Tag Archives: morocco overland

Africa Twin 3 – Escape from Morocco

Africa Twin Index Page
Hotel Sahara’
Africa Twin in Morocco 1
Africa Twin in Morocco 2
Morocco Overland

After hurriedly leaving my damaged AT in Morocco back in March 2020, in October 2021 I finally managed to fly down, fix it up and go for a little ride, before flying back home. The plan was then to fly back in early November, do a tour with a group, then ride the Honda back home before it got too wintery.

With the current twist in the Covid shitshow it’s hard to keep track, but mid-October 2021 the UK was doing badly in the pestilence league. Hold your nerve they said; it’s a cunning plan to get the UK’s spike in early to avoid a big winter spike when there would be a spike anyway. Well, we’re getting a big spike alright – today it’s getting on for three times the October number, though hopefully without the drastic consequences of last winter.

Nevertheless, in response to the UK’s October numbers, Morocco suspended all UK flights so my tour had to be cancelled. Flying in via Spain or France was not a foolproof dodge: people tried that last year and got caught. Plus now, every extra country adds Covid paperwork complications. In the meantime, I still had to get my AT out of Morocco before the end of 2021, otherwise the Customs would turn the bike into a pumpkin.
By early November I’d heard of a Brit flying to Morocco via Portugal with no problems (which of course makes you question the point of the flight ban). So the Mrs and I got our heads round French Covid regs, took a train down to Marseille and rented a cabin in the hills for a few days – a pleasant Provençal interlude. It was great to be back in southern France.

Meanwhile, an old mate was passing out of the Med on the way to the Canaries and beyond in his refurbished catamaran which he’d picked up cheap.
Andy, pick me and the bike up off a Moroccan beach and drop us in Spain. We can do it in a day.’
No can do señor. Private boats are banned from mooring in Moroccan waters at the moment. We could do it in Mauritania?’

Mauritania? Who’d want to go there? Oh, me about 20 months ago. But from Morocco that border was still closed.

While in France I needed to track down a PCR lab to obtain a <48-hour negative result before flying from Marseille to Marrakech. One break in this paperwork chain and the whole plan crumbles. It’s only money and rebookings and inconvenience of course, but it’s still frustrating and stressful. One day we’ll all get used to these post-Covid measures, but like Carnets or visas for West Africa, it’s one hurdle after another and can take over the trip.

That night my resultat: négatif pinged on the mobile and by the next afternoon the Mrs was on a Paris-bound TGV and I was settling into my usual Marrakech hotel.
It was Tuesday. My ferry was on Saturday at 5pm – just a day’s drive to the north before a 40-hour marathon to Sete, in France. [There have been no ferries to Spain since Covid broke in March 2020.]

But first I had to track down a Customs office in Marrakech and get my long expired TVIP renewed. I could easily imagine the scenario:

‘Oh no no no. We can’t do this here, you fool!
You have to go to Casablanca to request a pre-appointment voucher application form. But they’re closed till next week.’

I found the place not far away in a side street with the familiar blue and grey livery of the Bureau des Douanes.
I walk in, he pulls his mask up. So do I. It’s the law.

‘New TVIP?’

‘Wait there.’

A minute passes.

‘You can go in now.’

Another sixty seconds later I walk out with a printed-off renewal notice set to expire December 31, 2021. Result!

I walked over to Loc Rentals and we talk about the whole darn situation, bikes and what not. They tell me their 850-GSs have been surprisingly unreliable t th point of getting ditched, while the 750GS version I rode a couple of years ago has been fine. In the last two weeks a bunch of my spring 2022 tours have filled up. I keep a fairly low profile so never know quite how this happens, but people are clearly gagging to get away on a mini adventure.

Still caked in Western Saharan dust, my Africa Twin is perched on the ramp down in the basement workshop, poised like Thunderbird 2, ready for lift-off.

Meanwhile, I’d got it into my head that I needed another PCR test to be allowed on the ferry. That was the case on leaving Morocco a few months ago; a UK stipulation. I find a walk-in lab nearby, but asking around online and reading between the lines on the Italian GNV ferry website, it seems my Covid vax proof should be enough for France (but not for Italy), as present regs stand..

I decide to leave Marrakech on Friday and return to the Hotel Sahara in Asilah. That gave me some elbow room for cock-ups and left just an hour’s ride to the port next morning.
Good decision, it turned out.

But not good enough.
At this point I was checking the HUBB Morocco forum regularly. Thursday evening someone posted that all planes and boats to France would be suspended from tomorrow night, 23.59.
Bugger!

