MrKiwi's European Affair with Red

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MrKiwi, Apr 8, 2017.

  1. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    In about 7 weeks time I get on a plane and fly back to the Netherlands to meet up with four Dutch friends and go riding.

    I went up last year, the first time I had ridden on the other side of the road, (ride report found here) and at the end of the trip I noted the following:

    What did I learn on this trip?
    • Riding on the other side of the road is not as easy as I first thought. The maxim tight right and long left is very handy but old habits of looking in the correct lanes for oncoming traffic was much more stubbornly planted in my mind than I liked. The fix was to take my time at intersections and look both ways and at all lanes. Slowly looking for oncoming traffic in the correct lanes sunk in.
    • Road signs are different, more different than I anticipated. For future trips I will spend a little time researching basic road fundamentals of the countries I visit. Understanding road sings is key to interpreting how to use the road.
    • Even the Dutch get confused by their own road rules.
    • In Germany their road signs and road markings are clearer and more easy to understand.
    On the trip itself:
    • I had a blast. Having ridden around NZ on my motorbike about a dozen times, I really enjoyed different roads, scenery and cultures.
    • The problem is NZ is a long way away from anywhere, so we tend to think it is all a bit too hard to organise riding in other countries.
    • In reality it is not that difficult. It's just a matter of making it happen. I've stopped doing other things so I can have the time and money to do what I have a passion for and that is riding motorbikes. Having done a reconnaissance trip next year I intend to ride much further and for a bit longer.
    So now the time comes to put the finishing touches to our organisation to make this year's ride a reality.
    #1
  2. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Met red. This is a bike I bought two years ago and it is stored by my good friend and mate @Two Plugs . He is Red's manager :beer.

    [Edit - As of 20 Sept 2017, Red is now on her way to NZ :nod]

    A quick recap, when I bought the bike, a 1998 Honda XL600V (Transalp), she looked like this.
    [​IMG]

    By the time I went up and rode her last year, she looked like this, had the addition of hand guards, centre stand, crash bars, new chain and sprockets and new spark plugs.
    [​IMG]

    As it turned out, the bike struggled a little bit with me and my gear, I'm not the smallest of people :nod
    [​IMG]

    The riding position was a little uncomfortable, partly also because a little while before I went up I had dislocated my tail bone. But this was exacerbated by poor riding position. On getting back from the ride and discussing my ride experience with Two Plugs, he had previously owned Transalps, we hatched a plan to modernise the bike to suit me. The bike's suspension was old but functional for a rider a lot less my weight so I needed to change that. I went for Wilbers progressive on the front and Wilbers 640 on the rear that comes with pre-load and rebound adjustment. The bike suspension was then tuned to my riding weight without luggage.

    The seat also came in for some attention, and we had this completely rebuilt, including creating a soft spot for my tail bone (just in case). The engine had a flat spot in mid range, so we installed a K&N fliter and also dynojets. 20mm bar risers were added. The seat build raised the seat height by 1cm at the rear and then we went straight forward at that height. The front bit of the seat is raised by 4cm.

    Finally I needed a better luggage solution. Buying racks and panniers for bike 19 years old is a bit of a mission. But Two Plugs found some, Heavy Duties. We ended up purchasing two pairs of side panniers as these have also been fitted to one of the other rider's bike that is coming on the trip this year.

    The bike with the new seat, and panniers is now looking the part.
    [​IMG]

    New seat
    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Final preparations are being made and before I jump on a plane to fly to the other side of the world, I will send up a pair of LED's to be fitted to Red, and she will also be fitted with a TomTom Rider 410 when the bike is serviced pre-trip.

