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OMG! What to Choose – BMW or Ural?

It’s no secret that I am coming into the motorcycling world a complete noob, not to mention no prior deep interest in mechanical terminology like ‘horse power’ or ‘cylinders’.   To me if a machine works, use it, if it doesn’t, get a new one.

Suddenly with this project, all this stuff matters, and not only that, advise given is to try out lots of bikes and get experience and build a preference.  Erm, with no license, this is hard to do.  So I have followed a journey on cold facts, and interestingly, in many respects, I am not sure that preference would have helped me make the right choice, only an emotional one.

The first thing I learnt very quickly was that the bigger the numbers the bigger the bike.  I also learnt very quickly that not all motorbikes have chains, like bicycles.  This was a fact I latched on to quickly, because I know about chains on a bicycle, and when it comes off, it can be a fiddle to get back on – heaven knows what that must be like on a motorbike!    The other type of motorbike has a drive shaft which sounds much simpler to me, safer, and less likely to go wrong.

So looking at bikes with drive shafts, I immediately honed in on two motorbikes that are designed as adventure touring bikes with this configuration – the BMW 1200GS and the Ural (all their bikes have this configuration).

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BMW 1200GS with a sidecar attached

You really couldn’t get to bikes more opposite on the spectrum of what is available.  Its like saying that the choice is between a Bentley and Lada car (if Lada’s where still in production) literally.  The BMW 1200GS has every comfort and convenience accounted for on those hazardous roads around the world.  The Ural is a solid Russian bike that hasn’t changed much since inception in the 1930s, it was built to last.  It has only been in the last year or so that they have included fuel injection as standard, a modern technology that now means that ‘software’ has finally made it onto the Ural.  Thankfully the Ural, much like Skoda did in the past, has looked outside of its knowledge base for these upgrades, and in this case I believe that the fuel injection has been supplied by Ducati.

So there we have it. Large choice, suddenly diminished to 2 bikes.   I chose the Ural.

1- Sidecar fitting on the BMW changes the standard structure of the bike so that it is no longer supported by warranty.  This is actually a very important point.  I know many say that the BMW will never break down, especially to the degree where BMW would have to get involved.  Personally, with my daughter in tow, I’m not sure I want to take that risk and ride into Africa on belief alone.

The Ural on the other hand is specifically designed with the sidecar, and with the fuel injection upgrade, they now provide warranty cover.  All thumbs up with Ural.

2 – Fix-ability is a major issue with the BMW.  The motorbike has so much technology now that really you need to have diagnosis tools, software programming degree, and 5 years working in BMW to even have a chance of fixing anything more major than a flat tyre on the road.

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Ural Gear Up

The Ural, however, is still as simple as it can be.  Not as simple as the carburetor version, but you still have a good chance off fixing most problems with the bike on the road, and if you can’t do it yourself, you can probably find someone with a spanner who can. Strike 2 to Ural.

There are other minor graces of the Ural over the BMW, but needless to say, to me, travelling with my daughter in some remoter areas of the planet, my confidence will be much higher with the Ural.  Ok, so it isn’t fast, it isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t have 5 suspension options controlled by a panel on the handle bars, but it works, it gets from A to B, is a lot of fun and if it lets me down, there is a real chance of being able to fix it.

Thank you to everyone who has given me advise over the last few months!  I really couldn’t have gone through this process with out your input.  If the sidecar wasn’t in play, I think the BMW would have been my top choice.

Second month of Planning – By hook or by crook!

It has now been 2 months since I seriously started working on this project and I’m still going strong.  However, this doesn’t quite give the picture of what it is like to actually be planning a project like this.

My main focus this past month has been two fold, firstly to get my motorbike license and secondly to start sending a press release out to the local press.  On both these tasks I can’t exactly say I have met my target!

10985518_10152564261705841_4216046775365532320_nThe motorbike testing has somewhat stalled at the moment.  In the UK the test involved a theory test, which I passed, a Module 1 and a Module 2.  The Module 1 is the control test that takes place in space specific for the test and set up with cones.  One follows a sequence of exercises (exactly the same every time) which test slow control, stop, speed and avoidance.  Sounds easy right? WRONG!   well for me anyway.   Of course I have ability to pass it, I’ve practiced it perfectly enough times, however, I seem to have a psychological issue with tests, and seem to be making silly mistakes.  Of course it is all good extra experience, so I don’t complain, but really would like to get on with the Module2 road test and get the licence so I can move forward with my plans.

