I got the idea to do this trip while I was on my trip around the United
States in 1999, particularly while I was camping outside of Whitehorse in
the Yukon I met a rider who at just come back from Terra Del Fuego and was
on his way to Prudoe Bay, Alaska. Later riding through Baja California cemented
the idea in my head. Originally I thought I would be doing this by myself
and really wanted to get a sidecar rig to do the trip with. But the lack
of availability of a good sidecar rig and a chance to ride in the dirt on
a friends xr650 combined with the fact that two friends would be joining
me convinced me that a dual-sport might be the best way to go.
For the trip I purchased a new 2001 Suzuki DR650SE. I picked this bike
for three reasons. First it had the lowest seat height of the three Japanese
dual-sports. Second it was a better street bike then the Honda XR and a
better dirtbike then the Kawasaki KLR and last but not least I had
never owned a Suzuki.
This is a picture of my DR a few weeks after I bought it.
This picture shows some of the modifications I've done in preperation for
my trip. At this time I've added handguards from Enduro Engineering. A 5 gallon
gas tank from IMS. A Suzuki luggage rack. A top box from JC Whitney. Luggage
racks from Happy-Trails. A skid plate from Baja Designs. A centerstand from
Dual-Star and a Corbin Saddle.
Current Bike Modifications
Enduro Engineering Handguards
No problems seems to be quality gear
IMS 5 gallon Tank
This thing was a real pain in the butt to install. First mine came
with a petcock but I was told to remove the petcock from the stock tank
as I needed to use the stock bolts in new tank. Unfortunately the stock bolts
are much to long to use with the new petcock (grrrr). I ended up using the
bolts supplied to mount the attachment point for the seat to the back of the
tank to secure the petcock. After installing the petcock and putting some
gas in the tank it leaked like crazy (grrr x 2). The shape of the petcock
is not even close to the shape of the gasket so it didn't seal at all. I ended
up making a thin metal plate to go between the gasket and the petcock and
another gasket to go between the petcock and the metal plate. I applied a
gasket sealant and it doesn't appear to be leaking. Also the holes drilled
into the gastank for the petcock mounting where very sloppy. At this point
I've got to say that I'm very underwhelmed by IMS quality.
No Problems but you need to drill holes in your rear fender.
JC Whitney Top Box
I found about this box while surfing the web. While it's definitely
not a Givi box it's quite functional and well worth the $50 price. The mounting
hardware is pretty generic and had to be modified for my purposes but I'm
quite pleased with the setup.
These bolted right on and appear to be real quality pieces.
Baja Designs Skip Plate
This went on fairly easily. I purchased this with my bike before
I ever got the centerstand. It does not fit with the dual-star centerstand
so I ended cutting the back end off and drilling new holes to mount it to
the centerstand. It tends to reflect engine noise up to the rider and it
sound is quite tinny. I've coated the inside of the plate with underbody
coating in an attempt to dull the noise.
This went on without a problem. It lacks a tab to step on which makes
putting the bike on the stand harder then it needs to be. Also when the bike
is on the centerstand it doesn't appear to be very stable so I wouldn't leave
it unattended. However when it comes to mainting the chain or rear tire it's
extemely convenient so I think it was a good purchase.
When I ordered the saddle from Corbin I asked them to build up the
front to elimante the usual dip. The saddle is about twice as wide as the
stock saddle and very comfortable. It's flat design also lets you move on
I purchased 2 36 Litre Give JR bags for the side racks. While I haven't
crash tested them yet I have taken them on a few trips now with both the
DR and the VFR. I chose the Givi luggage over aluminum luggage because of
their versatility. I also believe that they will absorb some of the impact
of a fall where aluminum luggage would tend to transfer the energy directly
into the racks and the bike itself. The Givi JR don't have any internal straps
to secure the contents so if I was to do it again I would go with the higher
end model of the Givi bags. But other then that I'm quite pleased with the
bags. The fact I can use them on both of my bikes was a real plus.
I bought front and rear springs for the bike from Dual-Star and they have
improved the handling of the bike tremendously. They also allow me to get
on and off the bike without worrying about it tipping over. The stock springs
where so soft that even the tiniest slope would cause the bike to tip over
to the right when I would try to get on and off. Here are detailed instructions
on installing the springs.
Tank Panniers etc.
I purchased a set of tank Panniers from Wolfman luggage. While these are
nice and big I haven't found a way to mount them where they don't interfere
with my knees. Also the stock mounting set up allows the bags to shift from
side to side if one of the bags is heavier then the other. I'm think I can
live with the bags bumping my knees as I don't seem to spend much time gripping
the tank with my legs anyways. I will try to improvise a mounting system so
that the bags will stay in place even with an uneven load.
I've added a panel
a switch for heated grips as well as 2 12v cigarette outlets and a voltage
meter.I may also add a switch for the headlight.
Reusable Steel oil filter
I didn't feel like hauling a dozen oil filters around so I picked up a stainless
steel oil filter from dual-star. Only time will tell how well this works out.
