Gear and Stuff
You cannot travel round the world without the gear right?
We spent decent amount of time testing and choosing some pieces of equipment and with some we just went for it (and we now regret it).
Bikes and bike stuff.
- Bikes.The golden rule one would find in the bible of adventure motorcycling (Adventure Motorcycling Handbook) or most informed web resource this side of the Universe (horizonsunlimited.com) is that you do not choose the bike that leads all stat comparisons or won most of the prizes in some geeky competitions...you simply choose the bike you truly love. So we did and BMW R1200GS Adventure was love at first sight for Simon and F700 for Alex
We wouldn't get far without the right helmet. Not only does it protect you in a fall but traveling for hours at a time can be noisy. The helmets were selected for their noise protection as well as having other cool features.The Schuberth C3 basic design is nothing but! With a flip face (great for a quick emotional moment), a concealed optional sunscreen (for this LA sun) and great noise reduction (for the horns of South America) in the padding design, it was the perfect fit for both riders. Matching white helmets were selected for increased visibility.
Being on the road for hours at a time can be isolating and sometimes you want to warn the other of a hazard or draw their attention to something or simply have a chat. The headpiece needed to be compatible with the helmets and allow for a significant separation distance (as Simon is so much faster than Alex!!) the Interphone Intercom Motorcycle F5 MC system is non obstructive and fully compatible with the C3 basics flap face helmet. Plus it allows for 1.5km of separation between riders before being out of range so Simon will be able to happily speed out of range in case Alex decides to sing him motivational songs.Verdict half the way through the journey - utter rubbish! Don't save on equipment, buy recognised brands. It is now completely broken and we had to send it back to the manufacturer and have to await their verdict now whether we get our money back to pay for better equipment.
This is crucial as space is tight. Clothing had to be selected for its versatility, weather-proofness and reliability. It will be an outfit to last the year through 4 seasons and 4 continents. Simon opted for a BMW themed outfit with an armoured jacket and matching trousers. Both are double lined. Simon's boots are Alpine Stars Off Road version. 5 months into the journey and Simon still swears for his kit.Alex bought a lesser known brand Macna. They offered a waterproof and triple layered detachable jacket and double layered armoured trousers. All made from Dynax system which alledgedly was
tested by Dutch Police for its protective abilities.
Alex likes the fit of the outfit and can testify that it's comfortable to ride in, keeping her warm even after 4 hours on chilly Kent roads at night. Half the way through the journey and trousers are falling apart...
We will need a navigation system particularly for areas off the beaten track. Tom-tom, Garmin and BMW all provide their own systems, but it is nowhere near approachable price wise so we decided to stick to Simon's iPhone in waterproof housing with Ram mount.
- Bike improvements. Even though R1200GS Adventure comes quite prepared few extras are always required, like all these bits and pieces produced by Touratech: extra crash bars, light protectors, panniers and crash plates. After 5months riding in difficult conditions we are sorry to say but we cannot recommend their equipment or services...
Camping and camping stuff.
After testing a couple of tents including Quecha and NorthFace, Fjord Nansen was selected. This was based on the need for space (2 person tents were a little snug for two people and motorbike gear and luggage). After a day on the road, comfort is paramount and this will be home for the best part of the year.Shelter during cooking and for luggage drew Simon and Alex to the Korsyka III tent. The separate sleeping chamber is roomy enough for two and essential luggage and the sheltered outdoor chamber is perfect for allowing cooking space even in inclement weather. The tent was put to the test by Simon in Norway, Bulgaria and Romania and by the Pruciak family at large in Poland. Perfect for testing all seasons!
- Sleeping bags.
A good night's sleep brings a good day of adventuring. After testing a range of sleeping bags, Simon and Alex realised that at least 3 season bags were a must. Again, they had to pack exceptionally small. Sleeping bag selection is a confusing range of choices- Synthetic or Down? 3 Season or 4? ultra lightweight or easy to pack? Although these characteristics are not always mutually exclusive it made finding the perfect sleeping that much more difficult.Synthetic is easy to keep dry but doesn't feel as warm. Down packs very small but cannot risk being moistened. After much deliberation, a few camping trips with own and borrowed gear and frequent visits to many outdoor shops, Simon and Alex have settled on Rab down sleeping bags. The Rab ascent 700 has a nice feature which will allow them to be zipped together for a mega sleeping bag and maximising warmth retention.
- Sleeping Mat.
Having tried a variety of mats which promised isolation from cold ground and a comfortable touch and being mostly disappointed particularly considering the bulkiness of most designs, Alex's genius Godmother Helen (herself a seasoned journeyer)generously gave her a Therm-a-rest Neo-Air mat which is designed to reflect heat back to the sleeper and packs exceptionally small. This was tested in Czech Republic over the winter and despite a light crinkling noise when shifting position, it is perfect for a good night's sleep.
- Cooking kit.
The need for an advanced, versatile and fast way of heating food was made evident in Prague when Simon's gas cooker refused to light and it was obvious that we'd need an energy source which was adaptable to the climate, the surroundings and availability depending on the country. we're still currently searching for the correct cooking set having ruled out small gas burners. The Primus has been invaluable. Vango make a cooking set which has a finite life... it lasted 1 month before the non stick surface contaminated all our food. We've now bought normal pots and pans which don't leech potentially cancerous properties into our food.
- An essential part of the kit is the coffee maker! Bialetti espresso moka pots, so reliable during the E40 trip and the Europe-Azerbaijan trip showed its weakness for travel by being too cold to co-operate in the freezing temperatures of Eastern Europe in the winter. Something even more portable was required and an Aero-Press was purchased with good effect. Combined with a manual grinder Alex's mornings will be saved (as Simon will not be grumpy with his coffee).
- Swiss knife (travellers best friend)
- Leatherman knife
Although the plan is to carry the maximum amount of gear in the panniers and top boxes the fact that we're combining some trekking with the trip means we also require a means of hand carrying some luggage. All weather duffel bags are crucial and Northface provide a model which convert into rucksacks as well as standard bags. However, they don't have the risk of millions of canvas tags and wraps which standard rucksacks have making them perfect for strapping down to the bike. Word of caution: they were impossible to buy first hand from their website with inexplicable cancellations of purchase (their end) after many attempts and much exasperation, we ended up buying from a middle man.
- First Aid
Clearly riding bikes in rugged and remote terrain holds some personal risk. Both Simon and Alex will have first aid packs with them in case something happens. However, it's also clear that should something terrible happen, an elasto-plast may not cut it so both are going on an in depth first aid course in order to be able to fix each other in the event of a crash or fall.