Tag Archives: WR250R adventure build

WR-ing about in Morocco – 6

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco 4000-km trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

So where were we? Leaving Smarai.

I pull in for cheap fuel. In Western Sahara they subsidise it by 30% (as well as cooking oil, sugar and flour) to encourage northerners (like the bloke in the cafe last night) to relocate among the indigenous Saharawi in the middle of nowhere and help consolidate Morocco’s stake on its part of the former Spanish territory it occupied in the 1970s.
Matey here by his ancient Landrover told me he was an extra in Harry Potter III. There are loads of these old Series IIIs in WS, used by nomads to move from camp to camp, wherever the pasture is.

More wind-trees. Handy for nav: they always point south.

Talking of south, in 2015 I had some fuel buried in the WS – a place I call the Dig Tree. One of my aims on this trip had been to take an ambitious ride right through inland WS to Dakhla. This would have been 600km with very little likelihood of seeing anyone or anything; not even sure where the wells are. A fuel cache halfway made this less risky. Until things get desperate, fuel is always more important than water.

I even brought my 10L fuel bag. The WR has proved reliable and easy to ride so far. Even with my worst recorded consumption of 71 mpg (25kpl; usually high 80s mpg) I could just make Dakhla on tank + 10 litres carried, without digging up the cache.

I reach my marker on the Smara road and follow the track south for a few kms. But even though the weather is 10° cooler (= reduced water consumption), it’s clear that heading to the Dig Tree alone across unfamiliar terrain would be nuts. As I now know well, all it takes is one sandy oued to spanner things up. And the tension of keeping it together for two days or more would not make it at all enjoyable. I have been there and I have done that.

Out of curiosity I call up the Dig Tree waypoint. Only 200 clicks, south by southwest.
I’ll head for the Dig Tree, another time. But not alone on a moto. I came back in 2019 on a Himalayan and with a fourbie,but that didn’t work out either.

Further on down the road, tucked in against the usual headwind, I spot the famous Bou Craa phosphate belt. Part of Morocco’s motive to grab WS was to get its hands on the largest reserve of phosphate in the world (or so I read in the internet).

The belt (or series of belts) runs some 100km towards the coast, bridges the N1 highway and dumps the rubble at a deepwater jetty south of Layounne.

I inspect the half-inch-thick belt and polished rollers. If the rozzers caught me looking and taking photos of this they’d flip their lid. I was told later it only runs of windless days so the phosphate doesn’t end up like the trees.

Someone very generously offers me a stay in their house in Layounne. I get my laundry done, am fed like a fois gras goose and catch up on admin.

The house is on the very edge of the city, overlooking the Saguia el Hamra (‘red river’).

Recent storms (which brought on the desert wildflowers), broke through this dam-bridge on the N1 highway into Layounne.

Hold on, I’m going the wrong way if I want to take the new coast road north to Tarfaya, not the main N1 desert highway. The Garmin map puts me right. It’s a marvel to have routeability in the desert.
Initially the coast backroad is not so interesting.

Lots of grubby fishing shacks and the Atlantic.

I pull into the lee of a barchan (crescent) dune on its southward march. Yes, it’s a new direction now but the headwinds adjust themselves and turn on me again. What gets me is why don’t all the barchans end up in Mauritania? It is the mystery of dunes – or maybe the Atlas mountains are a huge reserve of raw rock to grind down into grains.

Diggers keep rogue dunes off the road.

Trucks use this road, as it bypasses the steep climb in and out of Layounne if headed far south.

Up ahead I spot a strange thing in the sea, is it an island? Turns out to be the famous beached Armas ferry which ran aground a few years ago.

Iirc, it was to serve a a route to the Canaries which lay less than 100km northwest, but it didn’t make it past it’s maiden voyage. Smells a bit of a fishy insurance job. Plus a ferry to Spanish Canaries would bring up all sort of issues with migrants trying to get to Europe. Up north, Tan Med port is like Alcatraz. So are the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Tarfaya was known as Cape Juby in the French era, a refuelling stop on the early Aeropostale service to Dakar (or St Louis) in Senegal. St Exupery wrote of it evocatively in Wind Sand & Stars mentioned earlier – an existentialist classic, fyi. He would have been based in the white fort behind the monument.
St Ex was lost at sea during WWII and they built this plane sculpture in commemoration, but it looks a bit crap, like a big toy. Maybe its supposed to; he also wrote the famous Little Prince childrens’ book about a pilot lost in the desert (as happened to St Ex one time). Its one of the most read or translated books in the world which I finally read recently. I didn’t get it. W, S&Stars was more my thing.

