The Bike

I should say right at the beginning that some of the modifications I have tried are somewhat experimental and some are by my own admission a bit mad; by no means should you or anyone assume that just because I have done it, they could or should. We are all responsible for our own workmanship and actions and I have tried to test things carefully as much as possible but nothing is guaranteed especially when it’s 30 years old and subject to heavy loads and bad roads. Our brief was to buy or build a motorcycle that could take us all that way two-up in relative comfort and carry everything we needed to survive with us. We wanted to have enough storage space to be able to have the essentials locked away out of sight and out of the weather and to be able to leave the bike for a short time to explore things along the way.
We are not Gazillionaires by any stretch of the imagination but we have sought to buy the best gear for the trip that we could afford as it is going to be used day in, day out for an extended length of time (hopefully
anyway!). We have not kept a tab of what we have spent on it because we would probably frighten ourselves, but at least doing it this way we have been able to spread the cost out over several years rather than having to find it all at once which would have been beyond our means.

Why two-up and not on two bikes?

Karen currently rides her own V50 and XL185 and has had other bikes in the past and she is quite a capable rider both on and off road but she is quite petite and short in the leg and she realised a long time ago that she could not manage a fully loaded bike over bad terrain. Fortunately she also likes riding pillion and has done so on all our European trips.

We can also work together as a team two-up as she can spot things I have not seen whilst driving. She doesn’t hesitate to give me a nudge when she thinks I have missed something. She will probably get booted off if the going ever gets really bad and then it’s useful to have someone walk ahead to guide you through the worst bits and help pick up the pieces when it all goes horribly wrong. The other reason is that 2 bikes doubles the expense: double the petrol, double the shipping and you have 2 bikes to maintain and that’s if they are the same bike! If different then spares are also an issue.

BMW or Guzzi?

We did seriously think about buying a BMW GS for some time. It is the obvious tool for the job and probably the more sensible option. To help decide we made a list of pros and cons. In favour of the BMW, it is made for purpose, well proven, comparatively lightweight with lots of ready made touring gear and excellent global spares backup. On the other hand, they are expensive to buy and scarily expensive to carnet (see below) and very stealable (especially after Long Way Round etc.). I have no experience or mechanical knowledge of BMWs whatsoever, there are lots of electronics to go wrong they and are harder to fix in the field (more dealer only, with complex fuel injection and ECUs).

Why a Guzzi?

I have been riding Guzzis for 20 years starting with a T3, then a G5 and now additionally a Spada. I have
always done my own repairs/servicing/mods etc as I am from an engineering background. There is very little I haven’t done to a Guzzi at some point, the only thing I can think of is rebuilding a bevel box but I have a knackered one of those now to practise on. They are simple enough to work on on the road, without much specialist equipment and all the important parts are right in my opinion:– The motor just keeps banging on even with loads of things wrong with it.

– They handle, even when well loaded thanks to MTonti.
– They stop, thanks to Mr Brembo.
– A lot of parts are interchangeable so you can swap parts around to suit and there is not much electric to go phut. They are cheap to buy and (crucially) cheto carnet.

On the other hand, a Guzzi is old, heavy, not an off roader and doesn’t have great spares backup globally. Remember, Stelvios didn’t exist at that time or I might have been tempted although they would have some of the same problems as a GS in terms of value, carnet electronics/fuel injection complexity.

What’s a Carnet?

A quick note about Carnets or the “Carnet de Pasage” to give it its full title. For those who have never
heard of this it is a document that is required once yget outside the EU for temporary import/export of the bike. Its purpose is to act as a guarantee that the vehicle will not be sold within the country in question without the appropriate duty being paid. It is issued by the RAC in London and consists of an A4 booklet with tear off sheets for each entry and exit which must be stamped and filled out in duplicate
at every border crossing. The big problem with these is that to obtain one you need to put down a deposit
which is usually 3-4 times the value of the bike. Now with a £1,400 Guzzi (well that’s what I paid for it!) this is do-able. But a second hand GS doesn’t seem to sell for much less than 4k which suddenly becomes an awful lot of money and imagine the kind of money you have to find if you buy a new one at about £12k. I have heard that some banks will act as guarantor but what happens if you cannot
produce a bike at the exit point i.e. it caught fire or was stolen?

Why a Spada?

I already had a G5 so was on the look out for either another G5 or a Spada as I wanted to keep my G5 on
the road as my everyday bike. A Spada is to all intents and purposes a G5 with a fairing so I knew most parts would be interchangeable; this meant I could leave the G5 at home and get a mate to ship out any bits to me if I was struggling to obtain them locally. I have also been building up a set of spare parts as I have gone along. I had already decided to go down the aluminium pannier route as regards luggage, partly because it is more secure and partly because it is more useful. You can use it as a seat, or a table etc when camping. I did dabble with the idea of using the original Spada fairing but I am a bit too tall for it and I thought being fibreglass, one heavy spill and it was going to be history. So the fairing was sold on ebay along with the leg shields.

