Since the easing of the COVID19 lockdown here in the U.K. I’ve been making the most of the freedom and putting a few miles on the bike.
Since my last blog article I’ve put almost 1000 miles on the Tenere 700. It’s been great to get back on the bike after 4 months of lockdowns and to finally start to get to grips with it. There’s still a few things I’m not happy with but, over the next few weeks/months I’m hoping to get things sorted.
The biggest problem I have with the T7 is the seat height, it’s just too tall for my little legs! Having just a 29in inside leg the Rally Edition seat stretches me to the absolute limit. Only being able to get one foot down on tiptoes really isn’t good for trail riding especially if there are river crossings involved where ideally I’d like to get both feet firmly planted.
I’ve been looking into getting the seat re-profiled and made lower but, the cost of doing this is almost as much as buying an OEM low seat and rear rack unit instead of the passenger seat. So after much deliberation I’ve ordered and OEM low seat and the rack to fit in place of the passenger seat. This will hopefully lower me enough so that I have more chance of making contact with terra-firma. This will enable me to keep the original Rally Edition seat so that if I ever decide sell the bike I can put it back to original configuration. The new seat parts should arrive in the next week or so, I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’ve also purchased a pair of Oxford Hot Hands over grip electric warmers for the bike. Having had grip warmers on many of my previous bikes I’ve realised that I really don’t like having cold hands!
I decided to go with the over grip warmers as they make the hand grips slightly bigger in diameter. This makes quite a difference on long trips especially for arthritis sufferers like me. Increasing the diameter of the grips makes it a lot easier to keep the throttle open on long trips and helps reduce hand fatigue, the warmth also helps with the pain when it gets cold.
Amazon have them at a bargain price at the moment, I got them for £38.37 reduced from £69.99, bargain!
I’ll need to get the appropriate connector to attach the hand warmers to the wiring harness, but these are easily available from Eastern Beaver.
I also need to install the second 12v socket to the bike and wire it into the 10A feed that is available from the wiring harness. The OEM fitted 12v socket is fused at 2A and won’t drive much more than my iPhone. I may even rewire it to the 2nd 10A feed on the bike so that I have two 12v sockets capable of charging many devices at the same time. I’ll put together a separate article on this when I get to it.
Sean, Ben and I have all booked places for the Armchair Festival down in Cornwall in September. This is a new adventure festival and it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. If you’re also coming to the event be sure to give us a shout as we’ll be camping for the weekend.
It’s been quite a few months since my last blog entry as I’ve had nothing to write about. Having been in COVID lockdowns of various varieties since November 2020, we’re now half way through March 2021 and still in lockdown, unable to leave our homes yet alone travel.
For months now I’ve been watching other peoples travels on YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime to help keep my sanity. I think I have now watched just about every travel video there is to see.
Today I came across a video on Youtube that peaked my interest, not the normal kind of thing that attracts my attention as it doesn’t involve motorcycles, but very interesting none the less.
This video was all about a couple of chaps who dared to travel across the Sahara Desert on an Iron Ore train. Not the most comfortable method of transport as it involves sitting in an open ballast wagon for 20 hours or more whilst the train trundles across the desert.
Now I’m not a train spotter or have any interest in trains however, this trip really interests me and I’m now looking into how feasible it would be to try the same trip once we’re allowed out again.
Take look at the video and see if it appeals to you!
I’ve been stuck in the U.K. lockdown for 5 weeks now and it’s starting to get a bit tedious to say the least.
The weather has been great, one of the warmest Spring times on record apparently. Having done various things about the house, tidied the garage, workshop, the cupboard under the stairs and chucked out all the junk we’ve collected over the years and never used, I’ve very little left to do apart from cook and eat which isn’t doing the waistline much good!
Having spent a good part of the weekend watching the The Side Car Guys on their Armchair Adventure Festival and enjoying all the talks by a number of well known motorcycle adventurers I was reminded of the books that my lovely wife bought for me at Christmas that I still haven’t read.
