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Day 1: To Mussina

9 days, 3,600km, 4 countries, 6 bikes, one backup vehicle and 9 adventurers. That is the total sum of our recce ride to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and back to South Africa. But the trip was so much more than just that! It was a trip with lots of laughter, fun, adventure and strengthening old and new friendships. An awesome trip which we will remember for a long time!

We started off in Pretoria on a cold Saturday 11 June. Even before the trip started we experienced some battery problems on one of the bikes. Luckily we had a spare and were on our way again soon. First stop was brunch in Modimolle to fill our tummies and defrost. The road took us all the way north through Polokwane and Louis Trichardt where we had an obligatory stop at the Verwoerd Tunnels.
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Our destination for the night was Dei Gratia Guesthouse in Mussina. Wessel and Michelle were the best hosts and treated us to a delicious braai with more food than we could eat! We were even spoiled with a nice packed lunch to take with the next morning as we had to leave early for the border.  We arrived as strangers and left as friends. We can without reservation recommend Dei Gratia! For more information visit their webpage http://www.deigratiagh.co.za/.

 

Day 2: Into Zimbabwe

We left at first light for our first border crossing of the trip – Beitbridge! One of the busiest and most confusing and ‘deurmekaar’ border posts we have ever been to! With the help of a deaf Samaritan and 2½ hours later we were finally on our way again. Our next destination was the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. First we had a stop at the Lion and Elephant Motel for a coffee and something to eat. The motel looks like it could be a nice place for a rest a few years ago but now just looks abandoned. We had quite a dismal meal at a ridiculous $7! US and not Zim dollars! $7 for a cup of Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate and a bread roll with a tiny patty on it. A real disappointment.
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Before we had a chance to turn off on the first section of gravel we were stopped by the local law enforcement for speeding. Their laser gun said 66kmh against my speedometer saying 60kmh and my GPS reading 58kmh. There is just no arguing with them or convincing them they are wrong, even if it is 6 against 1! Lots of arguments and $20 later we were on our way again.

The gravel section managed to lighten our moods and turned us a bit more positive towards Zim. The scenery was beautiful with huge granite outcrops everywhere. The locals were all smiles and friendly. Awesome riding!

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It started to get late and we realized we will have to cut our route short. It was back to the A4 and on to the Lodge at the Ancient City. The weather has turned cold and wet with a slight drizzle taking us to the lodge. What a beautiful place! The granite rocks are still part of the rooms and restaurant and it is just stunning! Sadly we were about the only people there.

 

Day 3: The Great Zimbabwe Ruins and on to Mutare.

First on the agenda for the Monday morning was to visit the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. A must see when in the area. It is quite a climb to the top but worth every step as the view is amazing.

“The ruins were the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument by ancestors of the Shona people began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. It spanned an area of 722 hectares which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Zimbabwe)

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Our backup decided to head off back on the highway to Masvingo for fuel. The rest of us took a stunning little road all around Lake Mutirikwi. Nice twisties and climbing over a mountain with the lake in view all the time. There was a bonus little gravel stretch again making the ride even better.

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After this little gem of a road it was long tar roads, lined with Baobabs and granite outcrops, to the Birchenough Bridge. “Birchenough Bridge is the name for both the bridge across the Save River (pronounced Sa’ve) and the village next to the bridge. Birchenough Bridge is named after Sir Henry Birchenough whose ashes are buried beneath the structure of the bridge. The Beit Trust, a foundation chaired at the time by Sir Henry Birchenough, funded and planned the bridge. Ralph Freeman, the bridge’s designer, was also the structural designer on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The two bridges bear a close resemblance, although Birchenough is only two-thirds as long as the Australian bridge. Dorman Long built the bridge and completed it in 1935. At a length of 329m it was the third longest single-arch suspension bridge in the world at the time.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birchenough_Bridge)

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From the bridge we started climbing through the Eastern Highlands. The temperature started dropping the higher we went. Our destination for the night was Leopard Rock Hotel outside Mutare. The road to the hotel is a beautiful winding road through forests. Mist and a light drizzle covered the last stretch of the road. At some point we realized Fritz and Sue were no longer behind us and we stopped to wait for them and admire the view. They went straight on the one road and got to do some extra twisties.

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We arrived at the hotel cold and thirsty. The hotel is a beautiful colonial place with ridiculously expensive booze! As they say ‘We cater for the European market’. The pricing dampened our mood and chatter a bit but an excellent dinner made up for the lack of drinks. An evening well spent with friends!

Next Mozambique!

More photos in our Tour Gallery.

Motorcycle chain maintenance, along with oil changes and tire maintenance is a vital part of safe riding. Chains are responsible for the crucial task of transferring power from the engine to the rear wheel. An ignored chain will eventually fail, most of the times by breaking. A broken chain often balls up around the countershaft and front sprocket, ripping and tearing through the soft aluminium motor. This will always result in engine damage, either from the chain flailing around or from the motor coming to an immediate stop. The chain might also get caught in the rear wheel, resulting in an immediate rear wheel skid. This is not just extremely dangerous but you will be stranded and likely have sustained unnecessary damage to your bike.

Regular maintenance will greatly extend the lifespan of any chain and sprocket. A dirty chain and sprockets will reduce the ability of the engine to efficiently transfer drive power to the rear wheel, sapping the power you enjoy so much.

