British Army Trans-Americas Expedition 2017 Set to Tackle the Darien Gap
• From Desert to Jungle, Warriors Off to Set a World Record and Conquer the Darien Gap Unsupported on CCM GP450s
Despite having seen action in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghnaistan, six elite members of the British Armed Forces are leaving next week, March 13th, 2017, to voluntarily attempt what could be their greatest challenge yet – an unsupported 20,000 mile motorcycle journey across the Pan-American Highway including the notorious Darien Gap, in an effort to set a world record.
In the longest overland expedition by the military in 45 years, the riders aim to become the first motorcyclists to ride the length of the world’s longest road, the Pan-American Highway, which spans the length of the earth, in one continuous journey.
This effort echoes the record-breaking three month expedition led by Colonel Blashford-Snell, OBE, in 1971, when he and a team of more than 100 men and women forced two Range Rovers through the 300 mile Darien Gap – using machetes to clear the way. No one has ever repeated the feat.
Expedition leader Major Nick Foulerton (Royal Scots Dragoon Guards) said the team chose the single-cylinder four-stroke CCM GP450 for the record attempt as it had a great enduro pedigree and was at least 50kgs lighter than its rivals (125kg dry).
“Even better it’s British - so now we’re setting a British world record on British machinery,” he said.
“Being an unsupported record attempt we can’t carry everything, but we have spare levers, cables, batteries, clutch kits, generators, starter motors and various nuts and bolts. We’ve sent packages to Colombia and Canada to carry out major services. (The historic 1971 trip had the luxury of supply drops from helicopters).
The British Army Trans-Americas Expedition team – three soldiers from the navy and three from the army - will leave Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America on March 13 and ride to Prudhoe Bay on the northern coast of Alaska.
Travelling through dense jungles, chaotic cities, deserts, tundras and snow fields, the riders will battle temperatures ranging from -5 to 35C degrees and altitudes of up to 3,400 metres. The Darien Gap, in Panama, is one of the most dangerous places on earth: 10,000-square-miles of lawless wilderness teeming with anti-government guerrillas, swamps, mountains, and rainforests.
It’s a roadless maze dominated by narco traffickers travelling on foot and small boats. Hundreds of migrants enter each year and many are killed or abandoned by migrant smugglers on ghost trails.
Other Perils include the Zika Virus, malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and Leishmaniasis (a flesh eating parasite). Then there’s the potentially fatal wildlife including spiders and venomous snakes such as The Bushmaster (a viper) - aptly named ‘the silent bringer of death’ – which can grow up to 14ft. The Brazilian Wandering spider is considered the deadliest spider in the world.
In Canada and Alaska risks include exposure (in freezing conditions) and Grizzly bears. Riders will sleep in hammocks and roll mats next to their bikes.
Expedition doctor, Surgeon Lieutenant Alex Bamford (Royal Navy Commando) said: “We have three months to complete the journey or roughly 100 days. It’s not much time to travel the length of the earth from the edge of the Antarctic to 300 miles inside the Arctic circle.
“Mileage will be around 200-600 miles a day depending on the roads and terrain. The Darien Gap will be more like five miles a day.
“We are travelling the length of the earth through some of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on the planet. Every country, region and climate harbours a different kind of threat. From spiders the size of your face in the jungles of South America, flesh eating parasites in Central America and Grizzly bears in Alaska, it should really be a doctors worst nightmare.
“This is one of the most insane journeys you can complete on a motorbike - it really is once in a lifetime kind of stuff - and we’re just desperate to get out there, load up the bikes and start riding through Patagonia.
“Bears are a concern. The whole ‘make yourself look big’ method of scaring them off has never really washed with me. Partly because I’m not very big, but also because I’ve seen The Revenant and it didn't end well for Leanardo DiCaprio, so it definitely wouldn’t end well for me.”
