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.

Spending money like water!

Ever since I was young I’ve always got excited about getting new motorcycle clothing and never more so than now.

Getting organised for this trip has been a mammoth task spread over many months and I’m still not completely ready as I’m still waiting to hear about my Russian Visa application.

The last few days have been great as all my new gear has been trickling in.

The small stuff is just as important as the big stuff!

One thing that’s very clear is that the small stuff is often more important than the big stuff! Things like fuel and water filters will be critical to my health and the bike’s, without both we could come unstuck in some of the countries I’m going through.

A good set of paper maps and an old fashioned compass will certainly come in very handy when navigating across the Kazakh steppe, the wilds of Mongolia and Siberia, especially if all the electronics fail.

Tools are extremely important as I’m going to be totally self sufficient throughout the trip so I’m trying to ensure I can cope with most breakdowns but, without taking too many heavy tools.

SD cards aren’t a life saving item but a nice to have for the two Crosstour and Canon cameras I’ll be taking with me. Of course, the latrene shovel is to be considered a necessity these days when wild camping!


Since I already have a Trangia cooker I decided to stick with it and have purchased the multi-fuel burner for it. This new burner will allow me to cook using petrol for fuel, this means that I’ll only need to carry one type of fuel with me for all needs. I’ll be testing the new burner this coming weekend!

During the trip I’m going to need to be able to cope with extremes of temperature so I decided to purchase some new biking gear that has the facility to remove both the warm winter lining and the inner water proof layer. This will I hope, keep me relatively cool in the hot desert temperatures and warm in the below zero mountain climbs.


I’ve tried on loads of outfits over the last few months and not really liked any of them apart from the Rev’It! OffTrack jacket and trousers. The jacket is fairly light for a 3 layer system but also well put together. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a pair of matching trousers from anywhere in Europe and so have gone with the Sand3 trousers. These are made of a slightly heavier material but should be harder wearing. Again the trousers consist of a 3 layer system so should work well in both hot and cold climes.

My Nolan helmet that I use for road riding has now reached it’s end of life, it’s serviced me well over the years but like all good things in life, they never last forever.

Like riding gear, I tried many helmets but kept coming back to Nolan, they just tick all the boxes for me.


I finally decided to go with the Nolan N702X crash helmet. It’s a great design which allows the chin bar to be removed as well as incorporating a full face visor and dark sun visor. I find the Nolan helmets fit my odd shaped head very well and are comfortable enough to be worn all day without problem. The other big bonus is that my Sena headset will fit perfectly too!

The only other thing I’m waiting for now is the Hagon rear shock absorber for the bike, once I have it I can finally get the bike back together and on the road for some test rides.

Exciting times!

Automatic Chain Oiler

I’ve decided to fit an automatic chain oiler on the Honda CRF250 Rally so that I don’t have to constantly worry about the chain being lubed. I’ve had one on my Kawasaki Versys 1000 from new and I have to admit it has been brilliant. The chain on the Versys 1000 has only had to be adjusted twice in over 11000 miles and this is largely due to the fact that it is always well lubricated.

Following my quest to buy British I’ve purchased the same Tutoro automatic chain oiler for the CRF that I have on the Versys. The great thing about the Tutoro oiler is that it doesn’t need to be hooked up to the vacuum side of the injector and neither does it need a power feed. This makes it very simple to maintain and also reduces the risk of problems with the engine should something like the vacuum pipe split and allow extra air into the injector mix.

Tutoro Chain Oiler

The Tutoro oiler switches on and off the feed of the oil simply by using the motion of the motorcycle moving. As the bike moves along a road of trail the movement up and down as it hits bumps etc cause the valve inside the oil chamber to open and allow a predetermined amount of oil to flow. This simple mechanical process needs no adjustment and is perfectly reliable. The flow rate of the oil onto the chain can be adjusted by simply opening or closing the little vale on the oil chamber.

Oil flow adjustment control on the bottom of the oil chamber

Once I’ve got it fitted to the bike I’ll add some more photos to this article.

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.

Vaccinations!

So I entered into the dark world of vaccinations today and what a rabbit hole it is!

In January 2019 when I was at the Adventure Travel Show in London I met some lovely nurses from the Fleetstreet Clinic who told me exactly what vaccinations I needed.

The list consisted of the following vaccinations:

Diptheria
Tetanus
Polio
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE)
Rabies
Typhoid
Cholera

Seeing the nurse at my local GP surgery this morning I discovered that my Diptheria, Tetanus and Polio jabs are up to date so they aren’t required.

Hep A & B and Typhoid I could start today on the NHS, Typhoid being 1 single injection and the Hep A & B being 3 injections each spread over a number of weeks. 1st injections done, new appointments made for the next two set of injections.

So this now leaves the TBE and Rabies jabs. These are available on the NHS but at a cost which is fair enough however, unfortunately my GP surgery doesn’t have stock and won’t get them in time for my trip so I’ll have to get them done privately.

The nurse recommended a company called MASTA Travel Health so I gave them a call when I got home. After being in a queue for ages I got through to what sounded like an Indian call centre, this is where the fun started!

After a long drawn out conversation on the phone it was clear they were going to take me for every pound they could. The chap said I would have to pay for a wellness telephone interview, then if I pass this a face to face health check and if I pass this a one to one travel interview, all of which cost money. I explained I’d already been to my doctors surgery this morning and done all of this and that I just wanted to get the vaccinations but oh no, that wasn’t good enough, their experts are much better. Needless to say I put this conversation to bed swiftly and hung up.

