So you’ve bought yourself an shiny new adventure bike and bucking the trend of owners across the globe, you’ve decided to take it on an off-road adventure. But is it just a question of loading up the kit and heading off into the sunset – just like trail riding but with heaps more power and storage? Or is all that additional bulk going to make things an entirely different experience?
The answer might not be what the manufacturers want you to believe. Prepare for some inconvenient truths ….
THIS IS THE DREAM – THE REALITY MAY BE A TAD DIFFERENT
IT’S NOT A DIRT BIKE
Now here’s a bombshell to start with! No matter how aggressively styled and Dakar inspired your adventure bike might be, it is not a dirt bike. If it were, it would have a small, light and powerful single cylinder engine, a sleek and clutter-free chassis and weight close to 120kg fully fuelled and ready to. No adventure bike on the market hits those three balls – sorry, not one.
NO MATTER WHAT THE MARKETING SPIN, THIS CAN’T DO THE SAME AS A DIRT BIKE
But once you embrace this and work with what you’ve got, an adventure bikes can deliver similar, if different fun! Forget those marketing images images of stylish riders powering effortlessly through vast Saharan dunes and get a tad more real – you’re not that guy and it’s unlikely you are going to be doing anything remotely close …
THIS IS NOT YOU – GET OVER IT. IMAGE M CHYTKA
DAMAGE IS INEVITABLE
IT’S BEAUTIFUL NOW, BUT IT WON’T STAY LIKE THAT IF YOU HEAD OFF ROAD
OK so if you have made the decision to take your new toy onto the rough stuff, you have to wise up to the reality. Even if you keep it upright all day, it will get dirty, it will get scratched and it will get damaged – period.
Now for dirt bike riders this may come as no surprise, they’re used to a bit of munching trail in the course of a day’s riding and like nothing more! But don’t forget dirt bikes are built for abuse. Drop a KTMEXC250 and there will be little sign of damage once you pick it up – the same will not necessarily the same for an Africa Twin or a Triumph Tiger 1200. And if you are new to off-road riding and particularly to doing it on a big bike, then you will fall off more than you might imagine or indeed want. Adding protection such as bark busters, engine and frame bars and a sump guard before you take to the dirt can help, but not necessarily prevent damage
Perhaps just as importantly, you also have to accept that as most adventure bikes will never go off-road, then the damage you inflict on it will devalue the bike come resale time compared to a tarmac only bike.
Omelettes and eggs comes to mind …
THE HEAVY HEAVY MONSTER SOUND
OK so this may be stating a point already made in the opening salvo, but it’s worth restating. Why? Because on the road, that 200 plus kilos is largely unnoticeable – with massive brakes and road based rubber, great balance and slippery ergonomics your bike handles and stops perfectly – it’s a fantastic piece of engineering.
However once out on the dirt, every pound of that bulk is attempting to do things you don’t want it to do. From pushing the front in the corners to trying to get itself stuck in deep mud, adventure bikes like to make life tricky. Imagine trying to control two trail bikes at the same time – that’s the kind of deal here.
ADVENTURE BIKES – RUGGED, IMPRESSIVE AND QUITE HEAVY
And when you do drop it, you have to pick al that bulk back up again. If you doubt that this will be a problem, look at how many different techniques and instructional videos there are about how to pick up an adventure bike. Are there any on how to pick up a trail bike?
No – Go figure.
HOW HIGH CAN YOU GO?
GETTING ONTO LOADED ADVENTURE BIKES CAN BE HARD WORK
Again. this may seem an obvious one, but the tall seat height on most adventure bikes can be a real issue. OK it’s the same on a conventional dirt bike, but because you expend far less effort actually riding lighter bikes, then slinging your leg over the seat doesn’t seem as much effort. Tackle some tricky going and / or fall off a couple of times and each time that damn seat seems to get higher.
Factor in any luggage or back rack that make swinging your leg less possible and getting on and off your bike is a major consideration.
MOMENTUM IS YOUR FRIEND
As any seasoned dirt monkey will tell you, maintaining momemtum when you are off the tarmac is a skill you will need time and time again. Yes it would be great if you looked stylish and glamorous as you clear the rocky climb feet up without a single dab, but the reality is that as long as you keep moving and get to the top, how it looks and how much you flailed round your legs to get there matters not one jot.
On an adventure bike this is doubly true – keeping that motorcycle moving is really important as the additional weight makes restarting in slippery surfaces much harder. If you decide to take on a tricky climb, commit fully to it and try to visualise yourself at the top rather than lying under the bike in pain – Positive Mental Attitude can pay off big time!
IT’S A TRICKY CLIMB, BUT WITH MOMENTUM YOU CAN DO IT
MOMENTUM IS YOUR ENEMY
Now this might sound odd given our last point, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true! The additional bulk of a bigger bike means that it carries a lot of momentum all the time. On the uphills, that’s a good thing but going down hills and going into corners – not so much!
PROFESSIONAL RIDERS LIKE LAIA SAINZ MAKE IT LOOK EASY – IT IS NOT
Getting the most of the bike means that you need to be thinking and planning ahead vastly more than you ever need to on a trail or enduro bike. Braking needs to be done when you are upright and in a straight line and well before the bend for maximum effect, and downhills need to be treated with much more caution than on a smaller bike – if the bike starts to run away with you a world of pain or damage or both is never far away.
WE RUN MOTORCYCLE TOURS - THAT'S WHAT WE DO! and we do it very well indeed ...
Whether you want to trail ride through Vietnam or cruise the high plains of the Himalayas, Ride Expeditions can help. We organise seriously good tours – you just have to ride and leave the rest to us – sounds like a plan …
Conventional wisdom for riding off-road tells you to stand all the time. Doing so lowers the centre of gravity, keeps the bike more stable and allows the bike to move about beneath you while you focus ahead. Now theoretically riding on bigger bikes should not change the rules, and for really experienced riders it doesn’t.
But for us mere mortals, standing on a big bike takes a lot more bravery, mainly because if the bike starts to topple, by the time you’ve sat down and put your legs out to steady the bike, it will be already heading to the ground and you are not going to stop 200kg with a dab.
GET ON THE PEGS SON
So it’s maybe wise to head for a compromise situation – stand on the easier faster bits to start with, and don’t worry too much in the nadgery, muddy, steep and mucky stuff. Better to paddle a bit and stay upright than risk disaster.
Over time you might become as good as Mark Coma, but it’s not worth putting yourself into one ….
DRESS TO IMPRESS
OK so the stuff you wear on the road isn’t going to be the same as you need on the road – it’s similar but not the same – OK? That means that if you are serious about taking on a bit of dirty fun, then you need to invest in kit that is going to keep you safe and injury free. A full run down of suitable kit is covered on another blog here, but as a bare minimum you should be looking at good off-road focussed boots that firmly support your ankle and have soles strong enough to make standing comfortable and some kind of CE approved padding on your knees, elbows and shoulders. Buy an off road jacket and trousers and the protection may be already in there, and unlike the other way round, proper adventure riding kit is usually pretty good on the road – suddenly that Klim Jacket and kecks seem like a bargain …
ADVENTURE KIT FOR ADVENTURES – SIMPLE
UNICORNS DON’T EXIST
Your tyres need to reflect how you are going to use the bike they are on. That’s why your new adventure bike came with ‘dual sport’ tyres with a heavy bias to road use – maybe 80 / 20 or even 90 /10. Once you decide to take the bike off-road for longer trips then you are going to have to change the rubber, but how far you go will be entirely where you want the compromise to be – on the road or off.
