The Journal  

24 January 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


The Guzzi Gets New Shoes: Lima , Peru

When you plan to travel 15,000 miles on a motorcycle, getting new tires on the road is a logistical concern. Although the Avon Distanzia tires that I mounted on the Guzzi before we left were renowned for their longevity, I knew that they wouldn't last the entire trip. Tires take up too much space for me to consider carrying along an extra set. I thought about shipping a pair to some destination along the way, but I wasn't sure how long the Avons would last and the shipping costs seemed prohibitive. In Bogotá we met Glen and Shelia, a pair of Canadian riders who had shipped a set of tires from Vancouver to Colombia three months ago. The tires still hadn't arrived. My only option was to hope that I could find tires somewhere along the way.

The Avons had proved to be an excellent choice. They lasted for over 8,000 miles, quite a record when you realize what they were subjected to, an overloaded motorcycle, rough roads and a flat. The wide dual sport tread blocks were worn off on the sides like a set of knobbies from the abuse that Central and South American roads. And the tires didn't just get us through these adverse conditions, they handled them all superbly, proving capable everywhere from clawing through the Guatemalan mud to giving excellent handling in the Colombian mountains.

Heading into Peru , I knew the Avons were on their last leg, the tread worn nearly to the wear indicators. I probably could have coaxed another thousand or two miles out of the tires, but from Lima our journey would take us into the Andean mountains to visit Cuzco and Bolivia and back into the Atacamba desert into Chile . It would be around 2,500 miles before we reached the Chilean capital of Santiago , my next best bet to find tires, so I decided to get them swapped in Lima .

I searched the Internet before we got to Lima , looking for a dealer who might have the kind of tires I wanted and a machine to put them on, to save the rims the abuse of another backyard change by hand. A KTM dealership caught my eye and I emailed them, thinking that a company that dealt in tough and specialized dual sport machines could help me out. In a day I had a return email letting me know my options.

In Peru you can get any kind of motorcycle tire you want, as long as it is a Pirelli. Although I had liked the Avons, this is no problem, because Pirelli makes an excellent adventure touring tire that comes standard on the KTMs and was original equipment on the Guzzi, the Pirelli MT90 Scorpion S/T. I had put about 3,000 miles on the original Pirellis that came on the Guzzi, for a total of about 6,000 before I changed them to have a fresh set for the trip. I had been pleased with the way they handled and when I took them off they had plenty of life yet.

The one problem about finding tires in Central and South America is that there are few big motorcycles around. Most bikes are in the 125-250cc range, larger motorcycles include Harleys and the occasional sportbike. This fact means there is no market for tires for big motorcycles. I had a horrible time trying to find a tube when I had a flat in Mexico . One of the reasons I had bought the Guzzi was that its tire size, 21 inches in the front and 17 in the back, was the same size as a Kawasaki KLR 650, a bike that was popular with many riders who make the trip through Central and South America and figured that dealers along the way would stock tires in that size for riders passing through.


A Honda dirt bike is loaded onto a trailer after visiting the Honda repair shop in Miraflores.

Lima had some of the best motorcycle dealerships of any city we had passed through, with the deserts that surrounded the city resulting in several establishments that specialized in dirt bikes. Still, it was hard finding the right tire sizes. I ended up buying the rear from the KTM dealership and the front from a Honda dealership. Super heavy duty tubes were not to be found. Even though I found the right sizes the tires had an S rating, which guarantees the tires use to 112 mph. The Avons had been H rated (142mph). Although we'd never approached either of these speeds on the Guzzi, the speed rating tells you how well a tire handles heat, a quality that might come in handy on our trip.

Another victim of the roads was the Guzzi's rear rim. I had read stories on the Internet before I purchased the Quota about the bikes having problems with the rear rim cracking, but I consulted with several other owners who hadn't had any problems. The Excel rims that come standard on the bike are the standard for off-road machines, so I figured I wouldn't have a problem.

But after the flat on the road to Pueblo , Mexico I noticed little cracks around several spoke holes. I'm not sure if the weight of the motorcycle that was forced on the rim when the tire went flat or the abuse that it was given by backyard mechanics who helped me change it. Shipping a spare from the U.S. would be about as successful as trying to get tires from the states. Without any options, I decided to monitor the cracks until I could find a better solution. In 5,000 miles, the cracks hadn't appeared to get significantly worse.

I had decided to have the tires changed at KTM Sportcycles, the Lima dealership who had a changing machine, and thought I would ask them about my options. The staff at the dealership searched across the country but a new or used rim was not to be found. As the next best option, they offered to have the rim welded. A few years ago we couldn't import any spare parts, so technicians learned to repair things, the manager told me. I agreed and took the wheels off the bike on Monday evening to have the rim welded and the tires replaced.

At the dealership we met Michael, a South African making the trip from Los Angeles to Argentina , who was getting his fourth tire of the trip put on his KTM Adventurer.


Jeremiah shares stories with Michael, a KTM rider originally from South Africa who started a ride similar to ours in California , at the KTM dealership where we were having the Guzzi's tires replaced.


Michael's KTM was getting general maintenance work done to it as well as new tires.

The welding job took longer than expected and the wheels weren't finished until Friday.

I picked the Guzzi late in the evening, the staff waiting after hours while I put both wheels back on, leaving with a bike I hoped was prepared for the rest of our journey.


We took the advice of the KTM mechanics and had the small hair-line cracks in our back rim welded to prevent further cracking.



All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus