After extensive research we decided for the good old, reliable Yamaha XT600E and we bought two secondhand 2003 models via marktplaats.nl. The Yamaha xt600 ticks many of the boxes for our trip: it is reliable, fairly cheap and not very complicated. In addition it is has enough power to comfortable propel me (Paul) including luggage for extended trips, while a the same time it is not excessively high or heavy (156 kg) so that Marlieke can still easily handle her own bike in most situations. Although a good platform, the original xt600e is not a ready-made long distance bike. Here we will explain what modifications we felt were needed to prepare the bikes for our RTW trip.
The original fuel tank can contain a puny 15 liters of fuel. In order to extend our range, I replaced the fuel tank with an 23l Acerbis tank including lockable lid (http://kedo.com/).
I fitted some strong braided fuel lines and a strong metal T-piece (not included) to connect the two fuel outlets. Between the T-piece and the carburetor I installed an in-line fuel filter, though I removed this from my bike after a few days of riding since this seemed to impede the flow of fuel at higher speeds.
On one bike, I fitted a brass quick connector in order to easily refill our gasoline stove. Most fuel connectors sold over the Internet are made of plastic and are prone to failure or leakage after extended use. I found this high quality connector and the metal T-piece at a local kart-racing store.
For security reasons, we decided to go for hard luggage. We researched many luggage systems and finally opted for the most economical/widely available option: Hepco and Becker standard alu including the standard xt600e rack.
At the time of writing we have traveled 15.000 km and we are not entirely happy with our choice. The first issue is the locking mechanism that connects the pannier to the rack. This is designed to break on impact. This is desirable at high speed crashes but the clip also fails during low speed spills as we experienced in the Czech Republic. Unless you have a spare clip and a riveting gun, this is impossible to repair in the field… not very practical in remote areas. A makeshift solution, available by H&B, is to permanently bolt the box to the rack (as we did in Bucharest). However, this has obvious practical drawbacks. A second disadvantage is that the lid is connected to the box via a hinge. When the bike is fully loaded, including a duffel on top, this complicates access.
I fitted a DIY storage for tool/spares underneath the bash plate. For this I used ammo boxes found at a local army surplus store. Storing heavy tools low in the front of the bike slightly improves handling of the bikes.
The original rear suspension is pretty good in my opinion. However in order to cope with the added load I have changed the spring on my bike to one suitable for 280kg. The rear suspension of Marlieke’s bike remains unmodified. The front suspension tends to “dive” when breaking. Since this issue is likely to increase when fully loaded, I changed the fork oil from 10w to 20w. A good 15000 km later we are still very happy with this small mod.
To protect the break/shift pedal and our legs during impact we installed strong H&B crash bars. The standard hand covers are of little help when falling, which could result in broken shift levers, brake levers or wrist injuries, hence we also replaced these with strong Acerbis hand protectors.
The original bash plate is completely useless and heavy to boot. I replaced it by a nice aluminium plate sold by kedo.
The tiny original windscreen works surprisingly well at keeping the wind from your chest. However, for added comfort, I fitted an after market windscreen on Marlieke’s bike. In addition, to improve off-road handling (while standing) and on-road comfort, the steering bars of of both bikes have been raised (2mm for Marlieke, 3 mm for Paul).
We bought two cheap sheep skins from Ikea and my mom skillfully modified these to securely fit over our saddles. This has massively improved the comfort during long distance riding… highly recommended!
For easier navigation we have installed a Garmin gpsmaps 60csx. The lockable gps mount is sold by Touratech.
We fitted both bikes with a TTI radio system. However this system was plagued by interference and malfunction. Only 1.000 km in our trip one radio failed altogether and we have been doing just fine without radio communication during the past 15.000 km.
The original side-stand does not work well on soft surfaces. On our request an mechanic has welded a larger footprint on the side-stand. A stable center-stand in invaluable when working on the bike. We bought and fitted a very stable centerstand made by SW-Motech
We have fitted a loobman , a simple and low-cost chain oiler. This system consist of a small oil bottle and some tubing that delivers the oil directly to the rear sprocket. The idea is that you must squeeze the bottle before setting of and gravity will take care of the rest. We have used the system our the previous 4000 km and it seems to work well. An big pro of this system is that you can use regular engine oil so we will be able to keep our chain well maintained even after the oil spray cans run empty.