When a project gets out of hand: Building two DR650 RTW bikes

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by micko01, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. Foot dragger

    Foot dragger singletracker

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    I always wondered about the Alu tanks as part of skid plates,the idea of having water is great,but water heated over and over by the engine and stored in raw aluminum.............is it still drinkable in a pinch?

    Maybe it gets run through a super dooper filter? But either way youve done a bang up job on the DR's! In the US the basic 5 gallon tank will pretty much do it,maybe a small canister carried just in case.
    #41
  2. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Yeah all fair points. We used 5083 ally which is marine grade i.e very resistant to corrosion. I'm not an aluminium expert but based on some research Ive done using a 50 series ally for water storage seems to be the way to go.

    When building the tanks, I wire brushed the inside of tank before welding to remove any residues of whatever might have been on there. And as part of the shakedown trip I filled the water tanks and never used them; we just rode around for a week or so and did about 1300kms. I drained the water afterwards and it still tasted fine. Tan thought she might have tasted a small difference but I couldn't - tasted the same to me.



    #42
  3. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    The bikes already had 30 litre Safari tanks fitted which had swelled with a bit of age, but there are a number of routes in Australia where 32ish litres simply isn’t anywhere near enough. And before we left for Africa we planned on doing a few; the main ones being the Anne Beadell Highway which I was estimating we would need maybe 50 to 55 litres and potentially an attempt at the Canning Stock Route which would need about 70.

    Tan and I had previously done the Simpson Desert and did what most other people do and pack 2 plastic 10 litre jerry cans which live in the top bag when empty and in each pannier bag when full. This gave us 50 litres of fuel capacity. This is a pretty cost efficient solution which works reasonably well, but has some obvious downsides. The main one for me is wasted volume – the top bag is either full of jerry cans or displaced stuff from the pannier bags. And frustratingly, there is so much wasted space behind the left hand pannier frame and under the exhaust on the right hand side on most setups. I wanted to use this space as efficiently as possible as it would get stuff out of the bags, and more importantly, would get weight closer towards the centre of gravity of the bike.

    A few people have built their own rear tanks out of aluminium (DRJoe for the Motorbikin DR’s and KTMatt for 640Adv’s spring to mind) and I wanted one, and I figured I could build one. I wanted to have a good crack at using as much of that wasted space as possible around the standard toolbox and up under the rear guard, and combine the tank’s function with a pannier frame. I didn’t want to add to the width of the bike though – I wanted the handlebars to be the widest point if I could manage it. I did some rough as guts measurements and reckoned the area was good for about 10 litres. While a total capacity of 40 or so litres isn't enough for the ABH or CSR, any extra capacity which would reduce my reliance on jerry cans/fuel bladders and get weight out of the pannier bags was worth pursuing.

    I should point out that for the post I re-organised the sequence of events from what actually happened so it makes a bit more sense. The reality was a bit all over the place which will be obvious in the photos. And the two tanks ended up slightly different too in their final shape and the way they were mounted which you might also spot.

    I started with lots of measuring and built some cardboard models. I aimed for 20mm clearance from the swingarm and chain. This model was mk1 modified many times over.

    [​IMG]

    This is a cross section. The inside of the tank has two cutaways to clear the chain and then the swing arm.

    [​IMG]

    I then built a final model and drew up a set of lay flat plans. My original scheme was to send the lay flats to a sheet metal worker and get them to cut out and press the panels to the design I sent them. I would then weld it up. You can see part of my designs on the table there.

    [​IMG]

    I then met Treborbig and we cut that deal outlined in the post about the bash plates. We discussed the design a bit and he was worried he wouldn’t be able to fit the inside panel in his press at work and get the bends required for the two cutaways. I sent him this photo showing the shape of the inside panel from the final model.

    [​IMG]

    The answer was nope – wont fit. So I quickly changed a few things on the plans and changed the inside panel to having only one cutaway rather than 2. And then I started cutting.

