December 04, 2018
It was at this point i realised I hated these tanks visually and technically and really they were just a second experiment to prove i could reliably produce an aluminium fuel tank. I swapped at this stage over to Jenny's bike as she had decided that she did not want to have a big tank in front. We essentially copied the basic premise of the Hot Rod tank by having it at the rear of the bike underneath the luggage rack. We started by bending up a luggage rack in tubular steel after reinforcing the aluminium subframe and adding mounting points for the rack. Once this was finished we set about building a rear fuel tank and finished it in about a week. Unbelievably this fuel tank would have a capacity of 12.5 litres!
From what I had learnt from reading tons of travel blogs and watching youtube series such as races to places is that you need as much fuel as possible available. Motorcycles tend to have very small tanks anyway and also when riding offroad fuel economy drops significantly. I knew I wanted between 27-30 litres at a minimum. We didn't need to fill them all the time but i wanted the comfort of knowing I could carry more fuel if i needed without strapping on jerry cans to my bike. Integrated fuel tanks are much more efficient at carrying fuel than just standard containers like jerry cans. For example we could have mounted a rotopac fuel container under jennys luggage rack instead of custom building tank. The only size of rotopac that would fit is the US gallon size at 3.7L. We managed to fit over 12L in the same space by conforming around the bike.
We then added a tank to her Aluminium sump guard which totalled 6.5 litres. We triple skinned it on the bottom to protect it against damage and with the three tanks now on the bike we now had a capacity of 27 litres. On tarmac this would give the bike a range of over 400 miles!
By this point I had not only made two custom fuel tanks I had also made one for my dads 80 year old classic car and had done a ton of alterations and upgrades to the frames, suspension components etc. I had also built Jenny a small aluminium navigation tower to replace the stock dashboard and headlight on her bike. I now turned my attention back to my bike. With my rally experience I wanted a sleek integrated tank solution and the only system that stood out to me was the current model of KTM Dakar race bike. With an beautiful aerodynamic windscreen and fairing and the low slung saddle fuel tanks and integrated sump guard this would be my basis for upgrading the X challenge to a true round the world machine.
I began by ordering a genuine KTM rally windscreen as well as the headlights, headlight fairing, fixings and winglets. With these parts i was able to make a template navigation tower in cardboard and begin to produce a tower that could carry not just the headlights and windscreen but also all the navigation gear I would need. I used sheet aluminium as much as I could so that should it be damaged from a crash I could easily trace the parts onto fresh aluminium, steel or even plastic and rebuild the tower anywhere.
Once the tower was completed and carefully mounted so that it matched the exact orientation of the KTM i could begin building the tanks. These essentially filled in the gap between the windscreen fairing and the frame of the bike. With the addition of a smaller tank under the luggage rack i had now matched the 27 litre capacity of Jennys bike.
To finish we rebuilt the wheels with high end rims as they would take a lot of punishment and upgraded jennys wheel size to match my enduro sized wheels so that we could buy tires anywhere in the world that would fit.
Final tweaks and Kit
Along with a full suspension upgrade to fully adjustable suspension for both bikes they were both close to being perfect. We tailored a few things to our personal preferences like changing the handlebars and grips and added plenty of stickers! A very important final addition was our navigation setup. We would primarily rely on our phones mounted in Ultimate Addons waterproof cases for day to day road navigation as well as providing music to our headsets and then we would also use a pair of Garmins mountaineering GPS units serving as back up.
I chose to have my Ultimate Addons phone case for my Samsung Galaxy mounted up high in the line of vision so i used their 3 inch 25mm ball extender so i could align the case perfectly as well as re position it from portrait to widescreen depending on which nav app i was using.
Jenny chose to use the excellent handlebar clamp mount with her iPhone case. By simply removing a clamp bolt and installing the Ultimate Addons bolt with ball adapter on top it meant she could keep a clean and tidy cockpit area. She also much prefers using the V2 3 prong adapter with the push button release so she can pop her phone off when she needs to take a video or photo as she uses her phone as her main camera.
Underprepared or Overprepared?
The level that we prepared our bikes may seem to many as over the top and perhaps a little obsessive. I’m sure you could walk into a shop tomorrow and buy any bike and ride it around the world but i couldn’t leave the reliability of the bikes up to chance. By having a deep, fundamental understanding of the bikes we have been able to fix them by ourselves in very remote places and thus were truly self sufficient. In many of the countries we have visited the locals have very little and are all too willing to selflessly put themselves out to help a traveller in need and to just expect this of these people I couldn’t stomach.
The thing with such a trip is that it is “your trip” and therefore it is up to you how you tackle it and there is no wrong or right way. For us we prefer a more technical approach to our bikes just as we have taken to all of our trip preparation and finances. What I will say is the best tool for preparing for such a trip is research and time. By researching the routes, equipment and finances thoroughly we were best prepared and could concentrate on enjoying the experience of travelling on our ideal bikes!
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