Category Archives: Uncategorized

No ABS, when I really needed it

Two days ago on the way to Bintulu, I got a real soaking. The ride was two hours and more than half of it was in the rain. Some if it was the “real deal” – afternoon tropical downpour.

My luggage was getting transported in Brad’s Hilux do I was riding light. I’d follow cars when I could find one travelling at a suitable speed. I don’t consider 35 km/h suitable, so I still needed to overtake some cars.

After the worst of the rain, I was following in a car’s wheel track and I saw it go through a big splash. Naturally I slowed down in advance I was on a corner so I was easy on the brakes. But not easy enough…the bike started sliding.

That was a total white-knuckle experience. It turned out OK, but it certainly focused my thoughts for a few seconds.

It is precisely for that situation I paid extra for ABS. If only it was working…

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Two offs in one day

We followed various logging roads to the village of Long Terawan, then long boat to Royal Mulu Resort.

The road up was abominably dusty. I was riding in convoy with Brad Baker’s Hilux – he was taking the guide, pillion and luggage.

It would have been easier for me to follow, but I could not see the road surface clearly through the dust. So I rode in front.

At one stage we caught up to a logging truck but I could not pass it. He’d hammer it downhill and the dust became as thick as a blizzard. I could not see the sides of the road so I had to slow to walking speed each time, and the truck would escape.

Just for variety…it rained all night while we were at Mulu. Dust + rain = mud. Lots of greasy mud over hard-packed dirt.

Anyway, gravity had it’s way with me twice. The first time was close to the village, on a really steep “jeep track”. I made it up the hill with the bike weaseling all over the place, but on the downhill the front wheel started tracking in a rut and my attempt to steer out of it ended with the bike sliding down the hill on its side.

The second was a more harmless looking puddle in the generally muddy road. It sloped left-to-right and I was apprehensive about getting too close to the edge of the road so tried to steer up the slope. Bike said “no” and laid down in protest.

After that I stopped trying to steer through the very slippery bits. I would just balance the bike and let the competing forces of momentum and gravity determine the path. This sometimes has the bike tracking sideways, like an aeroplane in a cross wind. Very disconcerting.

For the first hour I was wrestling the bike almost all the time. Utterly exhausting.

No injuries but I bent the gear lever the second time. Will have to get some mechanical help with it tomorrow.

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Aki, my long-time Facebook friend

Met up with Aki Anis tonight. He is a passionate adventure rider and blogger, so no surprises what we talked about!

His home town of Bintulu (Sarawak) was a good place for us to stop the night, being 155 km from the turnoff to Long Terawan.

It was such a big deal to meet him I just rushed in and shook his hand. That’s the broken one.

Anyway, we settled down to a discussion about GPS logs and road conditions over Dahl and roti.

Dangerous logging roads

Much of the route to Long Terawan is on logging roads. They are in active use by articulated logging trucks.

Because if their commercial use the roads are maintained and they are no steeper than the trucks can handle (but you may be surprised about how steep that is). I saw only 4WD cars – no 2WD.

We used a guide, because I had no idea how go negotiate the network of roads. I soon came to realize a guide is necessary for another reason.

The logging roads are neither keep left nor keep right. They change constantly. This enables the trucks to straighten out the corners, so naturally everybody else has to follow the rules.

There are small arrows that show you which side to use, but as a rider trying to pick a path through rocks and holes, I would say its impossible to be sure about seeing every sign. Also, some of them are behind shrubs and/or covered in dust.

The guide was ring in Brad’s Hilux and it would have been easier for me to follow, but i could not see the road properly through the dust unless i hung back more than 100m. And that meant they were often out of site around the next bend of the one after.

So I rode in front and the guide was telling me which side to use by a code if single and double beeps on the horn.

There’s no way I’d tackle that road without a guide. Too much chance of cresting a hill and meeting a 4WD coming the other way.

In fact i feel like once is enough for Long Terawan. The road would be impassable for an adventure bike if it was raining during the trip.

Roasted, toasted, or scorched?

How do you like your nuts?

The Tiger has a very big radiator, which is a good thing. The temp gauge has been rock solid on 5 bars for the whole trip, including creeping through despicable traffic at 34 degrees C.

