Friday, 29 May 2015

Europe 2015 pt. IV: It suddenly gets interesting

"Planning is the enemy of adventure"
––– Jamie Duncan

My grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, which was devastating for any number of reasons. First and foremost, of course, is the simple fact she's gone. My grandmother was a superwoman and I had genuinely expected her to live, and thrive, at least to the age of 120. She was a sprightly 88 years old when we found out in late March she had leukemia and I had anticipated it as being nothing more than an inconvenience for her. It was more than that. She died on 9 May.

I am blessed to have been so heavily influenced by her, so I know that I have the intestinal fortitude to move forward, even though it doesn't feel like it right now.

Anyway, in practical terms, attending her funeral in Texas blew a massive hole in my finances. International flights on less than a week's notice do not come cheap. I maxed out my credit card and used almost all the money I had been setting aside for July's trip to Tuscany.

When I returned to Britain I sat down to look at the state of things and my initial feeling was that the European adventure would have to be scrapped. Then the July issue of Bike magazine came through my door, featuring an article about motorcyclists travelling on a limited budget, and I thought: "Well, you know, maybe."

So, I'm now rapidly trying come up with solutions to salvage the trip. All that stuff about screens, tank bags, CamelBaks,textile jackets and sat-navs I mentioned previously is totally out the window, of course. If I don't already have it, I ain't taking it.

Which is OK. After all, my ferry to Rotterdam is already paid for. I already have a top-notch motorcycle. I already have panniers and Kriega bags and a tangle of bungee cords. And I've already got all the camping gear.

Because that's the biggest thing I've realised: if I'm going to make this trip work, hotels are out. I will be roughing it.

This is in Switzerland, apparently. Who knows? I might end up sleeping here.
The implications of that last statement has been keeping me awake at night. It adds a whole new dynamic, a whole new set of challenges. First and foremost, of course, is the challenge of how to do it.

Not camping, I mean. I used to spend days by myself trekking the Superior Hiking Trail, sleeping amongst the wolves and bears and myriad other wildlife of Minnesota, so I am confident in my ability. And, although it's a little old, I'm equally confident in my gear. I am equipped to spend several days on foot in wilderness, so I'm sure I'll manage just fine on a motorcycle through more civilized terrain.

The thing that's vexing me is the question of where: How do I find out about camping spots? I've never been to Germany/Switzerland/Italy and I don't speak the languages. How do I find out where I can sleep cheap (or better yet, for free)? And what's the process? What are the ins and outs?

For example, if this trip were taking place in the United States, I would know to aim for state parks, national forests, national parks, wilderness refuges, etc. I might stay at designated sites, or I might just pick a spot that's far away from everything else and keep out of sight. With designated campsite areas I wouldn't bother to book ahead because: a) I might find some place better along the way; b) campsites exist in time vortices, so there is no way to accurately gauge how long it will take you to get to one.

But, see, in the above scenario I am fluent in the common language, possessing the vocabulary to ask specific questions and receive specific answers from locals about where to go, as well as the nuanced ability to (try to) talk my way out of trouble if I get caught setting up a tent where it isn't technically allowed. I lose that in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Meanwhile, living in Britain has taught me that the definition of natural space isn't as clear cut as I used to think. For example, the term "national park" has a dramatically different meaning. The picture below was taken inside a "national park" (Yorkshire Dales). It's charming and lovely, but setting up a tent and frying some eggs in the middle of it would be difficult to do unnoticed.

Grassington, England. In the heart of Yorkshire Dales National Park

Meanwhile, the entire concept of camping is unrecognizably different here. Where it is allowed, camping in Britain is more akin to spending time in a refugee camp. No, really. Here's an image of a refugee camp in Africa, and here's an image of a campsite in Britain. Bafflingly, available spaces in the latter will book up months in advance. If life on the continent is anything like it is here in the Soggy Nations, I may find it very difficult to get by on wits and luck.

