6500 miles covered so far from Manchester to Cochrane, Chile. (including a 4 week holiday in the middle with a mashed knee!).
So far we have had relatively few problems regarding the bikes and the F650GS has proven well capable in pulling us and our (heavy!) luggage through long days and over some difficult ground ranging from deep sand, gravel, compacted ground, tarmac and in some cases what seems like dry river beds.
ECONOMY – Firstly, we have been architecturally anal in recording our fuel consumption in the effort to avoid running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere due to basic naivety. Our tanks hold 17.4 litres and we have settled on 100km/h on tarmac and more or less 60-80km/h on anything else (ripio). We generally aim to cover 300-350km per day filling up where and when we can.
Rather than thinking of it as km/h, we have been watching closely our rpm and have found 4000rpm to be the most economical pace for us and the fuel gauge.
At 4000rpm (60mph or 100kmh) we average 15miles/ltr or 25km/ltr giving a range of 255miles per tank or 425km.
Or at 5000rpm (70mph or 112kmh) we average 12miles/ltr or 19km/ltr giving a range of 200miles per tank or 325km. An increase of 25% in rpm increases our speed only by 10% and it reduces our range by 25% making 4000rpm far more economical by a long way.
In Southern Argentina, fuel is subsidized and is capped at roughly $4 pesos (50p) a litre making refueling far less painful than the UK. In the rest of the country (and Chile) we have paid somewhere between $6 and $8 pesos (80-90p per litre)
Since leaving Puntas Arenas in southern Chile, knowing we were entering central Argentina and western Patagonia, we have also carried another 10 litres extra, giving us an extra 125km each (@ 4000rpm) should the situation arise – so far it hasn’t! Although only one bike refueled in Los Antiquious (its very common for towns to run out dury busy times) and we needed the 10 litres just to get Chloe to the next town which had fuel (Cochrane in Chile).
URBAN MYTHS OR F650 HARD FACTS? – Having been here for 4 or 5 weeks, we met a Swiss guy (lets call him Claude) who was travelling through America in a motor home, having already done the trip a few years ago on an F650GS Dakar. He ran through some of the troubles he had with his bike and 2 of them have so far come true.
1 – DRY BATTERY, In Puntas Arenas, Chris managed to leave his head light on draining the battery in super fast time. The bike wouldn’t jump start from Chloes bike (almost justifying carrying the jump leads!), nor would it bump start. Closer inspection of the battery showed it had (boiled?) itself dry, we refilled the battery, trickle charged it over night and in the morning it was like new. 1 week later and it is showing the same signs of evaporating away, Chloe’s is like new. We are three weeks away from Santiago where we hope to buy a replacement battery for Chris.
2 – SIDE STAND STOPS BIKE FROM STARTING, on the F650 there is a cut out switch fitted to the side stand, try putting the bike into gear with the side stand out and the bike will cut out. Its very common for the side stand switch to become faulty and only recently it came to haunt us. On Ruta 41, we stopped for a pee, jumped back on the bikes and Chris’s bike wouldn’t start.
The side stand switch had worked itself loose and with the help of a cable tie and a spot of luck we were up and running, if the problem persists its common to cut the 2 wires feeding the switch and to link the cables making a circuit thus bypassing the switch – its only a matter of time.
SCOTTOILER provided us with 2 automatic lubrication systems for the two bike and these have worked well since we arrived here. It’s a subject which divides many people, but we believe the Scottoiler system at least provides us with a little of something (lube) which can only be a good thing, although this does not negate the need to make the necessary daily checks and additional lubricating when necessary.
However, we have struggled at times to keep the flow consistent on the two bikes (which seem to be flowing very differently) and as a result have had times when either two much lube or not enough was making onto the sprocket at various times on the trip. Carrying enough lube for the whole trip was always going to be a problem and last week we finally used the last few drops of lube; injected intravenously into the reservoir by ourselves.
Although (we hope) more Scottoiler Lube will be with us in February when Chloes parents meet us in Santiago, we will be using the more traditional methods of scrubbing and lubing daily by hand.
Although this is a traumatic process, it only takes one hour in fine sand and all of your hard work is washed away in a puff of powder!
We began the trip with (knobblys) Continental TKC80s thinking we would need the additional grip on the off road sections of the trip. Although (before Christmas) we probably spent 50% of our time on tarmac and the rest off road, the rear tyres barely made it to Ushuaia (3000 miles) and we had managed to pick up a few contacts in Puntas Arenas who could provide us with new tyres. Both contacts were tour companies who ran guided tours through Patagonia on BMW GS (650-1200cc) and they both recommended using Metzler Tourance for 1 reason only, durability. The ground is notoriously dry, dusty and hard in Argentina and unless there was to be a flood on biblical terms, knobble tyres would be wasting good money when Tourance would go further lasting longer. At US$180 for two rear tyres we got quite a good deal! (http://www.patagoniarider.com) (Since Christmas we have been on tarmac for approximately 5% of our time)
Two new front tyres are being sent to Bariloche (by bus) by Patagoniariders.com which should tie in nicely with the anticipated mileage we plan to cover in the next few weeks and given the current condition which has only a couple of thousand kilometers left in them.
SUBFRAME BOLTS – A number of subframe bolts have worked themselves lose, in particular where the frame picks up the pannier rack. This has occurred more often than not where the nut is captive and cannot be changed. Alternatively, we have picked up longer bolts and added a second nut behind where possible with a generous helping of Locktight. (for every extra nut, we shed a pair of underwear to balance the increase in weight)
ELECTRICS – After a hard day riding on Ruta 41 a quick check of the bikes highlighted a few things which were working themselves lose. In particular, the Headlight on Chris bike was needing re-fitting after working open its ball joint fitting. Stripping down the front end was relatively straight forward, the repair simple but the resultant loss of power to the dashboard less than exciting!
Having stripped down the front end something was now causing the 7.5amp fuse to the indicators and dashboard to pop. Through a process of elimination; the rhs indicator had been man-handled less than gently and was causing a short circuit blowing the fuse to the dashboard. With only 2 spare fuses there was no room for panic! Chris panicked, blew 1 of the spares and was left with 1 spare! Luckily the problem was solved with the last fuse and we had power back to the dashboard!
Still on electrics, the Indicator switch has now packed in on Chris’s bike and needs replacing or some careful; love, care and attention, although initial inspection suggests its a sealed until which can only be opened in a factory somewhere in rural German! Chris now drives around with flashing lights like a circus clown complimenting his already comical riding style!
A good handful of duc-tape and super glue eventually cured it!
The side stands have caused us a few other problems, Chloe can find it difficult to lift her bike upright if she happens to park it on less than level ground and the leg you use to flick the side stand out fell off during some rough ground which needed replacing.
Secondly, the DAKAR has an extra long side stand which tilts the bike to somewhere between 30 – 45 degrees. This has led to the bike being blown over on the strong winds in Patagonia, making life that little more frustrating. So, we made a visit to Touratech Arg. in the small village of Gobernador Gregores to see what they could do for us.
Chris was more than happy to let the experienced technician use his artistic craft and metalwork skills to come up with a solution to the problem. Im sure you will be impressed.
Chris cant belive his modification only lasted a day!
All in all, Chloes bike has been relatively problem free and apart from a loose rear view mirror from time to time the bike starts, goes and works all day! (touch wood!)
We are using reusable K&N Air filters which have been checked regularly and will need cleaning and re-oiling probably in Santiago.
CAMP STOVE – MSR Whisperlight; 1 screw, wash it in hot water, dry, reassemble, serviced! SIMPLE!
Below are a few recent shots of some of the smashing country side we are passing through.