The bike


There were a number of requirements that I wanted my bike to meet for this trip. I wanted to ride it on the highway as well as off road. It didn’t need to be some ‘speed machine’ – after all, this was all about the travelling, not about reaching my destination as fast as possible.
It was more important that it was an affordable and economic bike. Another specification I had was that I didn’t want it to be too heavy. I needed to be able to pick up the bike on my own, and keep it upright in all situations. Preferably it shouldn’t be too high, so I could always reach the ground easily and move the bike around. And finally it had to be a bike that was reliable and easy to work on, so that for a rookie mechanic such as myself it would be possible to do some basic maintenance.

Quite a list of demands. But there was one bike in particular that met all the specifications mentioned above: the Yamaha XT 350. Affordable and, at only 285 lbs, light and agile. Mileage: about 70 miles to the gallon. The reliable little Yamaha has been shipped from Japan to the rest of the world for 15 years and all this time hardly changed mechanically. ‘Never change a winning team’, is what they must have thought in Iwata. I think the only experimenting that was ever done was with the livery design of the bike. And as is the custom with experiments, the results vary dramatically.

The Yamaha is a small bike, and certainly not a fast one. When I try to ride faster than 60 miles per hour things get pretty uncomfortable. But it is a sturdy little thing that has proven itself by now in the big motorcycle world. Hopefully the bike will last the full 3,800 miles. Long days on the road, riding in the heat of the day, dust and sand…it’s not going to be easy on it.
But if ever a bike was made for these kinds of trips, it is this small Japanese machine!