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  #16  
Old 18 Sep 2011
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So Friday morning I went in. I got to the front of the queue waiting for the visa office to open and got in to the Visa department for 10am when the doors opened. Security checks held me up for about 10 seconds when a member of staff looked at me slightly funny and then carried on smoking his cigarette. There was a little man at the counter, he took my letters and added them to his pile and asked me to wait for maybe 20 minutes. I waited.
A few other people had problems, a tall white guy was just this side of kicking off and made a real dick of himself pushing in and trying to be far more important than he was. I played a bit of Tetris and lost fairly badly but I chalk it up to the distractions. Anyway, a girl in a blue sheet called me over. She seemed very nice and we exchanged pleasantries. She looked at the two new letters, rolled her eyes and clipped them to the files. She didn't even read the titles.
So she asked what I wanted. I explained I wanted as long as a Visa as possible in case of holdups in Iran or Turkey and would just be crossing the country. She said that was fine, gave me a piece of paper and told me to go pay. All approved in 2 minutes. No hassle.
I paid by debit card and had to go back at 4. I returned, as instructed to the tent outside and queued for my passport. None of my other documents came back but my passport has a paper sticker giving me 40 days access to be used any time before March next year. I couldn't ask for any better than that. The guy giving back the passports made a point of checking mine twice for no reason whatsoever but the woman who served me goes to show how much difference there is between getting a decent person and getting a twat. I'm chuffed, it's major progress. I expected to be sent away and brought back for an interview, at least but now I'm free to start applying for Iran.
I have done nothing to the bike except decide to replace the brake discs. They're on their last so it's a good idea to sort them before they really let me down. I'm liking Lucas discs front and rear. not cheap but they look good and have a decent reputation. They're sold on the Wunderlich site so an extra endorsement. I have tried to find anyone else with issues but can't find anything. I liked Armstrong but the pads are awful and a lot of people have had problems so I chose to avoid them too, just in case. That leaves me with Galfer which are a bit more money and I can't get a rear or EBC which are... well... boring. If I am doing it then i want it to be an improvement and a bit of visual interest.
So...

Just one more thing. The letter of invitation was found from a referral on this site. A lot of people have offered me advice and I appreciate all of it. Thanks to everyone who helped out with this difficult stage of my planning. Now if anyone wants to chime in about Iran then please, be my guest...
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  #17  
Old 21 Sep 2011
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I had a really miserable day yesterday. The bike resisted every attempt to run with HID lights. I did all the tests, fitted the bulb kit to the ballasts and everything was perfectly fine. I had enough time, ie all day and all the brackets were essentially ready for fitting, painted and waiting for final assembly so i took the plunge and cut the headlight off. It's the only way, you have the wires that power the original beam soldered to spade connectors so you have to snip them. So I wired everything together and... nothing. No lights, no power. I tried everything again on raw power from the battery and sure enough, it all worked ok. No fuses blown, just for some reason the headlight circuit will not drive the HIDs. I stripped and rebuilt several times thinking I had done something wrong. I took out all traces of the Buell wiring in case there was a break, I even changed the HID wiring for spares... nothing. As time was against me and I now had no headlights I simply wired up the unit directly to the key so they come on now with the ignition which works ok. To do that I have had to have power directly from the ignition key switch and a return directly back to the battery. Nothing else worked. I've done this plenty of times before and I've never seen this happen so I'm at a loss as to why the headlight circuit is not working... in the end it's just power and the HIDs run on a lower wattage than the normal bulb. In fact I had 100w bulbs in my headlight and they were absolutely fine.
So I wired the pair together and both come on now with the key. I didn't have time to set them up properly and they now illuminate treetops as I ride so that's a job for today. They are good though, they're a huge improvement over standard. For full beams I'm now going to install a pair of spotlights and wire them (hopefully) to the headlight circuit. That should be legal and cuts away the needless switches I have.
Even rebuilding was a pain, every time I put her back together she wouldn't start. A fuse blew once for no reason i could find, I must have shorted something against the frame. In the end it was a long and horrible job I'm in no hurry to repeat. I'm going out tonight in the country so i'm looking forward to having it all set up right so I can see how good it is/isn't.