The other priorities were: to make the seat as comfortable as possible and preferably sprung, to improve the suspension and brace up the front end as the original forks are a bit spindly, to rebuild/recondition the engine and gearbox but to leave it largely standard, to recondition and uprate the brakes but to
keep them linked. All the racks and crash bars are fabricated from mild steel; steel is a fantastically resilient material



but it does have one big disadvantage – its weight. Using aluminium for the racks was out of the question as they also act as crash bars and they are likely to get a bit bent and beaten about. Steel will generally tolerate a lot of this and can be beaten and bent back in to shape. Aluminium has
a nasty habit of either snapping straight off or bending and then snapping when you try to straighten it out. It also requires specialist welding equipment to repair, whereas even third world countries usually have people who can arc weld steel.

I wanted some box section where I could fit one size inside the other and there was only one size that fitted the bill, with a 1.2mm wall thickness the 22mm fitted nicely inside the 25mm so that’s where I started. Later I discovered that 19mm box also fits inside the 22mm and that has also proved very useful. Ordinarily I would never has chosen anything that thin but in hindsight I am thankful that I did because its amazing how quickly the weight adds up. I admit that it is over engineered but in the back of my mind was the beating it’s likely to get. Having now ridden to the south of France two-up and fully loaded I find that
it handles and stops well and the fuel consumption doesn’t seem to have suffered much. I was also encouraged by the wear rate of the back tyre which I thought could be a problem but so far seems pretty

The Frame

This is mainly standard, except for the brackets for the crash bars and racks. The only major mod is at the
back end; the rear frame rails are extended by about 150mm and there is a piece of thin gauge CDS (cold drawn steel) inside it back to the shock mount. There is also a piece of small diameter tube welded to each side to triangulate the rear frame rail and act as a gusset. The original frame rails are unsupported aft of the rear shock mount and as the rear rack and panniers all hang on this I felt this needed strengthening. I also strengthened the lock stops as the originals are a bit flimsy.

The Engine

This is mainly standard. I rebuilt the engine and added a deep sump conversion with an external rear
mounted filter (much less vulnerable than the front facing one) and a mocal oil cooler and the later Guzzi high output oil pump. The external oil filter allowed me to fit a mocal thermostatic sandwich plate which fits between the filter and the sump and only allows flow through the cooler when the oil is above 70 degrees. I also fitted a VDO electric oil temperature sender where the original oil pressure sender goes and made a stainless steel adaptor on my lathe to mount a VDO electric oil pressure sender on top of the central oil feed to the heads. I also fitted helical cut aluminium timing gears while I was at it.

The oil pressure and oil temperature gauges are the two additional gauges mounted on the handlebars.
The first question everyone asks is “How heavy is it?” Well I haven’t had a chance to weigh it yet but it is
a heavy ole lump; if you want to carry a lot of stuff its gotta go in something and that’s got to be mounted on something and that’s that. I wanted to make the boxes and racks as multipurpose as possible. To this end the front rack, front box and two side crash bars/jerry cans act as a fairing, storage space, mount for screen, mount for tool boxes, mount for the winch, mount for alternator and storage for the outriggers. The boxes are 2mm aluminium constructed by a local engineering firm to my design. This was one of the few parts I haven’t done myself. The rear panniers are supported from underneath by detachable crash bars as well as fixed to the rear rack. The crash bars can be removed with or without the panniers in place; they also act as a comfortable seat when camping. I was going to make detachable front feet for these but when I tried it they weren’t necessary as your legs act as the front feet. The ally chequer plate on the rear crash bars comes undone with 4 wing nuts and the sections join together with hinges stashed on the crash bar. These work as sand or mud mats to enable crossing of soft surfaces without sinking. I drove overland trucks in Africa for a year and sandmats got me out of the mire many times literally.

