Midlife Crisis - from fat to minimalist Simpson Desert life changer

Discussion in 'Asia Pacific' started by Dolmar, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    I thought I would start a thread on a plan I have. It might include some stuff that people are interested in and it will help keep me accountable. Be warned that there will be a fairly philosophical component to things so if you are not interested in that sort of guff then now would be the time to get your truck out of Dodge!!!

    So the set-up is this. In November I turn 50. This time next year I have Long Service Leave which gives me around three months off work. Being a late starter in the kids stakes, I have three of these under 12 so a big around the world, solo type trip is not an option. I did however, want to do something special and interesting.

    I have done lots of solo motorcycle touring in outback Australia previously. In fact, I was maybe ahead of the curve in this regard as I did a couple of big remote trips in the early 90’s, riding either an early model XT600 Tenere or early KLR650. I went on my own as I could not find anyone that was willing to do the 700miles a day I often tried to squeeze in. It was a time before mobile phones and the like so you generally had a few sphincter tightening moments when you hit a bulldust hole at 70mph in the middle of the Gibson, but I made it through those years relatively unscathed.

    Anyway, I sold my last motorcycle at 40 when we started having kids. I was also a competitive cyclist and while I have rolled the legs over a little, I have not really been fit for 10 years. In summary I am currently a fat prick. Weigh in D Day is tomorrow morning but I am guessing somewhere around the 230lb mark.

    So my plan is to do a solo crossing of the Simpson Desert with a twist. Let’s face it, every man and his dog crosses the Simpson these days and that hardly qualifies as an epic trip anymore. So how do you spice up this challenge? Well the first thing is to attach a weight and health component to it. I am aiming for 185lb on the day I leave. The second is to ride something that makes it a challenge – that means it’s got to be over 25 years old and under 500cc. Total budget for bike and gear under 2000 USD. Thirdly, is to do it old school. That means no phone or GPS and completely solo. It also means the absolute minimum amount of gear.

    The last is to pick a path that includes the minimum amount of tar that is possible from my door. Anyone can get dropped at the edge of the desert, but my aim is to find a path from my home in central Victoria which will take me through as many bush tracks as possible, with no attempt to do transport sections, but rather to find a rougher, unused way to go.

    So I have 12 months to get in shape, get my bike handling skills back up to scratch and to plan a basic route to the Simpson and back. I also want to pretty much have an old bike rebuilt with my own hands before I go. I have already got the bike. I will introduce this and my rationale behind it next.

    The whole idea of this project will be to go backward rather than forward. I could accept that I’m getting old and am fat, and just get a bike to suit. I could afford it, but I don’t want to give in. I also want to prove to myself that you can have an adventure just by stepping out of your front door adventurously – the reality for most of us is that there is an interesting track just down the road from where we live that we have never travelled.
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  2. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    The bike I settled on was an early Dr350 Suzuki. Having had a number of ball breaking experiences trying to lift a fully loaded mid 80’s Tenere out of the sand, the dr gives me lighter weight and almost unrivalled reliability in the basic design. It is just big enough to do the trip while not big enough that I can get lazy with my own fitness and weight loss and packing. It is also a great bike to get back into trail riding, that can be upgraded as I go along. It also has a somewhat romantic link, being used in the original Mondo Enduro film – Austin Vince is someone that I have taken a lot of cues from, so for this trip the Dr is a little tip of the hat to one of the real pioneers.

    Dr’s are simple. This means you can really pull them apart and get to know them. There are enough around that you can always find bits and pieces cheap. They have no real weakness and being air cooled they do hold up exceptionally well in crash. You can’t get a huge amount of aftermarket gear for them, but you can fit a 20ltr Acerbis tank of an xr650 and you don’t get too stressed about using cheap ass bits and pieces in the same way that you would on your 12k KTM. The key bits you need to get ship shape are all still available and you can easily upgrade. Especially the suspension. Sprung too soft and with crap damper rod forks from the factory, there are a number of things you can do

    So this is what I got. An early 90’s kick starter for 700 USD. Came with the original “Hot Pink” decals and a new cam chain. Missing instruments but otherwise mostly there!!

    Kicked into life easily and while running very rich, she goes well. I couldn’t help myself and after tightening the steering head bearings, went for a little spin – until I realised the front brake was seizing up. A few little jobs to be done!!

    I will outline the plan for the bike later, but this is it now with the decals removed. Good solid base.


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    #2
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  3. Winston Rose

    Winston Rose Adventurer

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    As you say a good solid base.

