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Ride Tales Post your ride reports for a weekend ride or around the world. Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is. Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
Photo by James Duncan, Universe Camp, Uyuni Salt Flats

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by James Duncan,
"Universe Camp"
Uyuni Salt Flats



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  #1  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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RTW on CRF250L - Amsterdam to....Anywhere!

We are Peter and Leonie from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We have quit our jobs and rented out the house to be able to travel around the world on our motorbikes. We both travel on a Honda CRF250L (specifications: 250cc , 144kg curb weight, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single cylinder, DOHC, fuel-injection). A great reliable bike that brings us everywhere we want to go!

We will travel for two years. We left late 2013 from Amsterdam and have since then travelled through Europa and Africa. In november 2014 we took our motorbikes to South America. We saw beautiful things and met amazing people! We enjoyed unimaginable hospitality in Libya and Egypt. We rode great offroad tracks along Lake Turkana and Lake Tanganyika and fully enjoyed the beautiful nature Africa has to offer! South America has given us with a lot of new adventures, friends and beautiful miles on the bikes!

We want to share our adventures with you and will be posting our stories on the HUBB. We hope you join us!

PS To have a complete picture of our trip, we will start at the very beginning and catch up.
PS2 You can also find us on Facebook. Search for a person with the name ’Amsterdam to Anywhere’

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Last edited by -Leonie-; 10 Apr 2015 at 23:35. Reason: We need more pictures!
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  #2  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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Around the world on a motorbike, who does that?


What would it be like if we could travel for more than three weeks? If, after riding to the south for 1.5 week, we would not have to turn around to go home to be back in time to go to work?” If you go on the internet with those thoughts, you will soon find out that we are not the first with such ideas. The internet is full of great travel blogs, with pictures from all corners of the world. If you search for ‘round the world’ and ‘motor’ you will soon find Horizons Unlimited, or ‘HU‘ for insiders.

It did not take us long to order the DVD-serie with the suitable title ‘The Achievable Dream’. Five dvds, among which Leonie her personal favorite: ‘Ladies on the Loose’.
 We spent several sundays in front of the TV with the dvdseries if HU. We watched all five titles several times, so often that the travellers that were interviewed soon reached ‘stardom’.

Many of the interviewees were experienced motorcycle travellers with several impressive trips on their list and even movies or books. After the HU-dvds we could continue filling our week-ends with movies from Austin Vince and books of Lois Pryce, Ted Simon and Sam Manicon. And do not forget the TV-series ‘The Long Way Round’ and ‘The Long Way Down’ with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. Our own dream was starting to get shape through all those inspiring travel stories.

In June 2011 we went to a HU-meeting in Ripley in England (at the time still on the Transalp and the Africa Twin). We took the week off and went to England with the ferry to Hull. After some days touring in England (at the wrong side of the road) we went to the campsite in Ripley on Thursday. The atmosphere at the campsite was fantastic, a terrain full of travel bikes, lightweight tents and globetrotters. And everywhere we ran into ‘movie stars’.

We went to many workshops, some with travel stories or technical bike stuff. But also to a workshop ‘Roadkill cooking’, where we learned to clean a squirl if you would hit one. Or a yoga class for bikers, in which you learned to use your sleeping mattress as a yoga cushion. And to the ‘Ladies only’ workshop in which women (in a circle) discussed ‘girl-stuff’.
 Highlights of the meeting were the presentations of Austin Vince, R1-Sjaak and Lois Pryce. In a packed meeting room they gave away a great show with stories and pictures.

We received a lot of information, so much I almost got dizzy. But after the weekend what stuck was: “Wow, there are more ‘idiots’ like us out there!
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  #3  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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New Bikes


The wish to travel on a motorbike already existed some time, whether for a ‘short’ holiday of three weeks within Europe or a longer trip around the world. The motorbikes that we had chosen to take were a Honda Africa Twin and a Honda Transalp. One of the questions we often heared was; “Is it not too heavy?” Yes, heavy they are, but we had already chosen to go a certain direction. We had already spent so much time and money to prepare the Twin and the Alp, that we did not just want to switch bikes. That changed, especially for me, in Morocco.

Peter had bought his bike in 2008 and was enthusiastic about the history of the Africa Twin. Some models of the Africa Twin had taken part in the Dakar Rally. So it is a legendary bike, which was very beautiful at the same time. An ‘oldy’ of which we could maintain the engine ourselves (with the garage workbook next to us), without having to use a laptop to search and correct the errors.

I thought that the Africa Twin was too big and had chosen the Transalp. At the time we also looked at the Honda Dominator, but -according the the information we got- that bike used oil and needed regular oil changes. Therefore I decided to buy the Honda Transalp as my travel bike. Since 2010 we prepared the Africa Twin and the Transalp for a long trip. We added all sorts of accessories, like new shocks and springs, another saddle, crash bars, other mirrors, a luggage rack, etc.. In the end we had great travel bikes.


