Meet the Bikes

Our bikes are going to be our lifelines out in the wilderness. There are going to many hours sitting in the saddle, leaning against them waiting at border crossings in remote Kazakhstan, sitting on them in the sun of Turkmenistan's deserts, and sleeping next to them in the Siberian wilderness. Some of the team have names for them, and some of the team won't admit to having names for them. Don't tell Martha.

In a way we were lucky that none of us owned bikes when the idea for the 51st Traverse was born. So in theory, we could sit down and choose the best type of bike to take, and all run the same make of bikes. The advantages are obvious - spare parts can be reduced (2 or 3 spare cables across the 5 bikes for example), and weight reduced by having a small list of tools that suit all of the bikes.

So we were all to have the same type of motorbikes. Why not? Perfect chance to sit down and identify a bike that would be suitable for the type of riding we wanted to do and the distance we intended to cover.

So naturally, we decided on BMW. REALLY big BMW's - with heated handle grips, stereos, and huge padded seats.

But of course, this was not the reality of our trip. We had to look at value for money, simplicity and serviceability on the road instead, so the BMW's were reluctantly out of the picture. The amount of plastic, wires, computers and so forth on the larger touring bikes was enough on its own to cut them out of the question. Standing on the side of a deserted Siberian highway in the mud with a monster of a bike that won't start because the cruise control is shorting circuiting with the CD player was just not the look we were going for.

We tried out Yamahas, Suzukis, and had a good hard look at the Kawasaki range. Many days were spent in a range of motorcycle shops. We must have been the bane of the sale assistant's existence, kicking tyres, asking amateur questions and generally hungry for all of the knowledge they could give us.

The Kawaskis were tempting, but quite pricey and we didn't feel quite as confident about the international support and parts available overseas in the remote places we are going to. The race was between the Yamahas and the Suzukis. In our case we had done enough research such that the choice came down to little more than which one inspired confidence in us. Surrounded with piles of notes and various catalogues we were ready to make our move.

Yamaha offers the racy looking XT 250. A reliable and proven bike. Simple to work on, air-cooled and capable of just going and going so long as you keep putting gas in it. The limitation of the Yamaha XT in our case was its physical size. It didn't strike us with a solid feel; it has a low seat, and a generally short suspension travel. A fully loaded Yamaha 250 didn't seem worth thinking about. Of course Yamaha offers larger bikes, in particular the XT660 but for us entry into the Yamaha adventure bikes range was just too expensive.

We were impressed by the Suzukis from the start. There were two variations on offer for us, the DRZ250 and the larger DR650. The DRZ250 have a tall riding position, with plenty of play in the suspension, capable of carrying the gear needed for months of riding. The DR650 packs a bit more weight, a handful of power and the promise of being the workhorses of our group. Both are sturdy and simple to work on. For simple guys like us we liked the lack of plastic covers; you can see all around the engine, get your hands in there and work on them like a breeze.

And there was even room for after market hand warmers. Shame they won't ever be fitted really. Our purchase was made. The 51st Traverse finally had wheels. We are running these bikes:

RobC Rob C's bike

2008 Suzuki DR 650-SE. Aka "Suzi" (or maybe Slasher, much cooler)

Since locking eyes with her in a crowded showroom, Rob and Suzi's relationship has blossomed. Clocking up 10,000kms since Christmas on many a weekend away, it is still going strong. Didn't miss a beat when put through her paces on a 3,500km trip around the north Island with Rob Gray in February, it is up to the task.


  • 650cc of unadulterated power - more than enough to comfortably blitz the 250's
  • Cobra adventure windscreen
  • Custom built aluminium panniers and top box - monster size
  • Aluminum bash plate


Toms bike

2007 Suzuki DR650 SE aka..........yet to find the perfect name, has been called Darth Vader by Nick Reeder, but the thought of riding Vader halfway across the world is less than appealing in my opinion.

The Black Beauty has been with me for about 6 months now and has been put through its paces out at Murawai Beach a number of times and round the roads of the North Island. Now up to around 5,500kms, she is just getting used to the idea of the crazy adventure that lays ahead.


  • Eagle Windscreen
  • Aluminium Bash plate
  • ATV raised handle bars
  • Bark Busters
  • 18l Long range plastic fuel tank
  • Dynojet kit and modified airbox with K&N filter
  • Extra foam in seat (50mm, gotta look after what's important!!)
  • Rear Luggage tray
  • Michillan T63 knobblies
  • Super motard front mudguard, for those Vader looks
  • Home made licence plate holder and aftermarket rear light
  • After market transparent fuel filter
  • Yet be installed, Pelican boxes x2 as side panniers.


Mishas bike

2009 Suzuki DR650-SE Aka "The Stormtrooper"

If you know Misha, you know he is a big boy. For every big boy out there there is a big bike. Here is a list of modifications so far

  • Givi screen
  • B&B bash plate
  • Pelican cases with custom brackets
  • Mr Dry duffel bag
  • Custom back rack
  • Michelin T63 front and rear tires
  • Custom seat - 50mm foam lining
  • Aceribis 25 ltr tank
  • Renthal sprocket kit
  • Bark busters

Mikes bike

2008 Suzuki DRZ-250 Aka "Hornet"

Mike wasn't the keenest on getting a Suzuki motorbike for the trip. This all changed when he hopped on Hornet, history was made. Whilst Mike can do most things he puts his mind to, he has trouble keeping Hornet under control. So far Mike has managed to brake his clutch perch in one incident, his right leg in another (that is a story for another day) - all this in less than 6000km's. Who said this trip would be easy?...



Rob G's bike

When Rob first jumped on his bike, he'd only ridden a motorbike twice in his life - once to sit his licence test. That first ride was a pretty hair-raising experience. Rob stalled on the first two hill starts. On the third, figuring he needed to give it a little more gas, Rob found himself careering up the road in an impressive wheelie that he's never managed to replicate. Since then, Rob and his bike have gone everywhere together, clocking up 8,000 k's in the process. From tripping round the North Island in summer, to early-morning commuting to work on rainy days, the two are seldom apart.


24L Acerbis tank - this was found at a random wreckers in Hawera, and took a bit of adapting to actually fit on the bike, including the use of two rubber doorstops and some plumbing fittings.

Soft canvas panniers - currently welding a frame to ensure these sit away from the exhaust and heat of the engine. Will be strengthening and re-sewing some of the canvas. Went with soft panniers because they are light, cheap and you are less likely to injure your legs on one.

Tyres - Michelin T63s


  • Bash bars
  • Tank bag
  • Windscreen

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