Still, unless someone with experience wants to tell me what a terrible idea it is, I'm inclined to try to tackle the question of sleeping accommodations in continental Europe the same way I would in the God-blessed United States of America. I'm encouraged to do this for a number of reasons:

  1. Practicality. See the above statement about going sans sat-nav. As such, I will struggle to accurately predict destination times. I don't want to put myself into a situation of trying to arrive somewhere that turns out to be 3 hours further away than I imagined.
  2. It's most likely my camping will take place in Germany and Switzerland. In my years of backpacking in Minnesota, California, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado I ran into a lot of Germans and Swiss. Which leads me to hope-believe our understandings of nature and how to function within it are similar.
  3. The German word for camping is "camping." The word for campsite is "campingplatz." I feel confident I will be able to remember this.
  4. Germans (and presumably the Swiss, as well) are really smart. I've honestly never met a German who didn't possess a more impressive English vocabulary than myself. So, I'm optimistic that communication won't be as much of a problem as it might if I were travelling to, say, Kazakhstan.
  5. I have noticed on my map of Switzerland a number of little blue tent-esque triangles which I perceive to represent campsites (campingplätze). The map key doesn't really say what they are, so they may turn out to be something else entirely: missile silos or brothels. I'm guessing campingplätze, though, and there are a decent number of these triangles. Enough that if one campingplatz is full, I should be able to arrive at another before der nacht

Note: This bike's plates are Swiss. I'm going to the right place.

That's not the end of the challenges faced in opting to camp, though. There's also the fact I will have to carry all my camping gear, and doing so will inherently use up a lot of the space I would have otherwise dedicated to carrying all my mankinis and evening gowns.

I had previously calculated my luggage would afford 90 liters of storage. I anticipate a tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, camp stove, frying pan and steel mug will eat up 30 liters of that. Or, rather, it'll eat up the space on my rack where I had planned to secure a 30-liter dry bag.

Additionally, I'll want to keep at least 10 liters free somewhere for the sake of supplies: the food and beer I'll pick up at markets along the way. Subtract the space that will be allocated to tools and chain-maintenance supplies, laptop and related electronic equipment, and it leaves me with very little room for clothes/toiletries.

To this end, I've been trying to think of how to add carrying space. I've ruled out use of a backpack because I'm pretty sure it's the thing that was causing shoulder pain in previous rides. You'll remember my old Oxford X30 tank bag doesn't fit properly on the Strom. Which is a shame. I spent a few moments this morning contemplating some sort of jerry-rigged system of bungee-strapping it to the crash bars but I suspect that would only end in disaster.

I also contemplated bodging my old Viking soft panniers to sit atop the Suzuki panniers, but again, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Perhaps more realistic would be to bend the no-buying-stuff rule and purchase two small, cheap dry sacks I could strap to the top of the Suzuki panniers. Say 10 liters each –- costing about £10 total. I could ensure waterproofing by lining them with trash bags and store clothes in them. Of course, the drawback is that strapping anything to the top of the panniers will mean I will first have to remove that thing before I can get the actual panniers open.

Perhaps that's not a problem. Just pack intelligently, making sure all the items I need on the ride are in the Kriega bags that will be on the passenger seat. Or, perhaps I could use those small dry bags for carrying the aforementioned food and beer supplies. That way they can be put away on fast, non-camping sections of the trip, such as when I'm travelling across the UK or from Rotterdam to Saarbrücken.

The more I look at pictures of Switzerland, the better I feel about my decision to camp there.

Hmm, obviously there is a lot to think about. Ultimately, I feel I'll need to do a few test runs over the coming month or so, to work out exactly how to get everything strapped to the bike. Which means I will very soon need to come up with a comprehensive list of everything I intend to take.

Additionally, I need to make sure I have some experience adjusting the V-Strom's chain and performing whatever other maintenance and minor fixes might be necessary. I'm being realistic about what I can actually do and will be carrying my RAC card to help me deal with any major incidents. I'm skeptical of RAC's ability to legitimately provide European breakdown coverage, but my policy says they do and I suppose even that is better than nothing.

