Review: Starcom 1, Helmet Intercom- Get your Freak On

Review: Starcom 1, Helmet Intercom- Get your Freak On

Thanks to a very informative and patient man called Tim at Calgary Sport Touring Nick and I finally have an intercom system that works effortlessly.

Tim is exactly the kind of person I like to do business with: he asked lots of questions about what we have, what we thought wasn’t working and why; he let me rabbit on with all my theories and things we had tried and together we decided what would be the best set up for us.

We left the UK with a starcom1 advance system. Nick had a moulded earpiece and a mic for a full face helmet and I had the same mic but speakers in my helmet. None of this worked very well at all. Also relevant is that Nick’s helmet is an Arai Tour-X3 and mine is a Shoei X3-1100; both described as full face. Nick has a moulded ear piece, I don’t.

What were the problems?

  • Nick had occasional interference that obviously actually hurt.
  • Most of the time all I could hear was wind amplified and fed directly to my ears.
  • Music? Even turning off the vox (voice cut off) completely which stopped the wind cutting it out, in order to get the volume right so it wasn’t deafening Nick I could just hear the music vaguely in the background.

We stopped bothering with it.

Part of the problem is that Nick’s helmet is styled more like a motorcross one so there is a massive gap between the outer shell and his mouth (not sure how else to describe that) which means that the mic being stuck in the helmet is open to the wind; mine isn’t that much better.

I phoned Tim with the idea of ordering us some boom mic. He was concerned that they might not fit in the helmets very well and we started talking about the Starcom1 digital. Tim obviously rides a motorcycle. He also rides a motorcycle with his wife riding pillion. He and I were able to discuss all the ups and downs of the setup and after a bit of counting pennies I decided to go with his recommendation and replace the whole thing.

That was the right decision. The starcom1 digital gives you much more control so you can fiddle with setup for rider and passenger separately, and it is clever enough to deal with the external noise; the boom mics fit perfectly in both helmets.

Thank you Tim for all your help and advice!

Our new problems?

Well, I can’t yawn noisily any more because Nick tells me off, I am not allowed to sing and I have to try really hard to keep still when we are listening to music – not the worst set of problems to have!

Camera lost far from the madding crowd

Camera lost far from the madding crowd

We have been on Quadra Island for 2 nights. It is one of those places we drifted over to because we met someone and talked to them. It happens.

Quadra is beautiful. Nick and I were riding around some of the dirt tracks and paths and enjoying some of the lovely views and scenery when we realised that we didn’t have our camera any more! Disaster! We would not have lost absolutely everything but it would have been seriously inconvenient to put it everso mildly.

We retraced our steps. Last photo was taken at Village Bay Lake so we went there slowly looking at the side of the road just in case we could spot it. Nothing. We got to the lake and there were some people there, they hadn’t seen it. There was a car parked so I scrawled out a note but they got back just as I had finished writing it. They hadn’t found it.

There wasn’t that much swearing.

It was getting quite late and we hadn’t found anywhere to stay so we had to make that a priority. No camera, lots of private land with ‘No Tresspassing’ signs – it really wasn’t looking like a fairy tale ending to the day.

We had just gone up a track that ended in a spot to turn around and despondency was setting in. I got Nick to pull up next to a guy who was working on his house:

“Excuse me!” – I said – “Is there anywhere round here we can camp?”

“Hmm…nooo…” – said Jerry as we later found out his name is – “…wait, some friends of mine sometimes let people camp on their land…”

Jerry went on to explain how to get there and then changed his mind.

“I need to go down to my phone anyway. I will call them for you.”

“Thank you!”

So, off we went, following Jerry. We arrived at a telegraph pole where he plugged in his phone (bit remote roudn here, it is) and made  a call.

“They are expecting you!” – he said with a smile. More thanks and a wave and off we went.

As we were pulling down their very long driveway Nick said: “If I scratch my head we are leaving.” “OK.”

We pulled round a corner and there were Allen and Jude and their beautiful property. And so we camped.

Eating our porridge in the morning, looking out over the little lake and enjoying the sunshine, Nick remarked that the little spot was just perfect. For two people who love to talk it is remarkable how much enjoyement we get from being able to camp out far from any crowds. It is such a pleasure.

We packed up and then spent a solid hour, if not longer, discussing the world politics and camping with our hosts. I loved every second – I love putting the world to rights over a good cup of coffee! Allen got us the number for the local RCMP and left their lost and found a message and Nick and I agreed that we would go to the police station and try to report the camera missing and then the plan was to put up a couple of posters – one in the ferry terminal and one in a busy looking coffee shop we saw. A quick hug to our new friends and we were off!

We were pulling into the police station and suddenly there were blue lights behind us. “Shit” – said Nick – “did I stop at that stop sign?”

The policeman in the car was smiling. “No” – I said – “I think they have our camera.”

I was right!

Martin and Chad had been given our camera which was found on one of the trails. They had looked at a couple of photos, found our website and left a message and, as they had realised the sort of trip we were on, they had even gone to the trouble of printing off a few photos and putting them up in the very places we were intending to put up out posters.

We cannot thank them enough.

