A Night of Adventure – London 16 September 2013

IMG_5995Intrepid adventurers, a great charity and Austin Vince without his trademark overalls on a school night? That sounded exactly like what we needed to lift our spirits and inspire us now that summer is gone and pullovers have been dug out of the wardrobe.

A Night of Adventure, organised by the charity Hope and Homes for Children, brought together a panoply of inspiring adventurers to address a sold-out cinema room full of punters in search of their escapism fix. The format is well planned and brilliantly executed; each speaker presented a Pecha Kucha of their adventures; 20 slides, each 20 seconds.

Now multiple this by 14 and you have all the inspiration you’ll need to see you thought the winter! The lineup was impressive; to name only a few: Austin Vince who’s presentation was done in prose; Phoebe Smith, the editor of Wanderlust Magazine who has the dream job of being paid to go on adventures; Alastair Humphreys, creator of the event and National Geographic Adventurer of the year in 2012 and Debra Searle who, at the age of 35 has rowed solo across the Atlantic and was awarded an MBE. I must also mention Dick Willis who gave a brilliant presentation about his career in speleology, including exploring the “Great Crack”. All this talent was host by one of our favourite adventurer; Dave Cornthwaite, whom amongst other things has skate-boarded across Australia and swam 1001 miles along the Missouri River.

Here are a few of our favourite take-aways from the evening:
– take a photo tomorrow and tweet it to @davecorn using the hashtag #1000photos
– ‘adventure is just a decision to do something different’ @Leonmccarron
– the Duke Of Edinburgh award is a great way to inspire youngsters to go on adventures – Debra Searle
– Help other travellers you meet along the way – @mattonabike1
– You’ll come back remembering the good and bad times.  It’s not until you’re on the adventure that you can understand what it means to experience claw hand, sleep deprevation and busy shipping lanes – @explorerstweet
– ‘Do one thing a day that scares you’ Richard Harpham
– Extreme sleeping is all about finding the most remote places to wild camp. The only things in the UK that you need to worry about are cute sheep, ramblers and midges – Phoebe Smith
– write a bucket list of challenges you want to complete. Don’t think about what you haven’t done – Paula Reid

We recommend looking at the tweets from the evening using the hashtag #nightofadventure

All this on Leicester Square for only £20? Yes!

And it’s all for a great charity too. Hope and Homes for Children works with governments to close their orphanages through a process called Deinstitutionalisation by enabling children to return home to their families or into alternative, family-based services. This is a brilliant way to ensure better lives for children whose families have broken down based on the principle that institutionalising a child isn’t a solution; helping families keep their children is.

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A Night of Adventure is a yearly event, held in a few different UK cities so don’t miss the next one!

 

Blogging on the Road workshop

This post was created as part of a live demo during the Adventure Travel Film Festival 2013 ‘blogging on the road’ workshop we gave. We had some really interesting questions at the end of the workshop and have chosen three of them to update with full responses below! If anyone who attended the workshop (or anyone that reads this post) wants to ask more questions, please feel free to add a comment to the post and we will reply.

1. Can you set up any kind of email account with a WordPress blog?
Yes you can but this is not a straight forward wordpress.com service. We recommend clicking on the WordPress Support page for more information but what they offer is a means of connecting your email to your blog domain. You will need to create an email host through a provider and link it to your blog:

‘On WordPress.com we don’t provide email hosting, but you can connect email hosting from another provider to your custom domain.’

2. If you set up WordPress for free, can you add videos to your blog?
Yes you can, however you will need to upload them to a video platform first. WordPress.com offer video uploading but they will charge for this service. We recommend uploading your videos to YouTube and ‘embedding the link‘ in your blog post. The embedding link, which can be found on the YouTube page will appear as a video window in your post:

‘The VideoPress upgrade allows you to host and play videos right from your blog. VideoPress is priced per year and per blog. You can purchase it from the Store panel of your dashboard.