For maximum grip and confidence on the dirt, you are going to need proper off-road tyres – they will hook up in the mud, hold the lines in the corners and generally make life peachy. Until you return to the tarmac. With so little contact points all those big tall knobbies vastly reduce the bike’s stability on the road – there’s no way they can offer the same grip with so much less rubber on the road than an equivalent road tyre.
EVEN GOOD TYRES CAN’T DO TWO JOBS EQUALLY WELL
The more off-road based your tyres, the slower you’ll need to go on the road to keep yourself sunny side up. The more road based your tyres, the slower you’ll be able to go on the dirt – but as dirt tends to hurt less than tarmac, that’s worth considering.
A tyre that does both equally well is a unicorn and we all know how common those are. Do your research and make your pick – just don’t ask advice on a FB group or forum ….
PACK LIGHT – REAL LIGHT
If you are taking on an long trip multi day trip with large sections of off-roads action, you need to be super frugal on your packing. It’s almost a case of piling up what you intend to take and then seeing whether you can manage with half the amount.
KEEP IT LIGHT AND OUT OF THE WAY – YOU’LL BE GLAD WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
Why so? Because every kilo that you can save is going to be a kilo less that you need to lift when the bike goes down. This is not rocket science people …
Not only this but if you bag feels heavy when you unstrap it and lift it from the back of the bike, imaging what it’s doing to the handling. 20 kg of luggage way out back almost a metre away from the bike’s centre of gravity is not the ideal situation.
Get minimal and pack light.
KEEP IT CENTRAL
BOX FRESH KTM 990 ADVENTURE WITH LUGGAGE ON THE REAR RACK . IMAGE H MITTERBAUER
This fits well with the premise of going light. The more places you have to pack stuff, the more you are going to pack and the more weight you’ll be carrying. Bolt on those aluminium suitcases either side of your scoot and they’ll be packed to the gunwhales within seconds. OK so the weight is nice and low, but it’s still weight dragging the bike down. This is not a great plan.
The other reason for avoiding big side luggage is that it will restrict your riding, both in the trails that you can tackle and how you ride the bike – getting your leg stuck under an aluminium box is not going to help your day.
If your going to be on sweeping gravel roads from dawn to dusk, maybe this isn’t a problem, but once the trails head for the woodwork, having everything in behind you will avoid some tricky and painful situations.
Take a look at the bikes in out two Hard Alpi Tour galleries – almost every one has left the panniers behind and loaded centrally. This is not a coincidence.
SOFT LUGGAGE IS A GOOD OFF-ROAD OPTION
Leave the massive Hepco and Becker kit for the road trips or transcontinental adventures and keep your off road luggage to lightweight soft luggage that you can keep close to the bike, crashes well and won’t pin you to the floor.
You’ll thank us for this …
YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE DOING MUCH OF THIS – IMAGE M CHYTKA
OK so going fast on a enduro bike needs a bit of skill, but let’s not over egg the pudding – modern dirt bikes are really easy to use off-road. Whether you chose a smooth fuel injected two-stroke or a plug and play thumper, the combination of fantastically flexible power, stunningly good suspension and perfect balance mean that even the most ham-fisted goon can look pretty good on the dirt.
But that’s not the case for adventure bikes – getting your hustle on a machine that’s over 200 kg and tops more than 150bhp requires skill, poise and some big cahunas. That’s not just because there’s so much more to control, it’s because if it goes wrong it gets really messy, painful and expensive. Build your speed as you build your confidence, take advice from experienced riders that can walk the walk, don’r ride alone until your are very confident in your abilities and don’t over-ride in order to catch up with more competent riders – you’ll learn nothing on the ground and less in hospital …
Adventure bikes can be great fun off-road, but make no mistake – they are much, much harder work than trail bikes!
NEXT STOP – THE DAKAR
OK so that’s all for now – hopefully this gives you some things to bear in mind before you break your off-road virginity.
Yamaha chose Queensland in Australia for the latest in the protracted pre-production teases of their all-new T7 Tenere. The new Tenere has been shown across the world at shows and events in various stages of development, but as yet the final production model has yet to be launched.
But this week Yamaha Australia released these stunning images on their FB page of the bike being ridden by their off-road rider and rally raid hero Rodney Fagotter, prior to both of them appearing at the start of the 2018 Tenere Tragics Bay to Bush Run. It still might be technically a prototype, but it looks tantalising close to showroom ready.
The riders were evidently well chuffed to see the new bike, even if the chances of a test ride seemed remote. Despite the intense interest and anticipation of the new Tenere, the news of its outing or these images have not appeared on either Yamaha Australia or Yamaha Worldwide website. If Yamaha want to steal sales from their rivals, they better get this bike out as the adventure market boom cannot last forever …
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to screw up a ride on the bike, it’s got to be a puncture. Whether you run over a rogue screw on the road or a massive thorn out on the trails, the moment it happens your day takes a down turn. For off road riders, there are options to minimise or completely remove the risk using heavy duty tubes, tyre balls tubeless systems or mousses.
But for road and adventure riders the options are more limited – tubeless systems and mousses simple are not suited to any element of tarmac, and they’re legality is at best questiionable. Which is where tyre sealants come in.
PUNCTURES OUT ON THE TRAIL ARE AS WELCOME AS BEE STINGS
Most preventative tyre sealants are chemical-based gels that you squirt into your tubes. They contain a mix of polymers, binders and congealing agents and work by coating the inside of the tyre and filling any holes as soon as they occur. However effective, being chemical based they inevitably have a certain shelf life after which the product begins to breakdown.
The other type of product is the emergency aerosol type – this is more of a one use product to get you out of trouble as it contains compresseed air with the sealant so you can get going again and take your bike to a proper puncture repair centre.
Bike Seal works in a similar way to the gels, inserted into a tyre and staying in place as a long term preventative measure. However unlike the gels or the aerosols, Bike Seal does not breakdown and will last for the life of the tyre or tube. We had to test the technology.
Bizarrely the technology behind Bike Seal was developed by NASA to prevent punctures in astronaut’s suits! Later the same tech was adopted by the American military to protect their troop vehicles from punctures after being shot – makes the ride to work sound quite tame really.
After tests by the UK Government funded Motor Industries Research Association – MIRA – the product was approved for us by the British Armed forces and NATA troops too. Beyond this, the product has also been adopted for use in heavy industry, haulage and agriculture and is used worldwide.
Essentially, the product is Kevlar or aramid in solution, which sits permanently within your tyre after application. If a puncture occurs, the combination of internal pressure and centripetal force allow the fibres to plug the hole within just a couple of revolutions of the wheel, with minimal pressure loss so the rider will not even notice. Further revolutions enforce the plug and increases the seal on the puncture and because it’s a mechanical process rather than a chemical one, there’s no chance of the product being out date and failing to work. If there’s a hole, it will find it – much like copper based radiator sealants.
IMPRESSIVE STUFF – AND IT WORKS FOR TUBELESS OR TUBED TYRES
All you can see on the outside of the tyre after a small puncture is a small dot of beige fibres which will remain in place. Bike Seal can fix holes up to a staggering 15mm diameter, but clearly in such circumstances then it’s probably going to be time to change the tyre once home and safe.
