My name is Murph and I am a full-time motorcycle photojournalist, and have been on the road now for the last 2 1/2 years and roughly 60,000 miles, traveling all over the U.S.A., Western Canada and south only as far as Baja California.
Central and South America I have not yet travelled to, but intend to on the final leg of my 7 yr RTW that I am currently on.
My travels and this journey all started by accident in December of 2009 when two things happened in my life that would significantly shape and channel me to where I am today.
The first event related to my house that was in foreclosure, the looming hammer of the banks closing in and taking it back was becoming more and more of a reality. This played heavily on my mind, as the thought of trying to get out from under all of the debt I incurred after losing my business due to my battle with alcoholism seemed like an insurmountable task at the time, made even more difficult and depressing with the hemorrhaging economy that we are still in today.
I was nearly a year out of rehab at that time 3 yrs ago, sober, feeling good and in a better place than I was one year prior, but still not really content with what my future held for me if I decided to stay in Florida and tried to stay afloat. It's not that I was restless or unhappy, but I just new that there was more, and it wasn't where I was. It was an inner contentment that was missing from my life, the one that you think about when you stop for the day and put your head on the pillow at night, the time just before you fall asleep, it seems to be the time that all the lines light up with all of those thoughts, stuff you didn't get done, stuff you should do.
I was never a fan of living in Florida, it's just too damn hot and humid, as flat a state as there is, and being the outdoor person that I was and still am whose god is in the mountains, it was the complete opposite of my ideal choice of location of where to live,but live there I did because that's where my real estate was that I made my living from at the time.
The second event came in the form of a Craigslist ad for a 2004 BMW 1150 GS Adventure that was forwarded to me by my pal Greg in Texas.
I was always a motorcyclist from an early age, from my first motorcycle at age 14, a Bultaco Trials bike.
I've had a lot of different bikes since then, and even some seriously nice
Hot-Rods like the 1927 Tall-T I was building with an 8-71 blown 1955 392 Chrysler Hemi in it, but my love of motorcycles has always been the stronger of the two modes of transport and travel, and still is today at 50.
So I saw the ad for this 2004 low milage BMW, looked good and I struck a deal with the owner David, and took possession of the bike in December 2009.
At the time I had absolutely no intentions of packing up everything and leaving Florida for good when I purchased the BMW, but in March of 2010 I went on a 6,000 mile road trip with Greg after he purchased a new Kawasaki and wanted to break it in, and when I returned to Florida at the end of March, I decided to go a little further afield, partly because after that 6,000 mile trip I wasn't too happy about being back in Florida, and partly because I wanted to explore the Northwest with a view to a future place to live with mountains. So this was the second trip, a ride up to Seattle, with a stop off in Medford, Oregon, where I had located a used 41 ltr Touratech Gas Tank for sale from a RTW rider who was letting it go cheap, so I figured instead of shipping it down to Florida, I may as well ride up there and put it on, it kind of justified the trip, in my mind anyway. So in June after I rode up there and put the tank on I thought, well, whats the point of going back to Florida now, I'm so close to Canada I may as well go a little further north to Vancouver BC since I had never been before. Trip #3.
Once I crossed over into Canada I think that was the point where the trips started to roll into one another, and in August of 2010, I ended up at the Bonneville International Speedway for the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials intending to head back to Florida,and was thinking to myself that 5 months prior in March a month long motorcycle trip seemed like a big ride to me, having been on the road then for nearly 6 months I was now looking at it in a whole different light, and those questions I used to ask myself like how do you continuously keep going on the road with the daily requirements of life that you were accustomed to, all began to reveal and answer themselves over time.
Fast forward to today and it seems like another time and a different person that set out for Medford Oregon just to change out a gas tank on a BMW motorcycle, but it's only been a few years.
Ok, so here is the first picture of the mock-up of my new outfit seen anywhere, you saw it here on the Expedition Portal first, I haven't even published this picture on my own blog yet.
We've made a lot of progress since these pictures and I'll try to detail what was done to get it to this stage as best I can.
In this image the outer half-shaft that goes from the output of the Duo-Drive to the sidecar wheel is being measured. We needed to notch out the sidecar frame that the half-shaft was sitting on to allow for suspension articulation.
With the Duo-Drive installed we can get a more accurate measurement.
