Luggage! Soft or Hard… that is the question!

Having laid out our kit for the trip we realised we have a fair bit of important equipment to take.  This includes a laptop, camera equipment (DSLR + lenses and head cameras) and various other electronics like kindles (to save on carrying books and manuals), head cams, phones etc.  We spent many an hour trying to figure out the best and most secure way to pack the above and even had KTM Basel coming up with ideas of how to make a rear rack to contain a water proof laptop holder… but it was all a bit awkward.

Frustratingly for us we absolutely love the Enduristan luggage as it is very durable, hard wearing and simple to use, but as with any soft luggage the panniers will not prevent items being crushed in an event of a fall.  We considered perhaps stacking the electronics some how on the back of the bike away from impact zones but again, the laptop was a flipping awkward shape for any sized roll top bag and then to have things piled on top of it… we just weren’t comfortable with that!

SO!  After much consideration, trial and error testing, research and recommendations we have now decided to combine the very best of both worlds and combine soft luggage with hard luggage.  Yup, our final solution is Sam with top class Enduristan soft luggage panniers and myself with the stupendously amazing Metal Mule panniers!

Now originally we were confused as to whether to go for soft or hard luggage seeing pros and cons for them both.  The reason we were put off hard luggage was due to Sam’s experience on his previous travels with some zegas, which decided to leak and reshape themselves heavily after a couple of falls in snow and ice.  But… the more we looked at Metal Mules and read up on them, the more we realised these were fantastic bits of equipment and way way WAY above Sam’s zegas!

Having spoken to Paul from Metal Mule we are meeting with him up at the Birmingham Bike Show so he can have a look at the bike set up!  Being such an incredibly well travelled fella he is proving to be incredibly fascinating and knowledgable beyond belief when it comes to motorcycle travel, luggage and just general adventure recommendations!  We’re both really excited about meeting him soon and getting the bike kitted out!

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Mini Update

More to come of details of the latests but as a short update:

House: Sale is going well! Woo!
Route planning: We’re keeping a steady eye on the happenings around Libya/Egypt but still feel good about entering this way! Good times!
Visas: All sorted and waiting to pay the embassies our last visits prior to leaving!
Carnet: Once again Sorted and ready to go!
Equipment: We have everything but our extras for the medikit and camera lenses!
Bikes: We’re awaiting news from KTM Basel about when we can go pick them up! Hoping for an update tomorrow – we both terribly miss our Bikey Mcbikes :)
Shots/Jabs: Both had our second set of rabies today, Sam had his Hep B (already had mine from Policey days) and next week we have Yellow Fever! After that, one more rabies and we’re set!

All in all we’re good. Things are very stressful though and we’re both feeling the toll! Somedays it’s just all too much and we both end up monging out! I have been in tears a few times with frustration and Sam has been having sleepless nights, feeling frustrated and pretty poopy too! BUT! It’s all so close now and the end is in sight! We realise how lucky we are to be doing such an adventure and the fact we are also super lucky to have each other to help out in the times of mehness be through cuddles, going out for the day or just generally laughing at the ludicrous situation we are in! So much has been happening and currently we’re waiting on others be it for house progression or bike parts or what which is totally out of our control :) But we have every faith in the people we have helping us out and are looking forward to seeing everything finally coming together!

Thank you again for all your continual support! Not long now boys and girls, not long now! :)

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To Switzerland! Bike Upgrades Mark 1

Clare: “Bonjour, je voudrais numbro oeuf”
Petrol Station Assistant: “Err?”
Clare “Oh erm la voiture.. dans… numbro oeuf? Mais Oui?” *points to car*
Petrol Station Assistant: “Ahh… ahhh ok ok”

Having claimed I am pretty good at French, my first interaction in the land of garlic and onions proved otherwise. “Egg?” I protested “What do you mean I said number egg? Doesn’t Oeuf mean Eight?”.  Feeling slightly daft, I realised this is probably signs of the times ahead, especially seeing as French is supposedly my strongest second language!

The day which followed was one of great length, much excitement and tea drinking to sustain us.  Initially our intentions were to stop off in France midway to our final destination to KTM Basel, Switzerland but we decided it didn’t look so far on the GPS (a couple of centimeters?! That’s nooothing) and took it upon ourselves to blast our way through.

Cooking up Chilli

11 hours in total and we arrived.  Being 11pm we decided it would be a plan to pull up somewhere and kip in the back of the van.  After deciding against a few suspicious looking spots (of which we have since been told are renowned for promiscuous acts of sorts), we finally chose wisely and parked up opposite a church and field.  Trying our best to not disturb anyone we thought it might be wise to cook up our home made chilli in the back of the van.  With no lights other than our phones, not much room and sleepiness setting in, we have no doubt it must have looked super dodgy as the van wibbled, me giggling away and flame like lights flickering.  To top it all off I decided I would try out my shewee for real for the first time.  In the shelter and looming shadow of the van I felt pretty out of sight… only mid stream to have two walkers go by with their dog looking slightly confused.  A girl?!  Standing up and weeing into a field?!  I didn’t quite know what to do or say and so I shook and ran off in a fluster!  Not the first impression we were hoping to impose on the delightfully mellow town of Arisdorf.

