A couple of years ago a few of my mates were planning a trip to Southern Spain on their bikes and asked me if I wanted to go with them. One of them owned a property, formerly an old Bodega, that he’d bought several years earlier and had recently finished renovating. It was located just outside a sleepy little town called Pinoso, about 30 miles inland from Alicante. Sounded like fun! Mike and Rob had Harleys. Pete had a Kawasaki Versys. At that particular point in time I didn’t actually have a proper bike which was unusual for me. I only had a Suzuki Burgman 400 which I was using to commute into London for work. That trip to Spain sounded like a hoot though, so I decided I’d have to get myself a ‘proper’ bike to go on.
I didn’t really want a Harley nor a Versys though the Kawa looked ok it wasn't really what I was looking for. Not my cup of tea. I also didn’t want to buy an all bells and whistles touring bike either; I couldn’t afford it. Being the kind of person who never buys anything on the never-never I checked the piggy bank and deduced that I could only afford to spend a maximum of three grand. Any more than that and the Missus’ "missing dosh radar" would go into hyperdrive, and we all know what that means!
It was 1,300 miles to Pinoso from where we intended to set off from in the UK, and it’d be another 1,300 back again. I got to thinking about it. I wanted the whole experience to be relatively hassle free; no breakdowns or mechanical issues and if possible I’d prefer to do it in relative comfort (I was just about to turn 60 at the time and my arse wasn’t as supple as it used to be) I also wanted to be able to crank up the speed on the Autobahns as well as keep warm and dry if it rained. I didn’t expect much rain to be honest. After all, it was August and we would be riding through France and then Sunny Spain. What could go wrong?. “It’ll be luvly wevver for sure!” said my mate Rob.
You’re probably gonna say - not possible right? Gonna cost at least eight to ten grand, or more, right?
Wrong! It’s totally feasible:
If that all sounds a bit too good to be true, well, here’s how I did a 2,600 mile round trip to Southern Spain starting with nothing at all except a finite budget of three grand, a positive attitude and a highly suspicious wife who wasn’t at all happy that I’d be swanning off to Spain for a lads holiday and leaving her at home for two weeks!
First off, I needed to find a suitable sofa to sleep on - er, I mean bike for sale! I obviously have a full bike licence so there was a lot of choice. Then again there’s also a lot of tat out there, so what do you look for? After a fair bit of searching I obviously opted for a Yamaha TDM 850. Why? Because I'd owned three TDM's in the past. The first one I bought in 1998. It was a black and purple Mk 1 and It really turned me on to TDM's. The second one I bought was a demo bike from a dealer in 1999, a red and black 850 4TX. I kept that bike till 2010 and then sold it. I still don't know why I did that. I'd owned it for ten years and it was the perfect bike. Dunno, just got bored of it I guess. Then, in 2013 I bought a Blue 900 off Ebay. It was a bit tardy but I soon spruced it up and kept it for two years. I quite liked that bike. It was better in some ways than the 850 and worse in others. For some reason that I can't fathom I also sold that one too. So, come 2016, I had no TDM and was quite enjoying commuting to London on my Suzuki Burgman 400 and whizzing around on that.
The other reason I wanted a TDM as pretty much everyone reading this post will attest to is that TDM’s are relatively easy to find on the second hand market, are usually dirt cheap, the engines are virtually bullet proof, they’re capable of starship mileage and they also have a lot of grunt and character. Running well, a TDM 850 will do 140mph flat out (downhill), will cruise all day at 90mph, will return decent fuel consumption and they handle well too (when they’re set up right)
I didn’t want to spend more than half my budget on the bike itself so when I spotted a tidy ’97 Yellow and Grey model on Gumtree going for £1,300 I didn’t hang about. Not only was the price good but the mileage was exceptionally low. Now any other biker who hasn't owned a TDM might well say - 1997! - You're going to go to Southern Spain on an old clunker like that! That’s a dinosaur! My answer to that ignorant tirade would be - Maybe, but remember, the dinosaurs were around a lot longer than we have been. Nevertheless, a plus twenty year old bike would definitely need a good going over before I parted with any cash.
When I went to see it the taco was showing only 14,000 miles which I found a bit dubious but it was backed up by all the old MOT’s. Apparently, it had been laid up in a garage way back in 2002 after a fuel leak problem occurred and it was left to languish there till the chap I bought it off exhumed it, fixed the fuel problem and cleaned it up a bit then advertised it. The bloke selling it seemed like a genuine guy so I wasn't worried about being sold a dud. I did do a thorough check of all the key things you should do when buying a used bike though and concluded that it was in fact the real deal, albeit a little rough around the edges.
