‘Adventure Motorcycling’ – What to take.

‘Adventure Motorcycling’ – What to take.

This is an ‘Adventure Touring’ Motorcycle Wish List featuring all the essentials and desirables that we need for the ‘Big Trip’.

This basically means that, with four months to go we need to start ticking things off the list and decide which kit it is worth taking and which isn’t. On an adventure motorcycling trip like this, space is everything and we have been told so many times that ‘less is more’. Here are the items which still need reviewing. The list incorporates everything from technology to cooking equipment and first aid kits and guide books. I researched most of the items through the Horizons Unlimited website.

  • Larger touring paniers – either Touratech of Metal Mule hard luggage. Possible other soft luggage options.
  • Carnets, IDP (International Diving Permit), Freight Fowarding assistance – Perhaps James Cargo.
  • Health Insurance and Motorcycle Insurance.
  • Medical kit.
  • Route planning guide books – Central, South, North America. Plus Spanish phrase book.
  • Camping Equipment. Already have great Taranaja kit. Need better fuel burner which burns petrol.
  • Need to review what type of food we will use and carry.
  • UHF radio?
  • Vaccinations
  • Spares so I can carry out my own servicing: oil/ fuel and air filters. Spare cables. Wire and duct tape.
  • Extras like bulbs, fuses, puncture repair, jubilee clips, bungees
  • A full motorcycle service
  • A wider foot for my side stand
  • More durable riding attire: boots, jacket, all season gloves
  • Waterproof bags

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.

Top to the Bottom of the World on a Motorbike

Top to the Bottom of the World on a Motorbike

‘A dream that millions dream of and  never make. The story of  a couple in their mid 30’s who leave it all behind and set off from a journey from the top to the bottom of the world.  ‘

It doesn’t get any bigger or better than this. These are a list of the countries which we will probably encounter on our route.

9 months, riding 24,000 miles from the top of the world to the bottom. It is the ultimate adventure through diverse terrain, cultures and peoples, bringing you the best balance of spectacular and challenging riding, with time to explore the countries that you are traveling through. Quite literally, it will change our lives.

This is our proposed itinerary:

ALASKA

Anchorage. Sweat Lodge Ceremony. Fairbanks. Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle. Coldfoot Camp, Prudhoe Bay and the chance to swim in the Arctic Ocean. Return through Delta Junction, furthest point north on the Alaskan Highway.

CANADA

Alaskan Highway to Watson Lake. Stewart Cassiar Highway to Bear Glacier, Stewart and Hyder (the most southern point of Alaska). Watch the bears at Fish Creek. Prince George, Jasper National Park, Lake Louise, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. Enter the USA through the Glacier National Park and “Going to the Sun” Road.

USA

Flathead Lake. Yellowstone National Park. Cody, home of Buffalo Bill. Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon (North Rim). Tucson.

MEXICO

Naco border crossing Nuevo Casa Grandes. Creel. Colonial heartland to Zacatecas, the centre of silver mining production and San Miguel de Allende. Mountain riding to Caribbean coast. Ruins of Palenque and the village of San Cristobal.

CENTRAL AMERICA

Guatemala – Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango market, Antigua. Border town of Esquipalas. Honduras – Copan ruins. Nicaragua – Granada, San Juan del Sur. Costa Rica – Arenal volcano and hot springs. Northern Caribbean Coast. Panama – Bridge of the Americas and the Panama Canal. Visit to SOS Children’s Villages. Air freight of bikes.

COLOMBIA & ECUADOR

Ride the great Colombian roads to Medellin. See the odd Botero Sculptures. On to Ecuador and cross the Equator, the local Indian market town of Otavalo and experience your first riding in the Andes.

PERU

Chiclayo, Lord of Sipan Museum, Huanchaco, adobe ruins of Chan Chan, Paracas, Nasca Lines, Cusco (days with many optional excursions – Machu Picchu, Pisac market, Sacsayhuaman), Lake Titicaca, Arequipa & Colca Canyon to watch condors.

CHILE

Arica, the Atacama Desert, The Hand, Tropic of Capricorn, Pacific Coast villages, Pisco Elqui, Santiago, Chilean Lake District, Andes crossing to Bariloche and Esquel (Argentina). Cross back to Chile to ride the Carretera Austral. Puyuhuapi Thermas.

