The Eastern Trail Nirvana - BE to Central Asia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by OldManJoris, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    What's this about?

    In a nutshell: Ride report for a 15.000km (that's 10,000 miles) trip from Belgium to the Pamir area in Tajikistan, riding gravel, mud and sand for a good amount of time, on a 1998 Suzuki DR650SE. The ride started early May and was completed in 60 days with a focus on camping, lightweight off-tarmac riding and exploration.

    During the ride, I managed to post daily updates on Facebook using smartphone or Garmin Inreach. The plan now is to translate these updates and post them here, so one post per riding day with accompanying pictures. I was lucky to have very busy and eventful days after the first week, so you won't get too bored (probably ;) ).

    Note I'm not a writer, nor a master of English language so expect tons of spelling and grammar screw-ups. The story is in the pictures, and there are enough of them to get the idea.


    Highlights:
    • 19 Countries: BE-NL-DE-AU-IT-SL-HR-BA-ME-AL-MK-BG-TK-GE-RU-KZ-UZ-TJ-KG
    • 60 riding days, 15.000km. Left home on May 7th 2017
    • Off-tarmac trails as of HR (Croatia)
    • 66 POI's from Dangerousroads.org, like Bayburt, Buzludzha, Anzob, … To be fair, the most interesting sections were found by following our nose
    • All trails prepared in advance, pre-checked on Google Earth. Haven't used routes or tracks from others.
    • 750km dessert crossing in Kazakhstan, through Aral Sea
    • Steppe crossing in Russia
    • Gravel and sand in Tajikistan, including Wakhan and Zorkul, exploring unused tracks (read: dealing with navigation screw-ups :p ).
    • Wildcamp and campsites mostly, or guesthouse/hotel when prices are good and shower was needed.
    • No workshops or mechanics, all service and repair done on the road with own tools and hands.
    • No ferry, plane or trailer, every km has been driven on the DR, except crossing into Asia on a boat.
    • DR bike modified for better handling, suspension, weight, power, fuel range, … (separate post)
    • Dust, dust and even more dust.
    • Crashes, bribes, food probs, heatstroke, mechanical challenges, collapsed bridges, river crossings, flats, snow and ice, … most of these bonus items were present and accounted for, all with happy endings.
    • Having the honor to meet the greatest and most friendly people I could have imagined, in places where some would not expect it.
    The trip started solo, as I have a shitty personality and don't like riding in a team. Strangely enough, i met a German rider (not an inmate) with a similar "reserved" personality and after a couple weeks riding together and splitting up, it seemed we could ride as team without killing each other. The last 3 weeks were completed in duo. Other rider is Ben or Benjamin Hacker (wheretheheckisben) on his GS650 Dakar, who's now preparing for BAM and OSR.


    Route Overview:

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    Colors have a meaning (red is big fun, green medium, yellow is chicken route) and created in Basecamp, using Google Earth, Wikilocs, Dangerousroads.org and some facebook groups as source of info. This route was chosen as it has the most exciting trails with the least amount of paperwork (visas, permits) and least amount of variables for timing. Endpoint was Bishkek, where bike would be put on a truck and head home. At this point in time, the bike is still there.


    Video and teaser pics:

    Here's a sneak peek:



    An action vid will come some day, when I find the chance to go through approx. 300GB of GoPro footage :cob
    *EDIT*
    GoPro and Drone video compilation

    */EDIT*

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    I'll post day reports whenever i find time to do it. Expect 60-70 posts. Next up: Bike choice and mods
    #1
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  2. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    The Bike


    Why an old DR instead of a modern and powerful bike?
    Well, because it's old tech, suited for this job and easy to modify and repair.

    When I planned for the trip, some key requirements for the bike became clear: simple, robust, light, off-road capable and allows bush fix. Most of you will know the characteristics of the DR650SE: carb-fed air-cooled thumper, unchanged design since 1996, bombproof and with massive amount of aftermarket mods available. It's cheap and spare parts are readily available if you would need them. No water or fuel pump, no computers or other stuff that potentially can fail.
    The stock version sucks a bit (much) and would not be a pleasant and reassuring experience. Changes had to be made.

    A low mileage bike from 1998 was found in France for 1700EUR. These bikes are not readily available in Europe because of emission regulations (Carburettor is no-go). 1998 is the last year it was sold here in BE.