However, I was not holding up so well. With jacket, jeans, helmet gloves and boots, I was feeling like I needed to bail out and wait for it to cool down.

My misery was compounded by the abominable heat coming off that monster radiator. It’s bad. really bad. I rode the bike from the container yard back to my hotel just wearing shorts, because my jeans were still packed. I couldn’t believe the heat on my legs. I looked down to see if my leg hairs were singed.

The bike needs baffles, ducts or whatever to manage that heat. By all means give it vents that can be opened and closed, for folks who ride in cold places. Then Wunderlich of Hepco-Becker can come up with a remote control version that costs … say $1500?

But the machine is a hazard in hot climates, with the current design.

Reflections on XC800

We’ve done about 2 1/2 thousand km, so I’ll offer my opinion on the bike so far.

*Good
The engine is a gem. It will happily drone for many hours at cruising speed without causing any rider fatigue through vibration. It will also chug along rotten roads, sometimes up steep hills, just using torque and without needed to speed-up. And there’s plenty of power for “take it or leave it” overtaking opportunities, even two-up with luggage. This happens about every 5 minutes on the busy roads between Balikpapan and Bontang.

The bike is mechanically reliable. It has not missed a beat. It has stood up to the awful conditions strongly.

I added 80 ml of engine coolant yesterday. The level was mid-range, I just topped it up. No oil was needed at all.

*Could be better
It’s too heavy. All adventure bikes are too heavy, to the point where their ability to actually “adventure” is compromised. Many would say I could not do this trip on a lighter bike, but they’d be wrong. We would probably gave to compromise on what we carried, and live with less power. No problem, would be happy to do so for a 30 kg weight saving.

Seats are a bit ordinary. We both have huge blisters on our asses that have now scabbed over. The riders seat is average; the pillion seat is poor.

Lack of adjustment for fuel types is a bad oversight. I spoke about this with Triumph Tech before the trip. They said it could self adapt for Indonesian fuels at 87 RON. I can say for certain it pings. It is manageable, unlike my BMW which pinged badly and had to be babied at times. The only safe way to do this is to have selectable ignition timing maps. Please consider, Mr Triumph.

Ergonomics are pretty weird. I have Triumph tall bar risers and ROX risers, and handlebars turned up and back. This makes the reach OK when sitting, plus I can stand with straight legs and straight back. I am average height and have longer than average average arms. The bike should be configured this way from the factory. Anybody with shorter arms would be permanently stretching forward on the Tiger.

*Poor
Gear ratios are all wrong on the Tiger and everybody knows it. It requires constant clutch slippage to negotiate heavy traffic or badly rutted tracks. First gear is too high, by quite a long way. At the other end, its screaming away at 4000 rpm at a miserable 90 km/h. Way, way too low. Whoever signed off on the gear ratios must have been out taking a whiz when the original design specs were announced. Adv bikes need a wide range. Isn’t it blindingly obvious?

Cultural differences, or just rude?

We pulled into the border crossing behind a bus. People were milling around, with many already in the queue to get their passports stamped.

I parked the bike out of the way and joined the queue. At least I assumed it was a queue. Over the next 15 minutes, no fewer than 7 people cut into the line in front of me.

All of the passports that I saw had “Indonesia” on them, so I’d guess it was a visa renewal run from Sabah to Brunei.

In one case a mother with a baby cut in, allegedly because of “baby”, but was then joined by her whole family.

I started counting out loud each time a new VIP cut in, loudly welcoming them. The most annoying part if this, aside from the shear ignorance, is that they then stood around chatting when they were processed, because they still had to wait for the rest of the bus passengers. We were out of there 2 minutes after getting our stamp, but after a needless delay.

At the next crossing I kept the bike in the queue with me. It didn’t help. One guy saw a gap and figured it was was his. I suddenly became uncoordinated – every time I moved forward the bike ran into hid leg. Then two of his buddies tried to join him and I wedged the first between the bike and the wall.

What they didn’t realize was that Suzie already had my passport, at the front of the queue. When she got served, I just walked past them to join her.

Next time somebody cuts in front of me I think I’ll just do it back to them. Perhaps this will encourage the customs authorities to do their job and maintain some discipline.