We currently support embedding videos from YouTube, Vimeo, HuluFlickr, DailyMotion, Viddler, Blip.tv, TED Talks, Educreations, Instagram, Vine, and Videolog.’

Having the video on YouTube creates another means of being found on the web.

3. Do you use iCloud to upload and save images?
David makes sure that all of his photos are backed up on iCloud but you need to be connected to wifi to access them.

iCloud is an Apple service and will therefore only work on Apple products (iphone/ipad). Using the ‘internet cloud’ as a means of storing photos is useful when you don’t want to carry a hard drive back up with you but if you don’t have internet access you won’t always be able to view/access them. If you want a non Apple service for storing photos (or data in general) online, we recommend using DropBox or check out the Top10 online storage options recommended online.

Demo of a live video: Hello from the ‘blogging on the road’ workshop (filmed on an iPad and uploaded via YouTube)

Wind protection R1150GS

The BMW R1150GS is a brilliant motorcycle but it suffers from an annoying oversight by its German manufacturer; the wind protection is awful. It’s untypical of BMW, especially for such a practical motorcycle. The GS is designed to cross continents on all terrain and its form has followed function; that’s why it looks weird.

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The stock screen is too narrow and the turbulence at head level is abominable. The GS may be able to carry you hundreds of miles in a single day on all type of terrains, but the rider will want to get off it sooner only because of the buffeting. Which defies the point of this motorcycle and is one of its few downsides.

I have spent hours looking for a solution and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer or an agreed compromise amongst bloggers. But here is my experience and what has worked for me.

The first thing I did after riding the 1150GS was to go straight to eBay and buy a second hand Adventure screen. These are wider and taller and, although it did provide more wind protection on my torso, the buffeting on the helmet was not diminished. I then bought a pair of Tobinators, to be able to angle the screen in just the right position so as to create a smoother airflow. This didn’t work; and I spent way too much time trying the infinite number of settings offered by the Tobinators. I then decided to go back to the original screen and to add a wind deflector on the top. These flaps are built by a number of different companies but I chose the PUIG brand because it was cheaper and looked very similar to the competition. It worked very well indeed, increasing the height of the screen, but also giving it a sharper angle at the top, thus guiding the airflow above my helmet. The torso and arms protection was still bad though and I therefore re-installed the Adventure screen, on Tobinators and with the deflector attached. I am very happy with the result and I feel that I have finally found the wind protection which the GS, a bike designed for overlanding, should have provided as stock.

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Caberg Duke review

Motorcycle experts say that you need to change helmets every few years in order to ensure you are wearing a helmet that is still safe and retains its original protective qualities. If anything, as far as I’m concerned, my visors only last about a year before they are too scratched to see through comfortably.

My previous helmet, a Caberg Trip, had lasted me more than 3 years and was showing signs of its age. It creaked at the hinges and the visor would not lock open correctly anymore. It had been a good helmet and had served me well on three continents. But the time had come to upgrade to something new.

My choice, after a thorough study of what was on offer, went to another Caberg. I think that they offer very good quality helmets at competitive prices. I chose the new Caberg Duke, a flip-front model which is the grandson of the Trip I owned. It has a 5 stars SHARP rating, the highest safety rating awarded by the independent helmet safety scheme. This, and good online reviews were the main reasons that drove my choice.

20130222-120159.jpgOnce on my head, I was very impressed with the Duke. It weighs 1.55kg, which is very light for a flip-front helmet. The small weight difference with the Trip is noticeable; although I suspect that it’s how the weight is balanced because it is only 50 grams lighter. The interior of the Duke feels very comfortable. Caberg has lined it with a thick layer of padding which does three things:

1- The helmet fits more snugly on the head while still remaining very comfortable.
2- It makes the Duke very sound-proof; a quality I can’t rate highly enough as it makes riding long distances that much more comfortable.
3- It keeps your head nice and warm. This could be seen as a disadvantage in warmer regions but I live in the UK and a warm helmet is a good thing to have.

