Testing from Android

I recently bought an Android tablet from Portuguese company Thork Racing that includes their own navigation device and software, the DMD-865. As an Apple enthusiast since I first clapped eyes on a Macintosh SE30 in 1989, I find the Android solar system is completely unfamiliar to me. I wanted to try something different from my reliance on Garmin products since my first GPS I bought in 2008 for a first trip out of the UK.

I first heard about the DMD (Drive Mode Dashboard)-865 from the Adventure Spec ‘On Our Radar‘ slot then saw Nomad Sweden enthuse about it in more detail. More to say when I manage to bring the bike down to install it….

Later: Though Thork Racing does not say much about it, the device is their implementation of the Chinese MDT865 8″ Android Tablet (PTCRB) made by Topicon. Thork put their logo on it and load up their DMD software – with a lifetime licence.

I have not been out on the bike much this year, mainly because it has been such a wet Spring and partly because of a new animal in the house, so have only taken it on two journeys since installing the holder and handlebar controller (not difficult) while keeping the Garmin wiring in place in case I decide to change back. I found a number of problems that I needed to sort, some of which don’t seem to be discussed much on the DMD forums. The first is that as a Garmin user I gave no thought to the issue of gloves and touchscreens. The Garmin continues to use an older system of touchscreens meaning that touching Garmin GPS units with gloves is absolutely no problem. Phones and tablets use a different system, that allows use of two fingers for example. That the DMD unit would not recognise my gloved fingers was a major shock on the road. Solution: I have some stick on fingertips from Glovetacts. Here’s a review. I’ve used four of these sticky pads – on the thumb and index finger of both gloves, on the left for using while riding and the right to use when stopped, as I’m right-handed. Its is OK but I will search for some new gloves that work without the sticky pads. Problem 2: the DMD needs a network/phone network connection for mapping software to work and without a SIM, you simply get a message from Google maps saying that you are offline – so tough. The DMD’s own software does work because you download a map for your country or region on installation and the GPS receiver in the device does the work which is good – but other software won’t work – unless I am missing something. Solution: tethering is possible to a phone and works well until you turn off. You need to reconnect when you start the device again, which is annoying, again, unless I am missing something. Problem 3: pairing with my Sena bluetooth headset is good but the default volume is incredibly low. As a newcomer to Android, I will need to work out how to turn the device volume up loud – as well as the headset itself. Problem 4: I bought an OBD2 sensor. At first the DMD software did not connect and display any data from the sensor – but now, for no apparent reason, it does. Result. Problem 5: in bright sunshine the screen is unreadable, even with the anti-glare screen cover I now have. Again, this may just need the brightness turning right up, but its a problem I don’t remember with the Garmin Zumo XT I also own. Many people complain about Garmin being un-user friendly but I now see its features that I took for granted, or perhaps I just have worked out how to use Garmins properly over the years that I have used them and I need to spend more time with the DMD unit.

I have a tendency to swap to some new gadget just when I am getting familiar with how to work what I have so I need to spend much more time exploring the DMD, and not just find a minimal set of things I know work and ignore everything else, possibly missing out on some functionality that I would appreciate. One big advantage of taking this kind of tablet travelling is that I can use it off the bike, to write up trip notes or upload them to a blog for example. I will take it on my trip to Yorkshire and Northumberland later in the summer and get to know it better.

Motorcycle Live Show 2023: NEC Birmingham

Motorcycle shows – what can I say? For me, after the first few when I had just discovered riding and a whole new world of bikes and kit, the experience has tended to not live up to the expectation. Not quite. Unless you have something particular you are gong for, like having moulds taken of your ears for earplugs or trying on a particular helmet for size, in which case you have a mission. So I have to ask myself, what do I expect? I will return to that later.

The main attraction of course is the bikes, all those bikes that whizz past on YouTube videos of adventurers are there for you to climb on, get a sense of their height, their bulk, maybe, or lack of it. The main distraction is the crowds of other people. Take four fifths of them away and I think I would be in heaven.

