Updated: Feb 12, 2018
We cannot believe how fast time is flying by now and we still have so much to do! Lately we've been receiving quite a few questions through our Facebook and Instagram asking about our preparation for this trip, how it even came about and what our long term plans are. So hopefully this will give you a good overview of why we are going and how it all started.
Dave and I have always loved travelling, in the past we have backpacked around South America and done many trips in the car around Europe. We had both wanted our bike licences for years but Dave was first to get his in summer 2015. A couple of months after that we set off on our first motorcycle adventure to Italy, me as pillion. We didn’t book anything, just took our tent and pitched up wherever the nearest campsite was. We loved the constant thrill of getting up each day, packing up and then setting off to a new destination each day. Then the time came to start heading back to the UK, we were gutted. We wanted so badly to carry on with this free way of life but holiday allowance was used up. On the long ride home we had both been complaining that the holiday was just too short, we felt too young to work 50 weeks out a year and only have 2 weeks to adventure together.
It was riding home that holiday that our first talks of motorcycle travel started. There was something about travelling by bike which was incredible, we felt like we were closer to the elements and experiencing what was around us rather than driving through in the protective bubble of a car. We knew if we were going to go travelling together in the future the only way for us would be by bike. Once arriving home Dave and I realised the dream of travelling on motorbikes wasn’t a passing holiday thought, we were stuck on the idea and there was no way we now couldn’t go for it. Once we’d decided there was a massive change in our mind sets, we started thinking so much more positively and dynamically. We were suddenly open to the thought of completely shaking our lives up. It wasn’t all plain sailing though; we had to sort out our debt first and then start saving. We both took on another 3 jobs doing freelance digital marketing, working evenings and weekends which nearly killed us! It was at this point we realised we still wouldn’t have enough money to just travel; we would need to work as we went. We started building our freelance clients and getting everyone on board with the idea that we could work nomadically, from anywhere in the world.
Our plotting went on for 2.5 years and now here we are, less than two months from setting off! Departure date is set for 31st March and our Eurotunnel is booked for 16:30. We’re finally doing it, and it’s terrifying. Leaving everything you have is hard. We have a comfortable, nice life here. But we know if we don’t take the risk now, we’ll spend the rest of our lives wondering about what could have been.
Motorcycle Travel: Where To Start?
When it comes to motorcycle travel I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it. We have done masses of research when deciding our route, visa options and camping gear. Below are the main categories we’ve been focusing on recently:
We are taking quite a large tent, the Lone Rider Tent MotoTent. We figured this is our little house for 2 years so we wanted some space to live, sleep, a porch to eat dinner when its raining and so on. For cooking duties we opted to use the MST Firefly, a liquid fuel stove popular for its ability to burn nearly any fuel such as petrol or diesel without the need for hard to get propane bottles.
Carnet De Passage
A Carnet is a customs document for your vehicle that allows you to temporarily import it into different countries. Not all countries require a Carnet but for the ones that do it can be quite expensive. Once organised they last for 12 months but can be extended and there are a couple of options on how to pay for them. Dependent on the countries you wish to enter (higher risk =higher cost) expect to pay £250 for the document and around £600 for the insurance premium that covers you if your vehicle is stolen or cannot leave the country on time. This money essentially pays the import tax of the vehicle for you as it can be extremely expensive (up to 800% vehicle value in some African countries).We wont actually need the documents until we reach Japan so we are going to pay for them when we reach Russia and have them posted out to us. We have already completed all the paperwork (sending of passport copies and bike documents) so it’s just the payment that is needed and address to post them too. If you’re looking into Carnets yourself, this is the website to head to: www.carseurope.net
We have just started applying for our visas this week, so far we've completed Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan - all have been fairly straight forward short online forms. The Russian visa however, takes more effort! We need to pay for a letter of invitation and go to Manchester to have out finger prints taken.
Armed with Google Earth Data we began creating my own off road route trying to identify tracks on the ground and stitch them into a cohesive route. A great rider and adventurer Walter Colbach, was good enough to help us
fill in the blanks with his own archive of crazy tracks and we now have a working plan. So stage one is just a case of getting out of Europe in the warmest way possible! By heading down to Greece we avoid the chill that may still be present in Poland and the Ukraine, should give us a bit of time to get our sea legs on some of the TET trail before the real expedition begins when we enter Kazakhstan! The main tracks which will really test us are:
The BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) which was built as a strategic alternative route to the Trans-Siberian Railway, especially along the vulnerable sections close to the border with China.
The Old Summer Road in Yakutia, which tested Ewan Mcgregor and Charlie Boorman to their limit in Long Way Round.
The Baikal 110 or ‘Zimnik 110’. In Russian Zimnik means ‘Winter Road’ and the 110 was built in a warm winter in the mid 1970’s to fuel the transportation of raw materials and building supplies to the BAM raliway. Hastily built and only used for a couple of years it has fallen into the worst state of decay of all three roads and has been completed by barely a handful of people on motorcycles.
These tracks and ‘roads’ will take us to Magadan. In terms of route planning that's as far as we’ve got, but we know the countries we’d like to go next including; Japan, South East Asia, Aus, NZ and then to the Americas.
After following the adventures of Walter Colebatch, where he travelled deep into the wilds of Siberia we knew our best option was the venerable BMW G650X. The G650x is a 650cc single cylinder dual sport bike made by BMW from 2007. It was available in a few guises and our bikes happen to be models known as the X challenge and X country. With a wet weight of around 155kg and 53hp these bikes are still nearly unbeatable today for a dual sport bike in this category.
We have been modifying these bikes for over 12 months now. Dave has crafted a system of auxiliary aluminium fuel tanks for each bike increasing the the total fuel load to a whopping 27 litres each, compared to the stock capacity of 9.5 litre fuel tanks. The bike have had extensive front end upgrades with proper MX forks and we rebuilt the front XCountry wheel with an excel 21" rim, which then meant the need for a tall f800gs front mudguard. XChallange has a full KTM WP 48mm front end that just uses a KTM front wheel.
With the trip taking up to two years we would require a fair amount of luggage to be carried at all times and due to the enduro nature of the single cylinder bikes the rear subframes had to be significantly reinforced as well as building custom tubular steel luggage racks to carry our soft pannier bags. More on the bikes on this page.
Our timeline and routes are set for two years of travelling. We know problems might arise which cut that short, but there’s only so much planning you can do and the rest is up to chance. We now only have 7 weekends till we set off, there is still a load to do and nerves are definitely kicking in! Roll on the 31st March, when we’ll be having our friends and family over for breakfast to say Bon Voyage. We’ll then start our ride South to the Eurotunnel and beyond!