I was hoping to have my license before sending out a press release, however, as this happened yet, I’ve been working on it anyway.  We visited Motopodd , who have since offered to sponsor us with training, to at least have some pictures with us and a rig, looking ready to go.  It was also an ideal opportunity to bring Sofia a step closer to the reality of being a monkey (term used for the the person who sits in the sidecar)

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We got some lovely pictures on the training bike, and also some little video clips, my favourite of Sofia having her first ride in a side car which I will post at the end of this blog.

The press release is now in review and will hopefully have it out to local press in the next week.  I can’t keep waiting on the test.  I will pass it, but there are so many aspects that need to happen in this year of planning, I have to push ahead so I don’t loose valuable time.

My out look on all this, is that life is always working out perfectly and exactly the way it is supposed to.   I know that this trip is going to happen, so when time lines start to get a bit mixed up like this, then I will find out that it is precisely what needed to happen to get a result I really want for this trip.

Sofia’s first Sidecar Experience

All this talk and videos about sidecars and motorbikes, it was high time that Sofia got to experience the reality.   We needed photos for press releases, so the two came together perfectly.

I posted a note in the Ural group on FB asking if there was anyone in the South East of England who had a rig we could use for photos.  Rod Young of Motopodd Motorcycle Sidecars kindly obliged, and so we paid him a visit.

Rod makes sidecars as well as doing long adventurous journeys with his sidecar, so it was great to meet him and chat.  He also does training for driving with a sidecar, which was great, because I hadn’t actually gotten to researching a session yet.

DSC_0099I didn’t actually drive the bike with the sidecar today as it is so completely different from riding a motorbike on its own that I didn’t want to confuse my brain before I had completed the tests!  ( I will post about my testing experience at a later date, it certainly isn’t without it’s chuckles! )

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these photos and videos of our morning!

 

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This wasn’t just Sofia’s first ride in a sidecar, but also her first sit on a motorcycle.  She has be too scared to touch a motorcycle, but finally today, she not only touched it, but after being reassured that it wouldn’t fall over, she sat on it.   You can see clearly in this picture below, the bug gripped her and she wanted to race off into the sunset 🙂  She is such a courageous child to allow me to keep pushing the envelope with her in terms of experiences.  I’m proud of her.

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Sofia Speaks – what a little star in the making!

I have now set up a YouTube Channel to start posting video of our journey, which really started at the point of making the decision.

Here is the first post  which is Sofia talking a little about the trip.  I am so proud of how well she did this!  I think we have a star in the making 🙂  I also think that filming is going to be what will keep her engaged on the trip.

Not only did she venture outside to do the clip, she enjoyed being filmed and then she watched closely as I did the editing.   I think navigator may become camera man as well 🙂

The First Month of #Planning and I’m Still Here!

I think those who know what an expedition like this involves in terms of planning, fully expect me to give up, and as time goes on I can understand why!   The scope of what is involved with a project like this is quite overwhelming, and to be honest, its success is going to rest on the valuable support that I receive from individuals and organisations to make it happen.

Of course the most overwhelming aspect is time.  Linear time is just so constricting, and I am having to use all my understanding about it to overcome this.  Yes, I dip into frustration, as somehow the desire to have overcome all obstacles in one moment gets greater focus, but remembering that actually it is in that moment that I must be most focused on simply feeling good, because that is when all the obstacles are overcome.  Confused?  well spiritual practice can have that effect!

Budgeting has also been a challenge as I look to cut back the budget as much as possible as well as decide on a more realistic timescale for the journey.   I had pulled together a budget over the Christmas period, it was rushed, but good to get an idea of what was going to be involved.    I was hoping as I started to follow the route in more detail, that I would be able to bring the costs down a bit.  This is turning into a swings and roundabouts exercise, as I am finding that I can cut costs in one area, but discover costs in another.   I have followed the route so far to Mozambique with this method, and thus far have managed to save only a couple of thousand – which might sound like a lot, but in light of the project as a whole, my target was more in the park of ten thousand!  I have yet to cover the other countries, however, I suspect I am heading towards a similar result.

The focus of the budget has been the journey itself.   The other option is that I start culling equipment that I feel is important, but can actually do without.  For example, a solar panel and battery to ensure we always have contingency power.  I have been offered paniers to borrow for the bike with will knock off some more (Thank you http://www.trailquestadventure.com/) .  Secondhand general camping kit has also been offered – which whilst not hugely expensive – will help out a lot (again thank youhttp://www.trailquestadventure.com/) .  The bike itself is another area to save £££, ideally a new bike with side car that I’ve had time to run in, however, It may be possible to find a second hand bike that might just make the journey.  The risks of this are clear, however, it may be one of the best ways to reduce the cost.

Ha!  it is a struggle going from best case to worst, and probably a bigger struggle than the trip its self.   Well worth it though, as at the end of the day it is the trip that is most important and I’m prepared to make it happen by taking the steps necessary.