Here are some of my favourites

The bike that attracted the biggest crowds was the new large GS from BMW, the 1300. BMW seem to have done the impossible – or difficult – of updating an adventure bike and not coming up with something heavier. Is it good looking? I’m not sure.

It seemed that the old favourites, like the GS, attracted the crowds while stalls offering new concepts like electric bikes or even a folding motorcycle (like my Brompton) were often empty. I wish I had spent more effort talking with the people on those stands. Most markets, I presume, are conservative, offering what they know that people already have an appetite for and will buy, so new ideas and the people that back them are more risky, more innovative and ought to be more interesting. Next year maybe.

29th June: riding from Emden to HvH and thoughts on the Stenna ferry to Harwich

Thursday 29th June at just gone 9 pm – because I am on the Stenna ship to Harwich and we have just gone back into British time. I’ve just been up on the deck. When the ship left the dock at the Hook of Holland I watched all the way as it sailed out of the harbour. It was amazing because I think of Hook of Holland as a small place, little more than the ferry terminal and its infrastructure but as the ship sails up towards the spit, I suppose, there is a beach at the end which is rather beautiful and what look like apartments in a small semi-circle facing out to the sea, right on the sand. They must be amazing places to stay in. And there is a spit, a road that goes out further and, after that, a wall made of rocks. I have no idea how they would have built this. The wall goes out for half a kilometre, or a full kilometre maybe. And at the very end of that is a small light house and after that you are in the open sea. All of this with the sun setting though it was freezing cold in the wind. After seeing the ship away from land I went back into my cabin to, again, get my head down early to not be too tired for the morning.

(On my recording, I did neglect to mention my enjoyable ritual of having fish chips and mushy peas and a small bottle of chilled white wine in the restaurant. After a couple of weeks of cooking by my tent, I really appreciate this kind of meal.

Once at Harwich, I have to ride back home to deal with all the domestic things awaiting, needing sorting out. I think it is about two hours to ride home. Who knows? Certainly on the way out from central London to Harwich the traffic was terrible. It’s a bit of a heartsink journey going back into London. Its much nicer leaving London.

Now, earlier today: The crossing from Kristiansand to Emden was calm. I had one coffee and a croissant and then another coffee before packing everything up in my cabin and sitting on deck for the last half hour or so of the sailing. We got off the boat about half past ten in the morning. There was a huge number of motorcyclists that people seemed to stand in crowds to watch (even a German policeman waved at us all). There was a line of maybe 100 or more motorcyclists all taking this turn and then that turn. Eventually once we got on the the autobahn – A31 I think –  this large group dispersed. I rode down that long road for a while and then turned right into Holland. I stopped for a snack, then carried on heading towards Utrecht and Rotterdam, stopped again for petrol and a drink and then headed off. I don’t know whether it is getting worse or I am more nervous but the big ring roads around Utrecht and Rotterdam have so many lanes and most drivers are really wanting to drive as fast as possible. It was really crazy. By the time I got to the A20 and then the A12 and then the smaller roads to the Hook of Holland there is not so much traffic but it is crazy before that. It’s a nasty bit of riding for any journey to Europe that involves landing at Hook of Holland you have to run that gauntlet before you can get very far.

That is the end of my recording of that day and of the whole trip. The ride down into London was not too bad though when I arrived home I found that my bedroom had been flooded because someone staying here (my sister in law) had left the Velux window over my bed open all night (she went off to stay elsewhere) in torrential rain. The water even ran through the floorboards and down into the next floor. My mattress was soaked. Then there was less than a week before I set off on a family holiday to the outer Hebrides so I had little time to reflect on the trip immediately afterwards. But now (in mid-September) is a chance.

First – its such a shame about the Holland Norway line going bust and leaving, I read, 75,000 people out of pocket and another group stranded. It is a useful route, not cheap but not terribly pricey either.

Norway as a m/c destination: its beautiful obviously with a varied terrain and also offers the challenge of a ride all the way to Nordkap. Camping sites are plentiful and many have cabins which are brilliant alternatives to camping or hotelling (expensive). Its not too expensive if you don’t eat out or buy wine or spirits. It’s a long way to go to get there – and now there’s one less ferry route.

