In Which We Ride... A Scot and South African go Long Haul

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SuperSonicRocketship, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    692
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Hey Stuart! How are ya.

    Yeh i've not even written anything out yet, about it. I have perhaps 2 or 3 more diary entries to type out before I get to that one. But now you mention it again, i might just write that one out tonight! I heard the weather is rubbish back home and no good for 2 wheels. Usual? Blizzards in summer.

    I also heard we lost a Dundee biker yesterday, a guy on a Triumph hit a lorry and died at the scene. Tragic.
  2. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    692
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Days 1 - 42

    The Story Retold

    ***Warning - Extremely Long Post - As Promised the Truth Behind the first 6 weeks***

    I'm really just venting for my own benefit here. I re-read some of the first blog entries and i'd never live with myself if I didn't put the facts and feelings in my own diary straight. After all, this is my own journal to look back on one day.

    I never did get a chance to fully vent my feelings in those first 6 weeks. There was turmoil and a lot of deep thought that I never wrote down. Partly due to the sheer excitement of what we were embarking upon, but also because I felt I was at war with myself over a lot of the decisions that we had made.

    We had set off from Dundee on Day 1 in an impossibly privileged position. We were about to travel around the planet on 2 motorcycles, and due to Kylas age, just 21, she qualified for an official attempt to break the standing Guinness World Record for Youngest Female to Circumnavigate the World by Motorcycle. Actually at the time it was an attempt for 'Youngest Person', but there was a group of young guys jostling for that top spot as of 2016. We switched the attempt to 'Youngest Female' and found ourselves in a much stronger position to secure sponsorship opportunities.

    For me, a 27 year old white male, I was perhaps the most unremarkable specimen on Earth to embark on such an adventure. After all when was the last time you saw anyone other than a white male go around the world by motorcycle? Exactly, anything other is a rare sight. The demographic is not exactly a cultural melting pot. Kyla however was an anomaly. A 21 year old girl who didn't fit the adventure motorcycling mold. We approached various companies about the prospect of such a venture. Global expeditions, world records, girl power... I told them everything they wanted to hear. They gobbled it all up. They could not care less about me, but the mere mention of Kyla set off a spark in their corporate minds.

    Over a period of around 3 months we had accumulated a pile of gear that had been sent to us, naturally in return for sticker space on the bikes plus a solid review and hearty mention on the website. We had a laundry list of co-promotional offers. Some small companies, some large. It was unbelievably exciting.

    By the winter before we had left we had even managed to catch the eye of BMW. At one point even exchanging emails with HQ in Germany, they had referred back us to local dealers and BMW Network Scotland (BMW North). Their interest in our story was instrumental in our selection of the bikes. If we settled for BMW they would take care of all our pre-trip prep and help us with servicing and recovery on the road if it all went wrong. It was a dream come true.

    With such an offer on the table the decision essentially made itself. We bought a pair of barely run in F800GS's and got to work. BMW done all the health checks, various installations, cast a second eye over my own modifications, namely suspension and electrical, and done some fuel remapping work for us. Work which would have costs thousands, all done for free, with the nod of approval from the big wigs in BMW PR dept. It was all too good.

    By spring we were neck deep in the trip preperation. I was caught between two worlds, trying to close my life down in Dundee to begin a new life on the road. I was working up to 65 hours a week and had barely told a soul as to what was looming. All of this stress detracted my attention from a few important points. In the push to secure as much sponsorship and promotional opportunities as possible, I was slowly losing control of some aspects of the trip. Most notably the kit we taking and route we were selecting. Yeh, pretty much the only two components that actually matter.

    Doubts began to sprout in my mind before we had even left.

    I remember standing in the garage one day looking at the bikes. I was planning to familiarise myself with a few service procedures on the bike so I didn't get any nasty surprises on the road. The plan was to pull a spark plug, complete a wheel bearing inspection, change the springs on the rear shock, change the fork oil, and run a multimeter across a few components. I didn't know where to start. The bike was sat in the space where my previous bike had lived; a nimble KTM 450ECX, a bike which I would regularly pull apart and rebuild at the weekends just for fun. The BMW looked like a family car in the KTM parking spot.

    This BMW looked enormous. Complicated. Advanced. Heavy. Wide... It was completely unapproachable. Cables, computers, sensors... I was used to peeling apart my KTM with a 10mm spanner. Now I had a wealth of printed online guides, downloaded video tutorials and special BMW tools. My workshop is located at my mum's house and i'm pretty sure my parents could detect the stress in me. I remember my dad coming out to the garage one night after 11pm "You should call it a night, start again in the morning." He remarked. He was right, but I just couldn't. I was panicking.

    It's fine though right? I mean BMW's got my back? Nothing will go wrong. After all I had the perfect machine for the job, and the perfect kit to assure it's place as the true king of 2 wheeled adventure. I put all my stresses to the back of my mind. We were due to leave in 4 weeks.

