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Three 400's, 6 Countries....

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 Topic moved: from General Bike Chat to Touring & Exploration by Korn (9 Nov 2005 - 19:00)
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maurice
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PostPosted: 06:13 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Three 400's, 6 Countries.... Reply with quote

...3 drops, 1 crash, 3 nickings, 2 collisions, 8 laps of the ring and 3000 miles each.


Following on from our trip to the French Alps last year, Mike and myself decided to do a much longer trip this year taking in more countries. France was good, very good, but we wanted to see more. Going somewhere we'd both never been before and didn't have a clue how to speak the language was also a good challenge. Italy seemed like the obvious choice, we'd go there then head North back home. That meant going through both Austria and Germany! Around this time we got into contact with Claud who wanted to go to the Nurburgring and further a field into Germany and Europe to visit family. With the plan rapidly gathering pace, the route was to head to the French Riveria via the Alps on the Route Napoleon, then head East into Italy and ride to Rome. We'd go back through Austria, visit Clauds family in Southern Germany then head for some track action at the Nurburgring before going home via Brussels.

The machinery was well matched, Claud on an NC29 CBR400, Mike on a ZXR400 and myself on a VFR400 NC30. The VFR was well-proven having gone across the Italian border last year, though it was new ground for the CBR and Mike was so confident of the ZXR's engine durability he was considering taking a tube of instant gasket in case the head gasket went Laughing Saying that I had a spare reg/rec off my Dad's bike under the seat, also nicked his good battery too (cheers Dad). The VFR was also fairly high mileage at +72,000km.


Britain

To save boring British motorway mileage we trailered the bikes as far as Claud's house (by Potters Bar, North London) the night before the ferry. It felt a tad odd setting off on a motorcycle touring trip with two bikes already on a trailer but it made sense!

Unlike the previous year there was no hiccups on the way to the ferry the next morning and all went smoothly.


France

After some autoroute kilometre-crunching through the North we finally made it to the swooping bends of Mid-France. Here the fun started with barely populated, perfectly surfaced roads pretty much all the way to the South coast.

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As we hit the Alps and the famous 'Route Napoleon' (N85) the CBR (and ZXR to an extent) began to suffer some power loss as the altitude rose - this would become more apparent later on. There was a classic moment as the road turned into an uphill one-sided dual carriageway populated with 20 right-foot heavy French drivers. Felt like a bloody touring car race, every one in sight had their foot to the floor nailing their vehicle for all it was worth.

Spectacular scenery ensued and knee-down became a matter of course. Leading the way, I had two mini races with the locals, one a 1.9 pug GTI and the other in a BMW, great fun. As the miles racked up I noticed the other two had fallen behind some way and pulled over to wait in a picturesque village.

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It was there I had the French attitude to motoring perfectly demonstrated. As a little peugeout was driving along the main street toward the corner, a coach swung around it on both sides of the road. The pug driver leaned out of the window and cheered, his passengers cheered, the coach driver then cheered along with a bar full of locals on the side of the road, it was all a big laugh Very Happy.

After Claud and Mike turned up and I learnt of the problems the CBR has been experiencing with the mountain air, we continued onto Gap at a slightly reduced pace.. just speeding up to light the hairpins up on the way down, then on arrival getting straight down to the main bar in town for some well-earnt French biere.

The next morning was spent making a few adjustments to the bikes, the local shop kindly lending me a C-spanner for me to adjust the chain as I'd left mine at home Rolling Eyes. Later that day we headed further South to the town of Digne-les bains. A bike cop asked me if I was here for the 'moto-festival', me not quite understanding. Soon after we learnt the town was hosting a round of the international enduro championships. On the campsite our tents were in a sea of orange KTM's, and we ate our evening meal sitting across the street from the KTM factory team.

The campsite was cheap, 5 euros each. We found out why when we used the 'facilities'. I picked a really good shower, as when I turned the thing on big bugs started swimming out of the drain and around the basin. I thought 'fuck that' and jumped out, I wasn't that desperate for a shower! The footpad style bogs didn't have toilet roll either, with some interesting consequences as Claud found Shocked.

Next morning we headed further South down the N85 down to Cannes on the South Coast, cliff-edge roads all the way lined with stunning scenary.

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Unfortunately the ZXR was still running rich and began to really struggle with the altitude so we pulled over for a break. A minute later a French car I'd just overtaken into a hairpin with my knee scraping came past, with 4 blokes waving their arms out of the windows cheering, one of them even gave me a salute! Classic Very Happy

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From there on we descended 4000ft to sea level and saw the Med for the first time. As soon as we arrived at our F1 hotel in Frejus we ditched the leathers for t-shirts and shorts and took a ride down to the beach for a wishful look round in the marina and paddle in the sea.

