Crete 2020

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Baggi'tard, Dec 16, 2019.

  1. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    So kind of getting a jump start on our ride report for Crete. We will be there in mid-March 2020. Why Crete you ask? Well how about a little history on how we got to that point.

    2011 we toured Russia by river ship and in 2013 we visited Prague, Vienna, and Budapest with trains in between (2012 I was combat touring Afghanistan). FINALLY in 2014 I finally got wife to agree to a motorcycle trip. We were starting in Germany (on the new 1190 ADV), going to "Sound of Music" stuff for her and a couple weekends later ending up at the Sachsenring MotoGP race. Booked the bike, started planning routes, bought a new strap tank bag. Then we went and bought the house that we now run as the Farmhouse Inn and then two weeks later I lost my job of 22 years. First thing to go was the planned trip. Damnit. 2015 we got back to Europe and spent time in Prague again (love that city) and tried to find some familial for Laura in southern Bohemia. Running another tourist business we have limited ourselves to taking vacation in late winter or early spring before it starts getting really busy. Still no overseas moto trip.

    Then I saw Lyndon Poskitt's coverage of the Helles Rally and Adam Rieman's coverage of the KTM Naxos Adventure Rally, uh oh... I showed it to Laura and we decided then and there we would go riding in early 2017 in the Greek Islands. So we started looking into that. I looked for motorcycle rentals. Laura looked for other info like flights, ferries, accomodations. There did not seem to be full sized motorcycles for rent on Naxos or any other nearby islands. I did find MotoGreece in Athens, renting fully equipped BMWs. :-)

    We did not do the islands, the ferry schedules in winter are very limiting. We did the Pelopennese, the large peninsula just west of Athens. It was absolutely fantastic. Ride Report here. Video on my YouTube channel.

    https://advrider.com/f/threads/greece-the-pelopennese-feb-mar-2018.1287450/

    I think we started talking about our next trip on the plane ride home. Greece is an amazingly awesome country to motorcycle. Then I saw a couple videos of another motorcycle traveller vlogger through some of the Balkans. I showed the video of Dubrovnik to Laura. That was it, we had to go. I contacted John at MotoGreece again. John, can I ride your bike to Dubrovnik? Yes! Done! Ride Report from the Balkans here. Videos on YouTube channel too.

    https://advrider.com/f/threads/10-days-through-the-balkans-april-2019.1381218/

    So then we started thinking we should ride further up and around the Adriatic. Problem, how's the weather in March/April? Probably not so good. I met John from MotoGreece at the BMW MOA this summer, it was just outside Nashville. While we were sitting around talking about places we could ride that early in the year he said, what about Crete? We flipped over the huge Greece map he brought with. Man, that's a big island, but is there enough stuff to ride for a week or more? He just laughed, there's more than enough. So many small paved and gravel roads. Asked Laura what she thought? Hell yeah. Decision made. We really do love Greece.

    In case you are wondering where Crete is, it's a 9-10 hour overnight ferry from the port in Pireas. And the Pelopennese is the large hand-shaped land mass west of Athens (Athina). Naxos is also shown.

    overview.jpg

    I decided to start this thread ahead of the trip as I thought I'd share more of what we do and don't do as far as planning, preparations, packing and such. It still kind of amazes me how much people ask about that type of stuff, so figured I might as well share a bit on what we do and what works for us. Hint, in my world, light is right and less is more.

    More to follow.
    #1
  2. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    I spent a week in Crete in May, rented a KLX250 for 3 days - great fun. I thoroughly recommend visiting some of the ancient Minoan palaces, e.g. Malia (next to a nice beach), Phaistos (stayed 2 nights in Matala, a scenically relaxed village on the beach, used to be a hippy colony there back in the day) and of course Knossos (pretty crowded with tourists).
    #2
  3. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Thanks @DavidM1, I've bookmarked those locations in Google Maps already as well. A concession of riding two-up is that we don't just ride 10 hours per day because Laura wouldn't stand for it, but it's also a lot more work for me so I don't want to do it either. Plus when you are surrounded by 3000 years of history all the time it's hard to not stop and check it out. We were always the slowest divers in any group, poked around a lot more, didn't move very fast, and always had more bottom time than the people that flail and zoom along. I guess we've kind of settled on the same pace for moto travel (such as it is a week or two at a time).
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  4. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    So of course first thing to do was figure out where to get the motorcycle. I know there are a few places to rent motos on Crete, including a place or two with bigger bikes. At the BMW MOA John told me that MotoGreece could even deliver the bike to Crete for like 25 Euro if we wanted to fly in. Well that sounded like a great plan. So Laura poked around forever trying to find flights from Atlanta. Unfortunately she couldn't get that done booking straight through Delta. And scheduling wise by the time we got into Athens, all the flights on the small carriers were already gone for the day. So in the end it seemed like we were stuck in Athens overnight if we wanted to fly to Crete. Laura ended up booking round trip flights Atlanta-Paris-Athens and back for $700 each! And that includes four nights of a hotel in Athens (we are staying a few more days on the back end to visit friends). That also made the plan more set.

