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Learning what works and what doesn't to streamline future trips.

Toll devices for the bikes – After using Toll devices last trip we checked our route for the UK and Ireland to discover that in the majority of places motorbikes were free so didn’t pursue them this year. One less thing to organise and just made sure we kept a credit card and coffee change handy in a pocket.

GPS – We continued to enjoy having a GPS unit each and would recommend this to anyone who is travelling overseas. Even so we found that both cards which were purchased at the same time had an occasional variation of route between them….so just as well we don’t have inter-helmet communications or Norm could have been offended by my commentary. Ha ha. We use Garmin ZUMO 550’s and they are a good size to see and have lots of things other than just routes so an invaluable resource.

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 used another sign this year this time in English of course and again got lots of waves and many queries when we were parked up asking if we really were Aussies on tour and one comment that ours would be one of the few countries where citizens would be comfortable putting such a sign on the back….and when we think of the European history of divide / conquer / destroy and rebuild with different owners / regimes we could see his point.

This year’s sign got lots of notice as did the French one last year

Experience shows – We both enjoy the fact that the more we ride, and ride together the more fluid we are and our routine is recognised better by each other so made for less stress again which was good as we discovered many narrow winding lanes with gravel and other obstacles to be traversed.

Notebook for blog – I continued to use my Sony Vaio notebook for the Blog which works well. It’s amazing really how much electronic gear we have to take with us with different chargers for everything of course and cameras and the like. Adds a lot of weight and uses valuable luggage space. I think we were charged for Wifi and only one hotel and it was free everywhere else we stayed and available in just about every hotel or café we dined in. A big change in two years.

Where the blog was launched from and enabled some Skype contact as well though speeds are often frustratingly slow for Skype but at least we can talk even if the vision is a bit like a slow cartoon view.

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. We also got some long johns to wear (Norm’s wool – mine not). His were more effective so I will have to try them and make sure they don’t make me itch before the next trip.

God bless our grip heaters, yummy and warm and adjustable. The switch is nice and handy in the centre of the handlebars.

Packing – Yet again I packed things I didn’t wear but I was conscious that we had mostly one night stays this trip which can make getting washing dry a trial and we had a drama in Belfast getting things returned from the laundry so remains a work in progress for next trip. I’m getting better at buying things I can screw up and shake out without looking scrunched..

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. We have a waterproof pack and zip tied to 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.). He also had a couple of basic panniers fitted to his bike to stow our bike covers 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. The mix works. (See the pic above with the signs). We will have to work on this again next year in a new country.

Goodbye to our UK bikes – We were delighted that since our bikes were known to the shop and they knew they were well maintained (they maintained them) the bike shop at Faversham bought our bikes off us before we headed home. The plan had been to sell them (2 years – 3 trips) and then tackle the USA so that is what we are doing and planning for next year and sorting out if we will hire or buy over there though buying and storing gives us better certainty re luggage capacity and carrying as well as the bikes being a known entity. We will see. Watch this space for further developments.

The bikes as we collected them….was hard to hand them over as we left. They served us well as did our association with the Bike Shop personnel who have become good friends....but that means we are about to start planning for the USA next year.

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