This wasn’t a total border shutdown (that would happen three days later), just France following in line with the UK rule, so all was not lost. The Italian GNV ferry also served Barcelona and Genoa, so there was a hope it would simply re-route to either port, about the same distance to the UK, give or take a couple of mountain ranges. GNV’s website and twitter said nothing new, and a helpline woman said ‘see the website’.

It left the question: do I ride the 600km to TanMed port tomorrow only to be told next day’s boat was off? That would mean riding back to Marrakech, re-stashing the bike at Loc and joining the scrum at Marrakech airport to grab a flight to anywhere that was still on the list, and from there find a way on to the UK.
Leaving the bike with its expiring TVIP was the least of my problems. The Moroccans had extended it before; they’d probably do it again (in December 2021 they did, for another 6 months).

Last boat out of Saigon’
I woke up Friday morning to some good news. The Moroccans had relented and extended the deadline till Sunday! Saturday’s ferry would be the ‘last boat out of Saigon’ for a while, much like my last flight back in March 2020.

So by noon I was barrelling up the deserted A3 autoroute north of Marrakech with an easy 500 clicks to Asilah.

As I neared the coast I tracked the path of showers running up from the southwest, hoping we’d not converge. My heavy canvas Carhartt coat wasn’t really made for that, more for Montana blizzards. I slipped behind most of them but caught one short downpour. In the 120-kph breeze I dried off soon enough.

By late afternoon I’m back at the Hotel Sahara where this sorry saga began some 6000kms and 600 days ago. I’m the only one staying but at only 9 quid and far from a dump, this must be one of the best deals around.

Assuming I get on the boat tomorrow, there were still a number of hurdles to jump, not least a 1000-km ride across France. I didn’t want to check the weather – que sera, sera. Either it’ll be tolerable with the gear I gave or it won’t be.
I used to do that winter ride a lot in the 1980s, Marseille-bound for Algeria. Only now I have the combined miracles of a Powerlet heated jacket, a windshield and a protective film of late middle-aged blubber. Plus a meaty CRF1000L that can punch through the windchill at 120kph with one leg in the air.

It was just an hour to the port so I took it easy Saturday morning until a text from GNV ferries pinged while I was having breakfast at the Cafe Sahara.

Attention all passengers
• Make sure you turn up with ALL PCR/Vaccination documentation or you will not be allowed aboard
• Check-in closes promptly at midday

Shite, I’d better get a move on. The mention of PCR set the nerves a-jangling again until I realised the forward slash meant ‘PCR or…’ not ‘PCR and…’.
I stuffed in my croissant, knocked back my coffee, and then had the usual dance to get someone to wake up and let my AT out of the garage.

I rolled off the autoroute and into Tangier Mediterranean (‘TanMed’) port an hour later. This is a huge, Alcatraz-like facility 50kms east of Tangiers city, where labyrinthine causeways and ramps lead down to the quays. Sub-Saharan migrants who periodically assail the barbed fences of nearby Ceuta don’t waste their time here; it’ll end up with a stiff beating from the cops who patrol the 20-foot fence.

In the port, the first hurdle is to turn an internet-printed ‘ticket’ into fungible ‘GTF Out of Jail’ vouchers at the GNV counter. But first, you need to get past matey who’s taking photos of PCR/Vaccination papers. Except he’s wandered off for a fag. In the meantime at the GNV counter, a Remonstrating Man is having it out with the unfortunate behind the glass.

‘But I bought this ticket off ferryticketscam.com!’
‘Sorry sir, you’re ticket is not valid. Please move along. Next!’

Remo Man won’t budge; security are called and he moves aside to remonstrate with them instead.
‘Look, I bought it off ferryticketscam.com! It cost me 550 euros!’
‘Sorry sir…. we literally could not give an actual toss.’

In the meantime, the stalled queue is getting antsy, including me. It’s not helped by people joining the line from both ends or squeezing in with a nod and a wink. Half an hour later I’m there and snatch my handful of tickets and vouchers. I ride on to the Police for an exit stamp. He puts my passport into a reader, then mentions I need to get some piece of paper from Customs. Yea, yea.

Customs is a bit slow as my new TVIP print-out needs approval from the boss, but with that done, I slip past the long queue to the giant x-ray machine: a huge metal frame on rails and with cables as thick as your arm, that’s pushed back and forth by a lorry with a bank of screens inside.
On a bike, I’m invited to the front. Protocol-wise, it’s exceedingly un-English but no one minds at all.
Try it at home and ‘Oi, biker – wot you effing playing at?!’
This is why we like bike-friendly continental living.

