Category Archives: Europe 2017 Articles

The night before launching The Crooked Foot Adventure

Until about a week ago, I thought everything was tickidy-boo – and then we took a day out on the bike with some cameras so I could work out how I could use them more and bring you more film footage.  (our Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdwRUgfgP2LG1rCokiCt4Gw)

The main problem that arose out of it was that my navigation solution was unreliable and so a new plan was put in action to buy a Garmin – sadly the blue tooth into earphones are deliberatly over priced, so settled with one without and hope that it will work out ok.  At the very least, I am hoping that with Google maps and a Garmin, I will hopefully start feeling a little bit more confident about driving through cities and major intersections with out heading off in the wrong direction!

The other issue was the charging solution for devices on the bike doesn’t seem to be very good, so as the charge socket is european I’m hoping that I can sort that out on the road.

If you had asked me after that ride how I felt about riding a motorbike, I probably wouldn’t have sounded too confident.  I was off my game that day, but to be honest, before that, I was still feeling like I wasn’t quite nailing it well enough to feel good about taking Sofia on foreign roads.   It seems a bike service, more than a ‘me’ service was the issue!   A valve adjustment, new chain, break pads and tyres, and BOOM!  I’m riding a completely different bike!   It is amazing how a bike that isn’t on top form can affect your whole experience of riding.   Returning from Mick’s (the mechanic) workshop yesterday was the best ride I’ve had so far on this bike.

Am I feeling ready for this repsonsibility of driving with my daughter as pillion? I am now!  so much so, for the first time today (after the stresses of last minute changes to my insurance provider)  I started to feel butterflies in my belly.   Even more so seeing Sofia come home from school looking how I felt – excited!  🙂

 

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Europe 2017: Sofia does a short interview

Sofia has changed so much since this time 2 years ago.  Since then she has travelled across Africa in a sidecar and the most notable change has been her level of inner confidence.

Since our return she has literally flourished and matured and started to develop as an individual, less negative, embracing new experiences, and whilst depressive thoughts will always haunt her as a part of autism, she strives to find the positive and make the best out of most situations.

Socially her confidence has served her well along with the help of a social story that was read to her everyday at school to help her stop her animal behaviours at the slightest provocation.  From feeling unable to make any friends when in the stressful school environment, she now feels like she has lots of friends and seems very content in her social abilities.

It took a little persuading, but I managed to do a short interview with her as a baseline for our Crooked Foot Adventure and look forward to doing another on our return, I’m wondering if Europe will still be ‘cliché’ 🙂

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We are travelling approximately 8,000 miles –   a donation of £5 will help us cover approx 50miles.

Europe 2017: The Crooked Foot Adventure

After having a good discussion with someone who has done the route we are planning in Russia, I’ve decided that it isn’t going to be worth the £350 it is going to cost in documentation to do it.   Whilst the save is then how cheap it is in Russia itself, the truth for that section of Russia is that it is flat, flat and more flat surrounded by trees.  Villages of old women (low live expectancy means the men die early) and towns that were built and remain very much in the industrialised soviet era – I was left with the impression that there is a better cultural experience of Russia to be had and perhaps we can do it another time.

The decision now is to go to Nordkapp in Norway, the northern most point in Europe, via Norway, then down through Finland to the Baltic states, Romania, then start heading towards Gibraltar then back to Calais.

Total distance estimate is:  14200km (approx 8900 miles)

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I am working to a plan that we will average 300km per day on the bike, if we manage this every day it will take us approx 48 days to complete the tour, leaving us with 12 days wriggle room.  This is not much – So the caveat will be that we may not make it to Spain & Portugal and if we do it will be done via the fastest route.

Mapping out the route Sofia and I had a laugh about it looking like a crooked foot, which was quite pertinent as I managed to tip the bike on a cattle grid the other day ( I had no idea it was there as I came round a blind bend and ended up being on it at the wrong angle)  whilst the worse we suffered were bruises thanks to the fantastic boot protection my foot managed to twist in the opposite direction of the bike when it went down – I don’t know the detail of the sequence of events but suspect I put my foot down to steady the bike and it slipped.  If not for the boot my foot would have been crushed from taking the weight of the bike, which is a scary thought!

Sofia for her part screamed blue murder so much so that an ambulance was called to get the all clear… she has since realised that she may have over reacted a bit, but considering it is the first time she has had a fall beyond a grazed knee when she was 5, I think she did well, and whilst I don’t want her getting hurt at all, I think it was a good experience for her to have in realising that falling is necessarily a death sentence. I don’t think that even the pain she felt in her foot has developed into a bruise! (it will definitely be an embarrassing mother story to tell when she is older :D)

So Europe 2017 will be the crooked foot adventure – I have a good feeling that it will be a lot of fun!