    Work started and turned the bike from this

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    Into this

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    The bike became a dream to ride and didn't suffer any breakdowns. After 15000km, the score was a half broken rear indicator (my fault) and broken rear chain guide after 58 days.
    Also lost my license plate (my fault again), but that's not really a "bike" part.

    Some work that was done:

    • Suspension:
    On any off-tarmac trip, suspension is for me the most important factor on a bike, bar none. This bike seems to be build for lightweight persons who do not ride with luggage. Spring rate and damping is undersized for my heavy butt and just useless for me. In the front, I installed Hyperpro progressive springs and added an intiminator set to have at least some sort of "shim" damping. The rear shock was replaced by a custom made Hyperpro shock in the Dutch workshop, tailored to my weight and the luggage setup. Excellent work from these guys, this had a big impact on the trip.

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    New spring on the right.
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    In Rotterdam, NL receiving new shock. Boris bike (LPR) in the back there.

    • Weight and Fuel capacity
    The weight for this bike is acceptable (165Kg dry) for a 650, but it's easy to loose some more while improving overall characteristics. The steel fuel tank (13L) was replace by a plastic 21L Acerbis tank. Steel handlebars went into the bin and Alloy Tapered bars were installed and raised. Steel handlebars can bend in a crash, don't want that. Heavy steel mirrors became Doubletake versions. Useless stuff like helm mount, passenger pegs, mechanical speedo, … were dumped. The stock steel muffler, which is crazy restrictive, had to go and would be replaced by a GSXR600 version, which is half the weight and doesn't restrict. This muffler was a 30EUR find on ebay. Sound is nice and low as well. Everything on the dashboard had to go as it's just not well placed, which saved another Kg. The keylock was replaced by a plastic version from Ebay, which required me to change the wiring loom

    • Comfort and safety
    In stock version, this bike is just uncomfortable. The seat is unbearable and there's zero feel for handling when you hit the dirt. A new foam and cover was installed (Procycle) which was ok for my weight. The pegs had to go, as they are seated in rubber bushings which just denies you to "feel" the bike when standing. Lower and wider versions were bolted on steel, as it should be. I don't do crashbars as they're useless on these kind of bikes, except for the oil cooler guard. Handguards are important. They will hit the ground when you fall and protect hands in the bush and woods from branches. Barkbusters were used for that, very solid stuff that proved their worth a couple of times and didn't budge at all. A plastic bash plate from Acerbis was installed. It's hard and thick enough to protect for normal impacts, allows for the bike to slide over rocks and wood and as a bonus, plastic doesn't reflect the sound from the thumper as much.
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    • Electrics and gadgets
    Things to sort out: Rather weak Alternator, so have to be careful with available Watt. Regulator isn't very reliable, no charging circuits, only 2-3 fuses, … If you would just add bunch of extras on the stock bike, you could get into electric/battery problems quickly. I need 2 charging circuits, GPS unit, heated grips in a reliable way.