ARGENTINA

Ruta 40, the infamous gravel road through Patagonia. El Calafate & Perito Moreno Glacier. Cross back to Chile to Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. Argentinian Tierra del Fuego, Rio Grande, Ushuaia (the most southern city in the world), Tierra del Fuego National Park – the end of the road.

ARGENTINA

The final part of the expedition will involve riding back north along the South Atlantic coast to Buenos Aires for air freight back to the UK.

Understanding the mechanics of a motorbike.

Understanding the mechanics of a motorbike.

My knowledge of bikes is now average.

The skills I have acquired and learnt through life have lead me heavily through hospitality, the service industries and general business. I am great with people, I am a great talker and can sell ice to the Eskimos. One of the things I wish I had however is the knowledge my dad has so I would be able to understand the workings of the bike from start to finish. Understanding what a cylinder head and a combustion chamber is – something I wish I could understand.

However, as I sit here right now, I can proudly say that about 3 weeks ago I went on a motorcycle weekend course and now feel better equipped to tackle this trip. Thanks to Peter from Bike Smart in Haywards Heath I can now perform a basic service on my bike and I used the opportunity to ask other questions about my trip and what I need to plan for.

The basics we learnt were:

  • how to change brake disc pads
  • oil filters
  • electrics
  • bolts and levers
  • tyres

And, we ate a lovely banoffee pie prepared by one of the other guys attending.

Thank you Peter, I look forward to returning to do the full service on my bike prior to my departure where I will work under your supervision and get my bike ready for the 22,000 mile journey.

Why from the Top to the Bottom of the World?

Why from the Top to the Bottom of the World?

So one evening in Brighton I was out with friends and I stumbled upon a map of the world in the Globe Pub in Brighton. The map was twice the size of me and for some reason I remained transfixed with pint in one hand as I supped away. My mate Dan came over and asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was just looking…then it was at this point that I decided that a motorcycle trip could be a possibility. Several drinks later I arrived home and suggested the idea to Ivanka. All I can remember was that she said yes. No pleading no encouragement required. It was just a simple yes.

So the following day Ivanka reiterated our conversation from the night before as things were a little bit blury for me. This is where the idea begins. It did help that neither Ivanka nor myself had traveled to South America and it was a continent that we had yearned to visit.

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.

Review: Brasher – My boots

Review: Brasher

As I write my Brasher boots have done 3 years:

  • Just Walk 2009
  • Mount Everest Basecamp
  • Just Walk 2010
  • Trailwalker 2010
  • All the related training
  • They are my ‘bike boots’
  • They have done two trips up the hill opposite my house in Hercegovina (more scramble than walk)

The only thing I have not tested them in is a total downpour but, for all else they have been very faithful friends. Snow, rain, sun and heat, altitude and cold and everything in between. I would estimate that they have done getting close to 1000km – I wonder if I need to start thinking about replacing them? They have started fraying ever so slightly on the right foot and in a place which would indicate that my right little toe is trying to make a bid for freedom.

They are very light, Gore-Tex and I bought them a size bigger than I would wear for a normal shoe. In retrospect I would probably go an extra half-size for those occasions when my feet decide they need to swell up.

I chose these boots mainly on the recommendation of my friendly neighborhood independent outdoor kit retailer Open Spaces, Brighton. I do my best to buy from them as often as possible; they have plenty of choice available and they know their stuff so you can always have a nice chat about blisters, swollen hands and kit in general. It is just a shame that they aren’t open on Sundays as, to be honest with you, that is the only day I ever seem to get into town!

Oh, and here is a picture of me sitting on that hill I mentioned; as you can see, it’s a bit rocky.

Drfit HD170 Helmet cam

On the list of none-essential but very desirable pieces of kit that I would like to take with me is a helmet cam.

Riding pillion means that I get to spend hours looking at beautiful scenery  and, more than once, I have wished I could snap a quick photo. Imagine if I could sit, riding along, with a camera which was pointed the same way I was looking and some sort of big button I can ‘mash’ with my heavily gloved hands. How great would that be?

I was reading a recent T3 and there it is: Drfit HD170 Helmet cam, takes video and stills and has a wireless remote.

Here’s an Endgadget review.

It would be nice, don’t  you think?

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