Riding in the deserts and surfing the dunes is the dream of many bikers, today accessible to everyone: you can learn it directly on the field, with the right bike and the right instructor.
Pietro Tupputi explains, in 2 articles, the theory and technique that are the basis of his classes in the deserts of Tunisia and Morocco.
PART ONE – THE PREPARATION OF THE BIKE
Strange but true, let’s start this tutorial from the bike, the technique can be improved on the spot: arriving with a vehicle with problems could stop your career as a Saharan pilot.
We often try to improve the performance, the engine, the suspensions, the exhaust … forgetting the most important thing when traveling in countries where there are no spare parts and assistance: reliability. For the trips in the desert the single-cylinder bikes are more than enough: what I consider a valid preparation is to seek maximum reliability and eliminate any risk of breakage. Let me explain it in a simple way: changing a battery that is already two years old is a preparation (on injection models it might be a problem to have a ko battery), same as changing the front and rear wheel bearings.
Therefore, different are the checks to be made before leaving: check and, if in doubt, replace the complete transmission, change the oil if it has already worked for several km, the engine oil in the case of the 4T and the gears oil in the 2T. Start with a clean filter and, if the bike requires it, fit an additional filter. Check the brake pads, replace the brake fluid if it is more than two years old. A check must also be reserved for the lever mechanisms of the swingarm and for any leaks from the forks. Check with various screws especially in the 2T and, if necessary, use some blue thread lock. Replace the spark plug. A nice and complete maintenance of your motorcycle is the best preparation you can do, even if it may seem expensive, it will always bring you back home.
Do not forget: any enduro race tire is suitable for the purpose, my advice is to use at least the Mid/Hard to have more resistance to wear in the rocky sections. In the event that you think of doing several consecutive experiences in the desert, it is better to consider the rally tires, much more resistant. Tubes or Mousses: I use the 4 mm Michelin tube since years. Mousses can be used as long as they are new or recent.
Transmission: the chain must be completely de-lubricated, it is better to arrive at the event with a new or recent transmission. The steel crown is to be preferred for greater resistance to wear.
Handlebar/footpegs: aluminum handguards are highly recommended to preserve the levers in case of a fall. I also recommend a nice round of teflon tape on the bracelets of the brake and clutch levers, to allow them to rotate in the event of a fall without breaking the levers. It also offers the advantage of being able to adjust the position on the go. If you are tall enough, better think about handlebar risers. The wide footpegs are not vital, but they are certainly more comfortable.
About the kickstand avoid to mount thosewide plates to increase the support base, and check for any interference with the swingarm. My advice is to park the bike as reported in the next article.
Air cleaner: well cleaned and oiled, think about mounting an over filter too. Remember that if the trip is mainly on sand, the filter will become less dirt. The main enemy are the dusty tracks, especially if you are riding behind other bikes. It can be good to carry a second filter already oiled and kept in a sealed bag.
Spares parts: brake and clutch levers, spark plug (check that you have the right key to disassemble it), chain link, pre oiled spare air filter, front and rear air chambers, a gear lever. These are the indispensable spare parts provided you have followed the directions of the preparation of the bike, otherwise the list should probably longer.
Well! You are now wondering at this point how should I park the bike? Follow us on the next episode for all the secrets and driving tips (and parking) on the sand.
Pietro Tupputi has over a decade of experience as a pilot, driving instructor, mechanic and rescuer. He spends most of his time in the desert on motorbikes or in 4×4. Since more than 10 years with LIVE OUT, it organizes and accompanies people on the road and off-road.