Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Bike Goes to Bogota... I'm Next !

As of today, my bike is in Bogota, Colombia. After three days of red tape (as only Panamanians can invent) I got all of the paperwork done to export the bike. I chased from one end of town to the other, visited about 212 different government agencies, made a ream of copies, and finally had all the paperwork ready. We took the bike to Copa Air Cargo for shipment, and... nobody wanted the paperwork! Not Copa, not customs, not the janitor, NOBODY! So why did I go through all this? A very good question. Maybe it will make a difference when I return, but I wouldn't bet on it.

But the important thing, in the end, is that the bike got on the plane and is now awaiting me in Bogota. Maggie helped me see it off.

Many people have asked me what I'm going to be riding through South America. In particular, if I'm going on my Harley. The answer is no... the Harley is not the right bike for a trip of this type. It's a great bike, but it's a street bike and doesn't do well with the kind of dirt roads and potholes that make up the South American road system (actually, calling it a "system" is being very kind in many places).

The HD is, however, really good for attracting attention in Asian bars! My first long motorcycle trip was from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand with a couple of other Harley riders. We attracted a lot of attention riding through villages in Malaysia and Thailand, and had a great time. But not the bike for 20k miles of who knows what to the bottom of the world.

The bike that I did choose is a 2006 Kawasaki KLR 650. This is a single cylinder "dual-sport" type of bike. A cross between a street bike and a dirt bike. I chose it for its versatility and the fact that it hasn't really changed in about 20 years. This means that all the weak points are well known and someone has invented an improvement for most of them. It's also a pretty simple bike from a technological standpoint... something that's important when you have to do your own repairs in the middle of nowhere. I've done extensive modifications to the bike, and have ridden it twice through all of central America on shake down cruises. It's as ready as it will ever be.

The only question now is... am I? We'll find out tomorrow. Next stop, Colombia.

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