This whole thing feels daunting. Money will be very tight, and I'm inclined to scrap my plans to spend a day swimming in the River Aare in Bern because there will be nowhere to safely store all the stuff in soft luggage. But surely there will be opportunity for all kinds of other fun stuff. Adventure will present itself. I have only a month to prepare myself for it.


On a side note: It's always been my understanding that socks with sandals is a perfectly acceptable fashion choice in Germany. If this turns out to be untrue I'm going to be heartbroken.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Owning a Suzuki V-Strom 1000: The first 1,000 miles

The odometer on my V-Strom just clicked over 1,000 miles this weekend, so I thought I'd offer my first long-term review of the bike (I plan to write more as I hit other milestones), just in case there's anyone out there considering getting a Strom of their own.

By and large, I would say that if you are considering buying a V-Strom 1000, it won't be a purchase you'll regret. Indeed, my appreciation of the bike has only grown over the past few months. I find I am much happier with the purchase now than I was initially. Each time I take the bike out, it manages to put a smile on my face because of how well or simply it does this or that thing. 

Pretty much everything I said in my initial ride review remains true. The V-Strom is torquey, intuitive, and fun to ride. It is amazingly well-balanced, and offers a real sense of presence on the road without being KTM-like ridiculous.

Building on what I've already said, here are some other things that have stood out for me as I've grown more accustomed to the bike:

Oh my gosh, it is so well balanced
The V-Strom weighs 228 kg wet, but it wears that weight incredibly well. In stop-and-go situations I am often able to keep the bike upright without having to put a foot down. As of this writing, I have had the good fortune to ride 23 different motorcycles in my life and none have been so perfectly -- almost magically -- well-balanced as the big Strom.

As a result of this, the bike is rock solid on the motorway. Obviously, its top-notch suspension plays a part in that. Both work in conjunction to deliver a motorcycle that performs fantastically on the superslab. Maybe that doesn't sound like a selling point, but it is. We so often get wrapped up in a bike's niche abilities that we forget to ask how it performs at everyday tasks. 

The V-Strom 1000 excels at handling the drudgery and, in fact, making it feel worthwhile. Meanwhile, adding luggage and a passenger has no negative effect. Jenn and I rode down to Exeter the other day (about 120 miles from Cardiff) and I hardly noticed her being there -- handling remained as effortless and steady as always.

It moves
In singing the bike's praises for its ability to do boring stuff, I don't want you to get the impression that it is in any way dull. The V-Strom goes. All its low-down torque will launch you to the Land Of Not Legal Speed before you leave 3rd gear and there is plenty of horsepower to keep you there.

In the piece I wrote for RideApart about riding with British police I mentioned the concept of "making progress," and how instructors in the UK use that phrase to encourage you get a move on. Well, the V-Strom has no trouble making progress.

Meanwhile, the well-balanced nature of this bike means it is a lot of fun in corners. It may not be quite so flickable as some machines, but it holds its lines well. I find myself far more willing to hustle through corners than I was on my Honda CBF600SA.

And again, all of the above remains just as true when you are carrying luggage and a passenger.

Mrs. Cope approves
Jenn really likes the bike. I mentioned heading down to Exeter recently: that trip was just for the sake of an afternoon visit -- popping in to have tea with her grandparents -- so we returned to Cardiff on the same day. At the end of that 240-mile day, Jenn had nothing but praise for the bike. Its roomy passenger accommodation meant she had plenty of room to move around. The solid nature of the bike meant she was able to relax and better enjoy the experience of riding.

"I used to like your Honda because it could get us places," Jenn said. "But on this one I'm enjoying getting to those places. It's engaging. It's such a better way to travel than a car."

That windscreen, though
It's not all praise; there are one or two things I dislike about the V-Strom. Chief among them is the stock screen. When I first got the bike, I had the adjustable screen at its highest setting, which I found to be pretty awful. Wind coming off the screen created a lot of noise and a certain amount of buffeting. Even at maximum height it was too short for my 6-foot-1 frame. 