All the rear boxes are held by 2 lengths of box section; ultimately the plan is to have a fixed ratchet strap
around each side


Outrigger on the Spada

as well so that the box sections can be removed without the boxes coming adrift. These two lengths of box are thicker than the rest for good reason. If the bike is dropped they can act as levers to pick the bike up. If we need to drop the panniers off to reduce weight we just undo the straps and they are all free to be removed. The box also serves several other purposes and allows you to pick up the whole back end of the bike when extended (wheelbarrow style) and drops into several strategic leverage points. The two rear removable crash bars also act as a luggage trolley when the bike is being shipped, the box section attaches as a handle and two small nylon wheels attach to each frame allowing it to be rolled along with both panniers attached. The wheels stash under the froncrash bars when not in use. The other important function of the crash bars is to stop the bike going right over in the event of a spill. Alsto this end there are 2 outriggers at the front which tuck up under the front crash bars and snap down over centron gas struts when required. When down they are abou100mm from the floor and will take the whole weight of the bike to prevent it falling over, the idea being if thgoing gets slippery on mud/grass/ice/snow you can ride with them down to stop the bike falling over providing the surface is not too rutted.

To be continued.

  1. #1 by Constantin on October 27, 2015 - 12:24 pm

    Seems like UK government is a big thief regarding the “carnet de pasage”.
    I leave in Romania but there is not such a thing.
    Anyway, good decision for choosing that bike and keep rolling.

  2. #2 by Kev & Karen on June 8, 2015 - 9:46 pm

    Glad you finally found us although at this rate it will be a while before we blog the Oregon section.
    Thnks for the kind words.

  3. #3 by Kev & Karen on June 8, 2015 - 9:44 pm

    Sorry really behind on the blogs. Mexico will come in time I must do some blogs soon.

  4. #4 by José on April 16, 2015 - 3:16 am

    Cheers bud…..How come no pics through Mexico ?

  5. #5 by David M on April 13, 2015 - 1:15 am

    Saw your bike in Tillamook Oregon at the Air Museum, and couldn’t get it out of my mind! I kept seeing it in photos with no reference to who owned it until today when I found your site! Beautiful rig, amazing journey!

  6. #6 by david jones on January 28, 2014 - 5:58 pm

    hi there k&k. I read where you are getting ready to go to south America that being one of my favorite places to travel to.

  7. #7 by david jones on January 28, 2014 - 2:40 am

    just like to read about adventurous people

  8. #8 by Kev & Karen on January 21, 2014 - 7:36 pm

    Hi Pete
    It’s kinda complicated. I fitted Helical cut aluminium timing gears in the UK when we were testing the bike there because they were supposed to be an improvement ?. I had exactly the same issue as you in that the crank and camshaft gears were a good mesh fit but the oil pump gear was loose as hell.
    This in itself isn’t an issue as the part thats timed is the part with no slop in it but I was never really that happy with the amount of freeplay on the pump gear. They were however nice and quiet and seemed to work fine.
    A month or so before we were going to leave I pulled the timing case off to take a look to see how they were going and I found aluminium swarf in the timing case. Not large amounts but I don’t want any metal swarf running around in my oil.
    I removed the gears and refitted a new standard timing chain on the original sprockets and fitted an aftermarket sprung tensioner in place of the original fixed one. We have since done 75’000 HARD miles and its still going strong.
    Martin the original Guzzioverland guru swore by Agostini straight cut gears and showed me a set that had done 100’000miles out of his bike. They were worn but still useable and he replaced them as he felt at that mileage they had done their job. Straight cut gears are a lot noisier than helical cut ones especially if you are using a lumpy cam but then a chain makes some noise too.

    You pay your money and take your choice I guess, my opinion now is that they were fixing something that didn’t need fixing. Stock Guzzi duplex chains last 100’000 miles or more quite regularly and you will hear when it needs replacing. The sprung tensioner is definitely worth fitting though if you go back to a chain, it quietens everything down and keeps constant tension. The stock tensioner works until the chain stretches then if you don’t go back in there and re-adjust it the chain starts carving grooves out of the timing case and you are back to swarf floating around in your engine.

    I have just got hold of a secondhand convert timing case here in the U.S which I am fitting soon to utilise its secondary oil pump to circulate oil around my oil cooler rather than robbing engine oil pressure to do the same. When I am in there I will replace the timing chain for a new one while I am looking at it, its just starting to get a bit noisier now anyhow so the timing is good Haha !

    Sorry about the long winded answer, but I hope it helps you decide what to do.
    Cheers Kev

  9. #9 by Peter Elliott on January 16, 2014 - 10:30 pm

    Hi Kevin, Want your advice, I tried helical timing gears; the cam/crank pinoins fitted snugly but there was a load of backlash with the oil pump/crank mesh. what were yours like(mine were from Gutsibits who refunded me but were originally from Stein-Dinse) have tried the club forum without success, and am dubious about advice from shops who only want to sell you their product.
    Have a great adventure

  10. #10 by Harris Loeser on December 18, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    one of the coolest vehicles ever spotted in San Francisco, where we see a lot of neat old cars etc. thanks to
    low-rust climate, car culture, and iconoclastic folks moving in and passing through. see mannytranny on f’book

    I love the canopy and wonder if there is’nt a product there… Have a great ride South. Thanks for visiting San Francisco. You are going to have to find space for a soccer ball when you get to Brazil in time for World Cup.

