Every country is different. Really. Even if they are nearby. The roads in Mexico are pay roads.. You don’t have to pay for roads again until you get to Ecuador… And then only in half the country. The bottom half has free motorcycle lanes… Where exactly they are is always a bit of a mystery. Someone will whistle and point..
Colombia has toll roads everywhere, motos are free. there is a little itty bitty lane off to the right.. Exactly big enough to get your touring bike through. There is always a lane. Do not attempt to go through at the pay gate. They freak out.
Always have toilet paper somewhere on your person. Paper is not guaranteed… And usually you have to pay for it… You will need the right coin (s) Quite often separate from the bathroom charge.
There are more motorcycles on the road in Colombia than anywhere else in South America.. (that I went) I hear Venezuela has a lot too.
If you need stuff for your Moto, this is a great place to plan a repair, restock, or to get a whatever thing for your bike. It’s good, because the crossing will be hard on your machine. Medellin or Cali.. Medellin will always be my choice. Other big cities will be helpful too.
Ecuador has some stuff but it’s harder to find.. The police motos are KLR’s, but newer.. 2006+.
Bolivian police ride KLR’s also.. Maybe some help in La Paz.
Quito is your best bet..
Peru is a struggle. There are a lot of bikes, but they’re all small and usually attached to carts. Don’t expect much there.
Chile.. Is pushing first world. You will notice right away that many bikes are big… Most bikes are big. Drivers will even follow most of the road rules.. Not much worse than in the states.. Better than D.C. Or Tennessee. I saw a police motorcade with a phalanx of r1200 BMWs. The other bikes looked like the Honda enduro.
If your maintenance requirements are strict, bring the little things you’ll need. If your bike has a crush washer for your oil plug, bring as many as you think you’ll need for the trip. Finding one South of the border nears impossible. Bring two air filters. Reuseable. Air filters seem to be a specialty item. Bring all the tools.. And ONLY the tools you will need to do the maintenance on your bike… And tire repair. Don’t forget air. A small bicycle pump stows easily, is light and doesn’t need electricity.. Don’t assume you’ll always have enough..
If you are riding a KLR like me, you’re going to need to check your battery fairly often. Check the acid levels at least once in each country.. More often if you’re doing a lot of hard riding. It dries it up for some reason??? Check your brakes with every oil change… At least. Mine were good until I went through the mountains.. AND I had my tires replaced. They mounted the damn things crooked and backwards. If you’re putting on a LOT of miles, you can bring an extra set of rear brakes… I usually burn those up waaaay ahead of the fronts. It might save you a day or two searching.. Buy locally where you can, because everyplace won’t have what you need. Two things I’m really glad I had but didn’t use.. An extra clutch cable pre-routed and taped in place.. An extra clutch lever… If either of those two go, you’re out of luck.. And they are documented weak points. Also, I had an MSR fuel tank mounted on the bike.. I never had to use it either, but the feeling of security was priceless.
Put blue loctite on nearly everything.
Check your bolts regularly.
On the KLR.. Progressive shocks, on the front, a fork stabilizer and also make sure the rear is in New-ish condition. Don’t leave with half-worn shocks.. Half-worn anything, really. I wished I had, but never had to use… A beefier skid plate. Mine was just plastic.
Thinner hard/soft cases will give you superior maneuverability in thick traffic, but less storage for all your kit.. MoskoMoto has a prototype I’ll be using for my next adventure.
If something is broken, and they say it will be fixed in a half hour, you are going to be the rest of the day.. If someone is going to return in a half hour, get comfortable and don’t look at your watch. Bring a book. Or a large project. Time moves differently here. That goes for everywhere. Even Chile.
If you are standing right where they are, they will most likely help you first. If you leave, they will help everyone else who is standing there first… Do not leave if you need it today. Unless it is lunch. Nobody is going to be around and you’ll just get hungry.
Don’t expect ANYONE (no matter how nice and professional) to do a good job. Check, watch and double check everything. Do as much yourself as possible. You’ll avoid a lot of heartache that way. If I’d mounted my own tires, I would have saved most of a day… And probably a set of brakes.
Water… Everyone has a different perspective here… If you are only in the country for a short time, just buy bottled. If you are traveling for extended periods, water gets real expensive. Drink the water if the locals do but bring a purifier. And use that…first OR at least a steri-pen. (Way smaller and lighter) And a small filter. That will kill the googlie-booglies.
Many times the locals don’t drink the water because it is filled with poisons from the mines. You can’t kill that. Don’t try to purify it either. Just get bottles. Most of the locals know better.
Whe traveling off piste in the dirt, do yourself a favor and have your water hard mounted to your bike. (Or strapped down in a way you might not mess up.
Bare minimum, a couple liters… And have a way to purify/distill more. Being alone with a broken bike or lost in the nowhere can get life threatening. Real fast. Some electrolyte tablets are a good idea
Too. Emergen-C’s if you don’t have someone making you eat fruit, this kind of thing will save your teeth. I met one traveler that gave himself scurvy because he ate so little fruit and greens.
Take a small first aid kit… And some broad spectrum antibiotics.. A couple rounds. Having severe diarrhea in the backcountry can be life threatening as well.. Even in the front country.. Things can snowball fast. A few bandaids, tweezers, a small razor.. like an exacto blade, some antibiotic cream, you can get generic antibiotics over the counter in most countries… Azithromycin, is the choice for Travellers diarrhea. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-2-the-pre-travel-consultation/travelers-diarrhea This link outlines the whole scene. Most of the people I met here are using Cipro. Just don’t expect them to have anything name brand. Sometimes you can find band-aids, a lot of time not.. Weird. Bring some gauze squares and a roll of that cloth white tape. You can get this anywhere though.