We’re told to step away from our vehicles to limit radiation. Are they looking for explosives, stowaways, or just hashish which is cultivated openly on the slopes of the Rif mountains a 100kms south of here? Who knows, but next up an Alsatian gives us all a darn good sniffing. Moroccan wheeler-dealers in beaten-up vans full of whatever sells in Europe unload every last box and bag with resignation. Foreign tourists, and especially bikers, are hardly ever searched.

That all took two hours but I’ve reached the next level. I’ve taken my redpill and am ready for Extraction so I ride down to the queue assembled in front of the huge brick of a ferry.

I eye up other overlandy vehicles: a tasty 4×4 Pinzgauer from the 1970s or 80s done up in Tibetan prayer flags, and a huge quarter-million euro M.A.N camper that’s probably better inside than our London flat.

Another two hours pass then barriers get shifted and engines fire up. I’m invited to the front again and prepare to part with Moroccan soil and ride up the Ramp of Salvation to reach the final level of the Ferry Matrix Game.
But first another passport and ticket check, just in case I parachuted into the port with no one noticing.

‘Where is the passport exit stamp?’
‘I dunno, it’s there somewhere. Let’s have a look.’

It’s hard to read one faint, overlapping stamp from another. I’ve amassed loads over the years. Tuesday’s airport entry is there alright, but I can’t see today’s exit stamp.
He takes it up the chain of command and various cops get on their radios.

Bloke in hat: ‘Where is the police exit stamp?’
‘I dunno. Just give me a scribble and let me on anyway.’

They jabber into their radios and phones.
‘My friend. You must ride back and get the stamp. Don’t worry, it will take 5 minutes.’

FF’s Sake! I can’t face slipping back into Liquefaction. Hours ago immigration cop in his booth had one job: take passport, check computer database, stamp it and hand back.
OK, I suppose that’s four jobs, not including breathing, blinking and rearranging his bollocks.

I ride back, go the wrong way, get stopped, explain myself, radio calls, squeeze through barriers, get sent back, go the other way, ask a cop, he shrugs. Ask another.

‘Why did you not get the exit stamp?’
‘I don’t know, do I!? I handed him my passport, he did his thing and gave it back.
How could I proceed without it?’

This will the Last Ferry for months so I’m careful to lay on just enough indignation without becoming another Remonstrating Man. They take my passport. It checks out on the computer. I get stamped but make sure to see exactly what page it’s on. Then I bomb back, jumping the queues at the Customs, the x-ray machine, and the sniffer dogs, expecting whistles to blow and sirens to sound.

Back at the ramp I’m allowed to ride aboard, park by the few other bikes and load the tail bag up with all the mission-critical things I can’t afford to get pilfered. The Italian and Filipino crew direct me to my cabin where I spread out enough boarding cards to start a small casino.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph on a wee donkey, does it have to be this hard?

The 5pm departure comes and goes and the sun sets over the Atlantic but there are no promising throbs from the engine room. I’ve been on enough long, overnight Med ferries to know they never, ever leave on time.

7pm and down on the loading ramp another Man surrounded by hi-viz crew, indifferent cops and insistent GNV admin is Remonstrating like his life depends on it. Arms gesticulate aggressively. Voices are raised. Some shoving occurs.
He’s as mad as hell, and he’s not gonna take this anymore.

9pm. Another 100 cars and vans show up ride up the ramp. Maybe GNV is making the most of last-minute ticket sales. Who knows when this service will start running again. By tomorrow night all Moroccan borders will shut in response to the growing Omicron threat.

At 10pm, ten hours after check-in closed and five hours late, there’s a rumble and a judder from far below. The M/N Excellent pulls back from the bumpers and glides in between the breakwaters. This is the same confidentiality named Excellent that came in a bit hot at Barcelona port a couple of years back. Some muppet forgot the ABS was switched off after a spot of off-roading.

For me the immense feeling of relief when a ferry leaves a North African port has become embedded deep in my brain’s maritime lobe. After so many North African scrapes over the decades, not least this one, you feel like yelling back at the shore
‘Come and get me now, you bastards!
(And no, I don’t care if this boat rams into a Balearic island and sinks, but thanks for asking).’

Meanwhile, aboard the Excellent every 30 minutes the tannoy chimes up in three languages to tell you to wear a mask, it’s the law. Most Moroccans ignore this instruction, maybe because Morocco never got hit as hard as northern Italy did last year. Or maybe they have no reason to trust authority.