The trip to Morocco was a final test for the round the world trip. We packed all the gear we also wanted to take on the big trip. This would be the ultimate test to see whether gear or spare parts had to be replaced. On day 5 I had a crash. One big one and, on the same day and the days after that, several ‘minor’ crashes. I especially struggled with the sand that had been blown on the road. On difficult parts, Peter first rode his bike and than came walking back to drive my bike through the sand. The Transalp, or at least the bodywork, fell to pieces and was kept together by gaffer tape and cable ties. The engine was purring as it had been, so we did finish the entire trip. However my confidence in the Transalp and my own driving skills had dropped drastically. Each morning I hesitated to get back on the bike and I thought about cancelling our big trip.


After a difficult time at home in our family, we again started thinking about a longer trip. In Morocco Paul (Owner of Camping Zebra) advised us to consider switching to the lighter Honda CRF205L. This was the newest street-legal light offroad motorbike that was introduced by Honda. A 250cc engine with a steel (sub)frame and good maintenance schedule, which seemed to be very good for travelling. At the end of November 2012 Peter called me from the car and told me he had visited a local bikeshop. He had studied the Honda CRF250L from all corners. He predicted: “If you see this bike, you will be sold”. And he was right. A week later I stood on the food pegs of a CRF250L to test whether I would be able to drive it standing, while Peter and a salesman held the bike. It looked tough, it was light and it could be transferred into a travelbike.

At another bike shop we were able to make a test ride. On a very cold day we took turns riding the CRF on dikes and along the polders around Hillegom. It felt like a strange moped with six gears, but it was a great drive, especially its manouavrability was great. A it was so light! I could park the bike wherever I wanted and could easily move it. For Peter it would be a big step from the Africa Twin to the CRF, mainly because of the power the bike would lack. At home we made two lists of ‘pro’ and ‘con’, which were both equally long. Eventually the CRF won and we decided to enter into negotiations with Motoport to acquire two CRFs.

In the beginning of December 2012 we made the deal. The bikes were delivered to us just before the holidays, with succeeding plates and a crate of wine. A great Christmas present!
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  #4  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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Last day at work

Travel without obligations. No tour guide we have to follow, no set route, no job to return to and no fixed costs. Ultimate freedom, that is what we dreamed of when we first considered to travel. A sabbatical of a few months would not be sufficient to realise that dream. For the ultimate freedom we would both have to quit our jobs. And we would not make any arrangement to return to the same job afterwards. How ever great this might sound, it was easier dreamed than done.

Quitting our jobs in June was quite the ‘thing’. I was pretty nervous to inform my boss that I would be leaving and -against expectations- would be interrupt by career to travel. By saying out loud that I would quit my job, our trip came a lot closer, a special feeling.

The response we received to our plans was very positive. “Too bad that you are leaving, but what a great reason!”; “You do what everybody wants”; “I would never have the currage to do this!”; “It is now or never, with kids you are stuck”. As everybody now knew about the trip, we could finally take about our plans. It is difficult keeping that to yourself if you are so exicited about them.

Since June we both worked for another three months. During that period we were both very busy, without actually preparing to leave. This week that changed and the job really ended.


After 14 years at Akzo Nobel, of which the last three years in Rotterdam, Peter was on the night shift for the last time. A long period, that ended in a special way. During the last days a lot of colleagues came by to chat and say goodbye. Many kind words, also in several e-mails. There was a box in the control room that was covered with pictures of motor travellers for a contribution to a gift. They bought him great gifts, that were completed with a good whiskey of his own team. Peter his navigation skills will improve greatly with these gifts.

My last day at the office was a few days later, on Friday. After a crazy week, with files that had to be finished and even a meeting for a new case, it was over on Friday. At 17:00 we all went to the bar at the office. On the bulletin it said “Farewell Leonie”, which gave me a lump in my throat. Just like the speech of my boss. I was speechless and could only just finish my own speech without crying my eyes out. As Peter, I also received great gifts. The smoked mackerel Jannig gave me was a highlight! Afterwards I went out for dinner with my team. It was a very special night, with a lot of nice words and even more drinks!
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  #5  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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Recipe for an adventure bike

To travel around the world, we have to adjust the bikes and prepare them as ‚travel bikes’. The most important adjustment is the possibility to take luggage. Buying a bag does not do the job. The bags have to be fitted to the bike and -maybe even more importantly- the bike has to be able to carry the extra weight. To be able to drive comfortably and safely with luggage, we had the shocks and the suspension adjusted.

