Monthly Archives: July 2013

One lap of Borneo

This is a record of our motorcycle trip around Borneo in June and July 2013. I plan to keep notes of planning and preparation, as well as the actual trip.

I’m from Sydney and this is my second motorcycle trip to Borneo. The first, in 2010, was from Kota Kinabalu to Bali, via Java. During planning for that trip I realised just how difficult it is to get useful, logical and timely information about adventure motorcycle trips. It becomes a forensic process of assembling clues from various blogs and forums. The facts tend to get lost among all the personal anecdotes, so it can be really hard to figure out things like ferry routes and schedules, border crossing locations, passable roads, and lots of other important information.

I documented the last trip after the event on Facebook. That enabled me to break it up into albums, but you only get one shot at an album. If you try to edit, the data changes and Facebook orders the albums by date.

Anyway it’s here is you are interested: Borneo Adventure Ride. On that trip I rode a BMW F650 Dakar, and had quite a few problems. Actually I had constant problems 😦

This time I plan to post before, during and after the trip. I will add pins and tracks to the map to show progress, whenever I have WiFi connectivity.



This is the bike

I researched many bikes and we test-rode about 1/2 dozen. The Triumph Tiger 800 was the winner. It’s turbine-smooth engine seemed like it would be ideal for long days of riding without giving me pins and needles. Also it has a very good balance of tractability for low speed riding (traffic, bad roads) and top-end power for sporty riding on nice roads.

It is a big bike, although only mid-size by the (absurd) standards of adventure bikes.


The moment the bike became “ours” – December 2011, Team Moto Blacktown. Let the journey begin!


New tyres

The bike needed a good set of dual-sport tyres for the trip. I chose Heidenau Scout K60 because they are one of very few 50:50 on-off road tyres, and they should have long enough life to complete the trip and not be bald. On the last trip I used Continental TKC80, but they were done after 5,000 km, which is not enough for this trip.

I only got to test the tyres on-road. Compared to the original Bridgestone Battlewings, they are much lighter in feel. The Bridgestones are perhaps excessively stable in that the bike always wants to go straight and it takes some effort to make it turn sharply. The Bridgestones are useless as an off-road tyre – that is is not their purpose. I don’t know why they are standard fitment on the Tiger XC.

Happily, the Scouts do not cause that weird “tipping over” sensation that happens with TKC80s when cornering at low speed. I will report later on their performance in mud, of which there is an excess in some parts of Borneo.

Folding brake and clutch levers fitted.

New pair of Heidenau tyres getting fitted at Hills Motorcycles.

Well it looks the goods anyway. But 400 mm of mud will stop any tyre, so I hope the rain is light.

Well it looks the goods anyway.

Building Crate #2

I had to complete the crate in the street as the bike had to go inside before it’s closed. I thought I was really in control of the crate, with all the parts on hand. Except when the shipper gave me only a weekend to get it ready, it became crisis management.

Still working on the crate in the dark. I hate that :( As usual my friend and neighbour Ken was helping me sort out the mess.

Still working on the crate in the dark. I hate that 😦

I found that the luggage did not fit as I’d intended, so I was welding final touches out in the street. As usual my friend and neighbour Ken was helping me sort out the mess.

Finished and ready for pickup.

Finished and ready for pickup.

I surely hope that crate holds together for 6 weeks.

Getting comfortable

The Tiger 800 already has a comfortable rider’s seat so I did not change it, nor pack my Air Hawk inflatable seat pillow. The pillion seat is not so good: padding is adequate but it slopes down towards the rider. This would have to be replaced with a custom seat to solve the problem – we just ran out of time for that (it’s the pillion’s fault – she did not say anything until a couple of weeks before the bike was due to go!).

The handlebars are very strange on the Tiger. The reach from the seat would probably suit a person of about 2.2 m height. I am average at 176 cm and have longer than average arms, but the reach from seat to handlebars is way too much for me. I get aching wrists after about an hour of riding.

I fitted the Triumph accessory tall bar risers and tilted the bars back, but still not enough. So I fitted the Rox adjustable risers on top of the Triumph risers, and tilted them back. The bars an now within and acceptable range, but not as good as a BMW GS 1200 with factory standard bars. Triumph still has some work to do on ergonomics.

Triumph tall bar risers plus Rox adjustable risers.

Triumph tall bar risers plus Rox adjustable risers.

Full dress rehersal

Afternoon trip with full luggage and a brick in each pannier.

Wow - I can get both feet flat on the ground!

Wow – I can get both feet flat on the ground!

We ran out of time for gadget testing, unfortunately. I bought a new HD Ghost sports cam but we will have to test in in the car.

Waiting for the ferry

I vote for Surabaya ferry terminal as the worst place to spend a day waiting to board. You sit in the parking lot – no seats, and the only shade is underneath trucks.

Finally when my ass couldn’t take the concrete any more I sat on the bike to get some relief. Allegedly I was asleep for some time there.

By the standards of Asian ferries, the vessel between Surabaya and Banjarmasin is usually quite good. It’s large enough to ride out swell and it has a decent on-board snack facility. If you lash out for the cabin, you also get a meal service and access to the VIP lounge area. The cabins have a black and white TV that doesn’t always have a signal. A good supply of media on your smartphone is more reliable.

Sometimes there’s also some live entertainment, you youngsters singing local pop songs.

However, there are many vessels servicing this route and some don’t have cabins. The crafty locals stampede on board as soon as the gates open, and quickly occupy any place that is comfortable. That includes most of the floor space. Without a cabin, the journey will be … long. And very uncomfortable.