Beginner tries a RTW on a CRF250L

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Martygarrison, Aug 14, 2018.

  1. Martygarrison

    Martygarrison Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    138
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    This is my first and probably only TR. Shortly after my 60th birthday I decided I wanted to ride a motorbike around the world. Problem was I didn't own nor had ever ridden a motorbike. Thus began my quest.

    First I took a MSF course which was required for a license in Washington DC, my hometown. Next I bought my first ever bike, a new 2016 Honda CRF 250l. I asked a friend of mine to drive it home from the dealer and spent the first two weeks riding around an indoor parking deck as I was pretty nervous about getting out on the streets. I began slowly going outside, not far at first riding around a three mile loop in a local park untold times. After a few weeks I began to venture out further around the DC area, riding north into the Maryland farmlands or east into Virginia towards the Shenandoah. I found a route that required a few miles of gravel as well as pavement and slowly became more comfortable. All the while researching and upgrading the LRP for long distance traveling. Normally I would ride four to six hours at a time and was really enjoying myself.

    A little about me. 62, married and a long time adventurer I suppose. I grew up not far from Yosemite National Park and became hooked on rock climbing at an early age. Still in my teens I climbed El Capitan for the first time. Over the years I would climb El Cap and most all the the Yosemite walls many times. For a time before University I earned my living as a climbing guide in Yosemite and throughout the west. I branched out into other adventure sports in my 40's, long distance bike touring, hard adventure speed hiking and the like. Fast forward to today. I am a media executive here in DC maybe a year away from retirement.
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    El Cap as a young man.




    Back to the ride. After 6 months of practice I left on what might be the first leg of my RTW, DC to Northwest Montana where much of my family live. I say might as I wasn't sure if I would enjoy riding long distance, had never ridden in the rain and frankly wasn't all the hot at cornering. So this was a test really and I hadn't even figured out what a route might be after the Montana ride.

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    The bike, fairly stock except a slip-on, larger tank, bike protection and upgraded full Race Tech suspension.

    Off I went. I rode from hotel to hotel, went very light with an 10kg Giant Loop Coyote. I had a blast.


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    Stopped in Sturgis and was given all kinds of grief. But honestly the Harley guys couldn't believe I had ridden a 250 so far. Fun times.

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    Made it to Northwest Montana.

    So I have a bunch more pics of the first leg but I am running into the 4 pic limit so it looks like I have to post as a thread and will break up the rest of the ride into smaller sections of the trip.

    Anyway the test ride was a success. I had fun, didn't get killed and was energized for the rest of the world and began planning the route forward. Little did I know.
    #1
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  2. nwkshusker

    nwkshusker Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2011
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Hays Kansas
    Good luck, looking forward to reading your ride report!!
    #2
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  3. MarkMexico

    MarkMexico MarkMexico "A roving stove gratifies no mice!"

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Oddometer:
    75
    Location:
    San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mx
    I'm in, and wondering if you will take the roads less traveled, such as staying off major highways and using gps and local info to stay on dirt/small roads. Also, really interested in how you and your bike evolve during the journey. Best of luck!
    #3
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  4. Infin8WanderLust

    Infin8WanderLust n00b

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2018
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    2
    Location:
    Texas
    Way to grab life by the horns.....or handlebars.. Whichever! Good on ya, looking forward to keeping up with your RR!
    #4
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  5. taranaki

    taranaki nomadic

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    Dec 7, 2005
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    Pahrump NV & Terrebonne OR
    Cool beans!

    I like the photo with your 250 next the the Barcaloungers.
    #5
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  6. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

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    Top of the Ouchitas, bottom of the Ozarks.
    N!
    #6
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  7. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

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    Location:
    The Bluegrass
    In the early '70's a guy named Terry rode a Gold Wing to the Motorcyclist magazine offices. He told them he wanted to ride around the world by motorcycle. The mag guys talked to him for a while and decided that Terry was very green and really had no grasp on the task at hand. They finally told him if he was going to try it that he should lose the Wing and get a small single cylinder machine.
    To their surprise Terry came back by the office on a XL 250 Honda with a ticket to Australia and confirmed shipping for the bike. And he went around the world on the 250 , all the while sending pictures his story back to the magazine , which put his story into print.
    Terry was younger that you , but , you have chosen the right bike . Have fun !
    #7
  8. KLRWiley

    KLRWiley Wiley

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    San Diego, Ca
    Now I am in, I personally think everyone should HAVE to take a course of some sort before riding, props for doing the right thing, even if your state made you. Looking forward to seeing where this adventure takes you.
    #8
  9. Martygarrison

    Martygarrison Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    138
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Looking back on the DC to Montana ride it was really pretty much dead easy. I had great roads, hotels every 100 miles at the most, a 2 week time table to ride 2400 miles. The only plan was to ride Highway 50 across the Appalachians and then just check out google maps and hotels.com and go from there. I'm sure it wasn't the most efficient route but there was just no stress and it was wonderful. Sure I had big cross winds across the Plains but mostly they were predictable and I just leaned in. In the entire 2400 miles I passed one car. I was just having fun.
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    US 50 through West Virginia. I got better on cornering fast on this road.