On the Africa Twin and the Transalp, the bikes on which we travelled earlier, we had the shocks and the suspension replaced by Hyperpro. Both the quality of the gear, as well as the service of Hyperpro had been great. When we decided to replace these parts on the new CRFs, the choice for Hyperpro was easy.

In the beginning of March we took the first bike to Hyperpro in Alphen aan den Rijn. That branch is led by Bas, a great guy who has a lot of experience with preparing ‘travel bikes’. After tugging and pulling the CRF it was clear that the shocks and the suspension that were installed by Honda were too soft for travelling with luggage. This had to be adjusted. We chose to modify the front suspension (progressive spring) and to put in a fully adjustable shock at the back (with a progressive spring). These adjustments help to make sure that the bike remains stable on the road, even when it gets bumpy. This is not only important for a comfortable ride, but also for our safety.



As the CRF250L is a relatively new bike, Hyperpro did not have the parts in its product line yet. Our bike went to the design-team of Hyperpro, which used the bike to develop the new parts. After a few weeks, the parts were ready so Bas and David could start installing it on the bike.

The (settings of the) shock absorber and suspension are tailored made for us. They did not only take into account the weight of the luggage, but also our height, our weight and our personal preferences. My bike is therefore slightly lower than the bike of Peter, so I can easily reach the ground. We also had a pre-load adjuster installed. This allows us to easily adjust the shock absorber in height, depending on the amount of luggage we drive with.

After the parts were installed on the first bike, we swapped the motorbikes. The second motorbike is now ready and both bikes have already been tested several times with luggage. We are very happy with the result!
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  #6  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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No sore bum!

100.000 kilometre (62.000 miles), that is how long our possible route is. From Amsterdam to South-Africa, then the complete Pan-American Highway, a tour in Australia and from Asia back home to the Netherlands. A long way! And all those miles we sit on the bike. Reason enough to pay some attention the a proper seat in our surge for the perfect travel bike!

Travelling by bike is different from travelling by car as far as sitting comfort is concerned. No heated seat or comfortable bucket seat for us. The stock CRF is sold with a dazzling, bright red seat that is soft and very narrow. It is a fine seat for shorter trips. The stock-seat is however not suitable for longer trips. That became clear during the first real test ride we made in the Netherlands. The first day we got off the bikes with a wooden butt. We both had to dance before blood flowed through the gluteus maximus again.

For new seats we travelled to Midlaren in Drenthe (the Netherlands), to Raymond (www.rayz.nl). Raymond is a keen motorcyclist himself who made several very nice trips. He now uses all that travel experience to make really great seats. We were existing customers of Rayz. In 2012 he designed new seats for the Africa Twin and Transalp. We had tested and approved those seats during our trip to Morocco. A sore bum never once was a reason to get off the bike.




Raymond uses the existing plastic underground of the stock seat to build the new seat. The seat is adjusted to the personal preferences of the rider: higher, lower, narrower or wider. He also ensures that the seat is perfectly in line with the colours and lines of the bike.

In July we took one motorbike and two standard seats to Raymond. When we arrived in Midlaren we first walked in circles around the new CRF. The enthusiasm of Raymond about our lighter bike was contagious. With new energy and a good feeling about the new seats we drove back to Amsterdam.

A week later the seats were ready. Peter had to work, so this time I drove alone to the north to pick up the bike and the seats. Until the very last moment it was a surprise what the seats would look like, as Raymond allows himself some artistic freedom for the design of the seat. Freedom you can give him without any hesitation, because the result was great (again)! Upon arrival in Midlaren my bike was awaiting me with a beautiful new black and white seat with red stitches. The seat was harder what – how contradictory that might sound – is much more comfortable than the original soft seat. Furthermore, it was widened at the bank and more narrow in the front. Perfect! After a cup of coffee and some more motor talk, I went back home.


We have already tested the new seats and rode the first 4,000 km (2.500 mile) sore free! On to the next 100,000 miles without a wooden bum!
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  #7  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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Goodbye Party

A scouting clubhouse in the woods, garlands on the ceiling, a map of the world on the wall, a music system in one corner, a tap in the other corner and right next to it a CRF250L. Now add friends and family and you have our perfect party. In the beginning of October we held our Goodbye Party. It was a great night, on which we toasted with everyone we love on life and the adventure that awaits.

Prior to the party, we had dinner with Peter’s parents, my dad, our brothers(in-law) and sisters(in-law). My dad surprised us with a speech and a bottle of champagne. The ‘plop’ was fantastically captured.
This was completed with another really cool present. They had arranged that all the guests could leave a video message for us and could write a message of a map of the world. The route we took will be drawn on the map during our trip.