    [​IMG]

    I marked up the panels with all the press lines, sent them to Rob and he pressed them up for me. I didn’t take any photos of the pressed panels when they returned which is a real bummer. It was quite a site looking at all the sheets of ally pressed up for two fuel tanks, two toolboxes and three bashplates. The enormity of my grand plan started to dawn on me! Oh well, too late now!

    Here is the inside face of the outside panel of the tank, if that makes sense? I cut out a gusset to sit in the bend of the outside panel to add some stiffness to it – I was worried out it bending if dropped on which might have been a bit pessimistic of me in retrospect. When completed these things were bloody strong.

    [​IMG]

    I then added some baffles. One real annoying feature of the Safari tank is that the fuel sloshing around in technical terrain really affects the handling of the bike. I didn’t want this so added some ally in to slow the fuel from moving. Hopefully it was effective.

    [​IMG]

    Then all the inside and end panels where added.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next was to add the filler cap. First thing was to drill a hole.

    [​IMG]

    This gave me a good chance to check the penetration of my welds. I hadn’t been able to do this to date and was keen to see what it looked liked. I was pretty happy with what I saw. For those who are interested, most of this 3mm ally welding was done at around 120 amps, ~7l/min argon flow, 2.4mm lathanated tungsten with 2.4mm 5356 filler.

    [​IMG]

    I sourced some 1.5” weld on fuel filler necks. They would fit on like this…..

    [​IMG]

    …..but would leave some big gaps which would have to be filled with weld. A challenge for sure.

    [​IMG]

    I started with the easy side.

    [​IMG]

    And then went to the hard side, welding from one side to the other and slowly laying on the filler and bridging the gap. I had to stop about halfway as the job was getting too hot.

    [​IMG]

    And finished.

    [​IMG]

    I then ran the TIG torch over it a few times with no filler to re-fluidise the weld and close up any pin holes which were left behind.

    [​IMG]

    And now, time to mount it! I wanted it to fit something like this……

    [​IMG]

    I’m going to have to finish this off in another post – my laptop is about to run out of battery!

    Cheers. Mick
    #43
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  4. ADVill

    ADVill Been here awhile

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    Fantastic work but wouldn't it have been easier to just get a ktm Adventure? And possibly less $.
    #44
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  5. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Definitely couldn't have got a 950/990adv for less dollars and I never would have considered one anyway. And I doubt I could have got a ktm 640adv for less dollars - the DRs were probably only worth 4-5k before I started and as i did everything myself all I needed was the hardware which I picked up for pretty reasonable prices. And a ktm 640adv would have needed mods in the same vein to get similar longevity/lighting/storage/fuel range etc.

    Buying other bikes might have been easier, and at certain stages of the project when I was a bit burnt out I really thought about it. If mine weren't in a million bits I might have even done it. The bike builds did really snowball, but it was pretty rewarding in the long run. Buying something would have been nowhere near as interesting, although that is only in hindsight!

    I just started with what we had which was 2 DR's and went from there. If we had two 640adv or Xchallenges or XR650's or whatever, I still would have modified them to get them to do what I wanted.

    #45
  6. JagLite

    JagLite Long timer Supporter

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    Beautiful workmanship! :clap
    Your gap filling ability is amazing.
    That was easier/quicker/stronger/(or?) to do than to cut a small bit of plate and bend to fit before welding in?
    I am terrible at welding air :eek1

    I am really enjoying your build-up details and information.
    I will also enjoy reading your ride report.
    #46
  7. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Thanks jaglite :freaky

    I can't really remember why I decided to just bridge the gap with weld, although the likely explanation is it was late at the time and I didn't want to piss the neighbours off with me grinding at 10 o'clock at night. I'm a real night owl so I kind of had to plan my day to get as much noisy stuff done before about 7pm an then leave a few hours of work to be done after dinner that was quiet. The TIG is pretty quiet.

    Even without the noise consideration though, I think it would have been easier and quicker to just keep welding rather than cut and shut a little piece to fill it. And with a TIG it's really achievable. For me coming from a arc welding background, filling such a gap is just inconceivable, but with TIG it's really quite doable. Especially with a TIG with a pulse function.

