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  #1  
Old 20 May 2009
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Question Balance between consumerism & preparation

In preparation for my first real trip (UK to India or somewhere thereabouts), I realise that there are just too many purchasing choices involved. Allow me to explain myself:

My longest trip to date has been a 3 week ride from London to Nordkapp via Europe and the Baltic countries (map here: http://www.moto.gr/forums/showthread.php?threadid=66663 )

I camped every night and averaged 500 km per day. I mostly ate simple food that I cooked myself. I had a great and very economical time and absolutely no problems.

This means that I already have the equipment I need for a bike trip. All the camping stuff, all the bike stuff, all the clothing... but preparing to tour Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India for the first time and on my own, has me on edge. I want to bullerproof myself and the bike as much as possible.

I want the GPS, the waterproof protective gear, the bike modifications for off-road riding, the lightweight tent... all of which I never needed till now.

But, what do we really need at the end of the day? Does one *need* the GPS, or will traditional maps serve me fine? Do I *need* a new jacket, or will my 12 year old trusty water-friendly Dainese and its arm protectors be fine, with the usual layer of PVC one-piece suit for rainy days? Will the Vstrom's (650A) rear shock really not rise to the occasion? Will my cheap & bulky tent/mattress not keep me dry and warm?

If I buy everything I think I might need I can easily spend a good £2K on "preparation", but I really wonder where the line between "needs" and "luxuries" is...

I tend to opt for simplicity and a low-key profile. As if it's not bad enough that I ride a relatively (for the countries involved) flashy bike... I want to minimise the expensive gadgets I will carry with me. First of all because I don't like wasting money on luxury items, second because they may draw unwanted attention and third because I don't want to worry about misplacing/breaking my expensive kit!

Your thoughts/experiences will be appreciated.

Alexandros
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  #2  
Old 20 May 2009
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I see no reason your existing gear will not work fine.
You might want to be sure your tent is insect proof. Generally if you 'need' something on the way you can buy it locally. I use maps, but think a gps would be nice. The gps could become totally usless at any moment for a large number of reasons. the bulkier maps are unlikely to fail completely. I am gradually learning, each time i set off on a voyage I carry less and less gear. Each of us will evolve a unique system to satisfy our perceived needs.
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  #3  
Old 21 May 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apapadop View Post
In preparation for my first real trip (UK to India or somewhere thereabouts), I realise that there are just too many purchasing choices involved.
I agree with you.

If half, or more, of the stuff that's on the market today didn't exist, preparation would be a lot easier with far fewer decisions, and the journey would still be the same.
I still find inspiration, and most of my guidance for preparation, in Ted Simon's book 'Jupiter's Travels'.
Particularly, whatever preparation you do and whatever you take with you, 'the interruptions are the journey'.

I also find inspiration and guidance in Anne Mustoe's books about cycling around the world. I challenge anyone not to be inspired by her stories.

It was brought home to me when I cycled from Canada to Mexico. On the handlebars of my bike I had a bicycle speedo/computer, and a hand-held GPS. A friend of mine, a computer expert and amateur astronomer, pointed out that I had more computing power on my handlebar that did the entire Apollo 11 spacecraft!
That's just plain crazy...........
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Old 21 May 2009
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Originally Posted by McCrankpin View Post
A friend of mine, a computer expert and amateur astronomer, pointed out that I had more computing power on my handlebar that did the entire Apollo 11 spacecraft!
That's just plain crazy...........
Why is that crazy? You also have better maps, more locomotive power, better roads, and better communications than previous travellers, etc. It's called progress.

I am a big fan of GPS, along with paper maps. I've done trips without GPS and sometimes its fine, sometimes its kind of a pain, depending on the country, if I speak the language, the road network, etc. I definitely feel more comfortable checking out the roads that are not on the map if I have a GPS! The main problem with paper maps is that it is often difficult to find maps that have the really small roads on them--maybe 1:200k or so--and difficult to carry enough of such maps for a long trip even if you find them.
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  #5  
Old 21 May 2009
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Hi... marketing is a wonderful thing. I really think it's an art. The folks that sell all the goodies for our bikes and bodies create a need in our mind. All of it's useful, but none of it is absolutely necessary. I suspect we've all seen (or are) the people doing the haul road to Prudoe Bay on a Vespa or riding a bicycle across the Sahara. The more gadgets I've had, the more I have to worry about and depend on technology rather than my wits. Less is more for me, there is always something trick to buy.
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  #6  
Old 21 May 2009
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Go with what you have and what you know. Spend what you need to spend on things that get you where you are going (tyres, oil etc). The extra cash is more useful than a spare shock when you have a busted alternator although even that might be more useful than some carbon fibre and titanium knife and fork set that the marketing boys wo be claiming you'll need.

I too am a big GPS fan but have also used a Sun Compass, magnetic compass, sextant and other "traditional" techniques for both the fun and the convienience. They all work once you've got the practice in and can cock up in new and interesting ways if you don't understand them. GPS is by far the best and the one you'd use out of choice. The one you'll never be safe without is the paper maps though. They work regardless of anything happening around you pretty much short of setting them on fire (and you can even do that if you are cold enough). Get a simple GPS if you can afford one, but view it as something you'll be learning as you'll go, not the master of your trip.