As long as you score a cabin to yourself, I love these long ferry crossings; when they’re not ramming quays, these modern ships ride the seas like a K1600 GTL with the platinum ESA package. ///delighted.ferrying.northbound

Part 4 shortly

Africa Twin – Off Road in Morocco 2

Africa Twin Index Page
Morocco Overland

I’m parked up below the ramparts of the Saghro massif, just over the road from an old French-era fort where they filmed one of those ‘SAS: Are You Tough Enough?’ shows. Up in the hills, new-to-me tracks wait to be logged, but by the time I get rolling I realise I’ve left it way too late to do what needed doing before dark. I nose up a new track just to check it’s there, and up another new road over the jebel, but going for a there-and-back excursion seems silly.

Heading back to the hotel in the late afternoon heat, huge dust devils spin menacingly by the roadside. There must be some way of doing something new and saving the day. Yes: cross the ridge and ride Route MS1 out through Tafetchna and into the stony desert, then come back up the little-used east bank of the Draa river on a new backroad. I haven’t done MS1 for years and as elsewhere, tarmac has seeped up from the south and shortened the off-roading.

It’s only about 12km through the shallow gorge, but as always, it’s miles more engaging to be on the dirt and follow the track weaving through to the other side. In the shallow gorge, an abandoned track leads over the riverbed and back north, but I’ve never managed to make the link. One for next time on something lighter.
As more and more pistes in southern Morocco get sealed, obscure trails become Tois or ‘tracks of interest’, but because they’re largely unused and unmaintained, they’re rougher and slower going. It’s a bit like mountaineering in the second half of the 20th century; once all the highest peaks had been knocked off, climbers had to start looking for harder ‘north face’ routes.

Once through the gorge, up ahead I remember the water tower landmark visible at the village of Touna Niaaraben where the asphalt now runs to the N9 over the stony plain.

Back on the bitumen, I nip down to Zagora for some fuel: the AT has peaked at 63mpg (52 US) on a mixture and 2nd and 3rd gear tracks and 120-kph road stages.
I then turn back up the Draa backroad – an east-side alternative to the main N9 but it turns out to be nothing special. On the edge of a village I pull over by a ditch alongside some shady palms for a snack, then get back to the hotel pleased I’ve done something new today. Tomorrow I’d need to crack on.

A few weeks ago a Moroccan geologist got in touch. He’d spent the summer in the mineral-rich massif of Saghro on his Himalayan and told me of a couple of new tracks traversing the ranges. I traced one 100-km crossing from Nekob on Google sat – for me the most reliable way to find new routes online because unlike maps, WYS is WYG. Once over on the north side, I could turn east via the new Kelaa bypass and finish off by closing the loop via the classic Saghro route over the newly sealed, 2316-metre Tazazart Pass (MH4) back to Nekob. An action-packed 400+ km day of discoveries lay ahead.

At the fuel station west of Nekob I remember to reset my Montana correctly, then set off to see what I might find. Not far out of town, three dump trucks roll in which suggests the piste will be better than average and may well have been built for- or by the mining outfit. Once I pass through a small gorge and the ascent starts, there’s only one semi-deserted hamlet for 90km; not enough reason a track might get built or improved.

Soon, the distinctive Saghro vistas rise around me, a little different from any other range in the Atlas mountains complex. Buttes and spires jut abruptly from the dust and rubble, recalling Algeria’s Hoggar. It’s no place to be a lettuce. Through it all the smooth, wide piste swings around the heads of chasms and across the arid valleys.

It’s not all plain sailing. As the twin rear axles of the heavy trucks scrub round the most acute switchbacks, the tyres grind the sand and gravel into a fine powder which I just can’t get to grips with on the Africa Twin. And that’s with a Motoz knobbly on the front. I’m definitely struggling to find my off-roading mojo today. I put it down to the heat and the weight of the machine, plus riding alone on an unfamiliar track. After KM3 out of Nekob I didn’t pass any other vehicle.

Soon I reach the junction where the much gnarlier and even more dramatic MH14 and MH15 routes come up from the south. I last came this way on the little WR250R in 2017. A great bike for those sort of pistes, but less of a high-speed highway sofa. The zen-like search for the Middle Way continues.

I pass the 2100-metre high point above the basin with Tagmout village and the new copper and gold mine – which explains why this track got built or improved. Tagmout may have been big enough to justify a mosque once. Now it’s just half-a-dozen scattered dwellings with adjacent gardens drawing on the groundwater of the basin’s dry river course.

I ride out of the Tagmout basin (there are a couple of left turns to get right, here), back up over a pass that leads westwards to the winding piste, a lovely trail curving through the scrub and rock at over 1500 metres.
Apart from those tricky hairpins.