The distributors state that it protects 95% of the tread area from punctures and will seal rim and bead leaks on tubeless tyres and unlike competitors, the same solution can be used on tubed tyres too so it’s good for on or off-road. And on the tarmac having the solution in your hoops doesn’t mean there are speed restrictions, in fact road racers use the product but at slightly less volume to reduce weight in their race tyres.
Oh and although it’s water based, it has a freezing point of -35 C so that’s probably time to stop riding anywhere.
What more do you need to know?
FITTING TO THE BIKE
The test bike for Bike Seal was to be our Yamaha Tenere 660. We were fitting new tyres to the bike anyway and as the bike will be used for both on and off-road, mousses were not going to be an option, so it made sense to start with a clean slate and hopefully puncture proof tyres.
Fitting is simple and decidedly low-tech. For larger bikes, you need 250 ml per tyre, so as the bottle is 500 ml, it’s half per end. The pack includes a valve remover which you’ll need as the solution is not going to get through. With the valve out it’s just a case of fitting the applicator tube to the valve stem and squeezing in the correct amount.
Once done, it’s back with the valve and up to pressure with a pump or compressor and the installation is complete.
REMOVE THE VALVE, FIT THE ADAPTER TUBE AND SQUEEZE IN THE CORRECT AMOUNT – SIMPLE
REAL WORLD TESTING
OK so product testing any puncture sealant is not necessarily that easy unless you want to stick nails and screwdrivers into your tyres. Having seen the demonstration in person and on the various You Tube clips linked on Bike Seal’s website, we were pretty convinced that there was sound science behind the product. We were certainly not going to voluntarily make holes in our brand new Mitas E09 tyres that had just been fitted by the chaps at Classic Enduro.
But what we could do was ride the bike to test it and as we were due to ride the first UK section of the Trans Euro Trail this felt like a suitable challenge. The route we were riding went from Dover to Chepstow, covering nearly 500 miles across the south of England.
So with the sealant in place, the pressures set at 20 psi both ends and the bikes loaded up, we set off.
475 MILES OVER FOUR DAYS ON INCREDIBLY VARIED TERRAIN
Our route took us on a meandering route across the country, travelling on everything from fast dual carriageways and twisty backroads to tight and technical rocky trails to deep ruts on slippery flint and chalk. At times the tyres were spinning up on the rock hard and icy ground, sometimes taking big hits on rock steps as we muscled the Tenere forward along the GPX route of the TET.
If this were not enough of a challenge for the tyres and tubes, the recently cut hedges in many of the lanes and trails presented another level of risk of puncture. With literally thousands of sharp sticks, thorns and shards of wood covering the entire surface of the trails at times, this was prime puncture territory.
THE TENERE TAKES A BREATHER ON SALISBURY PLAIN
So over the course of the four days we experienced absolutely no issues with the tyres – no punctures, no loss in pressure, nothing.
Of course we have absolutely no guarantee that this would not have been the case without the Bike Seal fitted. Punctures are not inevitable, but on the terrain we were riding and particularly with the impacts from rocks and the number of sharp sticks on the trails, we can be fairly confident that the risk was high.
And in reality, because the product almost instantly seals punctures, then we might have had one puncture, we might have had 21! When the only evidence might be a speck of the fibres plugging any holes on the tyres, we’d need to get out the magnifying glass to check for evidence. But in a sense, why we would we – the tyres are inflated, undamaged and ready to go!
Fitting Bike Seal to the tyres gave us confidence that we were not going to have our ride wrecked by punctures. Armed with this confidence, we didn’t pack tubes, levers or pumps, leaving all the hardware in the garage. Whether you’d be confident to do the same in far away places is another matter, but given that the product gives vastly more protection than simply running HD tubes, then making the choice is not difficult.
For adventure bikes the potential for large amounts of fast road riding alongside trail use mean that mousses and tubeless are not really an option, so Bike Seal offers a genuine alternative.
At £27.50 for a 500ml bottle that will do both wheels on an bigger bike or just £15.00 for enough to do both tyres on a trail bike, it’s not a difficult decision …
RIDE EXPEDITIONS BIKE SEAL REVIEW RATING
We are 100% sold on Bike Seal – we think the confidence it gives against the possibility of punctures wrecking your day is worth every penny of the incredibly reasonable ticket price. Five stars all day,
OK so with tubeless tyres you would need to buy and fit half bottle for every new tyre, but given that’s just over £12 per hoop, it’s not a major concern. With a tubed tyre, the sealant is going to last as long as the tube is serviceable, which is likely to be many years.
If that’s going to prevent even one episode of struggling with levers and tubes at the side of a trail, it’s a no-brainer.
Are you using tyre sealants, mouses or tubes? Let us know your experiences and we’ll share it with the class
The London Motorcycle Show set up camp again in the vast barn that is ExCel in the Capitals Docklands area. It’s a smaller show than the annual Motorcycle Live show, but with so many motorcyclists living in and around the South East of the country – not to mention lots with plenty of cash to spend – the show is always well attended. With many of the big manufacturers exhibiting from Husqvarna to Suzuki and a healthy representation from the Adventure sector not to mention accessories, clothing and of course – free stickers
But if there was one trend that was immediately evident in both the stands and the bikes it was a backward -looking trend towards custom builds and retro machines. From the huge classic auction area packed with many bikes that in their day were far from classics to Kawasaki’s revisited Z900 RS and CCM’s stunning Spitfire range to Yamaha’s Yard built projects and even a whole stand of barn finds.
The theme continued with the massive presence from ‘built‘ magazine – lower case letters essential – who were exhibiting an impressive display of hand-crafted machines featuring everything from Harley Davidson to KTM engines wrapped in new clothes. ‘Built’ has becoming so popular that they’ve recently become a monthly magazine, bucking a trend that has seen magazine titles disappearing quicker than African elephants. Good work chaps.
For the beard-stroking, tattooed, lumberjack shirt wearing hipsters – who had caught the Tube from Hoxton as it was cold – it was heaven on earth. For those that were there first-time round, we could only wonder at who would possibly want to buy a Honda CB350 for £2500, let alone a forty year old one …
Anyway enough of that – here are all the bikes that caught our eye at the London Motorcycle Show 2018 – enjoy!
It’s hard to believe, but the Yamaha Tenere was lunched a staggering 35 years ago back in 1983. Copying the styling of the Paris-Dakar bikes, the bikes were an acquired taste restricted fairly well to the off-road aficionados, rather than the mainstream motorcycle market. The big single cylinder engine had its roots back with Yamaha’s seminal XT an TT500s from the 1970s, and against a backdrop of smooth inline four cylinder machines, the Tenere was never going to be the best seller in Yamaha’s catalogue.
THE CHUNKY TENERE HAD IT”S HERITAGE BACK IN THE 1970s
Yet almost against the odds, the dependable Tenere shifted enough units across the globe to keep it in production for an astoundingly long time, far outlasting almost all of the other models from the ’83 range.
Since the first version the bike went through a variety of revisions, facelift’s and relaunches to eventually emerge as the final incarnation of the bike launched in 2008. The modern style Tenere lasted right up until 2016 when those restrictive Euro 4 regulations finally put the nail into the XT660Z’s coffin.
But with Yamaha about to relaunch the Tenere in the form of their rather equisite T7 twin and other manufacturers looking like KTM and BMW looking to mid-sized adventure bikes as the next growth area, is a resurgance in interest in the Tenere on the cards?