I have since lowered the screen to allow the wind to hit me a little more cleanly. This situation is better, but far from great. As soon as I can do so, I plan to get a Givi AirFlow screen, of which I've heard many good things.

The throttle takes some getting used to
In many of the reviews of the V-Strom 1000 and the new Suzuki GSX-S1000 you'll see criticism of the bike's throttle response. I'm guessing the two bikes use similar mapping. In the V-Strom it means things can be a little jumpy at low revs.

Apparently the issue can be fixed relatively easily with a throttle tamer, but I'm too lazy for that. I have simply learned to live with things as they are. It simply means concentrating a little more on how I use my right hand, and occasionally regulating things a little with the clutch. Another trick is to put the bike at higher revs. Things are steadier above 3,000 rpm. Meanwhile, the problem disappears once you're beyond second gear.

Lots of bits to clean
I hate cleaning, so perhaps this is something only I would notice. But there are a lot of nooks and crannies on the bike. If you're trying to be thorough, you will find it a pain in caboose to try to get at every little edge and angle and corner of this bike. 

I've actually given up. I now just douse the bike with a hose, liberally spray on some MucOff, then douse it with a hose again. That saves me some grief, though I am still forced to contort myself in all kinds of silly ways when drying the bike off.


Overall, though, I'm happy. Every time I get off the V-Strom 1000, I'll find myself thinking: "Man, I really like this bike." 

And I'm always just a little surprised to be saying it. I guess that's because it's not as sexy as, say, a Moto Guzzi Griso. It doesn't have the sort of raw, base-level emotional appeal of, say, a Victory Gunner. But it wins me over by doing everything so well. 

It's comfortable, it's big, it's sturdy, it's powerful, it's as fast as I'd ever want a bike to be, it's amazingly fuel-efficient and it's managed to charm my wife to such an extent that just the other day she was entertaining the idea of getting a bike of her own. 

Honestly, you can't ask for much more than that.

Friday, 8 May 2015

I am going to win this bike, so don't even bother entering the competition

Did you see David Beckham: Into the Unknown last summer? It was a one-off TV show that incongruously linked to the soccer World Cup, featuring David Beckham riding around Brazil in ridiculously fashionable gear astride a custom Triumph Scrambler.

A few people were critical of the show because it did very much feel like a long advert for Triumph motorcycles, Belstaff clothing and whatever skin and haircare products Beckham uses to keep himself so handsome. But I didn't really care.

Firstly, because I like Beckham. He is about as "normal" as you could possibly expect anyone with so abnormal a background to be. I mean, the man was effectively raised by a soccer team, for Pete's sake. He was shipped up to Manchester at the age of 14 and indoctrinated into the professional footballing machine. He was raised by a multinational corporation, for whom winning served as the moral backbone. 

This is the culture that produces rapists, drink-and-drive killers and wife beaters. That the most lamentable thing about Beckham is his extraordinary prettiness is a testament to the inherent goodness of the man.

And I respect his appreciation for motorcycles. Obviously his athletic ability helps him in this, but when you see the man ride it's clear he's not just fired up the bike because the cameras are rolling. He knows how to move a bike around. Even in the mud. In Into the Unknown he mentions that one of the things he loves about riding is the anonymity afforded to him by wearing a helmet. And that's something I can relate to. Not on his level, obviously; I'm not internationally famous (yet). But one of the many things I love about riding is the feeling of freedom that anonymity brings.

As I wrote not too long ago: "inside your helmet and gear there is freedom from judgement. If you're fully geared up, an onlooker may not be able to tell your age, race, or gender; they likely can't guess your religion or politics, probably not even your socio-economic status.. and in that you are free."

Secondly, the reason I liked Into the Unknown was the bike. Beckham and his pals all rode customized Triumph Scramblers. Or well, customized Bonneville T100s made to look like Scramblers, according to Triumph. I can't begin to guess what the difference would be.

