Category Archives: two wheeled nomad
What’s it like to travel on a cargo ship? well, pretty groovy really. While I was on the ship, I had the time to do some filming so I put together a little film to give a flavour of life on board. Please excuse the quality of the video which I had to unfortunately reduce to upload it to youtube. We hope you enjoy it.
Lots of people have asked us where we get our information from for our up and coming Americas trip, well quite simply it’s Horizons Unlimited. It is the only resource a motorcycle traveller will ever need. If you need the latest information on literally any subject to do with motorcycle travelling, they’ll have it. The content is insightful, current and colossal with thousands of contributing motorcycle travellers.
Around the World Travellers Grant and Susan Johnson, 11 years on the road and not finished yet, run the site for motorcycle travellers, featuring the ‘Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Travellers’ e-zine,’ delivered to your e-mail box free for the latest Travellers’ News, and a Bulletin Board to keep in touch with other travellers and ask all the questions you want! There are hints and tips and plenty of info to help you get on the road yourself. A must site for the traveller!
Horizons Unlimited World Motorcycle Travel:
Home page for everything you could need!
Friday 29 November – Motorcycle Live 2013
Probably the best show at the NEC I’ve been to and certainly the most interesting year for me at Motorcycle Live. My day was packed to the gunwales. A little bleary eyed from a Christmas do the night before, I was up at the crack of sparrows and on the road before 8.30am. Bumped into some good biking friends – Chris, Ian and Jay, which were wonderful company and meant I barely noticed Jason’s absence (currently biking in Morocco). Speaking of the devil, soon after arriving, Jason dropped a quick text to say he was having a ball in the desert and being blown away by the scenic Atlas Mountains. Think he used the term ‘challenge’ too…! More of that to follow in an imminent post.
Back to the show then. Although a different layout this year, and not one that was particularly easy to navigate for us punters, Chris noticed the lack of the small independents, which was sad as it’s these small ‘one man bands’ that often leave you feeling like you’ve picked up a great little find at a cracking price; some ingenious addition to your kit or for your bike. Nevertheless, my agenda for the day was centred around networking, rapport building and generally putting our brand ‘out there’ as much as was humanly possible for one pair of able legs and gums that can flap all day long.
After familiarizing myself with the general layout across four halls, getting a quick bite to eat and taking a good look around, it was time to mix some business and pleasure. Popped over to the Overland Magazine stand where I found my good pals – Sam Manicom and Graham Field (both respectable authors of overland travel books). Lovely to see the pair who were working harmoniously side by side on their book sales. And doing very well I might add; their spot was open to some prime footfall – good on them for securing that beaut of a spot.
It was at the Overland Magazine stand I also met Simon Dufton working on the ‘Dambusters 2014 Charity Ride’ and his friend just about to hop on a bike for the first time. I nearly gushed over the poor lad – nostalgically recalling what it was like for me 16 months ago when I was in the same boat. Feels like a lifetime ago. Promised to catch up with Sam after the show but in the meantime, Graham was gasping for his lunch by mid-afternoon so I joined him for a chat and butty in the quiet trader’s area. Lovely to catch up and see what was new in the world of Mr Field. I can hardly wait to read his new book ‘Ureka’, which hones in on his latest trip in the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union. I’m intrigued. Graham’s first book ‘In search of greener grass’ is in one of my top three for two-wheeled travel related books so get your pre-order for the New Year if you fancy a good read.
Off I went, post a late lunch-break and thought I’d say hi to Nathan Milward – another fab acquaintance I’ve made over the last couple of years – now Adventure Bike Rider’s editor. Nathan took his ex-postal Aussie 110cc, Dorothy, all the way from Australia back to England, which took him nine months…great story full of adventure. I digress a little. Nathan asked if he could do a feature on our pre-trip and then a Q&A about the freighter crossing. If that’s not a juicy little present prior to our bon voyage, I don’t know what is. Yes, think that’d be fine Nathan, thank you. Watch this space. Jason and I made an appearance back in the August 2012 issue of ABR magazine when we rode 3,000 miles through Europe ‘two-up’ taking in the BMW bike festival at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, the Stelvio Pass and Stella Alpina. Amazing scenery through France, Germany and Italy – would love to go again but on my own bike.
It was also an unexpected pleasure to see and catch up with more friends of ours, Barbara Alam and Craig Carey-Clinch inside an inviting bell tent with a ‘take a pew on our plush sofas’ area. Good to see what they had been up to through Motorcycle Outreach and Rowan Public Affairs. Interesting work in the political and legislative world of pushing for motorcycle safety.
As a final treat in equipment investment to myself, I decided to make a considered purchase at the opportunity cost of the trip itself. A pair of Gerbing XR-12 Hybrid heated gloves and the 12V socks. Figured that I do enough UK riding in the winter months as well as going to the deep south of the Americas at one end and Alaska the other to warrant these items. I have pretty slim fingers and am nesh at the best of times; I can’t wait to put these into action. Although size XS felt lovely and snug, I went for ‘small’ in the end as didn’t want to get any uncomfortable ‘hot spots’ on the gloves; great advice from the distributor at the show. And very grateful for the discount I received too! I’ll be writing a review on both of these items so please watch out for that.