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  #18  
Old 21 Sep 2011
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Short update... lights are awesome. So for the record, the Buell Lightning (late model) double round headlight unit is a modern, waterproof plastic and rubber box with clear plastic lenses and internal reflectors. It seems just right and throws a brilliant white beam. I was riding tonight on a motorway with no lights on it at around 70mph with total confidence in the lights on the bike. All through town they didn't seem to be dazzling anyone but I could see brilliantly. I'm impressed and happy.
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  #19  
Old 26 Sep 2011
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Not many updates lately, sorry for that if you're following. Ok, I got the Buell HID lights on. My god, what a difference. I had a lot of trouble with the wiring so i bought a set of Halfords spotlights to use as full-beams in the short term. So, I was riding along, minding my own business in heavy London traffic and suddenly a scooter in front of me started blowing a lot of smoke except it wasn't the scooter in front, it was me, my bike was on fire. I got it out before any harm was done and stripped out the front end. Strangely the HIDs were unaffected, no fuses were blown and everything was fine. The problem seems to have been a short on the wiring to the bulbs on the lamps and it caught against the plastic wraps. So in disgust I made a few more changes. I found power to full beams and now have a HID main and a HID dip as the law more or less requires, the Halfords bulbs are now in the dustbin where they deserve to be and a set of LED bulbs are in the housing as marker lights. They're very impressive. To look at they appear almost as bright as the HID but obviously thrown no light. They're ideal for getting noticed and i'm happy with them now. I also rebuilt the light hanger to have more clearance in case wires try to short again. It's not as cramped now.
My application for Iran is in! I was offered advice right here on the HUBB. A quick Google search showed up a Visa agency and I was set to use them. By all accounts the normal and correct proceedure is to use a Visa agency to arrange it for you, they take a copy of your passport and CV (for some reason) and for a nominal fee they arrange your visa and you collect from your nominated embassy. The agency I had found and which looked most likely was probably not. I googled the various agencies and found many, many problems with most of them but no trouble reported from the one suggested here, Persia tours. I have begun the ball rolling with a very helpful young lady who seems to know what she's doing and they seem fine so far. Even better, no cash up front. They ask you to pay them when you get to Iran. You can't ask for a more trustworthy sign that that really...
In other news...

I went on the MAG protest yesterday with little Bubbles, my Asian partner. We met at the services on the A20. Not a massive turnout but good enough. We got chatting to a guy on an R1100GS and then a very very sexy Triumph Scrambler. I have to say how impressed I was with that bike. We chatted for ages and he told me he'd built the exhaust. When we chatted it turned out he had built the silencer from stainless sheet and rolled it himself. This thing looked perfect as well. All the extras were home made and they all looked amazing, even the custom built crash bars...
So the run left onto the A20, it was meant to ride for 20 minutes at 45mph in the slow lane. In effect it went at 20mph in all the lanes and caused a fair bit of trouble. Sadly at the first roundabout the group split, only 2 scooters went ahead and everyone else went up to the junction. We followed but the main drag went the opposite way. Still, a good 50-60 bikes went to the Oakdene cafe where we were heading so all was well. It was a good run and I hope it made a point.
I have been in touch with MAG and I'm sponsering them on my trip. With only about 3 weeks I won't raise a lot but I'll sticker the bike up and hope to raise some awareness if not a lot of cash.
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  #20  
Old 29 Sep 2011
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Some progress on the bike, no progress on the paperwork and a row with the missus.
The bike headlights are now fine, I'm happy with them so the other day I built a new handlebar mount to take the temperature guage and the ignition switch and moved the lighter socket to the side panel, out of the way. I've never used it but it's nice to know it's there, somewhere. I fitted the screen but I'm not happy. I prefer to ride a naked bike anyhow but the mount is too rigid and fits to the headlight support arms. I worry that in a spill the screen will damage the entire front end. I'd rather lose the screen than the lights so I might have to rethink the screen mounting kit. I need something to help with heavy rain.