Is the last of the original single pot XT660Zs a future classic – maybe the last of the true adventure bikes before adventure bikes swamped the market and became nothing more than tall sports bikes?
WITH CLASSIC SPEED-BLOCK GRAPHICS THE NEW TENERE LOOKED FIT FOR PURPOSE
FACTS AND FIGURES
OK so how does the Tenere stack up on the specifications and dimensions?
Well, firstly, unlike it’s air-cooled predecessors, the motor on the XT660Z is a liquid cooled and arguably far more complex unit. Not that this change has had much affect on the power output – the new Tenere makes a modest 48 bhp, so not a vasy amount up on the original bike’s 45 bhp – so much for progress!
And the same could be said for the rest of the dimensions on the bike, most notably the weight which has positively burgeoned up to around 180kg, almost 50kg up on the 1983 incarnation. But more on this later.
Looking at the chassis, the Tenere is fairly conventional all round. The frame is an unremarkable steel spine frame with incredibly strong subframe out the back, and a black painted aluminium swingarm holdinmg the rear hoop.
Suspension is reletively basic, but given how much riders actually adjust any of the multiple dials on more complex machines, this may be smarter than you think. Both the single shock rear and the 43mm ‘right way up’ front forks are only adjustable for pre-load.
THE TENERE ENGINE IS NOT THE PRETTIEST
If the frame and engine are heavily in the chunky side, then the bodywork is similarly rough and tough. A 23 litre plastic tank stretches from the stepped seat right to beyond the front forks and should be good for some serious mileage. There’s a collection of grey plastic protectors on the lower tank and covering the exhaust and expansion bottle and between the tank and the Praying Mantis style top fairing.
And for more big stats, we have to mention the seat height which at 89,5 cm is pretty damn high – throw on some luggage on the rear and swinging a leg over can be a big stretch.
Yamaha claimed a boisterous 105 mph as the you speed, but this needs to be taken with quite a pinch of salt – any bike with the profile of this bike is not going to be much fun on the other side of the ton.
Bringing the Yam to a halt is a twin 298mm disc set up at the front with twin-pot calipers with a single 245mm disc and single piston at the back end.
REAL WORLD TESTING THE TENERE
OK so if we are thinking that the Yamaha Ten is a future classic, how are we going to prove it? Well the answer is to buy one and use it for real life adventures and see how it stands up. So that’s what we’ve done.
THE 2011 YAMAHA XT660Z TENERE – THE IDEAL ADVENTURE BIKE
Searching the internet, we found a great condition 2011 bike with a pitifully small 9000 miles on the clock at our local dealership. The bike was pretty much stock, but did have a few useful additions.
First off and always welcome in a British winter, a set of Oxford Heated Grips were good to see and promised to keep our mitts warm till the sun returns in around May. What wasn’t so welcome was the fact that they were wired direst to the battery rather than tied into the ignition circuit – it’s only a matter of time before we leave them on and kill the battery.
Another addition. or perhaps replacement, was a lowering link from LUST Racing, taking down the seat height by a handy 25mm. When a rider of just under 6ft needs a lowering link, then you know that she’s a tall one.
HEATED GRIPS – WE LIKE LOWERING LINK TAKES 25MM OFF THE SEAT HEIGHT
At the rear of the bike, the previous owner had invested in both hardwear and semi-soft wear. A large luggage plate sits atop the rear of the bike, seemingly begging for some bags, and there are a set of SW Motech pannier frames in place which hold their rather beautifully rugged DAKAR panniers.
As is traditional, the rear mudguard has been hacked off to reduce the overhang, and so to continue the theme we’ve fitted a replacement numberplate to reduce trail breakages and fitted an LED plate light to replace the one that simply wasn’t there.
Other than that it’s all as it left the factory – it’s even got the haul loop at the front in case we need to drag it up a mountain or suspend it from a helicopter.
WITH JUST 9000 MILES IT’S A CLEAN BIKE STANDARD BACK END BUTCHERY HERE STOCK FRONT END
TARMAC AND TRAFFIC
Before we even took the bike out for the first shakedown, there were two things that needed changing quicksharp.
Top of the list was the shamefully inadequate footrests that Yamaha provided on the bike. If a high school student had made these in a metalwork class, they would have got a D – they are poorly made, too small, pig ugly and not fit for purpose. With half an hour in the garage, we’d adapted a spare pair from a KTM EXC to fit in the stock hangers and instantly upgraded the Tenere’s comfort and purpose when stood on the pegs.
KTM FOOTPEGS SLOTTED INTO PLACE WITH MINIMAL FETTLING
Second up was to swap the enormously long stock Yamaha levers with some shorty versions from eBay. We can see very little point in paying top dollar for levers when there are well-made and perfectly serviceable versions available for under £20 shipped from Asia. We’re running similar on other bikes and they’ve been as good as anything we’ve ever had.
ALLOY SHORTY LEVERS WITH ADJUSTABLE SPAN
So with the hands and feet happy, it was time to see how the bike shapes up on tarmac and trail.
The first impression s that of the height of the bike – it’s tall even with the lowering link, so you do need to commit when swinging your leg over. With the stock rear suspension setting it sinks a considerable amount, but once you stiffen the spring, it stays tall. This is great once riding because it gives you a commanding view on the road, but you do have to bear the height in mind if you have to stop on a camber and you are not able to flat-foot on either side.
The engine is nicely punchy from the off, and will move up through the gears effortlessly as you accelerate. Short shifting is not to be encouraged as the bike does chug a fair bit below 3000 rpm, so this region is best avoided. This fuelling glitch is a well documented fault which apparently can be largely solved by fitting either a Power Commander at around £300 or by heading for what is somewhat oddly called – Kev’s mod which is a bit of electronic trickery made up by an XT660Z specialist, unsurprisingly named Kev. At a fraction of the cost the Power Commander route, it’s a popular modification and one we’ll be looking into.
But let’s not get too hung up on this, it’s not a major issue. The bike is just fun to ride on the road, the high bars and relatively slim profile making filtering in heavy traffic easy, even if that cable operated clutch could be considerably lighter. Having used a hydraulic clutch on the Ride Expeditions KTM EXC250 for many years, we’re not fans of the cable, so we may look to fit a hydraulic conversion kit in the coming months.
The Metzeller Tourance tyres fitted to the bike have a very smooth and road friendly profile and as such are competent and stable on the black top. Corners can be taken at enthusiastic speeds without any worry on kicking out, which as the bike encourages spirited riding is a good thing.
TRAILS AND TYRES
THE YAMAHA POWERS THROUGH THE WATER ON STONY LANE
While the Metzellers might suit a bit of tarmac tomfoolery, their performance when off-road does not inspire much confidence at all.
As a first outing, we didn’t want to throw the bike at anything too extreme, so we headed for the Fosse Way, a legal byway that cuts through South Gloucestershire and provides an ideal soft-road option. And in the initial gravel stages, although the tyres were a tad vague, they were not too bad at keeping bike and rider sunny side up.
But once the speed increased and the tracks got a tad more muddy and wet, the Tourances begun to find their limits fairly quickly. In fairness to Metzeller, the tyres are described as for light off-road use and away from the muddy stuff and when faced with rocks, the bike faired much better. A few days later we took on some rocky lanes just outside Bath and were pleasantly surprised by the way they coped.