On my way back over the Overland Magazine stand to rejoin Sam and Graham, I couldn’t walk by without stopping to say hello to Austin Vince. Another individual that’s significantly contributed towards getting us both in the right place for our trip. Both very excited about presenting him our footage at the end of the experience. Just need to jump on our bikes now and get on with it.
The icing on the cake on Friday was having a meal with Sam, Graham and the guys from Overland Magazine. All of top form and because I was ravenous and the others hoarse from the week’s constant talking, we all enjoyed a quiet meal replenishing some sustenance back into our bodies.
Superb day that I couldn’t have enjoyed more. There’s something lovely about having been sociable with a wide range people, familiar and friendly folks to complete strangers; exchanging stories, intentions and a bit of banter to getting home, donning the pyjamas and flopping in a happy heap..!
We are now well and truly on the countdown..! Just three short months before Jase and I embrace our bon voyage – shortly after celebrating Christmas and New Years. It occurred to me a while back that at some point I’d have to start getting serious about the preparations required to execute a trip of this magnitude. Packing two lives neatly into a few boxes for around 18 months is no mean feat. Namely from an administrative, financial, physical, marketing, logistical, geographical, transportation, bike and kit preparation and foremost psychological perspectives, things need thinking about. Man alive, where do we even start?
So how do we transition from online research in the comfort of our lounge, verbalising ideas to one another and accumulating advice to proactively taking that ‘bull by its horns’ and make this adventurous dream become a reality?
On and off for the last two years, we’ve attended countless overland travel / biking events throughout the UK from small ones in South Wales to casting the net a bit wider at the BMW Garmisch one; superb atmosphere amid 40,000 bikers in Germany. I think Horizons Unlimited was the most valuable for us and our trip, acquiring solid contacts making some great friendships at the same time. Although all presented perfect opportunities to seek out those who were in a position to add-value and offer practical advice to us. It’s been useful to make a beeline for people with experience of having already done big or small trips on two wheels, particularly those that have conquered the Americas and ridden similar bikes to ours. That’s not to say I haven’t learnt from others that have ventured through other parts of the world such as Africa or Mongolia, or advocate much smaller and lighter bikes than the F650gs. However, I already accept that although I’m comfortable off-roading – even when fully loaded up – my bike will still dictate the level and scale of off-roading I’ll be able to accomplish. Hopefully my skill level will improve and I’ll overcome any fears I may be harbouring…will stay open-minded.
Carrying a notebook around with me 24/7 is something that’s significantly contributed to my current WIP ‘To Do’ List. I’ve split responsibilities between us based on what we’re good at when it comes to the ‘Who, what, where, when and how’. Really don’t have the time to worry about duplicating effort; my ever-evolving spreadsheet has captured most of what needs to be done prior to 4 February 2014 and an A3 print out has given a visual, prompting other tasks to get done along the way.
Now we’ve secured our passage across the Atlantic, the trip has all of a sudden become tangible, very real. The egg timer is trickling sand through at a sure but steady rate, and I’m going to some lengths to ensure things are in place as much as they can be for what will still be a full-on time to our imminent departure date. I have a strong focus at the moment, relish ticking through the checklist and gaining confidence now I’m half way through the jigsaw of activities.
It may interest you to read what sort of things we’ve been up to:
- Sold the house – boom!
- Learnt to ride a bike – check.
- Selling most of our possessions, furniture, white goods, car and van (I’ve no idea what I’d do without eBay).
- Jumping on a Spanish course and trying to absorb Michel Thomas’ audio Spanish (this is brilliant…more time for this on the boat).
- Getting all of my family 2014 birthday and Christmas cards written (can’t forget about my little nephews while I’m away).
- Cancelling all the utilities and other direct debits, managing our banks (accounts, pensions, tax), doctors, dentists etc. and declaring our bikes as SORN upon departure (can’t wait to get my bike unrestricted too).
- Sourcing the right credit cards, travel / specialist biking insurance, technology such as a quad-copter, Nikon D800, Go Pro 3 cameras, Macbook Pro laptop, iPad, iPhone etc. to best suit our needs whilst overseas.
- Taking key contact information on our desktops and emailing the same information (e.g. insurance claim line, banking details, etc.).
- Applying for International Driving Permits through the Post Office (cheapest way) and ESTA visa waivers although not researched this properly yet.
- Photocopying all our paperwork such as passports, registration documents, both parts of our driving licenses, Yellow Fever certificates, laminating some key documents so we don’t need to hand over originals to the ‘officials’ at border crossings as well as emailing scanned copies of everything to ourselves and a few friends and family in the event of an emergency.
- Leaving some signed, blank cheques with our families – you never know…
- Setting up an account with Motorworks so they can FedEx across any ‘hard to get’ bike parts for us from the UK.
