A few regrets about risking a worn out set of tyres on a 6000 mile trip.
Anyone who read my contribution to February’s Land Rover World, Expedition Special edition, may be wondering - did he make it? The feature detailed my budget preparations for a long haul to Libya for a month’s work in the Sahara. I am delighted to report that my venerable Carawagon completed the 6000 mile round trip free of breakdowns and it was judged to have been a great trip. The only issues were with my old and rather worn out tyres. I bought my first set of six Michelin XS sand tyres way back in 1998 and with one or two replacements - usually second hand, they have served me well for at least nine Sahara trips. Fitting them on a cold day before Christmas I was very aware of the fact that this would certainly be their last visit to North African shores. With small cracks in the tread and the knowledge that they had been on and off the rims more times than was ideal, I was half expecting trouble.The sensible option would have been to leave my excellent set of All-Terrain’s on, but knowing I would spend several days in deep soft sand there is no better tyre than the XS. The beauty of them is that when deflated to about 1 bar, they float across the sand and I rarely get stuck. This is why they have been the top choice of Desert Travellers for several decades. With two spares and a couple of extra tubes, I set off with my fingers crossed!The first blow out happened at the end of our second long day in the dunes.
A feeling that was becoming too familiar. Another blow out in the desert. The result of running on old tyres, well past their use by date.
We were heading across a vast expanse of hard sand at about 50 mph. BANG! Went the rear near side tyre, soon accompanied by a smell of hot rubber as I brought the Land Rover to a standstill. There was a hole as big as my hand in the side wall. We fitted the best of the spares and knowing we would be back in Germa the following day, the small town where our Archaeological mission is based, vowed to find a replacement there. Tyres, in the small towns that are dotted around the desert, are a constant irritation to travellers and locals alike and tyre repair shops are plentiful for patching, botching and selling old tyres. I soon found a shop with a decent 7.50x16 XS and for £15 it was fitted and I was back up to my quota of two spares.
Second hand tyres are easily found in Libya and some can be quite good. £15 fitted and with a new tube seemed a bargain.
I had a further four punctures, but these were simply repaired with either a patch, or a new tube.The next bad tyre day was at the end of the long ‘black top’ haul up to Libya’s capital, Tripoli. As we approached the city, Archaeologist, Matt Hobson, in the Minibus behind me came over the radio suggesting I stop and look at one of my rear tyres. Three large bulges had appeared on the inner side wall. On went the £15 spare and I then made the decision not to seek a replacement, but to risk it back home with just one spare, reasoning that it would all be motorway and the chances of another puncture were slim. In warm sunshine we drove north through Tunisia and caught the ferry to Genoa, in Italy. Then in sub zero temperatures slogged through the Alps, then blizzards across France, with all worries of tyres forgotten, before finally catching the ferry to Dover and a 180 mile sprint home. The weather up the M1 was foul. Heavy rain, masses of spray and me very aware of the dangers of having to change a wheel on the hard shoulder. The God’s were smiling and it was not until I was 3 miles from home, on a country lane, that I felt the familiar sensation of a flat rear tyre. The rain had subsided and a farm drive offered a safe spot to fit my final spare wheel.Desert travel over for a year, I concluded that I’d been very lucky and vowed to address the tyre problem sometime in the summer. How bizarre then, that I had a call just a week later from an old acquaintance, David Grix, who wondered if I could take 6 x XS’s off his hands for nothing!!! Two were very good, two were good and the final two were ‘okay for spares’. David had swapped to more aggressive Michelin XZL’s that would suit his next Moroccan adventure and the XS’s were ‘getting in the way’. I drove down to his workshop in Shaftsbury and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours swapping tales, before I headed home with a car full of excellent rubber for next years' expedition and a smile on my face about just how good the Land Rover fraternity is.
David Grix came to Toby’s rescue with an offer of six good Michelin XS’s for free!
Copyright Toby Savage