Flulike symptoms from Mexico to Peru

People report experiencing flu-like symptoms while traveling from Mexico to Peru. I think it is caused by all the particulate you breath. Your body just goes nuts reacting to all the crap coming into your lungs, including, but not limited to, quantities of polverized human excrement and unburned hydrocarbons.


If I had to choose between the BMW and the KTM, I would pick the BMW. I have put over 300K miles on BMWs, and they have been decent bikes.

KTMs blow up

As much as it pains me to supply fodder to the Beemer Weinies who take their GS Adventurers loaded with every touratech accessory possible no further than the nearest Starbucks, where they prattle on about the RTW they will never take, KTMs don't even come close in terms of reliability. You will be stuck, it will be catastrophic, and it will be expensive. And the guy in the hut will try to repair it with a welder.

Read some of the things that have happened to people on the singles in long trips, or even trying to use the things as daily drivers. The motors come apart. They are worse than KLRs. And that is saying something. So go with the lightest one, because you will be pushing it in and out of pickups a lot.

The problem with the KTMs is that they don´t use enough oil in the crankcase. Now that they are in use and fairly common, a large number of riders are reporting catastrophic engine failures that occur in the 12-18000 mile range. Oil wears out, and 2 liters is not enough for a high performance large displacement single.

Great Language Courses

the Pimsleur course, published by Simon and Schuster, is easy, comprehensive, and gives you a good command of the language as spoken by an educated person.

The Pimsleur Spanish course is more like they speak in South America than in Spain or Mexico. It is a very neutral spanish, and like all their language courses, teaches you to speak like an upper middle class college educated individual, and not like the local lettuce picker.

Ship by Air to South America

People sometimes decide they want to ship their bike by sea because it is a lot cheaper.

You might be surprised at how long you have to wait for your bike. I know of a German couple who waited more than eight weeks after the scheduled delivery date for their bikes to arrive in Valparaiso.

The best way to ship a bike to the southern cone, from what I've seen, is to send it on a plane to Santiago. It takes you about an hour and a half to get the bike out, and the freight forwarder might even meet you at the airport and expedite matters.

Shipping by air out of BA took me the good part of three days, and I speak fairly good Spanish and had a very attractive Colombian woman with me.

The Best Endurance Saddle

Russell DayLong

This is the best saddle made. Many of the Iron Butt riders swear by them, and I've gone several 700-1000 mile days in it. They put them on anything, and I've seen photos of them on lots of BMWs, Honda Helixes, KLR650s, and DRZ400s. They aren't cheap, but you do get what you pay for.

Here is their website:


good Book for women interested in riding motorcycles

Read "The Perfect Vehicle," by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. Not only does she address your questions, but she also describes the best motorcycle in the world and why she chose to ride it. I recommend this book to every woman I deal with who wants to start riding.

Asking lots and lots of stupid questions

After a while, lots of people who are thinking of eventually planning long rides and bugging the heck out of various shipping departments and veteran travelers stop having their emails replied to and their questions answered.

I think this falls under the "go bother someone else for awhile" category of response. A lot of the people who work in these companies like to ship bikes and talk to the riders, sort of living vicariously through us. We're exciting and different and have interesting stories that take them away from the daily humdrum of million dollar shipments of fruit or cd players. But when you start taking up too much of their time for your one time shipment, and taking them away from the million dollar clients that keep them in business, they begin to feel annoyed. Believe it or not, these companies are doing you a big favor shipping your bike, and you are an insignificant and time consuming client who doesn't contribute a heck of a lot to their bottom line. And that's when you just do as they say and don't ask a lot of annoying questions to make sure you are getting the absolute most you can for the least amount of money possible. Now you have annoyed them. Let's just hope they don't lose your bike.

Shipping costs to and from the Cono Sur

It should cost about $1000-1500 each way

I paid a little less than $1000 to ship my Quota from Buenos Aires to Miami. It is about the size and weight of a BMW GS. It was strapped to a pallet and wrapped with shrinkwrap, then measured to figure out the charges. This was in April 2005.

