Don’t be fooled by the title. With just weeks to go before I set off on the RTW ride of my life, I’m definitely not ready. Visas, carnets, vaccinations and budgets are all being slowly and painfully dealt with, but fearing that too much paperwork would make me a dull boy, I traded a day in the office for a day on the saddle and booked an adventure bike training course in the wilds of north Norfolk…
I can’t believe it’s taken me until the ripe old age of 47 to discover the joy of heated clothing. It’s 5.30am on the coldest morning of the year so far – minus 4 and freezing fog – and I can’t stop chuckling inside my helmet. I’ve finally discovered that there’s no need to be cold on a motorcycle. All it took was a five-minute battery hook-up and a simple cable routing, and I’m sitting oh so comfortably plugged in to a Keis heated jacket that will make all the difference to the winter stages of my trip. I’m also wearing heated gloves, which plug directly into the jacket, as well as heated in-soles, making light work of the three-hour trip to the purpose-built adventure bike training centre in East Anglia where Kevin Hammond is waiting for me.
Kevin is well known in the adventure riding community, having been part of the UK trio that won the International GS Trophy in South Africa in 2010. He’s also worked as a senior instructor at the BMW Off Road Skills school in Wales and supported various GlobeBusters expeditions such as the Trans Americas and London to Bangkok long-distance trips, as well as plenty of other adventure tours to destinations such as Patagonia, where his off-road expertise comes in handy. So, if anyone was qualified to set up his own training school, dedicated to preparing people like me for the motorcycle adventure of a lifetime, it’s Kevin.
And the beauty is that he can tailor a course to suit your exact needs. With just a few weeks to go until d-day, I requested a mix of workshop and rider training and also sent a long list of topics in advance that were keeping me awake at night. Kevin’s not a miracle worker, but what he managed to pack into a day was quite remarkable.
Fully fuelled with bacon butties and endless cups of tea supplied by his wonderful wife Deb, my first challenge was learning how to pack for the big adventure. Laid out on a small table in the workshop was everything Kevin needs for an expedition of any length. Tools, spares, clothes, maps and more were all laid out in front of me and I thought about all the boxes of gear that were steadily accumulating in my office back home. I am definitely going to have to lose about 50 per cent of what I thought were ‘essential items’ just in order to fasten my pannier lids…
Suitably enlightened, we moved onto the bike itself – a pristine F 800 GS – and discussed pre-trip preparation, pre-ride checks, servicing overseas, essential spares and consumables, wheel and tyre removal. In his spacious, warm workshop, Kevin has bikes available from all the major manufacturers so whatever your choice of weapon, you can work on something similar – or even take your own bike in there to work on.
The truth is, I could have stayed in that workshop for a week and just soaked up all the brilliant nuggets of information that were coming my way, but I wanted to ride too, so after a deliciously nutritious hot lunch we headed out to the byways of rural Norfolk to practise a few water crossings, after discussing what to do if your ambition outweighs your talent and you drown your bike. In my case, a 10km detour to find the nearest bridge would probably be the safer option.
Back at the ranch (Kevin was a farmer until recently) it was time to try out a few obstacles designed to remind you that adding a shed-load of luggage to a 225kg adventure bike is at best, foolhardy. With plenty of land at his disposal and a expert tractor driver to boot (is there anything this man can’t do?) Kevin has built ramps, recreated tricky bridges, constructed whoops (probably just for the hell of it) and even dug out several rows of ruts – in different grades of ‘menacing’, from narrow and muddy to deep, water-filled ditches capable of swallowing a GS Adventure whole.
Fortunately for me, we lost the light before I lost my bike, so with darkness fast approaching, there was just enough time for a few wobbles in the deep gravel and sand sections carefully prepared for Kevin’s amusement and, allegedly, for training purposes. It was his wife Deb, in the end, who pointed out that I’d probably had enough training, given the three hour ride in the dark ahead of me, and that we should probably call it a day.
I took in some, but not all of the debrief that followed, distracted as I was by the home-made flapjacks that were vying for my attention, but concluded that I had learnt loads, even though there was still so much I had to discover.
As I plugged in, warmed up and headed away from their farm, I reflected on a memorable day that would be a useful and really enjoyable experience for any adventure bike owner or anyone in the midst of a mid-life crisis and planning their own RTW ride. On my way back, I met up with a fantastic guy called Barry Smythe who’d contacted me because he’d traded his old F 800 GS for an Africa Twin and had a few spare parts that he no longer needed. Turns out that the cardboard box he put in my pannier contained a spare chain, sprockets, levers, air filter, cables and brake pads – pretty much everything Kevin had told me earlier in the day that I’d need on my travels. What a great adventure riding community this is.
Adventure Bike Training
Based in the heart of rural Norfolk, Adventure Bike Training covers everything you need to equip yourself with the skills, confidence and experience to tackle your trip of a lifetime, whether that’s a UK tour or a global ride. You can have 1-2-1 or group rider training, workshop and maintenance sessions, mapping and GPS navigation courses, and much more. Give Kevin a ring on 01485 529491, tell him what you need and he’ll devise a course to suit your requirements. Find out more at www.adventurebiketraining.co.uk