Sahara Motorcycle Tour 1989

Desert Travels Index Page

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Book Chapters:
Chapter 4: The Trip of a Lifetime
Chapter 5: Four Green Bottles
Chapter 8: The Dune Corridor
Chapter 9: Three Green Bottles
Chapter 10: On the Piste
Chapter 11: Djanet
Chapter 12: Anna’s Southern Tour
Chapter 13: The Cathedral
Chapter 14: To the Land of Terror
Chapter 15: Cracking Up

Most of Desert Travels covers my first attempt at running a desert biking tour in 1989. As it said on the back cover: five left but only one came back riding, but as well as the usual setbacks, we did see a whole lot of interesting Algerian desert along the way.

Some pictures by me, Pete Corbett (PC) and Mike Spencer (MS).

Testing in Surrey. This is why we’re now having a climate crisis.
Marseille and we’ve already lost Bernie – he got his passport pinched on the sleeper. Four riders left.
Mike and Clive have a chat aboard the ferry to Algiers.
Lunch break on the road to Ouargla. The chain on Bob’s Tenere has snapped.
Our first desert camp in the dunes before Hassi Messaoud. (PC)
Pete’s 1VJ Tenere. (PC)
Next evening camped near Hassi bel Guebbour, we bomb around the huge dunes of the Grand Erg.
Bob does an endo and sprains his wrist badly. No more riding for him.
Bob (middle) sits in the van while Clive rides his XT. Note the inflatable splint on Bob’s left arm.
Later that day we leave Bob at In Amenas oil town to head back north once his wrist’s better.
Morning at Erg Bourharet after the oil filter drama. Three bikes left. (MS)
We camp by the Tyre Tree with a couple in a VW Kombi.
It was here that Pete’s trip ended prematurely in 1987.
Tin Taradjeli escarpment, the southern edge of the Fadnoun.
That morning, passing diesel mechanic, Swiss Steve, helped get the 101 running.
Big Fire Camp below the Tassili N’Ajjer on the road to Djanet.
Delivery truck stuck in the sand on the Djanet track. (PC)
Encounter with BMWs. Riding unsupported in the desert is a whole different game. (PC)
After a few of days in Djanet we set off to take the Southern Route to Tamanrasset with a couple of other 4x4s.
The heavily loaded 101 struggles to cross the Erg Admer dunes. (MS)
On the far side we meet some sub-Saharans heading for Libya in a clapped-out 109″.
Camp on the southern route near Tiririne, or maybe Tarabine. (PC)
Nomads at the well at Tin Tarabine. (PC)
Mark crashes out and his DR’s electrics soon follow suit. (PC)
It gets hooked up to the van and stays there for the rest of the trip.
Two bikes left.
Pete himself nearing Tam. (PC)
Like the Pope on tour, he kisses the tarmac just out of Tamanrasset where he leaves the group to head home. (PC)
There is now only Mike left still riding.
We take turns riding Mike’s XLM.

At the border post of Bordj Moktar, Steve and his girlfriend carry on south into Mali for Guinea, and we turn back north along the bleak, flat Tanezrouft.
With the heat and end-of-trip fatigue, morale begins to fall apart and I become a pariah.
See the book for the grizzly details.

Pete’s map of our one-month trip in Algeria.

Land Rover 101 for sale. Two previous owners. Light off-road use.

11 thoughts on “Sahara Motorcycle Tour 1989

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          1. Nic

            It has almost certainly been broken.
            We think that only about 100 1985 model LMFs were imported to Britain. They were very slow sellers, due to 1/ the £ price,
            2/ Britains obsession with sports bikes and 3/, SuperBike magazines less than flattering road test.
            Your pals one is interesting in that it wasnt registered in Britain until early 1988. Which means that 1/, it was either a left over bike that hadnt sold or 2/ that it was an Import ( from France or Germany – as French market, German market and UK bikes, were “ almost all “ twin headlight bikes ) but no.1 is more likely.


            1. Chris S Post author

              I think Honda were a bit slow behind the XT600 Tenere which had made a good name for itself by then. But the Brit bike press and even most Brits never got trail bikes, like they did on the continent. Until the invention of ‘Adventure Motorcycling’, that is (+ maybe the original Transalp trounced it?). Not got a pic of the clocks but Mike’s bike may have been an import, iirc.


              1. Nic

                Yes, the XT600 already had “ the name “ . The XL600LMF didnt recieve much publicity here, which didnt help sales either.
                The LM series ( 85 – 87 ) sold Very well in Europe
                The LMFs only weakness, was its lack of an oil cooler, used in hot climes, they eventually crack their cylinder heads ( alongside the spark plug hole )
                Photos of LMs on the Paris – Dakar that ive seen, all have oil coolers ( the much improved 1988 on XT600 3AJ Tenere ( twin headlight ) was factory fitted with an oil cooler.
                The very good Transalp, was more of an “ All round “ bike and sold well in Britain.
                As much as i love my XL600LMFs and my 88 XT600 Tenere 3AJ, my favorite ADV bike, will always be the 87 – 89 KLR650 A series model.


              2. Chris S Post author

                Actually, the Teneres had oil coolers from the start, but tucked in behind the carb in the engine’s warm airflow…. I do remember Mike’s LM was not a great starter, but that could have been Algerian donkey piss. I do fancy a Tenere 3AJ one time but for better or worse the Kawa you mention was never a Sahara bike. Ally subframe and water cooling were all a bit flash.


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