I paid a little less than $1400 to ship my MZ Baghira from Miami to Santiago in December 2005. This was done in an open crate, after I removed the handlebars. The good thing about an open crate is that Customs can verify the VIN without taking the crate apart.

I did the Buenos Aires- Miami arrangements myself with the airline and Argentine customs, and it took three days. A freight forwarder, BDP International, (2775 NW 82nd Avenue, Miami, Florida 33122 United States Phone: 305 592 8872Fax: 305 592 1929) did them from Miami to Santiago, and it took about 10 days to get the bike, due to 9/11 and other US Customs regulations and the fact that I was shipping right before Christmas when all the planes are full.

To ship out of the US, the bike has to be on a Cargo only flight, and they aren't as common as passenger flights, and the bike has to sit for three days after Customs has accepted the paperwork, so they can come and inspect it.

Suzuki single cylinder overlander

A great bike to consider if you are going to do a lot of dirt during your travels is the the DRZ400S, also rebadged and sold as a Kawasaki KX400. Better components, similar hp, and lots of aftermarket support. It will move down the road nicely at 90 mph. The motor is bulletproof (not that I've actually tried to shoot at one) and they leave and never return to the dealerships. See if someone can hook you up with the $49 yosh slipon.

Lots of power, great fuel economy, excellent parts availability and manufacturer support, high quality components, good aftermarket support, I would not hesitate to consider a well sorted DRZ400 for a long ride. I saw one for sale once that was used in a Malcolm Smith guided Baja ride that looked almost perfect for a RTW. Big tank and Russell Daylong saddle.

Mixing Synthetic and Mineral oils

Someone said, "try not to mix mineral and semi-synthetic oils, as they will separate."

Into what? I hear this from time to time, and it really makes no sense. Semi-synthetic is a blend of synthetic and mineral base oils, and they don't separate in the bottle, as far as I know. And the actions of the motor would seem to me to stir the different oils up pretty well even if they did separate.

I think this is an old wives tale/ urban legend.

Places to see in Baja California

El Rosario is great, Mama Espinosas and the hotel next to it. Great food. Also, try the French Hotel in Santa Rosalia.

Proof of Insurance in Argentina

You will be asked for proof of insurance to enter Argentina, and periodically while traveling the country. If you can't produce proof of coverage, your bike could be confiscated. There are plenty of places on the borders to buy it, or you can show them your insurance card from home, as long as it is for the bike you are on.

You may be asked to show proof of coverage entering Uruguay.

How to handle the people who want to test ride your bike

They give you all the money, and then you let them ride it. If they drop it, it's theirs.

If they won't, they probably don't have it to begin with.

You would be surprised at how many muttonheads just want to go out and testride someone else's bike.

Shipping back and forth doesn't make sense

I have shipped bikes to and from South America from Miami. It is expensive.

You would be better off shipping one to Santiago, meeting it there, and then trying to sell it to another traveler in Uruguay and flying home from there. Or you can try to buy one in Santiago, and sell it when you leave. Some travelers advertise bikes for sale in these cities. Some are reasonably priced, others not, but most are pretty well used up.

It is a hassle bringing one in via air to Brazil, and can take days to clear one in Quito. Same goes for Venezuela. Bogota is cheap and easy, but you might want to get your South American legs first before tackling Colombia. Plan on at least $3000 to ship to and from South America from Miami.

Internet Cafes are safe

I have used internet cafes to check accounts and transfer large sums of lucre in numerous countries known for their thieves and beggers without ever having a problem. Of course I kill everyone as I leave, and burn the place to the ground, but that's just me exhibiting caution.

Seriously, in years and years of travel, in lots and lots of countries, even before people were cogniscent of the concept of internet theft, this has never been an issue. Nor have I had gypsies stand behind me at an ATM and steal my PIN and soul.

Most banks offer lots and lots of protection against internet and other types of fraud, and will resolve the issue quickly in your favor, unless the guy in the photo taken at the ATM looks like you in a drunken state surrounded by Panamanian hookers.

cheap and dirty Throttle Lock

use a coat hanger

there is a way to make a throttle lock from a piece of coat hanger. You bend it around the grip and leave a piece long enough so it can hook on the brake lever. It works very well, and latches onto the brake lever. I have ridden across country with one.

