Margus' crash in Persia

After 17200 kilometres and 5 weeks of riding on our expedition of Persia and Middle-East it had ended just 800kilometres before home in Poland, where reckless fully tatooed young polish driver kicked us out of the road...

Like via life's irony - just on the last day if we wanted to get home in the evening someone just finishes everything for you, on very bad way...

It was more than 100kph speed, the car hit us by rapidly trying to push itself out of the row of cars from left of us, so we changed instantly about 30 degree angle from direct line we were heading off the road and we flyed about 20 metres, slided on tarmac, then on to road side and rolled off the road, few times bike rolled over us. In the end I flyed about additional 5 metres off the bike, Kariina (my girlfriend) was left under the bike when i ran back to bike to help, fuel flowed from gas tank to her and to hot exhaust and cylinders... With my blood of full of adrenaline fully loaded bike felt like air-light to lift off alone from her. She was half unconcious there.

We are really lucky people - just few metres away there was strong trees we flyed between them. If we'd hit them i'd not be here writing this. Even if to exclude this we are lucky - no bone brakes after lot of x-rays (Kariina went directly to hospital), the protective gear did it's job well and i thank Caja Sahel till the rest of my life - the panniers didn't give up on this outrageous speed to hit the ground with full force and rolling on the weight of the bike - they protected our legs on sliding on tarmac till road side, if there were plastic, Zegas with quickly removable mounts or soft panniers we'd have certanly had been in hospital now with broken legs. Panniers stood at the place till the end and i'm amazed how they resisted that much. Plastics or any other quickly removable panniers would have been broken into hundred pieces on the first hit onto the road, not counting the sliding and rolling of the bike.

But the contusion shock was very high - we're both in bad condition now. It's hard to move, everything hurts on every move. My father and brother came to Poland with car to pick us up with the bike. Home since yesterday.

Almost nothing is left from our beloved GS. Front is completely broken, paralever is with cracks, 41L fuel tank is broken, frame bent... Only engine seems to be OK part what's left. This probably means the end of motorcycling i love for unknown time... I've invested all my student's loans and all the money i earned aside the school to this bike and passion travelling together with Kariina. Half of the loans need still paying, repairing it seems impossible or outrageously expensive. Altough it's car driver's fault i'm sure this damned Polish driver don't want to give any money to insurance to cover all this up, because it's Poland afterall - animal traffic culture and insurance companies are already in problems there...

So the future is very dark for me... At least for few years i'm financially completely dead because this bike is my only real fortune. Probably have to quit university and find fulltime job. Doctors wanted to go on further inspections, will do that near days. So far i'm emotionally and physically very exhausted...

Living with Caja Sahel Adventure Luggage for 18 months

Well still got them on the bike after however long it is, and they're on all day every day so something must be working. Then again, they don't come off without an allen key (and spanner the way I've fixed them) so that's understandable. I do commute in and out of London happily with them on the bike.

The black paint finish, how durable have you found it to be?
It has been great - they really are coated and not painted and the adhesion is excellent. I made a couple of attempts to test it to destruction. On the M6 I got blown sideways in the outside lane and rubbed one corner of the pannier along the barrier for a bit till I got it under control - chewed a little section out of the aluminium but it didn't hole. The edges of the black coat are fine and no more has come off as a consequence of breaking the surface. I also had a twat in a 4x4 unhappy at me filtering past (at walking pace thank goodness) who decided to "frighten" me by pulling up close. Unfortunately he hadn't seen the boxes and almost tipped the bike over. He trapped the side of the left hand case under his bumper and I was holding the bike up on my right leg when he got out to see why I wasn't pulling forward to let him go - he moved quickly to reverse when he saw why - bumped into the guy behind him - but the only consequence was a bit of paint off the colour co-ordinated bumper on the case. I did manage to take some colour off the inside by chuckling four brass padlocks into an empty case and letting them rattle around for a few weeks...

That awful looking exhaust extension pipe. any running issues?
None at all. Worried me a bit before I bought it but since I put it on I haven't had a problem. I did notice that it wasn't properly seated last time I took the cases off but a bit of judiciously applied BFI put it back in place.

A couple of weeks ago I took off the ADV topbox permanently and replaced it with a Touratech rack extension as the cases do everything I need and the topbox wasn't worth the effort.

What would I change?
Get the "adventure" version mounts - the cases can be a bugger to put on and off as you have to hold the case while putting in a couple of bolts. Having a little lip will make that easier. I keep meaning to get in touch with Civil to ask how much a set would cost to replace my standard ones.

I've got domed lids, they all appear to be flat now. Much better. I stuck a couple of anti-skid tiles on the top of each of mine to make luggage a bit more secure. I also added a spare tie down point to the front and back of the lids (I bought the high price Touratech versions because I have more money than sense) to give a six point tie down. There was lots of space in the lids to do that.