    This was a great project for me I really got to play with all the dials on the welder and learn what affect they had. It was a good learning experience.



    #47
  8. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    It turned out that mounting the tanks was about as much work again as building them!

    All the mounts were welded to mounting plates which were welded to the tank. This was done to distribute forces more evenly into the tank structure and if any of the mounts were to fail, it would only tear a hole in the mounting plate and not the tank itself. That’s the idea anyway.

    I started with the rear mount. In this photo you can see a mounting plate for the inside mount under the subframe as well as the outside mount – this photo was taken before I had made the rear rack for the second bike, hence the bit of steel spacing the tank from the frame.

    [​IMG]

    And this is the inside mount. I picked up the hole in the frame that the number plate mount uses (I think that is what this hole is used for anyway? – its so long since I’ve had a genuine #plate mount on I cant really remember if it goes back that far or not?). I did have a bit of a ponder as to whether this bolt hole would be strong enough for this application and figured it would be considering that the subframe is reinforced through here and the way it will be stressed. Most of the tank’s load will go through the main 8mm mount at the back of the tank as this is where bending moment is greatest. This inside mount should only provide torsional stability.

    [​IMG]

    And this is what it kind of looked like at the end. I didn’t end up using the 6mm bolt on the rear mount – I drilled the hole but figured it was overkill with the 8mm bolt above. And the main 8mm bolt is now a bolt which goes all the way through from the outside and has a nylock nut on it on the inside. The gussets which run down each side of the rear mount where cut down significantly also.

    [​IMG]

    The front mount was built to be strong. Here is the mounting plate going on the front.

    [​IMG]

    And what it finished up looking like. You can see the boss built up for the 6mm barb to thread into at the bottom of the tank. The hole in the lower gusset here allows a ring spanner to be used to tighten the barb.

    [​IMG]

    Here is a pretty early test fit. You can see how much of the tank actually sits inside the subframe where the OEM tool kit used to sit. This was one of my initial aims of the design, to use this space and get the weight of the fuel towards the centre of the bike. You might also notice how the swingarm is missing? I had sent them away to be reinforced by the same guy that Bergdonk uses so during this time of mounting the tank I couldn’t check clearance….

    [​IMG]

    …..which turned into a very big problem when the swingarms returned! In the previous post I mentioned how I changed the tank design at the very last moment before cutting the panels and sending them to Treborbig to be pressed. Turns out that back fired pretty badly – I should have modified the cardboard model also and checked if it would work. Between Rob not being able to press what I wanted due to the constraints of his machine and my mistakes – the swing arm fouled the tank by about half a millimeter.

    This was a “I want to BURN the motorcycle” moment. BURN THEM.

    It was actually so close that it actually fouled the bead of the weld and if I had ground that off (which I considered for half a second), it would have cleared by a mm or 2. But I suppose this is always the problem with building custom stuff, and why “prototypes” get tested and modified so much before production. Nothing is perfect the first time around.

    So I prepared to cut the clearance I needed to clear the swingarm.

    [​IMG]

    And cut.

    [​IMG]

    And modifications complete!

    [​IMG]

    One interesting thing is the difference in the two tanks – before this modification one tank had a capacity of about 9.9 litres while the other was a about 9.6litres. This was due to slight differences in the final position and angle of the bend of the cutaway in the inside panel. So on the smaller tank I decided to cut more of the inside panel away of the tank to recover some of the lost volume. So the bottom of the panel would go “out” to clear the swing arm, while the middle of the panel would go “in” to recover volume.

    [​IMG]

    And here is a view of what the tank cross-section looked like in the end. This was a test fit for toolbox actually; everything was just sitting in position nothing was bolted up. You can see the 2 cutaways in the inside panel of the tank clearly though – the lower one to clear the swing arm and the upper one to clear the chain. I was happy with the final result in that a significant amount of the volume of the tank sits inside the plane of the swing arm.

    [​IMG]

    The tanks were pressure tested quite a few times throughout the build. I did this by putting a presta valve from a bicycle tube onto the fuel barb and pumping them up to about 10psi which is when the pump started reading. They then went in the bath to find leaks.

