A solo trip to Mongolia on a 125cc

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by guerreronegro, Apr 18, 2020.

  1. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    This is a ride report I am reconstructing from a series of diary entries I did while I was on the road. I figured it is a good time to write now with the quarantine. It is also my first report on this site so I will try to do my best with it. I do not speak the English language as my mother tongue so excuse the funny expressions and grammar mistakes.
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    For many years I had this idea in my head of doing the Mongol Rally by car but in the end, I was not able to form a team, so I decided to do it in 2019 by myself in a motorcycle. I had been preparing this trip for about a year and a half. I finally joined the 2019 Mongol Rally edition in late November 2018. The main thing about this rally is the engine size restrictions. This meant I had to look for a good reliable 125cc horse that would take me from my home in northern Spain to Mongolia; and possibly back. I wanted something comfortable and solid. I decided to go for the Honda Varadero XL125 which is based to a great extent in a Transalp. One decisive factor was its large fuel tank which allows for 350 km on a single deposit without plugging reserve. I met this way Juan who sold it to me it in a mint state with only 9,000 Km. I had to go to Catalonia by train and ride it back 600 Km so I had a good test run. Juan gave me the bike full of goodies such as crash bars, auxiliary lights, a 12v output, KTM windshield bolted on top of the original, hand guards and a plastic top case. Acknowledging the limitations in terms of weight and power I was very happy with my almost new Varadero.
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    The bike in stock form is, of course, more oriented to road use rather than dirt tracks but really it is no compromise between comfortability, load capacity, and all-terrain in the 125cc segment so this would have to do. I spent some time doing some modifications to it though. With a friend, we cut and curved a piece of metal for a skid plate as they didn’t sell an aftermarket one. I bought those cheap neoprene protectors for the front suspension and fitted one from a quad to prevent dust going in the rear shock absorber. I also installed all the auxiliary switches and mounts on an auxiliary bar on top of the handlebar. Changed the exhaust for a Leovince. I figured if I was to be riding this thing for a long time at least I will be hearing a better melody. Also, it weighted much less compared to the stock one. I also took with me a -1 tooth sprocket to have a bit more torque in the difficult sections of the trip like the Pamirs. The last thing I will be doing was fitting a second mudguard in case I broke the original one.
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    Shortly after, I moved to the Hunan province in China for 3 months, so I said goodbye to the project for the time being… Yes, very close to the center of coronavirus in Wuhan which I happened to visit before all this mess started to happen.

    I came back home at the end of June and started to get ready as I was to start my trip in just 12 days. While I was away, I contacted some companies for sponsorship in terms of material and spares, a couple of newspapers and Internet media to give visibility to a fundraising campaign I started for two NGOs (one requirement of the Mongol Rally is to fundraise a minimum of 800 GBP). I also sorted out all the visas, paperwork, insurance, money exchange for different currencies and final adjustments to the bike. My idea was to do this trip on a budget of around 2500 EUR not including the bike and all expenses I had covered so far.
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    I ride daily a motorcycle, do some enduro and gone on small trips but this was truly my first time doing a trip of such magnitude and I had all the fears associated, especially riding a 125cc. I packed everything and tested the Varadero a few days before departure to see how it handled loaded.

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    All I had to do now was to wait for the 14th of July.
    #1
  2. allroadtoine

    allroadtoine Been here awhile

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    I'm in !!
    #2
  3. rodrigzj

    rodrigzj Been here awhile

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    Following
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  4. ricochetrider

    ricochetrider MotoMojo

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    I'll follow this one!
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  5. Xcntry

    Xcntry Ride More!!!

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    Definitely in for this one great start so far!!
    #5
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  6. nashopolis

    nashopolis Been here awhile

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    Can’t wait to follow along
    #6
  7. 9w6vx

    9w6vx Adventurer

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    Following .............. Nice !
    #7
  8. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Grampy

