That bitter sweet moment …

Today was the day that Sean came to collect my CRF250 Rally that he purchased ready for his trip to Mongolia. It was a bitter sweet moment for me, sad to see her go but, excited about what I would get to replace her.

Sean, moments before he headed off to Wales

The CRF250 Rally has been a fun little bike to own, we’ve spent many hours and over 5000 miles tootling around together. It’s also been a great little project upgrading the suspension, fitting the crash bars, skid plate and pannier frame along with many other little extras that turned the little bike into a true adventure machine. There’s a great CRF community online and it’s been fun sharing ideas with them all.

I will miss it for sure, although I won’t miss the bum killing seat!

Sean is a really nice guy, if you ever have the opportunity to meet up with him then do it, you won’t regret it. He’s a true biker gent and I hope we cross paths during our adventures to Mongolia and back. It would be great to ride some miles with him.

“So, what now?” I hear you say, well I’m not too sure … I have some thoughts on bikes that may meet my requirements and an even bigger list of bikes that won’t. Unfortunately there is no unicorn bike out there today, there are lots of bikes in the adventure sector but, none come close to the sub 140kg, 70hp unicorn that we’re all hunting for.

Can’t ride so let’s read!

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.

The next book on the pile was “Lone Rider” by Elspeth Beard.

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.

More soon …

Travel and Medical Insurance

Insurance is the biggest legal scam in the world but, we all need to have it for one reason or another and taking on a trip like the one I’m about to undertake definitely needs some sort of medical insurance as riding off-road for thousands of miles is fraught with potential accidents!

I’ve spent hours filling in forms on travel insurance websites and making calls to insurance providers trying to find the best option for my trip. Many of the companies I’ve spoken to bork the moment you mention ‘motorcycle’ and/or ‘off-road’ and others have no interest in insuring you for more than 30 days.

One company I did find will cover everything I need and didn’t bork or flinch at all no matter what I threw at them.

Navigator Travel Insurance Services Ltd. do have two specific policies for adventure riders that want to travel to regions of the world that are way outside of the norm.

Their Motorcycle Silver and Gold polices don’t come cheap, but they do cover a lot for the money and for a tiny additional fee you can have a policy with no excess. (Well worth doing!)

Note: I am in no way connected with Navigator Travel Insurance Services Ltd. I’m just putting it out there for those trying to arrange an adventure motorcycle trip.

The Russian Visa Application Centre

Today was the day that I went to the big city of London. I’ve not been there for a while and generally it’s a place I try my best to avoid after working there for far too many years.

My first port of call was to visit Timo Taal at the Almont Group visa agency to complete the paperwork and pay for the visa (See article below about Almont Group). It was great to finally meet Timo as we have conversed by phone and email many times but never face to face. I soon had all the paperwork done and headed off to the Russian Visa Application Centre to give my biometric information.

Upon arrival I was welcomed by big burly Russian gent who gave me a numbered ticket and asked me to take a seat in the waiting area. 30mins later my number popped up on the screen and I presented myself to the young lady sat behind the desk. She diligently went through my visa application forms that had been prepared by Timo previously and confirmed all was good. I then gave my biometric information as requested and was on my way. All done very politely and efficiently.

One thing I did notice during my time at the centre was the number of people turned away because of paperwork issues. This made me realise that it is well worth getting an agency to do all the paperwork in advance as they know exactly how to do things correctly, first time.

Since it’s not a cheap exercise, over £500 for a 12 month multi-entry visa, it is worth getting it done right.
Hopefully by the beginning of March 2020 I will have my Russian visa ready for the trip.

It’s just arrived!

After much debate, pontificating and research my latest tool for the trip has just arrived!

Garmin InReach Explorer+

I finally decided to purchase a Garmin InReach Explorer+ for the trip to Mongolia and back. It’s quite an initial investment which is then followed by considerable outlay for the satellite and SOS package but, my wife will be able to relax knowing I’ll have SOS support should I need it and she’ll be able to track my whereabouts 24/7. (And there I was thinking I’d escape for 6 months!)

I’ll write a more detailed article about setting up the device and purchasing the satellite package in the next few weeks.

Visas!

So I’m now in the process of organising the visas for the trip and what a minefield it has turned out to be.
What has become clear is that many of the visa agencies are geared up for your typical holiday visa only, when it comes to anything out of the ordinary, like a motorcycle trip for example, they really haven’t got a clue what they are talking about.

So after being being told many things including it’s not possible to ride a motorcycle in Russia, I have finally found a visa agency who not only knows what they are talking about but have arranged visas for motorcycle adventure trips many times before.

So, without further ado let me introduce you to Timo Taal at the Almont Travel Company in London.

Speaking to Timo on the phone he is an extremely knowledgable gent when it comes to visas. He took me through the entire process for the Russian visa explaining that a multiple entry business visa is what I need and that he has arranged them many a time for motorcyclists in the past without issue. He also advised me on the Mongolian visas and the best place to get it whilst enroute.

Unlike all the other visa people I spoke to, Timo really does know his stuff so, if you are wanting to get a visa for a motorcycle trip through Russia or anywhere else talk to him first.

His contact details are:

Mr. Timo Taal
Operations Manager
Almont Group
6 Snow Hill
London
EC1A 2AY
+44 (0)203 981 3000
http://almontvisas.co.uk/index.php

Be warned, the Russian visa doesn’t come cheaply!
Total cost will be almost UK£511.00, one of the most expensive visas in the world apparently!

A big thanks to Alex Nikonov of Motorcycle Tours In Russia for passing Timo’s contact information on to me.

I look forward to meeting you in Moscow Alex!