    Day 1. Two kids on two gigantic motorcycles. We had let the whole thing get out of control. I must have had 40 corporate stickers on my bike. I had parts from Candian companies, Americans, German suppliers, English media outlets, and god knows what else. I could barely remember who had given us what. The bikes were draped in gear. Everything you could possibly need, want or wish for was on those bikes that day. We teetered off on the first few miles of our trip only now realising how far from perfection the setup was. We were fully committed. Signed up and soul purchased by the Devil. The bikes weighed a tonne. Those of you who were present at the send off will remember Kyla dropping the bike there at the Tay Bridge viewpoint, barely 3 miles from the starting line. I later asked her that night what had happened. "Once that thing starts to go... it's gone!" She replied.

    She wasn't kidding.

    Roll forward 2 weeks. We were started to settle into the graves we had dug ourselves. The adventure broken up by regularly checking emails and worrying that everyone was getting their fill. We were slowly starting to adapt to the behemoths in Scandinavia, but it was never easy. Kyla had dropped the bike 3 times, and never once was it funny. When that thing went to the ground it truly shook the Earth. 275kg of metal is a serious problem in the wet, slimy mud down by a Norwegian riverbank. The third time she dropped it, one of our sponsor stickers had come off, from memory a North Face one. Never for one second in your life should be worried about the implications of a sticker losing it's adhesion to the front of your motorcycle, nor any surface for that matter. Something was surely wrong. Here I was in the stunning Norwegian Fjords I was concerned about the financial and corporate repercussions of the stickers coming off the bikes. "Kyla, we really have to be careful not to drop the bikes." - Splendid advice for sure, but entirely unreasonable. I was starting to doubt my own capabilities. Is it us? Can we not ride these things? BMW assured us these were the bikes for the job. The photos, the videos, the actions shots.. It must be me. I'm not good enough. How can a measly riverbank defeat such mighty steed.

    ...but I was fine with my other bikes. I could get that KTM just about anywhere I pleased, and my feet couldn't even touch the floor on that. Now I couldn't get my bike over a obstructive tree branch over the road. I can tell you that getting out of the saddle to move a log from the road is shameful on the ultimate adventure machine. If i'm honest, I felt quite useless in those initial weeks.

    When the opportunity arose, one gentle May afternoon by Swedish lake I stripped the luggage from the bike and put the machine to the test. I thrashed it about the perimeter of the lake in hopes to prove to myself that I can ride this thing. Maybe it was just all the luggage? Or the accessories? Anything but me, please... There was sand, mud, water, a tributary river to splash about in, there was some rocks, a gravel car park, a steep bank... Everything you could ever require to test your limits.

    Except I didn't test my limits.

    I couldn't. The bike immediately got suck in the sand. Once eventually freed, I tried to climb the steep bank by the lakeside and again got stuck. After multiple episodes of digging the bike free I made for the safety of the car park. After a few minutes of slithering about the gravel I hit a dip in the access path back down to the water which bottomed out the rear shock. Enough was enough. I walked back to Kyla and exclaimed quite certainly; "We have a problem." In my mind, the bike was not up to the task. My suspicions later confirmed when my bike didn't have the ground clearance to scramble over a fairly pathetic rock among some Swedish Tundra. This is the Ultimate Adventure Machine. How the Hell did I make such a catastrophic error? Did I watch too much Long Way Round? Was I ensnared by the flashy brochures?... Wait a second... Long Way Round..? Come to think of it didn't they have to bail out of Mongolia because the roads were too bad? And then on the Road of Bones they had to put the bikes on a truck to complete the way to Magadan. What the hell?!? Aaaagh. My ability to rationalise was coming undone. Why didn't I foresee any of this?

    Another week had passed and we had arrived at the Swedish slice of Arctic circle, trying to reach our first checkpoint of Nordkapp. It was here that I truly lost all confidence in our machines. First Kyla developed a water pump seal leak. Then my bike wasn't charging optimally which indicated a stator issue. Unbelievably just 2 days later Kyla's bike also started to display poor voltage figures. I had developed a creaking noise from my front end and Kyla suspected her rear bearings were on the way out after just 2,200 miles... But BMW had our backs right?

    "Can you get the bikes to Umea?" - The response from BMW

    Umea was the closest city to where our location who had a BMW dealership. We could rock into there and they would look it over and put our minds to rest.

    Not good enough.

    We were approaching 4 weeks into our trip and already experienced multiple issues that I couldn't fix by the roadside. Sure, we could probably ride back to Umea, all 330 miles in the wrong direction, and have it fixed, but I shouldn't need to. I should know this bike back to front and inside out. I should be able to cast my eyes and ears over it every morning and know exactly what needed my attention. Instead I was stuck in the Arctic Circle with a big lump of metal that couldn't even get over a log without denting it's sump guard, a sump guard which was send to us by one of the firms in our patchwork of stickers. What a mess.

    Being plucky Brits, we ploughed on. We never made it any further into the Arctic Circle, and nowhere near Nordkapp, In the blog I can't remember what pathetic excuse I had written but it was definitely a massive deflection from the real issues. Huh, now I couldn't even write what I wanted. Hell, I felt I couldn't even dare think what I wanted. This was all my idea after all. Sweden came and went. Next was our crossing of the Baltic Sea, and then a week in Finland. It was in Finland that I really started to wonder just how exactly I was ever gonna get the bike through Asia. But never mind me, what about Kyla? Through all this turmoil she had to wrestle a machine that was nearly 6 times her bodyweight across all of Northern Europe. A 51kg girl on a 280kg motorcycle. Just think about that for a minute.

