June 3rd, 2016
Those of you who knew we’re going must have been wondering where we are and how we’re doing since we last saw you in March or April. A lot has happened since then, mainly a a lot of work!. Because you can do only a little when still employed, the bulk of the work has been done full-time in the last weeks. Preparing a trip like this for the first time requires an incredible amount of work. From administrative chores like insurances, notifying the Swiss immigration service, international driving licenses and temporary importation permits. And then there’s figuring out what to bring and especially what not to bring, where to put it in the bags and on the bike. Also setting up this website, gathering information for those who stay at home and finding out which visas to pick up where. Have I mentioned the luxury problems like what to do with a balcony full of plants and a garage full of other vehicles? This list goes on and on…
On top of that there is bike preparation. Apart from last oil and coolant changes I spent quite a bit of time on additions to the electrical system of both bikes: a navigation system, an auxiliary power supply to charge electronics in the tank bag, a louder horn, additional lights and heated grips. Of course you can tie all that to the wire that goes to the headlight but you’ll blow a fuse at best or start a fire in your wiring loom for some more excitement. That’s why I had to consider carefully which relays and cables to use and where to put and route them. And that’s not so easy on a bike with limited space. On top of that I wanted to be able to make the bike original again, so the switches and equipment must be removable by means of weatherproof connectors as opposed to being hard-wired into the bike’s original electrical system. All of this took me a week and a half. Per bike. The take-home-message is that a good crimping tool can save you 30 hours per day.
Was all this work really necessary? I fully understand that you could just take off and try to solve all your problems on the road and hope that some nice people back home help you out if things go wrong that you could have prevented if you had cared. Once on the road, problem solving will take a lot more time than preventing problems while still at home. So I think that we will be able to enjoy the trip more because we prepared properly.
And then there’s the comfort level thing. How much do you need to do before you’re comfortable enough to go? Cutting yourself loose from the certainties of many years of independent organized western life takes a lot of effort. It’s all part of the process of getting out and doing it, I guess. First-timers tend to exaggerate and we’re not different. Have we done too much? Definitely. But I’ll be happy to report in retrospect what was too much and what wasn’t.
There were some delays too. The decision to mount a top case to Petra’s bike came rather late and involved welding and mounting a standard top case base to her BMW XCountry because the top case manufacturer didn’t have one for this rather exotic little bike. On top of that, Touratech ran out of top cases! They couldn’t tell whether they would deliver within two weeks or three months, so we had to arrange a top case elsewhere and pick it up in Germany because they wouldn’t ship to Switzerland.
And last but not least we found out that the BMW’s already tailored suspension was too weak although we’d loaded it with the weight as specified to our suspension specialist. Somehow theory and practice didn’t line up and we had to go back to have a stiffer spring mounted. That cost us some more time, but on the upside we now have an Indian nickname for the BMW: Stiff Spring (which is funnier in German as the word for spring is the same as for feather).
We’ll probably go tomorrow! Yay!