    [​IMG]

    The left had plastic was modified to clear the tank.

    [​IMG]

    And fuel line was plumbed in. An inline petcock was put in so we can run of the rear tank first and then swap to the front tank. Here is the fuel line from the barb routed up through the front mount and above the chain line.

    [​IMG]

    Inline petcock.

    [​IMG]

    I’ve only used the rear tank once to check it and all seems good so far. I got about ½ the volume out under gravity before I had to swap to the front tank which was a little disappointing, but I also hadn’t adjusted the rear sag at the time so will be interesting to see how much more I can get under gravity with that done. The last bit of fuel will have to be decanted into the front tank. I should note that I did the Holland Track with the rear tank ½ full and could not feel it was there, in fact the bike felt very well balanced. Hopefully all the effort of getting the fuel close to the centre of the bike was worth it!

    Oh and final volume 9.5l and final weight 4.5kg mounted.

    In other news the arrival of our bikes into Durban has been delayed :cry
    #48
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  9. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Extra tool storage is hardly unique – in fact one glance at JamminJays DR and you’d think tool-tubes breed all by themselves….. I was now in need of some sort of storage, preferably lockable, after removing the OEM toolbox to make way for the tank. I did consider for a short time mounting a conventional style tool-tube under the exhaust to a pannier frame. But I wanted something space efficient, and there isn’t enough room under the exhaust for a tool-tube because the swingarm gets in the way. So I figured if I could make something to fit in that space and if I was going to make it I might as well combine the functionality of the pannier frame.

    I went about trying to make that happen. I followed the same process as the other aluminum bits I built – measured it up, made a cardboard model which was then turned into lay-flats, cut it out, then pressed and welded.

    This is the main piece of the toolbox. I’ve marked up the door in the front and started cutting when I figured I better take a photo. Regarding the door – I did consider following the conventional wisdom of having access through the back of the toolbox. The problem with this one though is its quite long and quite narrow where it clears the swing arm – 60mm at it's narrowest – so having access on end I was worried would be problematic. So I decided to have a door on the front.

    [​IMG]

    This is the inside. The narrow section of the toolbox is to clear the swing arm. The fatter section is towards the back where there is more room to clear the back of the swingarm and brake rotor.

    [​IMG]

    I needed a rebate for the door to sit on, so cut out some pieces out of scrap and welded them in.

    [​IMG]

    And the rebate from the front.

    [​IMG]

    And the two toolboxes finished. I got some small hinges from the hardware store and mounted some locks meant for locking filing cabinets. Its hardly fort knox – more of a deterrent to opportunistic thieves. Funny you can see the two fueltanks in the top of the photo – the shed was a bit of a production line for a while!

    [​IMG]

    But building it is one thing, mounting is another altogether. I needed it to fit here.

    [​IMG]

    I made a front mount following the same concept as the fuel tanks.

    [​IMG]

    Then two tabs were added to land the two droppers from the rack. To add torsional stiffness, a loop was added around the back from the toolbox to the fuel tank. This loop is 19x1.2mm pipe gusseted with an extra bit of pipe at the bend. The right hand plastic had to be trimmed to clear the front mount and not interfere with the door. You can see this plastic has had a hard life – it pushed on the exhaust a while back…

    [​IMG]

    And finally, one last photo. The main design constraint of the toolbox (and fuel tank) was to keep the bike narrow and have the weight centralised as much as possible. This is a cropped photo from our shakedown trip and shows how narrow it ended up – the pannier bag sits on the toolbox and the right hand side plastic actually bends in slightly to meet it. A standard design pannier frame would mount around 20 or 25mm wider than this. The fuel tank has the same offset from the centerline of the bike on the left hand side as the toolbox does on this side, so this luggage system is 40-50mm narrower over all than a standard pannier frame luggage system that has equal/symmetrical offsets on both sides of the bike.

    [​IMG]

    Not sure what the final as-built volume of the toolbox is but when I drew it up I calculated a design volume of 6.6 litres. Final weight was 3.2 kg not including the hoop around the back to the fuel tank. I never measured this but would estimate it at 300 or 400grams at most.