    The standard dash was thrown in the bin as you can't even see indicators when riding normally. The brake tube blocks clear view. Mechanical speedo isn't really giving clear readout and not exactly necessary to have. The original rectifier went away as well, as i didn't like the voltage output on idle or 5k rpm. Stator gave good output (30V idle, 80V at 5k rpm) so that could stay. Heavy duty rectifier came in and provided excellent output, I saw 14.2V on idle. The standard lightbulb went out and replaced by LED bulb. This gives extra amps and increased light output. If it would fail, i could still go back to standard bulb which is available anywhere.
    Where the speedo used to be, i added a Fuzebox which provided 6 fuzed circuits that can be switched via relay if you choose so. This powered GPS, heated grips, 2 charging circuits to tank bag, 1 circuit to front of bike and a voltmeter on the dashboard. All extra's could be powered down via switch on dash. Charging circuits were terminated on SAE plugs. Batteries for gopro, camera and drone can be charged in the tank bag while riding. There's no laptop in my kit, so am able to charge everything on the go. Connectors in the key parts on the wiring loom are replaced by waterproof versions, with di-electric grease where appropriate.
    A new dash was build using alu brackets and some steel i had laying around, with waterproof switches, LED indicator lights and Trailtech Endurance unit. This dash also got the new ignition key unit. The dash is mounted on the handlebars and can be flipped up if i need access to fuses or wiring.
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    • Performance and fuel consumption
    There's a lot you can do on a stock DR to improve overall engine performance and throttle responsive for no money. In standard version, the airflow from airbox to mufler is way to restrictive, like breathing through a straw. The snorkel went out and additional hole in the airbox was drilled. The carburettor got a ultrasonic bath and new jet (from 140 to 150, carrying 140,145 as spare). The needle was sharpened and carb slider unit replaced (worn). The exhaust pipe is restricted by welds from factory, so those were grinded to allow more air. Found a muffler from GSXR600 on ebay for 30EUR and ordered a new midpipe from Procycle. This saved few kilo and gave way better throughput. All of this and some additional changes to carburettor resulted in much snappier throttle response, bit more power and better fuel range. Stalling in low revs was a thing of the past and the bike started on first compression stroke. Big difference, for low money.
    The new Acerbis 21L fuel tank gave 500km range when riding the dirt. The additional 2L Primus bottle and 5L Fuel bladder gave a total of 600-620km fuel range. Good enough!
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    • Known errors/problems and chassis (probably wrong English word)
    The DR has a long list of known errors, they had to be corrected before the trip started. Look on google for a list, it's well known stuff. Perhaps the most important fixes were the NSU bolt fix, Counter shaft seal and retainer, adding grease here and there and replacing all bearings that are closed on a single side (wheels, hub, ..). Oil and compression gaskets were changed as well. I also swapped chain and sprockets from size 525 to 520 as 525 isn't available that much where i wanted to go. That saves a few grams too, which does count on high speed moving parts like a chain. The chain and sprockets lasted the whole trip and have thousands of km's to spare. I was advised to strengthen the frame as some points, but found it to be unnecessary for the type of luggage i would use.
    • Luggage and toolkit
    The main goal was to keep the bike simple and light, same goes for anything strapped on there. A light luggage system would be key, as well to keep all weight low and close to centre of gravity. The Mosko Moto R80v2 totally fits all requirements as it keeps everything close to the centre and doesn't require additional side racks, if the size of the bike is right. The DR and R80 system were a perfect match. A Moose top rack was added though, as i needed mount points for the rear straps. This rack isn't like a lot, as you need to adjust it to fit the bike, but once that's done it's ideal for R80 mounting. The DR did fall down a bunch of times but the R80 stayed solid in place. For water and fuel storage i added Enduristan bottle holders (MOLLE attached) with 2L Primus bottle, a 2L MSR water bladder and Desert Fox 5L Fuel bladder.

    All clothing, cooking gear, spare parts, toolkit, camping stuff, … fitted into the 80Liters in the R80. The Wolfman Enduro Tank Bag held some small stuff and electronics. Tubes went into the Enduristan front fender bag. The toolkit (Enduristan) contained mostly Motion Pro stuff that i used before and went into the R80 rear pouch together with consumables (grease, oil, JB Weld, wires, bolts, pads, bearings, spokes, …..). Some spare parts (clutch plates, sprockets, clutch/brake levers and cables, zip ties, ..) were attached to the bike under the rack or behind plastics. Everything needed for tyre fix (levers, pump, patches, gloves, beadpro) are in an extra tooltube at the left, so i can fix tires even when the R80 isn't there.

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    Tyre choice: Trip would start on Mitas E-07 front and back. They work well on gravel and good enough on mud. Also easy to handle using spoons. Later in Kazakhstan i'll swap for MT-21 as we'll hit sand.

    What i would do different next time: nothing.. All is good

    Next up: Trip start
    #2
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  3. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D1: May 7 - 500km - Belgium-Germany

    As usual prep work became a bit hectic the week before departure. All visa applications went fine, except the Russian one. For cost reasons I applied for Transit visa, as that was exactly what I wanted to do. The embassy then asks for entry and exit point and calculate themselves how long you would need to be in the country, using Google maps and the estimated 700km/day. That wouldn't work for me, as there's a fairly large steppe with sand riding on that route, slowing me down. 300km/day would be more reasonable, but that was tricky to justify. The Russian embassy had many questions for plan validation, so i only got my passport back the Friday before departure day, which is a Sunday, with a 3 day window to cross the country and with fixed entry/exit dates. Close call, but made it nonetheless. I now had 3 days to cover a 900km stretch, if there are no detours and littered with checkpoints. That would be interesting :).