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Transition: #Ural to #BMW

 

Now I have a new bike, suddenly I am thrown into a whole new world and the realisation that less than two months to prepare, I may have bitten off more than I can chew!

The last time I rode a big solo motorbike was for my driving test over 2 years ago.  Since then, I have been on a motorbike with a sidecar which is a completely different driving style not to mention a different driving ‘space’.

With the sidecar, the obvious thing is that you never have to worry about tipping over, so whilst I have not done it yet on the solo, I’m very aware of the weight of the bike and the inherent instability of 2 wheels when I put my foot down and stop.

What is also really strange for me is that I don’t control corners with acceleration and de-acceleration anymore as you would with a sidecar – I catch myself constantly doing this, it is automatic for me now,  and it raises my awareness that I’m on 2 wheels especially when I de-accelerate.

It feels surreal to me that I don’t need to make an effort to hold the steering – with the sidecar the vehicle has a constant desire to turn, so you have to hold onto the steering to keep it straight, with the solo there is no such effort so I feel like I’m missing something or doing something wrong, missing something important.

I will of course adapt and all will be well, but what is really disconcerting is that despite the many miles I’ve done, suddenly I feel like a novice again.   So to counter this I am hoping to get onto a course with the BMW off-road training centre in Wales.  I’m waiting hear back on this as there is only one date where there maybe an openning and if we are really lucky maybe they might be able to make a plan for Sofia to get some off-road pillion experience as well.

I took Sofia for a ride on the bike today.  She sits really well on the bike and really enjoys the experience still (the last time she sat pillion was in Zimbabwe).   The only thing I have to get used to with her is that she likes to look around her as she is sitting and it feels disconcerting, I told her about it and she said that is what she does in the side car – I had no idea that she was so engaged with her environment.   I love that!

Siding solo is going to be a completely different experience for us and with that will come a whole new set of challenges for us to look forward to.

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Bikes! Bikes! Bikes! so many lovely motorbikes!

Having made the decision to sell the Ural I walked away thinking about 650 BMW, v-Strom or a TransAlp – the seller being the seat height.  BMW chalked up the best on the seat hight, whilst the v-Strom best all round, and TransAlp as bullet proof reliable.

I didn’t go any further as would like to sell the Ural first and know my budget, however, I want to do some work on it first and waiting for Mick (our mechanic) to be free so no advertising as yet.  The clock is ticking if we are going to turn it all around before dead line for getting the papers for Russia sorted out and as time passes it is requiring greater levels of optimism!
styr_y0w-01A stroke of luck over the weekend, however, as a friend says they are hoping to pick up a Bandit 600 (road bike) for peanuts and said I could borrow it for our Europe trip.  There is only one snag though, the owner is a nightmare to contact.  This could be for a number of reasons, one of which it is possible he hasn’t used the bike in such a long time that he can’t find the keys!   I wait hopefully that something will pull through, though the hope fades as the days go by.

In the mean time I’m chatting to Mick about it and he gives me a push to sit on a few bikes to get a better idea of seat heights.  Not something I wanted to do because, naturally, once you start sitting on bikes you are taking your first steps in wanting something that maybe you can’t have…. I hate that!

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But he was right though, so today I went down to the local dealer.  Sat on a SV650, which is probably my max height and comparable to a Bandit, a Bonneville which had a horrible custom seat and a Shadow.

Hmmm the Shadow 750, super comfy cruiser with a shaft drive!   Sofia would love it!

So now I’m talking myself into the prospect of buying a bike rather than borrowing one (eeek!  I’ve not sold the Ural yet and the money is already spent!)  I start looking into prices.  Shadows hold their price around the £4000 mark, it really doesn’t matter the mileage or the year.   I ask Mick to keep an eye out and he comes back with a Kawasaki VN800 (chain) for £3000, now we are getting closer to what I can expect price wise.

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Cruisers are great comfortable bikes, but if I’m buying, I’m not just buying for Europe, I’m buying for around the world – and I have to think about the cruiser capability.  How would it be on gravel?  or worse – sand?  as a lower bike, there is less visibility to see pot holes and other horrid road hazards that can cause damage or a fall.  Certainly there would be no standing up if in an off-road scenario.

So now I go back to adventure bikes, and double-check the seat heights.  Yes, the BMW of the 650 size is the only bike that comes comfortably into my seat range – there is one for sale right now in Worcestershire for £2400.

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I’m driving myself insane.  I wish I had not gone to the bike shop today!

Dead line for getting documents sent off for Russia is 3 weeks!

Whilst it would be great to go to Russia on the Ural, it has to be said that now I’m looking at a different riding experience, I am now wanting it more than the Ural in Russia experience – I have to prepare to be disappointed.

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Update:  An now I have just seen Sofia’s perfect colour – Pink! for £2000  Someone please put a firewall on my PC so I can’t see any more bikes!

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