Not being a huge book reader as I tend to read most of the stuff that interests me online or via E-Books, I decided to take a look at what there was in the pile.
On the top of the pile was “In search of greener grass” by Graham Field that I have already read over half of but, had put it back on the pile as I found it to be incredibly boring and somewhat depressing. To me the book seemed full of moans and gripes and mentioned nothing of the places he’d visited or passed through. If you ever want to put someone off of adventure riding or travelling around the world then this is the book that will do it. Needless to say it was swiftly put to one side and will probably never get looked at again unless I’m really desperate.
Having seen Elspeth Beard over the weekend during the online festival and being very taken by her honesty and stories of her travel it appealed to me immediately.
Sitting in the garden with my wife I started reading it. I soon fell in love with Elspeth’s way of writing, very honest and full of wit, her story started to unfold.
I’m now 7 chapters in, yes I’m not a fast reader, I tend to read a bit, put it down and digest it and then come back for a bit more. This is the way I roll and it works for me.
At just 22 years of age in the early 80’s when travelling was very different to now, her round the world trip doesn’t get off to a great start. Having to fend off sexual attacks and more, her adventure doesn’t go quite how she imagined but, her strength and resolve sees her through.
I’m currently in Australia with her as she’s about to move on from Sydney where she found work and got to put her architect skills to good use. I’m eagerly waiting to see what’s around the corner whilst at the same time hoping she finds the love she’s always struggling with.
I’ve still got a fair few chapters to go but, even at this point in the book I can recommend it based just on the first 7 chapters. If you like really honest writing that reads as if the person is telling you face to face then this could be a good read for you.
With only 21 days left before I leave blighty I’m going through the last few items of preparation.
Today it’s been checking over the camping gear whilst the weather is good and getting the camera mounts sorted on the bike.
The tent hasn’t been out since it’s last visit to Wales and the subsequent cleaning and drying after the torrential rain we had there. Glad to say it’s all dry and clean with no mould!
I’ve also been sorting out the camera mounts on the bike. So far I’ve got a mount on the front of the bike and one at the rear. The rear mount is actually a selfie stick mounted to the Tusk pannier rack so that I can extend it and do pieces to camera easily. It’ll also hopefully give me good rear and forward shots too whilst riding.
The front mount is quite handy as it can look forward and aft so hopefully I may be able to get some shots of me riding … or falling off!
I have been looking for some places to mount the cameras on the side panels of the bike but everywhere I have tried the view is blocked by something. I’ll have to do some more research into interesting camera angles to see if I can improve the current setup at all.
Once purchased you then have to buy a satellite subscription package for the device to actually work. Satellite time isn’t cheap and there are a number of different packages and ways to pay depending on what level of support you want and how long you want to have access for.
It’s worth nothing the charges for messages and track points on the cheapest package, if you do the math you’ll find that with tracking on it’s not as cheap as it initially looks!
So, firstly lets look at the device itself.
The device is really nicely put together and feels like a quality product in the hand. The buttons are very tactile and give positive feedback when pressed. Sizewise it’s as tall as an iPhone 7 Plus and about 2/3 of the width across the screen but much thicker of course. The battery is supposed to last unto 100hrs depending on settings used. I should imagine this time will reduce in extremely low temperatures. The device comes with a clip for attaching it to a jacket or rucksack and a huge carabina which I think could had been smaller and just as effective. You can of course remove the carabina should you wish,
I won’t go into the full functionality of the device as it’s all available on the Garmin website.
MapShare is a web based mapping service that allows you to give family and friends access to a portal where they can track your location pretty much realtime. This is great if like me, you have a wife at home that needs to know where you are during your wild adventures into uncharted territories. This works pretty well and even enables the user to send messages to you via satellite, ping you to see exactly where you are now and see how your journey is progressing but, where it falls down is in the route planning.
One of the main attractions of these kind of devices is the ability to plan your route and then follow it, just like any other GPS device. Unfortunately you can only put routes together on the MapShare website, you cannot create a route on the EarthMate app or the device, a huge disadvantage if you don’t have internet access!