Within an hour the track drops towards Bou Skour and the high mountain drama is over. A couple of forks guide me around the old Bou Skour mine, past the village of Sidi Flah on the Oued Dades, and finally down into Skoura itself on the N10.
I pull into the roadhouse for an omelette salad and a litre of yoghurt drink. While I’m waiting, before I forget I jot down the route’s twists and turns on the handy paper tablecloth.

I whizz along the new Kelaa bypass (left) in 30 minutes; handy to know for next time. They really must have asphalt and roadbuilders to spare if they’re starting to build bypasses in southern Morocco, although it’s true the section of the N10 between Kelaa and Dades is a near-continuous built-up stretch with attendant distractions. We used to come back this way on my tours after crossing Jebel Saghro via MH4, but the mildly more aggrressive driving on the N10 added with the sun setting straight in our faces on the way to Ouarzazate was not a safe way to end the day.

Back to now, soon after Dades, I turn back south into the Saghro massif and climb up to near Iknioun, then take the newly built spur over the 2300-m Tin Tazazert back down to Nekob. What used to take the gasping XR250 Tornados half a day now takes the AT just 35 minutes of asphalt and Armco.
We first came this way in the late 1990s in the Land Cruiser (left), looking for routes for my Sahara Overland book at a time when so much of this part of Morocco was only linked by rough tracks.

Back down in Nekob, I get a young chappy on a pushbike to do me a selfie in front of the mural. All that remains is to bomb back to Tamnougalte, back to Marrakech next day and fly out the day after.

The plan was to come back for the Honda after leading a tour in early November, but rising Covid numbers in the UK (as well as DE and NL) saw Morocco suspend flights. Mass cancellations all round.
So the Af’Twin is stuck again in Morocco, but at least I know it’s running well. By the time it gets back I’ll need to retrain it on how to ride on the right.
C’est la vie.

BMW F750GS in Morocco • 1200-km review

f75powers

After ten successful years, in 2018 BMW Motorrad replaced the 700 and 800GS parallel twins with all-new ‘750’ and 850 versions. As before, the two models share an identical 853-cc engine but, along with other aspects, are significantly different. According to this detailed BMW press release (click and it downloads; worth reading if this bike interests you) the 750 makes 20% less power (77 / 95hp) but only 10% less torque (83 / 92Nm; see graph, right). It also has a lower seat, a little less weight and suspension travel, better fuel consumption as well as cast tubeless wheels with a smaller 19-er on the front. The 750 will also run stock on 91 RON fuel (unlike the 850 unless modified) and is significantly cheaper: in the UK it currently goes from £8225 vs £9875 for the 850 which makes it cheaper than an XT700.
I’ve ridden the old 700 and 650 twins in Morocco and for me, these lower, mildly less revvy, 19-inch and tubeless shod bikes have always been a better, real-world travel bike option to the flashier, taller 800 and now 850, even if the ‘bigger’ bikes probably outsell them.

Like many P-twins these days, the new engine uses a 270-degree crank to give an impression of more torque – or maybe just because it’s fashionable. They are no longer (or cannot be) engineered to sound like a 1200GS, but even at basic levels, both models come with an array of electronic rider aids and position the fuel tank back up on top, so lifting the centre of gravity.
I rode a bottom of the range 750 (LED dash; no quickshifter, connectivity, ESA and so on) for a week, on winding Moroccan mountain backroads and easy desert trails, covering some 1200kms or 750 miles. The bike had 6300km on the clock (114 hours running time) and was fitted with a thick Givi bashplate, crash bars, handguards and rear racks.
In Adventure Moto World you might say it’s competitors include the KTM 790, Guzzi V85TT, XT700 or just updated Tracer 700, the V-Strom 650 (£6500 discounted new) or a 1000cc Africa Twin. The BMW is cheaper than all of them except the ageing Suzuki and the Tracer, new or old.

What they say

m75

It keeps your engine running, every day. Your heart beats to the rhythm of the BMW F 750 GS. It’s your ticket to the adventure. Because with the balanced Enduro all-rounder, you will master all paths, regardless of the road surface, and expand your horizons – because you want more. The F 750 GS gives you more power, more comfort, more spirit of GS. Feel the strong-charactered engine and enjoy the ease of handling of the F 750 GS. While you’re off discovering the world, you have the bike with the automatic stability control (ASC) and the ABS safely under control. And with the ex-factory option Connectivity, the 6.5-inch TFT-display shows you among other things which junction you have to turn off at or who is calling you. Clear and concise – without distracting you from the road. The entry into your next experience is – also thanks to the low seat height – easier than ever before.