So, £1,300 cash handed over and one old bike purchased - Result!
It got me home okay and that journey highlighted pretty much everything that was going to require attention. On the plus side the engine was strong, it pulled well with lots of low down torque, there was no excessive exhaust smoke and it sounded good cos the seller had fitted a Delkevic single end can.
The cons were the handling, the lights, and despite it having twin front discs and single rear disc the brakes felt a bit weak. The tyres were very old and there was a bit of oil seeping from the left fork seal. The dip beam was weaker than the light on my iPhone and the main beam wasn’t much better. The gear change was agricultural and it was fairly jerky on the takeoff. Other than that it pulled like the proverbial steam train once on the move and didn’t miss a beat all the way home so I was pretty pleased overall.
Back in my garage I made a list of items that would be needed to get it in shape for the trip and priced them up:
- Fork seal kit and fork oil - £52
- Tyres - (Pirelli Demons) - £250 a pair
- Sintered brake pads - £31
- Dual line brake hoses (Wemoto) - £50
- Centre stand (It just didn’t have one) - £100
- K&N air filter - £42
- Pair of Iridium spark plugs - £14
- 5 litres of oil (Valvoline 10w40) - £26
- Oil filter - £6
- DID chain and sprockets - £110
- Osram Nightbreaker bulbs (H1 & H3) - £15
That came to a grand total of £696 after purchase, which would bring my total outlay up to £1,996.
- On the strip down I found virtually no oil in the left fork and some dirty mucky stuff in the right one. A good clean out, new seals fitted and new oil and they were good as new.
- I took the wheels off, cleaned em up and took them down to my local bike shop to have the Pirelli’s fitted and wheels balanced.
- The discs were straight and not grooved so a new set of sintered pads was all that was needed.
- I replaced the original rubber brake hoses with a nice little dual pipe kit from Wezmoto. They even came in yellow sheathing which went with the colour of the fairing. With new brake fluid, front and back, the brakes were all sorted.
- It had no centre stand and trying to work on it without one wasn’t easy so I picked one up on E-bay and fitted it. Made life a lot easier.
- K&N air filter and Iridium plugs were a nice to have but definitely worth it in my opinion
- A new Gold DID chain replete with noise reducer rings took care of the final transmission.
- I changed the old and very thin looking oil that was gurgling around in the engine/gearbox for Valvoline 10w40. In my opinion Its simply the best oil out there. Naturally, I replaced the oil filter as well.
- The bulbs were replaced with the uprated ones and hey presto, I could see where I was going at night all of a sudden.
Once all that stuff was done I took the bike out for a test run and I have to say there was no comparison to when I rode it home a couple of weeks earlier. The handling was really crisp and tight now and the brakes were better than good. The engine felt like it was brand new, seemed to have more power and torque and it was really smooth. The gear changes were much lighter and less crunchy and the takeoff was really smooth. The lights were really bright too.
With the mechanicals and electrics sorted I now needed to get the bike ready for high speed, long distance touring, so I put together my wish list and prices:
- Tinted touring screen - £65
- Click-on tank bag - £70
- Gel seat with TDM logo - £200
- Soft Panniers - £30
- Oxford Heated grips - £50
- Toucano-Urbano Handlebar Muffs - £35
- RAM phone holder - £40
- 12V charger point - £10
- 52 litre Backbox - £35
- Charger hub (for inside the rear back-box) - £14
That added another £549 to the overall costs which would bring the grand total up to £2,545
With all those items purchased and fitted it was time for another road test.
- With the touring screen on the wind blast was greatly reduced, especially at higher speeds.
- The click-on tank bag turned out to be very useful and user friendly. One click and it was on or off and also very secure at speed. The tank bag and the soft panniers had a zip that allowed them to enlarge if needed, plus each bit of bike luggage came with its own separate waterproof covers.
- The Gel seat was a bit of a luxury but I wanted comfort. Unfortunately, it never turned up in time for the Spain trip but I did fit it after I got back and it was well worth the wait.
- The Oxford intelligent heated grips are always a must for me on any bike but when used along with the Toucano Urbano muffs which simply slip on and screw onto the bar ends your hands stay warm and dry even in the worst weather imaginable.
- The 12V charger point was tie clamped onto the handlebars and powered directly from the battery.
- The RAM phone holder bolted onto the handlebar clamps, so I now had a handy iPhone based SatNav.