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    Somewhere in the Mid West.


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    Little Bighorn Battlefield. A Magical place.

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    I left the newly named 250l "Wanda" in Montana and returned to work after the 10 day ride. The name comes from one of my best touring bicycles that had served me well over the years plus it rhymed with Honda. I began planning the next steps. I asked my work for a sabbatical the next summer and due to projects and Board meetings I was able to squeeze two months total. I started looking at potential routes. Being that I was already three quarters of the way across the States I figured I could carry on to Vancouver then fly the bike to Vladivostok and continue west to London. Finally I would fly the Wanda back to Washington. This began months of logistical planning. Bike shipment, Russian visa, lodging across Russia, needed bike modifications. On and on.

    I started reaching out to others CRF250l adventure riders I had seen on this site and others. I asked so many questions I am sure Wolftrax, Steph Jeavons, Peter Scheltens and Alex Nikonov were considering blocking this pest from their message feeds. I started to understand the much talked about motorcycle community or family if you will. These folks were incredible and I was just soaking it all in.
    #9
  10. Martygarrison

    Martygarrison Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    138
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    The Nine Month Interval:

    So here I was back in Washington, 9 months until I am due to leave on as of yet unplanned RTW without a bike. I used this and the fact that I had only been a rider for 6 months as an excuse with my wife that I needed another bike. After all, "I need to practice", "It's about not getting killed". I brought home a new Ducati. The sickness is growing.

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    The Ducati I was able to squirrel into this whole process, but this is a whole another story.

    Quickly I discovered while on the map it was clear to just continue from Montana to Vladivostok there were some practical and financial reasons it just didn't make sense. I knew I wanted to continue on to Vancouver to complete the "North American" segment, but when discovering it cost $1000 US to fly the bike east to London vs $3500 to fly and ferry it from South Korea to Vladivostok it was a pretty easy decision. I made up stories to myself like, "I don't want to ride west into the sun" or "Siberia is not the place to start such a ride at my skill level" but really it was just such a dramatic difference in the shipping costs. Air Canada was the ticket. Easy, cheap and painless flight from Vancouver to London. The bike actually is on your same flight and with the required shipping agent on the UK side it takes about 4 hours from landing to riding off on your bike.

    Next I had hotels and route. I had previously reached out to Alex who runs a motorcycle guide service in Russia, Rusmototravel based in Moscow, thinking about a joining a group ride that he runs multiple times during the summer across Russia but honestly I couldn't get charged up about this. The thought of going with a group just took all of the excitement and adventure out of it for me. However Alex was fantastic. When I explained my concerns and what I really wanted to do he proposed creating a route that a 250 could manage and booking all the hotels far in advance of my arrival date in Russia due to the upcoming World Cup. I jumped at the chance. I'm sure Alex made some type of profit off the transaction but I was able to get a detailed gps route with hotels booked and paid for in advance for an excellent price. I'm not sure I could have done any better on booking.com.

    Finally the Russian Visa. The process seems daunting at first, especially as an American but it was not that hard. It's important to get a visa over one month which for Americans is easy (3 year, 3 month at a time) because honestly it's pretty hard to make it from the western boarder to the Sea of Japan in one month without every thing going perfect and heads down riding. That's just me, on a 250.
    #10
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  11. Martygarrison

    Martygarrison Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    138
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Back to the bike. I have probably 20 close relatives living in an 8 mile radius on Eureka Montana, 8 miles from the Canadian border. One of those cousins (Tim) happens to a master mechanic, primarily on racing boats however has owned motorbikes his whole life. This is where I stored my bike.
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    Cousin Tim waving on his 700 hp racing boat.

    When I left Wanda at cousins Tim's place he dug in with a passion. With me sending him parts over the winter we transformed Wanda into a machine that at least I felt could tackle the big problem on this ride, Russia. Second gas tank, chain, sprockets, hoses, brakes, fluids. Most every body bolt backed out and reinserted with locktite. Fresh oil, filters and finally a mounted Gamin GPS.

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    Incredible mechanic.

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    Camel Tank feeding primary IMS.

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    We stripped the bike down and went though building it back up. We did not touch the engine.