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All of the next day was spent there soaking up the sun and cooling down in the sea. It was strangely cool to be lying on a beach next to palm trees and cactus on a biking holiday Cool.

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Italy

Next morning we left Frejus and headed for Florence in Italy. Fairly action packed, we rode through Monaco traffic (sliding panniers on cars Embarassed), saw a bush fire and had a race with a Ferrari F40. My jaw dropped as it thundered past us completely unsilenced in a tunnel at 130mph+. Instantly Mike and myself gave chase however we were thwarted by other traffic getting in the way. Mike backed off, however I was determined to jus hear that sound again so I maxed my bike out for the next 10 miles before I finally caught it as we were both getting hindered by traffic. On a 3-4 mile stretch of Autostrada everytime the traffic cleared we had a +110mph drag race, of which I lost every one Laughing. At one point it was screaming away doing at least 150mph as I was struggling to 135.

Conveniently it pulled into the same petrol station we needed to use so Mike got some pics when they caught up. As we entered five or six attendants pounced on the F40 valeting it, the driver was looked at like a god.

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Taking it fairly easy on the bikes now, we cruised onto Pisa where after some dodgy directions Mike spotted the leaning tower in between some side streets and led the way there. The rush hour traffic was a complete free-for-all and we all had several near misses. Claud and myself thought we were gonners at one point when we were both almost broad-sided at a dodgy crossroads. I had to gas it while he had to slam the brakes on a conveniently polished road surface. The rest of the evening was spent slogging down bumpy dual carriageways to Florence where just outside we found a cool campsite for the night, and got some authentic Italian pizza from the city.

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I got up the following morning knowing we were going to Rome. It was a bit exciting, as before we were never sure we'd be able to make it this far and had planned for being able to cut the trip short in case it was too far, yet here we were one days ride from Rome. We didn't get off to a good start as leading I'd given Mike only basic directions on the route we were heading, and as I came to a complicated, busy junction with roadworks and behind a police car I wasn't able to pull over and wait for the others until further down the road. Sod's law dictated they turned off the road we were on onto the dual carriageway cos of some dodgy road-signage. It didn't turn out to be much of a problem though as we were able to meet up at the next major town on route.

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My journey didn't turn out to be totally uneventful though... Riding fairly spiritedly I had a small rear tyre slip exiting a left-right chicane. Unpertubed I put it down to a slightly dodgy surface, maybe a little dirt or gravel on the road. Further ahead I chucked the bike into a semi-tight right-hander, this time the rear stepped out properly - enough to cause the bikes steering to straighten up and have a wobble before I was able to crank it back over again. Quite concerned now I pulled over expecting a flat tyre, only there was nothing wrong with it, the pressure looked fine Confused. Again on that particular corner the surface hadn't looked as good as the rest of the road so I blamed it on that and carried on. Taking it fairly gingerly now, after a couple miles I came up to a set of 90 degree bends all surfaced with lovely looking black Brands hatch-coloured tarmac. Deciding I needed some confidence back, I chucked the bike in hard into a right-hander for a knee down. I didn't even make it to the apex before the rear broke away good style Shocked, with a car coming the other way. I had to literally stand it up mid corner and let the bars countersteer themselves back into facing the right way before the rear got back in line, very scary.

Shaking a little, I pulled over and started poking at the suspension, wondering if it was overheating in the 36 degree heat. I geniunely thought something was broken. Couldn't see anything so I continued onto the village I was meeting Claud and Mike at a snails pace. After a brief argument over the map (Laughing), I was relieved when Claud told me how he'd had the front very close to locking up on an occasion on a supposedly grippy looking surface. It turned out the road surface on these 'B-roads' we were riding wasn't anywhere near as grippy as in France. Later on that day an RSV pilot flew past us while backing it into a corner. Obviously the locals had adapted to the conditions!

Having heed the warning we continued riding the rest of the day at a relaxed pace, often stopping to gaze at the beautiful countryside that could only have been formed volcanically.

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Eventually at around 8pm that evening we hit Rome and, after a little confusion caused by my dodgy map (always the maps' fault), we found our hotel without too many problems. Again we dumped our leathers sharpish and headed down to a square next to the Vatican for a pizza and some ice cream. Mmmmm.