Either way, they were really cool bikes. Totally inappropriate for riding through the rainforest, I'd think, but cool nonetheless. I am surprised Triumph didn't choose to issue a special-edition Beckham Bonneville off the back of the show.

Turns out I'm not the only one to think such a thing. The folks over at Motolegends felt so strongly it should exist that they built one themselves.

Motolegends is a motorcycle clothing/gear website run out of Guildford, England. Guildford, as you know, is the stop before Woking when taking the train from Portsmouth to London (a). And Woking, of course, is the stop before London Waterloo, which means you should get up and go use the toilet unless you want to be stuck paying to pee.

I have a tendency to salivate over the Motolegends catalogue, which is why I'm effectively giving them a free plug here. They sell all kinds of cool gear, including the Halvarssons and Rukka stuff that I daydream about owning.

Daydream is probably all I'll ever do; a Rukka Armas jacket will set you back £1,000 (roughly US $1,500). And that's just the jacket; the trousers cost another £700 (US $1,000). How on earth can a jacket cost that much? What does it do? For that kind of money, I'd expect it to... uhm... perform marital functions.

Anyhoo, inspired by the show, the Motolegends kids took a 2001 Bonneville and transformed it into their own Beckham machine. They used it as a display piece for a while but have recently decided to make it available to win in a prize draw.

They got in touch with me and asked that I tell you about the prize draw. Because they are nice people who read the blog and claim to be fans of the Minnesota Vikings, I decided I would do just that. So, click here if you want to win a really cool motorcycle.

Though, in all honesty, I'd prefer you didn't enter the competition. Because I want to win. And the fewer people I have to compete against, the better my chances.

Here, we'll make a deal, OK? If you really want the bike, I will sell it to you when I win. Then I'll have the money to buy one of those Rukka sex suits. That way, we'll both be happy. Especially me.


(a) I was a student at University of Portsmouth many moons ago.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Europe 2015 pt. III: Stuff for my stuff

The last time I wrote about my preparations for my European adventure (back in February), perhaps the biggest development was that I had bought panniers for the Honda. Each holding 33 litres of stuff, the panniers were a quality piece of kit and dramatically improved the look and utility of the bike. 

I put them to good use on a trip to York in late winter and they performed brilliantly. But the bike upon which I had placed them had been giving me cause for concern for a while. Little things had me worrying. A certain squeak in the front brake that never went away –– even after replacing the front pads. A tendency to get stuck in gear or out of gear when the engine had been running particularly hot. Oh-so-slightly loose handlebar switchgear that couldn't be tightened any further. Dentist-drill vibrations at 80 mph that left my hands tingling for days afterward. A seat that got uncomfortable after 45 miles. The fact it was 10 years old.

As I say: little things. No one of those things was a good enough reason in and of itself to sell the Honda, but collectively they contributed to my desire to do so. Jenn actually sealed the deal on my decision to get my V-Strom (a) when she said: "You write about motorcycles, babe. This is your thing. Of course you can't just stick to one bike."

Yeah. I had to get a new bike. My career depended upon it...

Doing so was a mixed blessing. Mostly good, admittedly; I don't yet know this as irrefutable fact, but the V-Strom 1000 Adventure is almost certainly a perfect machine for traversing Europe. However, it is a step back in terms of luggage space. Combined, the Strom's panniers offer just 29 litres of storage –– 4 litres less than a single Honda pannier. I went from 66 litres to 29. Not to mention the fact my old magnetic tank bag isn't compatible.

Fortunately, Jenn gave me a Kriega US20 bag for my birthday and just last week, I scored a massive eBay win thanks to the fact that a seller misspelled "Kriega" and I ended up getting an almost-new Kriega US10 bag for only £9 because I was the only one to bid on it.  (A new US10 retails for about £55 and used ones hold their value frustratingly well on eBay. Before this stroke of luck, I'd never seen one sold for less than £45 –– more than I'm willing to pay for a used item)
With these and the panniers, I've got 59 litres of carrying space. Beyond that, I've got an old kayaking dry bag that I think holds about 20 litres, which I can strap to the rack. So, about 80 litres in all. I'll be spending more than three weeks away and will need clothing for a number of different scenarios, but I'm optimistic this will be enough.

