We had a ball on our trip and the more we do the more we refine what works for us.
Toll devices for the bikes – Last trip in France we found a huge variation of operation at toll booths. Some were cash only, some were card only and some you took a ticket at the start of the journey to pay at the other end and some you didn’t. All of that is difficult to manage with big bulky bike gloves…especially in the rain or for that matter excessively hot weather when bike gear is acting like a sauna. We were surprised also that only a small number have drive / ride through lanes so traffic is slowed down incredibly.
To cut a long story short we decided we were going to get rid of that stress factor this time around and figured there had to be some sort of toll device that we could access only to find that the only universal all European toll devices are those used in Trucks and we didn’t want to pay that sort of fee. I finally found a German based company who provide toll devices for all countries in Europe which we ordered and used in France and Spain and they worked a treat. I purchased arm pouches from a NSW company who have weatherproof bike tag holders and we were set. The only down side to all this was that the instructions we received with the tags while comprehensive were confusing and we hardly saw any booths that looked like the photos provided, but in spite of all that it was a lot less stressful than having to have the right cash at the right time and having to dig around to find it! The company is TollTickets and you can find them on the net at:
GPS – Last year we only had one GPS unit on Norm’s bike which is what we used in Australia and I transferred it to my bike at home here if I was going somewhere new by myself. It worked well most of the time in the UK last year but was a stress if we got separated in traffic or at roundabouts when I sometimes wasn’t sure just which exit he had taken. This time I had my own GPS unit and it was a LOT less stressful so would recommend that to any people travelling together also as you can keep an eye on what exits and count up and even if you end up somewhere unexpected can still get back on track. We use Garmin ZUMO 550’s.
GPS – also a good speed readout at eye level instead of having to look down to the fuel tank at the speedo on the bike
‘Australians on tour’ sign – We had a sign (in French) on the back of my bike this year appealing for some good will and leeway if deemed necessary but the big bonus was all the toots and enthusiastic waves and thumbs up signs we got as a result. It was a real buzz to see and hear the reaction and was also a talking point when we were parked up so we will likely do this in the future.
The view on the road
Effective when parked up as well, this was in Potes Spain talking to a young lady from Germany teaching English (she loved the bikes and was happy to practice her English as well…and it was excellent!)
Leading and following – We have worked out a system with whoever is in the lead for pulling up at intersections where there are STOP or GIVE WAY signs, so long as we are close enough to pull up at the same time in the same lane without holding up traffic. Whoever is leading pulls up on the side of the lane in the direction we are to turn and the second rider beside furthest from the turn so that we can both turn into the lane together. This is particularly helpful if the traffic is heavy and there aren’t too many opportunities for getting into the flow of traffic.
Notebook for blog – I find the blog a good way to keep track of our travels and will be a good record to take to the nursing home with me when I have no memory of my own (ha ha) not to mention that I find it a good debrief for the days travels (must be sick) anyway, I was happy with the Sony Vaio notebook I had this year for doing the Blog. It was much more user friendly than the little netbook I had last time and also had an SD card slot so I was able to load photos straight from the camera cards without having to take extra leads and card readers so bigger weight but less ‘stuff’ overall……….and in the last 12 months access to wireless internet has increased dramatically to the previous year so I didn’t bother with the whole dongle routine which was miserable in comparison.
Where the blog was launched from and enabled some Skype contact as well
Comfort levels - Comfort levels are key to enjoyable travel being that rather than an endurance test at times. One of the best investments we made was Oxford handgrip heaters. We use these heaps and not just in particularly cold weather. They can make a difference between needing to stop and don warmer clothing sooner than you want to stop and keeps the hands and arms comfortable with warm blood moving about instead of cold white hands that don’t want to unwrap from the handgrips. Couldn’t recommend them too highly. We also have them on the bikes at home.
God bless our grip heaters, yummy and warm and adjustable. The switch is nice and handy in the centre of the handlebars.
Packing – Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise! I would pack even less in spite of thinking that hasn’t been possible before each trip we have done thus far. This can be dependent on not having all one night stays so that there’s time to get the socks and undies and anything else that needs washing dry of course. I usually take days to pack and keep reducing and reducing…clearly I need a bit longer to reduce again though we had plenty of room in our cases and they were light enough to be under the domestic weight limits so we did well….and had we not had the cruise at the end of the trip I wouldn’t have had to take as much ‘street clothing’ with me. Good luck to all the packers!
Yep, this is the case in the throes of being packed and I had room in it when I came home even though I didn’t wear everything I took
Packing / Gear on bikes – One of the things to remember about what you take with you is that everything you wear when the weather is cold has to have a place to fit when the weather is hot and you peel what becomes unnecessary layers off. Last year after the first rain and retrieving our waterproofs from our suitcase..…in the rain, we bought a waterproof pack and zip tied it on Norm’s parcel rack to hold the waterproofs and when we put them on we replaced them with the small back pack Norm carried with all our documents (insurance policies rego papers, passports, accommodation details for the night etc.). This year we also arranged for a couple of basic panniers to be fitted to Norms bike to enable us to take some bike covers with us to cover the bikes at night which is a security measure (takes more commitment from would be no hopers to damage or fiddle with a bike) and protects them from the weather. It also meant we had room for essentials like polishing rags and Plexus and some motor oil and the like as well as ample room for waterproofs and anything else we wanted room for. It also means on the side of the road in a sudden downpour you can access or stow your gear and stow without having to be super precise. It also gave us room for an occasional purchase which wasn’t bad. We’re happy we have the mix right now.
Carrying the gear. Suitcase, panniers, small pack on parcel rack and backpack. All sorted!