And just off shore there it is: the famous Mackenzie trading post set up by an enterprising Scot in the late 19th C. Built on a tidal reef, if was perhaps exempt from taxes, or at least immune to Reguibat raids.

This is how it looked back in the day. I approach the ruin for a better picture. Locals boys are gallivanting on the rocks and, seeing my camera, assume I’m some sort of perv. They start shouting and throwing rocks: ‘Fak-off, peado-scum!!’
I ignore the onslaught; they don’t realise I’m much more fascinated in the historical monument behind them than their skimpy beachwear. Been wanting to see this place for years, a few jibes won’t stop me. I get my shot and scarper before they call the police. Mackenzie cooked up a bat-shit scheme to flood the Sahara so freighters could sail to Timbuktu. Read more about that here.

Up the road I pull in for the last cheap fuel in Afkhenir. Normally I try to skip lunch, but after the generous gorging in Layounne my stomach has expanded and will take a day or two to re-shrink. I order an omelette, the guys suggests fish. Oh, go on then, I’m right by the seaside after all.

He yanks a sole out of the fridge, grills it and brings it over with lots of lemon. Seven quid for a whole battered sole with side salad. Quite a lot but well worth it for a treat.

A fisherman drops in with his catch and rests his Moby on a plank.

Just up the road is the Gouffre Afkhenir, a collapsed sea cave fenced off right by the road.

Below the cliff edge the heavy Atlantic swell is booming against the wave-worn cavities, crashing in and rebounding in all directions. Nice to watch. Hypnotic.
That’s a radar station on top. I think they built the new whiter one back from the edge a bit, just it case it got ‘gouffred’.

Where shall I stay tonight? I can go back to the place in Tan Tan, but that would be too easy. Let’s see what El Ouatia, right by the sea, has to offer? Hotel de France? That will do nicely. 230d half board, great wi fi and a nice Spanish-continental ambience and old-school waiter. (Spanish influence still persists on this coast).
They help me push my bike up the steps for the night.

And proper coffee too. Nice spot.

Part 7  > > >

WR-ing about in Morocco – 3

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

I’m testing prototypes of Kriega’s new OS32 panniers on a Tusk rack. All good so far: rack is solid, bags are massive and rugged, strap on securely and easily via a plate, but come off with minimal faff too.
On a par with Magadan throwovers, but secure fitting included.

Mitas MC23 Rockriders not doing so well after ~2000km, but what do you expect from a knobby? Fine on the road and great to have grip in the dirt – means you can relax more and saved me many times.

El Bouriat – the Marie Celeste of the Sands.

I swing off MW6 northwards and ride crossing-county to pick up MW3 at the base of the jebel. This is real ‘off-road’ riding – fun but can get technical, so (at my age) a light bike is ideal to stave off exhaustion.

Back on the pistes. I recall this spot from 2008 in the Mazda.

I pass through an old fortified berm from the Polisario war. In fact there are still landmines hereabouts, I learn later. Cross-country riding was not such a good idea.

It’s darn hot – mid-30s? In Assa I hop in the town trough for a splash-down.
Ten minutes later I’m sweating like a kipper again.

The incongruous gateway to Aouinat Lahna

Newly born camies

I spend a windy night in an old pump house

Ancient pictograph of the the original one horse power.

The best thing with camping is it gets you on the road early – ideal when its hot.

Cool ride to Aouinat Igoumane – that’s route MW3.

The new road ends at the mosque by the oasis. Pass through the gap in the hills and carry on west

The abandoned fort of Ayoun du Draa

There’s a lovely spring here; water as fresh as you like. On this trip I’m trying to avoid bottled water. Just like at home, tap water is fine (except Foum Zguid and other low-elevation desert towns).

The WRs horn could not hoot its way out of a wet paper bag

Track gets a bit rough up to Ain Kerma pass. Coastal ‘fog’ vegetation begins.

From here you can see the coastal dunes.

And I’m back in the Oued Draa riverbed, but now just a few miles from its estuary into the Atlantic.

Tan Tan by night – unrecognisable since my last stay in ’97.