    This is gonna be a good one. Old school.

    I like that you’re gonna strip her down and build her back up with a few choice mods. The Dry sump is a plus.

    Surprised you’ve gone with a kicker but for 700 usd I’d do the same! Looks in pretty good nick for her age.

    How long do you reckon the trip will be, time wise?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #3
  4. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    Hey Winston, bikes get a hard life down here and few are really cheap. An electric start would be a lot more expensive. My next post will show some things I already have on the go which will help to make sense of things. Trip will be 2500 miles (4000km) in around 2 weeks. Will do plenty of lead up trips which I will write up as well in areas around Victoria, Australia.
    #4
  5. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    Ok - so as far as setting up the bike goes, it is going to be some super cheap add ons and quality where it counts.

    For 200usd I was able to get a complete 98 front end (cartridge forks, wheel, caliper and all fittings), shock and lots of odds and ends. Shock will be rebuilt with a spring to suit 220lbs. Beauty of having two shocks is that you can be farting around with one while you are still riding the other. Got cheap indicators, cheap tail tidy, cheap handguards, cheap foldable mirrors, cheap levers (original broken ones have the tips broken off but will be fine for spares) and cheap enduro headlight.

    Likely to strip down to bare frame at some point and sandblast and repaint, while I do the steering head and swingarm and shock bearings. Will replace clutch cable and change to a braided front cable after rebuilding the caliper.

    Kick starter only model runs a super simple wiring loom, and in reality you are likely a goer to just run a capacitor instead of a battery as such. Along with the forks I also got a late model ignition barrel that has the indicator, light and neutral indicators built in. Will be using a cheap backlit bike speedo and odometer, though it does look like I could use a dr650 speedo which is an option if I can find one cheap. Getting the idea. Cheap.
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  6. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    Righto - there is no point point faffing around about it. Got on the scales this am and I am 228lb. I am over 6 ft so carry it OK but I have a bit of work to do. Luckily I know what to do both from an exercise point of view and nutrition (my wifes in that game). Part of my problem is that I can get back into shape reasonably quickly so I do partake in the things that I enjoy - that means sugar and alcohol have got to go!!! You have to make little deals with yourself, so I will have a drink when I get to 215lbs. As I like a drink this is a good incentive.

    13lb sounds like a lot but the trick is to smash into that quickly. The slow and steady weight loss plan works to an extent physiologically, but is hard psychologically. You seem to work hard for little gain. What works for me is kick starting the process with a very intense period of 21 days. When I say intense I mean intense.

    The first thing is that you have to get your exercise up. For me that means two hours a day of activity. A combination of on the bike (trainer to begin with then road and mountain bike, walking and in the gym with high intensity work based on boxing/MMA training). Lucky for me I have a good set up as you need to space things out over the day and not do too much of any one thing to start of with. So today I will do 30 min trainer, 30 min gym, walk the dogs for an hour = 2hrs. If you plan an early start you are generally surprised at how easy it is to hit 2 hours. If you are not having a couple of Australian reds of a night, is easy to knock out an hour in the evening when you would normally have been sitting on your arse.

    Nutrition is one that also requires a radical approach. But is pretty simple. Cup of coffee in the morning (black with a dash of milk), bowl of oats and a banana for breakfast (50/50 milk water) and drink a liter of water before going to work- half while training, half with breakfast. Lunch is a can of tuna, an apple and a carrot. Drink another ltr of water during the day. Evening meal is whatever the family is having - we eat well so it is usually something tasty but healthy. Another ltr of water between getting home from work and going to bed. Repeat for 3 weeks.

    You can pull this off if you have a purpose. It is interesting that you tend to become quite comfortable with this routine very quickly. My hope is that I will knock of around 10lb very quickly and this will get me motivated. Most people need about 3 weeks for their body to start adapting the physical part of the training, so what actually happens is that you are able to lift your intensity in the next 3 week block which means you can give a bit more flexibility in the nutrition stakes while maintaining a similar calorie deficit.

    Now some people will preach that moderation is the key. That does not really work for me. I need a purpose/challenge and I need to go a bit extreme for a period to get the process kick started. I would want to be at 200lb for my 50th (mid November). That would allow me to assess how much weight I am actually still carrying. My estimation is that I will be at a reasonable weight at 200, but have around 15lb to get into really good shape over the Aussie summer. Then its just about maintaining, which is actually harder for most people than the loosing - but a goal like a big trip is actually really good for focusing the mind. It is being stuck in a rut with your life that kills your body.