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    Note: the Russian visa was printed using Inktjet apparently, which provided some good discussions with border officials after the passport got a bit wet :)

    The bike was ready to go



    everything was packed and the dreaded goodbye came. My girlfriend wasn't joining, and i love her a lot, so safe to say I wasn't in the mood for joyful ride reports. I would miss my dog too..

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    Anyway, time to go. The first 2-3 days would be uneventful, as I planned to ride to Croatia (start of trails) asap using German Autobahn. There wasn't too much interesting to experience the first 1000km and would be nice to start with a decent amount of kilometres, while sobbing in my helmet. Music came on and I hit the road.

    After an hour or so the rain came and came down hard. Rain gear came on but it was just too much volume to keep out. It is what it is, and we keep riding.

    I might have looked a bit miserable (but was actually feeling ok) as a random dude in a Defender 4x4 came to me at a fuel stop and offered me a place to stay for the night. It was only 1PM, so had to decline but humbly took the opportunity to dry clothes and get some heat in the body.

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    He lived close to the highway, so super easy for me. I must have looked very miserable as he and his wife kept insisting that I stay. When I (again) humbly declined, he insisted to arrange a warm place for me to sleep in the evening and started calling. The result: I was welcomed in a huge farmhouse close to the Austrian border, got a shower, dinner, breakfast, beer and good chats with a crazy friendly family.

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    Bit of an emotional start, but in the end the trip kicked off in a super good way.

    Not many pictures, as there was just nothing interesting going on :). That would change in a couple of days
    #3
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  4. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D2: May 8 - 400km - Austria-Italy

    Early wake-up with a great breakfast provided by the generous hosts. No payment accepted. The rain never stopped, and a quick look at the weather forecast showed that would be the same for the rest of the day.
    No biggie, the Austrian Alps can be a nice ride in sun or rain so off we go (with raingear..)! I had plotted a route staying clear of the highway, which was nice pass-time. The weather didn't improve, so picture stops were useless.

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    Yes pavement. Riding offroad, offtarmac and/or trails in Austria is highly restricted, if not impossible. That would change soon though :)

    Crossing into Italy went over the 110 (Austria) and 52B (Italy) which is a nice mountain pass in itself and should provide easy access to Triglavski NP in Slovenia via a twisty mountain road. There was an odd sign at the start of that twisty road, and my Italian is a bit .. Rusty :).

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    What's the worst that can happen, right?

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    Ah right.. Maybe that..
    I tried to clear rocks for a path, but it was just too slippery to try without risk of breaking something. Being 20-30km away from anybody helped to decide to turn back and scout for camping spot.

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    Tomorrow it should be fairly easy to reach Croatia for a planned stop, and the weather forecast looked just fine. Few beers helped to forget about the rain, as of now everything would be super!
    #4
  5. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D3: May 9 - 150km - Croatia

    This was going to be a short riding day. For 17 years, i had spent many summer holidays in a small village in Croatia. The owner of the house where we stayed all those years was still alive, so wanted to visit her, have some chats and a few beers.

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    Waking up this way is always a bonus.

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    First border crossing (Slovenia). This would become a standard routine the further we go East of course. Border crossings are cool :).

    Slovenia would be the first place where riding trails is somewhat ok. I vowed to make use of that, even if i only had to ride 50-60km through the country.

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    First chance of leaving the tarmac and GO!

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    Getting close to the village.

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    And here we are. The town is called Jadranovo and is highly recommended for those who want to relax by the sea.

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    The landlady from distant past. Well over 80 but still as energetic, fun and nuts as ever (no idea what she wanted to do here with my ear :) ). She lost her husband long time ago, lived through the Yugoslavian war, managed to keep her life in check during the chaotic aftermath and always kept the biggest smile on her face. She's one of those unsung heroes.

    Parked the bike at a Motorcycle Guesthouse and had good chats with locals, who were keen on providing tips for the coming trails, and sourced the beer. This town is super..