Best Luggage for Motorcycle travel

Hepco Becker or Givi

You can find good deals on both these brands, and they come off so you can take them into your motel room at night and on the plane with you when you ship the bike over the Darien Gap.

If you go with the plastic Hpeco Becker Juniors, you will find that they hold up really well when the bike falls over.

abandoning a bike in a foreign country

Do you plan on returning? If you just abandon a bike in most Latin American countries, you probably won't EVER be able to bring another one in.

Deals can be had on salvage bikes

Good Deals on Salvage Title stuff

In several states there are dealers that specialize in repairing motorcycles that have been in accidents, then reselling them. In Ohio, one of them is Integrity Cycles. Here is their website


There is another dealer, Cycle Search International, that seems to have experience exporting used bikes and sells Salvage Title stuff as well.

Here is their website...


Now keep in mind that until the recent bump in gas prices in the US, Dualsports and Adventure Touring bikes were not a large segment of the market in this area, and of course if there were not a lot of new bikes sold, there won't be many used examples to be had, so pickings may be slim.

Where to buy a used bike in the United States

The Great Northeast

If you buy a bike in California, it will usually have A LOT more miles than one from the northeast. Average in the Northeast is 2000-3000 per year. And the bikes are cheap. Ohio, where I live and work, has one of the largest per capita motorcycle ownerships in the nation.

Modular Helmet with flip down tinted visors

Caberg Justisimo or the Shuberth lid are both good choices.

Nolan makes a modular with a flip down tinted visor, though it is on the outside.

The Shuberth came in second in one magazine evaluation of helmets. And the Caberg is the highest rated modular in some European test.

The best thing about a modular helmet is not that you can have a beer and a smoke without taking it off, but that you can scream obscenities at drivers who cut you off and they hear you.

Pro Oiler - The Revolution in Chain Care

Pro Oiler - The Revolution in Chain Care

Recently I came across an article for this automatic chain oiler. I called and talked to the distributor, and he seems like a reasonable and straightforward guy with a lot of confidence in his product. Here is a link for more information.


If you try one, please email me your impressions.

Shipping to Buenos Aires or Santiago?

Chose Santiago

In my personal experience dealing with the customs departments in both countries, I found that one is a modern, well run operation that does things pretty much like you've come to expect, and the other one is in Argentina.

As far as shipping goes, I would recommend you contact BDP International


They have done a pretty good job for everyone I know who has used them to ship motorcycles, and offer services just about everywhere.

MOTOW, It's a wonderful thing

MOTOW, It's a wonderful thing
Last time I rejoined the American Motorcyclist Association, I decided to get MOTOW, the roadside assistance program, because my Quota is getting up in years and I figured it was just a matter of time before I needed it. Well, this summer I got one of those new 150cc Chinese scooters, more to see how good they are than anything else. I have been letting a friend ride it, and she was on her way across town when it came to a stop in an intersection. Some guy on a scooter couldn't get it started, I couldn't get it started, and we were sort of at a loss for what to do when I remembered my MOTOW. I called them and within 20 minutes they sent a tow truck that looked like overkill and loaded the little scooter up and took it to my house. Tomorrow they will take it to a scooter repair shop for me because the scooter repair shops are closed on Sunday and Monday.

If you are an American, do yourself a favor and join the AMA then get MOTOW

Carrying extra fuel

Midway Auto Supply, http://www.midwayautosupply.com/ in the US sells a Wedco 10 liter Jerry can that works extremely well on a motorcycle and doesn't leak after you drop it more than once. I have used them on both my trips to South America, and just filled them up when I thought I would need the extra gas.

here is a link to the can http://www.midwayautosupply.com/p-32546-wedco-25-gallon-red-metal-j-can-for-gas-80710.aspx

Then there was the time I was standing by the side of the road out of gas in Southern Chile waving my empty can at passing motorists, 8 KM from the next service station.

