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  • Suzie & Kelvin

Bikes - What, why and how?

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

Rob tinkering with the oil cooler

Our bikes of choice are two 1996 Suzuki DR650 SE's. This decision was primarily made by me and backed by Kelvin, as we decided having the same bike would be advantageous in terms of spares, maintenance and only having to have one manual. We will carry both a paper Clymer manual (in case technology fails) and an electronic copy. Initially, I wanted to take a Honda CRF230F, and Kelvin wanted to take a Honda Africa Twin...both miles apart! In the end, we had to decide on a bike that could carry more than the CRF230, have a bit more power, good reliability, that could be lowered for short-arse me and be good both on and off the tarmac. Many people suggested the BMW GS800, however to me it still felt a bit heavy and I wasn't sure how happy I would be on it. Then I came across the DR650. I had never been on a DR but one came up for sale for under a grand, 3 miles down the road. Sold! I then rode it all the way to Italy and back in May 2016, with one test ride the night before (I don't recommend leaving it this late). It felt great, despite the oil leak causing havoc with my ability to use the back brake! Anyway, I survived and I loved it. The decision was made.

Motorcycle surgery with Rob and Mo

Unfortunately, our preparation of the bikes didn't exactly go smoothly, meaning we had to call on people for several last-minute favours. I have to say, we have been humbled by people's willingness to help us and we can't ever say "THANK YOU" enough.

Kelvin sorting out the throttle tubes

Firstly, all of the house 'DIY' mounted up and up, meaning Kelvin was going to be taken away from the bikes and called upon to do the things I couldn't do, so basically everything but cleaning, painting and pointing. Thankfully, our good friends Nadine and Pat came to the rescue from Cheltenham one weekend, and between us the list went from about 20 jobs to about 4.

Next, the shipment of a lot of the motorcycle parts we needed from ProCycle (USA) was significantly delayed by UK customs, and it took almost a month to get it! The other bits and pieces we managed to source from Wemoto (UK), which arrived swiftly.

The next big issue was that my bike wouldn't start, and our off-roading neighbour and fellow TRF member John came to the rescue, giving us a lift to JHS, who managed to squeeze my bike in for some old-school diagnostics and electrical surgery. It finally started on the 23rd March with the installation of a resistor and some other little bits and bobs. Phew! Both our heart rates settled, at least a little. To be honest, I was expecting and preparing to ship a non-starter to Colombia and find a local mechanic once the bike cleared customs. I am infinitely grateful that this will now not be the case. Thank you JHS for digging us out of a hole!

Kelvin studying the Clymer manual in his new reading glasses!

Next, another John (from Unity Motorcycles) managed to squeeze Kelvin's bike in last minute for a clutch change and uprated alternator fitting to save some time. Good bloke.

Unfortunately my bike also sprung an oil leak (I was starting to get deja-vu), and not long after we found out the bikes were going to be picked up by the courier company on the 27th March; a little earlier than we had hoped for. Luckily, some other good friends Mo and Rob came to our rescue on the 25th March, all the way from South-West Wales with two days notice! Saviours! They worked tirelessly away on my bike while Kelvin cracked on with his. On the same day, my best friend Hannah came to help me for a few hours, thanks to her we managed to get the heavier furniture dismantled and up into the loft, leaving Kelvin to be able to concentrate on the bikes. Perfect.

Getting the back tyre on with the Baja No Pinch Tool

Finally, after all this, the company in Colombia informed us that should anything go wrong with the clearing of the bikes through customs on the 11th April, everywhere will be closed for the rest of that week and weekend as it will be their Easter. Here's to hoping things go nice and smoothly. If not, we will be spending a few days exploring Bogota...tough life!

Next up...all about the upgrades and preparation that we did to the bikes.

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