April 16, 2018
Meet Madeleine, aka Missrider. Retired teacher, long-time motorcycle traveler, cancer survivor, and self-described “Adventuress”.
Madeleine has already traveled much of the US, and from Alaska to Panama on a much larger motorcycle. She recently left her New England home on the next leg of her RTW trip on a Yamaha XT250, which, not coincidentally, looks quite a bit like my XT250. Somehow, a friend of Madeleine’s found my blog, and passed it on to her, and she was able to use it to help prepare her XT for long-distance travel. She emailed me while I was still traveling, and we discussed setup and various tidbits.
I continue to be amazed at how people like Madeleine find my blog, and I am thrilled when they reach out to tell me about their trips and planning. I have been honored to contribute in some small way to the planning and prep for travelers like David from New York, who rode to Peru on his XT250; Shridhar from the San Francisco Bay Area, who toured Africa on an XT250; Charlie and Janet from New Zealand, who rode their matching XT250s around the world from Vladivostok, Russia west to London, then shipped them to Canada and rode across the US before shipping home from Los Angeles. There are many more XT250 travelers out there, proving that it is possible to do a Round-The-World or other long-distance ride much more economically than most think.
Madeleine had intended to leave on her trip more than two years ago, but was seriously sidetracked by a cancer diagnosis. Now, much later than planned but having kicked cancer’s butt, she is finally on her way. She serves as an inspiration to others with serious health issues: Even though her cancer treatment devastated her physically and emotionally, she remained focused on her ride, as a way of keeping her spirits up and setting future goals. She was determined that she was going to do this trip. And now she is.
I got to meet her last week when she passed through Texas on her way to the west coast and then overseas. Spending time talking with Madeleine about her bike, her route, her plans, etc was great motivation for the next leg of my travels. I always learn something from every traveler that comes through, and Missrider was no different. Even with the same bike, and her using mine as a guide for prep, she of course had her own ideas on how to do things. And after living on my XT250 for a year, I still learned a couple of handy tips from her on packing. When you carry your whole life with you on a small motorcycle, you are always learning better ways to pack as well as things to carry and things not to carry.
In anticipation of Madeleine’s arrival, I pulled out my XT250, which has only been ridden a couple of short times since it was shipped home from Europe in July 2016. I decided I would go through it, and make sure it was in good running order, in case I had the chance to ride with Madeleine on her way through.
I charged the battery, changed the oil, checked the air filter and replaced the spark plug. For only the third time in 32,000 miles, I checked the valve clearances, and had to adjust the exhaust valve just slightly (it was slightly tight; the intake valve was still spot-on). I decided while I had it on the worklift to do a compression test, to see just how tired the little air-cooled 250cc single was after spending nearly half of its’ time off-road and through 34 different countries on four continents.
Standard compression on the XT250 is 175psi. My XT250 currently has 170psi.
I was a bit shocked, to say the least. And amazed. This little bike just keeps purring along. I attribute the durability and longevity to several things I did along the way: first and foremost, I changed the front sprocket to a 16 tooth (up one tooth from stock), allowing the engine to not work so hard at 55mph. I also used a spark plug that was one heat range colder. I used synthetic or semi-synthetic oil every time I could find it, and always changed the oil at 3,000 mile intervals. And I did my best to not ride faster than 55-60mph, even though the bike will go faster (this is actually easier than it sounds outside of the US, as average speeds in many countries are closer to 35mph). All of these things combined have helped make this an extremely economical and reliable long-distance tourer.
I hope Madeleine’s XT out-performs mine, and she returns home with way more miles on the odometer (she has 80,000 miles on her Triumph Bonneville already, so she knows how to do it).
I’ll be checking in on Missrider’s journey regularly, and cheering her on. And I’m looking forward to the next traveler on a little bike that passes through this way.