The Journey

Europe 2015 pt. V: Final checks

The Topeak Morph hand pump I use for my bicycle can also be used for motorcycle tires. That’s where I’ll start this update, because, really, that’s what the last few weeks have been all about: making sure I have the right gear and that it works.

It’s a strange world, motorcycling, that it can induce long internal discussions on air pumps. I suppose that is a reflection of just how much this upcoming trip spins in my head. I deliberate over everything. Yet I feel strangely unready. Either way, the adventure begins on Friday. Or, if you’re reading this at some point after 3 July 2015, the trip began Friday.

Up until that point I’ll be doing last-minute preparations. The early part of the week, for example, is dedicated to giving my riding gear the full waterproofing treatment: TechWash, TX Direct and Fabrisil for my jacket and trousers, a good clean and two applications of NikWax for my boots and gloves.

I changed the oil on the bike over the weekend. I’ll be carrying tools to clean, oil and adjust the chain as necessary. And, of course, with the hand pump I’ll be able to ensure I’m keeping the tires properly inflated as I ride through various altitudes. For any issues beyond those simple things I’ve got RAC coverage.

I’ve downloaded a free German-English dictionary for my phone. So, you know, that will totally make up for the fact that I never got around to listening to the Coffee Break German podcasts I had downloaded several months ago.

My tent works. Jenn and I rode down to a campsite in Devon about a week ago to give my gear a test run. The tent’s poles needed new cord but apart from that it’s in surprisingly good condition. REI stuff costs a lot but it’s worth it in the long run; I’ve had that tent for roughly a decade.

Hell yeah I have a Leatherman attached to my belt. Like a boss.

Also perfectly functional are my sleeping bag, bed roll, mini stove, frying pan, enamelware mug, Leatherman, wind-up flashlight and various other camping items. All that gear fits easily into the Oxford Aqua 50 bag that Cam sent me, with still enough space for groceries I’ll pick up along the way.

Cam’s a fellow rider who lives in Scotland. He got in touch not too long ago to let me know he had the bag sitting around being unused and asked if I’d want it for my trip. Cam, I can’t thank you enough for that thing. It will be a huge help.

One of the things I love about motorcycling is the generosity that seems to come from everywhere. In addition to Cam’s kindness, fellow moto-blogger Sonja has offered up a place to sleep when I’m passing through Germany. And the advice I’ve gotten off Nikos has been incredibly useful.

Also showing the love have been the good folks at Suzuki. They’ve sent along an awesome tank bag for me to use on the trip and review. Designed specifically for use with the V-Strom, the bag attaches via a clever tankring lock. Expect the full review when I get back from my trip; the early signs are that it will be a positive review. I had a chance to try out the bag on the trip to Devon last week and was quite pleased.

Meanwhile, in true adventurer style, I’ve jerryrigged (a) my own GPS mount. The GPS had been clamped to the Strom’s handlebars, but adding the tank bag made it impossible to see. That’s fine. To be honest, I’d never been terribly happy with the GPS being that low, anyway.

Those of you with a good memory might be asking at this point: “GPS? What GPS? I thought you were doing this trip the old-fashioned way.”

It’s true that was my intent. Back in May, heading to a funeral in Texas put a huge dent in my finances. So, I had planned to make my way to Italy using some good ol’ fashioned paper maps. But then I happened to notice that two of my intended destinations are not on said maps, and, more influentially, a conversation with Nikos convinced me I should find a way to make use of modern technology.

I know that plenty of people have had successful European adventures using the old-school methods of paper maps, wits, friendliness and patience, but I’ll be honest that the thought of being completely lost in some “faraway” land where I don’t speak the language causes deep ripples of panic in my mind. So, I shot myself lightly in the foot financially and bought a TomTom Rider (b).

Inevitably, fate will punish me by having the thing break somewhere in the Alps and I’ll still end up navigating the old-school way. But for now I’m able to sleep a little better.

In breaking down for that purchase I opened the floodgates and allowed myself also to get a Lonely Planet guide and an additional pair of padded cycling shorts. I already have one pair that I use for long rides but it suddenly occurred to me that one pair of shorts over the space of several days might be unpleasant.

I’ll be missing this lady while I’m on the road.

Spending money makes me unhappy, though, because it is money I won’t have on the road. A part of me worries not just a little bit about having enough cash to even pay for petrol. But, hey, I guess that’s part of the adventure.

I feel so unprepared at the moment. The more I think about it, the more apprehensive I get. There are times when I work myself into a state of thinking: “I don’t even want to go.”

The fact that I do this is no doubt indicative of some larger aspect of my personality, some self-defeating I-don’t-know-what that stands between my ambitions and my realities.

But Friday will come and I will be on that overnight boat from Harwich to Rotterdam, and from that point there’s really no turning back. It will be fine, regardless of what all my anxieties scream at me.

Meanwhile, my apologies if things on the site run a little slow for a while; I’m unsure what my internet access will be like. This will manifest itself most in my ability to approve comments. I’ll do my best to stay on top of it.

Anyway, bânt a fi.


(a) Yes, I know the correct spelling is “jury-rig” but that is not the way I’ve ever pronounced it. In Texas we say “jerryrig.”

(b) Not too badly. Thanks to promotional offers and an additional discount I get at Fowlers for having bought my bike there, I was able to get my GPS for considerably less.