    From Helsinki we popped into Russia for a 3 day break from the bikes to visit St Petersburg. It was probably the best 3 days we had since setting off. We weren't to know it but disaster awaited us when exiting. Followers of the blog will remember the saga of our Russian exit. Contradictions on Kylas Visa versus what we had written on the immigration card upon entry were not compatible. Kyla is a South African Citizen who wrangled a British Passport because one of her parents was born in Scotland. When applying for the Visa, due to vastly different requirements for South Africans and Brits to enter Russia at the time, we had told some porky pies in order to smooth the process. We had forgotten this and the stories didn't match. Kyla's Double Entry Russian Tourist Visa was flagged, cancelled, and rendered useless.

    Oh my god.

    We went back to the bikes in Helsinki in shock. No Russian visa means no crossing of Asia. It means no Eastbound route. It means no trip. No nothing. Russia was integral to every aspect of our plans.

    It took a week for us to explore every avenue to fix the problem. In this time we had moved from Finland down to Lithuania, by which time it became obvious to us that we needed to get back to the UK and talk to our issuing embassy in Edinburgh. We booked the flight and went public with the bad news. I've told this part of the story before. Mandatory 45 day activity suspension from the Russian, new applications, start the whole process again, don't tell lies in the application yada yada yada.

    Whilst home I had time to reflect. I spoke to others about their experiences with supposed quarter tonne adventure machines. I spoke to other folks who knew the burden of sponsorship. I asked every question that could be asked about the ups and downs of committing your adventure of a lifetime to third party corporations. The truth was it was stressful, it was hard work, and aside from the financial benefit, it was rarely worth the hassle.

    And what about these bloated beasts we had sat up waiting for us in Lithuania? The reports were mixed. Some people loved them, and swore by them. Others hated the very thought of it. The BMW R1200GS Adventure was the best selling bike that year in almost all of Europe. All 250kg of it. The F800GS wasn't far behind at 210kg. Were these people smashing over logs with huge smiles on their faces? Where they tearing up sandbanks by lakes? Were they exploring to their hearts content up every path, track, and half trodden goat trail, just I had envisaged myself doing? Well... No actually. regardless of what BMW had told us, these machines were for nothing of the sort. I had stumbled upon an exceptionally well written and thought out article by a man called Walter Colebatch, who detailed and answered every one of my questions in regards to why I was having such a bad time on my enormous machine, and why Kyla was perhaps trying to do the impossible. Where was the inner 7 year old boy? Where was the endless fun and free spirit? As far as I could tell, it was all stuck in the sand.

    We took a huge decision. When the Russians re-issue the Visa, we were to head back out on something new. Something I can drop in mud and take a photo of. Something Kyla can pick up without two helpers. Something I can strip apart with a spanner and put back together again on a campsite in the forest. Something I can park outside a hotel and not stay up all night worrying if a 10 grand of machine will still be there in the morning. Something I can take anywhere... maybe not quickly, maybe not look the best, maybe not make me famous... but take me absolutely anywhere my little heart desires.

    The difference was stark. We turned our backs on a heavily sponsored and subsidised BMW, and opted for a pair of battered 8 year old Yamaha dirt bikes. I cable tied a hand held torch to the front for extra lighting and fashioned a wind deflector from, and i'm not kidding, a 4mm plastic section cut from the side of a office bin. The panniers we had took from the BMW's and used as flight luggage were thrown on the back, turned edgeways, and used as a rudimentary topbox. We packed a tool kit into a £1 kids pencil case from Tesco and hit the road 3 days after the Visa arrived in the post.

    Since that day we left again I have never stopped smiling. Never for one second, through all the rain, the storms, the punctures, the snapped chains, the detonated bearings. Nothing can kill the mood. Our measly bikes have taken us up every winding path and every rutted trail we have sought to explore. This time, when we are defeated it's because of us, not the machines. And i'm happy in the knowledge that I get better every single day, for all the practice in the world won't make a heavy bike lighter. Mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, traffic, ferries, potholes, broken bridges, sand traps, mud... you name it, we try it, in the knowledge that no matter what, it will be an adventure. Just like it should have been on Day 1.

    This is what freedom tastes like.

    My little Yamaha will take me around the planet at it's own pace. If it breaks, i'll fix it with my pencil case toolkit, if it really breaks i'll just bodge it together with a bottlecap, or a paperclip, or whatever is handy. Because this bike I can know inside out and back to front without a guidebook, or 3 part video tutorial. The stickers are there because I want them there. When they fall off, i laugh at the time I stressed at the lake in Sweden 16 month ago.

    It has been a major turnaroud since those first 40 days. You can even see it in how I write. My early blog entries were robotic, awkward, and forced. Now I barely require any effort to spill my thoughts onto the page.