After doing a little more research I found that Boots Pharmacy provide a vaccination service. A quick search on Google and I soon found my local Boots Store contact details. A quick call and conversation with the very helpful lady on the other end and I had an appointment for tomorrow to get both the TBE and Rabies injections started, fantastic!

So the cost for the TBE and Rabies series of jabs (Oh yes there are many!!) is £300.00. I’m guessing when compared to what our cousins over the pond would have to pay this is a very acceptable figure and one I have no issues with.

This just leaves the Cholera Vaccination. Apparently this one isn’t a jab (Hoorah!) but a powder that you mix with water and drink. I’ve yet to have this as the nurse at the GP surgery had to order it, but I’ll get my hands on it soon.

So if you are planning a trip to Central Asia then you need to allow a minimum of two months to get all your vaccinations sorted and will probably feel like a sieve at the end of it!

Using the AUX 12v 10A supply

I get a lot of messages asking about connecting USB/12v sockets to the AUX power feed on the CRF250 Rally so I’ve put together this quick article detailing what I’ve done so that others can do likewise.

Under the top left hand side fairing panel you will see a bundle of wires held in place by two soft metal bendable cable ties. In this bundle of wires there is actually a socket for connecting accessories to the 12v switched supply of the bike. The AUX power feed is protected by a 10A fuse under the seat so make sure you don’t connect anything that will draw more than 10A.

You don’t need to remove the plastics at all to access the socket, just release the wiring from the two flexible cable ties and lift it out onto the top edge.

AUX 12v Switched power feed.

When you first pull out the connector from behind the fairing it will have a dummy plug inserted into it, you will need to remove it and then reconnect your new plug once wired.

The plug can be sourced very cheaply from Eastern Beaver and can be connected to your accessory using nothing more than a set of crimps.

Make sure you order the 2 pin plug not the 4 pin plug!

Also, make sure you connect your accessory correctly checking the polarity of the feed before wiring as crossing POS and NEG will blow the fuse every time you switch on the bike!

I fitted a really nice little 2 x USB and 1 x 12v socket unit with a volt meter to my CRF250 Rally. It’s fairly water proof and hasn’t given me any problems so far. The other nice thing about this unit is that it has an illuminated on/off switch on the top so you can switch it off if your devices are fully charged.

The unit I fitted can be purchased on Ebay.

That’s it, hope this is of use to the people that have already pinged me asking for more info.

NOTE:
If you are fitting heated grips as I have, I wouldn’t recommend connecting them to the AUX power feed as they will push it to the limit current wise. It’s best to connect heated grips directly to the battery terminals and not via the wiring harness.

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!

More on suspension …

I came across this video on Youtube showing some chaps fitting a replacement spring on a CRF250 Rally. I’ve no idea where the spring can be purchased from or if it was a custom one off manufacture.

The good thing about the video is that it shows how to take the OEM shock apart to fit the new spring.

Once the spring is fitted it appears that the sag is almost non-existent and the rear of the bike is much taller even with rider aboard. There’s very little info in the video description and many have asked for more info but nothing seems to be forth coming.

Suspension!

Ever since I purchased the CRF250 Rally for the trip I’ve been very aware that the OEM suspension really isn’t up to the job. The standard suspension is suited to a younger, lighter rider who isn’t interested in doing some serious off-roading and just wants to ride the bike around the streets with his/her mates, needless to say this isn’t why I bought the bike.

So where do I go from here?

It’s a cheap bike and so I don’t want to spend a fortune on expensive suspension options. I’ve spent a fair amount already adding the rack, soft panniers and reserve fuel tank so the bike currently owes me somewhere around £5900.00 and so spending another £1000 on suspension isn’t an option. So what options do I have?

Ohlins Suspension option for the CRF250 Rally

Ohlins sell a complete kit for the CRF250 range of bikes and sure, it’s going to be an excellent choice but, at almost £1200.00 it’s a very expensive option. To put it into perspective, £1200 worth of fuel (at U.K. prices) will take me around 11,000 miles on the CRF250 Rally which is nearly half the trip!

So what cheaper options are there?

YSS Rear shock absorber for the CRF250 Rally

YSS make a replacement rear shock for the Rally that is reasonably priced at around the £330.00. It gets mostly good reviews and seems to be the choice of many CRF250 riders but, they don’t make any options for the front forks so this is a rear option only.

The British brand Hagon also sell a rear shock option for the CRF250 Rally with a price tag of around £280.00 which makes it the cheapest option for the rear so far but, once again no option for the front suspension.

Another route that many CRF riders seem to be taking is the HyperPro rear and front spring kits for the Rally.

This HyperPro option uses the standard rear shock but provides a replacement heavier duty spring that has to be fitted by the owner. At £84.00 this is by far the cheapest rear option so far. I’ve had conversations with a couple of people who have gone down this route and they have both said they were suitably impressed with the upgrade. This replacement rear spring option reduced the natural sag of the bike considerably and also stopped it from bottoming out when being ridden off-road.

The front spring replacement kit is actually just a single spring not dual spring as shown in the stock photo above however, once again people are telling me it’s a worthy upgrade and at £119.95 it’s not expensive either.

Fortunately I have a really good workshop setup so stripping the rear shock down and fitting the replacement spring isn’t a problem. Replacing the front spring and oil is easy too so, for a little over £200.00 I can upgrade both the front and rear suspension to a point where hopefully it will no longer bottom out when loaded and being ridden on the trails.

So far this is the cheapest option I have found and I doubt I will find anything better unless one of the manufacturers decides to sponsor me, something I doubt will happen!