Hi everyone, its been 9 months since arriving back home, catching up with our family and friends while trying to get back to “normal” life off the bike. The “off the bike” part hasn’t worked so well, spending 3 weeks in New Zealand earlier in the year and most of that time on a Kiwi’s mates KTM1290 Super Adventure, what a bike !  The Vstrom arrived back in Melbourne early Jan 2017 and has seen 2 trips into NSW’s and many smaller trips already, it’s taken a little longer to find the energy to post the next blog.  Well here it is, attempting to explain along with a few statistics where that time went, if you want more information from any photo just click on it, will then enlarge and have an explanation attached. Thanks again for reading the blogs, hope you enjoy and find it useful in some small way.  All the Best,  John & Jo

Our trusty 2012 Suzuki 650 Vstrom will more than likely retire with us, such a faithful old friend. Without fuss taking us to countries and unique locations that we had barely heard of and in some cases never heard of…

 

The Vstrom travelled a total of 71,800 Km’s through 40+ countries over nineteen months, taking us as to distant corners of Europe. The above map identifys the start/finish points and most outward points reached in all directions of the compass with everything in between. Covering all seasons and being lucky enough to experience 2 Springs, 2 Summers, 2 Autumns and 1 very cold but enjoyable winter.

The photos below reflect the 4 points of the compass we reached in Europe, North, South, East, West, all different countries, different languages, different cultures, different food, different roads but the highlight without doubt being the people we met along the journey !

 

Northern most point – Top of Europe, Norway’s Nordkapp Peninsula 

 

Southern most point – Way down on the Greek Island of Crete

 

Eastern most point – wonderful central Turkey

 

Western most point – Irelands beautiful West Coast Dingle Peninsula.

 

A reliable bike gave confidence to travel through countries less travelled. Many of the kilometres were on small back roads where the english language is a very rare commodity, allowing us to experience many wonderful cultures and inquisitive and lovely people through out the journey. The photo’s below are examples of many many great experiences. Riding in the Greek Macedonia mountains we turned up a road to see where it went and after half an hour of riding came across this gypsy family. We rode buy, gave a wave and continued on for a few more kilometres until the road deteriorated in to a track. Approaching them on the way back we stopped and tried talking but no english spoken, the older women stood back but smiles appeared when the kids came over and Jo gave them all little Australian flags and a KooWeeRup Motorcycle Club sticker, it was like Christmas.  You don’t need words to communicate just another wonderful experience for us.  Over the 19 months we where lucky enough to keep good health, Jo catching a cold in Warsaw which kept her inside for a few of days being the worst of it.

 

Flags and names of 43 countries visited, the 2 standalone flags belong to non recognised countries (Kosovo & Transnistria) by all or some European nations.

 

Incidents along the way… As we all know riding a motorbike has it’s inherent dangers and its time to “Fess Up” !!   We hit the deck on a slippery little Irish back road on the West Coast, appropriately named Black Valley. In misty rain (what else in Ireland) on a track with a small (slippery) grass mound in the middle, crossing from one track to the other the rear tyre lost traction on the edge of the mound. Down we went and all over rover in seconds. A low speed incident but enough to sit us on our backsides in the middle of the road. Knowing it’s the gentlemanly thing to do, I quickly got up and offered Jo a hand to get up after first inquiring if she was ok, which she was. (She’s a tough old chook !)  About this time Jo pointed out a little blood running down my nose from a wound a little higher up, bugger !!   First things first, what about the bike which was lying on the road facing the opposite direction from which we came. Picked it up and accessed the old girl (the bike) for damage, not a mark on it except for Jo’s now out of shape right hand foot rest and the pannier mount brackets. Limited resources to repair it meant Jo had an interesting and not so comfortable ride back to our accommodation. The injury to my nose (i think) was caused by the rearview mirror coming through my open visored helmet as we went down, Jo had the nose patched up in no time, very handy having a nurse on standby.  The foot rest and pannier frame were roughly bent back into position to keep us going but the right hand pannier no longer clipped into its mounting points so out came the back-up tie down strap which did the job of keeping it secure. Most important we were back on the road with little lost time !!

 

Returning to England after 4 weeks in Ireland we headed for Jo’s niece Julie and partner Barry for a little RnR. Having trying unsuccessfully to straighten the pannier frame (Barry had some big hammers..) it was time for a phone. Found a new Givi pannier frame in a London bike shop. On “your” bike and off to London, got the goods and the new frame was on in no time, happy days !

