Please get in touch if we haven’t answered a question of yours…
How did you both get into riding motorcycles?
Jason started riding from around the age of 16 and has enjoyed riding a handful of sports bikes over the years. Prior to 2012, riding ‘two up’ worked seamlessly—I’d never ridden anything other than the fairground’s Big Dipper and I loved the buzz as Jason’s pillion. As much as we treasured the comforts of the R1200GSA tourer, Jason soon mused on whether the bike would end up dictating where we could go through the Americas as opposed to us dictating where we wanted the bikes to go. A seed had been planted and unknowingly, I started the process of germinating it.
When I scrawled my name down in a competition at an event Motorcycle Live—I had no notion that it’d lead to winning much more than the runner up prize – a morning’s wobbling on two wheels. The next thing you know, I’d passed my test first time with the Shires Motorcycle Training School and got busy riding Pearl, a F650GS bike. This, coupled with a two day course with Simon Pavey’s Off Road Skills School in South Wales—I was no natural rider—paved the way for a more challenging adventure, encompassing dirt tracks off the roads less travelled. As a Brucey bonus, it also afforded the opportunity to load up Jason’s panniers with filming and photography tech whilst mine would dutifully carry camping equipment and provisions. Good old Pearl. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
What are your weapons of choice and why?
Jason’s current bike is a 2008 BMW F800GS bought with 5K miles on the clock. As there is no such thing as the perfect bike for overland travel, he opted for this bike because it’s the bike of his heart. The first thing Jason would say about the beast is that it’s quite a lot lighter than the BMW R1200GSA; very noticeable in the bends with a lively engine and a top speed on a par with the R1200GSA, which is loads of fun.
Pearl, my bike is a BMW F650GS which is 2001 model and started with 27K miles on the clock. I spotted this factory-lowered bike on eBay at the right price so I took a chance. To be honest it looked better in the pictures than in the flesh, so with a few cans of spray paint and three days of hard graft, Jason transformed her from an ugly duckling into a swan. She’s oodles of fun to ride although many, including Jason would find it a little under-powered for their taste. Jason fitted Oxford heated grips because the originals had expired, plus a Touratech radiator guard. As well as an additional sump guard over the original belly pan and a set of Metalmule panniers. More about the bikes here.
What are the basics behind swopping the life conventional for the ride of a lifetime?
Anyone whose jigsaw pieces in their life can coalesce—and respectfully, not everybody’s can—simply the commitment to a decision to go is all it takes. Followed by doing whatever is necessary to make it happen. It sounds too easy, but in reality it really is! The hardest part happens right at the start when you have to relinquish all the aspects in your life that hold you from doing it in the first place. Having reached a point in our 9-5 lives that no longer reaped enough intrinsic reward, the time came for a change and we decided on a big one. Once we’d engaged in a rather interesting and life-changing conversation, we pinned down a departure date, rather the container shipping agent sent us one and the pieces thereafter fell into place. It still took a degree of work but at least with every action, we were one step nearer to going.
How do you ride long-term as a motorcycling couple? Isn’t it really hard sometimes?
Hah! Still surviving 15 months and 23,000 miles into our open-throttle adventure. We’ve been together for 15 years, have travelled for 13 months previously and co-worked on a 20-metre boat in the Rea Sea as liveaboard dive guides and instructors. However, faring as a moto-couple through unpredictable circumstances, all conditions on every type of terrain through foreign lands is another matter.
Do you have a Top Ten of your favourite places in South America?
For sure! Please visit our post here. Our ‘Top Ten’ page is currently devoted to South American offbeat travel hotspots we’ve experienced firsthand: ‘Must Rides’, ‘Must Sees’, ‘Must Dos’ across the continent along with some ideas for those essential double duty pannier items.
You’ll also find our Top Ten ‘Reasons to Travel’ as well as ‘Rider Tips’ aimed in part for women either in the ‘thinking stage’ of getting into riding or those relatively new to being astride two wheels.
What’s planned and what’s done by the seat of your pants?
We plan for very little. Rightly or wrongly, we don’t have much idea beyond a day or two. Mostly because we’ve travelled enough to know that after investing lots of energy into research, planning the details, making reservations and the like, our best laid plans will always change. We’ll get distracted in one place, a road will close forcing us in another direction, an invite to a street party will ping its way in our direction or we’ll meet someone who points the way down another path entirely and sure enough, what we had painstakingly undertaken as desk-research, becomes pretty pointless. However, that’s not to say we don’t love route planning on a daily basis using good old fashioned maps, our Garmin Zumo 660 and the free to download mobile phone applications: Maps with Me, Waze, Ride with me, Eat Sleep Ride and Rever.
What kind of planner are you?