When you do have internet access putting together a route is a rather clunky exercise.
Planning my route to Harwich for example, I initially zoomed in so that I could plan the route at a detailed level following the exact roads that I needed to take, this is great until you come to need to move the map so that you can see the next part of the road. It turns out that whilst you are in route planning mode you cannot move the map, this means that you cannot plan the entire journey at a detailed level. If you complete the route and save it, move the map and then edit the route you find that you cannot add more roads on to the route, all you can do is alter the existing route making it impossible to plan a route at a detailed level.
Zooming the map out so that you can see your start and finish point and then planning the route is successful however, once saved and then zoomed into you will find that your route isn’t actually on the roads you want and the route is actually across fields and through buildings!
This simple functionality of being able to plan the route at a detailed level and move the map at the same time really isn’t rocket science to achieve and is a major failing on Garmin’s part. In this day and age with the tech available this whole MapShare web app could be so much better than it is.
The rest of the functionality on the site is the same, clunky, difficult to use and cannot be done at a detailed level. This is a real shame and a massive disappointment.
Moving onto the EarthMate app, it too is somewhat disappointing. It is basically a cut down version of the web based system but with even less functionality. It also needs to have an internet connection to function correctly defeating the object completely.
To be able to get the routes into EarthMate that were planned on the MapShare web service the phone on which the app is running has to have internet access to be able to sync the route information. This works well when you have an internet connection but if you are in the middle of nowhere you have no chance so, it’s important to plan as many routes as possible when you have internet access and sync immediately.
Once you’ve activated the route it then appears on the main screen map and you are able to zoom in and out. Your heading, elevation and LAT/LONG coordinates are visible at all times. It’s worth nothing that this is not a turn by turn GPS app and so you will have to watch the map as you move to ensure you take the right turn.
Looking at the good features of the Garmin Explorer+ it’s tracking facility is great and works without the need for internet access. You can choose how often your tracking information is sent to the MapShare service via it’s satellite link, I’ve chosen 1min track intervals sent every 10mins which seems to work well and provide a fairly detailed view of the day’s travelling.
The big feature of these inReach devices is the SOS service. This service comes as part of any of the subscription packages and enables the user of the device to raise an alarm should they need urgent assistance. When an alarm is raised it’s immediately handled by Geos Travel Safety in America.
Once an alarm is raised they will contact you immediately via the device messaging service and obtain details of the emergency. They are also immediately notified of your current location. The user of the device can communicate with the Geos support team and provide them with updates as the emergency unfolds. The Geos team will then coordinate with local rescue teams on the ground and arrange your recovery.
The SOS can be initiated via the Garmin device directly or on the EarthMate phone app as long as it has bluetooth connectivity with the device.
It’s worth nothing that for an annual fee of just £19.99 you can cover yourself for up to US$100,000 of rescue fees including helicopter recovery should it be necessary, well worth it in my opinion.
The other good thing about the Garmin Explorer+ is that you can send messages to mobile phones via SMS or email directly from the device without the need for an internet connection, this is ideal when you want to let your wife know all is well when in the middle of nowhere.
You can also send the messages from your mobile phone even when you have no internet connection as the phone uses bluetooth to send the message via the devices satellite connection.
You can also send free test messages that reply to you automatically so that you can check whether you have satellite connectivity or not.
So, to summarise, the Mapshare web app could be much better than it is and really needs an update, same with the EarthMate app. It’s really cheap to develop good phone apps these days so there really is no excuse.
The device itself is really good, rugged, waterproof and has all the functionality I need on my trip through Central Asia. It’s also worth mentioning that the Garmin inReach devices use the Irridium satellite network which has 100% global coverage unlike some of the other devices available on the market today.
Was it a good buy? I think so as it gives peace of mind to my lovely wife and enables her to keep in touch with me all the time and of course the SOS functionality really is a must when travelling alone.