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    Here we go...
    #8
  9. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    I wasn't aware of the V twin 125 Varadero. Looks good. This should be great - I need lock-down entertainment.
    Cheers.
    #9
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  10. johnnybgood8

    johnnybgood8 Been here awhile

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    This is what I like. Detailed, with good size photos and proper text.
    #10
  11. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    The day arrived. We were told we should be in Prague on the 21st of July. That gave me 7 days to make it without rushing it. At the beginning, I was not sure whether I should go through France aiming for Strasbourg and then into Germany or take a detour through the Alps. This route through France has a name here in Spain known as “la subterranea” (the underground) as it avoids all toll related roads which in France are many. In the end, I decided to go east towards Catalonia, then cross the Pyrenees and then the Alps into Italy. I wanted to stick to secondary roads if possible mostly due to the bike I was riding and this proved to be the perfect plan. From there onwards I would see which route to take once in Turin. It happened to be the case that I had some friends on the way which were aware of the rally and invited me to spend the night at their home. I still did not know accurately how much ground I was going to be able to cover on the Varadero and how comfortable I would be on it so I will tell them on the go.
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    Without much hesitation I woke up at 8 AM, had my last breakfast at home and said goodbye to my family. They were not too enthusiastic about it at the beginning but will soon change their minds. The destination for today was Olesa de Montserrat, 380 miles approx. I started my day on what used to be a toll road now dismantled for about 32 miles, the AP-1 from Burgos to Pancorbo. The Varadero with the stock sprocket was able to maintain decently 60 mph fully loaded with 110 pounds of equipment plus 176 pounds of me although I was going to lose a lot along the way. If I had favourable conditions like wind or going downhill, I would even reach its top speed of 75 very close to the 13,000 RPM redline all the time. I wanted to think this was normal and that this kind of engines will take this abuse like nothing. At least that’s what I was told, that and I had to change the oil every 3,000 miles. I was stopped by a couple of Guardia Civil very surprised to see the bike so loaded and they just let me go after 2 min of chit chat.
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    I continued the way from Pancorbo to Logrono passing many wineries and nice landscapes between La Rioja and the Basque Country region. I used to work in this area before, so I didn’t stop too much other than to have a coffee and refuel. The Varadero did not have a fuel gauge so I had to reset the odometer every time I refuelled. I didn’t want to risk it and stopped every 120 miles just to be on the safe side. To my surprise, I was not able to put much more than 4 litres which meant my range was beyond 400 miles. Although the weather was sunny, there was a lot of wind especially on open roads and that is what I encountered between La Rioja and Aragon. I carried some homemade food with me, so I stopped in a forest north of the Monegros desert to have a bite. I had been in contact with another rider, Simon, doing the rally from London who happened to be around in Sariñena in a festival, 15 km from where I stopped, but I already agreed with Juan I will be making it to Olesa de Montserrat that afternoon so I decided to carry on. Simon and I would be riding together later on while in Turkey so there will be time to catch up. And yes, this Juan was the same person who sold me the Varadero a few months before and when he found out I was doing this he told me to come to visit him again.
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    I kept going and refuelling every 120 miles to monitor the consumption but kept getting a very optimistic result. I wondered if this was due to the bike being in an almost new condition. Once in Catalonia the route I took until Solsona was not that exciting and I was starting to get exhausted. Maps kept telling me an ETA way too optimistic and at the end of the day I was covering in one day 380 miles at an average speed of 55 mph. Luckily from Solsona to Manresa; and then to Olesa was much curvier and time went by fast. Juan was waiting for me as I arrived. Together we adjusted the preload on the rear suspension to match the extra weight I was carrying and then we had some dinner with his wife. He suggested me an itinerary for tomorrow crossing the Pyrenees and visiting the Carcassonne castle so that’s what I would be doing. I was quite grateful for him to let me sleep in his place, in the end, the budget I was projecting had in mind a lot of camping and cooking yet to do.
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    #11
  12. steved57

    steved57 Been here awhile Supporter

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    I'm in - this looks great so keep it coming
    #12
  13. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Looking forward to following along on your adventure @guerreronegro! And here I thought the ride you did in Baja was cool, this is seriously neat! I can't imagine doing that many miles on a small displacement bike like that, especially with 110lbs of gear loaded on it :eekers :eekers

    Keep the updates coming, this is going to be great :thumb :thumb
    #13
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  14. Joeboblglt

    Joeboblglt Adventurer

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    I’m in! Thank you for doing this!
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  15. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Been here awhile

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    Keep it coming. I love this type of minimalist small bike report and you have a very natural writing style.

