Evolution of the Africa Bike / by Walter Kitundu

Nearly 2 months ago I realized I wanted to motorcycle thru Africa... for real. Not like I wanted to think about maybe sometime possibly going... I decided that as long as I have the power to do so... this will happen. So I happened to wander into a bike shop with a dream... Pictured above is the nearly stock, pristine, unbesmirched, ultra-low-mileage beauty that lay in wait. You never see dirtbikes this stock, this clean. People are always tinkering with them trying to improve on what super highly trained motorcycle engineers in Japan have meticulously crafted. I enjoyed and savored the non-tinkered with bike... for 2 days. Seven weeks later...

...behold the Africa Bike (more or less). There will be additions and subtractions I'm sure, but for now I'm focusing on sensible additions that will help make a trip like the one I envision possible (not to mention training for such a trip). I couldn't care less about it being the fastest or most powerful KLX, I'd rather have steady-as-she-goes reliability and simplicity. Suggestions are welcome.

Here is the quick list in picture form with details to follow. Click on the image to see a larger version.

First up, luggage options. Since my trip to the Overland Expo I've been sold on soft luggage, particularly when the going gets rough. It keeps the bike compact, light, and more agile. I'd rather have a leg pinned under a soft bag of my dirty socks than under a bag of my dirty socks sealed in an impenetrable and unforgiving aluminum case. So I decided on Wolfman racks because they can take a hit and can be used as grab handles to shove the bike around. Sensible - yes. Cool points - also yes. Good combo.

A home-made windshield made from a plastic kitchen garbage can. Sensible - yes. Cool points - hell no. Nerd points - yes indeed.

Following that bubble of light through the night is mesmerizing but remember moto-antics are disconcerting to the panic-prone nocturnal denizens of the roadside. All the better to see them with, LED lights from Denali help resolve some of the mysteries of the night.

85 miles between gas stations is silly. A 17L (4.5 gallon) tank gives me at least 200 miles and its translucence takes guessing out of the equation.

200 miles on that slab of a seat is made more bearable with a sheepskin from Alaska Leather. Practical - yes. Weird - awesome.

Lockable tiny top box. Soon to be repositioned on a larger rack that can accommodate a fuel can and dry bag.

Riding on dirt means spending time on your feet. Standing over the stock bars is tiring but these 3 inch risers bring the bars high enough so you can focus on the road ahead and not the burgeoning pain in your hunched over back.

Sometimes you've got to lower the pressures in your tires to deal with offroad conditions. This little 12 volt outlet allows me to re-inflate the tires easily with a tiny pump. I can also charge my phone, camera, and power up the GPS.

Having a tachometer helps me take the measure of the engine. Down the line it won't be crucial but while the bike is still new to me, it helps me relate and calibrate the bike's sound to its inner workings.

Hi-test chain in a used bicycle inner tube provides a lot of security for around 10 bucks.

Since I got the bike I've also wanted the security provided by a kick start. This meant opening up the engine and delving into it. What?! OK, I have to learn how to maintain and repair this bad boy so here we go. With the adult supervision provided by my good friend Mose, I cracked the case open...

and a few hours later reassembled and kicked the bike back to life. Sensible - yes. Badass quotient - exponentially increased. Also, there is a Tonns Fabrication bash plate installed to protect the engine from errant rocks, logs, etc...

I look forward to the day I get to roll this bike over the Tanzanian border. We will both be back home again.

So there it is. I have a W.E.R. steering damper to install to stabilize the bike offroad and in more technical situations, and then just a whole lot of riding. The bike feels great. I realize I'm fortunate to be in the position to entertain such notions of world travel. I don't take it for granted. I hope to share the experiences in ways that are generative and generous.