 

Statistics – The total trip covered many more kilometres than just on the bike. On top of flying to Europe and back we took advantage of cheap European flights during our winter stay in Warsaw, we would search for cheap airfares and having an open diary could take full advantage when a good deal popped up. Best price for the 3 hour flight from Warsaw to London and return was $38 Aussie dollars each, gotta be happy with that.. Many hours were also spent at sea on ferry trips including 7 overnight trips plus many shorter trips throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the UK. The walking estimate was based on the 1,100Km’s measured by my Apple watch over our winter stay in Warsaw and a guesstimate for the rest…

Break down of kilometres travelled: (Scribble Maps software used to estimate air, sea and train Km’s)

Travel Type Km’s Travelled Comment
Road – 71,800 As per bikes odometer
Air – 43,600 From/To Australia / Warsaw to UK x 3 / Warsaw to Brussells
Rail – 6,000 Poland / UK / Serbia
Sea – 4,200 7 overnight ferry crossing plus many shorter trips
Walking – 3,000 Based on 1,100Km’s in Winter Warsaw plus remainer of trip
Total= 128,600 Best guess – give or take a few thousand !!!

 

The bike was stored as winter approached Eastern Europe. Outings on the bike began to reduce from early October 2015 until we finally put it into storage in Warsaw on the 9th November 2015.

We knew it was time to start thinking about parking the bike for winter after a ride to northern Poland in late October. Leaving a little later than planned for the 4 hour return trip to Warsaw via smaller secondary roads, it wasn’t long before we were in darkness around 3:30pm. After spotting a few deer we decided it was time to head towards a main road home. It was absolutly freezing, dark, foggy and with the bikes ambient temperature indicator shifting between 2 and 3 degrees (felt more like -5)…  still had around 3 hours to go!

Before putting the bike away for winter it was washed, checked, serviced, new brake pads and a new set of tyres fitted, ready to go when the warmer weather comes. Winter finally passed and the bike was eagerly brought out of storage on the 3rd April 2016, checked again and a few small rides before setting off to Ukraine on the 13/04/16.

 

You can never have to many statistics so here’s just a few:

Below statistics breakdown the total time of the trip, total time spent riding and time spent in Warsaw over winter. In the comments column there’s a other information on various things like hottest and coldest days on the bike, price of fuel etc.

Total Trip The numbers… Comments
Months 19 March 24th 2015 to 29th October 2016
Weeks 84 Didn’t seem that long
Days 587 That sounds a lot
Vstrom Time Onroad 
Months 14 Not long enough
Weeks 59 Hottest temp on bike 43Deg C (Bosnia)
Days 412 Coldest temp on bike 1 deg C (Austria)
Total Km’s 71,800 Have now travelled over 100,000Km’s in Europe on our 3 motorcycle trips – 2011, 2014, 2015/16
Ave Daily Km’s 174 Longest day trip – 1050Km Salzburg to Warsaw
Ave Fuel Con 4.5 L/100Km
Total Fuel Used 3,231 ltr’s 95 Octane used when available
Fuel Cost 7,108 (A$) Based on average cost $2.20 (Aus)
Winter in Warsaw 01/10/15 to 13/04/16
Months 6.5 Bike in storage from 09/11/15 till 3/04/16
Weeks 28 Coldest day in Warsaw -20deg C
Days 195 Each one awesome

 

Oil Change Intervals: (Suzuki recommend 6,000Km’s)

Odo (oil changed) Km’s Travelled Oil Filter Country Date
31,500km 8,600km Shell Min Yes Australia 19/01/15
40,100km 9,700km Motul F/Syn No France 10/05/15
49,800km 11,155km Yamlube F/Syn Yes England 9/07/15
60,955km 9,467km Motul S/Syn Yes Poland 30/10/15
70,422km 4,158km Motul Min No Turkey 27/05/15
74,580km 8,120km Shell Min Yes Greece 15/06/16
82,700km 11,200km Motul S/Syn No Sweden 20/07/16
93,900km 9,800km Shell S/Syn Yes Poland 9/09/16
103,700km Still going Motul S/Syn Yes Australia 10/11/16

Couldn’t be fussy about the oil, you used what was available at the time. We used all types from mineral to fully synthetic and changed filters when available. Engine didn’t require any oil top-ups for the entire 71,800kms, not to shabby !!!