The Duke also improves on the Trip with its new visor. To begin with, the new visor opens and closes with a feel and noise that are testament to higher quality. You could compare this to the difference between shutting the door of an old car and a new one. Just like in the VW Golf commercial; it’s precise and muffled. Then there’s the anti-fog visor insert which works wonders. I was very positively surprised when I rode in the snow with my visor down and experienced absolutely no fog! I repeated this in the rain and it performed just as well. Brilliant!

I chose my Duke in white as I always try to enhance my safety. I read in a British Medical Journal article that, compared with wearing a black helmet, the use of a white helmet was associated with a 24% lower risk of crash related injury. As good a justification as any to guide your choice of colour. [although I’m pretty certain that riders who chose to be conspicuous are more responsible and therefore ride in a safer manner too…].

So, in conclusion, I would highly recommend the Caberg Duke to anyone; it has a top safety rating, it’s very comfortable and well built, it is warm and silent and doesn’t fog-up. It is also very good value for money at less than £150!

20130222-120405.jpgMaintenance of your Pinlock Antifog Insert

After a few months of use you might find that your precious Pinlock Antifog Insert has stopped sticking naturally to your visor. It has become a bit loose and does not provide the anti fogging you expect from it because the silicone seal does not stick to your visor anymore. I had this problem and worried that I’d have to buy a new insert but this website provided me with the answer I was looking for.

Basically, the pins which hold the insert are eccentric and can thus be adjusted by turing them. This will reduce the distance between both pins and allow you to make the fit of the insert tighter, thus solving the problem of a loose lens.

The Pinlock website also offers some very good information about how to clean the insert lens and I suggest you do it at least once a year.

Pinlock inser

Pinlock inser

Back in town!

Just before Christmas Lloyd from Red Coat called me to say that our bikes were safe and sound in a hangar close to Gatwick. Unfortunately we couldn’t pick them up until the new year as we were abroad visiting family over the christmas break. We did make our way to the Red Coat hangar on a bleak January Monday morning and were welcomed by Lloyd’s helpful staff who showed us to our bikes and relieved us of the modest sum of £1400. If you consider that our 2 bikes were kept in a hangar for 6 weeks, made safe to fly, loaded on a plane, flown 6 hours, unloaded, parked at Gatwick, picked up and driven to Red Coat offices, I dare say it’s a cheap price!

The first thing we did was to put the mirrors back on and rewire the batteries which had been neutralised for the transport. We then filled in our tanks with the two 5L jerrycans we had brought with us and tried to start the bikes. Louise’s started straight away, as if it hadn’t been sitting empty and neglected in Africa for 6 weeks. Mine, on the other hand, didn’t make a sound. I was expecting that the cheap Chinese battery I had bought in Tan Tan would not last long and it hadn’t. To be fair, it had performed flawlessly between Tan Tan and Banjul so I couldn’t complain. The 6 weeks wait did kill it though. Lloyd and his staff were very helpful in trying to jump start it and push starting but it was obvious that I needed a new battery. Luckily enough there was a motorcycle dealer a few hundred meters away so I jumped on the back of Louise’s bike and we purchased a brand new, quality, Yuasa battery. After all, my F650 deserved a treat. She obviously appreciated the gesture and fired up instantly. It was a great feeling to be back on the bikes, in our yellow and pink hi-viz. I was again surprised at how good these BMWs are. So easy to work on and the level of comfort they provide for a 650cc single is incredible.

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The ride home through London traffic was a piece of cake after having dealt with Dakar! It felt really bleak and grey though and I felt nostalgia for the craziness and the explosions of colours and smells we’d experience on our trip through northern Africa. This did reinforce my belief that motorcycle travel is singular in that it enables the rider to experience the outdoors while having fun and covering good distance. I was also reinforced in my conviction that motorcycle “adventure” is easy. The biggest hurdle is to take the decision to leave. The bike, if it’s in decent shape, will take you where you want to go. No need to worry about it too much; you’ll always find a way to reach your destination and will meet many kind and colourful people on the way. You will also learn a lot and build a wealth of personal experiences which you will never regret.