Our nest for the night!

Despite a night of slipping and sliding sideways in our wonkily parked van on the hill, we awoke with much excitement.  A croissant later and we arrive at KTM Basel to be greeted by Jeroen and his beautiful family.  We are given a grand tour and upon stumbling into the workshop Sam and I eyes light up as we see David Jenni’s bike fully kitted out.  It is STUNNING.  The pictures of the KTM Basel Defy Quest bike is superb, but in person, it is a sheer work of genius!  With a very svelte look, the tanks and fairing snugly embrace the bike with every piece perfectly placed.  The exhaust reroute is beautifully constructed and yet so sturdy.  There’s so many well crafted extras too and all in all we were just blown away by the sheer quality.

We then brought our bikes in and within minutes Jeroen and his awesome mechanic David (aka Rambo) have the bikes stripped right down!

And it was thiiiiis big!

We spend some time discussing the next few days and after some tea and a lovely lunch of rosti and salad we crack on with some design work and sketching whilst the boys continue with the bikes.

Jeroen Dismantling Clares Bike!

Bike talk!

By the evening we settle down for some nibbles and a chat about the progress.  We then have to make our way to the BnB 20minutes away. Exhausted but happy we greet our BnB owners – Sally and Nick who are most lovely and make our way to bed where we zonk out.

And so it’s all started!  We’re so excited, it’s unbelievable.  To also have custom made bike extras too is just superb.  We cannot wait for the next few days to pass… it’s going to be mega!

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Green and Water Laning with Matt and Liz

Today we had a bimble out with our friends Matt and Liz – another couple we have been fortunate enough to meet who too are looking to do a around the world motorcycle trip in 2013!  Like me, Liz is a newbie rider and has only just recently passed her Module 2 and like Sam, Matt is a more proficient rider with years of experience riding on and off road!  So all in all we make up quite a good riding group!

Roman Roads AHOY!

Being Mastermind of local byways, we let Matt lead the way up to the Gloucestershire and Wiltshire border where he introduced us to a Roman road he took Liz the week prior.  Gritty and potholed we had much fun bouncing along… for me this gave me the opportunity to practice my core skills I learned at the Wheeldon Off-Road training centre a few weeks prior!  Straight legged, bull dog posed and leaning in and out of corners I was loving it!

Gravel Hill… Whhheeee *splat*

A good few miles into it we approach a fallen tree where beyond lay a shadowed slope hidden by the forage of shrubs.  Liz had mentioned a few times she wasn’t particularly keen on this section but courageously leading the way she wound her way passed the tree and disappeared down the hill.  I then follow up not really knowing what to expect… only to find myself on a steep but relatively short gravelly descent.  Upon heading round the corner I spot that Liz has managed to tumble off and is slowly standing up… without thinking I brake… jerkily… on the front and guess what?!  You got it… WHOOSH, front end goes and I’m hugging a bush!

Laughing I jump up and jog on down to Liz to check she’s dandy and help her up with the bike!  As her first off there’s a celebratory high five all round!  Matt joins us and I trundle back up to recover Hobbes who has a minor injury of a slightly kinked back brake!  Nothing new there ;)  Sam and I tug him back up and I hop on all good again.  Liz then manages to make a smart recovery and slowly and carefully disappears around the corner, followed by me equally as slow and cautiously.  At the bottom we’re joined seconds later by Matt and Sam who cane it down (show off’s ;)) and whizz through a nearby puddle!  Good times!

Swimming Lessons

Off we go again and then a mile later slow up as Matt approaches a river crossing which has burst it’s banks.  To the side there’s a wee hump back bridge but dismounting Matt wanders a third of the way across the river to judge whether or not it’s bike-able.  At knee depth it’s not looking too bad and he wades back, hops on his bike and gives it a go. A third of the way through, Matt’s going strong but alas! as he enters half way Matt goes from being at knee depth to fully submerged!  Cracked up, Liz, Sam and I applaud from the side and decide perhaps the bridge is a better option! Lesson learned?  Walk the full length before attempting! Sam wades on in and helps yank the bike back to dry land where they proceed to drain it as much as possible.

Attempting to kick start it, the bike was not having it and the boys decide the only way it will work would be to empty the engine via the spark plug… which was hidden under the front fork and had been untouched for years!  After a good hour of us attempting to unscrew the awkwardly angled and sized spark plug Matt decides to wheel the bike back to the road and call for recovery.  Being in the middle of no where, Sam rides off to pick up some tow rope from a local shop and when he returns Matt’s bike is attached to Stimpy and towed to the local pub so we can stay warm and snug whilst waiting!

The Snooty Fox

The pub was actually quite a funny wee place… quite posh and what what (“The Snooty Fox” says it all really ;)) so us rocking up covered in mud on noisy bikes and squeaky rally boots made a few people turn their heads!  Unfortunately they had just stopped serving food so cuppa tea’s and plenty of crisps ensued along with chatter and chin wagging!