    The trip takes us through nine countries. The plan is:
    • Ride from the Netherlands through Germany, Denmark and Sweden to Gotland Island. There we will attend VIM19, a motorcycle meeting of riders on a range of Honda adventure bikes.
    • After VIM19, we head back to Sweden and then go further up the coast before getting an overnight ferry to Finland.
    • From Finland we ride to Saint Petersburg, then through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and back to the Netherlands.
    • At the end of this first bit of the trip, I will have about 8 days to ride elsewhere. I haven't made up my mind yet, but I will probably ride south to catch up with a friend in Munich and then ride through a part of the Aps before heading north again. If I can catch one or two passes I would feel like I have achieved one of my bucket list rides.
    Since I was a little kid one of the places I wanted to visit is Saint Petersburg. That ambition is finally going to be realised.

    There is a fair bit of organisation required to get into Russia and I have all but completed the bits one needs. It takes time, perseverance and money!

    One thing I am not considering this ride as is an adventure ride. I most certainly will have an adventure, but I consider this trip is merely a long bike trip on tarmac roads. In this regard, I agree with comments by one of the round the world riders I currently follow on this website, @rtwpaul . I don't say this to be snobbish, I say it more because the level of riding and skills required is not much different to what I normally do. There is no sustained degree of remoteness, difficulty or real challenge. But it sure as hell will be one heck of a ride.

    I'll leave this thread here for now, but I am hoping to be able to update it as I ride depending on Wifi connections and speed. Departure date from New Zealand is 25 May.
    #3
    LadyDraco and plumer1kt like this.
  4. NZRalphy

    NZRalphy I'm not half as good as I think I thought I was

    Joined:
    May 14, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,261
    Location:
    South of the North, NZ
    Have a great ride. I've been there and done some of those countries many years and it was a blast.

    I stuck a big red arrow in the instruments pointing Right.
    #4
    MrKiwi likes this.
  5. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,800
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Will be following for sure MrKiwi. St Petersburg is a must, we loved it 20 years ago. The Hermitage will blow you away and whilst taking in a little culture and your wallet can handle it, see if you can attend the Mariinsky theatre.
    #5
    MrKiwi likes this.
  6. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Thanks for the suggestion, I'll google that for my education before I head up. Might just do that.
    #6
  7. neppi

    neppi Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2017
    Oddometer:
    1,569
    Location:
    Tauranga, New Zealand
    Do you have a plan for Finland? Do you know anybody up there?

    I could hook you up with a fella or two...

    And the country is a playground for an adventure rider! Sweet gravelroads everywhere, all these beautiful clean lakes to dip in AND you're allowed to camp anywhere (well not on somebodys front yard).

    It's not cheap up there! Petrol prices are about the same as in NZ, except in €!

    Stay off the main roads and you might even see something. Same in Sweden.

    Switch on to survival-mode when you cross the Russian border. Been there bazzillion times and always had to thank God for bringing me back in one piece! Everyone in the traffic wants to kill you. Period (that's "full stop" for Kiwis!).

    Take a detour through some old villages and small towns in russia. Take your pics in black&white, you'll understand why...

    Buy your vodka and bread from the small shops and try their pickles and sauerkraut. Gabbage pie and Russian beer! Man! Could I join you? Ü

    Neppi
    #7
    jyrays and MrKiwi like this.
  8. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Like all good trips away from home, getting ready for this year's ride is requiring a little bit of effort.

    Booking flights and getting to the Netherlands is easy.

    After last year's ride I left my helmet, a pair of gloves and a pair of boots up there. That rationalises a little bit some of the gear I need to take up with me this year. No boots and no helmet makes a big difference in carting gear to and from an overseas destination. The next choice comes down to whether or not to take my leather jacket or my synthetic jacket. The leather one is more comfortable so I will probably take that, although it is heavy. I will not take my leather pants, sticking with riding jeans instead. I may yet buy myself a new pair when I arrive. Either way the important stuff is the wet weather gear to throw over these should I need it. Clothes are more straight forward, I have the luxury of taking five sets of underwear, woolen undergarments and t-shirts. I will use two zip up cardigans, one woolen, one poly prop, to layer up or down. I long ago stop using the winter layer of my bike jackets, preferring to use instead clothes that can double for wear under the jacket and for wearing at night when not on the bike. I use one pair of three season gloves and if these get wet I use thin poly prop bicycle riding gloves as under gloves for extra warmth should I need it. One pair of shoes, two pairs of longs for evening wear. I can go lighter if necessary, but with two 39 L side panniers this gear will easily fit in.

