KTM bike in a barn with rider in front

Camping on the land post-work

1st April 2023 was the start of a new part of life and to draw a line of sorts under the routine that went before, I decided to ride up to our land (half an acre of land with an old barn without services) and spend a few nights camping (instead of sitting at my desk). It would also be a testing ground for my trip to Norway later in the year, a chance to try some new devices too.

It wasn’t a huge trip. Here’s the overall map.

Just under 200 miles in total.

First, thoughts about the weather and the impact that had. This Spring has been cold and wet here, slow to come. I was lucky in a way for my few days in that the days were sunny and, if you were in the sun and out of the wind, warm. In fact just warm enough on Tuesday to mow the whole field without a shirt – it takes most of the day to do. But as soon as it started to get dark, the temperature fell and the nights were (forecast to be) 2 degrees c. The grass, and my tent, had frost on it in the morning. That’s a first for me.

I have two sleeping bags. I think of them as a southern and a northern European version. I packed by Rab Ascent 900 (I think) which is a down bag and super toasty, though it takes up a lot of room in a pack – 3 or even 4 times the volume of my Mont Bel lighter bag – so its quite a commitment to pack for a journey. So at 9pm I crawled into it with long johns, thermal socks, three layers including a Patagonia quilted jacket – and fell asleep. I awoke during the night of course and was over heated and removed layer after layer and was still too warm. But I noticed that the outside of my sleeping bag was wet with condensation and so was the inside of the tent. In the morning I discovered that the foot of the bag where it rubbed up against the tent was very wet. I felt confident that all would dry out in the warm sun the next day but wondered whether this would trouble my camping in Norway where the next day may well be wet. (Mo I Rana is 9 degrees high and 4 low – that’s the furthest north and other cities seem to go no lower than 10 or 12 degrees coldest, though rain is frequent). I need to decide whether I need to take this large bag….

For the second night I slept in the barn on a makeshift bed, next to my bike.

I’ve been gathering some new kit and gadgets over the winter for my trip. Here’s a summary of what worked well and what didn’t and what problems I need to sort out before June 12th:

The helmet – Nexx Viljord flip front

Occasionally it was totally comfortable and at times really so uncomfortable you want the ride to end. Nice in the city to ride with the lid open. Riding at speed with the lid up is possible but not for long. Moving it around the head helps and opening it for a spell then closing again also helps. Needs wearing in big time.  At times I thought this just will not work and I need to swallow the fact I’ve wasted £350 and try the Schuberth again and get some proper fitting advice.

Sena 20s Evo bluetooth headset

Works well clear and loud. No crackling or distortion. Which way turns it up and can the radio be got to work? A good buy though I didn’t use the earbuds that I had made (£180) as I didn’t need to because the sound was loud enough but also the helmet was too tight. 

Trangia stove

Is heavy and takes up valuable space but the adjustment of the flame is superb. Lights easily. I used the frying pan and the useful kettle but not the saucepan that I took. It’s a different experience to the lightweight stove I had before. It’s an end to perching and instability. I don’t think I’m going to go back.

GoPro Hero 11 camera

Easy to use and nice to see what I’m filming which you can’t do with the Sony. The 1/4” adapter mount is useless because it doesn’t tighten enough so if not level to start with, it slowly tilts back till headshots from the handlebar mount end up as sky shots. I will use the ball mount instead. That might be better made. 

Sony action cam – its not new just newly mounted

The waterproof container got locked somehow so buttons didn’t work and I failed to record some things. Also the remote refused to find the camera as it often does and turning it on by hand is uncertain, even when unlocked. I need to sort this so that I know when it is turned on. Not knowing is not good enough.

Rollei travel tripod

this is a new piece of kit. Is easy to use, quite small and light to pack. I set it up when I arrived and kept it around and used it a lot. Is a game changer for self filming. Would I use it on campsites or by the roadside? Maybe not. Looks good. Versatile as all my cameras have a thread and the GoPro adapter doesn’t slip on that because you tend to use it level.

Hario Coffee filter dripper for One

Again, it takes up more room than the GSI dripper that folds completely flat – but that had design faults. This delivers a much nice and more predictable cup of coffee and does not sag, bend or get stuck on top of the cup. This is a keeper – and only cost a tenner.


First experience of Klim Carlsbad suit

Its a real achievement – at last I have some motorcycle gear that fits properly. I think I have been getting skinnier in recent years so I had one more reason to sell my BMW Rally 3 suit, bought in the first flush of excitement at GS ownership but now slightly flappy and ahem… inappropriately branded. I began to think that it had a quasi-military look with its yellow flashes and BMW roundels on the arms. I wouldn’t feel comfortable spending the evening in the pub wearing it as motorcycling magazines are fond of saying – both because of its huge armour and the style just mentioned. It has been a great combo and has seen me through very many miles of riding in hot weather and in cold (Norway snow), well designed and well made – no complaints and a moment of sadness to see it go. But I really wanted to reinvent my riding and something more understated was definitely desired. There’s no shortage of stuff to be purchased of course but always a sucker for branding and endorsements from Youtube riders, I aimed at something made by Klim, though perhaps I should have spent more time researching less popular brands.

Nevertheless, Klim Carlsbad jacket – size Small and the trousers – 30″ waist which are really difficult to find but as a stroke of immense good fortune Adventure bike shop in Suffolk had some returned by a customer who could not squeeze himself into them – result. They fit perfectly and are black, like the jacket. I wore them on the train up to collect my bike and did not feel conspicuous or uncomfortable, just noisy as I walked. Swish swish. I’ve just worn them for the first time on a ride from Cambridge down to London.