If it's not, I'm considering wearing a small backpack to hold water, sunglasses, a visor cloth and other need-it-right-now essentials. I have two concerns about this plan, however:

Firstly, I have ridden a little bit with the aforementioned backpack and I'm concerned it may be causing pain in my shoulder. Additionally, it is a very old backpack and one part of the chest strap is broken. I'm not sure I can trust it for the full 3,000 miles to Volterra and back.

Secondly, it's at this point in the planning process that I start down the slippery slope of buying new stuff. If I go with the backpack option, I'm planning to buy a CamelBak reservoir to put in the backpack. Or something similar. I've never used one of these things, but having one strikes me as a good idea because:
  1. It will allow me to drink water on the go. I have a bad habit of getting dehydrated when I ride, because I neglect to take the time to stop, pull bottled water from my bag, and drink it.
  2. It will allow me to hold more water –– the plastic bottle I usually carry only holds 500 ml.
  3. If the worst happens and I'm in a crash, the water bladder is less likely to cause me damage. Whereas I sometimes worry that landing wrong on a Nalgene-style bottle could damage my back (in spite of my back protector), or, worse, it could crack and puncture me with shards of plastic.
OK. That last grisly-death-by-water-bottle scenario seems highly unlikely. Stranger things have happened though; hundreds of Americans are killed each year by tortilla chips.

My alternate plan is to just strap a few Nalgene bottles to the Kriega bags somehow. Bungee straps, I guess. And maybe that would be best, anyway, because it would demand I stop and get off the bike every so often. One thing I really hope I can get myself into the mindset of doing on this trip is stopping frequently. To take pictures, to stretch, to refresh myself mentally, and enjoy the fact that I am on an incredible journey across Europe. 

Too often when I consider this (or, in fact, any other) trip, some part of me wants to power across the continent, like when Baron von Grumble rode through 14 countries in 24 hours. Instead, I should be using Jason Warner Smith's trek across America as inspiration. He took several weeks to cover the distance and made sure to stop every 30-40 miles.

Still, this doesn't actually get me out of spending money.

When I watched the Baron von Grumble video of his 14-country ride, one aspect of his trip stuck out for me: border checks. He frequently had to produce his passport and, often, a credit card to pay for tolls. His BMW R1200GS had a fancy little compartment on the tank in which to store these things. My V-Strom 1000 does not, so I'm thinking it would be nice to have some sort of a tank or handlebar bag.

Admittedly, the large pockets in my riding trousers could serve that purpose, but, uhm, I don't know. The thought of that makes me a little nervous. I don't know why. Plus, the pockets aren't quite big enough to hold my sunglasses (EDIT: That's a lie. I just checked; they fit fine).

Ideally, I'd use something like the SW Motech Quick Lock EVO City tank bag. It looks like a really nice bit of kit, and the size of the thing would also remedy my "Where to store water" issue. The drawback, though, is the fact that, good gracious almighty, it's expensive. Givi have something similar for less, but it is not that much less and it is a lot uglier.

Not to mention the old truth that fixing one problem tends to create another. If you read my review of the Givi GPS holder, you might remember one of my biggest complaints was that it sits too low in my field of vision. So low, in fact, I suspect a tank bag would block it.

To that end, with or without a tank bag I've been considering getting a handlebar bracket adapter from Touratech. Basically, it's just a bar that bolts to your handlebar clamp and allows you to mount stuff a few inches higher. The Touratech website doesn't say exactly how many inches higher, which is the sort of information you'd kind of like to have if you're going to fork out £48 for some bits of metal.

That cost is nothing, though, compared to the asking price of a TomTom Rider 400. I'd really like to have one of those. It's expensive, though. I feel I will need to invest in some kind of new sat nav, however, because the hand-me-down device I'm using at the moment doesn't have European maps (nor the ability to download said maps). So, if anyone has any suggestions on devices they've used I'd appreciate your input.