tik
  • Compared to the 850, at just £8225 it’s a very good deal
  • Enough real-world power to get the job donef75spex
  • Great brakes with ABS 
  • Great suspension too. HPA shock with rebound damping
  • Stable in corners. Long and low, just like the old 700/650.
  • Turns better than old 700 – must be down to the higher CoG plus rake and trail changes.
  • Tubeless tyres with easy-access side valves
  • Traction control (‘ASC’) plus a rain mode
  • LHS scrollable menu with all the essential metrics
  • Seat – no complaints this time.
  • BMW-style 12-v power outlet on the dash
cros
  • Heavy With the added metalwork mine probably came in at 230kg wet, but only felt it when pushing around or trying to pick up.
  • Windscreen? More a small transparent plate which does nothing much.
  • Engine lacks character compared to a Yamaha CP2 or even an NC750.
  • Fuel consumption worse than the 700 – averaged 70mpg (but only measured twice).
  • The thin digits on the LCD dash were hard to read easily or if not in direct sun.
  • Remaining range (400km when full) proved a little optimistic when pushed to the limit.

Review

As do-it-all gravel travel bikes, the old 650 and 700 twins were both better than most people thought. With some K60s, I took a 650 quite a way out of its (and my) comfort zone back in 2012. So I expected to like the new 750, even if I’d be held back by stock road Anakees.
The 750 retains what looks like a long wheelbase; there’s a cubic foot of collector box packed in behind the engine and in front of the back wheel. Initially, I found the cable-less, electronic throttle lacked damping and the steering had that sports-tourer ‘self-leaning’ thing (like my old TDM). It must be a calculated consequence of weight, rake and trail but as the miles passed by I soon didn’t notice either, instead revelling in the bike’s more positive attributes.


The gearbox has an uncharacteristic slickness for a BMW, easily tapped without the clutch, and I sure appreciated the correctly positioned foot controls after the well-used Sertao I rode the week before which needed foot lifts to brake or change gear. With a few accessories my bike probably weighed not much less than a GS12, but like the 12, it sure feels less once on the move.
A big difference between the 700 was locating the slightly bigger 15-litre tank back up front. This raises the mass of the bike, but as mentioned in the 700 review, too low a CoG can make a bike hard to turn easily. and on the dirt, including loose hairpins, the 750 didn’t exhibit the resistance I felt in the 700.

f75castor

The 750 and 850 are oddly fitted with a, to me, anachronistic telescopic steering dampers which I’ve not seen since the 70s and which to me signifies a way of disguising a bike’s instability due to poor frame design. It’s not mentioned under that name as in the long press release pdf. A few years ago there was a new version of the 1200GS which was soon recalled or somehow hampered with an unpredictable steering shimmy fixed by retrofitting a steering damper, iirc. Perhaps the 853-cc twins are set up with the same angles and weight distribution. I couldn’t see any way of adjusting the damper and it didn’t have any electronics attached to it.
Road or trail, out of the crate the 750 retains the same excellent suspension without masses of baffling adjustments. For the first few days I left the rear preload as it was, then gave the HPA (left) several cranks (maybe 5 full turns) which stopped my boots dragging (and even being dragged off) on some bends. (I had the same problem with the Sertao the previous week; I’ve never had feet dragged off the pegs before, but they did point down at 45°). Once firmer up and raised a bit, much less boot dragging though I felt I should have increased the rebound damping a tad, but could not be bothered to meddle as it worked fine.

f75motore

One sad day I’ll count them up, but the circuit I use in southern Morocco must have over a thousand bends. By the end of it I was confidently swinging through the less gravelly curves, never needing to rev over 5000 rpm (about 120kph) to make progress at a location-related pace (ie: not going berzerk).
On start-up it produces a cleverly engineered bark, but like the weight, that soon dissipates on the move and there’s little impression of the off-beat crank’s charismatic throb, even if the torque is all there. For a 270°, the motor lack the character of Yamaha’s CP2 700s (which make 10% less power) and even the NC750 I briefly owned.
On one very steep, rough and loose switchback climb I made the conscious effort not to slip the clutch (done to minimise the risk of stalling and then falling over) and the 750 managed to chug its way at walking pace round most bends until I lost my nerve or ran out of space. You’d not manage that on a big thumper, though next week I’ll try the same test on a 310. I only got to log two tanks to accurately estimate the fuel consumption which averaged 70mpg (58.2 US; 25kpl). One reading was 10% higher, the other 10% lower and pretty similar to the 2012 650 (68.2) but much lower than the 700 (81mpg) with 100,000 on the clock. This reading closely matched the displayed average of 4L/100km (25kpl).