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    The bike was running as smooth as can be. The next day, trails would be finally on the menu. Safe to say I was stoked and pumped, probably that's why I had a few pivo's too many before hitting the deck.
    #5
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  6. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze I keep blowing down the road

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    11,481
    Location:
    Tennessee
    good start! looks like an epic trip!
    #6
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  7. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D4: May 10 - 250km - Croatia - Dirt and an airbase


    Finally the trip could start as intended. Right behind this village were the first rocky trails where i cycled as a kid. I could still remember the steep paths (and occasional snake) clearly. The guesthouse owner wasn't super convinced this was a good idea, but i knew better… maybe..

    There seemed to be a perfect weather window so no time to waste and get on with it.

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    Croatia has a long stretch of coastline mostly consisting of rocky mountains and hills. Getting up to those hills is a fun ride, if you don't mind the loose surface.

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    There's some history of unrest from WWII and the Yugoslavian wars from which there are many remnants. You will without any doubt bump into bunkers, mine areas or destroyed houses/villages from those times.

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    The ride through valleys and over hills was beautiful. Mostly gravel with some sections of mud, where trees were cut using some kind of monster machines from Sweden. I had some chats with the drivers and we were both impressed with each other's ride :).

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    In the afternoon I reached the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is on the Unesco World Heritage list. Lots of tourist busses there, which is something I tend to avoid at all cost. Worth a visit for sure, but not this time.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park

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    During the 1991-1995 war, the first shots were fired in this area. Everything is cleared of mines now, but that cannot be said for the next destination, close to this park. I wanted to visit the abandoned Zeljava Airbase, which used to be the largest underground base in Europe. The trails leading to the base weren't exactly open for tourists. Just don't go too far in the woods to take a piss..

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    The base was truly abandoned. It sits on the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and is an impressive piece of engineering. Large bunkers build in the mountains could house up to a 1000 persons for a month or longer during a nuclear attack and provided shelter for multiple jet fighters. Google for details.

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    I tried to follow the main runway (14) but that would mean crossing into Bosnia illegally. As I always play by the rules, I opted to fly the drone instead to see the end of the runway :p

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    That was a good day. Had some dirt, bit of mud, bike was running super and the airbase was cool to see. The next day would bring another country with more trails. Yay!
    #7
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  8. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D5: May 11 - 500km - Bosnia - Proper Dirt

    In the morning in front of the tent I was checking the menu for today: Border crossing, High Flats, Forest Roads with a light flavour of Mud. Yes, I'll have one please :).
    Border crossings in East-Europe are never a concern. Show passport, show "Bike Passport" and insurance, have a chat, make a selfie and "Welcome to Bosnia"!

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    The planned route would take me through the forests over the hills. There's a lot of empty space (no villages) with plains and woods, all connected via a well-used network of dirt roads. I didn't realize my route was actually mostly logging roads, but would soon learn that the hard (fun) way.



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    There was a nasty strong wind blowing which almost kicked me of the road a couple of times. Taking my chances up the hills in the forests sounded like a better option.

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    Soon enough though, the road became … interesting :).

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    This went on for a long time and I was enjoying every second of it. The bike performed flawlessly and the balance was good. Once in a while there were workers active with or without heavy machinery. When they spotted the bike, they stopped whatever they were doing and came over for a chat. My Slavic language skills are almost non-existing (I can order a beer and ice-cream) but still, these were fun conversations.

    This guy had the road blocked with logs, I suppose there wasn't anyone expected for a few days

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    It took half an hour or so to clear the road. Very impressive machine, that's for sure. When I asked him about the road conditions ahead, he assured me everything was "Dobro Dobro" which means "all good" and wished me a pleasant journey

    The following hour or so I only saw this:

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    Perhaps Dobro Dobro has another meaning here, but I could appreciate it a lot. The pace was a bit slower than expected though, it was time to head down into the wind again and find some beer and meat.

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    Camping maybe?? Nah… need pivo and didn't see a shop anywhere.

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    Late in the evening the flag was planted in a Motel, mainly used by truckers. A gigantic plate of meat with proper local beer helped to digest the mudfest, just as it should be.

    While checking my messages, I noticed that Benjamin Hacker (WhereTheHeckIsBen.wordpress.com) was two streets away from my position according to his Garmin tracker. I linked up with him a few weeks back on Horizons Unlimited, where he mentioned he was roughly taken the same route as I did and wanted to avoid cities and tourist things and longed for camping, gravel, sand and an occasional beer. I sent him a message that a cool beer was waiting for him if he took the first right and sure enough, half an hour later he sat at my table devouring the half liter of local goodness. We didn't know each other, but would like to try riding together for a few days and see what that could bring us.