GoPro 11 and helmet set up: I captured some good footage but forgot the short adapter cable that joins my helmet mic to the camera so no running commentaries. This has made putting together a series of videos about the trip a bit less interesting – though I have lots of footage.

Mosko Moto luggage. I’m reluctantly getting used to the Revolver luggage and took a much larger Shad roll top bag instead of the standard MM roll top – more than twice the volume I think. Stashing shopping was a pain and I lost my home made cake and bread from the back of the bike on the way to Harwich. 

The Garmin Zumo XT GPS behaved strangely and often stopped charging for no reason. If it breaks down I’m tempted to try something completely different- an Android approach here.

The bike was good. At the ports I could see I was the smallest bike amid loads of big GSs.

More to come on this post plus pics…..

Going home on the MS Romantika

STOP the presses! I have just (september 9th) learnt that Holland Norway Line has been declared bankrupt and I believe that some travellers with return tickets are having to make their own way home. This is such a shame as it was a startup in only 2022. When travelling with them it was obvious that ferries are such a complex business to operate. I feel so sorry for them, for those who had the vision for the company and for all of their employees who seemed a very sweet and professional bunch of people. There seem to be fewer and fewer ferries in Europe, forcing travellers to use carbon-crunching air flight. See here for some more details.

28th June: This is 28th June and this is the news from cabin 8814 of the Romantika. Its my second cabin on this voyage so far, the ferry sailing from Kristiansand down to Emden in Germany. In my first cabin, I thought I had vaguely heard some music in it and thought ‘this is going to be slightly annoying’, had a shower, had a short sleep and then I heard loud singing and guitar playing. It turned out that the cabin was right under the sundeck with the Entertainer who was, I presume, entertaining a whole bunch of people a few feet above me. I was really pleased with myself that instead of just putting up with it I felt no hesitation in going up to the information desk and asked if there was another cabin. As a result they have given me a new cabin on the same deck but right at the other end of the ship. I am so pleased. Its completely quiet here.

How did the day go? I didn’t sleep well last night (again). I was awake at 3.30 and slept fitfully until shortly after 7am. I got up and made some lovely coffee with my filter dripper which has been great. I washed up, washed out the little hut (which would have cost Krhundreds if I had asked the staff to do it). I headed out over the sand dunes to walk briefly on the beautiful beach. There was not a soul in sight – just footprints. On the way back to my hut I chatted to the couple of cyclists I mentioned before, who are Italian and certainly well into their forties. They had cycled here from Italy(!) and are cycling to Nordkap planning to arrive there by August. The timetable of people on pushbikes is so different to mine. I certainly take my hat off to them.

I headed off with the bike packed up (that is so satisfying) taking it easy on the road, unlike yesterday when I hurried around. Eventually the last 14k was motorway and lots of tunnels (and higher speed limits) and made it to the ferry. I was greeted by the sight of loads of motorcyclists who were mostly Dutch and German.

There were a couple of guys from England who told me what they had achieved (which immediately made me feel that I did not do enough, was not adventurous enough): they did some off-road riding, they wild camped, they rode the famous Trollstigen Pass, none of which I had done. They went up to the arctic circle too. They were nice guys. It was the sort of conversation you have where very quickly you realise that somebody is a talker and not a listener, so you just settle into listening and they talk – which is fine (and they had had an interesting time).  There was lots of luggage. Lots of people have lots of luggage on these large touring and ‘adventure’ bikes – metal panniers PLUS rolltop bags. Much more luggage than I have been carrying. In fact much more than I used to take when I had a large bike and metal panniers (I still have them and must sell them).  There were a couple of KTM 1090 Adventures looking very nice. One had nice black metal panniers. (I was tempted to think about getting metal panniers for my bike for a future tour on road (not offroad where they would be a liability.)

After a couple of instalments we got onto the boat – and I have already described the rest.

