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ADV BikesRiding RTW? Why You Should Consider Leaving Your Bike at Home

Riding RTW? Why You Should Consider Leaving Your Bike at Home

Choosing different bikes for different places you travel can be a wise decision.

Published on 10.30.2017

Most round the world (RTW) riders do the entire trip on the same motorcycle, shipping it when they need to get to different continents. But is it necessarily the best way?

I did South America on a small Chinese 150cc bike, Europe – two up on a Yamaha Super Tenere 1200 and now riding North and Central America on a Suzuki DR650. Ideally, I‘d love to do Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia and Africa on a Husqvarna 701, and Australia and new Zealand, on a Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L.

A perfect adventure bike that fits all simply doesn’t exist and buying different motorcycles locally for different continents can be significantly cheaper than shipping your bike across oceans. In addition, having a purpose-built bike for different terrain can enormously enhance the whole experience.


Is choosing different bikes for different places the best way to travel RTW? At the very least, it’s an alternative that is worth considering. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. Cutting Costs

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles

Because I learned to ride a motorcycle in Peru, I bought a bike locally. And because I bought a bike locally, I had no trouble selling it after my trip ended: although I only got $200 back (the bike, brand new, cost me a whopping $1,200), this meant that I had a perfectly good motorcycle for eighteen months for $1,000. That‘s less than the shipping cost from Europe and back (if you share a container, shipping from Hamburg to Valparaiso and back starts at about $1,300), and significantly less than renting a bike (in Peru, bike rentals start at $50 a day). It doesn‘t have to be a tiny bike, though: many options in the 450-650cc range are available, too.

Elisa Wirkala, a RTW rider currently preparing for her Australia to Europe ride, did South America on a Honda GL125, Europe on a KLE500, North America on a Kawasaki KLR650, and Australia on a KL250 Sherpa. She now has a Suzuki DR650 waiting for her in Bali; according to Elisa, getting a different motorcycle for different legs of her RTW trip is saving her money.

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles
“I’ve rarely lost money on my wheeling and dealing of international motorcycles,” says Elisa Wirkala.

“My first KLR650 was sold for the same amount I purchased it for, a year later. My second KLR actually made me a few hundred bucks after riding it across North America, while my KL250 in Australia I broke even on. The only bike I lost significant money on was my KLE500 in Europe, which I ended up losing about $600 bucks on. But if you factor in all the savings of having to ship bikes overseas, I definitely came out ahead. And the little Honda GL125 I rode up from Santiago de Chile for a mere $1,200 brand new? It’s tucked away safely in my parents’ shed, (and enjoying sneaky-joyrides when I’m home visiting!)” says Elisa.

Is it for you?

Do it if you don’t mind small/medium adventure bikes: these are the easiest to buy and sell both brand new and used all over the world, because they are the bikes that locals use.

Think about it if you’re willing to compromise on speed and power to save costs: on a small/medium bike, you’ll travel longer and further for the same amount of money.

Forget it if you prefer the heavyweights – BMW R1200GS, KTM 1190 Adventure, Honda Africa Twin or similar, as buying them locally and selling them after your ride is over can be trickier (and more expensive).

2. Adapting to Terrain

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles

After my South America trip, I found myself on a streak of bad luck with motorcycles. Once I got back to Europe, I decided I was ready for my first big bike – but without much knowledge, at first, I ended up with an old, leaky Yamaha XJ900 and then a long-legged, awkward Yamaha TDM850 which kept breaking down. So when my partner Paul suggested we just do Europe two-up on his Super Tenere, I didn’t think twice: I sold the TDM and gave up the reins for a while.

Although I don’t miss being a pillion passenger one tiny bit, doing Europe on a big motorcycle was simply a smart decision. In many West European countries going off road wasn’t an option legally; and in the East and South, most dirt tracks would have required light trail bikes anyway – so our leisurely tour on the Super Tenere just made sense.

In North America though, we went back to two bikes: we both missed riding dirt, but planned long distances, so two Suzuki DR650’s seemed like a great choice. After doing about 20,000 miles on the DR650’s this summer, we’re now ready to head South for Central and South America on these bikes.

“Getting different bikes lets me choose motorcycles that are suited to the environment. Do I really want a bike that stands out like a sore thumb in Central America, when I’m riding alone? Wouldn’t I feel a bit better on a bike that blends in? It also gives me the peace of mind that if something doesn’t work out, I can sell a local bike much more easily and head home (though that hasn’t happened yet),” adds Elisa.

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles
On a long RTW journey, your needs and preferences may change: after a leisurely ride in Europe, you may feel like riding technical dirt roads in Central Asia or South America.

Is it for you?

Do it if you like to experiment with different bikes for different purposes: big, heavy motorcycles will work great for long distances and lots of pavement, whereas smaller, lighter bikes will be fantastic for a lot of technical dirt riding. Smaller, cheaper bikes are also easier to fix anywhere in the world due to higher availability of parts and local mechanics being familiar with them.

Think about it if you don’t want to risk getting your brand new KTM or BMW stolen or damaged; also, if you don’t have the time or the patience to cover long boring hauls (e.g. riding across Kazakhstan to get to Mongolia, or sprinting through Chile just so you can make it to Ushuaia on time).

Forget it if you have a sentimental attachment or bond with your bike, or if you tend to heavily customize your bikes with aftermarket suspension, performance, protection and ergonomics modifications – this may not be possible in certain places.

3. Patchwork RTW

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles
Dan Zee’s formula of a RTW trip is patchwork adventures: buy or rent a motorcycle locally, explore a country or a region thoroughly, then fly home and start planning the next adventure.

Dan Zee, an adventure traveler from Vermont, has covered a lot of ground already: having done multiple rides in the Americas, Europe and Southeast Asia, Dan is now planning new motorcycling adventures in Northern Africa, Central Asia and Mongolia.