It was a really great and busy night, with a lot of hugs, sweet words, wishes and kisses. We went home with happy coins, a happy Buddha, four leave clovers, pocket money, Dutch cheese and bubbly.

Another very special gift was the piece of Cambodian rainforest that was donated. Af of now we ride co2-neutral. One less thing to worry about!
A few days after the party we watched all the video-messages. For over one hour we both laughed and cried (at the same time) about all the sweet words, the prayers for a safe return, tips, dances and songs. I expect that we will watch those videos very often during the trip.
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Last edited by -Leonie-; 4 Aug 2014 at 13:56.
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  #8  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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Very interesting, keep it coming

Cheers
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  #9  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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We have moved!

We have rented out our house in Amsterdam, the cat is staying out and we have moved to Barneveld. Until we leave we live with my father. All our stuff is under the bed in my old bedroom and the motorbikes are safely in the garage. The move was preceded by a lot of hard work.

The house is rented to a Brit who works in the Netherlands. Selling the house was not an option in this market, so this is a good alternative. We have rented out the house fully furnished, so the furniture and the appliances could remain in the house. We thought: “Great, now we do not have to store so much stuff.” Well, that appeared an illusion. It is unbelievable how many stuff was in that little house. You’d think we were preparing for an imminent end of the world by the amount of stuff we had gathered.



In preparation of the trip we went through our stuff very critically. Let’s face it, how many mugs and tea light holders does a person need? We have made many trips to the second hand store and the landfill to bring away all sorts of things.

Despite the big cleanup we needed over 35(!) boxes to pack everything. We also needed to clean out the garage that we had rented. We used another 20 boxes to pack all the stuff from the garage. And then there were other loose items, like our old motorbikes, Peters fishing rods, a mountain bike, a painting, grandma her old chair, and so on ….

And where to leave all those boxes? We could have called the moving company where the stuff from Peter his previous house is stored (yes, more stuff!). We chose to ask friends and family to store a box for us. The night of the party 16 boxes were taken home and put on attics all over the Netherlands and Belgium.

Mark, one of Peters cousins, thought that the remaining boxes could all be stored in his attic. Our cat, Sammy, could also live with him. After the party we rented a big van and went to Mark with the remaining boxes and Sammy. Not an easy trip, especially since Sammy places three fat turds in his cat carrier that smelled so bad that we could hardly stay in the car. Mark was a bit in shock when he saw how big the van was, but eventually all the boxes could be stored in his attic. A few days later he informed us that Sammy was doing great and has found a great new spot in the windowsill.


After a stopover at Jan and Mariët, the old motorbikes are now in a barn at Anja her farm. Without a battery and completely protected by a film of grease, they stand next to the travel bikes of Daan and Mirjam waiting for our return.

After all the stuff was moved, we cleaned the house very thoroughly with the help of Peter his parents. Empty and clean, the apartment could now be handed over to the tenant. With the very latest gear and our motorbikes we left to Barneveld. Here we will go through our gear for the last time, before we finally start with our RTW-trip.

A trip which, as you can see, is made possible by René and Sofie, Celine and Leon, Grandma Post, Bene and Eilke, Lizette and Joost, Yvette and Peter, Marcel and Marion, Danielle and Jarno, Dick, Jeroen and Klarinda, Ton and Marijke, Jan and Mariët, Anja, Daan and Mirjam and our main sponsor Mark. Thank you !
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Last edited by -Leonie-; 4 Aug 2014 at 13:50.
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  #10  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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From steel steeds to beasts of burden

Peter and I take quite a bit of gear on our trip, about 35 kilo (77 pound) on each bike. We carry all that gear in bags that are attached to the bike: a tank bag on the tank, two bags next to the rear wheel and a duffel on top. In addition, we take a fuel jerrycan and a tool tube on each bike. We have turned our steel steeds into real beasts of burden.


On our old bikes we had mounted aluminium cases. Those cases are not suitable for the CRF250L, because they are heavy and would damage the bike when we fall. Therefore we chose bags for the RTW-trip. The bags (Magadan Bags developed by Walter Colebatch and Adventure Spec) are made of Cordura, with a Kevlar lining. The Kevlar ensures that the bags can not be cut open just like that. Around each bag we have attached a cable with a lock, with which we hope to keep out most thieves. The bags have a waterproof bag inside.

We cannot just throw the bags over the back of the bike, they have to be mounted on a luggage rack. The stock CRF250L does not have a luggage rack. As it is a relatively new bike, there were not many suitable after market parts. We decided to have a luggage rack made.

Through Raymond (the seats ) and Bas (the suspension) we got in contact with Erik at Hot-Rod Welding. Erik had already developed several parts for the BMW G650XChallenge, including a great luggage rack. That rack had already proven itself (with Magadan bags).