    I want to take a moment to say that not all of the companies who helped us were bad. And in the true nature of this blog entry I wan't to be open about the ones who are absolutely worth my time to mention.

    - BMW - John Clark, Scotland (Local dealer) were genuinely as helpful as could be when prepping the big BM's. The mechanics are knowledgeable and seemed happy to help us, even though we hadn't paid them a dime.
    - Roadstercycle USA helped us with Shindengen R/R Units and heavily discounted the cost. Also provided extrmely detailed installation instructions in their out of hours time.
    - MuscleXcess, Scotland, a company who are not involved in motorcycling at all, who supported us fom the outset and provide a unbeatable product range in the Health and Fitness Industry. Their contribution was one of the largest that went to the charity arm of the project. Major thanks.
    - ScotRiders, Scotland, gave us a Advanced Rider Course and delivered so in impeccable fashion. The courses later helped us with Insurance costs too.
    - Energie Fitness, Scotland, who assisted my charity fundraisers in the weeks before leaving.
    - Cambrian Tyres, England, gave us tyres at Cost Price and got them to us in 24 hours of picking up the phone.
    - DM Tyres, Scotland, fitted them and always provided a reliable service.

    I will, and always will, absolutely stand by a company or firm who offer a good product or service. There was also a horde of people who privately, and some even anonymously, donated to our charity efforts. We love you all.

    To this day we don't regret a single decision we ever made. I guess I just wish I could have stayed more focused on what was important in those preparation phases, and certainly not allow things to spiral away out of control as they did. In the brief 2 weeks we spent at home chasing the Mongolian Visa, after our Indian/South Asian chapter of the trip, we used the time to sell off the BMW's and put that cash back into the bank. We shall not be returning to them anywhere in this story.

    We are still collecting money for charity when we can, and in fact I plan to do another fundraiser in the coming weeks, so anyone who wished to throw a penny our way is more than welcome. I of course do not expect any of you to feel obligated to actually do so, and please feel free to enjoy my content (drivvel) pressure free. Honestly, i'd still write this blog even if no-one read it.

    And that my friends, is what didn't make the director's cut in the first 40 days.

    Now, where were we... Ah yes... recovering from a mystery sickness deep in Outer Mongolia... Jeeez. You really couldn't make this stuff up.

    Love,
    Brucie
    BelgardaBuddy, djorzgul, DGR and 8 others like this.
  3. RanfG

    RanfG n00b

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    Brilliant Brucie...test rode the 800 last week and loved it
  4. Cabby

    Cabby n00b

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    Jeezo, I must have two accounts on here :clap
    SuperSonicRocketship likes this.
  5. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 352

    Struck Down

    You know riding off grid in Mongolia is just excellent. Sure there are drunk guys, and sometimes if you ride too close to a baby yak you worry that the half-tonne mother will come and kill you, but for the most part it's all just amazing.

    We have been slipping and sliding our way East for about 10 days now and the novelty still hasn't wore off. It's an adventure riders paradise. It's just all too easy...

    Ahh yes... There it is... Really, I don't know why I didn't see it sooner. Just like in India, or Turkey, or Thailand, or however many other places on this Earth that I have been struck down at the precise moment that I dare allow myself to believe I have entered a state of perpetual motorcycle adventure bliss.

    We had stopped on an extremely rocky track that followed a river towards the Chuluut Valley. We could see in the distance a crack in the mountains where we must slip through in order to get to the next section of road. We had stopped at a high point to scope out the skies. A fairly fat grey cloud, almost black in fact, was forming in the distance. It's hard to know exactly with the nature of the routes here, but there was a good chance we were headed straight under it. We took 30 minutes to relax, watch the skies, and see how the wind carried the storm. It looked to move to South, which was good for us, but it was moving slowly so we were in no rush.

    I took my helmet off and lay down on a patch of grass between the rocks and felt the sun on my face for a moment. Why not, i'm on holiday after all. Kyla remarked at how the sun was bleaching the ends of my hair, and it was now much lighter than the areas that were protected by the helmet - like some kind of 90's blonde dip dye. She lay down next to me and put her head on my stomach to keep it off the prickly dry grass.

    "Agh no, my stomach's not feeling great." I moan

    I thought nothing of it.

    Once the cloud had passed suitably to the South we suited up and headed back on the trail. Just before switching the key I remember remarking to our French madame, Mathilde, that I felt a tiny bit queasy. I drank some water and tried to ignored all symptoms.

    Our rocky track led us through a gap in a steep ridge and then onto a pass that would take us upto a new much higher valley, some 7,500ft (2300m) up. It was all very impressive, with a neat river cutting it's way through the valley floor, but for some reason I couldn't concentrate on it all. I was riding at the back at this point and had found myself in a bit of a trance, my eyes locked on to the glowing red of Edouards tail light. I knew something was wrong but what is there to do? I kept riding regardless.

    I think we must have made it about 30 miles or so before it struck. I have never experienced such a rapid change in state before. Within 60 minutes I had went from having a perfectly normal day to dizziness, light headed, stomach cramps and of course - perfection when on a motorcycle; projectile vomit.

