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Kenya, Part 10: sanDRina Rebuild in Nairobi for RTW Part 2

DR650, Kenya6 min read

April - August 2012

During my break in Kenya, I acquired some sponsors to replace gear and parts that had worn out during the first part of my trip from Chicago to Nairobi. I also got some sponsors for a few new jazzy parts, like Pivot Pegz. But the major items for this rebuild on sanDRina were to replace bearings and the braking system and fix my spark plug thread issue. Milan, an Indian-Kenyan biker and mechanic helped me out with the rebuild at his family's workshop.

sanDRina's last rebuild was in Sao Paulo (October 2010) and now these are the stats for when this second rebuild happened:

Trip Mileage: 74,954 kms (46,555 mi)
1998 Chassis Mileage: 116,814 kms (72,555 mi)
2003 Engine Mileage: 86,080 kms (53,466 mi)

I had a big list of tasks for refreshing sanDRina and this is everything that was done:


  • Bearings replaced: Front and Rear Wheel, Steering Stem, Swing Arm, Shock Lower Mount (sponsored by All Balls)
  • Brakes: installed new Front and Rear Wave Rotors with Pads and SS Lines (sponsored by Galfer)
  • Brakes: installed almost-new Front and Rear Calipers and Master Cylinders (bought from a DR teardown, 2006 with 6000 miles)
  • Front Forks: replaced oil (10w), replaced oil and dust seals, made new polyurethane spacers, installed new SealSavers (sponsored)
  • Rear Shock: could not rebuild here so just did an eyeball check on the spring and dampening and all looks good
  • Shock Lower Mount and Dog Bones: replaced with almost-new parts (from 2006 DR)
  • Rear Wheel: Installed new RAD hub and spokes (sponsored)
  • Mounted new Rear Kenda K270 Tire (been carrying it since Bolivia!)
  • Axles: replaced front and rear with almost-new parts (from 2006 DR)
  • Installed Pivot Pegs Mk3 (sponsored)
  • Fenders and headlight cowl repainted (Olive color matched, but only in glossy, not matte)
  • Fabricated new Swing Arm Chain Guide
  • Welded crack in chassis near subframe mount
  • Fixed leaks in tool tubes with silicone
  • Made rubber gaskets for Safari tank brace
  • Seat Re-upholstered (to cover hole caused by sliding boot buckles)
  • Repaired Right Pannier dent and installed new gaskets and pucks (sponsored)
  • Bolts replaced for Happy Trails pannier frame and greased with Copper Slip
  • Installed new Mega Tool Tube (sponsored - thanks Devin!)
  • New Highway Pegs installed


  • Installed new Vapor (bought used on ADV)
  • Installed new Touratech GPS mount (sponsored) (gave the old one to a Dutch DR rider)
  • Installed new Shorai Lithium-Iron battery (sponsored) (sold the old one to a local KTM 640 rider)
  • Installed replacement Air Horn (Stebel Nautilus compressor died)
  • Reconnected Solar Panel wiring (got cut in the Top Box)
  • Checked wiring harness for chaffing and any other irregularities (all good) and sprayed connector terminals with rust inhibitor (no dielectric grease available)
  • Rebuilt VoltMinder (battery voltage monitor) (grime was causing erroneous readings)
  • Checked SwitchBox connections (all good) and resealed for weather-proofing
  • Aligned Auxillary LED lights (right side mount bent down from Turkana crash)


  • Installed new NoToil Air Filter (sponsored)
  • Replaced gasket for Air Box Cover and Oil Filler Plug
  • Fixed exhaust mount to subframe (vibrating bolt chewed the mounting hole into an oval)
  • Replaced header bolts with studs and copper nuts
  • Fixed Spark Plug thread issue, brass inserts fitted
  • New NGK CR-10E spark plugs
  • Piston cleaned with wire brush, rings reseated
  • Conrod to Crank bearings look good (adequate side-to-side play and no up-down play)
  • Cylinder Lining looks good
  • Oil change and cleaning of Scotts SS Oil Filter
  • Carb rebuilt with new internals: slide, float pin, air screw, springs, etc.
  • New fuel lines and fuel filter
  • Lubed Throttle and Clutch Cables (including mounted spare clutch cable)

Two touring DR650s in Nairobi. I met Mike and his lovely DR here, who've traveled down the west side of Africa and were coming up the east. It was nice for the girls to have some company while we talked about the differences and similarities of our bikes.

Replacing the front rotor with parts from Galfer.

The clutch that I installed in Mendoza, Argentina, was finally starting to fade after lots of mud riding in Ethiopia. Nice shot of the clean internals in constrast with the dirty externals.

sanDRina stripped down in Milan's shop in Nairobi for a three-week rebuild.