    What did work out is the fact the ferry's run from 2100 to 0600, going both directions. You can board between 1800 and 2000. Since we always arrive in Athens in the early afternoon, around 1400, it was a no-brainer to just go ahead and book the bike with MotoGreece, ride to the ferry, spend the money on a decent cabin with shower, get a full nights rest, arrive Crete early in the morning and have a FULL day the first day on the island.

    For our first trip we rented a F700GS. It was fine for the trip, but honestly it didn't handle two-up with luggage as well as it could/should have in my opinion. What I did like about it was the size, the lack of large screens and fairings (hate 'em), and the BMW comfort seat was very good. The three bags were MORE than enough (I think MotoGreece is only place that offers all three standard, and more on our gear and packing later), including my own tank bag.

    F700.jpg

    This year because we knew we were going to do more miles, and knew it would handle two-up with luggage better, we chose an R12GS. Comfort-wise for me, it wasn't as good due to the buffeting and wind noise (did I mention I hate windshields) and the seats were good, but both agreed the F700 comfort seat was better. However, the R12 obviously took the load better and handled much better because of it.

    R1200.jpg

    For Crete, we are back to not riding that many miles and so we are going with the F750GS. John promises that bike is actually much better than the F700 (suspension, engine, handling) and will be a good choice for Crete. It will have the BMW comfort seat, all three Givi bags, and of course has a minimalist fairing and windshield. MotoGreece also offers BMW Navigators, so I'll just take my micro SD card with the tracks and points of interest on it that I've already started in Basecamp.

    F750GS.jpg
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  5. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    As I posted above, we've decided to fly into Athens and get the bike at Moto Greece. The airport is actually further from downtown than the port of Pireas. It's a €50 taxi fare from the airport to downtown. The shop keeps our luggage for us.


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    We'll get the bike and then probably grab some dinner down near the port. We will take the Minoan Lines ship to Crete, arriving in Heraklion.

    ship_co_0_1.jpg

    Now the most fun starts, trying to figure out what to go see, where to ride, where to stay (maybe), how many days? Since this is our third trip to Greece, we already know it won't be hard to find stuff to do and see, we will never get bored of the riding, we'll have awesome food, and we don't think it will be hard to find places to stay (not sure initially though) since we never had a problem during our other trips (and we didn't plan ahead). Laura gets a Crete book from Lonely Planet, I just start googling websites and start dropping pins in Google Maps. It didn't take long to realize we needed to reign ourselves in, to just not be overwhelmed for 7 days. The western and eastern provinces are pretty remote, not well connected (road wise) with the two central regions, so we decide to just focus on that. This map is 66 points of interest (including 6 breweries I think), and I've already edited it down!

    cretepins.jpg


    The Heraklion region is somewhat dominated by Mt. Spathi to the southeast, so we will target the immediate area around Heraklion for a day (like Knossos and Archanes) and then target the central area and southern coast closer to Mt. Spathi.

    spathi.jpg
    Then we've decided to spend three days over in the Mt. Psiloritis area. We can do a loop around Psiloritis, a day or two on the southern coastal village and mountains to the west, and then on our last day (we have until 2000 to get boarded on the ship in Heraklion) we can ride up to Rethimno on the way to Heraklion.

    psiloritis.jpg


    Since we've traveled place to place to place the last few trips, we decided to stay in a couple locations for a few days each. We can then explore without having to pack and unpack and ride fully loaded all the time. The island is small enough we can do this with great effect. So Laura took the chance to really look ahead for some cool places to stay. We've booked rooms in some remote mountain villages. I think they are both only €35 per night.