An hour later Matt’s bike was picked up with Liz’s too and we part and leave behind a great afternoon of off roading fun and joy!

Video to come of this adventure (mind, carefully edited as Sam neglected to switch off his head cam when he disappeared behind a bush for a quick whizz!! Glad we watched it along – completely X rated!!) and more trips ahead which we cannot wait for!  Thanks again to Matt and Liz for a fab afternoon!

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Slick and Sliding in Devon

Whilst at the Touratech Travel Event this year we had the absolute pleasure to meet some awesome people, one of them being Mr Jon of Devon!  He too is planning a round the world motorcycle trip with his mate Andrew so naturally we’ve all met together a number of times to compare notes and discuss tactics!  As opposed to looping like we North to South are they are heading East to West on their affectionately named JABA Mundus adventure!

Today we decided to take a wee trip down to meet up with Jon for some green laning malarky.  Having checked all the routes at the weekend Jon assured us despite being a little over grown they weren’t too bad… later we discover they had bushed out some more and were now resembling Borneo!

Bursting with energy we popped on down and rocked up only to find that both our heat guards for the exhausts were lolling to the side with missing screws!!  To be fair this wasn’t really a surprise as we have noticed screws and bolts on the KTM 690 Enduro 2012’s have a tendency to sneak out when we’re not looking! KTM obviously haven’t discovered the little gem that loctite!

Jon soon dug out some replacements and before long we were all off tootling along some stunning little country roads on our 2 x KTM 690 Enduro Rs and Jon riding his KTM 990 Adventure Dakar.  Our first turn we take is a short little stint, quite overgrown and with a thick rut down the middle.  Being a bit wimpy I wasn’t giving Hobbes enough beans so I managed to jump the front out once and hug a bush… but in reassurance so did Sam ;) We then weave back on to some roads and then dip onto a muddy section. Like last week we were still riding on the original tyres meaning Sam and I were squirming about all over the place whilst Jon glided by with his nice set up of MEFO Super Explorers at the rear and Pirelli MT21 at the front.  We need to get this sorted!!  I kicked a tree (it jumped in my way) and then swooped sideways down the path only to be greeted by a laughing Jon and Sam at our flinging around bike riding!  With some sense about us this time we let down the tyres a fair bit.  Sam found this riding experience quite new to him as he was used to his 990 which wasn’t so frantic and more fluid… our KTM 690 Enduros were kicking out like nutters!  Awesome fun (if a little aieeeeee for me!)

Further up we ride through another dense lane with fronds thwacking us in the helmet and pulling at us as we bumped round it.  This one was a right bugger as it had a deep rut all along and again… not really giving Hobbes the proper blat it required I had a tendency to pop the front wheel out and flop into the ferns!  After a couple of pick ups I was tiring but still smiling and laughing, grateful I had superb company as Sam and Jon to help encourage me along the way!

We then attempt another similar lane and this time I try and bean it a bit more and have more success!  I do, however, wimp off through some mud and despite holding it together, I plonk back down to change gear (still a n00b like that) and due to slowing end up throwing the front out of the rut into the ferns again!  Knackered, I survey the bike, attempt to pick it up but this time I’m out of energy and waaaay hot.  Whipping the helmet off I take a breather and am then greeted by Jon who had trundled back to help me up!

We all pause at the end of the lane and agree that the lanes are pretty darn hard especially for me and to prevent it going from fun to a chore for me (I was the one flopping off the bike!) we would do some country roads riding for a bit!   Chilled out we whizz around some roads – super gorgeous area!

After a few miles we stop off at a ramblers section and eye up a lane nearby.  We take the turn and end up on a lovely off road lane with dips and puddles and much easier riding for me!  A few gates on we end up losing our direction a bit and find ourselves in fog riding over lots of loose rock over what I believe to be moors!  All was going swimmingly, we all were having a great time and then bump bump bump BUMP WHAM *thunk* WHEeeeeEEeee… I manage to hit a huuuge rock and do a tremendous off!  Poor Sam had a heart attack as he was behind and watched in horror as I tumbled through the air and slammed to the ground!  He ran up to me and having stumbled to my feet was trying to get me to sit back down again… on a gorse bush.  Bless him!  I was fine though… just a bruised knee!

Bike back up and me a little nervous now (shame as I was bumbling along for ages without a worry in the world getting used to the back end kicking out and bouncing through rocks!) we continue and wind down a huuuge hill before being back on the road!  Lush ride, no idea where we were!

Jon then takes us along to a little country pub where we indulge on a cuppa and convo by the fire!

All in all an awesome day!  We all had a chat about my riding and although, once again, we were knocking through some pretty technical lanes and I was coping, I need to get back to the basics and perfect the core skills before I end up getting frustrated with hugging the ground (as beautiful as it is!).  So our aim is to get some lighter trails under my belt and then build up from there!

Cheers Jon for the fun times and for helping me pick up Hobbes!  We both loved it and are looking forward to some more action soon!

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