Building a Baby Adventure Bike

It all started in a Los Angeles laundry room. Seriously – Scout’s Honor. My girlfriend, Kyra, and I were, well, doing laundry and discussing what we’d like to do when she was done with dance school and we no longer needed to be in LA, what is a sunny but otherwise awful place to live. A motorcyclist prior to meeting me, Kyra was interested in riding off-road. Something she had never done, but was eager to experience. I, on the other hand, had spent the last four years working for Touratech, a German company that manufactures an assortment of laser cut aluminum accessories for adventure touring motorcycles. My admittance to the Touratech Family required me to ride off-road, something, like so many people I’ve encountered; “I hadn’t done since I was a kid.” That said, the four years I spent sitting at a desk in their office, were offset by countless off road adventures in the Cascade Mountains. Back to the bit about my bike… Our laundry room conversation quickly turned from learning to ride off-road, to exploring the Baja Peninsula shortly before the infamous 1000. You see, prior to Touratech, I worked as a motorsport journalist, and was eager for any excuse to see 1,000hp Trophy Trucks at speed – throwing dirt and stones and fire from their exhaust as they fly past your face. It’s a glorious thing, I promise. So Baja became the plan- a month in Mexico. Crossing the border in Tecate, riding as far south as the weather, Policia Municpal, and money would allow. But what about bikes!? Kyra owned a clapped out Honda cruiser thing, and I had a no-longer-street-legal Yamaha TTR 250. Those won’t work. And so began the search.

 

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Now, to fully understand the selection situation, you must first know that Kyra is, well, little. Five feet and two inches, tops. So deciding on a dual-sport would be a bit of an issue, seeing as how almost all of them have a seat height exceeding 35 inches – which left us with but a few options: Suzuki’s DR200 and Yamaha’s XT225. So I spent some time on The Google and quickly acquiesced that the XT225 was not only the best bike for what we wanted to do, but perhaps the only bike… Sometimes things just work out the way you want them to. Go figure.  So now you’re probably wondering why I, the dirt bike riding, ADV accessory selling, off-road rider, would want to ride something so small. Well, Baja is just the beginning, because our motorcycle touring plans go much further than Mexico – Seattle to South America, exploring Southeast Asia, and a two month tour of Japan… to start. Having the same bike allows us to carry the same spares and the same tools. It also allows us to look at one bike while fixing the other. “Oh, that goes there.” And so on. Now, on to the important parts…

 

 

Protection

The first thing I thought of when upgrading our bikes was protection parts. We purchased and installed a skid plate made by Happy-Trails, which was constructed of 5/32″ aircraft quality 5052-H-32 aluminum and attached to the frame with strong, reliable heat treated steel clamps. The next step was hand-guards, as dropping our bikes was inevitable. We opted for the Acerbis Multi Concept X-Strong variety, which, in hindsight, sort of suck – at least to install. But they do their duty, I’ll give them that. Can’t tell you how many times both our bikes have sat, er, slid on their side…

 

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Petrol

Fuel efficiency is essential for any ADV motorcycle enthusiast. If you want to go far, you’ve gotta have the gas. Which meant the 2.3 gallon factory fuel tank wasn’t going to cut it. So a pair of Clarke Racing 4.1 gallon tanks were ordered and installed. Those, in addition to a pair of one-gallon RotoPax fuel containers strapped to the tail rack, have allowed us to explore well beyond our range, and the ability of our butts.

 

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Navigation

Getting lost is no good. Nowdays, with the advent of cell phones and Google maps, it’s easy to avoid. But when you cross borders, sometimes cell phones won’t work. So before we skipped town and headed south, I picked up one of Touratech’s Locking GPS Mounts for the Garmin Montana I’d owned but never used. The mount, which attaches to my handle bars with a RAM Mount, comes with a set of keys to keep things secure. So when we crossed the border into Baja, or headed west into the Olympic Peninsula in search of abandoned military bunkers, or wanted to find a pizza in Palm Springs, my GPS lead the way.

 

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Luggage

Luggage options are sort of limited for small dual-sport motorcycles. You can add a pannier rack and big saddle bags, but that kind of takes away from the idea of the small dual-sport thing – fast and light. So we started with a set of Wolfman Luggage’s E-12 saddle bags, what are described as “a balance between carrying capacity, rider mobility and convenience.” They worked well, albeit a little small. So when we returned from Baja we upgraded to Wolfman’s new Enduro Dry Saddle Bags, which, like the E-12’s don’t require a rack, and instead lie over the top of the seat and secure to the passenger peg mounts. These, along with a Happy-Trails Tubular Tail Rack, allow us to haul more than we ought to.

 

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Lighting

The stock headlights on just about any motorcycle suck. And with plans to explore both on and off the road, around the world, penciled into our day planners, a better set of brights would best. Auxiliary lights are alright, but a simple LED upgrade to your standard headlight housing can add all the extra lumens you’ll like need. Check out Cyclops Adventure Sports. They’ve got simple solutions to provide the extra light you’ll need on your next adventure.

 

 

Traction

Tires are a tough one… I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about tire choice. It’s exhausting. And honestly, I’m not an expert. Really, I’m an amateur at best. But I am good at The Google, and it tells me that Pirelli’s MT-21 is the best small dual-sport tire for someone riding more off the road than on. Ahem, ‘This Guy.’ So that’s what we went with, and I can’t say we have any complaints. Are they awesome on the highway? Nope. But what knobbie tire is? Do they do their damndest in dirt? You bet! Which is where it counts, as far as I’m concerned.

 

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Other Bits

A few of the other things we’ve added include: AME heated grips, Double-Take mirror(s), Wolfman Luggage’s Enduro Fender bBag – which keeps our spare tubes secure – and their Enduro Carry All 12, which mounts just above the headlight and offers a simple, secure place to put all kinds of crap.

 

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Conclusion

I’m not trying to preach some kind of small-bike-is-better dogma, I’m simply suggesting that small isn’t an inconvenience. I’ve travelled more than 6,000 miles since I acquired my bike last summer. I’ve packed a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, MSR camp stove, a considerable amount of clothing, plastic wine glasses, tools, maintenance supplies, food, first-aid kit, and plenty of whiskey, all aboard my XT. Fast? No. Comfortable? Not quite. But what the XT lacks in the comfort and convenience department, it makes up for in efficiency, feather weight-ness and simplicity. And that, my adventure seeking friends, is more important than cruise control and comfortable hind quarters, in my opinion.

 

 

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Editor’s Note: If you need further proof that the Yamaha XT225 is a viable platform for protracted travel you need look no further than the dauntless exploits of Lois Pryce. At 29 she put her broadcasting career at the BBC on hold, loaded up an XT225 and rode from Alaska to Ushuaia.  Her book, Lois on the Loose chronicles that journey, her motorcycle a central character to the narrative. www.loisontheloose.com

LoisPryce

 

Justin W. Coffey is the Co-Creator of WESTx1000, a multimedia company creating unique editorial and photographic content for the adventure motorcycle community. He is a published author and photographer whose work has appeared on Gizmodo, Expedition Portal, ADV Pulse, RevZilla, SLIDE Magazine, TKart, 0-60 Magazine and MX-5 Forever, among others. Additionally, Justin launched the Peanut Butter Coast - a surf inspired travelogue - in 2011.