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.


Nexx Viljord flip front helmet very first impressions

Yesterday this much anticipated (by me) helmet arrived in my front porch. It seemed the slightly pragmatic answer to my plan to use a flip front on my next trips, making immigration, buying petrol and having a drink or snack much easier. The newly released (and v expensive) Schuberth E2 was my first option but trying on a couple of sizes at the MCN motorcycle show back in February revealed to me that my head seems to fall between M and L for Schuberth. So plan B, Nexx was cheaper by a couple of hundred pounds and also, I realised, could save me buying a new Bluetooth headset as I could use my existing XComm and the expensive moulded wired earbuds that are on order, arriving soon.

First nervous impressions out of the box: the sun visor had not been attached, and rattled around and seemed broken. On the verge of returning the helmet I found instructions on how to fit it – first problem solved.

So trying it on: hmmm Large is probably the right size for me but – when closed the helmet is very tight around my manly jaw. Perhaps I could live with that. Perhaps it will give slightly as people say. The opening is a bit more slit-like than my other open face helmets and because I’ve pushed the helmet slightly upwards to make it more comfortable around the jaw my field of vision is restricted downwards – but I can probably also live with that. Sunglasses do fit inside it but slot in at an odd angle. Again that could be made to work. Flipping up is clunky. Flipping down is a bit of a struggle and the visor closes itself when you flip up – annoying – again just a bit. I see why Schuberth made such a fuss about their new helmet not doing that. When it latches closed the tightness around the jaw becomes on the verge of unacceptable. But weighed against the excitement of a new lid, I can probably live with this.

But now the first real disappointment: my Nexx XComm does not fit this helmet. The cut out is too small so I’d need to shell out on their new version XComm2. (Its £195) . Not exactly the end of the world – but a careful look at the XComm2 manual on line shows that it does not have a separate connector for the earbuds so my clever adapter from Sena and custom earbuds on the way will not work with this model. So that could be another £190 wasted. So back to another plan – the Sena 10S if I can get it to fit on the side of this helmet. It is what I had planned to do, after all.

But with so many niggles, am I going to keep this helmet or return it? The decision is too emotional – after having this in my hands it would be a bit painful to return it and start the search all over again even though it might be the sensible option at the moment… lets sit with it for a while.

I’ve just seen Sena 10S is discontinued at Sportsbikeshop, though available at a discount at other places. I will go for it though expect fitting the clamp to be difficult – actually it seems its not a problem. I’ve now ordered a Sena 20S Evo (£165 from Sportsbikeshop) which seems it will meet my requirements with an earbud socket, and with more recent firmware updates so a better option than an already discontinued item.

The more I wear this helmet around the house, the more the uncomfortable parts are starting to soften. It will be very satisfying to get this helmet sorted with the bluetooth and GoPro mount.

Travel tripods – its a nightmare

Well, not quite that bad – just a difficult choice. A huge leap in interestingness of motorcycle travel video is some variation from the overused first person POV helmet camera footage to actual footage of rider riding into and out of shot on some beautiful corner on a twisty road. We’re so used to seeing seamless continuity on feature films that we don’t even notice it on motoYoutubers efforts, yet effort it takes to achieve. We must make some unconscious assumption that there is a film crew riding with our favourite motoYoubuer. Maybe on occasions there is but often its not the case. And how’s it done? With a laborious setting up of a shot in advance: scouting, stopping, riding back, getting out your tripod, trusting leaving your beloved camera running and unattended while you jump back on the bike, ride off, turn round and ride back into shot looking nonchalant; then stop again, ride back, pack everything away and ride off and repeat a few times a day. You really wouldn’t get very far in a day. It takes high motivation to record something to go to all this trouble. The other far less troublesome use of tripods is to film yourself unboxing and trying out various gadgets from camping stoves to er… new tripods.

So, having thought that I might just possibly try this, at least use number two, I am searching for the ideal lightweight tripod. There are actually a huge number to try to chose from. The high end carbon models cost over £300. They tend to get good reviews – but that’s a lot to spend on something that may be a very short-lived experiment. Then there are the scores of mid to cheap models, often praised highly by Youtubers who probably have only used them once or twice and like the design. Amazon reviews provide usually more sober evaluations. These cheap tripods are cheap because they might use a soft component where a slightly expensive piece of aluminium would have been better. So reviews show that these are often not very strong. I have been on the verge of ordering so many of these then read poor reviews and stopped in my tracks. The latest is this:

I have never heard of Sirui – but then I have never heard of most of these brands. Its small, its light and its cheap. I may risk it. But will I risk actually trying it out on a windy corner in Norway on my next trip?