Late last year (2012), Peter sent a detailed email to Erik about our plans. Peter and Erik soon agreed that a new rack had to be developed. After some email correspondence, we took one of the bikes to the workshop in Zwaanshoek at the end of last year. We were warmly welcomed by Erik, closely followed by his dog, Storm.

During the period that followed, we extensively discussed the technical possibilities after which Erik started designing a luggage rack of steel. It was clear that he is a biker himself who knows the possible weak points of a travel-bike. Erik designed the rack in such a way that the greater part of the bags (and thus the weight) is in front of the axle of the rear wheel. As a result, the drivability of the bike is not affected too much by the weight. He also designed space for a fuel jerrycan and tool tube. He regularly sent us pictures through WhatsApp to keep us informed of the developments.

We tested the first prototype during a trip in the Netherlands and a week-end in Germany. After some changes here and there, the design was approved and the second rack could be welded, blasted and powder coated. We are very happy with the result, two beautifully made, sturdy racks, that are suitable for a long trip around the world.

All in all we made ​​a lot of trips to Zwaanshoek the past year. Not only to discuss the luggage racks, but also for a custom side stand and a custom gear lever. And even if Erik was busy (and busy he was!), there was always time for coffee!
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Last edited by -Leonie-; 4 Aug 2014 at 12:54.
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  #11  
Old 2 Aug 2014
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We did it, we left!

On Saturday 30 November, a chilly sunny morning, we did it, we left on our round the world trip. Two motorbikes, fully packed and with the nose in the right direction, an unexpected good party and several sad but proud faces. We turned the key, switched on the bike, put it in gear and……gas! We now are in a warm and cosy B&B in the Belgian Ardennes, about 300 km (186 miles) from home. Quit a bit happened before we left.

We heard somewhere that 95% of the people that say they want to travel the world, do not go. We now understand why. It is pretty scary to give up the security of a great job and a good salary, to rent out the house and to leave everything behind. It also is pretty hard to say goodbye to your family and friends for two years. Especially after the emotionally difficult year in which my mother passed away it is not easy to just ride away. Also because in November we turned aunt and uncle twice in one week, first of Luca and then of Jurre. Going away from those cute babies was not easy either.


Besides this, it is a lot of work preparing for such a RTW trip. It is hard to imagine we once had a job next to all these preparations. Especially the last two month we worked long hours to finish everything. The administrative matters are sometimes difficult and annoying. The authorities in the Netherlands are not prepared for a RTW trip. Working abroad, moving abroad or a trip of a couple of months is easy to get your head around. However a long trip, during which you do not work, that is like swimming against the current. For example, we are obliged to unregister as a resident in the Netherlands (because we leave for more than 8 months). We risk a high fine if we remain registered. However the Tax Authorities do not want us unregister as a resident in the Netherlands, especially since we own a house. Not even taking into account the bank that supplied the mortgage which does not want us to explore the world at all without having a fixed income. Either way, one of those authorities is not happy and there is a rule you have to ignore. Ignoring certain regulations also requires some courage (at least from me it does).

Finding the right insurance was not easy either. In October I spoke with a very friendly lady that secured me I had to fill out ‚Form X’. After I had sent in Form X and had contacted the authorities several times, it appeared (after four weeks, close to our departure) that I should actually have used ‚Form Y’. Very frustrating, especially since we required an answer to find the right insurance, which insurance we needed for our visa for Libya, which visa we had to pick up before leaving the Netherlands.

Peter has been very busy with preparing the bikes. Next to the new suspension, the new seats and the luggage rack, a lot of adjustments had to be made. Day after day he spent in the garage. He often forgot to eat, after which he would come back home starved and smelling of oil. It turned out to be the question whether the bikes would be ready in time. For example after a first package with parts that was shipped from the USA was not complete and the second package was sent to Canada (?!) instead of Amsterdam. Or when he said: „Something is not right, now all the lights on the bike are turned on at the same time. The front light, the rear light, the indicators, all at the same time.”


The remaining time we could be found staring a computer. At home in the study, on the couch, on the balcony or even during a ‚working holiday’ in the snowy Belgian Ardennes. Peter did a lot of research for the route, the visas, the bikes and the gear. I was working on the website, which basically came down to understanding IT-language. In the beginning I had to ask the person of the help desk to send me the same email again, but now with language I could actually understand.

Luckily, in the end everything turned out OK. We have the right insurance, a decently filled first aid kit, all the vaccinations you can think of, an new thick passport, loads of pass photos, a carnet de passage (kind of passport for the bikes), an international drivers licence, a tenant for the house, visas for Libya, great bikes that have been fully prepared, a properly functioning website and a rough route. Our administration is now with Peter his mother, at which address most of our mail arrives. And if the Tax Authorities cannot find us, we will find them.