    I’ll do a post a bit latter on how the luggage mounts to the tank and toolbox – its pretty simple really, just some loops, but I’ve got no photos of them at the moment. By that late stage of the build I was very interested in getting the bikes going and heading off on our shakedown trip and not very interested in taking photos!

    …..

    In other news, we pick up the bikes tomorrow morning from here in Durban and have organised to hit the road straight away. So I’ll have to get this build report finished so I can start a ride report! :ricky
    #49
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  10. Night Falcon

    Night Falcon Structural Failure

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    1st class build and reporting! :clap

    Hard luck on the delayed bikes, all part of it I suppose.
    #50
  11. DRjoe

    DRjoe Long timer

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    Just found this.
    Bloody awesome build up.
    Well done on getting things as light as you did.
    #51
  12. BergDonk

    BergDonk Old Enough to Know Better

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    Setting a new standard for DRs eh Joe? Top stuff :freaky
    #52
  13. panhead_pete

    panhead_pete Gone riding

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    Wow - great thread, thanks.
    #53
  14. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    cheers.

    just woke up and about to jump in a cab for the trucking depot just north of Durban here to grab the DR's. We will be offline for a few days - there is some riding to be done! :evil
    #54
  15. Gobby

    Gobby Trust Me!

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    Good luck, and if your RR is anything like this thread, it will be an excellent read to follow.

    Keep safe and enjoy the ride.
    #55
  16. DRjoe

    DRjoe Long timer

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    Sure is.
    Every detail has been thought of, there's a lot of work in them bikes.

    Can't wait for the RR
    #56
  17. Yellow Pig

    Yellow Pig Allergic to asphalt! Supporter

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    Nice!

    Do you by any chance know the before vs after weight of the bikes?
    #57
  18. micko01

    micko01 another DR650 rider

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    Hey yellow pig - no I never measured the bikes weight before or after but it wouldn't be great deal more than a normally farkled DR650, as much as it might not look like it. Weight is a topic I was going to post on so its probably a good time to go into some detail. I'll try to quantify it but I'll have to do some guesstimation so bear with me.

    For the luggage system - the rack, and pannier frames weigh about 9.6kg all up, but in that is also 6.5l tool and 9.5l fuel storage. Comparing that to a standard rack and set of pannier frames, I'd guess an off the shelf set up would be 5 to 6 kg (it would be interesting to compare the weights of various off the shelf racks and pannier frames actually, thats probably worth a thread). A 1 gallon rotopax and mount weights 2.3kg or so. An aftermarket tool tube I'm guessing here but maybe 1kg mounted. So add them up and Im pretty happy with what Ive made being in the ball park weight wise, and very efficient volume wise. Especially when you consider the tank is 9.5l/2.5 gallons and the tool box is about 6.5l of storage.

    So that is 3.6 to 4.6kg more compared to a DR with rack and pannier frames but no rotopax+tooltube, or about 0.3 to 1.3kg with rotopax+tooltube which is a fairer comparison. I don't know what the weight of a 2 or 3 gallon rotopax is mounted but that would be an even fairer comparison.

    The headlights mounted are about 2kgs heavier than the standard light, but in terms of light output they absolutely annihilate it. I read on another forum which linked to this build report where someone suggested that I should have just put a higher output globe in. This is pretty ludicrous. I've ridden with these Acura TL projectors a few times now and in front of Tanya with hers on and their reputation as the best retrofit projector available is well deserved, the light is well directed and with the 55W ballasts (good for about 4500 lumens each) they are the brightest set of headlights I've seen on the road - no joke. Only thing I've seen brighter are vehicles with a couple big spot lights. For an adventure bike I'll pay a 2kg penalty for these lights every day of the week. As a comparison to a normally farkled DR, its common enough for people to add LED spot lights to compensate for the DR light so you might assume a normally farkled DR would add maybe 600g in lighting.

    So about 1.4kg additional for lighting.