Parts & Tools
chain and sprockets
wheel and steering head bearings
4 spark plugs
9 sets of oil filter gaskets
rear brake lever
large set of metric socket wrenches
reversable screwdriver with 15 bits
small robo grips
small auto lock grips
large set of metric allen wrenches
stock tool kit
tire repair kit from aerostich
aif filter oil
Pending Bike Modifications
Brake Disk Guards
I haven't been able to locate any disk guards for the 96+ DR650. At this
point it's the only thing I really wish I had.
I've already spent enough money
getting ready for this trip so I won't be purchasing a new GPS
unit. If I can find some good mapping software with GPS coordinates for my
laptop however I may bring along my Magellan GPS 310 unit.
Nolan N100 Flip-Up helmet
These helmets are inexpensive and got a very positive review from
Motorcycle Consumer News. While I believe that a standard full face helmet
provides superior protection the convenience of a flip-up on long trips
to talk to your buddies or cops or whatnot on the side of the road is awesome.
I've also worn this helmet on long rides in the rain and didn't notice any
significant leaking which seems to be a common complaint with these helmets.
The only real complaint I have with this helmet is that the visor is not easily
removable which makes cleaning it or swithcing from a tinted or clear visor
a bit a pain. I don't usually carry multiple visors prefering to ride with
sunglasses and the visor open so it's not that much of a hindrance to me.
FirstGear Kenya Jacket
I was originally plaonning on getting a Darrien jacket but co-rider Todd
Peer offered to sell me his used one. After trying it out for a few weeks
I found a few things that I really didn't like about it. First of all the
collar just doesn't seem to fit right and chaffed my neck quite a bit. Secondly
I don't really care for 3/4 length jackets and a new Kenya jacket was only
a little bit more then the used Darrien and and about 1/2 the price of a new
Darrien. So far I really like the Kenya Jacket. The price is very good and
the waterproofing is excellent. It also has large chest vents which are quite
effective. On the negative side thae black synthetic material will roast
you if you're not moving and it has huge amounts of rather complicated velcro
pockets and flaps. While the pockets are large they aren't practical when
trying to find smaller items and off course there's absolutely nothing subtle
about opening these huge pockets.I had local moto seamstress Linda Tanner
add a small breast pocket to the jacket which is very practical.
Aerostich Darrien Pants
The Darrien pants are OK. They never fit right so I rode to the shop
in Duluth Minnesota to get them altered. The guy who helped was a BIG disappointment!
I was told that the knee pads would be raised 2 inches but the pants would
stay the same length. When I got the pants back however they where 2 inches
shorter and they may now allow water to pass between the bottom of my pants
and the top of my boots. Since the pants where altered the map pocket for
the thigh will no longer fit. Arrrgh!
I ended up purchasing a pair of Altberg Hog-Lite boots. These boots are
specifically for meant for riding with an emphasis on walking comfort and
protection from the elemnets. While they appear to be great boots the customer
service not unlike my Aerostich experience also sucked.
I purchase a pair of perforated full length gloves made by Olympia.
While I don't think Olympia makes the highest quality glove they are comfortable
and cheap enough to replace every few years. I bought one pair of over gloves
labeled as GoreTex but they leaked almost immediately. I'm considering just
using dishwashing gloves over my Olympia gloves during bad weather.
I ended up purchasing a Galyan's tent. This tent is 7'x7' and is self supporting
so you don't need to stake anything down when setting up the tent. I spent
one long night in the rain with it and while not as dry as my Sierra Clip
Light tent it still did very well.
Sleeping bag and mat
I'm currently using a tent rated down to 45 degrees and a full length
I purchased a Optimus Ranger 10 stove. This is stove is very small and stores
in it's own metal case including it's fuel cannister which makes it very portable.
It also run on Kerosne and Diesel which is convenient but burning Diesel
sends out big clouds of black smoke. When I first got my stove the pump to
pressurize the fuel tank didn't work. Hooray for quality control.
I purchased an Exstream water purifying bottle as well as various purification
Hatchet with saw in handle
First Aid kit
International Drivers License
Proof of Insurance
Proof of Vaccinations
International drivers license
Vacinations & Medicine
Hepatitus A & B
Most of my research has been conducted on the web at the sites listed
on my links page.
Read This First Central & South America
This was a very informative book and had sections on each country and is
small enough to carry on the bike
This book is very bad. It does have a list of useful spanish and portugese
phrases in the back which is useful
Fantastic book about a journalist riding the route that Che Guevarra originally
road before becoming a commie. Lots of good moto stuff as well as history
of the area and the life and death of Che.
Odyssey to Ushaiai
If you only read one book this should be it. Basically a ride report of
three guys riding from NYC to Terra Del Fuego in 1999. Lots of excellent
moto info and local color.
Berlitz Latin America Phrasebook with cassette
Chatting with the Latinas at the local gas stations.