    Alexander Hotel in Gerakari
    hotel Alex2.jpg

    Mala Villa in Males

    malavilla2.jpg
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  6. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    So let's go down the rabbit hole (er, chasm?) of route planning and GPS use. This must be one of the hardest things to really get a handle on based on the experience of having 100s of guys coming through our B&B using a huge array of equipment, techniques, and understanding. Honestly, very few actually have a pretty deep understanding and it hampers their ability to fully use the capabilities of the tech. It takes quite a bit of effort to get past the basic use of choosing a destination and let the GPS tell you how to get there. And honestly GPS and smartphones have diminished the ability of people to actually navigate and orient themselves. Some years back when I was still teaching military map reading and navigation I was told by a Lt COL that I should just teach the use of GPS as they were going to make map reading obsolete. I don't think he could have been more wrong. I think they only reinforce that you should know how to read and navigate off paper as well. GPS are great tools, they aren't the only tool.

    I guess I come by my map and orienteering skills naturally. My dad says I pretty much navigated our family cross-country vacation trip in 1972, when we only had maps. I was 8 years old. I started using DeLorme Street Atlas program probably not long after it was available for computers. Used it for many years before I ever bought a GPS. I would print out maps with planned routes, highlight and save favorite roads, verify where I had been, etc. I was still using it to make routes and tracks when I got my first Garmin, MapSource wasn't that easy or full featured and DeLorme was still better and easier. Fast forward to the last couple of years and I've basically settled on using Garmin Basecamp. Mainly I suppose because it also interacts perfectly with any Garmin device I plug into it. It's very easy to upload tracks for guests and friends. I know there's other stuff out there, I just haven't needed to go past Basecamp yet. Plus Basecamp really got pretty easy to use, and has many features. I've gotten really good at making routes, tracks, folders, files, moving stuff around, and editing it all. It took a lot of time to understand it all though, it's not something you are going to pick up three weeks before you take a big trip.

    However, Basecamp has errors and limitations just like everything else. As many others have done, I also use Google and Bing maps, Google Earth, Forest Service pdf maps, county level maps, etc. If you really want to get into the weeds and find all the minor roads and trails (and "pre-ride" them) you've gotta go down that route. For this trip (and others) I used Google maps and earth, and Basecamp with CN Europe 2017 map chip. Google earth is indispensable for double checking if a road is likely to be ridable two-up with luggage, as in paved, gravel, or is it a river bed. Basecamp is not very usable to find points of interest easily, so Google or Bing is much easier for that.

    On to devices. This is really where the discussion goes in a million directions and opinions. I'll throw this out there, it's just my opinion, but I think I've seen so many other solution attempts (again, lots of guests coming through) I still think it's more correct than not. Here it is. I still think a dedicated GPS with a hard-wired mount is the only way to go. We can go into all the myriad reasons but for me it's durability, reliability (of unit, mount, power), weather and shock resistance. I don't want my "communication" device, ie smartphone, out in the elements because it has none of the features listed above (as issued). I do like my smartphone for navigating in my car and in cities where I have no idea where I'm gong, with traffic turned on, and voice commands, so I'm not totally against phones as GPS. :D And of course smartphone is great for "finding" stuff, a lot better than a GPS (they work fine for most travel related services tho).

    Using the device. Once again this topic is full of options and opinions. For me, I always use north up orientation. I never use "track up" and I never use "driving view" (which seems oddly the most popular, but my brain "doesn't get it."). Maybe it's learned, maybe it's natural. But having always been adept at reading all types of highway and street maps, topo maps, military maps, and geologic maps that's just the way I have to view them. All "regular" maps are north up (not sure about southern hemisphere published maps though). Lots of people have to turn a map to the exact direction they are also looking toward in order to orient themselves onto the map. I can always do this north up, no matter which way I am heading. To me it's confusing any other way. It'll be the exact opposite for others.

    If you can orient yourself north up all the time, then I would argue that you will also understand and be able to quickly know if you need to go north east south or west. If you view a map "track up" (the direction you are heading) you can still see an "overview" of what is around you but it will take a bit more thought to figure out which direction you are actually going and which direction you need to go. If you use "driving view" I would argue you will be even less likely to understand which direction you are going and because of the view you will have almost no understanding of your "orientation" in the world.
    This "driving view" and use of GPS/phones to "tell" you where to go and how to go is why I think so many people don't actually understand where they are going, where they've been, and how to correct an error when they happen, and they will. You don't have to "think" about it when the device is just feeding you directions. My son recently read an article that talked about evidence that reliance on devices to get to some place you need to go may contribute to alzheimers or other mental degradation later in life because you aren't engaging your thought processes as much while driving.