    The bike has a small 20 L top box, and in this goes my one pair of walking shoes, one extra layer of clothing for under the jacket should I need it and all my electronic gear. I will not be running with a tank bag this year.

    I will be fitting a new GPS to Red, a TomTom Rider 410. We can't get the 410 model in NZ, only the 400 which has NZ and Australian maps only. The 410 is worldwide. Since TomTom is a Dutch company, buying the 410 in the Netherlands is cheaper than buying it here. I will purchase two wiring looms so I can fit it also to my Africa Twin. I will also take my old HTC phone without a SIM card as a back up GPS. I have Sygic GPS running on this and last night reloaded maps of the countries I will be visiting via WiFi.

    EDIT - have fitted the latest Tom Tom Rider GPS - the 450.

    Red has hopeless headlights. To be easily seen by other road users I have to run with the headlights on high beam, but that irritates some of the constabulary in various countries. Time to fit some LED's. I'm sending up a set ahead of time so these can be fitted with the GPS when the bike gets it pre-trip service, timed for when I am coming up on the plane.

    All of the countries I am visiting except for Russia are part of the EU. Riding from country to country is easy, no border checks. All I need is my passport, an international driver's licence and my NZ licence. Getting an international driver's licence is easy peasy from the Automobile Association, you just need a passport size photo and a little bit of cash. Takes about ten minutes.

    Travel insurance is more problematic. Most travel insurance will not cover you if you are riding a motorbike above 250cc. Fortunately the company I use does, but sadly they changed their policy recently so next time I will need to find a new travel insurance provider. I managed to buy my travel insurance for this year ahead of the policy change.

    The most challenging bit of organisation for this trip is getting into Russia. This requires time and a number of approvals. I made visa application last week, and this will come back to me in two weeks time. For this you need a valid passport (which you must give them for the visa application as they stick to inside your passport), a completed application form and supporting information. The supporting information is a full itinerary of your trip from leaving NZ to coming back. This can be challenging as for me, a part of the trip will not be decided until two thirds of the way through the time I have up there. But the Russian Embassy seemed happy that I just provide a broad outline of my possible intentions for that bit of the time I am away, the critical bit are the dates I intend to be in Russia. More importantly, the visa application is made much easier if you get an invite to Russia. The easiest way to get an invite is to prebook and prepay for accommodation. The trick here is prepaying for accommodation is non-refundable. So if your visa application is turned down you are out of money! Once the accommodation is booked and paid for, the accommodation owner sends you a certificate to confirm your stay and invitation.

    And then there is the motorbike!

    While it is my bike, technically I don't own it. My mate @Two Plugs has the bike registered in his name as I can't road register the bike in the Netherlands as I am not resident there. The bike is also insured in his name and I am a named rider. For the trip we need a copy of the ownership papers, copies of certificate of full insurance for the bike and for me I need @Two Plugs to formally (officially) authorize me to use the bike. This needs to be prepared by a public notary appostillized by a court. The cost of obtaining this is not that significant but it is another pre-trip expense and another bit of the exercise to get into Russia.