This was my second chance to get to grips with traction control (or Automatic Stability Control: ‘ASC’). On gravelly tarmac the TC light fluttered briefly on the dash, and trying to activate it on the dirt, occasionally the power was notably constrained to hold the back-end in line. But this was me throttling on like an idiot; normally I’d exercise my own traction control to keep wheelspin as I want it. On the dirt letting the back-end step out is usually intentional, either because it’s fun or to rear-wheel steer and square off a tight corner. This is as opposed to the front, which once slipping usually ends in a fall. That’s what you’re really trying to avoid, especially on road tyres but there’s no way electronics can manage that; it takes better tyres or less speed.
It’s likely that on a long, steep and loose climb the TC would beneficially constrain wheelspin, but only up to a point. On low-traction slopes of sand, mud or wet grass I bet it would soon tie itself in knots. Only momentum and knobbly tyres work here but would take quite a nerve piloting nearly a quarter on a ton of 750GS.

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It seems to me that TC and modes are nifty but non-essential riding aids which – at negligible weight penalty (unlike ABS) – have become inexpensive enough to throw on to bikes which don’t really need either but which help give the impression of added safety getting more for your money. If they’re serious about safety, I’d sooner see TPMS included as stock, but you can buy a kit for 30 quid. TC and modes might suit riders without decades of pre-electronic riding experience under their belts. As with GPS or smartphones, you either merely find them handy; or you don’t know how or can’t see the point of managing without them.

They say the cast tubeless wheels have been strengthened. Good to know and I like the easy-access valves (left) which eliminate grovelling about with an inflation hose. Fitting a TPMS cap might make it a bit vulnerable to flying rocks, but the valves at least can be easily replaced. On a long trip I’d carry spares.
The ABS was never an issue on the dirt (though I didn’t do any emergency braking). I did find the brakes – or associated fork dive – a bit grabby, but better too much than not enough and the ABS safety net is always here. On the Sertao the previous week, the ill-positioned brake pedal saw me lose the back brake on long descents. No such problems on the twin.

Some LED dash figures like the clock were too thin and therefore hard to read at a glance, but once I got my head around it, the menu on the left bar displayed some useful data including 3 trip meters (including daily), average and live L/100km (hopefully changeable to another metric), ambient and water temperatures and remaining range. I can confirm that the bike I was riding had logged 114 riding hours in 6300kms.
I didn’t cover huge distances in one sitting but the seat on the 750 felt a whole lot better than previous iterations (not hard to do). I think it may even have been height adjustable, but though I took it off a couple of times for other reasons, this was not obvious.

I can’t say the same for the near-useless piece of clear plastic screen (left) which just gives the mounting bolts something to do until you fit something actually useful. I did notice the slimness in the bike’s waistline did make standing up much more comfortable than on the older underseat-tank models. The bars were the usual 2 inches too low for me (6′ 1″). Under the seat there’s some useful stash space, partly because of the skimpy, three-piece toolkit (right).

Summary
On the road and easy trails there really is very little to dislike about the 750GS. I know everyone will ignore me but it’s got enough of everything you need in a travel bike with maybe a little too much weight and electronics. The looks are subjective but I’d say are an improvement and in line with the current humpbacked GS look, all the way down to the 310GS. It’s got a potential 400km range, plus the brakes, torque and stock suspension to do it all. Essential additions would include an actual screen, a centre stand plus pannier racks for your luggage and probably a bashplate and other protection. Having tried it, I could live without TC and a rain engine mode (which I forgot to try) and settle for a similar bike like a mechanically proven Tracer (old model from £6700; 2020 model £7400 claimed) or 19-inch V-Strom for less weight and a lot less money.

Tested: Michelin Anakee Wild review

Supplied by Michelin for review

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Michelin’s Anakee Wild came out in 2016, replacing the venerable T63 which we used on Desert Riders in 2003 (with similar patterned Mich Deserts on the rear).
Since then, adventure motorcycling – aka: touring on big trail bikes – has become a thing. The Wilds address the need to give heavier, more powerful machines some genuine off-road ability – or looks – without resorting to expensive competition tyres like the famous Dakar-inspired Michelin Desert.
I ran these Anakee Wilds tubeless in Morocco and Western Sahara on my Enfield Himalayan130/80-17 M/C 65R TL on the back on a wider, sealed Excel rim, and a 90/90-21 M/C 54R TL on the front, initially with a Tubliss core, then tubed. Both wheels were initially Slimed, too. Best price new in the UK is £85 for the rear and £66 for the front.
Unlike some new knobbly-ish tyres, on my Himalayan the Wilds rode and cornered normally from new, with no odd, K60-like squirming until bedded in. With the aid of Michelin’s new TPMS, I ran them at around 28 psi or 2 bar, dropping only a couple of pounds for long, multi-day off-road stages.