    I slammed the brakes on, threw my gloves and helmet to the floor and started to be uncontrollably sick all over the track. The others hadn't noticed I had even stopped so had kept on riding. I was alone for about 10 minutes or so before Kyla about turned, by which point I was pathetically slumped on a rock trying to sip some water, bottle limply clutched in a two shaky hands.

    "What happened?" She asks.

    "Uugh I'm sick. Don't feel good." - A kind of minimal effort response.

    After 5 minutes of sitting on a rock, and then a further 5 minutes of pacing about aimlessly, I convinced myseld that I was ready to go again. This of course proved to be false. Within 15 minutes it was all happening again, on my hands and knees wretching into the grass. Not good. I was in no state to ride and the others decided to set up camp right there by the track.

    For the others it was probably the most boring 48 hours of their lives, but for me it was a whole saga. One minute I was peeling layers off to escape the heat, the next moment I am shivering in the cold. I was having bouts of bad dizziness and disorientation again and was gripped by a really nasty nausea. Of course being stuck in a valley a hundred miles from any appreciable help is always a cause for paranoia when you are sick and needy.

    I think I was sick 5 more times over the 2 days. No appetite and struggling to keep down water was my biggest worry, right up until the rain and gale winds started to test the integrity of the tent. The nights were extremely cold up there and every single part of me wanted to get back to civilisation. If i'm honest, I just wanted to be home. I would have sold my soul to El Diablo for a bottle of Lucozade and a twig of grapes. Instead I had a stale Mongolian biscuit and the French had donated some freeze dried kiwi slices to my recovery effort. I was very thankful that they decided to stay with us. Really they could have left at any second, but I guess the universe is in balance after we helped them free their machines from the sand the week before.

    It's nice to have friends when you are sick in the worst possible place. We had even woke to snow on the second day. The mere sight of it, along with the thick incoming clouds, had spurred enough adrenaline in me to make a final effort to eat 2 more fantasticly stale biscuits and about 4 forkfulls of instant noodles. I had thus summoned the energy to get back on the bike and make our way to civilisation.

    Civilisation however does not truly exist in Mongolia though, so instead we made a re-route for the small city of Tseterleg about 100 miles NorthEast of where we had camped. We checked into a massively overpriced hotel for 2 nights and I slowly returned to full health.

    Once again I am so thankful for Kylas' caring nature. Sure she can be a bit lazy sometimes, and she always runs away when I tell her to clean and re-grease the chain, but when you fall-foul up a mountain in deepest darkest Asia, there is probably not a better person to employ as a carer. She built and set the tent whilst I lay in a heap amongst the shrub, that's pretty much 5 star service out here.

    Onwards and Upwards.

    Love,
    Brucie
    OM, 640 Armageddon, Cameleer and 3 others like this.
  6. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Can anyone recommend a good free photo hosting site? The posts look a bit stupid with no photos.
  7. Cabby

    Cabby n00b

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    Can you not just use facebook as the host and copy image address from there ?
  8. toxies1

    toxies1 Adventurer

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    Well I haven't used it myself other forums have mentioned SmugMug

    Sent from my HTC_0P6B using Tapatalk
  9. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

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    Smugmug sponsors ADVrider. It's not free but is well worth the $.
  10. theMISSIONARY

    theMISSIONARY hunting and riding!!

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    imgur
  11. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

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    That story untold is going to my favorites. Brilliant!
  12. Ruud109

    Ruud109 Dutch in Barcelona

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    Loved your honest story on what happened.... things now make more sense, thanks for your honesty on this one.

    I have a R1200GS and I think its an absolute brilliant bike ... as long as you stay on tarmac! Im looking in adding a dirt bike just for the same reasons you describe.

    Edit: are you guys now on WR250's or 450? How do you like them, how simple to maintain?


    Keep on going guys!
    Ruud
  13. yoohah

    yoohah Been here awhile

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    Horses for courses. Sorry if this sounds too simple, but of course you have to take in to account what kind of riding you are going to do, and then select the bikes for that. Or if you select the bike first, then stay within comfort zone with that. When I am planning my (vastly shorter) trips, I always think is it doable with my bike. Between A and B there is normally some selection of the roads to choose. But there are some exceptions too, you can ride Honda C90 around the world (via TAT) and you can ride big GSA through Siberia. But I think that Mr. Colebatch's recommendation for the bike for his trail shoud be taken seriously.
  14. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Thats what I was doing up til now, but FaceBook archives it's media after 12 weeks and the image will no longer imbed

    Ill look at prices!

    Someone else reccomended this too. I shall investigate.

    Glad you like it Joris!

    Thanks Ruud. I am glad it has cleared everything up because for a long time nobody knew the truth, and even I myself didn't know if I was coming or going. I feel much better now going forward having lifted that weight off my shoulders. Especially for long time followers like yourself. You were there since planning.

    We are now on WR250R's. They are exceptionally easy to maintain. guide book says 5000km oil changes and 10,000km filter changes. I actually look to change the oil every 60 hours or so instead but i'm really just doing it because I can. Bike only takes 1.3l oil so it's extremely easy to carry your next oil change in the bottom of your pannier. Other than that it's usual dual sport maintenance really, clean the air filter now and again, scrub the chain every morning and that's all. Bikes are about 50,000km now, not a single hiccup.