I won't want to rely solely on a sat nav, of course. I'm going to want some actual physical maps, as well. Paper maps will help me plot a good route, something that's challenging on, say, Google Maps, because it's hard to have a full perspective on mapping software.

I'm guessing I'll want detailed maps of Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The only other country I'll be riding through will be the Netherlands (I've decided to simplify things and drop the route that would have taken me through Belgium and Luxembourg). My itinerary is such that I don't foresee getting much chance to explore the Netherlands, so I'll be on motorway through that stretch.

Which is a shame. Next time. I do really want to spend some time in the Netherlands. If not simply because I've never met a Dutch person I didn't like. And, uhm, the women are easy on the eye. (My friend, Astrid, once came to stay for Christmas and was so intimidatingly beautiful my ex-wife banned her from ever visiting again)

If anyone has experience with a particular map brand they prefer over any other, please let me know. Personally, I'm inclined to go with Michelin. Just because I'm a fan of their tires.

Meanwhile, the issue of the V-Strom's screen continues to concern me. It's the only real foible I've experienced so far. I lowered the stock screen to its lowest setting and have found doing so improves things a bit, allowing the wind to hit my helmet cleanly rather than having a big ol' mess of turbulence swarming at the top of my head.

However, I went on a longish ride recently and found myself suffering shoulder/neck pain at the end of the day. This may be because of the aforementioned backpack. Or it may be because the low screen leaves me battling wind gusts. A little more research is necessary.

But even if it turns out the screen isn't responsible for shoulder pain, I already find myself thinking about getting a Givi AirFlow windscreen. I've read a lot of good things about the screen on various V-Strom forums, with a number of the people singing its praises being my height (6 foot 1) or taller.

It's definitely the sort of thing I'd like to have before next winter –– to help keep the British misery at bay. Although, I wonder about its use on this particular trip. Continental Europe is much warmer in the summer than Britain. Perhaps I'll want the steady wind blast I get with the stock screen. After all, I'll be riding in the same old leather jacket I've always worn, which has no vents or the like for hot weather.

And that makes me think it would be nice to have a good-quality textile jacket. Something like the Oxford Montreal 2 seems affordable enough. And (rare for Oxford products) I like the look. But, just the other day I happened to be at a Triumph dealer and tried on a Triumph Traveller jacket that I really liked. It's the bee's knees. And it's got loads of pockets. Enough, perhaps, to eliminate the need to get a tank bag.

And if you take that into consideration –– you know, subtracting the cost of a tank bag from the cost of the jacket –– it makes the price of the Triumph Traveller pretty reasonable...

Wait. Stop. Just calm down a minute, Chris!

If I were to buy all the stuff on the little wish list I've created above, I'd be throwing down at least £900. Just to prepare to go on a trip! Nevermind the costs of hotels and food and petrol and, you know, actually enjoying myself. That's just ridiculous. Especially when you consider that my father-in-law used to meander across Europe on his unreliable Bonneville in the late 1970s. He did not have sat navs or high-end tank bags or fancy ways of consuming water. And considering the fact he was a trainee gardener, I'm pretty sure he didn't have a whole hell of a lot of money, either.

Neither do I. So, perhaps I should be taking inspiration from him. Despite my dedication to working myriad Amazon links into my posts lately, it's a tactic that isn't likely to amass a fortune (Full disclosure: To date it has not earned me a single penny). Really, I should be working with what I've got and trying not to spend any more money.

Well, OK, the maps. I should definitely spring for the maps. And perhaps a few bungee cords. So, about £20 expenditure at the most. Beyond that, my desire to have All The Things may cloud my ability to properly enjoy this adventure.

I don't know. What do you think? What do I absolutely need? Do I already have those things? Or, are there, in fact, several things that I haven't even thought about? All advice is appreciated!


(a) I am considering naming my bike "Essie Mae," because I like being obscure. Huge points to you if you understand the reference.