£2.50? That will do nicely. I have not been eating enough. But then at home I eat too much, so waistband harmony ought to be restored.

I tried to get to Es Semara (Smara) via El Mahbes but got turned back at Zag.
Will try Smara again via Mseid along an old Dakar piste, then swing up on Laayoune (or maybe even Dakhla) from the interior. Inch allah.

Part 4  > > >

WR250R – Ready for the Desert

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

While in Morocco last year and not riding around on my WR250R, I left it with a list and a bunch of stuff with Karim, a desert bikey mate with a lavishly equipped garage and some spare time on his hands. Over the weeks he tinkered away, finishing the job I’d started in the summer, converting the WR into a lightweight desert bike.


The list included a TrailTech engine temperature gauge (above). IMO it’s vital to be able to know an engine’s temperature – air or water-cooled; I don’t want to hope some warning light might chip in just as steam starts wafting up from under the tank (as happened to a 450 KTM in the desert once, left: engine fried, end of his ride). The gauge’s pick-up sensor can be mounted anywhere very hot including splicing into the radiator hose to read water temps – all you’re really looking for is a representative value from which to evaluate a normal reading.


If it starts straying into unusually high figures you can choose to back off, or even stop and turn into the wind at tickover. On the ride back to London in a backwind gale the temperature varied from 85°C up to 115°C flat out or at the lights, but usually around 100. Another handy thing is it reads even when the engine’s off – a handy air temp reading when camping.
At the same time one fan blade got tippexed white to make it easier to see at a glance if it was spinning when it should be.


A RAM mount and wire for my Montana got hardwired in (left) to guarantee a reliable, clip-on connection, and some 12-volt and USB plugs got added to the cross-bar (right). Got no actual use for them but handy to have. There’s also a DIN plug tucked in by the seat base to power a heated jacket and the tyre pump.


I’m going to be trying out some new Kriega Overlander-S panniers – OS32 – which mount and strap on quite cleverly to an HDPE platform that’s clamped to the rack. I’ll do a fuller review of the system once on a road a couple of weeks, but as you can see, the volume means a large tailpack isn’t needed, even with basic camping gear. I find that makes swinging a leg over the high saddle easier and a less cluttered look.


My trusty old Barkbuster Storms are getting what must be their fifth fitting on the WR. Whatever came with the bike was all plastic and not really up to the job. And before I’d even loaded the bike to head back to London, the Barks saved the day when a gust from Storm Doris (right) blew the WR over.


The headlight bulb has been uprated to a Cyclops H4 LED (on ebay) which emits a bluey light, and they promise will cut through the night sky like a meteor shower as well as consume less juice.
And down by the front sprocket I added a Sandman case saver kit from Basher in Missouri. I’m starting on a 14T (on 46), and swapping to a 13T (about 10% lower gearing if the speedo error is any judge), should the need arise.


Tyres, you ask: I try never to use the same type twice and this time around I’m on Mitas (formerly Sava) MC23 Rockriders. I was hoping to go tubeless until I saw the back DID rim doesn’t have the lip (in which case this would work, were it in my size). I’m confident the Mitaii will easily last the trip of about 5000km, helped with a splash of Slime and a few Hail Marys.

I’ve also added a dinky Motion Pro rim lock on the back which weighs next to nothing, but will hopefully bite when the need arises. I can’t see me running pressures low enough where the scant torque of a WR250 will be able to pull the tyre round the rim. The whole point of running knobblies like the MC23s is – away from deep sand plains and dunes – you will get great grip on the dirt without the need to run them at 1 bar and risk flats.


And that is that. The rest of the adaptions are here. The bike is on its way to Malaga in a Fly and Ride artic which, at £595 return, actually works out quicker and cheaper than a ferry-and-Spain crossing.


I readily admit the WR is no FJ12 on the open road and makes you feel a bit vulnerable dicing with fast European highway traffic – but then again it won’t be an FJ12 on rough backroads or the pistes either. So far I have a good feeling about the untried WR-R: I love the lightness and the better than average poke for a 250, along with great mpg and desert-ready suspension and tyres. But of course, I’ll miss the comfort of last year’s La Mancha-munching CB500X. What we have here is a specialised, lightweight desert touring bike.
Stick around to see how the WR performs in Morocco and, if it behaves, in Western Sahara too.