- The RIDE back-box was simple ti fit and was big enough to hold two full face helmets.
- The RING charger unit fitted easily inside the back box and once wired in gave another very useful secure charging point for helmet bluetooth and phone
So that was it for the bike. She was ready to roll. I now decided I needed a bit more kit for myself. I already had a fairly old but good condition HJR flip face helmet, a Frank Thomas thermal lined jacket and a pair of Alpinestar boots and gloves. To be honest I thought that would probably do but I also wanted to ensure I wouldn’t get soaked if we did actually get caught in the rain while out on the road so I bought a one piece wetsuit and overboots for £75. A helmet bluetooth system for TWO helmets was also up for grabs on Ebay for only £50 so I bought that, and bloody good it turned out to be too. Connect it to your phone’s Sat Nav and it talks to you while you’re riding, as well as plays music while cruising along on the boring motorway bits.
I’d already added the bike to my Carol Nash Multi-bike insurance policy for £65 which included 3 months European breakdown cover and of course I had to tax it when I first bought it which cost £55 for the year.
That last bunch of purchases set me back £245 which made the whole lot come to a grand total of £2,790
And there you go! I got a bike, got it running great and looking just right and got some additional kit as well for two hundred quid shy of three grand!
So yes folks, it can be done.
That just left the tour itself. How would me and the bike fare.
All four bikes parked up in Aren, Spain Bit of fuel leak trouble - soon sorted with some PTFE tape though
As I mentioned previously the journey to Southern Spain was 1,300 miles. Unfortunately, even though it was late August and Rob had sworn blind the weather was going to be glorious all the way there, the weather forecast didn’t seem to agree with him. By the looks of it we were in for a bit of rain on the first part of the journey. (Oh well, I thought, what can you expect with English weather. It’ll surely brighten up once we start riding in France)
We took the overnight ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. It started raining before we even got on the Ferry. We all managed to catch some shuteye crammed into a four berth cabin. When we disembarked at Dieppe it wash lashing down. From Dieppe we then rode most of the day in pouring rain to Limoges where we rented a ‘Formula One’ motel. It was cheap but it ticked all the boxes, with relatively comfy single beds, communal showers and a pub/restaurant within walking distance just down the road. To tell the truth, I’d hardly noticed the rain. The touring screen, heated grips, Toucano Urbano muffs and one piece wetsuit kept me warm and dry all the way there. The other three weren’t so lucky (or prepared) They were soaked through to the skin, cold and pissed off.
The next day we rode into Spain over the Pyrenees and stayed at a roadside Motel in a place called Aren. The weather had improved a little but it was still overcast and raining for half that ride. Again, I’d fared better than my three mates due to the wet weather gear and mods I’d made to my bike.
On the third day after we rode through Spain. It didn’t actually rain but it was cloudy and the weather didn’t break till we were a hundred kilometres or so from our destination. When we arrived at our destination in the late afternoon it was glorious sunshine.
I have to admit, I did have one mechanical issue. During the last leg of that outward journey the left carb started to leak petrol. I had to ride the bike using the fuel tap to get to Mike’s place. The next day I pulled the carb apart to find one of the rubber O-rings had perished inside. I couldn’t source another O-ring of that particular size and type in Spain so I used PTFE tape as a stopgap fix. It worked a treat!
Regarding the trip itself, I don’t want to big myself up here but NONE of my mates could keep up with me during our ride. I was constantly slowing down to let them catch up. ALL three of them got drenched when it rained heavily in France for a whole day and two of them had their fingers virtually freeze off up in the Pyrenees. None had heated grips.
Oh dear! Cant leave em alone for five minutes! This is Mike's renovated old Bodega. I couldn't quite believe it when I first saw it!
ALL of their bikes costs either twice, three times, or in the case of Mike with his 1400cc HD, eight times what I paid for my bike and in terms of performance and cruising capability they just weren’t a patch on mine.
They all took the piss when we started off, making jokes about my old banger and that they should bring some rope so they could tow me when I broke down. I didn’t break down though. The truth is I did have the better bike in my opinion and eventually they begrudgingly conceded that my old TDM was actually a peach of a bike and they couldn’t quite believe how little I’d outlaid for such a capable machine.
I used the spare £210 from my budget to buy my mates extra beers during our trip to cheer ‘em up a bit which seemed to go down quite well. Quite a few beers too as it turned out!
Edited by toddyboy, 06 April 2020 - 11:21 am.