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Pretty much spent our whole free day in Rome sightseeing. The Colloseum was very impressive, it took 40,000 slaves over 8 years to build it and you can see why. We managed to tag onto a English speaking tour group with an excellent guide. By the end of the tour he had us all reflecting how much more civilised today's world would have been if the Roman empire had not fallen! Also got some postcards and spent an age trawling endless tobacco shops looking for stamps, some jokers in one place deciding to direct me to a linguerie shop Rolling Eyes Laughing. Still it was worth it as I got to see a nun window-shopping outside a nuns' clothing shop.

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Whilst we were there I noticed a fairly high armed police presence, of which we found out later on via a news channel they'd arrested a suspect related to the London bombings in Rome... strange how people get about! Also saw a fair few Mafia-looking types about, on the motorway a blacked out SL500 dived out of the fast lane to hide outside the view of a copper, not half suspicious!

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The next day we left the hotel and set off of for San Marino knowing we'd be roughing it in the tents for the next few days. Had a good laugh with the tight, twisty roads full of cracks and long unlit tunnels which lended themselves well to backfires. Spent the whole day riding over the hills and back down again to sea level at the other side. We really didn't know where to look on this trip, there was spectacular views everywhere. After a long hot day we eventually got to San Marino. After a series of traffic light GP's with the local bikes and Ferrari we came across a decent campsite where we took a quick swim in the (closed) pool, until we got chucked out by an attendant, but the refreshment was worth it Smile

I spent five minutes swimming round before realising my travel towel was still in my pocket though, doh! Soon after we headed up to the Castle to get some food and look over the views that stretched for miles around, up to and including the Adriatic sea.

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After a fairly hot night we rode down to the coast for a swim in the Adriatic. The sea was absolutely beautiful, I'd never swam in anything sea like it. It was like stepping into a bath - very warm and calm. The afternoon was spent riding up to Northern Italy, past Verona and up next to Lake Garda. After a pleasantly suprising top meal at a roadside restaurant, the owner gave us directions to campsites along the lakes Eastern shore.

Getting there at around midnight, initially wasn't looking a great idea as the first four campsites we came to were all full, but the fifth one had an opening. After being loaned a hammer by kind neighbours we were soon pitched up and sleeping off the ride.

In the morning I woke up to find we were camped right next to the lakes edge. Mike decided to put his 5 year old water-skiing skills to the test while I got a ride in the boat and got some photos....

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We then spent the afternoon heading higher and higher into the Alps, above anything we'd been previously in France and over some precarious passes. As we got alongside some huge glaciers I took a GPS altitude reading - 8950 foot, about 3 times the height of Snowdon. At this point the CBR and ZXR were really struggling, the ZXR actually going down to one cylinder Laughing though the VFR took it in its stride though, firing on all four while spitting out afterburner-sized flames out the exhaust on the overrun Cool Wink.

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It was far too cold to camp up there and knowing we weren't going to be dropping down in height for a while (bar accidentally riding off a cliff edge) we got an excellent, cheap hotel just on the Italian side of the Austrian border. We weren't sure if we could find one, though a waiter at the local pizzeria kindly had someone draw us an English map to the hotel. A good nights sleep was had by all.

Whilst fitting the panniers to my bike the next morning I managed to knock it over on the cobblestoned street, doh! Though I got away with a scratched bar end and a scuffed crash bung, thanks again R&G Wink.

We spent the morning riding in the pissing rain up the Stelvios pass. At the top's a very famous meeting point with lots of food stands and hungry bikers queuing up for the Italian version of a hotdog. Saw a British ZX7r up there, (Brit bikes being quite rare in these parts). Claud informed me we were higher than we'd ever been as his bike was struggling more than before, so the GPS was taken out for a fix - 9200ft!

Again there were some spectacular views looking down the hairpins, you could see the layers of cloud cover we'd passed through on the way up. One second you could be going along the road with clear views all around you, then you take an uphill hairpin straight into the middle of a cloud where you can barely see ten metres in front of yourself.

At this point my camera batteries died so the camera phone was called on to get a photo:-

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Austria

Later on that day after we'd descended the pass we had a couple unfortunate incidents, Mike almost getting taken out by Golf before we all got nicked by Austrian police for not having a motorway sticker. We genuinely didn't know you needed one in Austria, and the fact that what they were calling an Autobahn was a single carriageway road without a central reservation and with an 80kph limit (about 50mph) made it seem even more ridiculous. 65 euros each, they took cash or card, very convenient.

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It didn't help they were using a speed gun to spot us from the distance, and as I'd been doing +40kph over the limit when they stopped us we couldn't argue too hard Neutral Whilst we were there they fined another 3 motorists, basically pulling anyone that looked like a tourist. Thumbs Down After paying the fine we then had to pay another 9 euros to use the damn roads at the toll booths, and then they were full of traffic moving at 10mph in parts, was a complete joke. Think we were all glad to get out of Austria and into Germany.

