Finally, I’m waking up to beautiful, blue skies after six days of the kind of weather I’d hoped to leave behind in the UK. I’ve had the deepest sleep I’ve had in weeks and have woken up with the satisfaction of knowing I’m 3,500 kilometres into my journey, the Turkish frontier is just half an hour away and I’m well on track to making it to the Iranian border on time.
It’s been a crazy first week, from the frenzied departure and awkward goodbyes in the UK contrasted with the joy of seeing the white cliffs of Dover disappear beyond the horizon as I approached the French coast. The following days were about grinding out the kilometres and battling heavy rain, high winds and quite a bit of snow to get to my destinations, but that fantastic BMW bike got me safely there every night, where wonderful friends awaited — travellers themselves — with hot food, cold beer and a thousand questions.
Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia came and went far too quickly and I’m ashamed to have seen so little of these historical ‘giants’ but I was six days behind my original planned departure date and I had to make up time somehow. I’ll be back to see these places in the future for sure, hopefully with my wife on the pillion seat…
So finally a rest day and a chance to tell you about some of the kit that has made ALL the difference to this blast down to the Balkans and beyond. I chose the BMW EnduroGuard riding suit because of its protection and venting system for hot climates, but I can tell you it also passed the waterproof test with flying colours, keeping the rain out for hour after hour of being sprayed by arctics on the autobahns. The waterproof pockets kept my vital documents and electronics completely dry too.
The Keis heated jacket and gloves have literally been a godsend that I couldn’t have done without. Being able to plug-in and keep my ‘core’ temperature up has allowed me to remain focussed and alert on the road, and with my butt literally ‘floating’ on the AirHawk seat, ride for up to 800 kilometres a day without any problem at all. I’ll package these up and send them home when I get to Dubai, but not a day before!
On the bike itself, some small parts have made a huge difference. A small screen spoiler from Wunderlich has pushed the airflow, rain and snow up and over my helmet, rather than blasting straight into my face. This will be taken off when I hit the hot places, because I’ll need the ventilation but for now it is working wonders — as are the ‘bar muffs, also from Wunderlich. They may not be pretty but they’ve kept the worst of the weather away from my digits and kept my gloves completely dry. I can’t tell you what a difference this makes when you need to peel them off quickly to deal with tickets and payments at toll booths, and handover passport and bike documents at border controls.
And last, but not least, a waterproof bag from SW-Motech has sat on the back of the bike through the worst of the weather and kept all my clothes, running kit, sleeping bags and more 100 per cent dry. Simply pack it, roll down and secure the top, strap it onto the bike and you’re good to go. It also works well as a backrest for those long days in the saddle.
So now I have a well-earned ‘rest’ day where I plan to change the bike’s tyres, do a long training run, catch up properly with my family and research my next leaps into the unknown across Turkey and into Iran. Thanks so much for your wonderful words of encouragement and support via Facebook, Instagram and through this blog. Please keep them coming — it really does make all the difference to know that I’m not on my own and have lots of you riding right alongside me.
Right then, time to sling the motorcycle gear to one side, put the running gear on explore the backwoods of Bulgaria. It might be worth checking my Spot tracker button (on the left banner on the home page) in a couple of days just to make sure I’ve moved on safely!