Old School motorcycle garage in South London

Everything I do ends up with lashings of anxiety. My bike was/is due its first MOT just after Christmas so at my KTM dealer getting a service done a couple of weeks back I asked whether my high beam Baja Squadron Pro would pass its test. I knew that it was sold as not street legal and I also know that it is blindingly bright. I was told that it would be ok but the dipped headlight would bring ‘an instant fail’. And why? Because its beam sloped up to the right rather than the left which is how LHD countries require headlights to point. (See below – subtle, eh?)

So, on the mail to Aurora Rally equipment, based in definitely RHD Greece. They pointed me helpfully to a Hella light on Amazon with a LH slope, ordered then delivered a few days later. I thought I would replace both headlamps and brought the bike back home from its usual location in Cambridge. Its not really that difficult to remove the front of the tower, just a little time consuming. For me though, the new light looked like it could never fit because the connection seemed totally different, so every step proceeded with a sense that everything would go pearshaped on this job at any moment.

Needless to say everything worked out well. The dipped beam is a small LED (over €100) which easily replaced the halogen bulb that came with the new light, though the Aurora tower does not seem to have enough upwards adjustment for the dipped beam.

So, rather than head back up to Ipswich I took the bike to a local MOT and mechanics, ChasBikes on Kennington Road. I was uncertain that the bike would get through.

It was easy to book, and there was no waiting time when I arrived and the test was done in half an hour, possibly less. The place is great and a welcome antidote for those corporate dealers where you get a coffee from a machine while your bike is whisked off and the mechanic’s space is out of bounds to customers. This is an Old school motorcycle garage at its best. I sat about 10 feet away from the mechanic testing my bike and could explain its oddities – like the headlight only comes on after the bike has moved a couple of yards. Chas and his mechanic both have an enjoyable dry humour (‘when electric starts came out I thought this won’t catch on’). I’ll be back for sure – next year at least. Chas mentioned that he had lived in East Africa, but I didn’t enquire further. The bike passed and I learned a few things about how the bureaucratic MOT system works. Interestingly this is what I found when looking them up to do a Google review:

‘CHASBIKES was started in 1984 by Charles Holt M.A.(OXON), a former East African wildlife biologist. Originally located on an industrial estate in Greenwich, the company hired out Honda CX500’s to dispatch riders, before beginning to specialise in repairing them for the public. The company then moved on to work on other popular dispatch riding models….’ https://www.yell.com/biz/chasbikes-ltd-london-6519580/

And here he is:

Up on the coast at Laredo

Saturday 3rd September 

I’m writing this sitting on a rocky wall, dangling my boots over the beach just outside Rogaton Laredo campsite. I packed up at Leon this morning dismantling the one person town that I had built, my home from home, and was on the road by 11 heaving a sigh of relief as I rode off. There’s always something of a release to get out on the road. I didn’t surrender to the easy option of letting the gps take me all the way here on motorways but instead persuaded it to route me on some N roads, partly through the Picos to the coast. I’m so pleased. The route took me to a road where I looked down on the clouds around the mountains. I thought that Spain had saved me the most spectacular view till my last full day of riding. Eventually I had to join the motorway just down from the coast with the occasional view of the sea so I made quicker progress but it was a tiring last third of the ride. Once in Laredo the place felt so unfamiliar that I began to wonder if I had chosen the right town after all. I followed two huge caravans with F plates all the way here. I was determined to get in here first (in case they took the last spaces or more likely that they took up ages of time of the person running the site). They parked outside and I rode straight in. The lady in the desk said they could squeeze me it. This place is heaving with caravans and families older than in Rio Ulla. Someone had to move their car outside to free up a small space of grass that fits both my small tent and my motorcycle. It’s nice to need so little space.

Camping Playa del Regatón

Someone is riding along the beach on a horse. 