    That's exactly why I wrote out the post. The truth is that if I were selecting the bike for my riding style then never in a million years would I have chose the F800. I was steered back to it because of the sponsorship opportunities that arose along the way. Truth be told if BMW had sent me an email that said 'Thanks but no thanks' instead of 'Tell me more' then there is a very strong possibility we would have been on KTM 690's instead.

    When I test rode the F800 i wasn't hugely moved by it. It just felt like a fairly placid touring bike with a nice style fairing. I ever did take a heavyweight RTW it would have been a Triumph Tiger instead, once you understand the shortcomings of these big machines you may aswell go for the one that gives the smoothest ride. The TT does everything the F800 does on road but twice as well. They both are moderately good on off-asphalt and absolutely horrible off-road.
  15. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

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    The Frozen North
    Great post on the first 40 days. Truth be told, I loved your prep thread, but got bored with that first stretch on the road. Now I know why. The last few pages have been brilliant, and I'm glad to be back on board.

    Colebatch's threads are among the most read on advrider, and his skills are obvious, so no surprise you found some personal truth with him. I've got the 1200gsa, and for my diet of touring, which maxes out with routes like the Trans-Lab and Dempster Hwy, and some stretches of sketchy, overgrown forest roads, it's just what I want. But yeah, I would *never* consider it for the kind of riding y'all are doing.

    I'm super-happy for your decisions and the wisdom you're sharing. I'll admit that my 50-year-old self gets a bit worried for some of your choices, but you've got the brashness of youth, and your story is shining bright. Ride on, and do your best to keep the rubber side down!
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  16. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    692
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    I would go as far as to say that the first 2 pages of this ride report are actually not worth reading at all. I may copy in the Day 1-40 story into the first page to give some perspective as to what people would be initially reading. You think that's a good idea?
  17. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,597
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    To say it's unreadable would be a bit harsh, I'd say. But yeah, prefacing the RR with your retrospective 1-40 post could be good - inviting an interesting contrast, I'd say.

    Also, non-sequitur, I've spent a lot of time in your fair country of Scotland, and loved every corner and minute of it. So that's helping me to really enjoy the way you're showing off your roots in the report.

    Looking forward to more!
  18. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    692
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 355

    My bout of sickness still lingered. We had stayed at a place called the Fairfields Hotel in the grubby town of Tseterleg which was run by a religious Australian fellow who did not allow alchohol on premises. We never met him as he was out of town, but the 'How to Find Christ' guidebooks, and 'Strictly No Alcohol' posters strewn about the lobby were perhaps telling of his story.

    Kyla and the French took full advantage of the Western style cafe in the hotel. It was the first recognisable food we had seen in weeks. I tempted fate and ordered an oversize cheeseburger with a tiny Australian flag mounted to a cocktail stick sticking out the bun, but it was too soon. I still felt a bit tender from the mystery illness and the fat content made me feel queasy all over again. I watched in envy as the others guzzled chunky cut chips, creamy, colourful salads, and juicy half-pounders. Edouard even managed to get a Cornish pasty, although it seemed to offend his finely tuned French palette.

    That evening the four of us came to a fork in the road. The French had had a really rough time through the Mongolian wilderness, due entirely to the weight of their machines. Now that we had found ourselves in Tseterleg, a city connected by an actual recognisable asphalt road, they decided to follow it to the capital UlaanBaatar some 350 miles East. We couldn't go with them. I can't stomach the thought of riding 10 miles to get to a large Asian city, never mind 350. The traffic, pollution, litter and bustle is something I can happily live without.

    "You can't come to Mongolia and not see UlaanBaatar!" - The protest of almost everyone upon hearing my plan to circumvent the hellhole.

    "Are you kidding?! That's the ONLY way I plan to come to Mongolia." - A proud response.

    I had fallen deeply in love with the Mongolian wilds, and I had no plans to tarnish those otherwide perfect memories by visiting it's capital city and having a terrible time - like I always do in a 1 million+ population centre. The plan instead was to make our way North-East via a track we had scoped out on the map and see if we could figure a route to the Russian border that way. It was a win-win really, we would save ourselves a 500 mile round trip of uninspiring Mongolian traffic, and instead see a hidden slice of the Central North.

    Choosing the track from a map this way is always a gamble. That's exactly how we got caught in the sand dunes just weeks earlier. It could be be impassable, or cross a mighty river, or just lead to nowhere. This time we were on to a winner. A perfect little gravel trail cuts a neat path through a 2 consecutive stony valleys for about 200 miles. These valleys were not desolate like what we had seen in the Western regions, instead here as we plodded North we noticed the land become much greener, the ground and air was becoming moist and usual rocky lifeless mountainsides were now starting to display broad leafed trees, something we had not seen for at least a thousand miles. All this life had brought agriculture to the valley floors, we even seen our first Mongolian crops gorwing. I was starting to think the ground here did not have the ability to sustain a farmers crop. Sunflowers and Rapeseed were the only ones we saw, and certainly not the healthiest looking crop either, but still, it was something growing from the ground. It's something else we take for granted back home where every square inch of ground is seemingly arable and put to use. In Mongolia it is nearly impossible to buy fruit and vegetables.