Tyre Change Intervals:
(Pressures used: Frt/38psi / Rr/42psi – Bike/Luggage with rider & pillion = 450kg’s estimated)

Odo (when installed) Km’s Travelled Tyre make – Frt & Rr Country Date
31,500km 10,200 Pirelli Scorpion Trail Australia 19/01/15
41,700km 19,255 Michelin Anakee 3 France 21/05/15
60,955km 21,745 Michelin Anakee 2 Poland 30/10/15
82,700km 11,200 Dunlop Trailsmart Sweden 20/07/16
93,900km 10,600 Michelin Anakee 2 Poland 9/09/16
104,500km Still going Heidenau Scouts K60 Australia 20/02/17

The Michelin Anakee 2 & 3’s were by far the best of the tyres, Anakee 2’s being my choice for longevity and on & off road performance. The last set of Anakee 2’s installed in Poland were removed back in Australia after only 10,600km’s due to damage to the rear tyre side wall. There was still a lot of tread left, you gotta hate that 😦

Chain, Sprockets, Brake Pads and Incidentals:

Doing so many kilometres over a relatively short time gave a great insight to some interesting observations. Examples include the original uridiam spark plugs still in the bike which has now covered 111,000+ km’s. Removing them on our return they looked ok so closed the gaps a tad and reinstalled them, amazing…   The other was the chain replacement in Sweden, the dealer didn’t have any sprockets in stock and was going to take a few days to get them so decided to replace the chain only and continue on. By the time the trip had finished the chain had stretched, was very noisy and the front sprocket teeth were very thin and hooked.

Odo (when installed) Km’s Travelled Supplier Country Date
Chain & Sprockets
31500km 26,400 After market Australia 19/01/15
57,900km 24,800 Gen Suzuki France 20/09/15
82,700km (chain only) 21,000 After Market Sweden 20/07/16
103,700km Still going Origonal Australia 10/01/17
Brake Pads
31,500km 29,455 After market Australia 19/01/15
60,955km 21,745 Gen Suzuki Poland 29/10/15
82,700km (Rear pads) 28,300 After market Sweden 20/07/16
111,500km Still going
Incidentals
Burnt out stator 74,580 Gen Suzuki Greece 15/06/16
Replaced original battery 103,700 After market Australia 10/01/17
Spark plugs 111,500 Originals Japan Never replaced
Pannier Rack 49,800 Givi UK 10/01/15
Head light globes x 2 Various Gen Suzuki Uk / Italy 20/09/15
Replace Rr caliper bolt 64,100 After market Ukraine 24/04/16

It was wonderful to visit many lovely Islands, getting there on huge vehicle ferries and covering many kilometres on many different oceans; ferry travel is a normal way of life in many parts of Europe especially Norway.  Here’s a list of islands visited and a couple of ferry trips to and from mainland ports.

ISLAND VISITS (Order of travel) COUNTY TRAVEL METHODS
Crete Greece O/night Ferry x 2 (Athens to Chania)
Saronic Islands x 3 Greece Ferry
Sicily Italy Ferry
Sadinia Italy O/night Ferry x 1 (from Civitavecchia)
Corsica France O/night Ferry x 1 (to Marseille)
Isle of Man x 2 UK Ferry (England to IOM / IOM to Ireland)
Corfu Greece Ferry
Islands of Norway Norway Ferry’s & Bridges (To many to mention)
Isle of Mont Saint Michel France Foot
Isle of Mull Scotland Ferry
Orkney Islands Scotland Ferry
FERRY TRIPS (Mainland ports)
Greece to Italy O/night Ferry x 1 (Patras to Bari)
Finland to Russia & back O/night Ferry x 2 (Helsinki to St Petersburg)
France to England x 2 Ferry (Cherbourg/Poole & Dieppe/Newhaven)

 

Last but not least, a question thats often asked – How Many Photos Did We Take ?

The amount of photo’s taken over the 19 month period and the work required to keep them in order was relentless. We both enjoy photography and the daily tasks of going through photos and deleting unwanted ones was a tough job, on a good day there might be 400 to 500 photos taken and others only be a few.  Jo takes many photos when travelling on the back of the bike. Many are not perfect but now and again there’s a gem that only this type of photography can capture. Just to complicate things we also used our phone/Ipads for the odd photo and during last half of the trip there were 2 cameras in use. We didn’t always agree on what photos to delete, some huffing and puffing went on at times but it was a job that had to be done because storage space was always an issue. One of the first jobs when arriving back in Australia was arranging them into some kind of order. Success was achieved after a few patience testing setbacks. It was worth the effort and now we can look up any day, any time, any place, and along with the notes Jo kept daily we can recall any day which will help us remember this trip for years to come or may be helping to write a book… There’s an enormous amount of photos and videos but a great collection just the same !!

Photo’s on database = 63,722  (This averages out to 108 photos for every day of the trip)

Videos on database  = 1852 (This averages out to 3.5 videos for every day of the trip)

Estimation of deleted photos & videos = 25,001 (based on delete key wear…)

Thats a lot of stuff !!!