Andy
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Old 21 May 2009
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Originally Posted by Threewheelbonnie View Post
[Paper maps] work regardless of anything happening around you pretty much short of setting them on fire (and you can even do that if you are cold enough).
Very true, although my maps usually don't survive the trip after all of the folding and mutilating necessary to get the necessary part of the map to show in my Barpack.

Actually a barpack (or home-made replacement) might be the thing I've found most useful on my trips, especially when I don't have a GPS. Here's a link: Barpack I write all the relevant town names and turns on a piece of paper and put it in the small exernal map window, and if I get lost unfold the thing to look at the map inside. I don't like using tank bags but this thing is very small and doesn't get in the way at all.
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Old 21 May 2009
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Going with the general train of thought on here, I would say the following.

If your kit is serivceable and not on its last legs, I would say keep it and save your money. This applies to tents, sleeping bags etc: you are obviously comfortable with these, when they will perform and when not, so why change?

They may weigh a few more kilos than new stuff, but you can off-set that by packing sensibly and not taking everything. If you have problems on the road, they may not get fixed there and then, but a solution always turns up in a way you least expected....

GPS? Very useful in a new city and can save hours of riding in circles!! However, DO also take paper maps with you for the reasons already given.

Bottom line is if you want to buy new stuff, go for it, but don't feel you have to in order to be a successful overlander on what sounds like a great trip-to-be...
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Old 21 May 2009
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gadgets

I am a big fan of the GPS but if you ask me whether its absolutely necessary, I would probably say no. However, without the GPS I would probably not have crossed the Tenere desert and Grand Erg du Bilma and a few things more. I have travelled with a guy who absolutely resented to travel with laptop and GPS and got around as well, albeit, he did not admit it but his partner told us that on average they spent an hour a day in back tracking because they took the wrong turn, again....

Bottom line I think, if you plan on staying on the main roads, do the basic stuff you don't need electronics but if you have em, it stretches your options significantly.

The GPS is the sextant of our times. The old mariners would not have left home without the sextant ...

cheers,
Noel
exploreafrica.web-log.nl
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Old 21 May 2009
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Thanks for the answers everyone,

I think that trying to over-engineer this will make one spend crazy money (Touratech-branded GPS holders etc), so I will attempt to split my shopping list to safety vs convenience.

Contemplating the "lost in the mountains with no signs and no clue where I am and running out of fuel" scenario, I hastily stuff the GPS in the "safety" category. I've always ran on paper maps and I hate following a digital arrow on the screen. I only want the GPS to give me an idea where I am when the lack of signs/landmarks gets me lost and to give me the opportunity to backtrack.

So, the list for now seems to be:

SAFETY
  • GPS
  • After-market rear shock for the Vstrom
  • Off-road tyres

CONVENIENCE
  • Better/smaller/lighter tent, mattress, sleeping bag
  • All-weather riding gear (jacket,pants,boots)

I'll certainly be seeking further advice as things progress, but for now, thank you for your input!

Alexandros

PS: Should go without saying, but don't hesitate to comment on the above - the more the merrier.
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Old 21 May 2009
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Lost in the mountains is easy: Go down hill, it uses less fuel, it's warmer and the pub is nearly always at the bottom!

Andy
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Old 21 May 2009
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Tyres: Consider Heidenau K60s. Very cheap and yet very competent dual sport tyres from Germany: getting a big following...
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  #13  
Old 21 May 2009
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Originally Posted by motoreiter View Post
Why is that crazy? You also have better maps, more locomotive power, better roads, and better communications than previous travellers, etc. It's called progress.
Sorry - I meant 'crazy' with a touch of English irony, crazy in a funny way. After all I did have the GPS with me, even though it was an entirely tarmac road journey. On a bicycle, taking a wrong turning and pedalling for 3 hours in a direction you don't want to go can seriously dent your day if you're on a fairly tight schedule, and a GPS helps prevent that.
Cheers.
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Old 21 May 2009
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Good points everyone.

I like to think I'm very much a function-follows-form kind of person and only buy gadgets if their use will enhance my trip in a desired way without gouging into the trip budget.

For me, I like to have enough information/gadgets to ensure my safety and independent self-sustainability (cooking, sleeping gear) while still interacting with the local environment.
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  #15  
Old 22 May 2009
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Originally Posted by McCrankpin View Post
Sorry - I meant 'crazy' with a touch of English irony, crazy in a funny way. After all I did have the GPS with me, even though it was an entirely tarmac road journey. On a bicycle, taking a wrong turning and pedalling for 3 hours in a direction you don't want to go can seriously dent your day if you're on a fairly tight schedule, and a GPS helps prevent that.
Cheers.
Crazy or not, it is certainly an interesting factoid! And taking a wrong turn on a moto is bad enough, hadn't thought about how much it would suck on a bicycle...

Happy trails!
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