    I wont subject you to a picture of my current state, but will do a 21 day before and after pic in three weeks. This is my little gym.

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  7. hellotimmutton

    hellotimmutton Been here awhile

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    People tend to advise anywhere between 40 and 55 liters of fuel for the simpson desert, what are you gonna do for the remaining fuel? you can get cheap rotopax knockoffs from aliexpress but I dunno that Id trust them. a generic jerry can would be cheaper, but harder to mount. if the dirt model has the kickstand safety switch, you'll probably want to bypass it. if youre good with tools, http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/the-dr350-and-i-go-on-a-diet.1262182/ has a lot of useful tips that can be done for free, mostly just drilling holes in things or trimming unused metal
    #7
  8. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    I will sort out the actual amount of fuel that is needed when I do a couple of shakedown runs in the big desert national park. I am guessing that I will need forty liters for the route I plan to take across. That will mean that I will take two 10 ltr fuel bladders. One will only have to last half a day and the other a day. The bike will be stripped down to a bare frame and rebuilt from there. I have read through the thread you suggested. To be honest there is a point of diminishing return with the weight saving - getting rid of the standard headlight assembly, instruments, speedo cable, kick stand switch, lighter mirrors and indicators and the rear sub frame extension that does not actually do much are easy and lose a reasonable amount of weight. I will be putting a fair bit of effort into the ergo's, with the bars raised a bit, pegs lowered and some firmer and raised seat foam.

    I am planning to pack super light. This will include a bivy bag for sleeping, a pepsi can cooker and super efficient tool kit and spares set up. I will be using a lightweight hiking approach.

    The trouble with big bikes is that you can take way to much gear, and you get stuck in a vicious cycle. I will be trying to go the absolute opposite of that, to the extent that I will have my riding gear, a spare t shirt and jocks, the minimum for what I need to eat and sleep and what I need for the bike. I understand that this approach would not be for everyone, but I am trying to go back to basics, to replicate a little what I did 30 years ago. Many people will spend more on their riding gear than this whole project is going to cost me. They have earned that right. What I have earned is a fair bit of knowledge that I didn't have when I was younger. The plan is to use this to do something that is both interesting and challenging. Will see how it goes.

    From a mechanical point of view, my other passion is rebuilding old chainsaws, so I am pretty good on the tools. IMG_2456.JPG
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  9. MrPulldown

    MrPulldown Long timer

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    You bike appears to be reworked a bit. Did someone install a dual sport kit to it. Rewound the stator and added a regulator rectifier to get DC power. That headlight is the High low unit from the street bikes, got me wondering.

    Seems like with only a $2000 budget I would be more concerned with replacing wear items and adding touring bits rather than suspension upgrades and new headlights?

    On thing to seriously consider is to go to a CV carb. Not sure what you have in your bike the in the US the dirt DR came with a TM33 pumper carb. The TM pumper carb is good for instant throttle response. But it is know to have reliability issues. For one the telfon on the slide wears out and then wears the carb body. This leads ti running and idling issues. This is present in most Dirt DRs that have not had its carb replaced. The slides in the carb should be a service item, but was never mentioned as so in the service manuals. Next the TM pumper carb eats through needles. Anoaawesome (sp?) from the dr350 thread snapped a couple of needles on his cross country trip. At the very least carry spares. Finally the TM burns gas forget the rate but something like 1.25x to a CV. Something to consider if gas is an issue. For reference you can get 70+ mpg on a stock SE.

    With regrades to chainsaws: I have an old mini mac that I boxed up several years ago. It was leaking gas, the friction/press fit gas fitting from the tank started to leak. Been meaning to bring it back to life one of these days.
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  10. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    Hey Mr Pulldown - Mini Macs are a PITA as you need to pretty much disassemble the whole lot get to the fuel lines, which is a big ask for a saw that is only worth a little to start off with.

    My Dr is an early Aus spec street version, so has the CV carb already, stator and reg/rec and full wiring loom. Its basically the same as your dirt only versions with those street additions. All the bearings will be replaced in the swingarm, steering head etc. along with new cables and anything else that needs to be done. The headlight on the bike in the pic is not actually mine, it is a borrowed one as the original was smashed and the mounting all beat up, along with the mounting points pulled out of the cowel. I need to make a custom dash anyway so will do all that together. The cheap am headlight unit was about 20 bucks - sorting out the current set up would be a lot more stuffing around. Previous owner had just replaced the cam chain (he was a mechanic) and the bike has a very good bottom end and gearbox.

