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
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.
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
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.