All the preparation are over now, we are on the road! We now move further south, to Italy. We intend to take the boat from Sicily of Tunisia and to ride over land through Libya to Egypt.


PS Please note that this message was posted in december 2013. The situation in Libya and Egypte has changed since.
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Last edited by -Leonie-; 4 Aug 2014 at 12:39. Reason: Links were not working properly
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  #12  
Old 5 Aug 2014
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Spiderman in France

When we wake up on Sunday, it is still foggy in Fraîture (Belgium). Luckily that fog dissolves quickly. When we start the bikes after a good breakfast, we ride off in the sun. Despite the sunshine it’s quite chilly. Under our helmet we both wear a ’balaclava’. That’s a lot warmer, but looks like we are about to rob a bank. Peter even looks like Spiderman, when he does not have his helmet on yet.

We drive from Belgium to France on the highway, but choose to take the main roads once the toll roads come into view. We usually do not drive much faster than 80 or 90 km/h (50 or 55 miles/hour), so the BIS route through France is fine. Besides, this route is often much nicer.



Toll roads are quite difficult with a bike anyway. That became clear when we took a wrong turn and were in front of the gate accidentally. You should just try to get that ticket from the machine with your winter gloves on and then with the same hand (where that ticket already is) try to squeeze your clutch to drive away. Each time we have to stop just after the gate to put away the tickert. It is even more complicated to pay. At the first junction where we could get off the toll road, we had to pay 60 cents. Peter was standing before me, his card did not work and he had only 50 cents. Now what? I had coins, but I could not just give them to him. Where do you leave your bike? So, I get off my gloves, take out my wallet and put an extra coin in the machine.

Peter is allowed through, now it is my turn. I get back on the bike, drive forward, put it in neutral, ticket in the machine, coin into the machine, change back into my pocket, motor into first gear and quickly through the gate before it closes. Then I have to stop to store everything and put my gloves back on. Meanwhile, there was a traffic jam behind me. Reason enough to avoid toll roads when possible.

On the way south we drive through the Vosges (France). It is very beautiful. Hilly, with long straight roads where oncoming traffic occasionally disappears into the deeper stretches of the road. Behind every hill there is a new village, of which you can only see the tower of the church at first. Next to a church, you can find at least one walled mansion in each village and a monument with a rooster and a weathered French flag that remembers the victims of the First World War.



We think it is too cold to camp and most campsites are already closed. We therefore choose to spend the night at (cheap) hotels until we reach the Mediterranean. The first four hotels that we find are closed. They are waiting for better times with more tourists. A nice lady points us in the direction of Neuf Chateau. We would certainly be able to find a hotel there. Again, many hotels and restaurants appear to be closed. The third place is open and has a garage for motorcycles too.

If we look out the window the next morning, we see blue sky. It is blue, sunny and there is a gentle breeze. Actually fine whether to go iceskating! Here and there ponds have already frozen. It’s not a luxury to wear our Spiderman masks now, because the riding wind makes it even more chilly.After a few hours, we are cold and decide to look for a restaurant for lunch.

The waitress asks if we want to drink an ’aperitive’. I ask for a coffee. She looks at me puzzled: “But do not you eat?“. “Yes, I’ll eat, but I would still like to have a hot coffee, because I ‘m quite cold.” Still amazed she asks: “Coffee, before your food?“. “Yes , it might not be like the French, but to warm up a bit, I would first like coffee and food afterwards.” She is satisfied with the answer, but does make an additional note on the receipt for her colleague. We both order the menu of the day and enjoy kalamaris, chicken with potato dish and a piece of pie. We skip the coffee afterwards.

Slightly warmed we drive further to the south. In Bourg-en-Bresse we stop early in the afternoon, at the Ibis Budget hotel. That is a good option. The bikes are in front of the window in an enclosed parking place, we have a fine bed and (most importantly) a hot shower! How a hot shower can make you happy! After the shower, the world looked a lot better.

When we wake up the next morning, the bikes have turned white from the frost. It’s cold, but sunny again. The route leads us towards the Alps, through Grenoble to Sisteron. The further south we go, the more snow there is. The roads are clean and dry, but beside the road there is up to 30cm of snow. When we stop to take a picture, a car pulls up next to us. The driver asks if everything is OK and if he can help us. We tell him we are just enjoying the scenery. He then gets out of his car, turns into a tourist guide and starts telling us about the area. Excited about our stories, he writes his contact information. He has friends all over the world and can bring us in contact with them if necessary. A special and unexpected encounter.



