I say Hello…

Now that Jayne has done all the work, I figure I should really pop in and say hello to whom ever she has got reading this. 

It seems everyday now I’m thinking about different aspects to work on for the trip, or telling more people I’m doing it.

I’ve popped in the a spanish school for information on their lessons, and today re-insured my bike until mid- september. I figure after that I may not need insurance anymore… another Item on the list of things to figure out. 

I’ve told enough people about the trip now that I’m pretty sure I have to go. It’s a good strategy for any trip: book the time off, tell people you’re going, figure the rest out later.



Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Learning to ride is absolutely brilliant. Every time I go out I feel more confident and need to think less about the fundamentals, like shifting, and using the rear brake (although I still need to remember that one some more). However this weekend I learnt the truth about riding in the great British winter – it’s COLD.

My fingers have never been so frozen as they were this weekend. I grew up in Canada so that’s a pretty big statement! I was wearing thin gloves under my motorcycle gloves, and that was okay for the first five minutes or so, but then my fingers slowly started to solidify into blocks of ice. I’ve experimented with putting my ski mitts over the other two layers of gloves, which worked brilliantly on the heat front, kept the wind off my hands and my fingers toasty warm. Unfortunately they also restrict the thumb to finger spread, meaning that working the clutch and brake levers was a bit tricky. Amazingly the rest of me was okay – it really just was my hands that were a problem.

I wouldn’t have guessed that warm fingers were more important to me than freedom of movement, but it was that bad.

I’m going to need to come up with a system for keeping my digits toasty during the Ultimate Ride – heated gloves here I come!



My Trusty Steed

Today I bought the bike I am going to ride to South America.

I had to get my agents (my parents) to do the transaction for me, however with the wonders of Skype I spoke to them soon after they picked it up. The man I bought it from lives in Northern Alberta, so he drove part way down to Calgary and met them in Red Deer.

My new bike is a 2006 KLR650. It’s not had any modifications done to it, so I have my work cut out for me when I get to Calgary.

Here she is strapped to my parent’s trailer.

My trusty steed being brought home in the snow

Now there’s just the small matter that I’m not actually qualified to ride it yet…

Learning From Others

I’ve just finished watching the television series “The Long Way Round”. It has psyched me up for our trip enormously. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman may be famous, and they had a lot more support than Phil and I will, but they still rode motorcycles thousands of miles through extremes of terrain and watching them do it was inspirational.

One thing I noticed is that they dropped their bikes (or simply fell over) often. If two men who have been riding bikes since a very young age did that – then I have a lot of picking up my bike off the tarmac ahead of me. They also stand up on the pegs when riding over difficult terrain – must research why they do that.

Another fantastic resource I’ve found is the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook by Chris Scott. I read it cover to cover and it is full of good advice. Also lots of trip reports from riders who have had adventures all over the world. The only part that has negatively stuck in my mind is one report where the female friend of one of the report writers was in a crash of some sort (it gives no detail as to what happened) and ends up with teeth knocked out and broken arm etc. I think it is the lack of details that has made my imagination run wild, but reading that made me feel queasy and a bit fearful. I am very aware that the journey we are undertaking is full of risks, and I just have to do everything I can to prepare and minimise those risks in whatever ways possible. Just reading that one paragraph has swayed me towards buying a full face helmet that doesn’t flip up. Much harder to knock your teeth out in a full face helmet!

It’s increasingly difficult to maintain the status quo here in London. I go to the office every day and I do my job, but my heart is in South America eating empanadas and winding through the Andes. I often find myself thinking about what I’ll need to pack, and worrying that I don’t know enough about motorcycle repair. (This is not an idle worry, I know nothing about motorcycle repair, other than what I learnt by reading the above mentioned handbook.)

In other news I made it home from work in 45 minutes on Monday, and I didn’t get lost once. I only stall Charlie when I’m in a panic (usually because there’s cars/vans/buses/trucks stuck behind me getting angry) and I actually get up into 5th gear on a regular basis. No more falls (touch wood) and I’m getting faster. I’m looking forward to more lessons, even if they end up being informal ones from friends who ride. Might even see if there’s a local riders group that I can go out with – will see how the weather goes.

