Back in April, I asked on this forum what I should take or do prior and during a long trip into Europe and beyond (What to take on a long trip). I received a lot of great hints and I did apply many of them. I thought I’d share my own findings after returning from a 4-month trip covering 6 countries in Europe and North Africa. This is a personal account/story, and not about Dos and Don’ts.
1- A 650CC bike was just fine. I didn’t miss a ferry, or a train, or a party, never felt imbalanced or too lightweight (Probably because I am heavy myself). I was told I needed a bigger bike but I could not reach the limit of the 650CC. Never heated up, or choked, or reached its max speed. In fact, the “smaller” size was handy in many instances.
2- I mounted 2 side containers/tubes and put 2 spare fuel bottles inside. While I did not get to use their content, they gave me the confidence to ride longer before having to fill up.
3- Quickly I realised that I had to replan my trip around fuel stations. 100 to 150 miles are very short distances on long rides. And not all fuel stations are open 24/7. As such, I had to remain close to motorways when riding at night
4- Riding at night is a LOT less fun than during the day, especially on dark roads.
5- There are 2 muscles that long and repetitive rides will put under stress: The neck and the abductors. The first is when the wind is pushing strong against the helmet for a long while, and the 2nd to squeeze against the fuel tank for better control and to reduce pressure on wrists.
6- In fact, you should be reasonably fit for long rides. Thankfully I was.
7- It was a good idea to carry a spare open helmet for in-city travel, especially in summer. Same with taking summer and winter gloves.
8- Heated grips are just awesome. I hit cold moments while going through the Swiss and North Italian mountains. I did not have to wear my heater inner jacket because once my hands were warm the whole body was fine.
9- It was a challenge to pull cash and bank card from and into the jacket when paying for tolls. A few times I had to take one glove off and then struggle to put it back.
10- A compression short is a great added comfort under the pants, in all weathers.
11- The amount of sweat while riding is insane, even in cold weather. I bought a hydration pack but did not use it because I wanted to have nothing on my back. Every fuel refill was combined with visiting the WC and then drinking at least ½ litre of water.
12- My bike was quite loaded, and I learnt that balancing the bike is not an easy thing. I concluded that the weight on the left side should be a bit higher than that on the right side, but not by too much. The reason is that a heavy bike tends to want to fall quicker on slightly imbalanced surfaces or in windy weather and so the side stand needs a bit of support.
13- It is easy to think you’d check your bike regularly during the trip, but it quickly becomes a cumbersome act. I am glad I did full service before taking off.
14- I was warned about the pain of continuous noise when riding for hours. Didn’t bother me or leave any resonance afterwards.
15- Using Scottoiler was a good idea. The chain remained lubed all the time and I only had to top up once. No drips on floors either.
16- I once noticed that my handlebar becomes too responsive. 10 miles later, I stopped and checked and found out I had a flat tyre. I continued riding until I reached a mechanic who fixed the puncture and it has been more than 3 months with no side effects. Tyres technologies have truly evolved from the last puncture I had more than 10 years ago. I have Michelin tyres.
17- It was handy to take a bike cover with me. Many humid places out there and not always an overnight shelter for the bike. Same with the USB adapter I installed. The phone was my map all the time and never used the power bank I took with me
18- I took with me 3 locks: a tough alarmed disc lock, an alarmed chain, and a non-alarmed long chain.
19- I am using Biketrac and thought they covered only the UK. They actually covered me in Europe and in Africa. How did I know that? They simultaneously text, emailed, App-alerted, and called me when Eurotunnel and the ferry started moving.
20- I did add an Apple AirTag for good measure and to allow the family to check on the bike and on me (I had an AirTag on me too).
21- For this trip, I bought a leather jacket for the first time in 20+ years. I was missing on something great for a very long time.
22- I bought a D3O as a back pad for the jacket and it is remarkably soft and comfortable. Thankfully I never had to test it
23- Proper screen cleaning product is a must, and should be handy. In some places, the helmet visor was getting hammered by bugs.
24- I did not buy Bluetooth coms for the helmet mainly due to time and budget constraints. Well, I did not need it either.
25- When I went into Eurotunnel, I put a bright orange tape on the right-side mirror’s arm, and also near the right-side handle. They served to remind me which side of the road I should be on. Upon returning to the UK, I did the same on the left side until I regathered my reflexes. Believe me, I did have to look at them a few times to remember where I should be.
26- On a Belgian motorway, I was stopped by a car driver who then fixed my number plate that was dangling, including putting in a new bolt. Awesome.
27- Bikers in different countries have different ways to greet each other. Tilting the head sideways, pulling the left hand down, kicking your foot in the air… I just kept getting it wrong.
28- In fact, I had ZERO issues with people over 4 months of travel into 2 continents and totally different cultures and laws. People have been just awesome, including police and border security. I am not saying people are great despite what you see on media. I am saying maybe I am a global celebrity without knowing it.