You need to shorten the indicators and they do become less visible outside a 45 degree angle behind you - because I'm in town and on busy A-roads a lot I stuck on a couple of LED repeaters which meant drilling holes in the boxes. A couple of grommits and epoxy resin means no leaks, even at motorway speeds in heavy rain. I got a pointer from a post on here - search, if my memory serves me, for "Kisan Signal Minder" to see Fanum's posh solution and a less posh option which I took.

I did a John O'Groats and back round trip with them on and a load of camping gear on top last year. Pissed on us a lot of the time but not a problem in three days 1500 miles. Here we are on the way back.

I'd buy them again.

Always read the instructions

The Haul Road
Itís widely agreed that the Pan American Highway begins in a town called Deadhorse near Prudhoe Bay, which was where we had arranged to ride to next. We had landed in Fairbanks on the 26th and settled into a B&B where we spent a couple of days to recover from the Alaskan Highway and plan the trip to Deadhorse.

Deadhorse is 798KM from Fairbanks and the town is a support camp for the Prudhoe Bay Oilfields. In 1969 oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay, but the only way in was to sail through the frozen Arctic Ocean, so in 1974 the 'Haul Road' as it's known, was built from Livengood, 80miles north of Fairbanks and runs 414 miles north to a new town called Deadhorse. The road was made from locally quarried gravel and was built in only five months. From 1974 to 1977 the road was used as a support road for the Alaskan Pipeline which runs all the way to Valdez in the south. The road remains in use as a supply line to Deadhorse and until 1981 it was used as private road by the oil companies to facilitate the oilfields. In 1981 the Alaskan Govt. took control of the road and access was given to the public to Disaster creek some 211 miles up the road. The road was also renamed the 'James Dalton Highway' but is still widely known by the Truck Drivers who use it as the 'Haul Road' In 1994 the rest of the road was opened to the public and you can now travel all the way to Deadhorse.

The stories about the road were legendary. Wildlife was abundant; we would have to contend with Bears, Lynx, Wolverine, Wolves, Foxes and angry Moose. Because of the extreme temperature range the road couldnít be paved so we were facing a 1500KM round trip on a gravel road. Deep wind filled valleys, dangerous mountain passes, broken roads and speeding truckers who didnít slow or stop as they were being paid by the job and would at best shower you with rocks as they passed and at worst would drive you off the road. The road was to be deep rutted mud in places and there would be no shelter for hundreds of miles along the way. We would have no cell phone cover and would need to carry extra petrol on our bikes. Punctures and falls were to be part of the ride. Everyone that we spoke to had a story to tell, nobody had a good word to say about the road.

To prep for the journey we packed our bikes with our camping gear, fuel canisters and some emergency food and water. We checked over the bolts on our luggage and left the bulk of our kit under the stairs of the B&B we were staying in. When we asked for advice we were told the biggest vehicle had the right of way and we should try not to get in the way! As we left Fairbanks in the rain it occurred to me that we didnít even have a radio to call for help if something went wrong.

The first 135KM from Fairbanks to Livengood was all paved twisty mountain roads and in spite of the rain it was a good brisk spin through the clouds and forest winding our way through the mountains to. Just beyond the turnoff to Livengood was the James Dalton Highway and a mud soaked track beckoned. As we turned into the mud the rear wheel of my GS spun as it searched for grip.

As we crossed the hills the road improved to a hard packed wide mud road with lots of wide sweepers with huge drop-offs as well as steep climbs and drops. 224KM up the road and we come to the Yukon River and the first significant camp. A long and badly damaged wooden bridge leads across the river to the camp where we stop for lunch and fuel. We joke with the waitress about the labeling on the fuel pumps and how easy it would be to fill your bike with Diesel. After lunch the rain has cleared and we head on out on roads in good condition which had a little bit of gravel on patches but for the most part were quick and open with very little traffic. The scenery is fantastic; in 2004 lightning strikes caused forest fires which destroyed 4.4 million square acres of forest. The burn sites are now covered with new plants and the colours are striking. We make our way to the Arctic Circle where we pose for photographs beside the sign. The weather is remarkably good, itís rather like a nice spring day in Wicklow, and I wonder if we are really anywhere near the Arctic Circle. Farther up the road we come to the infamous Gobblers Knob where we get our first look at the imposing Brooks Range.

Next stop is the Coldfoot Inn and Truck Stop. While we are both quite tired at this point, weíve traveled 415KM today, we agree that the going hasnít been nearly as tough as we thought it would be and we dismiss the stories weíve heard about the road. We meet one of the Truckers who joins us for coffee and regales us with stories of the road and the adventures that he has had on it. We get something to eat and reaching for the green handle on the unmarked pump I fill my bike to the brim and travel another 10KM up the road to Marion Creek campsite where we bed down for the night. The campsite is set in shaded trees with a tent platform to camp on and all the firewood we could burn.