    The bikes could stay in the front next to the street, with all luggage still on it. That's how it goes in those areas, you do not have to worry about safety.
    #8
  9. Coen

    Coen Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2016
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Below sea level
    Great ride and nice write-up.
    #9
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  10. Dread_lion

    Dread_lion Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2013
    Oddometer:
    299
    holy shit what a start! i'm so in on this ride report! Where in Belgium are you from exactly?
    seems like an epic adventure!!
    #10
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  11. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    Thanks. I'm from the North-East, close to the racetrack in Zolder.
    #11
    BIKE-R likes this.
  12. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D6: May 12 - 250km - Bosnia - Proper Dirt

    The motel was a good idea. In Bosnia, they understand the meaning of "proper breakfast". Loads of eggs, sausages and other goodies were served for almost no money. Ben and I agreed to make this day a try-out to see if and how our riding styles would compare. He seemed like a nice bloke but as always I was suspicious. I've never ridden in team for longer than 3 weeks and always had a tendency to become impatient. Little did I know back then that two months later we would have to say goodbye with tears in the eyes (it was dusty ;) ). Nevertheless, our bikes were different so that could be a factor. He rides a GS650 Dakar with stock suspension, which made his ride approximately 30kg heavier than mine, including the difference in luggage. His main concern was the tank bag which was too large for long sections of standing on pegs. That would all be fixed soon enough :).

    The plan for today: stay close to hills and search for the high flat spots

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    If you're into trail riding in Europe, Bosnia is high on the list. There's an extensive network through amazing nature on challenging or easy surface, whatever you prefer. We tried all flavours that day, mainly as a try-out. There was no rush, so pace was low and gave opportunity for many stops where we could try different luggage setup.

    Whenever we rode on top of the hills, there were open spaces with twisty roads

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    Crossing from one hill to another usually meant looking for a good way up, which often resulted in a challenging path. Detours had to be looked for now and then.

    This one was just a bit too tricky for us.

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    Usually it was just a fun ride

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    With a nice reward on top

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    Sometimes you find farms or … other stuff. No idea what this is. Coal chamber?
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    The ride was just super

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    And the first "glitch" was scored

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    Nothing big, just a broken blinker and some damage to ego. Blinker was easily repaired, the ego had to wait for the evening.

    Occasionally we rode through villages where all kids came running out of the house to the street and waved / cheered us through.

    In the late afternoon we passed a tiny village with a hotel in the middle of nowhere, with some younger dudes sitting in front. They invited us for a chat, which resulted in us being unable to leave. Their excellent bottle of homemade liquor (slivovitz) had probably something to do with it :). The hotel was empty but they called the owner for us who promptly showed up and offered us a stay for few dollars/EUR in small apartment, with shelter for the bikes (although he didn't understand why we wanted that). This guy, who looked like a cage fighter, could also magically produce the best meat plates (chevapchichi) with cold beer. The decision was easy, we wouldn't leave that place (yes we are weak).

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    The night was long and our stomachs were never without solid or liquid fuel. To our great surprise the owner wanted to go back home and gave us the keys for the place, as we were the only guests anyway. "Just put the key under the doormat when you leave tomorrow" and off he went.

    So far all good, one minor drop/fall and a missing nut on the BMW (linkage system). Let's see what the next day brings.
    #12
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  13. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D7: May 13 - 275km - Montenegro - Ice and Dirt

    Yeah, that was a slow and difficult morning (surprise surprise :p). Luckily for us it started raining heavily which helped our decision to take it easy and check the bikes. We managed to put another nut on the GS linkage bolt and did some standard tinkering on the bikes, while we enjoyed our self brewed coffee shots.

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    Once the sky cleared, we set our satnav to Montenegro border crossing. Bosnia was amazing and it felt like we didn't spend enough time there, but I had fixed entry dates for Russia and had to honour that. Definitely a country to return to one day.

    The border crossing would connect us to the Piva Canyon, a superb twisty road through dozens of tunnels carved out of the mountain. The border post was a no-brainer easy one, of course if you have all paperwork in check. Ben had a small moment of worry when he noticed his Green Card (European Insurance) had a start date somewhere in the future. Luckily they only checked if you had a card (well it seemed so) and we were clear to explore the next country.

