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Planning to go

When I started my world motorcycle adventure in 1993, I only had basic mechanical skills.
I could not even repair a puncture but I soon learnt. I was in northern Kenya when I had my first flat and only managed to do the repair with the help of two Samburu warriors who happened to wander out of the desert right where I got the flat. This kind of thing (chance encounters) happened all to frequently while travelling on my own.

The best way to avoid breakdowns is regular maintenance. Change oil regulary (according to your bike's manual) as you are always riding in the dirt. Clean the air filter every day if you have been riding on dirt roads. Grease the swing arm regularly. Oil your chain every afternoon after a days riding when the chain is still hot so the oil can soak in overnight. If you run out of chain lube, which you will - use old oil from any petrol station. You soon learn to value your chain. These are heavy to carry and I went through four in Africa - two I carried, one I was lucky enough to buy in Kenya and one I had posted to me. Check and adjust tappets when recommended. On the Yamaha TT600, I hardly ever had to adjust the tappets.

Take a set of connectors for between the carburettor and engine. On the Yamaha TT600 these wear out, I didn't notice until the dust had been going into the engine for a few days - a very quick way to kill the engine! Check this regularly. Go over nuts and bolts regularly and tighten any that are loose, especially when you are riding on very corrugated roads.

My Yamaha TT600 has had more demanded of it than most motorcycles, but it is still going strong.


Approximate total set up costs in 1993 - US$10,000 (inc. motorcycle)
plus $1500 for the cargo ship to Africa
Packed weight including motorcycle was approximately 200kgs

Yamaha TT600 (1992) dry weight 120 kg
Replaced muffler with lightweight stainless steel Aussie Muffler
Replaced 11litre standard tank with Acerbis 21 litre plastic tank
Fitter Tim Goddard Bark Busters to handlebars
Trimmed half of the foam from the seat (to suit my height of 165cm)
Nolan (N19R) helmet with peak and clear visor
Sheep skin for seat
Wine cask bladder (used inflated under the sheepskin for long distances to avoid numb bum especially as I'd removed half the foam from the seat)
Made and fitted by a friend:
Solid steel crash cage with stainless steel cylinder used to carry tools bolted
to bottom of crash plate and frame
Steel angle iron carry rack bolted to front forks

On bike to start:
Cheng Shin 4 ply front
Michelan T65 rear
Spare Tyres:
Cheng Shin 6 ply front
Michelin Desert 8ply rear
*(spare tyres sent by rail from South Africa to Zimbabwe, then air freight to Kenya)
Michelin Enduro, front and rear
Spares general use, front and rear (are lighter to carry)

Leather panniers (500 x 400 x 200 mm) with steel frame bolted to bike
Gearsack bag (large size)
Canvas daypack

SPARE PARTS (supplied by Yamaha Australia)
Decompression cable
Speedo cable (never used)
Clutch cable(never used)
Rear sprocket 48 tooth x 2
Front sprocket 15 tooth x 2
Oil filter x 6
Set of front spokes (never used)
Set of rear spokes (never used)
Set of front wheel bearings (never used)
Set of back wheel bearings (never used)
Set of steering head bearings (never used)
Clutch plate kit
Clutch lever
Front brake lever (never used)
Air cleaner filter
Chain runner plate
Oil filter O ring
Front brake pads x 2
Spare parts posted to Nairobi, Kenya for collection:
Exhaust valve adjuster cap
Carburettor float bowl O ring
Plastic side cover RH
Rear sprocket 50 tooth
Front sprocket 14 tooth
Oil filters x 4
Front brake pads x 1 set
Drive chains (supplied by Tsubaki Motorcycle chains)
520 Omega S O ring chain x 2 (one on bike and one as spare)
XQR non-O ring chain

Spare parts purchased in Africa:
Izumi Champion ES520SDR O ring chain


Ring and closed end metric spanners, (8, 10 x 2, 12 x 2, 14, 16, 18)
Yamaha 24/22 closed end spanner for rear axle nut
Yamaha spark plug spanner
Yamaha Steering head adjuster
Yamaha spoke tightening tool
Metric feeler gauge
Screw drivers - Philips: stubby, small, medium, long.
Flat end - small, medium, long.
Steel punch x 2 (used as chain breaker)
Steel files, pocket size (fine and medium)
Steel head hammer
Socket size 19mm and wrench (for turning engine to TDC to check valve clearances).
Hacksaw blade
Pliers, heavy duty
Pliers, long nosed
Multi-Grip Pliers
Tyre levers 12 inch x 2
Tappet adjuster tool
Cable grabber tool
Tin of grease (small)
WD40 (small size)
Air filter oil
Spray can chain lube (when this ran out, I used old truck oil)
Roll of 3M duct tape
Tin of nuts, washers and bolts, various sizes
Tin of miscellaneous odds and ends, (clip pins, chain links, wire, electrical tape, steel
tape, contact glue, Locktite for nuts and bolts, steel putty for engine casing repair)
Tip top puncture repair kit, (assorted patchesx20, spare valves and caps, valve tool)