“I don’t want to go on a continuous round the world trip on the same bike, though. I prefer to thoroughly research one specific continent or country that I want to visit, get a bike that best fits the purpose of the ride, and go. But after a month or two, I’m happy to go back home, rest, catch up with work, and then plan my next adventure. RTW doesn’t have to be done in only one formula,” says Dan.

In North and Central America, Dan prefers his Yamaha WR250R or BMW X-Challenger; for South America, he rented a BMW GS650 locally, did Alaska and Canada on his BMW R1200GS and rented bikes locally in Cambodia and Thailand.

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles

“For Central Asia, Mongolia and Russia, I’m thinking of buying a WR250R locally – it will just be cheaper and easier. All I have to do is figure out which country will be the easiest in terms of paperwork and registration. It can be significantly cheaper to buy and sell or rent bikes locally, but not just in terms of shipping and paperwork costs: think about how much time you’re spending shipping bikes or covering lots of boring ground just to get to the place you really want to ride. And frankly, I just don’t want to go ride for years – I like my life in Vermont, I like my house, I like spending time with my wife. So for me, alternating between being on the road in some faraway places and being home works perfectly”, – explains Dan.

Is it for you?

Do it if you enjoy having breaks from your big adventure.

Think about it if you can’t take a year or two off and may need to work in between your adventure – getting different bikes locally will save you time and money.

Forget it if you are attached to the idea of embarking on a long continuous RTW journey on the same motorcycle.

4. Skipping the Bureaucracy

RTW with different adventure motorcycles
Getting different motorcycles locally for different regions can save you money, time, and paperwork.

Part of every RTW traveler’s routine, however tedious, is paperwork. Getting your bike insured for every country or continent, getting it ready for customs and shipping can be a headache – and if you’re planning to ride in Asia and Africa, you’re also going to have to take care of your bike’s carnet de passage (CDP). CDP is a document ensuring you won’t sell your motorcycle in a foreign country, which means parting with a few hundred dollars for the document itself and leaving a bond with the issuing agency (usually the value of your bike). If you have a brand-new BMW, that might amount to $10,000 or more – and sure, you get that money back when you return, but it’s a risk.

In addition, if you’re traveling to places where they require a higher bond, you’re in for a whole lot of cash: according to Suki Duhaney, CDP specialist of the “Classic Automotive Relocation Services” (CARS), it’s all about your destination. “Say you’re traveling on a Honda Africa Twin 750, made in 2008. For most countries in Africa, your CDP deposit will be about $4,000 (the worth of your bike). But if you plan to go to Egypt, which requires a bond the size of 400% worth of your motorcycle, you’re looking to put down about $16,000 as a bond. You are refunded this amount once you’re back from your journey, of course,” says Suki. So even though this is the money you sort of freeze, rather than spend, it’s still a significant amount that not all travelers can just set aside.

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles
Being flexible with your bike choices means you can have short breaks to go back home to work or see friends and family without having to worry about bike storage or customs issues, says Elisa.

Buying a bike locally and then selling it in that country or even continent can save you the pains of bureaucracy. “For my trip around Uganda, I bought a little 125cc motorcycle that I will sell locally in a few months once I’m done. A couple of years ago, I did the same in South America. It’s just a lot easier this way,” says Linda Bootherstone-Bick, an adventure rider who has been traveling the world on two wheels for fifty years now.

RTW Travel with different adventure motorcycles
Shipping can be more costly than buying local bikes for each continent or country, says veteran world traveler Linda Bootherstone-Bick

Is it for you?

Do it if you don’t want to deal with carnet de passage, customs, and international insurance paperwork: buying a bike in, say, Chile and selling it in Peru or Colombia later is surprisingly easy; buying an Australian-registered bike and riding it to Europe can be much more cost-effective than dealing with shipping, CDP and international insurance costs for your North American or European-registered motorcycle for the same trip.

Think about it if you’re planning to only do West/Southern Africa, only India, or only New Zealand/Australia – buying a bike locally will save you a lot of bureaucratic headache in those parts of the world.

Forget it if you’re determined to hit every single country on each continent you visit, if you can’t imagine riding any other motorcycle than the one you’re used to, if you’re planning to wing it and ride without the CDP, or if you are only planning to ride the Americas (CDP is not required there).

Photo credits: Chad Berger, Elisa Wirkala, Paul Stewart, Dan Zee, Linda Bootherstone-Bick and Stephen Gregory.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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11 thoughts on “Riding RTW? Why You Should Consider Leaving Your Bike at Home

  1. Wise! I like these suggestions a lot and that’s the way I want to travel too. May be the problem is in having cases being adapted for different kind of motorcycles or, of course, you sell it with the bike. In this case, you must have a backpack waiting at the airport I guess.

  2. I hope ADVPulse is paying you enough.

    Great writing, great content, great ideas.

    Thanks, Egle.

    My best to Paul, be well, Happy Halloween!

  3. Just discovered this. Brilliant. Have you written a piece about how to buy/sell in different countries. I would love to RTW this way, but wouldn’t know how to begin. The selling part sounds especially complicated if you don’t speak the language, etc. Thanks!

  4. I don’t think you can sell a bike in Colombia. Are you sure it can be done? I read through ADV Rider and HUBB to come up with this conclusion.

  5. I’m a bit late to the party, Egle, but for a foreigner to register a local bike in the EU is pretty much impossible without a residence permit, which is also pretty much impossible to get. You can bend the rules a bit in the UK and Ireland, but in Europe— even in Lithuania— you are out of luck. Closest you can get is to but a bike and have the previous owner leave it in their name and give you a letter stating you have permission to ride it. But then, how will you sell it?


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