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    Border post. Warning signs for mines were still abundant.

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    The Piva Canyon road is very enjoyable, even on tarmac. The plan was to follow the road until we reach the R-14 which takes us up to the Durmitor National Park through twisty tunnels. Today would be mostly tarmac, but I heard rumours about the R-14 and Prevoj Sedlo Pass on top of the mountain, where there's chance of ice the whole year round. Interesting :).

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    Piva Canyon with the road at the bottom.

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    The dam (duh..)

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    Time to head into the mountains

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    Temperature was dropping, which meant snow was coming

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    So why not have a rest?

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    I could have sworn I heard my old DR giggle a bit :D

    We both longed for some dirt after this stretch so set our compass for Kotor over small roads. Gravel trails in Montenegro can be kinda intensive. The road surface is excellent but you can't find a 10 meter stretch without a corner. VERY cool and enjoyable.

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    Occasionally, we had a mandatory stop to have a chat with the fans. They could be very persistent.

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    That was another great time on the trails, short as it was. Ben was feeling confident he could keep up the pace, but he started to develop a pain in his forearms. It was time to find a camping spot. We both like to wildcamp, but we were getting close to Kotor which is a marvellous town at a bay, accessible via a 16-hairpin mountain road. It would be stupid to skip that, so off we went.

    View from the top
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    Not bad huh?

    Tents were pitched close to the shore, flag planted and beer located. Ben's painful arms could be a reason for concern, we would have to wait for the next day and see what's what.
    #13
  14. rtwpaul

    rtwpaul out riding...

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    3,940
    Location:
    round the world
    great start, looking forward to seeing some familiar sights
    #14
    Oldfatbeerman and OldManJoris like this.
  15. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,022
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    :lurk:lurk:lurk:thumb
    #15
    OldManJoris likes this.
  16. Oldfatbeerman

    Oldfatbeerman Enroute to a PUB

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    5,417
    Location:
    Lake Macquarie , NSW, Australia
    Great , you have me sitting on the edge of my sofa waiting for the next instalment . Really enjoying the pics :nod , the nightly beer sessions has endeared you to me too :drink . Thank you for taking me along for the ride :thumbup .
    #16
    OldManJoris likes this.
  17. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D8: May 14 - 0Km - Kotor - Time for a break

    I realized I hadn't had a rest or break for 7 days. My cloths started to produce a semi-rotten smell as well, and it's a Sunday. When you think of all that and see a perfect stretch of coastline 10 meters from your tent, it's an easy decision to take a break for a day and enjoy the holiday.

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    There was time now to wash clothes, charge batteries, have a swim and make backups

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    I didn't bring a laptop and so far managed to take backups using a Kingston MobileLite device. Great piece of kit, but time consuming. Ben had a nice laptop at hand, which I could use to make backups and backup that backup to another backup disk, as a backup.

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    The bikes got a bit more attention as well. I noticed Bens brake light wasn't working, which was an easy fix on the switch at the back. Zipties to the rescue, as usual.

    The rest of the day was spent swimming and relaxing.

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    I decided to cut some trees in my tent. Apparently that scared away the tourists, as Ben took this shot during my world-record-snoring-session

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    This monster sailed away blasting his horns, I didn't notice a thing..

    The next day we would cross into Albania. Right after the border crossing there would be a challenging road. We would have to see if Ben's sore arms would be up for the task. First no-riding / "boring" day, next one will be tiny bit different ;)
    #17
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  18. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D9: May 15 - 280Km - Albania - Sh21, Slippery When Wet

    It was still early morning when Rocket the Mighty DR started pulling at the tent. "GET UP! Let's Ride!!". No problemo, let's pack and get rollin'.
    The planned route to the Albanian border would take us over smooth tourist roads along the coast. Really not my cup of tea, so I wanted to get over the border asap and start the red route.
    Ben still wasn't 100% (arms), so he decided to leave at a later hour and find a camping spot at the planned endpoint. That would prove to be a wise decision.

    Well.. Tourist roads are not my thing, but I can't leave without a single picture, right?

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    The border crossing was uneventful again, and soon after I took the turn for the Sh21.

