To vignette or not to vignette


I am not a great fan of motorways, the endless tedium of riding through a landscape at speed does nothing to enhance the journey but on occasion I understand that it is needed. Taking minor roads in eastern Europe can be challenging as the roads are potholed, poorly surfaced and staffed by military and civilian police only too keen to relieve you of cash for minor traffic violations. I was stopped recently by the military police and while they checked our papers (the bikes and mine) they at least could not query the collection of vignettes accumulated for recent journeys. The chance of getting stopped in these countries is proportionally higher on an imported bike and you can be seen a mobile cashpoint by some officers so my advice is for the sake of a few Kuna or Euro get the right badge and keep a few small value euro notes in your display wallet to ease the way as needed – after all everyone has to make a living.

To vignette or not to vignette

Rendőrség – Could I outrun them?

I think it is fair to say that I could have outrun the Hungarian Civil Guard members who were laying in wait on the back roads near Szekszard in Tolna but even I knew better… as I traveled further east the one striking observation I have is that Policemen’s hats get bigger, I mean the cap size, enormous, like some overhanging sunshade. The car was lovely and in fairness so were they – more interested in the bike and my passport than anything else and seeing as I responded to the request for “papers please” with the correct documents they let me go. With a parting wave i noticed the lack of door trims and the fact that the boot was held shut with a bit of string and a bungee – least I could have done is given them a rocstrap…

Papers Please

What makes a classic?

Sometimes it is the first bike you had, sometimes it the one you did a special trip on or the one you made another personal connection with, sometimes it is a bike you lusted after as a youth. I have always loved the angular style and square ‘in your face’ engine of the old and original K Series bikes from BMW. I found this, an unpainted aluminum tanked, 1989/90 K75C in Berlin this week… The bike was propped up under an industrial unit balcony, being protected from the worst of the winter elements, and after almost 30 years it looked like it would have coughed into life. From memory and new, it would have had about 70bhp so not much chance of me getting a (read ‘another’ German) speeding ticket, even if I had persuaded the owner to part with the flying brick…

K75 C

A Clockwise Scandinavian Loop

This year I am returning to one of my favourite biking destinations and will be spending late summer riding north to Scandinavia. Leaving the UK, riding up through Denmark and into Sweden via the Frederikshavn ferry and avoiding the popular and contested fjords and spending time island hoping skirting the Barents Sea exploring the Atlantic Wall. Having been to NorthCape in previous trips I am pushing further east and am planning to skirt south on the Finnish Swedish border riding the east coast of the Gulf of Bothnia and picking up a ferry from Helsinki into Tallinn and south through Poland to meet friends in Krackow and then stopping in Lienz to re-ride the Großglockner before riding home via Macon – planning will be on the fly, as in past years all I have arranged is a return Le Shuttle and one night in St Omer – excited already…

2017 In Planning

So what is in my Africa Twin toolkit?


I have had lots of requests to make up toolkits for riders and my advice is almost always the same, you only need to worry and carry the tools you both know how to use and will fix the bits on your bike you know how to fix… That said, as promised, apart from spare tubes here is what I carry in my CRF1000L toolkit…

  • 8mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm and a 15mm open end and ratchet spanner (all these will do the chain adjusters, and all the remaining odd nuts and bolts on the CRF).
  • Three MotionPro tyre levers (08-0284 12-13mm), (08-0288 27mm), (08-0286 22mm).
  • Two MotionPro Rim Shield II plastic covers.
  • 27mm and 22mm socket and drive (you will not break the rear axle torque with the MotionPro levers so either under torque your axle or carry these).
  • 8mm, 10mm and 12mm long reach socket and small driver.
  • HW5 Hex.
  • 17mm Axle key.
  • Flat and cross head screwdriver.
  • Tube patches, glue and rubber gloves.
  • Cable ties.
  • Spare brake lever (53170-MEJ-016) – the only thing that has stopped me dead on the CRF is a broken front brake lever.
  • All in a Kriega tool roll and wrapped in a Karrimore waterproof kit bag.

Africa Twin Toolkit

Reflections on solo travel

One of the luxuries of solo travel is not worrying about knowing where you are, I might never be truly lost, I always have the choice of a left or right turn and sometimes stopping and looking back is all that is required to get exceptional clarity on life – being dwarfed by nature often puts things into perspective.Reflections on solo travel

Hillclimb Cuneo – Col de la Madeleine

Laying in the grass trying to cool down but no shade for miles as I reached the top of the plateau from a road off the Col de la Madeleine. I decided to follow the tracks of the famous 1920 hillclimb route as I snaked the sixty odd kilometres between the French and Italian borders through the edges of the Vanoise National Park on the SP212 and into Novalesa. Easy on the CRF1000, but i wondered how the original hillclimb enthusiasts managed in the 1920s on such sharp includes with unforgiving and unprotected edges?
Hillclimb Cuneo - Col de la Madeleine

Preplanned service is always best…

First bit of preplanned roadside maintenance required on the Honda in the form of replacement rear pads – after about 11,500km on the DCT and a lot of mountain and track work the rear pads are looking decidedly worn with less than 1mm left of the 8mm original – I have to say the bike is very balanced, but dragging the rear brake and using the DCT G mode is the best way I have found to maintain effective low speed control on the loose stuff. The job is best done early in the comfort of my present location, with a small swimming pool handy and in the shade rather than later in the next week or so by the side of the road in +33 degree temperatures. I am sticking to conventional organic fibre pads (EBCFA174) and the job is simple, a couple of torx and a slider pin to move followed by maybe a cold beer…  These will see me out for the rest of this trip and beyond… and before anyone comments, apart from tubes and my puncture kit and tools these were the only parts I carried with me as I could foresee this happening looking at the existing wear rate, but they were not worn enough to change pre trip. One questions remains… why is it EBC fibre pads smell so badly of fish?



Sand… oh joy, the bikers nemesis…

Today is different… the sometimes oppressive overhanging green canopy has broken away and the trees have been replaced with scrubby conifers struggling for purchase in soft sandy soil. The smell is different as well and the unmistakable fragrance of pine sap fills the air. Sand… oh joy the bikers nemesis… its hard packed but goes on for mile after mile and in the end I am glad when the gravel makes a return shortly to be followed by Spanish tarmac, not as smooth as the French type but very welcome all the same. Riding in sand is counter intuitive, going slower does not help and the Africa Twin is a heavy bike to rock back and forwards as she digs a trench with the rear tyre. The DCT gearbox is a revelation and Honda have certainly got that right and as Jeremy Clarkson would say “more power required” and the sand is a distant memory.

Sandy trails