Step 1: Lubricate

Lubricate often! A well-oiled chain is quieter and has a lot less drag. This allows the motor to spin the rear wheel freely without having to force its way past a worn or tight chain. When the chain is without lube, it will build up a lot of heat and result in the chain stretching.

Do not lube the chain with the engine running as your fingers can get caught in the chain. Lube the chain with the motor off and the bike in neutral. Evenly spray a layer of lubricant across the chain as it runs along the sprockets while rotating the wheel. Also spray at the bottom of the rear sprocket to spread the lubricant across the chain from the inside using centrifugal force. Wipe off excess lubricant with a rag.

Anything that should go on the chain should NOT go on the tires.  Be careful not to get chain lubricant or oil onto the tires.  If you do get anything oily on the tires, wash immediately with soap and water.

You should inspect and lubricate the chain every 300-500km or roughly twice a month depending on how aggressively you ride.

 

Step 2: Clean

If you lubricate the chain regularly it will keep a high level of lubrication but will also draw a lot of dirt which is bad for a chain. Check the chain for any build up that may need to be cleaned off before lubricating the chain. A good idea is to clean the chain every 1000-1500km.

The easiest way to clean the chain is with a rag, a brush and paraffin or specialized chain cleaner. Don’t use harsh solvents, like gasoline, as they can ruin the O-Rings. A toothbrush works well but a proper chain brush which will make your job much easier.

Spray or wipe the chain with paraffin or chain cleaner and use the chain brush to clean it properly. Be sure to reach all the sprocket teeth and chain links by rolling the rear wheel. You can also remove the countershaft sprocket cover and clean all the excess lube build-up that is around the front sprocket. Wipe off the excess grime using a rag or towel and let it dry before lubricating the chain.

 

Step 3: Adjust

It is important to adjust the chain properly with adequate slack. Slack or free-play is how much the chain will move up and down freely at a point halfway between the two sprockets. As the motorcycle drive chain wears it will become stretched and feel loose over time. If you clean the chain regularly you will get to know when it needs to tightening or if it is too tight. Chains don’t tighten themselves, but they can be adjusted improperly. Sometimes chains wear unevenly, and you may feel spots that are more ‘wriggly’ than others.

Chain tension is generally determined by the distance between the front and rear sprockets, and many bikes have index marks to help with alignment. The owner’s manual will have the exact requirements for your bike, but the rule of thumb is to have about 2.5 to 4.5 cm of slack. You need slack because the chain gets tighter as the swingarm moves up to compress for a bump. When a chain is too tight, it will bind on the sprockets, causing quicker wear of both chain and sprockets.

A tight chain will also over time ruin the countershaft and countershaft seal (the seal around the shaft that carries the front sprocket) and may even bend the countershaft. A tight chain is also more likely to develop tight spots. Tight spots are portions of the chain that stretch at different rates and cause binding between links. The chain can snap if it is too tight and you start working the suspension on a ride. It’s better to have it a little too loose than too tight, because the chain needs to move up and down, flexing with the bike’s suspension. A too loose chain runs the risk of flying off the sprockets and also causes a lot of slop in the driveline.

If the chain requires adjustment, the owner’s manual will have the information you need to tighten/loosen it as there are many different types of adjustment. You will need to start by loosening the axle to allow the wheel to move. Then you can turn the adjuster screws, ¼ turn at a time, until you reach the proper adjustment.

When you achieve proper slack, you need to make sure the wheel alignment is still correct. If the wheel is crooked in the swingarm, the chain and sprockets will wear rapidly and you can even get into strange handling characteristics. If there is no calibration on the swing arm  the the best way to measure alignment is to use a flexible tape measure and measure from the center of the axle to the center of the swingarm pivot. After confirming the alignment, tighten everything up and check the slack again.

 

Step 4: Replace

Just like everything else on your bike, even the best of chains will wear down eventually. Chains will get stretched out, rust and age. When they do, it’s better to catch it early and replace the chain before it lets you down during a ride.

One of the best tests you can do to see if it’s time to replace the chain is go to the rear sprocket and pull straight back on the chain. If the chain pulls away from the sprocket by much, it’s likely stretched out. If the chain does not pull away and stays right on the sprocket, then the chain is not stretched out yet. Another wear sign is tight links or kinks in the chain. This is caused by a lack of lube that has caused links to stick. The mathematical way to measure chain wear is to measure sixteen pins, not links. If the distance between the pins is greater than 256.5mm then the chain is outside of its wear limit.

Sprockets tend to show wear even more obviously. The tips and the sides of the teeth will wear and change shape. The gap in between each tooth on a worn sprocket will be rounded out, and eventually the points of the teeth will appear hooked. Any short or broken teeth, or excessive wear on the sides of the teeth, are also a sure sign that it is time to replace the chain and sprockets.

Always replace the chain and sprockets as a set. Never replace just one part as it will wear out to match the already worn parts and puts additional stress on the complete chain and sprocket assembly.

Credits:

www.motoress.com; motorcycles.about.com; www.canyonchasers.net

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Motorcycle chain maintenance, along with oil changes and tire maintenance is a vital part of safe riding. Chains are responsible for the crucial task of transferring power from the engine to the rear wheel. An ignored chain will eventually fail, most of the times by breaking. A broken chain often balls up around the countershaft and front sprocket, ripping and tearing through the soft aluminium motor. This will always result in engine damage, either from…