Travelling involves one step: Going. When planning for a trip, I read on Life Remotely that are three types of planner: ‘Do lots of research and plan everything!’ No matter how scant or long-haul the trip, some people simply like to map every detail. Plan to the nᵗʱ degree, it’s half the fun for some and certainly gets the travel juices in full flow. Or ‘Do lots of research, but plan nothing.’ Personally, I like to know a little about where I’m going, leaving some element of surprise; I’ve travelled enough to know I’ll probably end up changing my best laid plans. Spontaneity is king after all.
Lastly, ‘Do no research and plan nothing!’ Absent of all inhibition and homework: admittedly, planning can make a fantastic procrastination tool. Moreover, shelves of travel memoirs all share the same common denominator: the fruits of serendipity, which are unquestionably sweet. But whichever camp you might sit, it completely depends on you: your comfort zone and your preferred means of travel. There’s no wrong or right, I’d advise doing whatever feels comfortable for you. It’s your trip, your adventure and it’s up to you to make your own experiences.
Are you ever concerned about the security of the bikes?
For sure. The bikes are akin to having children: they’re expensive and you’re always worrying about them. Not always but they can be. Because they’re so much more than our transport from A to B, they’re: our ticket to ride, happiness and freedom; our homes (really, wherever we kick the side stands down); our ‘Get out of jail’ free cards; magnets for meeting great people; and so much more. Leaving them unattended for a hand of time has to meet a pretty secure set of criteria. Apart from feeling comfortable in the place the bikes are left, we’ve got a lock and homemade bike covers from Ripstop material, the latter being akin to invisibility cloaks. You’d be amazed how they disappear once the covers are on.
What about your personal safety on the road?
Neither of us have ever felt threatened on the road. We’ve travelled through most countries in South America and are currently cruising through Central America. Never had a problem, touch wood! Big city common sense and a pretty well honed danger antennae have served us well. We don’t generally ride through war zones, at night, the renowned ‘dodgy’ areas to any big city or guerrilla-infested jungle for example. Fellow travellers on the road are a great source for learning about the ‘don’t go’ places.
What are the bare essentials required for moto-travel?
We are constantly evolving, adding and thinning out our equipment. Less is always more but it depends on: where you’re headed, what bike you’ll be astride over which terrain, and of course your personal preferences. There’s no clear cut answer here but there are a tonne of published gear lists online, which act as a great starter for ten.
What online resources do you love using?
- Hunting down campsites: iOverlander.com is excellent.
- Negotiating room rates: Horizonsunlimited.com is supreme for locating ‘bike-friendly hostels’ and connecting with salt-of-the-earth folks, as is hostelworld.com,
- Renting out a room: motostays.com and airbnb.com is a fabulous accommodation alternative; both sites connects homeowners who rent out their homes to you, at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room.
We’ve also put together a more comprehensive Links & Resources section, here.
What are your favourite mobile phone applications to assist with your moto-travels?
· Maps for me – excellent offline maps worldwide with many points of interest
· Waze – accurate GPS navigation tool in 3D
· Skycode Translate – translates whole paragraphs into another language
· Duolingo – a great linguistic tool while learning another language
· Word Lens – hover your phone camera over foreign text and marvel at the English translation
What kind of camera do you shoot with?
A Nikon D800 and three GoPros to shoot stills and short films from different angles, here’s a sample of the movies from our journey so far.
What do you use to edit your images and footage?
Adobe Lightroom 5 and Apple Final Cut Pro.
How do you get your aerial footage?
Jason is carrying a DJI Phantom 2 drone.
Do you have any supporters?
Yes, we are overjoyed to be supported by these fantastic companies and individuals: here.
How did you transport your bikes from England to South America?
We rode from our old doorstep in Nottingham, took the Euro Star to France and then went with our bikes on a Grimaldi container ship from Antwerp, Belgium to Montevideo, Uruguay. Please see here for more details. Sadly, I understand it’s no longer possible to roll on, roll off with your bike(s), however, Grimaldi are still freighting motorcycles, camper vans, 4x4s and other overlanding vehicles.
Do you guys budget on the road?
Yes. For most of us, money doesn’t grow on trees so budgeting, although a chore sometimes is a necessary evil. Budgeting is all about optimising if not maximising your trip. Putting in the effort beforehand is paramount, so start now. We began saving a realistic portion of our jobs’ income two years prior to reach our goal. A budget is your safety net against having to cut your trip short and missing out on all those ‘yearning to see places’. Adhering to a budget with some flex built in will keep you motivated and validate your plans before you leave.
Maintaining a budget on the road will also keep you abreast of your monetary situation and support making better decisions with the least amount of stress. Moreover, fiscally gauging the next leg of your trip without it costing several arms and legs. It takes a little self-discipline but compared to the alternative of cancelling the trip or pushing your trip start date back, it’s a no brainer. Creating and managing a travel budget is the same process whether you’re planning a fortnight holiday, a six-month road trip or an epic round-the-world journey. The process is the same, only the numbers change.
What defines a hardcore moto-traveller?
We had so much to say on the subject, we devoted a page to it, here!