We did photos, we got chatting, we followed their lunch recommendation, met them for views of the sea and a barbeque and even stayed in Chad’s 19ft trailer!

I call that a fairy tale ending.

Big thanks to everyone involved: Jerry, Allen, Jude, Chad, Martin and their families and thank you to the people kind enough to hand in the camera they found.

Village Bay Lake

 

Dancing Queen Moves on the Dalton Highway

Dancing Queen Moves on the Dalton Highway

Awesome beauty

Awesome beauty

Seeing something truly awesome provokes an immediate and emotional response in me that is welcome and at the same time completely overwhelming.

We have already traveled so far and yet comepleted such a small fraction of our journey and of what it is possible to see.

Yesterday we rode from Hyder towards the Salmon Glacier. The ride is mile after mile of that feeling. Nature presents itself at its most awesome. Enormous sweeping glacier meets sheer rock face, deep ravines and beautiful giant trees.

My heart beats faster, my eyes fill with tears and I laugh.

I can’t photograph this. I can’t show you the feeling that you will get when you rought the corner that gives you the first glimpse of the glacier.

This is awesome beauty. Stunning and scary.

Mosquitos in the far north

Number 1
The Alaska mosquitos are great
In stature and also in weight
When spring comes around
They come out of the ground
And to be bit through your clothes is your fate!

Number 2
When Alaska’s mosquitos come round
From their slumber beneath frozen ground
To be covered in deet
from your head to your feet
Is your mission lest you should be found!

Number 3
Alaska’s mosquitos do suck
And they suck and they suck and they suck
You’ll be covered in welts
As big as grizzly bear pelts
And the mozzies? They won’t give a fuck!

I am going to stop now. I think I have got my message across.

Janet

Janet

I am in the library in Fairbanks Alaska using a borrowed eee PC running some flavour of Linux (am still paying attention, but not that much!)

Janet and Rob gave us a lift here and lent us the computers. We have been staying with them for the last two nights, just outside of Fairbanks in a beautiful log cabin hand built by Robert. It is a perfect spot to rest up and recover from the trip to the top of the Dalton Highway (and back down again!).

Snow. Mud. Wind. Bears. Caribou. Rain. Mosquitoes. Lynx. Gravel. Gumbo.

The first stop we made along the highway was at the hot spot cafe for a burger. Mile post 60. We pitched our tent in the campsite and were sitting at a picnic bench swatting mosquitos (who will get their own post) and chatting to the site hosts when a car pulled up and a lady got out.

“Have you seen a Spanish cyclist called Salvo?”

“No, and we have been here for a little while”.

“Oh, I thought he would be this far south by now, I brought him some dinner. Fancy a glass of wine?”

The three of us sat down and polished off best part of a bottle of delicious red and exchanged a few stories. Janet wrote out directions to her house and left to go home.

Salva came by the next day so we fed him and made him some coffee (no wine by then). He has some good stories too. He has been travelling round the world by bicycle since 2006!

So, after a hard yet spectacular journey, here we are.

Thanks Janet! And Salva who brought her up the highway! And warmshowers.org who put them together.

Just Walk 2009: Sometimes I push too hard

Just Walk 2009: Sometimes I push too hard

Just Walk is a great ‘little event’ organised by Across the Divide. You give them some money and they let you walk around the Sussex countryside for either 20km, 40km or 60km – and they feed you! It is up to you to raise money for charity and there is no minimum fee to raise.

Donating and raising money for charity is something I think is important – I am lucky enough to live the life I live – but I do find the targets are sometimes a little on the demanding side. That’s why I think Just Walk is such a brilliant idea. The thing that makes me shy about hassling my friends and family for charity money is that I enjoy the challenge of walking 60km and would do it for my own personal rewards as readily as I would do it to raise money for a charity.

Just Walk 2009 saw Jules, Temo and me walk 60km in 11 hours 58 minutes. I was absolutely delighted with the result.

I use (and yes, it is usually me clutching it) Jules’ Garmin GPS for pacing as these sort of events have the routes well marked out and we did a brilliant job of staying on target for our 12 hours.

I was completely elated.

Then I fainted.

The medics ‘hussled’ but I just couldn’t sort myself out enough to get off the ground. I was freezing cold and, after about an hour I talked them into letting me crawl (literally) into my mother’s car, still wrapped in the space blanket and we drove back to Brighton with the heating on full. By the time we got to my mother’s flat I was pretty much recovered.

Whenever I do an event which pushes my limits a bit I do find that my body temperature drops really rapidly when I stop. For this reason I had my mother loaded up with lots of warm clothes to greet me with but, in the post-event analysis, we decided that I had drunk too much water without replacing electrolytes.

Still, 60km in 11 hours 58 minutes, what a great result.

Division of labour

We are taking one bike. I like being the pillion passenger and, apart from a brief spell when I was about 18 I have never wanted to ride a motorbike. Riding pillion is incredibly relaxing. For someone like me who is always doing something sitting still for long periods of time watching the world go by has been a revelation. I find it wonderfully meditative and I love the thinking time that it gives me.