But looking beyond the tyres which will be easy to change the tyres, the bike is pretty good when off road. The Tenere is wider than the average trail or enduro bike and also fees taller thanks to the screen and instrument binnacle out in front, but it handles very similarly to a conventional enduro machine. The replacement footpegs help this as they do grip your boots, but had the tyres not lacked grip, then the speeds would have rapidly increased as our confidence on the bike grew.
ON ROCKS THE METZELLER TOURANCE TYRES HANDLED FAR BETTER THAN ON MUD
But what is evident is that we are going to have to make adjustments to riding styles on a bike that is significantly heavier than we’re used to. With an additional 70kg to think about, it’s like we’ve picked up a passenger without noticing.
The Yamaha handles well off-road and we’re confident that it’s going to be a competent adventure bike. But there no getting away from the fact that as with any bike in this category the additional weight is going to be an issue, particularly as the Tenere wears it’s weight quite high compared to other similar bikes.
Many of the reviews and blog sites about the Tenere identify the sispension on the bike as being far too soft and unadjustable and recommend upratinmg the suspension almost immediately. While we can certainly agree that the stock settings are incredibly soft and with only preload being changeable at both front and back then clearly there’s going to be some element of truth in this. But as to whether we need to ditch the stock equipment or just change the springs is difficult to tell with only light trail testing. Suspension tuning is always a good idea, but changing things without identifying the problem is not.
THE PLAN: FINISHING WHAT YAMAHA STARTED
So the basic bike has most of the stuff you need to set off towards the hills and take on proper adventures. It’s got a proven rock solid engine with plenty of grunt, albeit with some fuelling gremlins, it’s got a strong frame that can take the abuse of long distance travel and maybe just as importantly it’s got lots of owners across the globe that have worked on improving the bike before us.
On the downside it’s got more weight than seems entirely necessary, and that weight is held pretty high on an already high bike. How much we can do to change this is limited to a certain extent by budget but also how far we think it’s worth pursuing. We’ve read blogs of people throwing thousands at their Tenere to get it just right, but once you start doing that, you have to wonder whether they might have been better off buying something different to start with…
WE WANT TO ADD THE BITS THAT YAMAHA SHOULD HAVE TO MAKE THE TENERE FIT FOR ADVENTURES
Our plan is to take small steps to upgrade the bits that can be easily and relatively cheaply replaced and improved by your average riders. We’re not going to be making our own triple clamps or swapping the forks for motocross equivalents – that’s not on the wish list.
So lets look at the first stages and what we need.
The current tyres offer little grip away from the tarmac, so we’ll be lookimg to upgrade to something that we can use properly on the off-road sections, yet still have some road manners. It’s a tall order and there’s plenty of web experts out there ready to tell us what we need!
Rather than rely on subjective comparisons, we contacted the chaps at the Yamaha Off-Road Experience and asked them for recommendations, and took their advice. The guys have used the 600 Tenere before it’s demise and also use the bigger brother Super Tenere to know more than most!
ENGINE AND BODYWORK PROTECTION
For a bike that may spend a good amount of it’s life off road, the protection on the standard bike is almost non-existent. There are the strange grey blobs on the side of the tank and just below to cover the expansion tank and exhaust, and the sump is protected by a large ugly plastic sump guard which looks like it’s been recycled from a washing up bowl.
So we’ll be looking to add some proper engine bars that cushion any impacts without adding too much weight or width. We’ll also be looking to add a proper sump guard made from something harder – maybe metal? Now there’s a novel though Mr Yamaha
BARS, BAR PROTECTION AND CONTROLS
The stock bars are OK but it’s not a great bend compared to the swathe of options from aftermartket manufacturers, At present there may be a Renthal pad on there, but it’s on the stock metal and we’d like some genuine bars instead.
Of course to protect the bars and levers from impact, we need some proper wrap around handguards, and if they can come with some level of wind protection, then all good.
We’ve already swapped out the levers, but ideally we’d like to upgrade the cables and hoses to something more man for the job.
The stock suspension is soft – very soft. We’ve wound up the preload at both ends using the tools from the owner’s toolkit, but that has only made a slight difference as you would expect.
We’ll see how the bike performs on a longer off-road / road run before heading towards spring or shock changes, As the problem seems to be more acute at the front rather than the rear, them a change to progressive springs in the forks looks to be the first port of call.
That’s where we’ll leave it for the first stage. We’ll post blogs on the bits we add, how they fit and the difference they make.
Simple really ….
DO YOU HAVE A YAMAHA TENERE? TELL US HOW YOU’VE UPGRADED YOUR BIKE
Welcome to a windswept, cold and rainy February. In the UK the temperature refused to budge from ‘bloody cold’ for almost two months, but elsewhere in the world there are no such issues. Our Cambodian tours are in full swing with Toby leading hordes of eager trail riders across the country in a variety of colours of mud.
They’ve floated down rivers, camped on remote islands, eaten a bewildering range of delicious food and maybe sampled a few of the local beverages. It’s a tough gig but Toby and the riders have struggled through bravely ….
THE RAIN IN CAMBODIA IF FAR BETTER TO RIDE IN
It has been a busy time in our world, with new offices, new staff and new tours in the planning. And of course the blogs have been entertaining the troops across the globe.
So, let’s get on with the news.
SPITI VALLEY IS ON
We’re delighted to say that our brand new Spiti Valley tour is now on sale. After an intrepid band of travellers joined Toby, Julian and the gang for the recce tour back in July, we can now offer the same experience to our customers. If you’ve already ridden our Himalayan Heights tour, this is the ideal follow up ride and if you are new to Ride Expeditions – this is a tour that will truly astound you.
THE SPITI VALLEY IS EPIC, JUST EPIC
Starting out from our Northern Indian base in Manali, the Spiti Valley tour follows a wide anti-clockwise route towards the west of the region, heading over towards Tibet. Stopping in stunning hillside villages like Sarahan or the bustling towns of Kalpa and Kaza to luxury camping in the achingly beautiful and peaceful village of Nako, a green jewel in the heart of the Spit Valley this is one of the ‘must-ride’ routes in this stunning part of the world.
BIG LANDSCAPES AND BIG ADVENTURES – THAT’S WHAT WE DO
As with our Himalayan Heights tours, this is an inclusive tour so the price includes accommodation, meals, bike hire, support team – the whole nine yards. All you have to pay for after that is flights, entry visas, beer and souvenirs – fantastic.
The tour has already featured in magazine articles from the UK to New Zealand – the appetite for this tour is simply massive. You can read the article from Dirt and Trail in South Africa here
Contact our office on firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place – but be quick!
CAPE TOWN OFFICE OPENS
Now having mentioned both the office and South Africa, we can make a seamless segue into our next big news! Man – it’s like we really thought about this …
With Ride Expeditions continuing to grow, the team needed more space, so we’re pleased to announce that we’ve set up a brand-new office in Sunny Cape Town. Toby and Anna have set up camp in the cool suburbs overlooking the sea, and the new office is just a stone’s throw away. And with new premises comes new staff, so we’d like to give welcome to the frighteningly efficient Nawaal who is running the Admin side of things and the slightly more laid-back Devon who’ll be doing all manner of clever stuff with computers and marketing widgets. Glad to have you on board guys!
