Barkbuster handguards and an inconsiderate driver

About a year ago, coming back from a short holiday in France, I found that some idiot had clipped the back of my bike while parking his/her car and thrown it on the floor. Somebody had been kind enough to lift it and put it back on the sidestand, but no contact details were left… If it was lifted by some passer-by or the guys in any of the shops in that bit of the street, I hope they didn’t struggle too much with its weight and I am grateful for their bit help. If it was lifted by the idiot who knocked it over and left without leaving any contact details, I sincerely hope he strained his back and still feels the pain to this day.

Anyway, the resulting damage was a scratched engine guard bar (I was glad to have them, as bodywork replacement parts are terribly expensive), a smashed indicator, a cracked mudguard and a broken brake lever.

As I was doing research for this trip I soon came to the realisation that my off-road riding skills are pretty much non-existent. I have ridden the bike fully loaded on dirt roads that were in good condition without any problem, but only for about 30 miles, and that’s it. Knowing that I would be dropping the bike more than I would like to once I get to the roughest parts of the trip (Kazakhstan and Mongolia) and not wanting to repeat the broken brake (or clutch) lever experience, I decided to replace the handguards on the bike.

The ones that came with the bike were the original Suzuki items, which are wonderful for weather protection – they effectively keep the wind and rain away from your hands and work really well in combination with the heated grips. However, they are only a piece of plastic that clicks into the weight at the end of the handlebar, with no metal structure, so they offer no real protection in case of a fall.

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I decided to replace them with something beefier, and after some research I settled on a pair of BarkBusters. They look great, and the thick aluminium backbone offers a good degree of protection should I drop the bike (or rather when I drop the bike!).

I got them online from Ubricar Motos at a reasonable price and they were delivered in just a couple of days. Great! If it were not for the fact that I was sent the mounting kit for a BMW GS… doh!

In their defence, I have to say that customer service was really nice and helpful and they dealt with the mistake efficiently. The wrong handguards were picked from my apartment and in a couple days more I had the right ones, all free of charge, obviously.

I sold the original ones through the owner’s club and got down to installing my new toys.

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I rode for a few days without any handguards at all and I missed them much more than I thought I would… they do offer a lot of wind protection.

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The right mounting kit for my V-Strom. Those aluminium backbones look solid enough to do a good job.

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The kit includes a pair of extra “flaps” that can be mounted at two different heights for added wind protection. I placed mine in the highest one.

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The whole process is really simple and does not take more than 20 minutes to complete. The handguards come with their own counterweights and two different sets of screws so they can be mounted on either steel or aluminium handlebars.

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And this is how the whole thing looks now. It does improve the looks of the bike and I am sure they will offer good protection – but the longer it takes to find out, the better!

Coleman Feather 442 Dual Fuel

This little champ arrived today, straight from an army surplus shop in the UK.

Stove

My plan is to travel as cheap as possible, so in Europe I’ll be staying at campsites and once I’m in cheapest areas, I’ll use hostels from time to time or just camp out in the countryside. I’ll be doing some outdoor cooking, so I wanted to find a stove that could burn fuel from the bike, as I imagine it is not possible to find gas canisters outside Europe and I don’t want to be carrying the extra weight and space of fuel canisters or a dedicated fuel bottle. With that in mind, I checked what options I had.

The Optimus Nova looked great – lightweight and compact, but it was too expensive, I have to seriously try and keep things within budget.

The MSR WhisperLite was another option, but again, same drawbacks – too expensive, and I didn’t like the hassle of having a separate fuel bottle that I’d have to attach ever time I wanted to cook.

So in the end I settled for Coleman. They have a solid reputation for durability and reliability – the army uses them and some people have had their stove for decades, and they have a model with a built-in fuel canister and pump. Reviews were really good, and I liked the compactness and apparent ease of use, so I settled for this one. Mind you, it was still quite an expensive purchase, so I went off in search of a good bargain and finally found this one (used) from an army surplus store. It looks great, used but in good condition. I’ll test it as soon as I have a moment and report back.

First full service

Wanting to learn as much as possible about mechanics before setting off this summer, last October I decided to do a full service to the bike, that is, changing the oil, oil filter, spark plugs and air filter.

The idea was to lear how to take apart and but back together the basic parts to access the mechanicals and be able to service the bike with a minimum of tools. Not easy, since the bike has quite a lot of plastic fairings (there’s some joking on the internet about how it floats if try to cross a river), but I had downloaded the workshop manuals and there is a lot of information on the net, especially on the Spanish and international owner’s websites, as well as several very useful videos on YouTube such as this one.

I discovered I would need to add a few things to the tiny toolkit I had purchased – I needed a small allen key (3mm) to remove some screws on the front fairing and a 14mm socket to remove the fuel tank, as well as a tool to remove the oil filter (impossible to loosen it by hand).

Aside from these few tools, the kit I had and the tools that came with the bike were enough to change the oil, the oil and air filters, and all four spark plugs – including having to loosen the radiator from its lower mounting points to access the front spark plug.

I am quite happy to report that a regular service would present no big problems on the road. But some issues still need to be solved, such as how to properly dispose of the used oil. I would not want to just throw it away in the middle of the Mongolian countryside!