Beach by Camping Playa del Regatón

The campsite web presence is all about sustainability but to me it seem just like every other busy site crammed full of vacationers. The location is good though. It would be a pretty sad site to have nothing special about it. The have a cafe bar here that serves food from 6.30 so I will try it to avoid unpacking all my cooking equipment and to eat more of the unhealthy food I seem to be eating for some at least of this trip. I’m glad I had a good ride today as my sense of killing time for these last few days was starting to rise up. 

I am opposite a family who are constantly talking and disputing now doing some repairs with a power tool. I need to chill or to go for a walk. 

A couple of minutes walk, almost a turn around, and you are on this beach and all it’s beauty.

Beach by Camping Playa del Regatón
an antidote to the super crowded campsite

Pizza and a beer in the site’s cafe was fine and seemed to cost 11 Euros. No regrets.

From Portugal up the coast to Galicia

Monday 29th August 

I’m up and dressed waiting for the sounds of breakfast being prepared so I can eat and start off and leave this oasis back into the real world of camping and cooking. Yesterday, searching on Google, I found what looks to be a good campsite about 3 or 4 hours north from here on the Galician coast called Rio Ulla – because it is sited next to that river. The temperature there is forecast for mid 20s so no heat the struggle with. And reviews are good. I’ve noticed that for probably most campsites reviews are very mixed. Unwelcoming owners and neglected facilities are common themes, and often written about so strongly that they definitely put me off. Let’s see if this one works out. And I mustn’t lose track of what day it is. When  I got out my itinerary the other day I was surprised to see that my boat for home leaves on Sunday and not Monday as I had for some reason in head. 

Later. I’m now at Rio Ulla. I rode for over four hours without a break to get here. I made a point of choosing not to ride on any motorways so definitely made the longer journey here, though much more interesting to ride through towns and see people sitting or walking around. Typically for me, I didn’t stop for lunch in case I missed that last camping space though as I can see there are at least two spaces next to me so I could have been more relaxed about the journey. Now that I’ve told the gps to avoid motorways it really does avoid them and took me through towns and around amazingly twisty and up and down country roads. There was some beautiful riding on tarmac in some places looking like it had just been laid. A very different pleasure and concept to dirt roads. But it is getting dark here quickly so I will write more later. 

This campsite is in a beautiful location and has a swimming pool which I visited to try my developing front crawl.

At Camping Rio Ulla, Galicia Swimming Pool
River Ulla

Spain is very family orientated and the campsite is packed with families and children, so you have to be happy to have a constant level of noise very close to you.

At Camping Rio Ulla, Galicia
I took this picture by accident

Now is a good moment to add some thoughts about the soft luggage that I am using for the first time, the Mosko Moto Reckless 80 setup. It involves heavy duty carriers for panniers and a roll top bag that sits on top of a rack. This set up cost me around €700. On the top it has two large flaps and straps and buckles that fold over and hold down a 22 litre tailbag and other bags that you can squeeze in and tighten down – like shopping. Without a system of pannier racks, the design trick is to keep the side bags from rubbing up against a hot exhaust and melting. The set up just about manages that though I checked a few times just in case. It features two tube like waterproof rolltop bags that slide into the side pockets and can then be strapped down. There are two smaller 4 litre similar bags, same shape but on a smaller scale that fit onto the back of each pouch. Coming from metal panniers and quite square shaped inners, the first thing to notice with this soft system is that the quite narrow cylindrical shape of the side bags means that a lot of the time you have to empty everything out to get to some item that has slipped to the bottom. They have transparent panels which are helpful to show you what’s inside but obviously don’t help with access. Secondly, when even just reasonably full these bags are difficult to push into the holster type structures that hold them. You have to do a lot of pushing and pulling or emptying a few things out first. You can see from the picture above that I resorted to leaving them on the bike to avoid having to do this. Because I was lucky enough to completely avoid any rain on this trip (this must be a first – it was a drought after all), I can’t say how waterproof the system is. I don’t doubt that it is. In future I will buy another tailbag, smaller than 22l to also stash under the top to use to put in shopping or the odd item that didn’t fit in the 22l bag that I used for camping equipment – tent, footprint, sleeping bag, Thermarest, inflatable pillow by Aluft and a Sea to Summit silk sleeping bag liner. My new Helinox camping chair had to be stashed outside this bag. It was a life-saver by the way, though one of the campsites had an old table and chair so I didn’t always use it.