    For what I am wanting to do the suspension is a must, and with the cartridge forks, is easy for the front end. Most rear shocks need to be rebuilt anyway so this in no biggy - it just means that you have a much better than new chassis once you have done the swingarm/linkage, wheels and steering head bearings.

    So far I have spent about 1000 - there are plenty of second hand XR acerbis tanks around down here (XR's were the dominant dirt bike and our distances mean that there were a lot of acerbis tanks sold). My budget is not a make or break thing - it would be no big one to spend more, but I like the discipline of keeping the costs down.

    In terms of touring upgrades, there will not be a lot to do. I will set the gearing to be able to cruise at around 90-95kph on the dirt comfortably, will make a rack out of some folded aluminum sheet that is also mounted to the pillion peg mounts and make up some mountings to hold various bits and pieces - I will be just using cycling panniers, a back pack (that will have water bladder and some soft items), and a small tank bag for a camera, wallet etc. Sleeping stuff will be mounted on the top of the rack but this is very light and will be just strapped down. Main weight will be extra fuel and water, but that is only going to be needed for the actual desert crossing which I am planning to do in three days at around 180km per day. So I will not be going super fast for both safety and mechanical sympathy reasons.

    I am pretty optimistic that it will all come together pretty easily - but I am open to suggestions!!!! I will be getting all bits and pieces together over the next few weeks with a few to being getting everything together in its initial incarnation when I have a week off in the second week in July - will keep you posted.
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  11. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    This bloke does a great job of explaining some of the challenges of the Simpson in a typically aussie way. I recon I will have half the gear that he had on an already lighter bike which will make a big difference. His series of videos on his crossing demonstrate how fitness in the sand is a big deal as he was cooked after the first deep sand section, which had the effect of eating away at his confidence. Shows that doing the recce work in soft sand is a bit of a must - for me that will be in the big desert national part a couple of hours down the road. I can recommend this guys youtube channel. He is really honest about his own limitations and the fact that he is learning which is quite refreshing. Be prepared to hear the word "bloody" a lot.


    In other news I scored a hardly used Shift Flak jacket for 40usd. Its around 8 years old but looks like it has only been worn a few times. It is not going to compete with a Klim gortex number, but it has good ventilation and lots of pockets including the ability to house a hydration pack. Sweet. Also had a good week on my weight loss and reckon I am going to come in at 5lb!!! Some of that will be fluid, but still pretty good return for effort.
    Shift Flak.JPG
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  12. Winston Rose

    Winston Rose Adventurer

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    Nice one bud, as you said its about hitting it hard right off the bat and keeping up that momentum, good for you!

    I got into Crossfit last year and its all high intensity stuff coupled with barbell work. I have found getting to the 7am class keeps me in check. No really late nights, no beers mid-week. Suits me.

    Enjoy the burn over the next few weeks! :gdog

    Bike sounds like its getting a decent work over. Just in the middle of doing my valve clearances atm. First big mechanical work I've done but I've got the tools and the patience. Really enjoying it so far. Best of luck for the build!
    #12
  13. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    [

    Cheers mate - my wife is right into crossfit and I do a little. Its a really good way to get in shape!!
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  14. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    Have been away camping for the last week, so a bit slow on the updates. I have my 98/99 front end here along with a dirt model fully adjustable shock. Also have my storage sorted with a custom made horseshoe unit. My tent, sleeping bag and pad all fit into the rear dry bag which leaves heaps of space for everything else including water bladders and extra fuel. Its sitting the wrong way in pic and i will need to fab up a heat shield. Weight wise I am down to 215lb. DSCN1025.JPG
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  15. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    For those interested my tent set up is a nemo go go semi bivey. It comes in at under 1kg and because it has no poles (it is an inflatable hoop), it packs down to the size of a couple of beer cans. This means that my whole tent sleeping set up is around 3kg (6.6lb). I also run a very light cooker set up. This is really a hiking approach, or bicycling touring and is not going to be for everyone, but it is very light!!! nemo go go.jpg
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  16. tatt2mike

    tatt2mike Been here awhile

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    Love the yellow and white. I am biased that way though. lol
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  17. Dolmar

    Dolmar Adventurer

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    Got things going pretty well with indicators and wiring sorted on the DR so did a hard 150kms today to really test out. She went like a rocket. I am thinking it really is going to be a top choice for the Simpson. The 6th gear is a big advantage over a drz400and its going to be lighter. I have my fully adjustable dirt shick that i am going to rebuild and 98 model cartridge forks that i will also go through, but for the time being she is going very well. suzuki.JPG
    #17
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