Tent dome, three man
Light weight Thermarest mattress
Down sleeping bag (J&H Super)
Petrol stove
Cooking pot with lid (also used to store stove)
Small billy can with lid
Film canisters x 3 (salt, pepper, curry powder)
Tin Sardines x 2 (carried most of the time as emergency food)
Katadyn mini water purifier
*(only used on Zaire River barges, mostly used micropur purification drops).
Nalgene plastic bottles 500ml size x 4, (for sugar, tea, coffee)
Utility straps x 5
Nylon rope, 2 x 6 meter lengths
Ground sheet
Heavy duty plastic map case x 2 (one use for stationary)
10 lt plastic jerry used for water (covered with thick hessian)
10 lt plastic jerry used for petrol (covered with thick hessian)
1 lt plastic water bottle
Leather stitcher
Small torch
Leatherman tool
Plastic dinner plate
Plastic mug x 2
Stainless steel knife, fork, spoon
Cigarette lighter
Heavy duty camping toiletry bag



Nikon F601 SLR camera body
Tamron 28 to 200 auto focus zoom lens
Padded camera case to fit Nikon and lens
Polarizer and UV filter
Yashica J3 pocket camera
Fuji slide film x 20 rolls 100 ASA 36 exp (this was before digital cameras)
Fuji slide film x 2 rolls 400 ASA 36 exp
Camera (Nikon) battery
Lens cleaning tissue and camera cleaning brush
Nikon binoculars 9 x 24

Australian Passport (64 page frequent traveller)
British Passport
Carnet de Passage (30 page)*
(*In East Africa you need a genuine carnet. As for the rest of Africa, I saw a variety of forged designs used by a variety of motorcycle travellers! I did not need a carnet for Central Asia or Russia.)

Travel Insurance (valid 12 months)
RAC membership
Australian Drivers Licence
International Drivers Licence
International Medical Vaccination Card (Hepatitis A, Cholera, Yellow fever, Meningitis, tetnus, Hepatitis A)
Motorcycle Registration papers
Motorcycle purchase invoice

Credit cards - American Express, Mastercard
American Express travellers cheques
($4000 US purchased in lots of $1000 from Australia, Kenya x 2 and Uganda,
some converted to $US and French francs cash in Nairobi and Kampala)
American dollars cash in 5, 10 and 20 denominations x $500 (purchased Australia)

Pelican plastic resin case #1400 locked with two padlocks.
(I disguised this case by cutting out the bottom of an old plastic jerry,
fitting it over the box, covering it with a hessian bag and locking it to the bike)
Bike lock and light weight wire rope bike lock (for the Pelican case).
Padlocks x 6.(get the ones with all the same key, unless you particularly like keys)

Clymers TT600 workshop manual
Ruled writing book used as diary
Address book
Airmail paper and envelopes
Box of ball point pens
Ink pad and date stamp (for visa date extensions)
Michelin maps (955 Africa Central and South, 953 Africa North and West)
Guide book (‘Africa on a Shoestring’, Lonely Planet)
Novel (exchanged with other travellers/expats at every opportunity. Even read the bible while waiting for five days to cross with a 4WD convoy on a back road from Congo to Gabon as the border was closed due to civil war. I'm fortunate I had this opportunity.)
Photocopies of front page of passport, carnet and drivers licence
Pocket album with photos of family, home etc (these are of great interest to others)

Larium (one years supply, used as a malaria prophylactic).
Check the latest medical recommendations on Larium.
Halfan (malaria treatment). I am allergic to Fansidar.
Flagyl (giardias, dysentery treatment)
Mersyndol (painkillers), Panadeine (painkillers), Panadol
Antibiotic powder
*very important as applied daily to small cuts which can easily turn ulcerous.
Chlorsig eye ointment
Effervescent rehydration salts
Betadine antiseptic ointment and antiseptic liquid
Surgical spirit
anti- fungicidal cream
Bandages non-stick dressings, combine dressing, wound closure strips, bandaids, Leukoplast tape, elastic crimp bandage
Scissors tweezers, needles, roll of black cotton, safety pins. Scalpel and razor blades. Syringes and needles
Cotton buds, cotton wool, Insect repellent
Micropur water purification liquid

All readily available everywhere in Africa.