A couple of guys are interested in joining me for the trip. One is on a BMW F800gs but he's fed up with it and looking to switch for a big single or an older bike which is cool, the other is on a 990 Adventure. He's a bit quicker than me and I don't think that's going to work out. He wants to cruise at 75, I criuse at 65 or less. Anything more is just needlessly burning fuel. My bike can do it but it's uncomfortable and expensive and I don't enjoy pushing her into the "vibe-zone" for any length of time. On the other hand the KTM has a very poor reputation for reliabilty and fuel consumption. 3 Times people who own them have come up and told me how bad they are to own. I'm sure we can all come to an arrangement re speed etc. If the three of us can get it together then another group of guys are waiting to cross Pakistan, they might wait for us a few days if there are a number of us coming.
No progress with paperwork but I'm assured it's all in hand. I hope so! I'm dealing slowly with it but it's an uphill struggle for me, I don't like it.
SO yesterday I took the "day off" to meet the missus for lunch. We're running out of days together an she had a free afternoon so I thought I'd take her out. She got back and said she'd decided on a Chinese place where there was probably nothing to eat for me even though we had already arranged to go somewhere else. I didn't mind, I can always find something to eat so I said it was fine. We went down to the bike and I asked her which way it was. She didn't know. I explained I didn't know the area and she would have to navigate but she didn't know where this place was. I asked her what it was called and she didn't know that either. So I laugh and say, ok we'll just go somewhere else. She pulls out her Iphone and starts looking for a map. I explain a map won't help if she doesn't know where it is. She says it's somewhere on the way to Fulham. She's getting a bit cross now and blaming me. So in the end I say let's just find a pub and get something to eat. That's not good enough and I'm selfish for suggesting it. So I walk off and leave her to it. Woman logic, huh? I'm still not sure exactly what I'm meant to have done wrong... I told her I expect an apology, she refuses so we're not talking. Oh well!
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  #21  
Old 5 Oct 2011
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A whole week since my last entry. Sorry guys, it's all go here.
So paperwork, the Indian visa is in. Pretty straightforwards. I went to Visagenie who charge a nominal £20 fee to do the work for you. I had to fill in a form online and they emailed me a completed copy to sign which I sent back with my passport and two photos. I should get it back by the weekend. My Iranian visa is ready to collect when I am. Awesome service from those guys and my carnet paperwork is being processed as we speak.
I have found (or they found me) two other guys heading my way. One is not in London to meet up until Monday, the other has arranged to meet me twice and let me down. We're aiming to meet tomorrow but we'll see. I wonder how far I can trust a guy on the road who I can't trust to turn up in London. One last try and hopefully just a case of life getting in the way.
The bike is much healthier with a new front brake disk and pads so that the front has some braking power now. Also swapped out the head-stock barings yesterday with the help of my brother. Not a particularly tough job and it made a huge difference which is testament to how bad they must have been.
Sadly the headlights have packed up. I narrowed it down to a faulty ballast on one side. More troubles... Honestly, the headlight issues just will not go away.
Tomorrow I'm going to rethink the whole thing and see what happens.
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  #22  
Old 14 Oct 2011
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Well today sees the official end of the trip paperwork. I have all the necessary visas now and my Carnet arrived this morning. Iran was the most difficult, they were unpleasant, officious pricks. India took a lot longer than advertised, I used a company to help me out, they charged £20 to basically save me 2 days of running about and at least a tank of petrol so that was cool.
Iran, well I got an invitation letter from Persiantours and all was well but for some reason they just enjoy making life difficult. The website said I had to go between 12.30 and 4, which I did but then they said I should have gone between 10 and 11. I explained the website had said what time but they said it was changed and i should have called. I explained that I had tried all morning but nobody answered the phone. He told me they were too busy to answer the phone. Honestly, he was an example of the typical bureaucrat we can all do without.
I got my boots today, so my kit is just about complete and I fitted a nice little headlight guard thing which tidies up the whole front end nicely. I got that from a shop in Leytonstone and the guy didn't even charge me for it. Top man!
This evening I'm going to the Ace cafe to meet the guys i'm riding with and sort out plans of action. I should be ready to leave by wednesday.
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