People riding motorcycles in the US wave a lot

People riding motorcycles in the US wave a lot
Here in the US people on motorcycles tend to wave at anything on two wheels. There is this huge population of new riders who have adopted every aspect of the biker lifestyle except the long hair because that's the one thing you can't buy at the local Big Dog dealer. And they wave because they know that's what bikers do. Often the passenger is the designated waver, and will cause the bike to swerve as they do their bikerly duty. I even get waves from Harley riders when I am zipping down the street on my Chinese scooter (before having it towed home). Sometimes they do start to wave, see I am on a scooter, and pull the hand in so as not to appear to have been waving at a scooter.

What I have noticed is that when I am out in a car or on my bicycle, I wave at other bikers out of habit (20K miles a year on a bike, 2K in a car on average), and get more return waves on the bicycle than in the car.

Argentine Roadblocks

There are several roadblocks in Entre Rios province, in Argentina, where you will be stopped and asked to show insurance. You may be asked to produce a fire extinguisher, sheet to cover your body in an accident, and whatever else they think of that day.

Everyone is stopped and asked to show insurance, bikers, people in autos, everyone. It's like the DUI and seatbelt checkpoints in the US. Most Argentines, including bikers, carry insurance. But the Argentine bikers are not stopped and told they need fire extinguishers, etc. This is what you avoid traveling with them.

You do not need a fire extinguisher or sheet to ride a motorcycle in Argentina. And there is no fine for not having one, and the police are not allowed to collect fines anyway.

This is a common part of life in Argentina and Uruguay. I have seen an old toothless police officer stand in the middle of the road and hassle drivers for spare change in the middle of Nequen province, likewise last time I was there a big scandal ensued with two Uruguayan cops solicited bribes from an Argentine judge on his way to Punte Del Este. Foreigners in nice cars repeatedly get hit up for money in Buenos Aires.

Having gone through the routine several times with them, my best advice is to try and go when the road is not full of tourists heading north or south. They do prey on the locals and know someone heading back to BA on a Sunday is far more likely to pay them to be done with it and get back to work than to argue for hours. Likewise late Friday is usually a good time for them to hold up people heading north for the weekend.

If you can, travel with an Argentine motorcyclist or group. The police don't even try to hit them up for bribes. Act like you do not understand a word they are saying, even if they start telling you dollar amounts in English.

Always ask to see the radar gun or picture that was proof of whatever driving infringement you allegedly committed.

Learn the word used in the Southern Cone for bribes to police, and use it when they hit you up for money. They will usually become very apologetic and explain that there really is a rule, and let you go.

Try not to get pissed off with them, if you can joke about the bribe they are hitting you up for, the fire extinguisher you don't have, etc, they are much more likely to let you go quickly than if you get your panties in a twist and start calling them names or quoting the law to them.

Some geniuses on one of the bulletin boards created a form, allegedly from one of the embassies or some Argentine governmental agency, that you are supposed to fill out while being hit up for money, and the sight of this form is supposed to intimidate the Police into letting you go.

It doesn't work anymore.

They know the Form is not real.

It didn't take the police long to figure out the form is not real. I was told by one of the police officers manning a checkpoint that it isn't real and that it is a crime to imply it is an official government document.

Chosing the bike to take that trip on

Look for the deal, not the bike

The most important thing to concentrate on if you are trying to travel by bike on the cheap is the deal, not the bike. You need to start looking for a deal on a bike, whatever it is. Anyone who would put you on a chinese single is not worth listening to, because they are cheap junk that will break and leave you stranded.

I traveled South America on a 98 Baghira that I bought for $1700. Not because I compiled a list of bikes to travel on and it made it to the top, but because I got it for $1700. Other guys have made the same trip on Honda GL500s, and Suzuki GS500s that they have bought cheap with no miles. You can get great deals on 1992 Suzuki GS500s because they are purple and pink and have white alloy rims. They can be had for less than $1000 and get about 58 miles to the gallon. They have a five gallon tank, and a center stand, are sturdy and reliable as hell, and nobody wants them because they are purple and pink. If you assembled a list of all the color schemes you would like to see in a bike, I imagine purple and pink with extremely effeminate white wheels would be pretty low on your list.