Pluses: they are a great weight, have two good cargo type pockets which will be where I put keys, they are the only trousers that I don’t get my toes stuck somewhere invisible trying to get into them so another result. They accommodate big boots really well. The knee and hip armour is not huge.

Not so goods: they have a kind of webbing across the inside of the crotch behind the zipper which I presume helps their waterproofness – but it makes it awkward to wee and not so easy to do discretely in those lay-by standing behind the bike pretending to look at a map moments of urgency. The flaps at the end of the legs have nice zips and press studs in three tightnesses – but they are toward the back of the legs instead of at the side so awkward to reach.

Wonder what the clenched fist is about

The jacket: Is also good.

Pluses: a good weight – it was 12 degrees c when riding from Cambridge to London in November and my chest was a little cold with all the vents closed so it promises to be good in hot weather on trips to warmer climes; the armour, like the trousers is not huge so will not take up so much room on the floor of my minimalist tent where lying down room is at a premium; lots of pockets both inside and out – on the road developing a muscle memory about where to reach for particular things saves anxiety and energy. And there is a small pocket on the front for an SOS device inviting the purchase of one more piece of kit. Clearly there’s lots of ventilation available – I can’t wait till summer to try.

So, how do you pronounce Klim? I wish it was with a short i – but I think its meant to sound like ‘climb’. which is strange. Their stuff is made in Vietnam (one time enemy of the US) like Mosko Moto’s stuff. All I can say is that they have strong needles in Vietnam. And that they are pretty good at needle work.

Uneasy Rider: Travels Through a Mid-life Crisis (Paperback) by Mike Carter

Kindle version, I think, is here.

It was partly good reviews on the Amazon site (though I returned in early 2011 and found a great many very negative reviews) that made me buy this book and partly a holiday to Croatia in 2008 (one of the places visted by the author). The holiday and the travelling (sleeping on a bench at Gatwick on the night before the really early flight to to Split) turned out to be tedious, in fact a holiday from hell for a number of reasons I won’t go into so the book became a trusted and fond travel companion.

Others have said they laughed out loud at this book and I did too – at about 2am at Gatwick for example. I think the funniest parts are where the going is toughest – in Finland where we hear about the seductions of the Leprosy museum (or was that in Norway?) At first I was uneasy (to coin a phrase) at the mid-life stuff because it created one of those all-too-easy-to identify-with personas that in some ways can be unhelpful (like grumpy old men) but as we hear, near the end of the book, about another reason why the author visited some of these countries and some of these locations, I found myself very moved. I wouldn’t be suprised if many readers of this book have experienced some of the same life events as the author and can identify with the desire to revisit locations that have, to put it simply, bad memories.

I really recommend this book. It is intelligent and hugely funny in places and has redoubled my determination to take my bike to some (definately not all – Albania for instance) of the countries visited by Mike Carter. (2021 – I’m considering Albania and other Balkan countries…)

Many reviewers on Amazon call the author a big headed buffoon whose trip and bike was paid for by the Observer newspaper (how do they know that?). I don’t agree (well, I can’t comment about who paid for the trip because I don’t know). If you get into the zone of his self-deprecating but not entirely original humour, the book is really enjoyable. Some reviewers complain that he’s not ‘a proper biker’ which begs the question of when can you call someone riding a motorbike ‘a biker’. Some have suggested that he made up half or even all of it. I do doubt that but I must say I did wonder whether he embellished quite a few of the encounters he recounts. But the geography is real and I’ve used it as a reference for my upcoming trip around Norway – the highlight will be the trip to the Leprosy museum. I just hope its raining when I get there.

Finally, I wish the book had included a map of the journey.

Charley Boorman – Race to Dakar (DVD)

I saved buying this DVD (I see I bought it back in 2010) till the evenings had got darker and my son finally left home leaving me to the guilty pleasures of watching motorcycle vids in the empty house. Overall, this is a powerful documentary. The Dakar is not for the faint hearted and you have to take your hat off to anyone who dares enter it, Charley Boorman included. The characters are nearly all men in this and they pretty much conform to a stereotype of driven, inarticulate (there is a huge amount of effing and blinding), self-obsessed and in the early episodes this gets annoying; for example how they seem ready to blame eachother when things don’t go to plan. But when they are in their element – actually roughing it on the race – they become more likable and admirable. The series is well edited, it keeps up the tension (without the stupid staged ‘fallings out’ of the Long Way documentaries) and the end is very moving. If you like this kind of stuff, you will love it. (I’ve recently copied it to my iPhone for those late evening winter train journies home after work).

If you don’t have it already its still available from Amazon here.

As a note from 10 years later, the Dakar moved to South America in 2009 after being cancelled the previous year because of an apparent security threat. From 2020 it moved, controversially, to Saudi Arabia.

The Africa Eco Race started in 2009 as a rally designed to return to the return to the spirit of the original race. Lyndon Poskitt has put a range of impressively produced videos of this race on line.

New exhaust not new note yet

SC Projects are based in what, on Google street view, looks like an ugly building in an industrial estate on the edges of Milan. But their products are anything but ugly – and, as replacement slip on exhausts go, they are well priced even including the nearly £100 tax that we have to pay post Brexit. Their products look good and sound good – especially when you remove the sound-killing baffle. THanson shows his struggle, successful in the end removing his from the same model of exhaust that I have. The end result in terms of sound is impressive. My efforts with grips and my best efforts have so far not budged the db killer. I have the feeling the design has been updated since he made his video.

shame there’s no soundtrack
Just 20 miles to try it out. It did not fall off or catch fire