Gortex MS Enduro Jacket (stolen in Zaire, replaced with a navy blue overcoat).
Kidney belt, Reusch summer motorcycle gloves, thick denim jeans, leather belt with inside zip to store cash, steel cap leather work boots for Africa. After London, I wore Sidi motocross boots.


Sarong, T'shirt, singlet, long sleeved shirt, sweat shirt, polartec pullover, denim shorts, swimsuit, leggings, underwear, thick cotton socks, thongs, sports shoes, hat and sunglasses.




Mobil Oil
- supplied Mobil 1 oil and petrol from Mobil depots

Tsubaki Motorcycle Chainsmotorcycle chains

Yamaha Motorcycles - supplied some spare parts

UmbrellaiT - Community-based, affordable, reliable and trustworthy web hosting, domain registration and technical support service based in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. I've hosted my website with these guys since 1998.




Horizons Unlimited - A worldwide community of motorcycle travellers sharing tips to get you
on the road. Created by Grant and Susan Johnson who travelled the world on a BMW for 11 years, it's full of useful information and inspiration.

Horizons Unlimited also hosts motorcycle traveller meetings (up to 25 held annually), in many parts of the world including Australia.



Ted Simon - author of Jupiter's Travels - four years around the world on a 500cc Triumph Tiger 100

The Ted Simon Foundation
Encouraging those who adventure into the world to go the extra mile and transform their experiences into something of value for the world to share.

Bernard Tesch Globetrott Zentrale. German motorcycle adventurer, journalist and traveller-survival-Trainer.

Long-distance motorcycle rides - compiled by Wikipedia




Compass Expeditions - guided world motorcycle tours founded by Mick McDonald and his mates after a fundraising ride from London to Vladivostok in 2005. BMW official partner.







DISCLAIMER: Both in the US and in Australia, motorcycle safety advocates are reluctant to push the point of 'motorcyclists being 35 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than car drivers', as mentioned in the introduction on both these lists. The issue with this statistic is there are only a very small number of motorcyclists compared to car drivers on the road and when riders don't adhere to safety standards, death is a likely outcome . The stats don't account for all those riders who are responsible on the road.

The ones who:

Wear a helmet (compulsory in Australia) and ensure it is fastened,

Wear protective clothing,

Ensure they have adequate training as a learner rider,

Do not ride at excessive speed,

Ensure they are seen ie. riding with headlight on,

Never assume other vehicle drivers can see you (ie. defensive riding),

Extend their peripheral vision to anticipate other drivers making a turn and and not become the victim of a SMIDSY - Sorry Mate I Didn't See You).

Ensure brakes and tires are to safety standards

Take care when riding at night and in wet conditions, especially after long periods of dry when vehicle exhaust residue has built up on roads.

DO NOT ride under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

There are many other factors to keep motorcyclists safe such as wearing hearing protection (as noise causes mental fatigue and limits concentration), not riding when tired as micro-sleeps also occur when riding a motorcycle. Wearing adequate warm clothing when riding in cold conditions as this also fatigues a rider.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when riding a motorcycle. But what this does, is turn your brain into a super-charged computer as you assess risks from a million different angles. So motorcycling is not only fun, a great social activity, but good for your brain health as well. And this is why when a motorcyclist arrives at work after their commute, they are not only grinning from ear-to-ear but also more productive. They are primed and ready to go!

Stay safe, Stay up right.

(Heather Ellis is a member of MEAP - Motorcycle Expert Advisory Panel, which advises the Victorian Government on motorcycle road safety and reports to the Transport Minister)











africamapPhoto: Route through Africa. Cargo ship from Perth to Durban, then rode north to Kenya, across to Zaire, west Africa to Mauritania and cargo ship to Belgium.

mauritania load bike
Photo: Loading the TT600 on the cargo ship to Africa.

zaire mud

Photo: Stuck in the mud on the Bukavu to Kisangani Highway, DRC (formerly Zaire).




ghana tt600

Photo: Axim Beach, Ghana. I camped here for a week before heading into north Africa.



mali cows

Photo: With cattle herders in northern Mali.




mauritania train

Photo: On the iron ore train which runs from Zouerat to Noudhibou, Mauritania. Along with a number of illegal immigrants, I hitched a ride from Choum.



london bigbenweb

Photo: I worked as a motorcycle courier in London riding the TT600. It was all part of the journey.



azerbiajan oil field

Photo: Stopped to chat to some oil workers at an oilfield near Baku on the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan.




Photo: The madrassahs of Registan Square, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.