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Flying motorcycles

It was now time to say goodbye to our beloved motorcycles. They had carried us on an amazing 7000km journey from South London to Banjul in surprising comfort and relative reliability. Some friends have commented on “how unlucky you were with the breakdowns”. It seems to strike people but I need to set the record straight. We did have a total of 4 issues with the bikes, but 2 were actually only worn parts. I knew from the beginning that Louise’s back brake pads were thin but our mechanic told us they were fine… I also failed to properly look at our batteries, which would have revealed that mine was low on acid. So these issues could easily have been avoided.

We did buy these bikes for a song and they’ve served us very well. We have developed a bond with our respective bikes and, eventhough they’re supposed to be identical, they have their own personalities and feel very different.

Anyway, I digress. After 7000km we were at our destination and it was time to drop the bikes at our shipping agent, Redcoat. I had read about them online and the fact that they shipped bikes from Banjul is the reason we chose it as our destination. We had considered selling the bikes there but I didn’t want to spend our last days trying to find someone who would buy them and actually give us the money and complete all the paperwork before our planned return to the uk. And that’s not considering the import tax.

We left the hotel early in the morning so as to take in a longer ride and see the “suburbs” of Banjul.

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Our first stop was a French bakery where we had a breakfast of croissants and instant cappuccino. We then set out in what we thought was the direction of the airport but I spotted a car wash and we decided to give the bikes a well deserved pampering. The guys at the car wash did a great job cleaning them from 5 weeks of grime, Moroccan mud, Sahara sand and African red dust.

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We rode around in circles for about an hour looking for the airport. We had asked locals but their directions were a bit vague… We did enjoy being told “go straight after the lights and right at the first turn-table”…ha! It’s is where the musical spirit we couldn’t find was hiding! One helpful man got on his knees and drew an elaborate map in the sand. It didn’t help though because we rode past the airport twice without noticing it. Indeed, Banjul International Airport is a little difficult to find; there is no sign to it… and it’s the size of our block of flats. That being said its actually a pleasant building to look at, in a 1960s architectural style which dates back to the (few) days of plenty when the high price of peanuts on the world market filled the national bank with hard currency.

We found our agent and were asked to come back in 2 hours when Mister George would be there. He needed to inspect the bikes. We went for a terrible lunch at the airport’s restaurant and looked at the presidential Tupolev which had seen better days. Upon return we met with Mister George who asked us to empty our tanks and took a look inside our top boxes for potential contraband. While we were doing this we were accosted by 4 policemen in combat uniform, carrying Kalashnikovs. They were actually accompanying a delivery of cash that was to be flown out of the country. We had a friendly chat with them and gave them our badges. They told us that they came regularly and that they would keep an eye on the bikes for us. Thanks guys!

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We then proceeded with the paperwork. Although this was done in a professional manner it did take a very long time. But the staff was courteous and we were offered seats so we can’t complain. A funny moment was when we rolled the bikes on the industrial scales to weigh them. Louise saw this as an opportunity to check if she’d lost weight during the trip and everyone around us became very interested too. She first stood on the huge scale while the technicians read out her weight aloud and then took her to a smaller scale which was more accurate. This provided entertainment for everyone who was standing in the area. I say this because, to our surprise, about a dozen men in business attire were spread out on floor mats, taking a nap!

Once all the documents were signed (5 hours after we’d arrived) our bikes were in the competent hands of redcoat and we were bike less. For the first time in 5 weeks we had to get taxis to get us around. It was a strange feeling after all the independence we’d experienced. All we had left to do was sit on the beach and finish our books….

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