In Sisteron we again choose the Ibis Budget hotel. After the hot shower we search the Internet for a B&B on the Mediterranean Sea for the next days. According to the weather report, it was 18 degrees (celcius) in Nice, so we would leave the snow and cold quickly behind us.



On Wednesday, the GPS is set at Frejus Plage, where we had booked a little studio with a kitchen for two nights. The route goes in a straight line to the south, through the National Park Verdon through the Gorges du Verdon. A beautiful route, where you would find a lot of tourist in the summer. Now it was very quiet with only locals riding the same road. On both sides of the road there is snow or ice, but the road itself is clean and dry. In parts where the sun has not yet been, the trees are white with frost. As soon as the sun shines over the ridge, the ripe disappears and colors can be seen again. Really nice. But also very cold. So after several photo opportunities, we hit the gas and ride further south, towards the sun.

Frejus Plage is quickly found. And indeed, with 15 degrees the temperature is a lot more pleasant than in the previous days. After a day of sleeping in late and some culture, now on to Italy.
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Old 5 Aug 2014
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Keep it UP!

Nice report so far!
I look forward to seeing how the little Honda's hold up for you! I like your packing job and luggage set up. Once you get on rough off road I'll be watching.

How are your custom seats working out for very LONG riding days?
What is your average speeds on motorways? Kms per liter average?

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Old 6 Aug 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mollydog View Post
Nice report so far!
I look forward to seeing how the little Honda's hold up for you! I like your packing job and luggage set up. Once you get on rough off road I'll be watching.

How are your custom seats working out for very LONG riding days?
What is your average speeds on motorways? Kms per liter average?

Out little Honda's are doing great, even better than we had expected!

Sneakpreview: They have taken us all the way through Africa (26,000km) without serious problems, no flat tires and even on the same tires!

Offroad they are doing great as well, we have done 1000s km of rough offroad already. Even if we tumble over, we did not have serious problems. Apart from some dented cans of food and one broken plastic container, all our equipment is still fine. The bags are damaged a bit after touching the tarmac, but could be easily repaired. Still easier than denting out our aluminium panniers!

On motorways we could do about 120km/hour max, but we do not like that too much because we have no windscreen. Above that we try to avoid motorways and find other, more fun roads to ride.

Seats are OK on long drives. Fuel consumption is low. On average it is 1litre=30km or even 35km on high altitude (3.3/100 or even 2.85/100). On motorways it is about 1litre=27km (3.7/100)

It sounds almost too good to be true

More info on the bikes and the modifications can be found here (LINK)

Cheers, Leonie
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Route Napoleon to Via Aurelia

It is Friday the 6th of December and still chilly in the shade when we pack up the bikes. Once the sun emerges over the adjacent building it is perfect weather for a ride on the bikes. We replace the “spiderman masks” for sunglasses and get on.

We drive through the countryside of the French Riviera, a few kilometres inland. A winding road through pine forests. Here and there we catch a glimpse of beautiful mansions. It is clear that we drive through a prosperous part of France. We are regularly overtaken by fast cars with tanned drivers. We suspect that the warm climate also attracts many retired French, because the number of gray heads with a walker or cane is high.

Every few kilometres we drive through another village. The main road often runs through the local shopping street with a speed limit of 30km (18 miles) per hour. The many traffic lights and pedestrian crossings slow us down good. There’s no hurry, but at the same time it is very tiring to drive slowly from traffic light to pedestrian crossing. Your left arm almost gets numb of handling the clutch. After we have followed the road for two hours, also through Cannes, we decide to get on the highway in Nice to make some time and give the left arm a rest.



That means that we again drive on a toll road. So be it. After a while we get to the first gate, where we have to pay €1.50 per bike. The machine does not take Peter his credit cards. The alternative is coins, but we have only bills and the machine does not take those. There are now three cars behind us, so we press the ‘help button’. The lady at the other end of the line opens the gate for us. Without having paid, we put the engine in first gear and drive through the gate The alarm rings when we drive away.

We both have only one glove on. We had taken it of to get a ticket and the money. This time there is no place or parking where we can stop to put it back on again. So we drive on with only one glove, fortunately it is not so cold any more. After 20km (12 miles) we can finally get of the highway. However we find ourselves before a toll booth again (even though we had not taken a ticket anywhere). We both have to pay €1.20. We had not changed any bills yet and credit cards still do not work. Again we push the “help” button. This time the lady lets us know that we can go to a another toll booth at the right which does take bills. There are no cars behind us, so we push the bikes back and ride to the other booth. And indeed our Euro bills are accepted. We get coins back and the gate opens.