    Ride safe,

    TaZ9
    #15
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  16. James59

    James59 Adventurer

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    Fantastic. Well done, that's great. Love to Espana.
    #16
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  17. JimRidesThis

    JimRidesThis Local celebrity

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    Hola! I’m coming along for the ride! :thumb
    #17
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  18. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    What a great report so far! I love these "little bike does big things" reports! I'm all the way in on this ride.
    #18
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  19. Gedrog

    Gedrog 1000 mile stare a 1000 stories to tell

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    It is going to be a bum burner like this guy did
    https://advrider.com/3000-miles-the-long-way-round-britain-on-a-125cc/
    #19
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  20. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2020
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    55
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    Christmas Island
    Today I was set to cross into France. After having breakfast at around 9 AM, I said goodbye to Roser, Juan's wife. Before departing they prepared me a sandwich and gave me some fruit to carry. I said thanks and stored it on the fuel tank bag I was carrying. Juan came with me with his V-Strom to signal me the roundabout to exit Olesa and head towards Manresa. Today I did not know my final destination. Juan gave me a paper with the villages I should pass by until Carcassonne. I wanted to try to be less dependent on GPS instructions, so I put it somewhere visible and started the day like this. Traffic in this area is intense in the morning as most of the people living in these towns head to work towards Barcelona and other industrial towns. I stopped after separating from Juan in the first Repsol gas station and filled the deposit. Today I wanted to monitor exactly how much this beast was consuming because after yesterday I was quite mesmerized.
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    From Manresa to Ribes de Freser I took the motorway to minimize time on the road. I wanted to spend some time seeing the Carcasonne castle. That meant I had to start to get used on being overtaken by all sorts of lorries and trailers while riding on the right lane. I figured it was better to break the ice here anyways, what was waiting for any rider up ahead in Central Asia was going to be nothing compared to this. I stopped in Ribes de Freser to stretch and have a coffee; and probably what was the last bite of Spanish gastronomy in the form of “tapas”. I carried with me a Bluetooth keyboard I paired with my phone and while filling the stomach I wrote the diaries from day 1 and day 2 so far. I had to embrace this routine for the remaining days on the road since this was going to be my only memory besides the photos I was taking.
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    The fun roads were waiting up ahead as I headed to La Molina Sky resort with an altitude of 8,022 ft. There were many sporty motorcycles on the very narrow roads heading there. The hill incline was not the best terrain for the Varadero, it had to go in second and third gear all the way wide open not passing 30 mph. If it wasn’t for it being liquid-cooled I am not sure if I would have passed of day 2. I had to stop briefly at the very top to let it cool down a bit and also took some pictures. I stopped one more time in Puigcerda to fill the deposit with cheap petrol before making it into France. What waited up ahead was breath-taking scenery and more curvy narrow roads with almost zero traffic crossing the Pyrenees. Unfortunately, the micro SD card I had with the first section of this trip was corrupted so I only have photos with the phone. To one extent I did not mind the lack of power as I was able to enjoy the landscape all the way down and passing the canyon following river L’aude. I stopped in one rest area in this canyon to eat my sandwich and drink some natural water from the river. Up ahead there were some road maintenance people signalling two trucks struggling to fit in the super narrow road passing a tunnel. I was able to squeeze myself between them and kept riding until Carcassonne.
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    I arrived at 5 pm and the whole place was filled with tourists. There was a designated area to park the motorcycles and asked a couple of riders in my rusty French if it was safe to leave the bike there loaded up and they said to not worry about it. I left my helmet locked with a cable and took the fuel tank bag which contained all my valuables. The castle is in perfect shape. All castles we have back in northern Spain are mostly destroyed from past wars so I was very impressed to see a 1.9 mile periphery citadel inhabited apparently by 50 active residents. The whole citadel dates back from the Roman period being taken by Visigoths, Muslims, and different Crowns afterwards. The castle itself dates from the 12th century and there is a total of 52 towers. Definetly worth the stop.
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    Now I only had to find a place to sleep and since I was not a fan of staying in any major city I kept going east towards Narbonne. I found a nice camping area called Camping Figurotta. Paid 20 EUR and pitched the tent, washed some clothes, prepared dinner and called my friend Francesco in Turin to see if he was around to plan my itinerary for tomorrow. Oh, and for the fuel consumption I did the math with the receipts I had while having dinner and covered 610 km on day 1 with 22.4 litres of standard petrol. That made about 3.67 litre per 100 km or about 64 MPG. I couldn’t be happier. Today I covered 230 miles.
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    I am attaching also the gpx files of each day so far.

    Attached Files:

    #20
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