OUR HELPFUL STAFF ARE READY TO TAKE YOUR CALL
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
Our tours have not only been getting articles written about them in magazines, we’ve also been featured in full-on all action films – Toby is feeling like a younger if slightly less well-known Ewan McGregor!
OK so we’ve not quite got a full series on Sky or a part in Star Wars, but the stunning film by Eamonn and the guys from Full Moto Films in Australia gives a great sense of the fun and excitement of riding with Ride Cambodia, Ride Expeditions partner company in Cambodia. It’s stylish, atmospheric and beautifully made like a particularly fine craft beer – we like it a lot
RIDE Cambodia - FULL MOTO FILMS - YouTube
BLOGS, BLOGS AND MORE BLOGS
While the Cambodian team are busy pounding the trails, Julian has been bashing away at the keyboard. In fact, his trusty Mac had such a hard time on its trip to Nepal that if finally died and had to be sent to laptop heaven.
JULIAN’S LAPTOP DIED IN NEPAL – IT’S WHAT IT WOULD HAVE WANTED
Armed with a worryingly expensive but identical new model, he’s been busy putting out a host of blogs, from Tips for Group Riding to stop you being ‘that guy’, lists of things that make motorcycle adventures immeasurably better to stunning video compilations on the recent Dakar rally. Add in reviews of an LS2 Helmet, TCX Boots and even a stupidly expensive electric dirt bike and it’s like a full-on magazine in there. Get over to the BLOG section of the website and learn yourself some stuff.
ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED IN OUR BLOGS
COMPLETE CAMBODIA TOUR
If you watch the video and think – I need me a piece of that action – then we could have the perfect solution. Our Complete Cambodia Tour heads out on the 14th November and will take in landscape and trails every bit as stunning as the Full Moto film. But this time you can be riding it rather than watching it! There are just five – yes five places left on this exceptional tour which promises to be one of the high points of our year.
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS – THE BOYS GET RELIGIOUS IN CAMBODIA
Click here to find out more and then fire us an email to get booked up. What are you waiting for?
HORSE TOURS ARE GO
So, if your ‘significant other’ is maybe not into bikes quite as much as you, what are you going to do? Well the answer may be our Horse Trek Holidays, running along much the same lines as our excellent motorcycle tours, just with slightly more natural horse-power!
THATS A MARWARI HORSE THAT ANNA IS RIDING
It’s the dream project of Anna, Ride Expeditions co-owner and the first tour will take place in Rajasthan from the 6th November to the 17th. Riding the beautiful and extremely rare Marwari horses with their cute curly ears and promising stunning scenery and excellent riding every day, this is a tour for the true horse lover. Go to the website for more details or email email@example.com and let Anna know you are keen.
DECEMBER NEWSLETTER REDUX
The December Newsletter didn’t reach everyone as intended, so if you didn’t receive our end of year round up, you can catch it here. There’s details of out recce ride to Nepal, updates on the tours, news on the blogs and a picture of a man with a Teddy Bear. What’s not to like there?
NEW TENERE IN THE GARAGE – TIME TO GO PLAY
OK so that’s all. We’ve got a new bike to ride so we’re out ….
Following hot on the tails of the burgeoning Adventure bike market, helmet manufacturers across the world are producing a staggering array of similarly rufty-tufty Adventure style helmets to tempt would-be globe trotters. From top end brands like Arai and Shoei to the budget marques in the internet superstores, the choice is wide. With a new adventure bike in the Ride Expeditions garage it seemed time to get on board, so we decided to try the all new and rather pleasing LS2 Pioneer MX436.
THE LS2 PIONEER MX436 ELEMENT IN ALL ITS GLORY
So ignoring all safety advice regarding choosing bright and highly visible colours, we went for the ELEMENT option, resplendent in matt black and titanium with detail in a very KTM orange. The LS2 Pioneer looks pretty good to start of with, but out of the eight colourways – as the Americans would say – this option buttered our parsnips the most.
The look is of course much like the competition – a combination of motocross helmet visibility and wide aperture married to a big visor. If anything, the look is a tad more MX than some of the others in the showroom, and when it comes to using the helmet, this trait continues. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s keep with the appearance.
The visor is adjustable from high to very high, there are vents underneath and exit vents at the back. The chinpiece also has a vent system inside, but given how far away from your face the helmet sits, this may be somewhat superfluous. If we are to be totally OCD about things, the asymmetrical grid on the front does not get our vote – we just want it to be symmetrical!
The liner is a combination of the black and orange used on the outside, mirroring the trend for bright liners in off-road helmets, Again like the grid, we’re not a huge fan of anything but black as light colours show the dirt really quickly, and if you’re riding an off-road bike, then dirt is a strong possibility.
THE STYLING IS AGGRESSIVE AND THE QUALITY IS GOOD
The first caveat to make clear us that despite the Adventure look of the helmet, LS2 state on their website that the Pioneer was “developed for professional off-road use in collaboration with our LS2 riders from the Cross, Enduro and Supermotard Championship Series”. This seems a little odd as few enduro or motocross riders take to the dirt wearing a helmet with a visor, although it is definitely common for dual sport and adventure riders. This may catch out would be buyers …
This established the LS2 Pioneer MX436 has a number of great features that will please most riders away from the track. There’s an integral tinted visor operated from a lever at the base of the left side of the helmet, and the fastening system is an easy to use and fast release ratchet system.
The liner is fully removable and washable, and the cheek pads are quick release to aid removal should you be unlucky enough to have a serious accident.
THE PIONEER LOOKS GOOD FROM ALL ANGLES, BUT THE PEAK IS VERY HIGH
Returning to the visor, the LS2 promises scratch resistance, UV resistance, fog resistance and the ability to fit a Pinlock anti-fog secondary visor.
With three different shell sixes, the LS2 Pioneer MX436 comes in sizes from XXS pinhead right up to 3XL buckethead. The shell is termed a ‘long oval’ which should make putting it on easier.
ON THE TRAILS AND ON THE ROADS
So putting on the helmet for the first time, the fit is snug but not over tight. As the LS2 was brand new the cheek pads push a little bit but these will slacken off over time.
Out on the road the vision from the massive aperture is far beyond the usual Shark road helmet we normally wear. The Pioneer is also a tad lighter at 1300 grams, but nothing near as light as our regular off-road helmet, the Suomy Mr Jump.
The comfort is good and despite the big peak, the helmet does not lift thanks to the firm fit of the lining. The visor lifts using a tab at the front, which is fine when opening, but when closing it goes right up under the peak and it’s far too easy to grab the peak rather than the visor – it needs moving, simple as. As previously mentioned, the inability to close off the upper vents means that this is not a warm helmet to wear in cold weather – if you are deficient in the hair department, you’ll feel the cold air very quickly without a helmet liner / skull cap.
The other drawback for road use is that the wind noise is quite loud. We tend to use ear plugs most of the time which reduces the effect, but without it’s more than a conventional road helmet, but bearing in mind it’s pitched as an off-road model is fair enough. As the side air vents are right in front of your ears, we tried taping over these but it made little difference, and somewhat bizarrely, the wind noise increased with the visor closed.
FOR TRAIL RIDING< WE LIKED THE LS2 WITH GOGGLES
The internal dark visor is a useful addition, but it could do with coming down slightly further to avoid the kind of bi-focal effect when you look down. The mechanism is positive but you do feel it would be prone to getting mud clogged in snotty conditions. Both this and the outer visor benefitted from additional anti-fog spray, despite LS2 stating they were pre-treated – not a particular issue but still a pain if what’s there doesn’t quite do the job it was meant to.