    It took is 3 days to snake our way through the Mongolian North. I had already made a deal with myself that should I ever come back here then I would spend more time in the Northern parts. I much preffered the feeling of being surrounded by life. Plants, trees and animals flourish here, the land feels alive. Our route to the South reeks of death, desolation, and struggle. Animals in the North walk about with a healthy hop in their step grazing the green fields. In the South they limp over the dry shrubs seemingly, looking fora patch of anything that's edible, waiting to be either slaughtered by their keeper, attacked by the dogs, or succumb andn pecked apart by vultures that circled above them. There was so many animal carcasses and seletons littering our route. Fascinating, but tough to watch. Every animal seemingly had protruding ribs. The North however is nice, it does not reek of death, and also seems to harbour noticeably fewer drunk men. I wonder if living off the land was slightly easier up here? It sure looks it. Who knows.

    We crossed the Mongolian border at the town of Altanbulag mid afternoon. The process was smooth and trouble free on both sides. It also gave me a moment to appreciate something I hadn't really noticed up until now. I can speak Russian... Kind of... OK, maybe I can't speak Russian, but I can hold a conversation when it's required of me. 3 months ago I would freeze when a border guard or policeman would bark at me; "Do you speak Russian?" - Shaking their head in disapproval when you finally admit; "No, sorry."

    "Ya nemnoga govorit po-Ruski, Ya uchus kaznu deen!" - Immensely proud of my shattered Russian. I explain I can speak a little, and am learning more every day.

    Kyla can speak it too, which is just as well, because now we find our prepared for our 4th entry to Russia. Secretely i'm starting to grow quite fond of the place.

    Love,
    Brucie
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  19. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    692
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 356

    Russia IV

    Everything changes when you get back into Russia. They make quite a strong point of being sure you know you are in fact back in Russia, incase you had somehow forgot. The buddhist and shamanist temples of Mongolia stop suddenly and the sparkling golden dome of the Russian Orthodox Church greets you just 20 feet from the border. On the off chance you missed it, there are also large Russian flags posted at various points by the roadside too.

    With Russia also comes some development. The complete disorganisation of Mongolia stops and you enter the semi-disorganisation of the Russia Highway system. Sure it's not Switzerland, but you can kind of depend on it's ability to impose at least some rules on the road. The road in question was a highway all the way North to the city of Ulaan-Ude, a kind of long lost cousin to the Mongol capital of Ulaanbaatar. We had done about 60 miles before realising we were bored. It's difficult to go from a Mongolian adventure and so suddenly be back to sharing the road with taxis, buses and general populatin traffic. We were not ready for it, and anyway, we didn't need to go to Ulaan Ude, we had avoided Ulaanbaatar and had a great time, so why just ride straight into another big city?

    As always, we pull out the maps. Our real goal was to get to Lake Baikal, the World's largest and deepest fresh water lake. It's so big it even has it's own seals - I thought they only lived in the ocean, so how they made it to a landlocked lake I don't know. There was a vague indication that there might be a track from a little town just 12 miles ahead of us that turned East through the thick forest, over 2 mountain passes, and pop out the other side at a place called Babushkin on the lakes Southern shore.

    Perfect.

    We fired down the track in the hopes to get to the lake in the mid-afternoon. We still didn't have a plan as to where we would stay that night and we had heard the Southern coast wasn't great for camping as the Trans Siberian Highway runs directly along the waters edge. We were pushing it pretty hard. The track surface was tough, alternating between sloppy muddy sections and then water filled holes. Not traffic potholes, just regular big old holes in the ground. Russia is litterd with these mystery holes. It had clearly rained here recently, although we had clear blue skies and a warm day. It was a stark difference to the bone dry trails we had in Mongolia. The mud had caught us out a few times.

    One section of the track took a sudden left bend at the summit of a blind hill, where it then forked into 2 paths; a tight left option into a smooth trail, and the wide, straighter option into a detroyed track with a 2ft deep rut running along it's legth. We were both carrying too much speed, well over 35mph, and the blind turn caught us in a nasty surprise. I was ahead and ran directly into the worst part of the path. I tightened up and prepared for the worst, but at the last seconds before the front wheel dropped into the chasm I jerked the bike to the right and managaed somehow to clear the rut up an awkward slope. I snapped my head around over my left shoulder to see that Kyla did the same.

    I turned my head just in time to see the worst thing you can ever see on a deserted path in Siberia.

    Her front wheel dropped into the rut and the entire bike came crashing to the ground. It was a huge hit. The noise of the metal impacting the ground and the cloud of dust it kicked up nearly stopped my heart.

    "No No No!" - I knew it was bad.

    In the panic, still at speed, I nearly ran myself off the road. Narrowly avoiding running into another gaping hole, I eventually stopped the bike about 100 feet ahead of the crash. I jumped off the bike and sprinted back up the hill praying for the best. It felt like it took forever to get back up there, throwing my gloves and jacket to the ground as I sprinted towards whatever catastrophe awaited.