    So now you get the idea of the logistics. Some fun, some a pain in the ass. But we were ready to start riding.
    #11
  12. avbjessup

    avbjessup Growin older but not up

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
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    185
    Location:
    Clearwater, FL
    IN - I’m 59, female and just getting back into riding after a few years hiatus. RTW has transformed much as has thru hiking the AT. The “old guys” did it with a canvas backpack and work boots. Not that I would want to do it that way! Good luck and I’m looking forward to hearing your tales!
    #12
  13. Camelrider

    Camelrider wondering wanderer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    Israel
    Great choice of bike. In 2015 I did a ride around Europe on the same bike, 22 country's, 13000 km, prepared in a similar way, never had a problem.
    #13
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  14. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2010
    Oddometer:
    851
    Location:
    Darnestown, MD
    Fellow DC area native here - Look forward to following along.

    All the best for an amazing journey!
    #14
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  15. IronButt70

    IronButt70 You don't have to be crazy to do this but it helps

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2018
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    Location:
    Mickey Town East
    Sounds like an epic trip but I do have a question. Won’t it still cost you $3500 to ship the bike back home after you’ve reached the end of your journey in Russia or are you just going to sell it and come home alone?
    #15
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  16. Martygarrison

    Martygarrison Been here awhile

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    Washington, DC
    No, It's $1600 to ship it back (on a ship). Problem was I was on a tight time frame and it takes up to a month to get the bike from Vancouver to Vladivostok. I would have spent half my sabbatical waiting for the bike to arrive.
    #16
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  17. IronButt70

    IronButt70 You don't have to be crazy to do this but it helps

    Joined:
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    Mickey Town East
    OK. That makes sense. There is another thread on here about shipping a bike to Korea then Russia. I would catagorize it as a hassle delux. Enjoy your journey and be safe.
    #17
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  18. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
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    11,750
    Location:
    In my natural state
    It's good to see someone just starting out who doesn't load up their bike like the Joads headed west. You'll do great.
    #18
  19. black 8

    black 8 Long timer

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    I'm in... nice start BTW...

    Looking forward to reading your adventures in the morning with my cup of java...

    cheers...
    #19
  20. Martygarrison

    Martygarrison Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2016
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    Location:
    Washington, DC
    June 1, 2018. Eureka Montana to Vancouver BC.

    I had arranged with Air Canada to fly Wanda on the same flight as myself leaving June 4 from Vancouver to London. Cost of the shipping the bike was $1300 Canadian or about $990 US. This price however required me to also fly on Air Canada and this was not cheap. Another $1500 Canadian one way.

    Final preparations on the bike were completed and I was off. I gave myself 4 days to ride what could have been completed in two just in case I ran into any issues with the bike. So I really just putted along, Eureka - Spokane - Seattle - Bellingham - Vancouver. A fairly uneventful and boring ride as I had driven this route many times, although the Columbia Gorge would have the strongest and frankly most terrifying winds I would encounter on the entire trip. I honestly didn't know if I could keep the bike upright.

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    Lake Koocanusa, Montana. Note the position of the tail bag. This will come into play soon.

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    US Canada border a painless crossing. Note my Garmin Zumo. At this point I wasn't really using it however later on the trip it became indispensable.

    It's quite a short ride from the border to Vancouver International Airport and I had some three or four hours before my bike was due to be dropped off for my flight later that evening. All is going smoothly when 1 mile from the Air Canada Cargo warehouse Wanda just up and quit on me. Just running perfect to not running at all. I tried to start her multiple times but was wary of running the battery down. I called cousin Tim who said it sounds like fuel yet there was the required 1/4 tank. I was stumped with seeds of doubt quickly entering my mind. I decided to just push the bike the last mile or so and deal with it in London. Unsettling.

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    Air Canada Cargo, Vancouver BC.

    Pushing a fully loaded motorbike even a small one over a mile all the while wondering what the heck was going on was not fun. When I reached the warehouse I was told to "ride the bike around back and up the first ramp". I dutifully followed the instructions sans riding.

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    After unloading Wanda and rolling her on the Air Canada pallet I decided to give her one more go at starting. She fired right up. I was at first perplexed as who wants a bike that suddenly dies then starts 2 hours later but then it dawned on me.

    I emailed Peter in Holland, called cousin Tim again and finally emailed Cory the founder of Camel Tank. I had noticed that my tail bag had been crimping the air vent hose on the top of the Camel pretty much the whole ride so far. But the thing just ran great so I didn't think too much of it. I asked Cory about this in my email. He responded almost immediately and said "with a crimped air vent hose the bike will run for a very long time...then it won't run at all". Relief, I let everyone know and started to relax even if there was still a seed of doubt.

    Dropped Wanda off, took at cab to the airport and I was off to London.
    #20