I’m now going to head off to the buffet early before things run out (you can see my German heritage at work here) and afterwards read more of Ubik by Philip K Dick (Wikipedia says: The story is set in a future 1992 where psychic powers are utilized in corporate espionage, while cryonic technology allows recently deceased people to be maintained in a lengthy state of hibernation.).

Tomorrow morning at 10.15 we get into Emden. I was looking at my map of the Netherlands thinking that I will ride straight down south on a German autobahn by the border and then turn right into the Netherlands because the motorways are much faster in Germany. I know I will get to the Hook of Holland early but its not too bad a building. You can sit inside and get a coffee from a machine. I would sooner do that than what I did on the way over which was such a drawn out and laborious ride. I will be happy to sit and read until it is time to board….

Its now 7 minutes past 7 in the evening on 28th June, on the ship and in my new cabin 8814 as opposed to 8141. A couple of observations: I have just enjoyed a pleasant hour or just less, sitting in the buffet eating salad, then fish, then more salad then some deserts and maybe three glasses of anonymous white wine. I was sitting there people watching – as usual. I was watching all the people that chose salad mainly and have come to the obvious conclusion that during the life-course people change their shape. That’s observation number 1. Observation number 2: after eating I strolled out on to the sundeck where the singer had been singing earlier when I got into my first cabin. It was two minutes past 7 when I arrived there and it was completely deserted. There was no singer, no audience and nobody making any noise at all. That whole event goes into the category of – well two things – possibly being hasty (in asking to move cabin) but the real category that my request to move goes into is into the mental category of ‘regretting choices’ which is an entirely useless category. It was the right thing to do – to move. The music could have gone on for hours  – and I remember the employee on the information desk mentioning to me that the entertainment lasts until 11pm.

There is no network here in the cabins which is nice, in some ways. Its very early, only 7pm but I will get to bed in a couple of hours. As I wrote before, we dock at 10.15, I ride down through Germany and the Netherlands and repeat this experience on the ferry to Harwich. The ride from Harwich into London will be the bleakest part (the A12 is no fun) but arriving home will be great.

Capitalism and campsites; thoughts at Ogna Camping

Stardate 27th June 2323 Captain’s Log Supplemental. There are two other observations that I’d like to make about this camp site. The first is its orientation which is to the west, south west. The first night that I was here after having got wet in the rain and arrived on a completely cloudy heavily overcast day, the evening was still thick cloud and wind. It also rained again later, so in other words it was a really horrible evening. This evening is very different. There is some little cloud but basically it’s a clear sky so you can see the way that the sun, as it goes down (its not terribly low, even now at 9.15) is so beautiful. All the buildings here, all the plots are orientated towards the west where there are grassy dunes and then the sea. So the sun shines into every plot and every building and suddenly the orientation makes sense. I sat on the plastic chair that they left in the porch of this cabin, sheltered from the wind but with the beautiful warm evening sun on my face. When I walked down to the washblock just now I could see that lots of other people here are doing the same.

lines of huts

OK, other observations, actually two. One is that there is a grassy space, a lovely flat and lush space here where a couple of cyclists have put up a tent with their bikes, and their clothes drying in the sun. Its good to see proper travellers. The other thing I noticed when I looked up the hill, because this is a terraced site, from where the washroom is at the bottom, I realised how huge this site is. There is just line after line of these newly built cabins which are much more high spec than where I am staying each at Kr1000 per night. There are lots of them and although everybody is facing the sun, and I could see half a dozen or so groups of people in their huts enjoying the evening sun, they are all separate from each other with little fences between the cabins that give everybody privacy. I have to say that it is not one of those friendly, informal camp sites. There is something atomised about it. It seems that that is what you get. You have this drive for profit to replace this kind of old school hut that I am staying in that’s cheap with these more lavish, expensive offers.

