PAUL Well for me this trip has been along time coming, feels like I have been building up to it for twenty years or so. Right from my first bike trip to France one Easter in the snow I knew I had the bug. Those days of Nikě holdalls bungeed to the back of GSXR750’s and not much of a clue and even less on an idea evolved over many years into a fairly slick hard core outfit of like minded guys. Ten years of riding big sport bikes to five or six WSB and GP races all over Europe and our annual
ANGIE Since the age of 16 I have always been interested in bikes but it wasn’t until 1996 when I actually bit the bullet and took my motorcycle test on a raspberry pink Yamaha SR125. One year later this had been replaced with a Ducati 600SS which took me to WSB & Moto GP meetings including the WSB in Assen. Eventually some 2 years later the time came when I needed to make one of the biggest decisions in my life – Should I keep the Ducati or should I get the kitchen I so desperately needed? Unfortunately the kitchen was more of a necessity. So there it was - my biking days were over. It was 2002 before I was back on a bike but this time as pillion on a last
minute trip to the Loire Valley on the back of Paul’s arse killing R1. It was great to be back on two wheels (even though I was practically curled up on that pillion seat). Later the same year we were on holiday in Cambodia and hired a dirt bike to explore the back roads, we were able to see the real villages, interesting people and fantastic sights, my travelling bug started there. After a few more trips two up on sport touring bikes I knew I would never be able to be far from a bike again. As soon as one trip was over I was ready to plan the next. After visiting the Adventure Travel Show and listening to Adams plans I was desperate to make plans of our own. One night over a few JD’s our plans just grew bigger & bigger until we thought sod it we have to do a world trip. At first we were going on one bike but as the weeks passed I thought it would be more of an achievement if I rode my own bike. I have one problem; I am not blessed with long legs, thus reducing the choice of bikes available to me. The first bike I tried was a BMW F650GS, Paul had an idea that a BMW R100GS would carry its weight lower and help with my balance. After one ride over Salisbury Plain, not being able to reach the ground and the bike twice as heavy, it was definitely a no no. Bike three was a Suzuki 650 V-Strom – lovely bike, comfortable and easy to ride but I was still unable to touch the ground and hold the weight. Forth and final bike - Yamaha XT660 with a lowering kit – I was able to get my foot down, it had a narrow seat and much lighter. BINGO!! LET’S GO!! What do you mean ‘there’s a lot more planning’?
Paul. In three years time I will be 50 (There, I said it so I’m over it OK!) and for my sins I have been a builder all my working life, not an Officer in the Army, Actor or a Journalist or an IT consultant or head of marketing or any other high flying job that people usually have who do these kind of trips. I am the genuine ordinary article – you know, a numpty!! I know dick all about fixing/servicing bikes as they always went in the shop and came out all lovely. Until we started preparing for this trip the most daring thing I had ever done mechanically was remove and refit the forks on my R1. However I have since done all the bike prep myself and although I am not mechanically minded I will have a go at any thing. I do owe a big thank you to the XT660 Forum, the internet and more importantly Adam for not telling me to stop asking stupid questions. (For what I have done to the bikes please see the MAINTENANCE/PREP page) Although we have put a lot of effort into the planning of this trip most of our time pre-departure has been on researching and testing kit as well as bike prep. We have had varying degrees of service so please take a look at our THANK YOU'S page, not every one got a thank you though!! Our ethos has been to heavily research our kit and bike gear to get it right pre-departure along with all the paper work, banking and Country by Country route. Everything else including our route on the road we will do as we go. Our kit list has been made up from personal experience and the gleaning of experience from seasoned travellers so it is in no way a definitive list, it just works for us. Our cooking and camping set up has been well tested by us pre-departure so we know it works. Please by all means check out our kit list but bear in mind that we have not tried too hard to pack light, we know our off road capabilities or lack of them so at time of departure based our kit accordingly. That all could change while on route though when our dirt skills and confidence improve. Adam’s set up evolved in a similar way although he has gone to the extreme end of the off road scale. We are in no doubt that stuff will be sent home/discarded.
two week high octane holiday over the Alps to the sun each year kind of gets you bike fit and good at covering big miles. 900 mile days on the Peáge turned into 900 mile days on N and D roads, 950 miles from the south of Spain to Paris in the rain because I didn’t want to stop. Anything less than 400 miles a day became a waist of time, I just wanted to ride hard all day. I guess my mates grew out of that before me but just before my last trip to Spain before I migrated to New Zealand some body on the trip asked if I had ever seen the huge vertical drop off the edge of a mountain pass that we had done many times before – I had not – because of always being at the front and going as fast as I could. This time I slowed as not to miss this fleeting view of Oblivion – what a shock, almost two hundred meters of proper ‘Wile E Coyote’ drop to the valley below. The slap in the face realisation was a shock; I have ridden about 40,000 miles around Europe and hardly seen a bit of it. Fast forward four years and I end up back in the UK from NZ and with a bike friendly girl friend. We both have itchy feet and like to scratch them on foot pegs so a bit of two up touring in France and Spain almost filled the hunger but not quite! Then out of the blue a good friend of mine (Adam Lewis) tells me he is going to ride around the world – and I got interested.
Adam asked us to joint him on a visit to the Adventure Travel Show in London and while he went to see a seminar on travel photography we sat in on a talk about the Karakorum Highway, just to
kill time. That was the turning point for the both of us, our planning had started.