Germany

Claud's gran lived fairly close to the border so it wasn't long before we found their house and were kindly taken out to the local town of Ravensburg for a traditional German meal. I even managed to piss off the waiter by saying something wrong from my phrasebook, quality Thumbs Up.

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By this time all our chains were fairly loose, mine also having a few tight spots, so we headed down the local bikeshop in search of tools. It was a BMW dealership and they couldn't do enough to help us, loaned us all the tools and showed us to the washrooms etc. The sales guy even giving us tips for the Nurburgring. After we'd finished adjusting we did a long autobahn slog pretty much all the way to Nurburg, breaking up on the monotomy by having some legal top-end blasts.

After one petrol stop I decided to see what a fully loaded VFR4 with 76,000km on the clock could really do. I Got my GPS/phone out and stuck it in the tankbags clear pocket. For some added entertainment and to fuel the ZXR/VFR debate me and Mike decided to have a 6th gear roll-on drag race from about 85-90mph. As Soon as the throttles were opened the VFR surged ahead, its' mid-range grunt pissing all over the ZXR's top-end biased engine (sorry Mike Wink). I've never been sure on what its' top speed is as it's done loads of miles, and I've downgeared it slightly aswell as changing the exhaust/airfilter.

It got to redline in top fairly quickly with the ZXR a fair distance back, so we pulled over to see what the GPS said.... 136mph! Not bad fully loaded when it does 130mph stock Very Happy

Cruised the rest of the way arriving in the village of Nurburg at past 11pm. Unfortunately the pubs had stopped serving food so after a quick beer in the warmth we went off in the dark to find the campsite. Eventually we found a field with a camping sign right across the road from the ring so quickly pitched up with the aid of headlights (zxr ones, honda batteries die too quick!) We then got some of Mike's veggie cup-a-soups going on my miniature stove, not quite four star but it tasted good at the time Smile

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Next morning covertly hid most of our non-valuable luggage in the woods and headed across the road to the ring to see what the score was. It turned out some bastards known as 'Motorrad' had booked out the circuit during the day for training! Razz (Just found out VTR SP1 off the forum was on there). Got chatting to some British guys from Coventry, one in an SV thou and the other on a seriously upgraded gixxer thou k1.

Ohlins forks, dual rim mounted brakes on the front - you get the idea. He was walking with a limp, didn't think anything of it until later on he mentioned half his right leg was artificial :shocked:, he knew how to shift as well. Spent the rest of the day watching the Motorrad guys go round, Goldwings 'n all before it was our turn.

Hard to describe the experience in words, but probably the most fun on a bike I've ever had and very addictive. We only did 3 laps because of the state of our chains, definitely going to head back there one day in the near future. Some more comments in this thread...

After spending a few hours in the pub over a meal and some pints discussing our laps with Tony and Dave from Coventry we headed back to the campsite, where a couple beer-fuelled celebration burnouts ensued, Mike stacking the ZXR Laughing

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Belgium

Sorry to be leaving and with time to spare we spent the next few days riding slowly through Belgium to Brussels, where we stayed for a night before meandering down to Calais in the pissing rain.

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Got chatting to a few other bikers in the ferry queue, a bloke from the Lake District on a TDM900 and two Finnish guys on a Blade and ZX10R. One of them was a national-class racer in Finland, they were both going to Brands Hatch for the WSB for the racer to watch his team-mate race in the Superbikes. As we were going that way they asked to follow us up, and what was once three bikes was now a seven bike convoy leaving Dover.

To sum up, as most sane people will have been bored into doing something else by now, Great Trip!

Click here for a short video clip.


Last edited by maurice on 14:29 - 10 Mar 2006; edited 1 time in total
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divuk83
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PostPosted: 07:43 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Top thread. Inspiring stuff, makes me want to try something similar. Thumbs Up

Dave
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steveh
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PostPosted: 09:00 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting read, sounds like you had a good trip, apart from the coppers Sad


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craigs23
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PostPosted: 09:54 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great read, top bikes, looked like a lot of fun Thumbs Up
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Adam_P
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PostPosted: 10:19 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roads around San Marino ar good aren't they?!? Wink Laughing

I keep toying with the idea of doing something similar after the French trip earlier in the year. But might give Austria a wide berth after reading that Maurice.