But, the Mobec adapter plate that came with the Duo-Drive was drilled for the 4 hole half shafts that Mobec provide with the units, but we were going to use a Suzuki Vitara 3 hole mounting flange....
....no problem. Throw a cylinderical chunk of aluminum on the barbie er.....milling machine, and in no time flat we had a new 3 hole flange that would mate to the Suzuki Vitara flange ready to go.
That worked out well.
The other half-shaft going from the final drive of the motorcycle to the input of the Mobec Duo-Drive we had to make from scratch.
Made from 28mm (1 1/8") steel rod, we cut the splined ends off the original shorty driveshafts that Mobec supply with the Duo-Drive, then welded them on each end of the new half-shaft.
After turning the weld on the milling machine and milling in the dust cover grooves, both of the drive shafts are now finished and ready to go.
So, while Ad was doing the metalwork on the frame, I was notching out the glass on the sidecar make allowances for axle articulation and also the auxiliary 8 gl Stainless Steel gas tank that was going up underneath the frame.
I had thought about either building an extra gas tank in the trunk, as it's a pretty big trunk, but I wasnt too crazy about that idea, if there's a line break, a gas leak, everything in the trunk gets ruined, not to mention the flammability aspect of it. Confined space, gas fumes, pooff.
Plus I thought that the extra space would be more beneficial in the long run, and the Stainless is thick enough that it doubles as a skid plate underneath.
I had to cut out pretty much the whole section of floor of the chair....
....and then make templates or forms so it can be fiberglassed back in again from the inside.
In Hot Rod terminology, this would be akin to channeling, when back in the forties and fifties they would take the body off a Ford or Chevy and cut out the floor, drop the body back on to the chassis, but about 4" lower, then re-weld the floor back in, only the floor would be 4" higher inside.
I also didn't want to put too much metalwork on the outside, I didn't want to make it look like a sidecar version of an FJ40 at Cruise Moab, but a spare tire carrier had to be made, as there were only two choices for me to pick from to mount a spare tire.
One was for me to remove the inside rear pannier, the one between the motorcycle and the sidecar, and mount it there, but I didn't want to lose all that space, and with the extra pannier drawer I built, I have now 55ltr panniers, plus I didnt like the look of the spare tire at the back like that, so the only other place left was on top of the nose of the sidecar. So we had to build a spare tire carrier.
To get a nice smooth curve to the pipe, a slight bend every 60mm (1 3/4") was necessary.
This is not the actual spare tire for the outfit, but one that was in the shop just to get an idea of scale, to see just how much it would fill up the frontal area and affect visibility.
Since a passenger will only be be part of this trip for approximately 25% of the time at the most, passenger visibility was not extremely important. There's actually still enough room to see out of the front, as a passengers eye level will be about 6"+ over the tire height, depending on the height of the passenger of course.
We are also building a slide out rack on the rear of the chair, so worst case scenario, I can take off the spare tire and carry it on the rack for periods of the trip to afford better passenger visibility.
So thats where we're at right now, these latest shots were all taken in the last week, so it's as near realtime as I can get with it, not like it happened a month ago.
So, the next build installment will probably be trial fit, assembly and test ride, and then disassembly for powdercoat and paint. I had decided from the outset to get all the metal and frame work powdercoated as I don't like rust, and powdercoat is much stronger and much more durable than paint, and lasts a lifetime, unlike paint which chips and can develop much more rust in cracks and under the surface. Powdercoat is also chemical resistant, if you're bleeding your brakes and spill brake fluid on paint, it will eat through the paint, not so with powdercoat, you just wipe it off.
The only piece that is getting painted is the fiberglas sidecar, and this I will be able to do myself, as I cant afford to get it professionally done, and there's really no need to spend that type of money as 90% of the sidecar will be covered in a large Wherethehellismurph sticker map of the world, so it would a waste of money and paint. I'm leaving the bike itself in the same colors and paint, including the last two years of scratches and road grime, as I didn't want to have to go to the trouble and expense of a whole new color scheme, and I didn't want it to have that "just off the showroom floor" look to it.
If anyone has any questions of comments, feel free to leave them here on the Portal, or when this article comes out on my blog, leave your questions in the comment section, as that way it becomes interactive with the rest of the readers.