    Routes v Tracks. Another much cussed and discussed topic. Simply put, I never use routes while motorcycling, I only use tracks. However, while driving in my car and using my iPhone I pretty much only use routing (and it plays through the sound system). Different purposes for me I guess. When I'm riding I don't want a GPS barking at me, I'm content to just follow my "highlight" on the map. I don't listen to music, I don't bluetooth to my phone, and I don't use communicators either. So there! I will use routing on a motorcycle for things like locating an exact address or point of interest, but I don't for the overall riding for the day. I like tracks because I like to be in charge of where I'm going, if I miss a turn, oh well, I can always turn around and go back. If I let the GPS route then who knows where it will take me (especially if it automatically re-routes), might not be on the route I want to go and the track I've designed might not even be "routable" due to the actual map database being used. You can "force" these things by using tracks.

    Anyway, let's not go to the bottom and get lost in the weeds. Back to the fun part of trip planning and routing, here's the first draft riding plan so far. I haven't done anything for last day yet. Crazy amount of twisty mountain roads on this island! For scale, the longest of these tracks is maybe 120 miles. But considering the pace we'll be able to ride, these will be all day rides with the historical and other stops on the way. From Basecamp using the CN Europe 2017 map data.

    crete.jpg

    I sent this map to John at MotoGreece and asked what he thought. He said it all looked good except maybe the dark cyan track running through the middle of the Mt. Psiloritis area. He sent these pictures taken in May one year. We are going in March. :lol3

    skinakas-1375.jpg skinakas-1407.jpg
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  7. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    :lurk
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  8. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    We have quite a few Cretan ancient sites marked on The Megalithic Portal if you're interested.

    We could do with some photos of the tombs at Koumasa, please. I see you might be passing nearby.
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  9. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    You bet, let me check into it, easy enough to mark it.
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  10. Supertoon2

    Supertoon2 Just be nice...

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    Crete has been on the radar for sure! Had a few friends suggest this destination for sure.... I will be following along for sure:D
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  11. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Very good! After John suggested riding Crete, we really started poking around for some moto content info. It's really hard to come by. There is barely anything on YouTube and what is there is not that extensive and pretty old. There seems to be only a couple things with adventure and dual sport bikes. There are no fairly recent ride reports. Most of the tourist info about Crete revolves around the bigger cites and/or beaches. Hopefully we'll be able to bring a better (or at least recent) glimpse into adventure style riding there. It will be awesome, that I do know.
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  12. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Working on the tracks a little more, probably close to being done. I don't get too crazy with details because I like to stay on the tracks just to keep the general direction for the day, but veer off them whenever we want. Great thing about a track, it "stays put" and you can always find your way back to it without annoying "re-routing."

    Garmin street view.

    crete.jpg

    Google terrain view.

    creteterrain.jpg
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  13. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Let’s talk riding gear. For a little history, I started riding when the best we had was leather jackets with no armor. I remember when we got zip open vents. Then I remember when Joe Rocket first came out with the full mesh nylon jacket, about the same time as perforated leather started becoming more common too. Then we got “4 season” jackets with way too many features, multiple zip out liners, multiple zippered vents. Through all these iterations I finally figured out that I need two sets of gear, winter and summer. I like my gear to more simple than complicated (did I mention that?). I don’t need my winter gear to unzip and un-liner and try to be comfortable much above 80° F, nor my summer gear to button up so tight as to be comfortable below 65° F. I also have two full sets of stuff for dual sport/dirt riding. This works for me because we haven’t taken two-up trips so long in duration (er, since 2010 anyway) that we need more than “one season” worth of gear. We did go from 21° to 108° F in the span of three days once. Lesson there is, avoid Las Vegas if you want to ride Colorado.

    So for us, one set of riding gear is all we have needed for the Peloponnese, Balkans, and Greece since we’ve been on the bikes less than 2 weeks at a time. We did encounter temps from -1.5 to 21° C (BMW temp gauge) and rain, snow, and sun. Also, “luckily”, all of our gear, tank bag, and a few other items all fit in one of my roller duffel. That duffel is right at the size limit of most international carriers. And since we’ve packed and weighed that bag at least 4 times now, it comes in just under the 50 pound weight limit! Most of that stuff we wear every day, so it doesn’t count against us for packing on the bike.