Top read. Sounds a right blast. Thumbs Up Thumbs Up Thumbs Up Cool Cool Cool
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Shaun
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PostPosted: 10:26 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like you had a pretty damn good time, I'll sort my shit out and do it one day and Mikes got balls doing it on a ZXR, unreliable heaps of shit that they are. Razz

Now Maurice being welsh we can all understand why this picture was taken. Wink

http://www.walesbikers.co.uk/gallery/albums/userpics/MauPics/europe05/normal_Picture%20194.jpg
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Fruit'n'nut
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PostPosted: 11:32 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool Thumbs Up
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Gazdaman
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PostPosted: 11:34 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great pics, great ride! I'm sad you didn't post the pic of the CBR? in the ditch...

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Black Knight
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PostPosted: 11:46 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

All I can say is



WOW!


I hope one I have the opportunity to do something like that.
Fantastic! Very Happy
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Kickstart
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PostPosted: 12:28 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

Sounds good.

Back surgery organised to straighten you out again?

All the best

Keith
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Fazed
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PostPosted: 12:47 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

great report maurice, hope you all enjoyed it look's "wicked" ! Very Happy
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gavking
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PostPosted: 12:48 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds quality mate! How long did the whole trip take? How much did you spend? You know if you just have the sports panniers could a pillion still fit on?

Sorry for all the questions, but I wanna get started!!


Thumbs Up Thumbs Up Thumbs Up Thumbs Up
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distortion
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PostPosted: 12:54 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad you all enjoyed it, even though this is one persons post Thumbs Up

Deffinatley want to do something like that now.
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swaffs
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PostPosted: 14:03 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic report, very inspiring....
Thumbs Up
let me know when the next ones due.
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DynaMight
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PostPosted: 14:16 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

What phone and program did you use for the GPS?
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maurice
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PostPosted: 14:57 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

gavking wrote:
How long did the whole trip take? How much did you spend? You know if you just have the sports panniers could a pillion still fit on?


We left Claud's house in North London early on the 20th July, and got a ferry back on the 5th August. We actually mis-calculated ending up dossing the last couple days and arriving at Calais 36 hours before our ferry was due to leave.

According to Oxford's literature you are supposed to be able to take a pillion with the sports humpback panniers, though I've not tried it out. If you did I'd imagine you'd need some padding to go on top of the pillion seat as the luggage straps that fit over the top would soon get uncomfortable.

I'm not yet sure exactly how much I've spent Laughing, though I think something in the region of 900 - 1000 including a brand new set of tyres, oil change, travel insurance etc etc. We also ate out quite a lot, you could do it a little cheaper by camping more, but the food was too good and cheap to miss out on, especially in Italy Very Happy.

Dynamight wrote:
What phone and program did you use for the GPS?


It was a Motorolla A1000 pda-style phone I got hold of a couple days before the trip. It uses the Symbian UIQ operating system and has an internal GPS, I was using the freeware 'MapView GPS 2' program. The GPS eats batteries so was used as a back-up to a map if we got lost or wasn't sure which road we were on.
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Gazdaman
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PostPosted: 15:03 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

How much do you rekon you spent in total?

Gaz
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Dom
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PostPosted: 15:09 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic writeup. Thumbs Up
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jayluvmito
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PostPosted: 15:16 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

that looks excelent. i hope to do something like that when i get a 400 and a bit more riding experiance.
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zaknafien




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PostPosted: 15:18 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very cool. Thumbs Up

So whats next? Mike and Maurice - The Long Way Round?
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Vespa
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PostPosted: 15:21 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

.

Last edited by Vespa on 14:24 - 01 Nov 2005; edited 1 time in total
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DynaMight
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PostPosted: 15:23 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

maurice wrote:
It was a Motorolla A1000 pda-style phone I got hold of a couple days before the trip. It uses the Symbian UIQ operating system and has an internal GPS, I was using the freeware 'MapView GPS 2' program. The GPS eats batteries so was used as a back-up to a map if we got lost or wasn't sure which road we were on.


Ah right, I was kinda hoping you were using another program. Well this one: http://www.tempes.com/features.html actually.

Also, 76k on a NC30 is barely ran in is it? Smile
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TOM M
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PostPosted: 16:19 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thumbs Up Cool
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TOM M
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PostPosted: 16:20 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thumbs Up Cool
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maurice
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PostPosted: 16:22 - 07 Aug 2005    Post subject: Reply with quote

At higher altititude the air gets thinner, which causes bikes to run richer as there's less air getting mixed with fuel. The CBR and ZXR were both using about 20% more fuel at each stop normally so were probably a bit on the rich side to start with. As we got to 9000 feet they were literally choking on their own fuel, the VFR was also bogging at this point but not nearly as bad.

Yup, sailed past 77k by Calais Cool
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