- Increasing our website’s ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ and setting up the corresponding Facebook page (coming soon) to link to a wider audience, distributing our business cards in order to grow our global following of ‘Two Wheeled Nomad’.
- Investing in some choice travel books, music, eBooks, maps and apps.
- Making a mental note of the Dos and Don’ts at border crossings – the last thing we want to do is ruffle their feathers for hours on end!
- Getting all of the required travel inoculations including Yellow Fever, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Diphtheria and Rabies and months worth of anti-malarials (opted for Doxycycline as these have worked well for us on past trips).
- Slowly acquiring heavy duty boxes (free from our local MacDonalds) and vacuum seal bags to start packing up the few things we are holding onto; managed to meet a kind lady that has offered to store our non-perishables in her garage for a fiver a week – I know, wow – so chuffed as she lives next door to a police officer too (must be karma)
Any thoughts or suggestions would be warmly welcomed…drop us a line, would be great to hear from you. Ciao for now
At last we have a sailing date! We’re due to leave on 4 February 2014. We’ve been waiting like cats on hot bricks for Grimaldi shipping company to release the schedule. This will be the first sailing of the year although we were hoping to depart in early January; at least it gives us more time to save. For those of you who don’t know, we’ll be shipping our bikes to South America by a freighter ship. We will also be travelling with the bikes, ‘ride on, roll off’ style. We’re talking up to 300 metres long weighing in at 170,000 tons. And we’ll be two of just twelve passengers on board. Our container ship will sail from Antwerp in Belgium stopping at Dakar in Senegal, Santos in Brazil, Zarate in Argentina and finishing in Montevideo (Uruguay). The crossing should take about 25 days if there are no unscheduled delays.
Some people think we’re mad to spend all that time on a cargo ship. We won’t be swabbing the decks or ‘working our passage’ – ooh err missus. What an amazing ‘first’ to kickstart the trip, it’s got to be an experience. For our hard earned dollar, we get a cabin with en-suite, three meals a day in the guest dining area and all the sun bathing, whale watching, book reading and movie watching our hearts desire. Opportune time to learn a bit of Spanish too. I like to think of it as a ‘Poor man’s cruise’, with time to get off when the ship is in port loading and off-loading. I don’t particularly like flying either and if we did fly, there’s no risk of us having to hang around for our bikes should they get delayed on a boat. On even more of the plus side, there’s less paperwork hassle when we arrive in South America, plus no need for a ‘fixer’ because we will ride the bikes straight to Customs and Immigration. It’s like any land border crossing – effectively a long distance ferry crossing under our belts and we’re good to ride.
I got stuck in, replacing the steering head bearings on my BMW f800gs today, which went better than i was expecting. The old bearings are out and the new outer races are in. Just got to fit the inner bearing races tomorrow and rebuild the front end and the jobs done.
I’d been on youtube looking for a tutorial on how to change the bearings on the BMW f800gs but couldn’t find one so i’ve made a video myself on how i did it. I don’t have any specialist tools like bearing pullers and heat guns etc, its was all done using basic tools.
I’ve decided to get some sun and sand without the sea, or the Mrs. I’ve booked a last minute trip to Morocco to chill out, relax and get some experience riding on sand. This is a present to myself for eighteen months of save, save, save. So Neil (a biking mate) and I will fly into Marrakesh on 21 November and spend five days on our hired BMW f650gs’. The bit I’m really looking forward to is seven days in the desert. We’ll be based in the town of Ouarzazate with Motoaventures, where we swap over to KTM 450′s and from here head out towards the Algerian border towards Erg Chebbi and the famous Red Dunes at Merzouga, which has some of the highest sand dunes in Morocco, reaching over 150 metres in height. We will attempt to reach the top of the highest “cathedral” dune. We’ll also spend a night camping in a bedouin style camp which we will have to ride over the dunes to reach. It should be better than 5 star as we will be sleeping under one million stars! Will post a full trip report when I’m back in the UK.
This is a video of things to come, from motoaventures.com
Great, the steering head bearings are shot on my BMW f800gs, which was pointed out to me by a mate (Chris) and come to think of it, I’ve noticed that the handle bars have started to vibrate back and forth when I take my hands off them at slow speed. There is a definite notch when the bars are moved slowly either side of the straight ahead position. What’s so annoying is that the bike has only done 10,500 miles, should bearings go after this amount of mileage? They will need to be changed before our big trip. I’ll be replacing the bearings myself, which is something I’ve never done before but I’m sure it’s within my capabilities. From the research I’ve done, the trick to fitting new ones is to heat the frame and put the new bearing in the fridge, apparently it makes the job easier – the old, heat expends, cold contracts thingy! Well, I’ll be doing the job in the next week or two so will let you know how successful I get on.
4 July 2013: The Stella Alpina on the R1200GSA
This bike was eventually sold because it was too damn heavy, great bike for touring but i wanted something that i could ride off road and be able to pick up again fully loaded if it went over, which it did twice. I had to take all the luggage off to pick it up again so it had to go… great bike, was sad to see it go.
Below is a collection of picture from our trip plus a film of our trip made by our friend Andy Cole.