We checked the axles and noticed some wear, so I contacted a guy who was parting out a clean DR in Arizona with low miles and acquired a lot of chassis parts at a low price.

RAD rear hub installed with new spokes and Galfer Wave Rear Rotor installed. Thanks for the parts donation! Kenda K270 Rear Tire installed. I've been carrying this tire all the way from Santa Cruz, Bolivia! Not my smartest decision but hey, I have a new rear tire now. It only needs to last till South Africa where I'll be picking up a new set of sponsored Heidenau K60 Scouts.

Brake calipers replaced with almost-new parts from a very clean 2006 DR that was being parted out.

New front and rear brake master cyclinders and SS lines from Galfer.

Milan pressing on the new steering stem bearings.

It was a good thing we were replacing the swingarm bearings because they were destroyed.

Uh oh, loose chain riding (in Brazil and Ethiopia) lead to the chain eating through the chain guide and a bit into the swingarm.

Fabricating a new chain guide from thick rubber sheets.

Milan cutting me some new polyurethane spacers for the springs in my front forks. The old ones were deformed.

We couldn't rebuild the rear shock, but Milan's experience allowed us to check the dampening ability of the shock and all looks good.

Lots of fun moments working with Milan. Here, we've just installed the almost-new shock lower mount and the dog bones are going in next.

My Stebel Nautilus Compact air horn stopped working a while back and with the help of Milan's brother, Dhruv, we figured out that the compressor was dead. I was lucky to find this replacement, which seemed very similar to the Nautilus, except that it wasn't packaged for a motorcycle. It got painted black.

The new air horn came with two huge trumpets that got mounted on the front fender. It changes the look of the bike a bit but I like it.

Bolt hole for the exhaust mount had become an oval with all the vibrations. A bigger hole and bigger bolt fixed that.

On the engine, I had Milan take a look at my spark plugs threads. In Switzerland, I discovered that the inner spark plug was cross-threaded and it broke when I tried to remove it. The quick fix then was to rethread the hole but it was too loose, so the threads were banged in and the spark plug held. That fix worked up to now but Milan recommended putting in brass inserts with new threads.

The cylinder head was removed and given to a specialist shop for fitting the brass inserts. Since we were in the engine now, might as well check up on the piston and all these deposits on the piston head revealed that sanDRina was not running properly for a long time. Milan wire-brushed all that off.

Milan heard a ticking noise and suspected play in the piston pin, so we removed the cylinder and did notice wear on the piston pin. He said thicker oil and more frequent oil changes should fix that. He checked the state of the conrod and all looks good with adequate side-to-side play and no up-down play in the bearings.

Cleaning out the threads for the cylinder head bolts.

We opened up the carb and noticed that the old slide had a crack in one corner. It was on the engine side, so it wasn't affecting the bike that much but it was probably a sign that this part was ageing. New slide got installed along with other parts for the carb, such as float pin, air speed screw, etc. Milan reseated my float needle and now the carb doesn't leak fuel if the petcock is left open for a bit.

The cylinder head installed on the engine with new brass inserts for the spark plug threads.

sanDRina got treated to some proper motorcycle engine oil. Milan did an excellent job on the engine rebuild. Previously engine compression was at 105 psi and now it's at 130 psi!

The bike doctor listening to the engine with a stethoscope during the first fire up to make sure that there were no unusual noises coming from the camshaft or the camchain. All sounded good.

A crack in the frame was noticed near the subframe joint. The crack probably happened from riding fast over the corrugations on the Lake Turkana route with my big Top Box on there.

Benefits of good ol' steel frames: just weld her back together.

A welding job nicely done.

Painting the fenders after lots of cracks and chips. The color was matched but only glossy was available, not matte.

Fixing a dent in my right pannier from a fall in the sand along the Lake Turkana route. I also replaced all the pannier gaskets and pucks and the bolts were regreased with copper slip.

New Pivot Pegz Mk3 were installed. Allan Smith, the CEO of Pivot Pegz contacted me and wanted to send me a set. I also installed some new highway pegs, which also act as frame sliders.

Touratech GPS mount being replaced. Thanks for the sponsored replacement, Touratech USA! I gave the old one to Mike, the Dutch DR rider.

New Shorai Lithium-Iron battery going in, weighing less than half of the old Yuasa lead-acid one.

Thanks to Milan for all the fantastic work he did on sanDRina. She's feeling like a new bike and should be good to go till India.

Next: Kenya, Part 11: Hells Gate, Lamu Island and Elephant Orphanage

Previous: Kenya, Part 9: Back to Nairobi and Watamu Revisited

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