When we stop for a quick lunch and look at the map, we see that we still have to cross a lot of coastal villages. Armed with our credit cards, bills and coins we decide to give the highway another go. The next gate we face is in Italy and is a ticket machine. Peter takes a ticket, the gate opens and he rides on until just after the gate. I wait for my ticket, but there in none. It does not matter how many times I press the red button, no ticket. The gate is still open, so I join Peter. “OK, will go without a ticket”, I say a little nervous. “Let me do the talking, you ‘ll be fine” he replies.

And he is right. The toll booths in Italy are a lot more customer friendly and accept all payment methods. We stand side by side, Peter puts the ticket in the machine, pays the fee and counts down: “Three, two, one, GO”. Together we drive away from the booth at the same time. Perfect, we should have done that before. (I must admit I looked in my mirror for a long time expecting the police to chase us, but nothing happened) .



We drive for a while on a scenic road along the coast and then find a hotel on the seafront of Spotorno. The bikes can be parked in the garage under the hotel. We are welcomed by a young guy who does not speak any English. Unfortunately we hardly speak enough Italian to enter into a normal conversation, but with hand signs we come a long way. In the lobby, the television is on. A broadcast of BBCs Top Gear which is dubbed in Italian. It’s no wonder that we could not work it out in English .

After a delicious breakfast with lots of sweet rolls we hand in the key. We get a pack of cookies for the road. On the promenade of Spotorno, we can already see ’the boot’ of Italy. After we drove to the east for a while, we will now mainly drive to the south.

In France we followed the Route Napoleon for a long time. In Italy we now ride on the Via Aurelia. It is a beautiful road that winds along the steep coast in the north of Italy. Sometimes right beside the sea and then through villages. It is Saturday and the Italians spend it outside. Walking, running and especially cycling. We pass large groups of cyclists who seem to have no trouble with the climbs we face. Everyone looks very neat, clothes and sunglasses adapted to the activity.

At the end of the morning, the Via Aurelia brings us to Genua, the largest seaport in Italy. It does not take long before we are completely stuck in traffic. We immediately get our first lesson of the crash course ‘Italian driving’. It soon becomes clear that no one actually adheres to the traffic rules. If we drive according to the set speed limit, we are overtaken by everyone. Single track roads are used as a two-lane roads. Double parking is standard, even if it means that no one can pass. Indicators seem not to be installed on the cars in Italy. Horns on the other hand are, and they are used constantly.




We share the road with cars, buses, motorcycles and a lot of scooters. Especially the scooters shoot passed us on both sides. After we have been driving through the city for over an hour (during which time the GPS again proves to be essential) we are fed up. We throw the traffic rules out of the window. We ride along side with the scooters to the front of the line before the traffic lights, zigzagging between the cars and pulling up hard when the light turns green, after which we drive through the then empty streets of Genoa at high speed. This is a lot better and before we know it we are out of the city again on the Via Aurelia.

The road turns away from the coast and winds into the hills. The more curves there are in the roads, the more motorbikes we encounter. The sun has not yet been everywhere and in the shadow of the hills it is still quite chilly. The trees are still in leaf and colour orange and red. Some parts of the roads are still wet.

In yet another curve to the right, I suddenly lie on the ground. My bike slides away under me and scrapes on the road. A little surprised, I get up and look back. I see Peter getting up from the ground as well. His bike is just like mine on the asphalt. ”Everything OK?” I hear over the intercom. Yes everything OK. Together we pick up the bikes, while an Italian man stops the cars. After a short inspection we conclude that the bikes are OK. The handguards and mirrors are scratched, the handlebar on Peter his bikes is slightly bent and the bags on the right side have holes in the outer layer of the fabric. The inner bags are OK, the luggage rack is still straight and the bike start without problems.

What made us fall is still a mystery. Oil on the road, our knobby tires, the wet road, riding the curve wrongly, too much or too little gas, a combination of all this? Maybe just bad luck. We decide to turn around and get on the highway again. There are a lot less curves and that is great for now. We drive all the way to Pisa and together go through the toll booth again.

At the end of the afternoon we drive up the driveway of a Bed & Breakfast. We are welcomed by Claudio, who together with his mother runs B & B Alfieri. He speaks English and wants to know all about our bikes and our trip. He is a motorcyclist himself. After a peaceful night (on our left side because of the blue right hip) a basket full of sweet rolls is waiting for us in the kitchen. Claudio sits down with us and we continue talking where left off the night before. He shows us the way to the tower of Pisa and gives us tips on the route to Rome. If we leave the B&B, Claudio and his mum wave us goodbye.

The GPS is set to the Tower of Pisa. We drive passed a sign that says ’forbidden to drive for unauthorized persons’ (the traffic rules were out of the window anyway) and park our bikes in front of the tower. The local police seems to find it OK. After the photo opportunity we head south to Rome.

Distance covered to Pisa: 1,159 miles


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