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    Time for lunch
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    And a selfie for the record
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    The Sh21 is a twisty mountain road divided in two sections (north and south) divided via a 1730m mountain pass. The north section is semi gravel / tarmac and easy ride. Once you cross the pass, this changes rapidly to steep ascents/descents on loose surface. There are 4 POI's from dangerousroads.org.

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    On top of the pass I met a local ranger with his 4x4 who warned me for what's to come. Taking this road alone with luggage would be foolish, but he was happy to see I carried the SOS device (uhm..). Seemed that he wanted to deny me access, but Rocket gave him a sweet wink and he gave me green light. "With that bike, you'll probably make it" was the last he said with a suspicious grin.

    Start of the south section, which continues for 100km:
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    Not too bad, right?
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    I was enjoying myself immensely and worked a good sweat. Only when I took this picture
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    It became clear there might be few drops in the not too distant future.

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    Asked the cowlady which side is best. "Follow me, homes" she said and went straight through the middle. .. Right…

    Somewhere in the middle, right before the steeper sections, the clouds caught up with me and a nice thunderstorm was presented, with lightshow, deep bass drums and nasty showers. Small rivers formed on the trails, which made the ride a bit more challenging. Maybe that's why the ranger dude had the suspicious grin ;).

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    At some point, the bike had loss of power. A quick investigation showed that the locking nuts for the throttle cables came loose from vibrations at carb side which resulted in the cable jumping out of the sockets and hanging in the air. This required a McGyver moment but no drama. Rocket took me over the remaining passes and we arrived safe and sound at the arranged camp spot. The south section is definitely worth the effort and let's say at medium difficulty, but I wouldn't advice it in rain with luggage. Steep sections with slippery and loose rocks, 3 passes, wind and lightning, mud, water crossings and a fairly large amount of memorial signs along the trail drained the energy too fast for comfort. This was the best days so far, but I was a bit tired. If this unstable weather continues, I might have to skip some planned sections. Time would tell.

    Before the trip started, I saw a Belgian travel documentary about Albania. They mentioned this country is years behind, as poor as can be and people ride on donkeys. Well.. I only saw new cars, new houses and excellent infrastructure. Ben found a camping site at a lake, with brand new buildings, shelters for tent spots, full service, electricity and water for every spot, wifi everywhere, beach with relax zones, security gates, automatic irrigation for plantation, etc etc for the round sum of 5EUR. This country seems to be light-years ahead... Oh right, their own restaurant was kind of extraordinary ;)

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    #18
  19. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Ageing Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,216
    Location:
    New Zealand
    That looked like a fun route. Enjoying the RR.
    #19
    OldManJoris likes this.
  20. OldManJoris

    OldManJoris Rider

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    165
    Location:
    Belgium
    D10: May 16 - 240Km - Albania - Maintenance

    Morning came and the weather didn't improve. Unstable to say the least. The bike had some bumps yesterday, so time for a quick check.

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    The loose nuts were tightened, chain checked and air filter inspected.

    This was not supposed to look like this right?
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    Looking back at how a sudden thunderstorm can change the experience on a mountain trail, and taking the weather forecast into account, we decided to stick together this day and skip the planned trails. They would have been a notch more difficult with sections in the unknown (no paths on any maps), which would be stupid.

    The tarmac roads leading away from the camp spot were very twisty and enjoyable. Whenever we saw a stretch of gravel, of course we went in for a bit of playtime.

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    Eventually the clouds caught us again, and they planned to stay and show us how it's done.
    Rain gear was almost useless, i was properly soaked within minutes. We saw gravel and sheep dump floating by while taking corners. Now and then our back wheels would jump out, which is impressive on a DR with only 40bhp :p.

    Sometimes we bumped into the source of the floating shit
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    After a couple of hours in the rain, we both agreed without shame a hotel would be cool to let our stuff dry. I'm not using waterproof boots (Forma Dominator) and when water finds sweat and toe cheese, the chemical reaction that follows is comparable to nuclear fallout. A wash was required to avoid being put in front of a war tribunal.

    Rain or no rain, my sweet old Rocket can only handle tarmac for so long. I made a promise we would head into the woods again the next day, whatever the weather would be.
    #20
    achesley, BIKE-R, BLucare and 3 others like this.