Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ride Magazine - January 2013

Ride Magazine is doing a series of articles about the Silk Road 2013. The first article is in this months edition.


Kit-tastic #8: Taking it with you …

All the (non-clothing) kit
The more space you have the more you take. So the plan is to take it all in two panniers and a small tank bag. The panniers are 47 litre MetalMules. They are made from riveted 2mm gauge aluminium sheet. The lids have a silicon seal. Fully secure and locked onto the bike, these are strong, secure and watertight.
One pannier takes a specially designed Kriega bag that can be pulled out and taken into the accommodation each night. The other one takes all the tools and “stuff” and can stay on the bike.
Bolted onto the outside are a carrier for extra fuel, water and a fire extinguisher.
A small tank bag takes maps, phone, lunch and other bits are needed during the day.

Kit-tastic #7: All the Other Stuff

When you start thinking about what you need for 11 weeks on the road you can go two ways. Buy everything you need and end up with a bike that looks like a tinkers caravan. Or pack light and buy as you go, which might be tricky in places with no Halfords or M&S.
So you try and take a middle line. Just the essential but as small as possible; sleeping bag, eating stuff, washing kit, tie-down straps, toilet paper. And a luxury: A JetBoil gas stove with a cafetiere attachment for a mid-day coffee by the side of the road.

Kit-tastic #6: Gadgets

I tried really hard to be lean and mean on the gadget front.  I remember the nightly hunt for power to recharge all the toys in Patagonia and thought I would go for something multifunctional. I worked out that my iPhone could do it all. There are apps for ebooks, offline GPS maps, blogging, photography, translation and you can even make phone calls apparently.
But when it came to it, an iPhone is not really that good if you have no signal and putting all my eggs in one basket seemed risky. So I am taking it (wrapped in a Mil-spec Gorilla case) and have specialist gear as well.
Globebuster provide route notes each day with key junctions and lat. and long. co-ordinates to important points like the car park of that evening’s hotel. Everyone on the trip seems to be using the Garmin Zumo GPS so I went for one of those. Mounted in the ‘bars in a lockable case and wired into the bike’s electrics it is designed for use by bikers wearing gloves and is fully waterproof. I’m taking maps as well but this should get me where I should be going.
Sue bought me a Kindle for Christmas. The “Paperwhite” model has 8 weeks of battery life and LED backlighting. I can fill it up with travel books, Lonely Planet Guides, novels and my own .pdfs of useful information without it getting any heavier. Nice.
My trusty Pentax Optima waterproof camera has done every trip so far. Not as flexible as a digital SLR perhaps but smaller, easier to use with no fuss and really high quality pics. A spare SD Card or two should see me OK for 1,000+ photos. The iPhone camera will do for low-res images to load on the blog.
My iPod has every piece of music I own on it so should last the trip. Plus I’ve downloaded the complete back catalogue of Melvyn Bragg’s “In our time” for educational purposes.
Most of these recharge through a USB so a Continental outlet to USB adaptor and a Continental- Turkish and Continental-Chinese adaptor should do the trick. Add in a USB outlet wired into the bike for when we are “off grid” and I should be OK.
One last thing – an Odyssey high performance battery to replace the BMW standard one on the bike. Perfect for cold starts and to power all the toys!

Kit-tastic #5: Keeping warm and dry

The trip presents some temperature challenges. The deserts of Central Asia will need minimum covering and maximum airflow. The high passes of the Pamirs and Tibet will be cold.
Route 66 taught us a bit about staying cool in extreme heat. I’m not taking the evaporation vest or a specialist mesh jacket – I don’t think we will see enough days of really hot stuff to justify packing them. The BMW Rallye suit was designed for the Dakar Rally so opening up all the ventilation should do the trick.
I HATE getting cold and a layer system is the answer: Base Layer of merino wool top and leggings, warm layer is adown fill jacket, wind proofing from the Rallye 2 suit and water proofing from the one piece “banana suit” I took to Iceland.
As an extra precaution I’ve bought a heated jacket that plugs into the bike’s 12volt supply and provides 105watts of toasty infra red (Powerlet – category winner in Adventure Bike Rider). I’ve tried it out on the road on a cold day and if anything it is too warm. The interesting thing is that when you have it switched on, your fingers don’t get cold even though it doesn’t cover them! Must be something to do with circulation and keeping the core temperature up I think. Anyway up – it works.