THE VISOR WILL CLOSE OVER A GOGGLE STRAP
Away from the blacktop and out on the trails, the helmet comes into it’s own and many of the road disadvantages of the LS2 Pioneer MX436 become off-road advantages. The increased air-flow allows you to keep cool when you are fighting up the technical stuff, and the visor tucking up under the high peak is good when you are stopped and taking a breather. Motocross style goggles fit in easily and the way that the visor comes down means you can close the outer clear visor over your goggles on the road sections.
Overall we liked the way the Pioneer performed out on the trails, and the ability to shut out the wind as you move between trails is something we’ve never had with a conventional off-road helmet. We can’t see it ever being used for enduro or motocross riders, but as a trail riding helmet it’s pretty damn good.
The LS2 is nicely padded and cradles your head like an affectionate grandmother. The liner is easy to remove and as it’s full washable it will be easy to keep clean and fresh.
You can’t fault LS2 for the price point of this helmet. The Spanish manufacturer has produced a helmet that looks like it costs over £200 and made it cost half that, which is always a nice bonus.
As a helmet around the £100 mark, then to expect Arai levels of longevity is clearly unrealistic, but The LS2 is well made and will put up with all the abuse you give it.
As with the pricing. LS2 have nailed the look of this helmet with a good selection of plain and patterned options from hi-vis yellow to American football helmet style. The Element option works well for image conscious KTM riders!
LS2 PIONEER 436 HELMET RATING
We like the LS2 Pioneer MX436 – it’s a well made, well priced and stylish looking helmet that performs well in the correct environment.
For trail riders that have to cope with the necessary evil of tarmac sections to connect the muddy bits, it’s ideal. And at a smidge over £120 for the Element model that we tested, and less for other colour options, it’s a great addition to the helmet shelf in the garage.
What it’s not is a helmet for adventure riders that do not go off road – if that’s you, then the LS2 will most likely frustrate with it’s off-road bias – buy yourself a road helmet and benefit from reduced wind noise, streamlining and less air around your face. Horses for courses …
IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A CHEAP AND VERSATILE TRAIL RIDING HELMET, THE LS2 COULD BE THE ONE
Electric vehicles are becoming an increasingly common sight on our roads, from the self-satisfied hum of a Toyota Prius to the swish of a high-end Tesla. And now if you want to add a dirt bike to that list, you can spend your money on the new CAKE Kalk, a stylish and minimal off-road machine due in the showrooms from summer 2018.
CAKE Kalk – A NEW BREED OF DIRT BIKE?
CLEAN AND PRECISE DESIGN – BUT IS IT REALLY A PRACTICAL OPTION
The confusingly named bike is the brainchild of Swedish entrepeneur Stefan Ytterborn, who was previously the head honcho at POC, a company manufacturing some distinctly styled and effortlessly cool helmets, clothing and sunnies for skiers. snowboarders and cyclists.
Yttereborn’s new company CAKE has developed their all new off road bike as the first offering and the machine fits well with their high-mided mission statement –to contribute to speeding up the transition towards a zero emission society, while enhancing excitement and fun.
OK so one bike’s not going to change the world, but at least they have a clear idea of what they are trying to do, even if achieving it is going to be a long process!
But enough of the eco politics – what’s the bike about? Well, like the ethics it’s all high-end stuff – 6061 alloy frame, carbon fibre bodywork, Ohlins suspension, headset by MTB giant Hope, beautifully crafted components and incredible build quality – even if you never see a Kalk out on the trails, you may see one in a design museum alongside a Starck Lemon squeezer ….
HIGH END COMPONENTS ARE EVERYWHERE
The CAKE Kalk weighs in at a reasonable 68 kilos or 150 pounds, with naturally much of that weight coming from the batteries, however company and stylish they might look.
Performance wise, the bike will top out at an impressive 50 mph, but ride it like that for long and it’s doubtfull how far you will get. Ridden normally at slightly more modest speed and using the tree selectable power modes, the range is said to be around 50 miles or 80km, which is pretty comparable to KTM’s Freeride E.
The comparison to the Austrian bike is inevitable, and although the CAKE bike looks a tad more more stylish and mountain bike like in looks, it’s the price that will be the major sticking point. If you do want to add a Kalk to your collection, you are going to need an eye-watering €14,000 or the same amount in dollars, or just under £12,500.
With the KTM now benefitting from tax advantages in the UK, the price on the Freeride has dropped dramatically from it’s initial price of over £12,000 to a much more affordable £5999 in the dealers in 2018. Without sorting a more attractive tax benefit, then it’s hard to imagine that many Kalks will make it out onto the trails in Great Britain, no matter how eco-friendly the rider….
BEAUTIFUL DETAILING ON THE HEADSTOCK OHLINS TTX SUSPENSION NITRILE COVERED 38mm USD FORKS
Cake Kalk Electric Motorcycle - YouTube
Of course, even if you were keen to buy the Kalk for the trail, the lack of gear like lights, brake lights and the other necessary components to allow a bike to be road legal and registerable would mean that the bikes use would be restricted to private land use only. Buying yourself a convenient forest may push that €14,000 price tag pale into insignificance!
But before we’re too down on the high price tag, CAKE are keen to point out that the Kalk is the first in a range of planned models, that every single component has had to be individually designed and made from scratch.
In terms of riding experience, anyone that has ridden an electric bike will know that the feeling is like nothing else. Electric motors have instant torque and will rocket off into the distance from the moment you twist the throttle – the fact that the only noise is just a high pitched whine just messes with your head. The Kalk has 15kw of power which equates to about 16 bhp, and with only 70 kilos plus rider to move, that is plenty enough to bring a massive grin to any face.
Add in the fantastic suspension that is adjustable for both compression and rebound, four-pot caliper brakes with 220mm rotors and the environmentally sensitive Trail Saver tyres, the Kalk is one sweet yet responsible package.
TINY BUT POWERFUL MOTOR CLEAN DETAILING EVERYWHERE NO ROOM FOR A NUMBERPLATE HERE
Whether we’ll ever get to see the CAKE Kalk in the flesh, let alone take it out on the snotty British trails may be doubtful, but that doesn’t prevent us admiring the engineering and vision of the enterprising Mr Ytterborn. Put €1000 down now and the rest on delivery and you can share his vision …
If you do splash the cash and invest in a Kalk – let us know if it’s as good as it looks!
PREFER PETROL? SO DO WE! and we run EPIC TOURS
From blasting through the Himalayas on a Royal Enfield to slicing along muddy trails in the jungles of Vietnam, RIDE EXPEDITIONS have got it covered.
With Dakar 2018 all done and dusted, here’s a chance to look back at the awesome racing and astounding effort of the riders. From Van Beveren’s early lead and heartbreaking crash to Mattias Walkner’s first win to maintain KTM’s seemingly unassailable dominance of the event.
The video is a truly epic piece of work, summing up just how punishing the race can be. Sit back and enjoy.
