Category Archives: Preparations

Ready, Set, Go!

Well, we are finally off and going. I’m writing this from Wall, South Dakota on the fourth day of our expedition. Since riding and writing at the same time doesn’t really work, blog posts will probably come in clumps when we take days off. We sold our house officially on May 15th and hit the road late morning so we started the trip homeless! The days leading up to the trip were filled with getting the house ready to sell and getting the Shadow (or Abram as Beth and reluctantly I, have nicknamed it) in as close to perfect mechanical condition as we could.

Just as a warning, this is Ryan writing this post so there is like to be a decent amount of technical information. On that note there will probably be one post from each of us for each day of the trip so that you can pick and chose the perspective you want to read. Beth’s writing is from the passenger’s perspective and is definitely non technical. My writing is from the driver’s seat and since I like technical info, I’ll be including plenty of it!

Technical Preparation

To prepare I bought new tires. After much research and price shopping I ordered a set of Pirelli MT66 Route tires to replace the Kenda Challenger “not for heavily loaded bike” tires that were on it originally. I’m hoping to not have to change the back tire again…and 1200 miles into the trip it looks like a realistic possibility. The old tires were cupping and a 1000 mile ride meant visible reduction in tread depth. So far I can’t see any difference other than most of the casting nubs have worn off.

Other bike preparations included synchronizing the carbs. Since I had installed the new exhaust system which eliminated the power chamber connecting the two cylinders it created slightly different back pressures for each cylinder changing the carburetor synchronization. I had read about a way to make my own synchronizer and it worked great! Basically you take a long piece of clear, flexible tubing, start at the center and attach it to a yardstick or similar straight piece of wood going up both sides about 2 feet. You add enough red ATF fluid to go about 10 inches up either side and attach each loose end to the vacuum port on each cylinder. I wish I had pictures, because if that poor description doesn’t help you picture it, it really looked like a vampire experiment gone wrong. In the end if the cylinders aren’t synchronized the stronger cylinder pulls the ATF fluid to it’s side. You then adjust the bolt that controls the synchronization until both sides of the fluid are equal. Wow…what a difference it makes too!

After an oil change and final drive gear oil change all that was left was some welding to repair a broken exhaust bracket and attach two bicycle water bottle brackets to the luggage rack. Josh finished it up for me over the weekend and off we went!

Other less technical peparations

Beth and I finished our packing and were able to narrow the clothing down to just one canoe water proof bag. When we aren’t wearing our leather jackets they get bungee corded over top of the other luggage. In the saddle bags we have our rain suits and our chaps along with a few tools that lay flat. We keep money, camera, carry gun, and a few other essentials like sunscreen in a tank bag. And that’s it for packing.


I hope you enjoy the story to follow. We are going to each tell our perspective as well as include information on tourist areas and places to stay in separate posts. Happy reading!


To the doubters…

Since Beth and I proposed the idea of this trip we’ve received lots comments from people saying, “Wow that’s cool…but not on that bike.” Plenty of others have said, “go for it, even on a smaller bike.” So here’s why we are taking the smaller bike.

  • The Shadow has low mileage, at the time of writing about 9,200 miles.
  • It is in excellent running condition with good tires.
  • If I bought a larger bike I would still have to work it over and fix things (that was critical in deciding to rebuild the bike this past winter).
  • I don’t want to buy another bike just for the trip and have to sell it right away when we move.
  • I really enjoy tinkering so it was absolutely fun customizing the bike for heavier loads and longer distances.
  • An 85 Shadow is a fairly powerful bike for it’s size (50 hp) and still get’s amazing gas mileage riding 2 up (around 52).
  • We have a stop halfway through the trip at my brother’s place where I can rebuild any necessary parts.
  • People used to go further on small bikes, so why can’t we.
  • People in other parts of the world look at a 500 as a large bike.
  • We want to prove to ourselves that we can live with very little.
  • And last, but not least, most people don’t go long distance on a small bike, so we just have to be different and try it.

Well that about sums it up. We aren’t trying to be foolhardy, but don’t see any reason we can’t use what we have. And hey…if we fail we’ll still have a great story!