Day 1 – Sibirsky Extreme 2009

Jonathan 29-03-2009

Well I finally got underway and left Cheshire at 6am. I rode west and then took the A49 south towards Shropshire and beyond. I had put a predetermined route into the sat nav and enjoyed the twisties all the way down to Touratech. It was a day of sunshine and showers and generally very enjoyable riding weather with the odd rainbow thrown in.

I arrived just before lunch and the usual suspects were there. Friends from UKgser, people I’d met at last years event and the staff at Touratech.

I got the camcorder and camera setup for Walters talk on the Sibirsky Extreme project. I had intended to do one of the Touratech off road rides but I arrived a bit late and had other duties to perform.

By mid afternoon I had a realisation. I had unknowingly made a sacrificial offering to the road gods… Somewhere between Cheshire and Ystradgynlais I had lost a bag. It was a decathlon dry bag on top of my right pannier. It had my tarp, one man tent and my andystrapz in it. Not expensive kit but a pain in the arse nonetheless. I was hell bent on traveling light and so this meant I would have to go home and get my big tent (home being 200 miles north) I could have purchased a cheap tent but I had other things to sort out.

After a fine evenings entertainment from the legendary raconteur, adventure motorcyclist and male portion of team nutkin aka Austin Vince I managed to secure a bed for the night inside Touratech. Austin had also managed to gain access to Fortress Touratech for the night. He slept beside me on the floor and there was no funny business… honest Lois. There was the 5am incident though where he had nipped outside and got locked out by the self locking door. it was -3c out there and I’m not sure how long he’d been out there. Austin you owe me now 🙂

After a hearty breakfast and some fine tea we were ready for the off. The cameras were rolling and with Billy (biketruck.com) and Austin on the mic it was the finest send off anyone could ask for. It was a great feeling and what adventure motorcycling is all about. I recommend everyone should do it. There have to be some sacrifices but the rewards are great!

Les Wassel from HID50.com joined on the ride out and he accompanied me all the way back to Cheshire. We stopped to have a brief chat and decide when we would regroup.

I felt it would be fitting to have a symbol that would reflect on the days proceedings and act as a talisman for the days and weeks on the road ahead. Walter, Myself and Les felt the first sign from the road gods just didn’t have quite the right ring about it…

So as Walter forged on alone to London it was left to Les and myself to find a better sign. 2 hours later we think we found it and with due pomp and ceremony at the roadside we stamped our seal of approval onto the talisman by furnishing it with a Sibirsky Extreme sticker 🙂

Walter, just so you know there will be no more adoration and homage to the Colebatch name once we are out on the open road. 🙂

Belgian Castles

Well it’s only the end of Day 2, and its already been an eventful couple of days.

The departure from Touratech was a huge buzz. Getting a send off from Austin Vince was pretty special. I like to read, watch and keep abreast of all sorts of biking trips, but for me, none come close to the 2 magnum opuses of the Brothers Vince. There is one thing that sets their projects apart from almost all others, and that’s the fact that they (too) seem to value the satisfaction of being the first to do something on a motorcycle.

I guess everybody gets what they want out of adventure biking films, but for me it’s the trailblazing spirit, the desire to do something that hasn’t been done before that makes a great adventure. Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa both set out to do what hadn’t been done before. That’s why they’re great. There were no trip reports to read to help them do the bits that no-one had done before. It was virgin motorcycle territory.

I like to think my earlier trip, the Tokyo to London Project, shared the Vince philosophy in that way. If I am able to reach some (or all) of my objectives in this current project, then I hope to build on that spirit. I still believe there are plenty of interesting roads out there yet to be ridden. It’s harder and harder to do a trailblazing adventure biking trip, but there is still potential out there.

Day 2 began for both Jonathan and myself in our respective homes in Manchester and London. The plan was to meet at Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal about 10 am. As it happens, both of us were delayed (I had to search for papers in my self storage shed near Gatwick and Jon had traffic problems) and we met at about 12:00 before rolling under La Manche to Calais. The delayed start to the day meant we were squeezed in terms of schedule as soon as we rolled off the tunnel at 2:30pm local time in France. We wound our way through the Flanders Fields around Ypres and Passchendale before realising we were far too late to make a 6pm dinner date in Tongeren on the other side of Belgium with Norbert and family. Norbert was a contact through Horizons Unlimited who I had written to of number of times but had never met. There was no other option – we had to hit the dreaded motorways for over 2 hours.

I had also arranged to meet Stijn and friends, a couple of other Belgian guys planning a ride to Siberia, Mongolia and China for next year, and to meet my 8 year old son Michael – who lives in Holland – that evening. It was going to be a rushed evening and I had no idea how I would be able to link it all together. Fortune favours the brave and the answer was apparent as we arrived at Norbert’s. He lived in an old Castle! Fantastic stuff. So thanks to the fantastic hospitality of Norbert, Francoise and Thierry, all things came to pass that evening in the Castle. After an evening speaking with Stijn and his friends, Jon and I spent the evening in the guesthouse with our motorcycles, while Michael and his mum spent the evening in the Castle itself.