    I arrived at a scene of carnage. I could see the gouge in the ground where the bike had gone down, it's momentum carrying perhaps 20 feet along the ground. Kyla's left left leg was uder the bike and she was in the process of trying to roll onto her back.

    She was clutching her left leg and screaming like I have never heard before.

    [Continued]
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  20. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    692
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    [Continued]

    I pride myself on my ability to stay relatively calm in crisis situations. I have broken bones before, and seen more than my fare share of injuries, car crashes and sporting mishaps, so i'm not shocked by much. But it wasn't the sight that got me, it was the sound - The noise of Kyla screaming in pain like that was too much. I felt a rush of adrenaline and dived to the floor to inspect. I wasn't thinking straight. First I grabbed her helmet and remove it before remembering that it the last thing on Earth to do in the event of a neck injury. Completely irresponsible.

    Me being in a state of panic is the last thing Kyla needs. We are a long way from help out here, at least 2 hours to the closest human habitation, and possibly another hour again to actual medical facilities, that of course is assuming that a 4 wheeled vehicle could actually get to where we were. I took a moment to assess everything I could.

    First priority, lifting the bike away from Kyla and removing anything that was stil touching her and obstructing her. I took the bold decision to move her away from the edge of the drop that the bike had fallen into in fears she started to slip down its loose crumbling edge. She was obviously concious, shaking from shock, but completely coherent. No sign of concussion. After a few minutes of panicked screaming she started to settle slightly, although still visibly in alot of pain. She way lay flay on her back with ther left leg lay out straight.

    "Where's it sore?" - I asked as calmly as possible

    "My neck is sore, and I think my leg is broken, I can't move my leg." - The tears starting once more.

    Kyla has a ridiculously high pain threshold. When she says something is sore, it's likely complete agony. I knew it was a bad sign. I didn't know what to worry about about more. The leg? The neck? The fact she has a medical condition where she is extrmely vulnerable to internal bleeding? Or how we hadn't seen another person in over 2 hours since we turned down the disused track.

    We stayed there on the track for nearly 3 hours. 2 hours 45 to be exact, by which point the adrenaline wore off for both of us. No phone signal out here. No traffic to flag down. OK, lets take stock of the situation. I could either ride out and return with help, or we can try to figure a way in which Kyla could limp herself, and the bike, all the way back to the main road. We spent an hour getting her to her feet carefully. I inspected every part of her to the best of my ability, along with a dash common sense and some general guesswork I concluded that she had not fully broken her leg. The pain was from the knee and upper shin. It could be fractured, or the patella broken, sure but that leg can still take her weight, albeit in writhing agony. What were we to do? What would you do?

    I needed Kylas' thoughts; "Can you get back on the bike?" - I asked.

    "I think I have to." - We both knew it.

    Getting Kyla back on the bike wasn't the only problem we had, we also needed to pick an exit route and what direction to take. Safety would exist in either the city of Ulan Ude about 130 miles away, or in the town of Babushkin about 70 miles away. The road to Babushkin was much shorter but the road conditions unknown. The way back was longer, but we knew at least the conditions of the section back to the main road, where we could follow the asphalt back to the city. In desperation we chose to take the shorter route towards Babushkin. When lifting Kyla on to the bike, she was able to at least laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation - she is an extremely tough cookie. With her leg dangling limply to the side we set off into the uknown.

    With me riding ahead we had gotten just 4 miles before we hit a deep pocket of mud accross the road. The culmination of me constantly looking behind to check on Kyla, riding precareously slow, and trying to avoid obstacles all at the same time it was becoming clear that this was now dangerous for me too. The last thing we needed was for me to have an accident out here leaving both of us stranded. Kyla was struggling with the constant stop-go pace. The pain had once again brought her back to tears. Kyla never cries. Ever.

    The exact sceneario we were trying to avoid actually did happen. Whilst not paying attention to the road ahead, I had run directly into another deep gouge in the track, the bike tumbling to it's side. Luckily because of my speed, barely 10mph, I was able to maintain some kind of control over my landing, and escaped with just a bit of pain to my left wrist and a small knock to the ribs.

    "We have to turn around." - I admit defeat.

    At least on the way back we knew where the bad parts were and where not to take a good line. We about-turned and had a tense journey all the way back to the junction. I rode ahead to scout out any holes or obstacles, of which there were many. I spent the entire time watching Kyla in the mirror. If she was to fall now, it could easily turn dangerous. We made it to the crossroads and landed on a smooth road up to the city of Ulan Ude. It was late when we got there. Almost 8pm. Kyla was exhausted, in pain, hungry and dehydrated. We checked into the fist hotel we seen, it turned out to be the most grand in all of the city. The Hotel Buryatia - 4 Star. Expensive, but we were desperate. I pleaded with the reception staff and they gave us a discounted room, the only room the had left in fact. We took Kyla straight to the bed and elevated her battered leg, and rested her painful neck, which by now she also could not move.

    "So there has to be a decent hospital here right?" - The worst possible way to end your day.

    Love,
    Brucie
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