Nick is in charge of the bike. The driving, the mending, the making sure we have the mechanics in order.

I am in charge of navigation. The route, where we sleep, where we eat. Nick gets to veto any decision based on what he feels comfortable with as the driver. If he is tired, we stop. If the road looks dodgy, we look for a new route.

I am also in charge of tech. Navigation tech and communication tech.

Entertainment tech also falls into my area of responsibility. Because we want to be able to be pretty independent I have been looking at cooking devices – including fuel – and how to stay connected to the Internet no matter where we are.

Arguing

Arguing

It is all good and well to decide one evening that what we really want to do is take 6 months off and go traveling round the world on a motorbike, it is a very different thing to agree how and when that should be done!

Nick came home from a ‘night out with the lads’ one evening last spring: “do you fancy going round the world on the motorbike?”

“When?”

“May.”

I looked at him for a couple of seconds. We release our product in April, I will have done two years at work and, if I leave in May I will be able to leave things in good order for the next cycle.

“Yes. Sound like a brilliant idea. Can we do South America? I haven’t been there yet.”

Six months later, we are in my family home in Herzegovina (of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and there are raised voices. Nick wants to explore options for sponsorship, I just want to walk into work quietly one day, see if they will give me a sabbatical and, if they don’t,  I can wish them well and go on my adventure. Now, if I can blog my way round in a way that makes the site useful to someone then great but I really am not sure about the idea of having to blog about some gear just because someone gave it to me for free. I do want the gear though. I love tech gear.

Tech gear gives us even more things to argue about. My current wish list: small laptop, external hard drive, kindle (x2), phone, gps, iPad. For clarity, it really doesn’t have to be an iPad but I do want something I can read maps on. I will be navigator and carrying enough maps for this trip will be hard. I need to find out if I can get electronic maps for the whole journey and it would be brilliant if I could view them on a touch device and that touch device will need to be bigger than a phone.

I also want to take a camera, video camera, a helmet cam would be super-cool for capturing those things I get to see as pillion passenger and then I am going to need some sort of charging devices.

It may be becoming clear why there are some arguments.

One motorbike, one topbox, two pannier boxes. I haven’t even mentioned the tent, the cooker, water, some tools and we will need some clothes.

I wonder if I can tech myself up with open-source only? I won’t be willing to sacrifice the Kindle (if you have one you will agree with me, if you don’t you should get one) but the rest might be possible.

The other thing about sponsorship is that I have no issue seeking it out if it is for charity. Would I feel better if all sponsorship went to Oxfam?

So here is my list of current outstanding questions:

  1. Do I want to go from Alaska to Ushaia? I definitely want to do South America. As long as I get to visit my friend in Vancouver and have good enough maps to find some nice routes through North America then yes.
  2. How long do I want to go for? I think 6 months is enough. Nick started at 6 but keeps pushing it up and it is currently sitting at 10 months. This change is partly my fault for pointing out that coming home to the UK in December would be a bit of a drag so he took that to mean that we should return in February but hasn’t shifted the departure date.
  3. When do I want to leave? See above. We could leave end of July and have Alaska at its most summery. 6 months from then will have us returning in February.
  4. What navigation gear do I want to bring with me? I love maps. I also love using my fingers to zoom. I need to make that happen.
  5. What recording devices do I need? I need to be able to take photos and video – do I? – it would be nice to be able to take photos when Nick pretends not to notice that I asked him to stop. I wonder if I could rig up some sort of helmet cam with a trigger I can hold in my hand.
  6. One kindle or two? Maybe one kindle, one actual book which gets swapped and one kindle app on the laptop.
  7. Will we need a laptop? I think so. Maybe we don’t.
  8. Oh, and I keep forgetting – are we going to take those helmet microphone things?
  9. Can we do this trip so that it raises money for Oxfam? Should we?

I am going to stop now. I need to actually go and do some research.

Sea Kayaking in Croatia

Sea Kayaking in Croatia

I brought Nick to Croatia and Hercegovina for the first time in May.

The first trip was a long weekend. We flew into Split, hired a car and the first place we went to visit was Murter. I met Ante via my work as he attends UDS (the Ubuntu Developer Summit) and he mentioned that he has started a sea kayaking business on the island of Murter off the coast of Croatia. May is a great time to do it. There are hardly any tourists, the weather is warm and sunny but not the baking 35 degrees plus that we get in summer and the sea is slightly chillier but nothing that two people who normally go kayaking in Brighton, UK can’t handle.

Ante calls his outfit Jamming Adventures (http://www.jamming-adventures.com/) and he has a whole selection of Old Town kayaks which (much to my delight) have rudders which makes the business of changing direction infinitely easier than it is in the very basic Bic sit-on-top sea kayaks that we have.

Is this a promotional post? Very much so. We had a wonderful day kayaking around to the little islands around Murter, had a great lunch of fresh fish at one of the restaurants along the coast and if you like a bit of sport and exercise mixed in with your adventuring this is a great thing to do. Ante can organise longer trips and outings, transfers, accommodation, the whole package. Murter is well positioned on the coast so if you want a day away from the sea you can fit in some sight-seeing.

Perfect.

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