sounded like a nice place to end up. The Sahara Handbook had a lot on Kombis, Range Rovers and Land Cruisers, but just a page and a half on motorcycles: get an XT 500 it said, or get a BMW. They got shaft drive you know.

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    #3
  4. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    So I got an XT (that one I jumped wasn’t mine) and spent weeks preparing it. A mate crashed it into a bus one night so I got some RM forks and a 19” wheel as compensation. A bloke took a month to make an alloy tank that didn’t quite fit. I put on an oil cooler from a Citroen or some such. The rack was made of Dexion industrial shelving, the panniers were sacks and chemical tins with the tops sawn off and hinges put on. When the big day came it was snowing but there was no turning back. I piled on the heaps of junk.
    Like so many first timers before and since, I was massively overloaded but hugely under-equipped.

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    #4
  5. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Here's another shot of the XT so you can be sure how ugly it is.
    I didn't feel that confident, but what can you do? Set off and hope you get over it.

    'Where you gowin on that thing?' a kid sneered at a fuel station on the way to Portsmouth.
    'Afrika, my lad.'
    'No yer not!'

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    #5
  6. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Camping somewhere in France with my trusty Vango tent which tripled in weight when wet and stayed that way for days. Notice how I use a karrimat and duct tape to protect the jerries. A tip from Mr Know-It-All; you wouldnÂ’t want to scratch them.
    All the way down people were waving and shouting 'Rallye, rallye, rallye'. What rally? I'd never heard of the Paris-Dakar Rally back then, but in those days the Frenchies were mad for it and actually thought I was a front runner!

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    #6
  7. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    The idea of staying in a hotel was patently absurd. Here I’m camping in the hills near Cassis, just out of Marseille. I’d been on the road for all of 3 or 4 days and had run out of money already to pay for the ferry to Algiers. This travelling game; it just wasn’t like being at home.
    Nice Alpine Stars. Do they still make them in steel?

    Next stop - Algeria...

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    #7
  8. Benjava

    Benjava ?

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    :lurkthis is great :clap
    #8
  9. sledge

    sledge Been here awhile

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    +1
    #9
  10. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

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    Chris S,

    Amazing, Africa without Touratech? Got to love Old School. Looking forward to the rest!
    #10
  11. aiMhi

    aiMhi Now with Titanium

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    Old's cool, keeping scaning those pic's :clap This looks cool.

    :lurk
    #11
  12. Otis the Sasquatch

    Otis the Sasquatch Long timer

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    You had me at "XT500"!

    In!!!
    #12
  13. Frey Bentos

    Frey Bentos not listening

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    Brilliant. Why havn't you posted this before?????????
    #13
  14. deadbird

    deadbird Very Large Bird

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    Keep it coming. Great stuff.:thumbup
    #14
  15. pirate63

    pirate63 SUPA 10 PILOT

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    Awesome awesome:clap:clap:clap
    Xt500, my first love:D
    #15
  16. airborndad

    airborndad Long timer

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    Awesome so far


    Need MORE

    :clap

    I can already tell this is gonna be really good :ear
    #16
  17. LC8TY

    LC8TY must......find.......fuel

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    Because it's an XT 500 and it took 28 years to get home. :lol3

    Great stuff, bring on the rest of the story. :thumb
    #17
  18. DominicDomingo

    DominicDomingo axe me anything

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    Rallye, rallye, rallye! :lol3
    #18
  19. conchscooter

    conchscooter Long timer

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    I rode to Cameroon in 1979 on an SR500 and lost all the pictures so I am really enjoying this. I remember the jury rigged petrol can holders, the Michelin maps and stupid piles of stones in the desert marking the way. The horrid taste of the artesian water at In Guezzam and the flies in the food and the sand in the chain. How did we trust our lives to crappy clothing, no communications (bliss!) and total ignorance of each step of the way to come? We were privileged to live it.
    #19
  20. Thomas B.

    Thomas B. desert racer

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    Hi,
    I was (and still am) one of the BMW guys and looked the same when I went into the sahara the first time in 87.
    Totally overloaded and with no clue at all. But with an idea and a lot of "I want to".
    I am rerally going to enjoy this. Got good memorys of those years when the Sahara was safe and free to everyone.
    Keep posting and thanks.
    Cheers Thomas
    #20