A stressful day, and what was probably the longest day of the trip (about 500 km for me and probably 700 km for Jonathan) ended with dinner and wine in a fantastic castle. The Brothers Vince would have loved this one!

Day 3

Day three – Widooie (Tongeren) to the Schwarzwald

We said our goodbyes to to Thierry, Francoise and Norbert around lunchtime and bid farewell to the castle in Widooie. It was a perfect day of wall to wall blue skies and sunshine as we rode the few short kilometres to Holland and Maastricht. Even at this early stage we were beginning to notice discrepencies in how our resepective Sat Nav’s calculated the route. Mine was less problematic although  the garmin’s propensity to tell you to turn left or right after the actual turn was really making navigating hard work. Walter’s sat nav gave up after a short time and drew a single ‘as the crow flies’ line across Europe to Ancona. We decided at this point to enter smaller towns that we knew en-route. As it happened the route we took was very picturesque and great fun on a bike.

For anyone that is looking for small foray onto the continent you could do a lot worse than head down to the Belgian Ardenne. We also took the opportunity to stop at the Spa – Francorchamps race track that is used for the Belgian Grand Prix tucked away in the Belgian Ardenne. I have this thing about the Saarbrucken triangle. It’s like the Bermuda triangle except the only thing that goes haywire is the garmin. It sent us around in circles and the only way out was to use the Autobahn. Eventually we managed to get off the autobahn and continue from Luxembourg into Germany, then France and back into Germany.

We arrived into Baden Baden around 9pm. Baden is a very wealthy town and there were casino’s and spa’s a plenty. Not the sort of places for two grubby bikers. We set the sat nav to seek out a campsite and in no time we were headed into the forested hills for a campsite that was 19km away. The 19km turned into 22km and then we we stopped to double check the route the sat nav said 15km to go. We should add that it was pitch black, the road had snow at the edges and there were many switchbacks.

Eventually we reached the town of Enzklosterle deep in the heart of the German Schwarzwald and after a few failed attempts to find a room we managed to find room at the Inn and some food despite it being after 10pm.  But sadly no internet.

I hate garmin

Well another day and another set of Garmin Zumo malfunctions.  I have never been a huge user of GPS units but I thought times they are a-changin and I should change with them.  So I got me a Zumo a few months before going away.  Riding around the UK it worked just fine.  Faultlessly in fact.  So I headed off for the other side of the world, imagining I had a functional GPS from the most expensive brand of GPS units on the market.

Day 2, cross over into Europe and I found I had no detail in my maps.  It seems though my GPS came with maps of Europe, I had to manually copy them from my laptop to the unit.  So I did that in the evening and solved that part of the problem.

Day 3, and the route I had prepared and copied into the Zumo taking me from Calais to Ancona is determined by the Zumo to be too large and complicated.  It did tell me this when it first loaded  the route, but also said it would update and recalculate the route as I went through it.  But no.  The retarded unit decided the route is too large for it to handle full stop.   So all my efforts to create a route from Calais to Ancona were wasted.

Day 4, … overnight I had prepared a couple of smaller 1 day long route sections to get me between the Black Forest and Ancona … and uploaded them into my Zumo … an Jonathans Zumo 400.  Jons Zumo took them easily.  My Zumo imported the user data route 9just as Jonathan’s did) but  when i went to look for the route i just uploaded, there was nothing there.  Just a couple of old routes – and the useless route to Ancona from Calais.

If there are any Zumo wizards out there to help me understand why my Zumo is so dysfunctional, I would love to hear from you, before I throw it overboard.

Jon is doing most of the navigating at the moment, with routes that I have prepared … as I am able to tranfer them and import them into Jon’s Zumo, but despite my Zumo saying it has transfered and imported the data successfully, the route is not showing up in my routes.

DE, CH, FL, AT

It was 1 degree when we left Enzklosterle this morning, but we have managed to end the day in warm sunshine in Austria, having entered our 9th country.  So far GB, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and now Austria have been visited by the Sibirsky Extreme motorcycling bandwagon. (I dont think Wales counts as a separate country does it??)

Tomorrow, Italy should be country number 10.

We are camped in the Rhine valley, surrounded by Alps on all sides here … so far we have avoided the mountains (though there was plenty of snow in the Schwarzwald this morning above 600 metres … we did a lot of riding 800-900 metres amsl) but tomorrow does worry mee a bit.  We cross the Alps at one of the lowest points, the Brenner Pass (about 1300 metres from memory) but we have to get through the Arlberg first.  The Arlberg pass is still closed I think so we have to pay the big bucks and use the tunnel.

Someone seems to have got wind of our little project and we have been finding Sibirsky Extreme stickers all along our route, including border crossings and customs buildings!  I cant believe people would do such a thing!.

Going where no motorcycle has been before