We wake the following morning and break camp. Maeve is on her bike with the engine idling and waiting to go when I hit the starter on mine and it cuts out immediately. I hit the starter again with the same result, and again, and again. Suddenly it dawns on me, the green pump is for Diesel in Alaska and Iíve filled my bike from it instead of the black unleaded pump. Weíre halfway up the Dalton Highway and Iíve f**ked my bike! Iím going to have to get it recovered and brought to the nearest BMW dealer, over 1500KM away. We wonít be getting to Deadhorse, the trip is ruined and itís all down to me. Then I remember talking to one of the people in BMW several years ago and him telling me that the R1200GS would run on low octane fuel. To make a long story short we tipped the bike over and poured all of the Diesel out of it and filled the tank from the petrol cans. After a couple of attempts the bike started, sounded terrible, belched smoke and smelled awful but started to run. Hats off to BMW; your bike is brilliant.

Filled with what can only be described as sheer elation we headed back to Coldfoot to refill the fuel cans where we met Mike and Todd from LA and Florida respectively. Mike is a Desert racer who spends a lot of time in Baja and Todd is a novice having only recently got his licence and Mike is bringing him on his first adventure! The four of us decide to go another 30KM up the road to the historic town of Wiseman for breakfast. Wiseman is a town that predates the road and was only accessible by trail until the road was built. The guesthouse is called Igloo number eight and is run by a Bavarian woman who moved here from Munich 15 years ago; however weíve missed breakfast so we press on past the Sukapak Mountain and the last trees this far north. As we approach the Atigun pass I can finally feel it getting a little bit colder.

The Atigun pass cuts through the 7000 foot Brooks Mountain Range and rises to over 4500 feet over a two mile climb. This is where the real fun starts. Weíve now traveled 525KM from Fairbanks and the climb is a mud bath, having been soaked in calcium chloride, a solution used to dry the road out after it has been graded, as part of the ongoing maintenance of this road. For us that means up to four inches of slick mud on a hill with a 12% grade over two miles. We fishtail our way up to the top of the hill where we see the view. To describe it as breathtaking is a poor understatement. As we look down from the pass northern Alaska is spread out in front of us, snow capped mountains are all around us and the oil pipeline and road snake away to the horizon. Our reprieve is broken by a 22 wheeler gunning its way up the hill, flinging mud in its wake. We proceed down the hill with caution letting our gears dictate the speed we travel at, noting the guard rail and its many dents and breaks all the way down the hill.

After traveling 575KM we reach Galbraith Lake where I overtake a slow moving truck. As I pull in front of it thereís a loud bang from the back of my bike and the rear wheel locks up. The bike slides to a halt (thankfully Iíve managed to stay upright) and I dismount. I presume that Iíve got a puncture or a blow out but Iím surprised to see that the rear mudguard has come off and my luggage system is leaning to one side as Iíve lost a number of bolts. Maeve and I adjust the luggage as best as possible and I remove the remains of the mud guard from the back wheel before we move on. We proceed over the brilliantly titled ĎOil Spill Hillí and as we go down the other side we catch up with Mike and Todd who are amusing themselves watching the trucks running up and over the hill. Mike has some spare bolts in his pack and we repair the luggage and move on towards Deadhorse.

We are about 30KM from Deadhorse and very tired. I realize that we have passed the point of no return and we must get to the end of the road to re-fuel. The weather has changed and we now have a dense freezing fog surrounding us. The road surface has changed to deep gravel which keeps pulling our front wheels and itís a real effort to keep going when out of the fog appears a signí ĎDeadhorse City Limitsí.

We ride into the Ďtowní which is little more than a collection of basic industrial units and find the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. Our receptionist, Debbie charges us $90 each for a dorm style room with shared toilets and showers which are immaculate. We also learn that our fee includes food as well as lodgings and there is a car parts store beside the fuel station. We eat our fill and retire for some much needed sleep. Weíve traveled 797KM from Fairbanks and tomorrow we have to turn around and go back the way weíve come. Itís going to be a long day.
Margus' crash in Persia
After 17200km and 5 weeks travel, he was brutally run off the road by a dangerous driver and sustaned serious injuries, the panniers remained solid and saved his legs.
Living with Caja Sahel Adventure Luggage for 18 months
An experience customer who has seen how well the panniers have lasted. And over a year down the line there has been no problems whatsoever!
Always Read the Instructions
CAJA SAHEL Are Adventure Panniers, the real deal, no compromise.