  11. #11 by Jake on November 14, 2013 - 12:43 am

    john presser :
    dear friends
    heard your story on 774 in Melbourne,and wish Karen a speedy recovery,you both have tremendous spirit and love of life and adventure,fantastic web brought memories of my adventures in s. India on an old royal enfield 350cc,fully loaded many years ego.any way good luck and GOOD HEALTH

    Aloha! Joyfully exillerating seeing kev and karen in mukilteo, washington…have fun!!

  12. #12 by john presser on June 6, 2012 - 1:56 am

    dear friends
    heard your story on 774 in Melbourne,and wish Karen a speedy recovery,you both have tremendous spirit and love of life and adventure,fantastic web brought memories of my adventures in s. India on an old royal enfield 350cc,fully loaded many years ego.any way good luck and GOOD HEALTH

  13. #13 by Mike on June 6, 2012 - 1:06 am

    Hi Guys,
    about 25 years ago, Bruno De Mechalis got either a BM or a Guzzi, and added an overhead screen. He put a curve into it, and claimed that when hit by a cross wind, it would lean proportionately into the wind. ie, the stronger the wind, the stronger the lean.
    BMW did something similar, many, many years later.
    Well done Bruno.


  14. #14 by Kev & Karen on February 22, 2012 - 8:48 pm

    We remember you well, thanks for coming on board. Hope you enjoy the ride……
    Karen and Kev

  15. #15 by Stephen Fry on February 21, 2012 - 10:32 am

    Hey folks. Welcome to Australia. Saw you today at the lights at Lonsdale SA. Your bike was bigger than my Fiat 500. Wished I was with you. Well done and have a safe journey.

  16. #16 by Bud Miller on January 27, 2012 - 9:11 pm

    Wow, impressive amount or work there. Amazing. Love the canopy. I ride with my girlfriend all the time. I prefer riding with her on the back while we chat and she loves helping out spotting. Best of luck.

  17. #17 by Kev & Karen on December 4, 2011 - 4:22 am

    Hi Lee,
    Thanks for taking the time to write, we will endevour to catch up with blogs and hope you enjoy our continued journey.
    K & K

  18. #18 by Lee Doyle on December 3, 2011 - 8:53 am

    Hi Kev and Karen

    Met you both today and took some photos. I was fascinated by your story and had a look at the website. What a wonderful experience you two share. I look forward to checking your progress over the coming months. I wish you continued good fortunate and safety.

  19. #19 by Chook Melvin on November 12, 2011 - 12:26 am

    Great to meet the both of you last night & share some special time with you.
    Hope you come back & stay a while with us
    Chook & Phil

  20. #20 by Alex Johnston on August 30, 2011 - 11:02 am

    Silly me! Ignore first post . I just found the page with the bike onit. Have just discovered Michelin Pilot 2 tires. Absolutely brilliant on the Cally. Could be good for you?

  21. #21 by mike the bike on June 30, 2011 - 12:00 pm

    Convert your rims over to tubeless. A 1/8 NPT tap can be run down the hole, and a tank valve inserted.

  22. #22 by Rob Hall on June 19, 2011 - 10:51 am

    Hi Kev and Karen. We are the couple camped alongside of you at HUMM rally this weekend at Daybro.
    Thanks for your company and presentations. Jill is work as I write to keep her fat old husband in bright paint for his Harley!
    Have not yet worked out how to post to you piccys of the Harley and helicopter together, but I’ll post again when I have.
    Ride safe Rob Hall

  23. #23 by Ian on February 22, 2011 - 7:00 am

    Very different mode of transport.All the best fun & safe travel.Contact me

  24. #24 by Nadroj on February 1, 2011 - 9:31 am

    Was great to meet you in Tolaga Bay NZ. It was our first time there too & I hope you dried out after your “dip”.

  25. #25 by BARRY on January 29, 2011 - 5:07 am


  26. #26 by Mark on May 9, 2010 - 2:47 pm

    gr8 are you comeing to Australia ? good job

  27. #27 by pedroguzzi on April 23, 2010 - 1:08 pm

    Good luck dear friends, we are very happy to know your travel around the world in your Moto Guzzi. If you visit Spain email me please

  28. #28 by jim on March 27, 2010 - 10:13 pm

    Good luck, I hope you post some more detailed pictures of your modifications, they look good. Do you think cooling might be an issue with the external alternator? Did you buy or build the Earles-type front fork? If you get to the U.S. please post route info on Wild Goose chase, best of luck.

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