Major Foulerton said the aim of the record attempt - which is being funded by the army, the individuals taking part and commercial sponsors (including Belstaff, Oxford Luggage, LS2 helmets and Capt Fawcett’s Moustache Wax) - was to demonstrate that the British Military remains capable of conducting audacious adventures at the forefront of overland exploration.
“We also want to inspire people to join the army. When the army climbs Everest or goes to the South Pole it shows what can be achieved at the pinnacle of those activities. It is inspirational."
“The soldiers have been in training now for a year, two days a week, honing skills such as riding, medical, mechanical and security. It’s a very demanding expedition.”
A patron of the expedition, Colonel Blashford-Snell (the leader of the groundbreaking trek back in 1971), said: “I’m delighted to find that there are some maniacs around in this world who are prepared to try and follow our tyre marks through the Darien Gap.”
• Help Show your Support
To follow the team’s progress during the trip, please visit the following pages:
• CCM GP450 Expedition Modifications
The GP450 is available in several configurations, but this is what the team has chosen/added as extras:
- A Power Commander that provides a few extra hp - but more importantly allows the bike to run cooler when operating in high humidity areas
- A small tray fitted to the rear luggage rack that will carry four 2.5-liter jerry cans for water and fuel
- A storage unit under the luggage rack to carry extra tools and equipment
- @trans_americas (sides and rear) which holds their medical kits, tools, sleeping mats/hammocks and food
- Manual preload adjuster – which helps to balance the bike once weighed down
- Strengthened top instrument bracket to minimise the risk of snapping
- Michelin T63 tyres and ultra heavy duty Michelin inner tubes
- HD spot lights
- Uprated starter motor
- The tall model with tall seat (950mm instead of the standard 890mm)
- An uprated generator for more power output to charge all of their electronic equipment
- Heavy duty hand guards
- Shortened and strengthened rear number plate holder
GP450 base specs:
- Engine: DOHC 449.50ccm
- Engine Type: Single cylinder, Four-stroke
- Power: 40.23 HP (29.4kw) @ 7000 RPM
- Torque: 42.80 Nm (31.6 ft.lbs) @ 6500 RPM
- Top Speed: 145.0 km/h (90 mph)
- Compression: 12.0:1
- Bore x stroke: 98.0 x 59.6 mm (3.9 x 2.3 inches)
- Valves per cylinder: 4 titanium valves
- Fuel System: EFI
- Cooling System: Liquid
- Gearbox: 5-speed
- Final Drive: Chain
- Clutch: Multiple-disc, wet, Cable operated
- Maximum Speed: 145km/h
- Average Fuel consumption: 4.50 litres/100 km (52.27 mpg)
- Dry Weight: 125kg
- Power/weight ratio: 0.31 HP/kg
- Seat Height: 890mm
- Overall Height: 1475 mm
- Overall Length: 2170 mm
- Wheelbase: 1510 mm
- Fuel Capacity: 20 litres
- Ground Clearance: 360mm
Chassis, Suspension, Brakes and Wheels
- Frame Type: 6082 T6 Forged Aluminium , machined finish, Lightweight Bonded
- Rake (Fork Angle): 26.75°
- Trail: 108mm
- Front Suspension: 47mm Dia Upside Down forks, Rebound damping 18 stages, compression 12 stages
- Rear Suspension: Cast Aluminium swingarm & linkage system, shock absorber with Pre load adjustment, 12 damping stages, 24 compression stages.
- Front Wheel / Tyre: 21” 90/90-21 54S TT Dunlop Trailmax
- Rear Wheel / Tyre: 18” 120/90-18 65T TT Dunlop Trailmax
- Front Brake: Brembo Caliper, 320mm Disc
- Rear Brake: Brembo Caliper, 240mm Disc
- Front-facing HD Video Recorder with Storage & USB
- Tractive Electronic Suspension
- Adjustable Preload - on the move
- Additional front spot light
- Tall and low seat options (790mm and 950mm)
- Extra gear ratios
- Optional Sprockets
- Hard or soft luggage