Open your eyes and your mind and ask yourself if a bike you see is up to the task, and then try to buy it as cheap as possible. Save your money for gas and cheap accomodations and travel.

The best states to find used bikes are probably California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Make sure the bike has been registered in that state for at least 2 years, so you don't get a flood bike. One thing in your favor is that scrapes and scratches drive the price down in states where bikes are viewed as recreational vehicles, and beginning riders tend to drop them a few times at low speed while learning how to get around parking lots.

Other cheap possibilities that come to mind for motorcycle touring are the Suzuki bandit 600 and the Yamaha seca 2. Both would make great small tourers. The Kawasaki ZR7s is another bike that can often be had cheap. And you can almost steal Suzuki Katanas these days.

If you are determined to get a small bike, the Kawasaki EX250 is pretty rugged, and capable of high speeds if pushed.

If you could stand a few days of cold riding, the Northeast will have lower used bike prices during the winter, especially before Christmas, as dealers try to dump inventory so they don't have to carry it all winter and owners try to raise money for Christmas.

Great Boots for Riding

Tony Lama Smooth Ostrich Ropers are great.

They are about $200. You can get them wide. The black ones hide all the oil and crap you will pick up on the road. Replace the soles with Vibrams and the boots will last forever. You can walk all day in them, they look nice if you decide to go out to a good restaurant, and if you wreck they will protect you. I've done all three.

Emergency Fork Gaiters

Leather or Neoprene or motorcycle inner tubes

You can make them out of leather or neoprene. Just have someone make tubes of leather or neoprene in the length and diameter you need, then attach them at the top and bottom with pieces of inner tube cut to use as rubber bands. You could also make them out of motorcycle inner tube. These will work fine and get you out of Dodge.

Gel Seats don't work

Gel doesn't fix the problem
The only way to make a seat comfortable is to increase the area and give the seating area an ergonomic shape. The more of your posterior that absorbs your weight, the less pressure per square inch, and the more comfort. Replacing a thin seat like the KTM or DRZ400 seat with gel, without increasing the surface area of the seat, won't result in any real comfort advantage, despite your perceptions at first.

Where to go first in Santiago

San Francisco Apart Hotel
Hotel San Francisco, in the 400 block of San Francisco, right off the Alameda, has decent parking and is easy to find. It is not the cheapest place in town, but you can go there, spend the night, and get your bearings and move the following day. It has a kitchenette and small refrigerator in the rooms, so you can cook, if you are going to be in Santiago a while.

San Francisco Apart Hotel. San Francisco 415. Centro Santiago. Teléfono: 562-6393272 Fax: 562-6393272

The Alameda is the big street that runs through Santiago, everyone calls it the Alameda, but parts of it are named Providencia, O'Higgins and Apoquimbo. San Francisco is in the O'Higgins part, runs off to one side only. If you see San Antonio Street, San Francisco is directly across the Alameda.

How to clear a bike through Customs in Santiago, Chile

Santiago is surprisingly easy to clear a bike in

First you have to go to the shipper or forwarder, unless they agree to meet you at the airport, who is usually in Santiago proper, and get all the paperwork you will need. They may want some money for the consolidation. You have to pay it. Then you go out to the airport. There are blue busses that go out there. You want to go to the cargo part first. You go to the Aduana , who is in an office in front of the cargo bodegas, and get your paperwork stamped. Then you may have to go to immigration to have your passport stamped that you entered with a vehicle. Then you go to the Bodega and pay the bodega fee, about $30, and then you get your bike. they will let you reassemble it there, and are in general very nice about doing things. The key to having an easy time doing things in Chile is to keep in mind that it is just like doing things in any other modern country. There are no bribes, no extra fees that you can try not to pay, etc. There is a procedure, and as long as you follow it, you will quickly get your bike. It takes about 3 hours from start to finish.