Kit-tastic #4: Fixing it afterwards

We have a support van with a mechanic and tools but it is nice to know you can do a lot of stuff yourself by the side of the road if you need to. It should also help when we are doing the half-way service on all the bikes in Dushanbe.

Tyre levers, inner tube and air pump for punctures. Spares for the service (filters, plugs, bulbs etc.) And a toolkit with all the essentials (researched from the UKGSers forum – thanks chaps).

I’ve also replaced the alloys that are standard on the GS with a pair of spoked wheels from the GS Adventure. The theory is that you can fix spoked wheels if they get damaged but alloys are a write-off that will end the trip.

Kit-tastic #3: Being in one piece if/when I drop it. Part 2: The Rider

Arai Tour X3 helmet: This was the replacement for the Arai Chaser nicked in Argentina. Arai lids seem to fit me well. Kevin recommends a flip-front as being more convenient but I like the peak on this one. As you can see I went for the special “Long Way Round - Charlie” paint job to match the bike. A slave to the celebrity culture as always.

BMW Rallye 2 Textile Suit: Protection at all the corners and wind and rain proof (up to a point).

Sidi Adventure Boots: Rock solid, full length, waterproof and comfortable. Top kit.
Pod knee braces: With a dodgy knee from the Patagonian dog incident, I decided to go for a set of these orthopaedic knee braces designed for MotorX. They allow you knee to bend as normal but give lateral and torsional support to stop your cruciates giving way. Knee pads help in a crash too.

Kit-tastic #3: Being in one piece if/when I drop it. Part 1: The Bike

If I get to Beijing without dropping the bike I’ll be amazed and very, very lucky. The important thing then is to make sure it (and I) don’t get seriously damaged.
Fitting out the bike for this is a bit like dressing a medieval knight; greaves, gauntlets, vambrace and spaulder anyone?
The 1200GS has a boxer engine so protecting the cylinder heads is vital if it goes over. Crash bars and head protectors are a must. Crossing rocky ground you need a solid sump guard that covers the gap between the wheels. Grills prevent flying stones damaging the headlight and oil cooler.
Bendable gear and rear brake levers and “Barkbusters” to shield the clutch and front brake levers mean vital controls should be OK or repairable. The rest is all about stopping various fragile but exposed items from snapping off in a crash: brake and clutch reservoirs, fuel lines and various sensors. (TBH, this last lot look more bling than real protection – we’ll see).
Most of this stuff is Touratech. It’s well designed kit from the alchemists who really can turn base metal (aluminium in this case) into gold.

Kit-tastic #2: Being Comfortable

Moving up Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs a bit, once you’ve avoided being hit by anyone, you need to be comfortable.
The contact points are the key areas and the biggest is your bum. Lots of people swear by Air Hawk inflated cushions, gel filled pads or sheepskin. I have added a new saddle (Kahedo) which I hope will do the job.
We might be spending a lot of time standing up on the rough stuff so big footpegs (Touratech) spread the load on your feet.
Top tip from Kevin at Globebusters was bar risers (Touratech). By bringing the handle bars up and back by a few centimetres your posture is improved and you look forward without stretching your neck. The downside in my case was that my helmet was lifted up into the airstream making riding bumpy and noisy. A higher windscreen (Wunderlich Xtreme) did the job.
Cold hands are the bane of bikers. Your thumbs are right out there in the wind chill. Adding larger wind guards (Barkbuster)  and BMW’s heated grips fixed that (I hope).

Kit-tastic # 1: Being Seen and Heard

From the sound of it the number one danger on this trip is someone driving into you. Either a big truck on the backroads of the Pamirs or an inattentive driver in Chinese traffic. So it is vital that people know you are there.

I’ve added spotlights (Touratech) and a high intensity headlamp (HID-50). A high volume air horn should make people take notice.  On the passive side, I have covered the back and sides of my panniers with reflective film (like they put on police cars) which really stands out.

“All The Gear And No Idea”

I have been planning for this trip for 2 years now. That’s a lot of evenings browsing the web. With my love of “kit” and that much time, I found a lot of toys that really needed to be bolted on.
During the trip I plan to use the blog for talking about the journey and the experiences, so I thought I would post a series about the kit now. I can then comment on how well it worked (and if I really needed it) as I go.
There’s a lot of stuff so I will break it down into:
6.   Gadgets