Ibuprofen/Tylenol and of course, whatever you usually need to take. Don’t waste your time with splints and tourniquets… If you can’t fabricate one from the materials you have, you don’t really belong in the backcountry anyhow. Talk to your doctor about shots you will need. Yellow Fever is a good one to have. You can only get it from the CDC outlined places… and you’ll need to get a “Yellow Card”. It is expensive, so research the countries you are planning to visit and see if it’s an issue. A current Tetanus, Typhoid and a Hep A booster are smart. Pepto Bismol did nothing except turn my poop black and scare me.
I hate taking medications but if you’re traveling solo, there is no one else you can really count on to make sure you’re going to be comfortable… Or alive. Having said that, the blessing is that if you’re in trouble, most people want to help. There always seems to be a kind person… and close to the moment you really need help! To drag the bike out of a ditch, get you fueled, give you directions.. Just a lot of nice people.. Most folks are. The bad guys are in the super-minority, still, everyone is scared of them.
Most of central and South America is horribly poor.. People are opportunists.. They may be nice people otherwise. Do not leave anything you want to keep, out.. Especially at night. If you want something disappeared, you can leave it out. Especially little grabbable things. Cell phones.. Wallets. Motorcycles and bicycles make the two biggest disappearing acts.
Noise. For some reason, nobody cares how much noise they make. Horns are ridiculous. They are nearly useless because so many people are using them. People begin jackhammering or some other loud activity early in the day… far earlier than is polite. Often, just feet from your room. The party hostel kids will be going until a couple hours before the jackhammer starts. Quiet is a luxury. you have to pay a lot of money for silence. Ear plugs are cheap. Bring a few pairs… Wear them when you have to.. If you’ve got them in your ears a lot, though, you risk a higher chance of ear infection.
I don’t remember busses being so loud. (Didn’t have earplugs) The Chilean “Tour Bus” forces you to listen to a Spanish movie… Even though all the seats cannot view the screen. I taped my international driver license over the speaker above my head.
This was the best use of it so far. You don’t need one.
I brought laminated fake driver licenses with me to give to the criminal-cops.. Three. They’re very good, and were just actual copies of my own DL. I never took out my actual license until I was at the border when I was SURE the stop was official. Do not attempt to bribe anyone in Chile. That is a mistake… an expensive one. You will get a worse ticket on top of the already bad one.. You were probably doing something wrong in the first place. The police are ridiculously nice, helpful and polite…. that’s something you can count on in Chile.
I also made three VERY good copies of my title. Front and back.
Keep your actual title in a safe, dry place. Don’t use it unless you absolutely have to. All the folding and unfolding, pawing and general use of your original will render it into antique status quickly. Besides, nobody (except Honduras… Or was it Nicaragua) needed/wanted the original. Make a hard copy of everything and keep it for the customs.. try to let your originals be in good condition for YOU. Also, have electronic copies that you can get to… Just in case. If they insist on the original (border) give it to them.
Have a stash of emergency cash somewhere safe.. $500 to $1k not like… in your front pocket… maybe
If you don’t want to be pulled over by the police constantly, don’t drive a flashy expensive bike…or wear snazzy clothes. Tone it down. They want your money. They know you have it, You just showed them you do..
Clothing.. This is a major issue. If you are an adventure traveler, you will need everything. But it’s impossible to take that much stuff.. Inconvenient, anyway.
What I wish I started out with: a summer mesh protective jacket.. Light weight and comfortable. This is for tropical areas. I usually have a tank top or t-shirt under this..
A warm, puffy jacket that will go over your mesh.. AND a light/medium weight waterproof shell that will go over either just your mesh OR both puffy and mesh.
Bring a good pair of breathable riding pants… And a lightweight waterproof shell. Bring a layer that you can wear under your pants for warmth in freezing weather. Everything (except for your protective first layer) should be packable into a small space.. REI camping style.. It will give you more room for things like food, water and whiskey.
I like having clothes that wash and dry quickly and easily. I took only one cotton piece of clothing.. My tank top. Everything else will dry in a couple hours from a sink hand-wash.
Some days, it will go from sweltering to freezing to sweltering.. It’s good to be comfortable in all conditions. Don’t try to muscle your way through if you don’t have to. You’ll need your energy and concentration for the nutty roads. If you’ve never experienced high altitude, Let me tell you that anything above 10-11,000 feet is a real ball-buster. If you’re planning a backroad bike tour at high altitude, give yourself a break and acclimate for a couple days to a week… at least before pushing it. It is twice as hard.. anything above 11,000 feet becomes exponentially harder. Including drinking. Careful with the booze when you’re in the high country.
I brought 2 pants, three sport bras, 3 socks, two t-shirts, two button downs. Underwear. You can buy more if you need. There are excellent stores in EVERY country… Just not every town. I brought a fancy, (Kuhl) expensive, pair of pants.. That lasted to Guatemala.. They sprung holes everywhere after a month of hard use. I’m still wearing my $20 outlet bought Columbias. I bought a hat and a scarf..
Did I mention earplugs? And toilet paper? Yeah. You can live without almost everything else.