It has come around quickly. In just over a month we will be heading to Folkestone to ride our bikes onto the train to head over to France!
The last few weeks have been busy. We have finalised our route, and we have also booked all our accommodation! That in itself was hard work, but if it wasn’t for the internet it would have been near impossible!
The logistics of our trip:
We will be away for 16 days
We have booked 13 different hotels in 7 countries (we will be staying 3 nights in Rome)
We are riding through 11 countries.
We are riding 3014 miles in 60 hours (according to Tyre)
This is the route we are taking (coming back through France):
My bike has just been serviced, and new tyres put on. I took a ride out to Norfolk this last weekend and made some adjustments so I am very comfortable on the bike now (I raised the seat, and adjusted the gear lever up so my foot fits under it better).
We are getting excited about getting going now, won’t be long before we are on the road!
Having decided we will be doing the Europe Trip together with our neighbours, we needed to make sure that we would all be able to along ok on some shorter trips before doing the big one. Also it would give us a chance to test our equipment (cameras, audio comms, GPS’s etc)
We have had a few great late nights (and early mornings!) with them already and get along great. That didn’t involve the bikes, but did involve quite a bit of beer and wine. We have also done a few breakfast runs on the bikes, but nothing more than maybe an hour or two. It is important to make sure that you are compatible when it comes to riding style, not to mention when you are living in each others space for a few days.
We planned a trip to the Lake District, to a self-catering place. I planned a route that would take us through some lovely roads. Unfortunately some of the way up would be on motorway, but if we avoided the motorway we would have added on a good few hours. As it was, the route I planned would take us about 6 hours.
You can see I added a couple way-points so that we would be redirected off the M6 to go through the Peak District as well The Forest of Bowland (Lower left of the Yorkshire Dales). I thought the Peak District would be the highlight of the journey, but it was the Forest of Bowland that did it for me. It was like riding through Hobbit country.
Here is a quick montage of footage of our ride up.
The trip up weeded out a couple issues with our GPS’s. I use the BMW Navigator V (a Garmin GPS) and Dean uses a TomTom Rider. The route I gave him took him a bit of a different way at parts, and we ended up losing each other for about an hour at one point. Lesson learned, I need to add more waypoints to ensure we are both working off the same route.
We also came to the conclusion that we need to be able to communicate to each other while on the road. We each have helmet comms between rider and pillion, but we weren’t able to communicate bike-to-bike. This is something we managed to sort out once we got back from our trip using Universal Communications (which allows different brands and different models of communication headsets to communicate). This took a lot of fiddling to get right, but I think we have done it. I will do a separate post about this because I am sure a lot of people will have the same challenge we did trying to get our helmets to talk to each other.
I created a couple of routes for while we were at the Lake District. First was a ride up the steepest road in the UK, Hardknott Pass, and the next was a longer ride to go through Honnister Pass.
The ride up was dry and quite sunny, but the rest of our weekend was wet and cold. We took it easy on the roads, but in the end I took it a little too easy and I ended up dropping the bike. Below is the video of our ride up Hardknott Pass (the accident is just after the 2 minute mark)
Regarding the bike going over, I have learnt my lesson. Typically 1st gear on a motorbike (especially bigger bikes) tend to be quite short, and in my experience you get out of it pretty quick. The thing is on the R1200GS, first gear is pretty long. I should have stayed in first gear all the way up Hardknott Pass.
The ride up to Honnister Pass was a frustrating experience as all the roads that we tried to take seemed to be closed. We still managed to have a good ride on some lovely roads, but it went on a bit too long especially with how cold and wet we all were. Below is a video from that day during one of our detours, this is through Kirkstone Pass.
All in all it was a great weekend, despite the cold and the rain. We all got along well and learnt a few lessons about our equipment. Especially the routing differences between two different GPS manufacturers! We were happy with the luggage capacity of our panniers, and the fact it keeps our luggage dry. I am happy with my GS’s ability to fall over without damaging anything, and also with the fact I was able to pick it up without too much drama! Another thing I learned is I need to use my camera more so I don’t have blurry shots like the one below!
I am a planner by nature, and half the fun of this trip is in the actual planning and preparation. One of the most important part of this trip is to plot the route so that we get to see and do as much as possible in the short amount of time we have.
With my new bike, I got the BMW Navigator V. It is a great device and I will do a review of it soon. It comes with software called Basecamp which you can use for free. The thing is, before I got the new bike I was already plotting the route using another routing software called Tyre (I had a TomTom Rider, which is a great GPS system, but the Navigator V integrates far better with the bike). Tyre is much easier to use than Basecamp and thankfully it is able to synchronise with my new Garmin unit.
With Tyre you can approach routing in a couple different ways. You can plot all the points you want to visit and let Tyre create a route for you. The second method, and the one I am using, is to still plot the points of the places you want to visit, but to force the route to go the direction you want you plot a whole lot of other points too. For example, what if I wanted to go from one town to another, but I didn’t want to take the motorway, check out the below two images:
Tyre is available for free. The free version has some advertising as you can see from the below screenshot.
I did end up paying for it as it gives you a couple extra features besides removing the advertising. I am tweaking the route all the time, and will post it up here soon. I have pretty much decided all the places we will go through and which route to take. The next step is to figure out where we will be staying during the trip.