Best Of Bike - Dakar 2018 - YouTube
MATTHIAS WALKNER TOOK THE VICTORY FOR KTM. IMAGE – PHOTOSDAKAR.COM
When it comes to off-road boots, there’s an enormous range to tempt the rider’s wallet. From super-soft trials boots and chunky adventure models to stormtrooper style motocross footwear. But picking the right one can be tricky, requiring a real honest analysis of what type of riding you are going to be doing, and what type of rider you are. Shelling out on a set of Alpinestar Tech 10s may not be the best move if you are going to be bimbling along the local lanes on a Honda CRF250L, but similarly, if you are going to riding off-road to Turkmenestan, then a set of low-ankle Hipster boots may not cut the mustard. For this blog, we’re going to be looking at the TCX Comp Evo Michelin so see how it stacks up in the dirt.
OK so lets set out our stall here – we’re big fans of TCX boots at Ride Expeditions. As the boot brand to take place alongside Alpinstars in the garage, we’ve set the bar pretty high. If your going head to head with the leading off-road boot, you better bring your A game.
But they’ve done just that. Our older set of TCX Pro 2.1s have been constant companions on riding expeditions from France to Vietnam, North Wales to South California. They’ve done the job.and for the most part, done it well.
So as the TCX Comp Evo Michelin was offered as the replacement for the companies high-end boot, the upgrade was the obvious choice. We’ve had the boot for a season and a half and if you buy now you’ll get the latest version, the Comp Evo 2 Michelin. There aren’t a whole host of changes, the main differences seem to be the colour options.
So what are the main differences between the TCX Comp 2.1 and the new TCX Comp Pro Michelin ?
Well, we better start with the Michelin bit. TCX have teamed up with the French tyre manufacturer to give the Comp Pro proper grippy soles. Don’t worry, it’s not an old tyre stapled on to the base, but a purpose built and very effective sole which is substantially better than the previous TCX boot, and streets ahead of a usual motocross boot.
And as a change for the more dual-sport, trail and adventure user, this is a great improvement. If you are going to be off the bike and moving it over different terrain, then some decent grip is very welcome.
But alongside the grip, TCX have also been able to build in good wear qualities to the sole, so there has been almost negligible wear to the surface. OK if you fit a set of Raptors then we can’t promise the same but for normal trail use, the compromise between feel and grip is as good as any of Michelin’s tyres.
The second major change is TCX’s decision to abandon the inner boot that was a feature of the previous boot and it’s competitors.
This is maybe not such a welcome change for recreational riders as we liked the ability to remove the bootee, wash it out and dry it properly between rides – important if you’ve had the thing on for 15 hours straight.
Nonetheless, the inner of the boot is very comfortable and feels extremely well padded, while at the same time having plenty of toe room. If you are going to be wearing waterproof socks – which many riders will – then buying a tad larger than your normal size will perhaps make sense, so take the socks along when you are looking to buy.
As with the previous version, the sole is flat rather than profiled, so if you need a bit if additional arch support, you are going to have to add some ‘aftermarket’ insoles. It’s maybe a sensible move if you are going adventuring in these boots as you may end up walking for longer distances than the manufacturer had anticipated!
As regards the outside of the boot, the TCX Comp Pro Michelin is fit for purpose, The buckles – a bug bear on the early TXC boots – are much the same as the previous 2.1s and as such do the job with a satisfying clip and stay put, It’s not quite Alpinestar positivity, more Sidi effectiveness – either way they do up easily and stay done up until you take them off. There are four of them, all fastening to the outside of the boot out of harm’s way, and they are easy to replace if you need to.
Underneath the outer shell and used to secure the inner boot before the buckles, there is double velcro pads, and there is also an elasticaed cuff at the top to keep out the dirt.
There’s adjustment in the calf / shin plate which allows it to be raised up or down if needed. This can be useful if it interferes with your knee pads or braces, but as that hasn’t been the case, we’ve not bothered to touch the plate.
We may not have moved the plate, but in reality it’s the shin plate that has caused us the major issue with these boots.
The problem is the thickness of the plate on the first edition Michelins – when . OK it’s not maybe something that TCX has anticipated, but unless you are a motocross rider or always wear MX pants when riding off-road, the shin plate makes it very difficult to fit trousers over the top of the Comp Pro Michelin boots.
As with the socks – take along your enduro trousers when you try these boots to ensure that your kit works well together. The second version of the boot look to have a reduced sized shin plate, so it’s evident that this was something that TCX have recognised and adjusted.
So to the rest of the boot, there are few niggles and lots of good points. The protection is good around the entire foot, with a wide gear change pad and instep pad to prevent damage but to be really picky, we wish that pad went further down to where your boot sits on the footpeg.
The ankle support is excellent giving instant confidence as soon as you slip the boots on, yet the hinge – or ‘Dual Flex Control System’- allows enough movement when walking of getting physical on the bike.
There’s a large heat pad on the inside of the boot, covering the entire inner calf area and protecting the boot from hot engines and exhausts.
The toe box is a tad tall if you are not used to motocross style footwear, but for the second incarnation of this boot the company has reduced the size. Either way, it may need an adjustment of the height of your gear lever if you’ve been running more road-based boots as the TCX Comp Evo Michelin will be taller.
Another good aspect of the Michelin sole is the support it gives when stood up. Long days on the bike can really test the integrity and performance of any boot, and the TCXs manage the job well. Getting a balance between flex and support is a delicate sceince – go too supportive and firm and the boot will feet like a pair of clogs – go too soft and the pegs will push into your insoles and make standing uncomfortable.
TCX have got the balance just right, and combined with the generous padding on the interior, it makes for a very comfortable boot to wear, no matter how long your journey takes.
From our point of view, it’s hard to fault the comfort of the TCX MIchelins. The padded inner and sturdy outer cushion and protect your feet and lower leg perfectly. We have heard reports from riders with wider feet that the TCXs are not so compatible, but as that’s not us, we didn’t experience the problem.
OK so here the TCX boots let themselves down. If we were focussed on motocross riders, the the price point at just below £400 – £300 for the first editions that are still in dealers – is to be expected and hence unremarkable. However, in the adventure, trail and enduro market this price is expensive and when you can get Sidi Adventure Goretex at around £250, it’s hard to chose the TCXs.
THe TCX Michelins are incredibly well designed and made and are putting up with regular abuse without complaint of much sign of wear. The only damage evident is on the inside of the instep, but as we always do this to boots. it’s probably more to do with our riding style than the boot! The lack of an inner boot makes drying slower than the previous bootee system.
It’s a straight 5 out of 5 in this category, The TCX Michelins look great and elevate the brand yet again towards the gold standard in this category – the Alpinestar Tech 10s. Wit a great selection of garish and bold colours, these boots scream their presence as if you are on the start gate at Anaheim 1. Whether you want that out on the trails is another matter ….
TCX COMP EVO MICHELIN BOOT RATING
If the TCX is to be judged just as the motocross or competition enduro boot it is intended to be, then it would score a straight five across the board. It’s well made, comfortable, appropriately priced and will keep your feet as safe and supported as anything else on the market.
In terms of wider use in the adventure and trail market, the boots have some drawbacks, notably their price when compared to the market leading Sidi. Similarly, although they are not bad at keeping out the water, they cannot hold a candle to a genuine dual sport boot. MX boots are not waterproof.
If, however you are in the market for a top of the range boot that will protect your feet and allow you to take on anything from technical rocks to flat out Dakar style piste, then the TCX Comp Evo Michelins may well be the one.
THE HARDER YOU RIDE, THE MORE THE TCX COMP PRO MICHELIN MAKES SENSE
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Do you wear TCX boots? Let us know what you think of them