    So all going well, the paperwork will be completed in the next two weeks and that will be the last of the administrative bits.
    #8
    LadyDraco and milknosugar like this.
  9. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    231
    Location:
    Brittany (BZH)
    Hello Mr Kiwi, you seem to be a great tour organiser, and the trip you're going to do looks promising.
    Munich is the town I know the best in Germany, there are many many things to see, from museums to the BMW world, the Bavaria Filmstadt ... etc.
    I don't know if you want to do the tourists things but while being there, something not to miss is the automatons show on the clock tower of the town hall on the Marienplatz. It occurs twice a day at noon and 7pm and it's lasting 15 minutes. What amazes me the most is to see the huge crowd of tourists from all over the world begining to gather 15 minutes before the time show to be sure to get a good place to see it. And, from the Marienplatz, wandering on foot downtown is the best way to discover the nice little streets, the markets and the many brasseries where to eat.
    Then heading to the alps and crossing Tyrol is a wonderful sightseeing trip. May I suggest you to cross entirely Austria (it's really short) and head to the italian lakes, they're so scenic it's really worth to go.
    Something you have to know about Austria, if for some reason you have to use the motorway, you must buy a tax disk and stick it on your windscreen, they look free because there is no tollgate, but they aren't. And they have a very efficient motorway polizei who loves to give very expensive fines out.
    #9
    RobF650 and MrKiwi like this.
  10. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    @Yannick Thanks for those tips. I have a friend from my university days who lives in Munich and have visited a couple of times before. The old part of Munich is a great place spend some time.

    Your advice on Austria and Italy is definitely something I'm keen on. Cheers...
    #10
    Yannick likes this.
  11. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    @Yannick - I spent the weekend looking at google maps and have decided to try and visit my friend in Munich again. Based on that I'm currently looking at route options from Veendam to Munich, to Stelvio Pass via Trafoi, through to the Black Forest region and then back to Veendam. Lots of nice riding in there. Cheers...
    #11
    Yannick likes this.
  12. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Another piece of the pre-trip planning is now complete, I have today received my visa for Russia. Fantastic, feeling excited now.
    #12
    Yannick, goodcat and Dutch idiot like this.
  13. goodcat

    goodcat Changing latitudes, altitudes and attitudes

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Oddometer:
    4,768
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Does this mean you won't be following me anymore?
    I'd hate to lose a loyal customer :imaposer
    #13
    MrKiwi likes this.
  14. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    You can't rid of a bad smell that easily :nono:ksteve
    #14
    goodcat likes this.
  15. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    231
    Location:
    Brittany (BZH)
    So your choice fell on Stelvio pass, very nice. Becareful if you enter Switzerland, for the motorways it's like in Austria : sticker compulsory ! €€€
    On your way to the Black Forest, you can follow the shore of Constance Lake (Bodensee in german) on the German side. Friedrichshafen is the town where the Zeppelin are built, if the weather's good, you will certainly see one flying.
    Have a nice trip.
    #15
    MrKiwi likes this.
  16. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Yes, Stelvio Pass has been on my bucket list for many a year. I will head into Switzerland as my family on my mother's side of several generations ago originate there. Time to look up the history and relive a part of my roots.

    In terms of motorways and toll roads I plan to avoid these where possible. I've just ordered a new Tom Tom Rider 450 GPS (Two Plugs is ordering it for me in the Netherlands) and like previous models I can turn off motorways and toll roads.

    Thanks for your advice, really good to get these tips from a local.
    #16
    Yannick likes this.
  17. Two Plugs

    Two Plugs Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,834
    Location:
    Groningen Province - Top of Holland
    Your TomTom SatNav is ordered, but your personal Dutch agent has made an important upgrade... The Rider 410 is still available, but TomTom just released the new Rider 450. So I ordered that one. And a second, to replace my own 400 ;) Looking forward to it! Ah, just noticed that you have already mentioned the 450 ;)
    #17
    MrKiwi likes this.
  18. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    @Two Plugs Hi Ya Red's manager. See you soon. Some LED's dispatched today and on their way to you.
    #18
  19. dwj - Donnie

    dwj - Donnie Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    19,099
    Location:
    North Carrollton, MS - Traveling on the Moto
    Hi!

    Waiting for the ride to start!

    Donnie
    #19
  20. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Increasingly Grumpy Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,131
    Location:
    New Zealand
    I was a bit early with the start of this thread, but I figured it would make sense to record the finalization of the planning. I head to Europe on the 25 May, start the ride on the 28th and finish on the 28 June. Having got everything sorted apart from some accommodation, this thread will now sit quiet for a little while.
    #20
    Two Plugs and dwj - Donnie like this.