If anyone has any suggestions for other books/films/blogs that will help, please let me know!

Three weeks in…

Today was one of the foggiest days I’ve seen in London. With this in mind what did I do? I rode Charlie to my Ultimate Frisbee tournament on the other side of London. I thought the fog would lift – it didn’t. It actually got worse throughout the day!

It’s been three weeks since I did my compulsory basic training (CBT) and I am feeling much more confident on the bike. I still don’t like being close to big vehicles like buses and trucks, and I am not confident enough to speed past lines of slow moving traffic, however today I managed to safely ride through difficult conditions and lots of traffic and that feels great.

I’ve made a few key purchases in the past three weeks, a pair of Alpinestars Gortex riding trousers and Hein Gericke riding boots (also Gortex and guaranteed waterproof). Those two items will be coming along on the Ultimate Ride.

I’m keen to buy a helmet, but am overwhelmed with the choices. For the moment I am wearing a Highway brand helmet that unfortunately does not have a visor over the face, it’s fine for now, but I am very aware that I need a better one.

The one I like most right now is this Shoei KR-1100


I think I need to do a bit more research though. Helmets are expensive and I am going to be wearing it every day for months and months, so it has to be right!


Male vs Female

Don’t you just hate it when you can’t tell if someone is a man or a woman? From babies to oversized “women” in the tube, it’s embarrassing not to be sure.

From when I picked up my new bike (a Yamaha YBR 125) I have not been sure whether it is male or female. This, among other reasons,  is why she has now been named Charlie.

I first asked my friends on Facebook what to call my new ride, and the suggestions ranged from “Dribbler” (this from my friend who has recently become a mother) to “Corporal Steel” (firmly a male name).

The name Charlie came from my friend Dave, when I complained that my bike was to small, shiny and fun to be called Corporal Steel. His reply was:

“Charlotte Coleman was small and shiny and cute. You could call it Charlie.”

I immediately loved the name. One small problem  “Charlotte who?” was my reply.

“Actress, played Hugh Grant’s kookie flatmate in “Four Weddings”…”

Perfect. This is how Charlie got her name. Even better, being an androgynous name, I can whine about Charlie being male if he ever plays up or is a pain in the bum. Can motorbikes catch man flu?

A Week of Firsts

This week I have taken huge leaps towards starting the Ultimate Ride.

Sunday I did my compulsory basic training (CBT). This one day training course must be completed successfully before anyone is allowed to ride any scooter or motorbike on UK roads. I found it both exciting and also a reality check. Riding a motorbike involves a lot of concentration and a lot of skill. Both hands and both feet have important functions to perform, and all in precise timing. Despite the complexities, and a slight nervousness of roundabouts, I passed all the competencies and was awarded my CBT certificate.

When I got home all I could think about was getting myself a bike. I bid on a Honda CG125 (the bike I learnt on in the CBT) on ebay, but was outbid in the auction. This turned out for the best, because I then made an offer on Charlie, my new bike.

I picked her up on Tuesday with the kind assistance of my friend Clive, who rode with me the 25 miles back to London – fantastic and terrifying in equal amounts. Unfortunately it was also that day that Charlie got her first injury – someone snapped the left wing mirror off while she was parked on the street.

Wednesday I bought Gortex trousers with motorcycle armour in the knees – they are a lot like snowpants! Good job I bought them, because Thursday morning I attempted my fisrt commute to work. 11.5 miles of wet roads, buses and white vans out to get me.

Statistics from my first commute:

  • 1hr 15min (approximately)
  • Wet roads
  • 3 big, terrifying roundabouts
  • 1 fall (braked too hard, resulted in yet another broken bit on Charlie, but not broken bits on me.)
  • 2 hours of sitting at my desk, trying to calm down with adrenalin coursing through my veins

The other preparation for the Ultimate Ride this week is best explained by the picture below of my living room wall. Bring it on!!

Went a bit crazy in the map shop...