    The fairing, dash and electrics is maybe another 2 kgs or so on top of the headlights. Some of this is recovered by binning the speedo, dash lights and the ignition switch which is an pretty decent block of steel - guessing here but maybe 600g recovered there. Plus most bikes will have a extra 12V plug or two which would be 100 to 200 g of extra electric's added.

    So maybe 1.2 or 1.3kg added for fairing and dash and other electric stuff.

    Same for the frame, I added 800g of reinforcements (everything is quite thin wall) plus welding filler, so maybe 1kg all up, but cut off the rear frame mounting tabs, the tool tube tabs, the small exhaust cover at the right hand pivot point (seemed like a waste to me so cut it off - haven't missed it yet), the steering stops and steering lock brackets. I'd guess thats probably 400g saved there.

    So 600g added to frame.

    And the bash plate - a B&B off road bashplate is 2kg on the nose where as mine is more like 3.5kg, so that is 1.5kg added there over a standard farkled bike. But it is so low I've never noticed it, even when full of water which is 3.1l/kg. But put 3.1kg of water in a pannier or on the rack you probably will. Of interest a Scheffelmeier bashplate with tool box for an XChallange is 4.8kg according to Bli55's build. That is pretty porky.

    So 1.5kg added to the bash plate.

    In terms of other savings - I turfed the lead acid battery in favour of Shorai battery, and also put a DG-O exhaust on. Don't really know what the savings there would be but its reasonable - maybe 5kgs between both I'd guess. These are pretty common mods though so fair to assume a fair few people do this to their DR's. I also made shorter foot peg mounts so a few grams saved there too I suppose.

    So all up, if we compare apples with apples, I'd estimate its about 5.7 kg over a similarly farkled DR (or only about a kilo heavier if that bike still has a standard can and battery). But comparing these bikes to that similarly farkled bike; what I've built will carry more fuel, more tools and spares, more water and all in better positions, emits more light, has more wind protection, and the frame is stronger. Some people might suggest that these things aren't overly necessary, and to a certain extent they aren't (people go RTW on posties just fine), but they are sure nice. And these bikes aren't built for normal type of adventure riding, these were set up for long distance, long term off-road adventure riding.

    And to touch on other important point - weight distribution. Static weight of a bike is critical no doubt, but so is where its carried. I've ridden previously with 10l of fuel and 7l of water in each pannier bag and it isn't fun - in fact riding gets pretty difficult. This is a reasonably standard payload for crossing the Simpson Desert on a DR - 50l of fuel and around 12l of water (I had a bit extra so I was more like 17l at the start, but that is just me being conservative plus taking some load off of Tanya's bike). And thats were these bikes perform well, when needed they carry large loads easily because the weight is centralised so much. With the bash plate full of water you don't even notice its there. And when we did the Holland Track which does have some soft sandy sections my rear fuel tank was half full and I didn't notice that either. Like putting a big weight at the very top of a top bag or the very bottom of a pannier bag - distribution of weight makes a huge difference to the rideability of the bike just as much as the weight itself.

    In a nutshell, a slightly lighter bike with more weight in the panniers and top bag could quite conceivably be more difficult to ride than a slightly heavier bike with more centralised weight. That was what I was trying to achieve anyway. And having ridden these bikes on some quite tricky terrain I am very happy with their performance.

    And I'll try and get access to some scales at some stage to measure the weight of the bikes - I'm pretty curious to see how they finished up myself.

    #58
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  19. clintnz

    clintnz Trans-Global Chook Chaser

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    Love your work on the fuel tank / toolbox / pannier rack! I've been thinking about making a bigger toolbox for the 640 along similar lines. It would be nice to get the heavy tools out of the panniers & closer to the CoG.

    Have a great trip & I look forward to seeing the ride report!

    Cheers
    Clint
    #59
  20. JagLite

    JagLite Long timer Supporter

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    Excellent description of your bike weight modifications.

    I particularly like the emphasis on weight distribution as it is a pet peeve of mine.
    Far too many riders carry weight high on the rear of the bike.
    That seriously compromises the handling making the bike so much more difficult to control.
    #60