You get people who come to enjoy them and get the most out of them but there’s no sense of that communal mucking in together, chatting, that kind of down to earth feeling that you get – certainly in some English campsites. (Because it’s a cheap and cheerful option, often for families with small children who are used to having to make contact with those around them and have to be informal because of dealing with small kids in public places). As I was washing up in this soulless space on my own, a German woman came in with her own washing up. We said a few words. I said ‘I am nearly finished’ and she just stood there next to me while I laboriously washed up my saucepans and plates. She just waited her turn to use the facilities that she had paid for. It felt very odd. I know there was a language barrier and I could have made more effort. There isn’t much – in fact there is no greeting of people as you walk by them. In some sites there definitely is and that feels very nice. Here, it feels as though people have paid their money to get themselves a good experience and that is what they are here for. Also, on the topic of money, there are lots of really nice looking mobile homes, converted vans, two or three of those, very high spec. There was one huge mobile home that was literally the same size as a coach (that could carry 100 people perhaps from A to B) and there just seemed to be a late middle-aged German couple in it. I don’t know how they would have coped on the hairpin route that I came back on this afternoon. That vehicle probably would not be able to make it. It seemed greedy for space.

So, these two thoughts: this is a beautiful campsite and the orientation is amazing but the way it is going up market, like my previous site where they have a ‘vision’ to make a smarter card-operated offer, is losing something about what campsites can be at their best – in my view. I wonder whether this is a feature of sites that are close to the capital here where relatively wealthy people can easily travel to whereas the places much further north attract a very different clientele.

June 27th Scary hairpins on the coast: RV44

Tuesday 27th June. I’m still staying in my cabin in Ogna Camping, on the coast, south of Stavanger, and the cabin is very nice to have. Last night it was blowing a gale. It seems very windy here by the coast and it was wet again. I sat here and I luxuriated because I wasn’t in my little tent. I have paid for a second night here. This morning I thought I would take a short ride around here. There’s a place called Tondstad. Its about 50 or 60 miles from here and the road there is meant to be good to ride. I headed off, got some petrol, on route 42 up to Tonstad –  its quite high up. About 20 minutes into the ride I could see I was riding towards really quite dark clouds and the road started to look as though it had been wet and there was a fine drizzle in the air. I did not bring my waterproofs for some crazy reason. Maybe I forgot that I was in Norway. I thought, in a slightly defeatist way, ‘right, I’m outta here if it starts raining’ but it never did start raining. I got to Tonstad which is a pretty place and then I looked at the map and could see that route 42 carries on further. The question was, shall I go back the way I came or shall I take a slightly longer route? The GPS said that it would take 50 minutes to get to a place on the coast called Flekfjord and from there, it seemed there was a coast road back up to the campsite which is north of Egarsund. I did some spirited riding and there was not much other traffic. It was really enjoyable. I got to Flekfjord and then I was routed by the GPS onto the RV44 which is a road that hugs the coast. Its known as the North Sea Road. See this link on BestBiking Roads. And that’s when the excitement really started because it – well, I had no idea –  it’s a really twisty road full of steep hairpins going up, going down with lots of traffic, like caravans going both ways, though mainly going in the same direction as me which was good. It was the kind of route where you are asking – is this corner second gear, no, its first gear? Lets not go too wide coming out of it and there was just hairpin after hairpin. I would look ahead and see this line of caravans going up at some impossible angle, high above me but actually really close. The ride was on the borderline between exciting and really scary! And tiring because there was so much of it. Eventually the traffic came to a halt – on the flat – at some roadworks for five minutes or more. I turned off the engine and then realised that I did not have my helmet camera turned on so did not record any of that amazing riding. So you will just have to take my word for it.

Once the light changed I headed off, still quite a long way back to the campsite but on a much easier road to ride. I got back here about 3.15 or so exhausted. And now I must confess my mind is on packing for the morning and getting down to the ferry terminal by about 1.30. This seems a good time even though they have delayed the ferry from 3pm till 5pm (I think) but check-in still starts at 1. I am sure we can get on the boat early. We could last time. In the afternoon the sun shines into this cabin. Its beautiful and I have the curtain open. And its lovely and warm and the little porch is great – but as soon as you step out further you are in the wind (recording now includes wind noise) and it takes the temperature down by lots of degrees. My bike is sitting there in the sunshine looking a bit sad. Its covered in mud and the tyres look a bit worn, and the dodgy GPS connection needs sorting. But it has done me well.