A little bike history on past adventures leading up to this trip
2003 New Zealand -1998 Honda CBR1100 Super Blackbird Original idea was a ride to Perth and return to Victoria via rail which turned out expensive for what it was, it was far less expensive to ship a bike to NZ and back so thats what we did ! We spent 5 weeks touring both the North & South Islands covering 10,000Km’s which was a great experience on a bike like this. With it’s 160+ horsepower and big brakes it was perfect for the alpine regions, you hardly notice the inclines and very comfortable on the straighter roads.
Only issues on the trip were a failure of the Ventura luggage rack frame which was due to a little overloading and fitting a soft compound tyre which was lucky to last 3000Km’s on the very grippy crushed volcanic rock used on NZ road surfaces.
2008 New Zealand – 2007 Honda CBR1100 Super Blackbird The first NZ trip was that good we had to return. The Blackbird was that good we had to get another. This Blackbird was the last model to be built complete with optional panniers to overcome the failure of the ventura rack ! We returned for a 6 week tour this time, again covering 10,000+Km’s with no real issues other than having to ride through some of the best scenery in the world and on great roads. (There’s very few surfaced roads left in NZ we haven’t covered)
The last of the Blackbirds were a noticeable improvement over the early models even with a slight drop in horsepower and remained a great two-up sports tourer with Honda struggling to cover it’s dimise in the market place for many years
2011 Europe – 2008 Suzuki DL650 Vstrom This trip was again stepping outside our comfort zone, 16 weeks away meant a lot more preparation for us and the bike. . The Isle of Man was a big draw card and didn’t disappoint, we spent the 2 weeks with old mate Dave Milligan who had shipped over 120 bikes from Australia for the Centenary of the IOM Mountain Circuit. We considered both the Blackbird and the Vstrom for the trip but with 16 weeks on a bike we decided on a bike that could put up with rough, narrow, dirt roads to autobahns and everything in between. We decided on the Vstrom for it’s two-up comfort, all surface abilities (except mud..) great fuel range, basic design, easy serviceability and low cost. This bike is like your old ute, just throw all your gear in, hit the key and go with no fuss!
Purchasing the Suzuki 650 Vstrom back in 2008 we racked up around 40,000km’s before this trip on various rides including outback and Alp regions. We had a general idea of the direction we’d travel and we chose not to book ahead and stay wherever the day ended. In the end we visited 20 countries and covered a tad under 23,000Km’s. We carried camping gear to give a little more confidence just incase accommodation was hard to come by, we often found ourselfs enjoying just looking around and wouldn’t start looking for accommodation until late evening. The long European summer days can be a trap as it doesn’t feel that late !
One issue that presented itself on this trip was after a couple of months riding the ignition switch became very notchy and at times very difficult to turn the ignition switch to “on” position especially after rain which we had plenty. This was a little concerning at times. Went searching for graphite powder but very hard to find in the UK so used silicon spray in the end but it was still dodgy ? It remained like that for the remainder of the trip. Strangely enough after the bike arrived home I used the spare key for some reason and that fixed the problem, turned out it was just a worn key !!!!!
2014 Europe – 2010 Honda VFR1200 A shorter European visit of 5 weeks where we spent 17 days on the Isle Of Man for the annual TT races. We stayed in a old renovated farm house on the outskirts of beautiful Port Erin arranged by Get Route’s Dave Milligan. Being a much shorter visit the VFR was better suited to our needs and a hell of a lot more exciting to ride around the circuit particularly over the mountain section. The V4 when in a hurry has an inspiring exhaust note and with “no speed limits” it’s all the more inspiring…….
We continued the trip back to the mainland via Liverpool and down through Wales along some great back roads around Snowdonia National Park region (thanks to our new TomTom GPS which has the “Windy Road Option”) and some coast riding down to Tenby on the SouthWest Wales. From here it was back to London spending time (in traffic) visiting friends and some well known landmarks. One highlight was riding the VFR across the Beatles Abby Road crossing and getting a rye smile from onlookers, then having a well dressed gentleman asking us to move along when parked for a photo in the gateway of Windsor Castle, limited sense of humour !
Europe 2015 – 2012 Suzuki DL650 Vstrom Having updated the Vstrom a couple of years ago it was time to have a little more room to lug our gear around and a couple of comfort items added to the mix. So heated grips, centre stand, bigger panniers were a good way to start. The bike has now knocked up 32,000Km’s and carted us to the Vic and NSW’s alpine regions serval times and 3 weeks in Tasmania last year just to run it in before this excursion overseas.
Bike prep saw new brake pads all round, chain & sprockets replaced, full service and a check over of everything (I hope). We expect to do somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000Km’s over the 2 European summers so hopefully we’ll get away without to many issues other than many oil changes, pad changes a few tyres and a set of plugs !