Riding The World Together 

Jenny O'Grady | jogrady6@hotmail.com | @jonpogrady

Traveling the world together by motorcycle had been a dream I had shared with my partner in crime, Dave for quite a few years. We used to talk as if it were only pure fantasy and there were a million reasons we would never be able to actually go, leave our normal lives and just set off to explore new lands. 

Dave and I share our love of traveling; we have done some backpacking around South America and many trips in the car around Europe. It was in 2015 Dave took his motorcycle test, which was something we had both spoken about doing for a few years. He could afford to get his license first so passed in summer of 2015, after a couple of months we set off on our first motorcycle adventure to Italy, me as pillion. We didn’t book anything, just took our tent and pitched up wherever the nearest campsite was. This way of living was amazing, we felt free and excited about where we’d end up the next night. Then it was the dreaded time to start heading back to the UK, 2 weeks wasn’t anywhere near enough but all our holiday allowance was used up. 

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It was riding home that holiday that our first talks of motorcycle travel started. There was something about traveling by bike which was incredible, we felt like we were closer to the elements and experiencing what was around us rather than driving through in the protective bubble of a car. We knew if we were going to go traveling together in the future the only way for us would be by bike. Once arriving home Dave and I realized the dream of traveling on motorbikes wasn’t a passing holiday thought, we were stuck on the idea and there was no way we now couldn’t go for it. Once we’d decided there was a massive change in our mind sets, we started thinking so much more positively and dynamically. We were suddenly open to the thought of completely shaking our lives up.

We began researching routes, bikes, visas and camping equipment. We looked at our finances and realized we couldn’t afford to do this amazing adventure for another two and a half years and even then we’d be cutting it fine. We both took on another 3 jobs doing freelance digital marketing, working evenings and weekends (which nearly killed us!). We cleared our debts and began saving. At this point we realized we still wouldn’t have enough money to just travel, we would need to work as we went. So we started building our freelance clients and getting everyone onboard with the idea that we could work nomadically. We’d have no fixed ‘office’ but as long as we had our laptops we would still produce our work. That was the plan, we would work as we while travel to earn our wage for the next month and continue like that.

Two and a half years went by, planning and plotting our way to building a sustainable traveling lifestyle. Now here we are, only one month from setting off! Our departure date is set for 31st March 2018 and our Eurotunnel’s booked for 16:50. We’re finally doing it, and it’s terrifying! Leaving everything you have, a nice home, great jobs and your family is hard. But this kind of adventure waits for no one, if we don’t take the risk now we aren’t even giving ourselves the chance to succeed.

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Preparation

Riding around the world on a bike, where do you even start planning for something like that? Some people prefer to travel completely without a plan, but we needed a strict timetable. By riding East we needed to ensure that we would reach the remotest places like SIberia and Alaska in the summer months, due to the obvious deadly winter weather in such places. 

Route: We contacted a great adventurer that has previously ridden the same kind of routes we were interested in, Walter Colbatch of Sibirsky Extreme. We emailed him over a forum called ADVriders and he couldn’t have been any more helpful, he shared his routes with us and gave some much needed advice.

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Our route encapsulates three of the most remote, abandoned roads in Siberia:

  1. Most people will of course know the infamous Old Summer Road in Yakutia, which tested Ewan Mcgregor and Charlie Boorman to their limit in Long Way Round. 
  2. The BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) is a federal railway built in the 1970’s under Nikita Khrushchev, meant to supply strategic resources such as coal and soldiers across the frontier with China. 
  3. The least known is a track known as the Baikal 110 or Zimnik 110. In Russian Zimnik means ‘Winter Road’ and the 110 was built in a warm winter in the mid 1970’s to fuel the transportation of raw materials and building supplies to the BAM raliway. That particular winter was so warm that Lake Baikal did not freeze correctly and the support lorries could not drive the length of the frozen lake so the Zimnik was built along the Eastern shore to fix the problem. Hastily built and only used for a couple of years it has fallen into the worst state of decay of all three roads and has been completed by barely a handful of people on motorcycles.

We want the challenge of completing these ‘roads’ so they were on the to do list, taking us to Magadan. In terms on route planning thats as far as we’ve got, but we know the  countries we’d like to go next including; Japan, South East Asia, Aus, NZ and then to the Americas.

Visas: We have just started applying for our visas this week, so far we've completed Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan - all have been fairly straight forward short online forms. The Russian visa however, takes more effort! We need to pay for a letter of invitation and go to Manchester to have our finger prints taken.

Carnets De Passage: All paperwork has been filled out for our Carnets, however because we don't actually need the Carnets till we reach Japan we are going to pay for them when we reach Russia and have them posted out to us. This is the site for Carnet information: https://www.carseurope.net 

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Bikes Preparation: For a trip of this nature there isn’t an off the shelf option when choosing bikes. Having followed the adventures of Walter Colebatch where he travelled deep into the wilds of Siberia we knew our best option was the venerable BMW G650x. The G650x is a 650cc single cylinder dual sport bike made by BMW from 2007. It was available in a few guises and our bikes happen to be models known as the X challenge and X country. With a wet weight of around 155kg and 53hp these bikes are still nearly unbeatable today for a dual sport bike in this category.

The stock bikes have only a 9.5 litre fuel tank which is good for about 100 miles on road and possible 50 miles offroad. So we set about crafting a system of auxiliary aluminium fuel tanks for each bike increasing the the total fuel load to a whopping 27 litres each. This should be enough for 350-400 miles on road and 200-250 in the worst off road sections.  As a penalty for all this extra fuel load the bikes weight has increased therefore we also need to upgrade front and rear suspension and wheels to deal with the extra load, not to mention the abuse from the harsh terrain. Full breakdown: https://www.rideunlimited.co.uk/motorcycles 

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Camping Equipment: We are taking quite a large tent, the Lone Rider Tent MotoTent. We figured this is our little house for 2 years so we wanted some space to live, sleep, a porch to eat dinner when its raining and so on. For cooking duties we opted to use the MST Firefly, a liquid fuel stove popular for its ability to burn nearly any fuel such as petrol or diesel without the need for hard to get propane bottles.   

All the planning is finally going to be put into action on the March 31st 2018, nerves are definitely kicking in now as is the realization of what we're doing. Setting off is pretty scary but if we didn't, we’d regret it for the rest of our lives. So the countdown has really begun and all we can think about is getting to that Eurotunnel!

 

Jenny O'GradyComment