    Right now I am wearing Rev’It Safari 3 jacket and Horizon 2 pants. Laura just got new Rev’it gear after we got home from the Balkans this year. She now has Voltaic 2 jacket and Factor 4 pants. The Rev’It pants come in tall and short lengths, yeah! All of this gear is “simple.” Waterproof/windproof liners are sewn in, not removable. Minimal pockets, minimal venting, streamlined fit, full armor. Really like the “Engineered Skin” design concepts. Neither of us use the insulated liners, we both have Columbia windproof fleece jackets that we wear instead, and they double as a jacket off the bike as well. While we both have Aerostitch Kanetsu heated vests, I don’t use mine much, but Laura plugs in all the time when it gets cool. I have Rev’It Dominator GTX and Cayenne Pro gloves as my main gloves. My Multistrada and the rental BMWs have heated grips, so I don’t often need insulated gloves until it gets below freezing.

    Game-changing helmet tech. So we just “discovered” this year two helmet technologies that have been around a few years. But I had just never investigated them much, or was just too stubborn to “suffer through” the way I always did it. Transitions face shields and Pinlock anti-fog inserts. We had a guest with a Transitions shield on his Klim helmet a couple years ago and he really talked it up. It was very appealing to me because when we’d go on trips I always took a clear, light smoke, and dark smoke shields. I have always bought helmets I can get all those different tints (such as Arai). I don’t like wearing sunglasses in my helmet. I don’t like flip down internal visors. And then I’m pretty sensitive to light levels and gray days are probably worse than bright sun. I like dark smoke for street rides, I like light smoke when it’s very cloudy and for dual sport rides (just dark enough for the sun, just light enough for the shade in the woods).

    Since Laura really needed a new helmet, I started looking for helmets that offered Transitions face shields. The Shoei RF-1200 does, and since Laura had an RF-1000 I started there. We ended up with RF-1200s, they are superb helmets and we are really happy with them. We noticed right away that our helmet buffeting was less with these helmets than with the Scorpion EXO 2000 and Shoei RF1000 that we had been wearing, interesting. The RF-1200s came with clear shields and Pinlock anti-fog inserts. I had heard of Pinlock, just never had one. I can’t believe how many years I’ve suffered along without them! The Transitions shields are also Pinlock ready. We purchased the helmets and new shields in early 2019, so had them to evaluate for a couple months of colder weather before our trip. The Pinlock inserts work amazingly well, you can huff and puff as much as you want, they do not fog over.!

    Our first long trip with the new helmet setup was the Balkans trip. We could not have been happier. We both love the Transitions shields and the Pinlock inserts and I’m pretty sure there is zero chance we will ever be without them again. In fact I soon bought a Pinlock ready shield and light smoke insert for my Arai XD-4 that I wear for dual sporting. Another thing this combo did was cut down on having to bring a bunch of extra shields. We took one extra clear shield as backup, instead of at least five total (three spares).

    One thing I really like about the Transitions is they are “slightly” purplish colored, so add some definition and contrast, especially when it’s gray and cloudy. I did a shield color video last year when we first got them. Comparing them to the Scorpion, Shoei, and Arai shields I had. For me, they are the “right” tint pretty much all the time.



    I'll do a video with the gear bag packing and more about the other stuff we take too.
    #13
  14. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Short-ish video on our gear and getting it packed for airline travel.

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  15. KolaMare

    KolaMare n00b

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    hi @Baggi'tard!
    I spend 2 weeks in Crete this summer, but on the west side of the island mostly.
    I don't know if you 're interested but the ride to Menies beach is very very nice (great scenery, the road is a bit rough) . link Fun fact, when i went last summer i saw a couple on their F700.
    I would also recommend the drive to Balos (nice but unpaved road) and the Topolia Gorge. (regular-shitty quality greek rural road)

    Have fun!
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  16. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Thanks for the tips! We'll put those in list of things to consider. It won't be nice enough in March to spend much time at "beaches" but we've certainly planned on some coastal visits.
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  17. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

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    impressive attention to detail. yessir.
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  18. NaMi

    NaMi Mirko

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    Our five days in Crete in May 2019. We rented two Kawasaki Versys x300...
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    #18
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  19. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    Fun on small bikes for sure! Unfortunately Laura doesn't ride so we need to stick to larger bikes and full luggage. We'll be hitting a lot more of the small roads.
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  20. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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    Wow, that's good value at €25 a day. Slightly cheaper than the KLX250 I rented in Crete last May - I should have haggled more.
    #20