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Let’s face it, there’s no great mystery in tread patterns – you can see the Wilds will work well on loose surfaces, while the shallow knobs won’t flex disconcertingly on the road. The Himalayan may be heavy for what it is, but it hasn’t got the power to put these Anakees in a spin. On good mountain roads I pretty much forgot about the reduced contact surface of the knobs and was able to swing through the bends up to the point of grounding the centre stand or the soles of my boots. They never budged.
On the dirt it was the same feeling of reassurance tempered by a riding style aware of where I was (when riding alone). The Anakees never made any unpredictable moves, just bit down through the gravel and grit to help make the Enfield easy to manage.
Perhaps the tyres’ biggest test was having to ride 250 clicks on a flat front when the Tubliss core packed up irreparably in the desert. To be fair the punctured core helped keep the tyre on the rim, making straight-line riding easy. But to keep the tyre from over-heating I kept the speed down to 30mph. I’m not so sure a non-premium brand tyre would have survived such use so well. It also suggests that the firmer carcass of a TL tyre is more robust, even if it weighs substantially more than a tube type tyre. On a long rugged ride with a heavy, tubed bike like a one-litre Africa Twin, there may be something to be said for running a heavy TL tyre, even with inner tubes. The extra meat will provide added protection against flats.

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I did experience one flat on the front while running a cheap, paper-thin tube. I get the feeling a rocky off-road stage may have benefitted from slightly reduced tyre pressures to allow the tyre to form around the sharp stones, rather than press hard into them. It did seem to be a genuine puncture, not a result of hasty kerbside mounting (above), remnants of Slime or a duct tape rim liner. The rear also picked up a nail early on between the knobs, but I’ve left it there.
By the end of the 3,700-mile trip, the last week guiding a tour of mostly 310GSs, the back had 5mm in the centre of the tread and the front a few mils more. It suggests at least 5000 miles from a rear with about 30% off-road use. As the miles have passed it feels like the smooth, stable edge has come off the ride in corners – normal with any ¾ worn tyre I’ve found – but the front knobs have no evidence of vibration-inducing cupping. The Himalayan’s front brake hasn’t got the bite to achieve that. The Anakee Wild is a harder-wearing 60/40 tyre than the ubiquitous, soft and similarly all-road performing Conti TKC80.

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Himalayan: Out of the Western Sahara

Himalayan Index Page
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With back up from Mark in a 4×4 sat alongside Colin on a Nikon, we set off for the 1100-km ride from Assa through the Western Saharan interior to Dakhla via Smara and the Digtree (left), a fuel cache I had buried in 2015.

The fuel may have been getting a bit ripe by now, but all was going well until I hit irreparable tyre troubles just 100km from the Digtree. I limped back 250km to Layounne, got fixed up and, now out of time before I meet my tour group, we settled for a leisurely drive north up the windswept Atlantic coast. Not for the first time, my Sahara plans slipped through my fingers.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHooning about on a clay pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe century-old Aéropostale base at Cape Juby (Tarfaya).

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Inside the base.

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Cap Juby in its heyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATojo wheels + jerries – the only windbreaks for miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatchtower on a berm just 50km from the Mauritanian border.

him-steamHot steam and rubber. Cleaning out the Slime.

him-sarawi‘Moto – Landrover – Layounne?’ I point to each and try and persuade a Saharawi to transport my bike to the coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChurned up, sandy gorge at MW6 KM246. The Himalayan meets it’s limit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey like the word Sahara out here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossroads where MW6 joins MW7. Came from the left on the WR in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKhnifiss Bird Lagoon.

him-jerryTopping up for the day. A can will do me at least 500km.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesert dawn near Gueltat Zemmour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Dakar Rally mound. Pushed up every kilometre or so as landmarks right along our route to the Digtree and beyond.

him-chatMost of the riding is easy, as above. But it only takes one lapse in concentration.

him-blissRemoving the punctured Tubliss core in Layounne.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColourful beetle.

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Ex-Dakar track.

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The mouth of the Draa which rises near Ouarzazate in the High Atlas, but very rarely flows in its entirety the 1000-odd km to the ocean.

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Out of Tiznit we took an interesting track along the Oued Assaka to Fort Bou Serif ruins for a spot of lunch and some filming.