I headed closer to the mountains… I saw buildings and meadows that look like something out of the Sound of Music.

My first glimpse of a snow-capped mountain near Lac Lucerne left me squealing withe excitement… The first and last time I had been through the Alps was on a school coach trip to Italy.

Rocked up to a campsite, and it starts to rain. I was concerned about money. The campsite costs £20 per pitch, but luckily i’d stocked up with German food from Aldi (discount supermarket)- wine (most important) and packet pasta. The campsite attendant kicked off because my tent was not aligned correctly, and my wheel encroached onto the next pitch by 10cm. I listened to Radio 5 Live Football streamed via wifi on my iphone, as England were playing in the European Cup and the prospect of watching it in a Swiss bar is gave me a financial hernia. I had food and wine so hey… I was going through the process of getting used to ones solitary company. This adjustment took awhile.

It started to rain, and get dark, so off to bed. I was hoping for some sun come the morning for a swim in the crystal clear lake. Woke to rain. I hate packing up wet tents :-( Settled my bill with little Miss Hitler at the campsite. Rode off with no plan of where I wanted to go, so got lost and ended up going through the Gottard tunnel twice. This I didn’t mind as it was dry and warm. However on the other side, it was fine and dry. I went round several passes in Switzerland

I found out that my bike would jitter and shudder at 1700m above sea level. Anything below or above this was fine. I experienced the bike labouring and slowing for the first time. I thought I was suffering, I overtook some poor chap on a Ural, he was nearly going backwards! Where I come from in the UK, the fens, is actually below sea level in some places, and the highest hill is about 200m. So this was all new to me.

The villages were so twee. I am so naïve, I thought cows having bells round their necks, was something from the olden days or cartoons. I’d never seen a Marmot before, these fellas were so cute! I spent ages sat at the side of the road watching them. Real life David Attenborough…

I rode in circles, went back on myself a few times, and was slowly headed towards Italy.  At the service station, I was tempted by the stacks of Swiss Chocolate, but I had visions of melted chocolate in my topbox. I chose some cherry menthol fisherman’s Friends.. I savoured these so much, they lasted til Pakistan. I came up a road close to the Stelvio Pass. This one was metalled (gravel). My first time on a main gravelled road (most non sealed tracks i’d been on were mud or grass). I tried to steer my overloaded whale of a bike, when I came across two chaps on a ZX12R Kawasaki and a Yamaha R1. 180 horsepower, slick road tyres on loose gravel, through the woods on a steep hill, I could see the fear in their eyes!

I found my way to the very top, a sign welcomed me to Italy, and below me was the Stelvio Pass.



Winter riding on fixed bike

Yes, still in Auckland, still saving pennies for new exotic adventures, but these might be a couple of years away!

My back wheel had a dangerous wobble. The bearings that make the wheel spin smoothly had worked their way loose for the upteenth time. And so it was time for a new hub (the central bit of the wheel). I ordered a new shiny one from Suzuki in Japan.. and got the chaps at HoleshotSuzuki, Auckland to re-lace it onto my existing rim.. with some new spokes, new bearings and new spacers.

This means my bike is now safe enough to take out of the city onto faster roads! Yay!

It is now Winter in New Zealand. However, the evenings are not so dark, and the landscape remains much greener than the UK in comparison. I’ve been working like a trooper recently and i’m not a city kid at heart. I needed a day out in the country. It does get bloomin cold though! It got up to a lovely 13c in the sun today… but this does mean wearing:

Merino wool long johns and top, icebreaker ski socks, fleece sweater, regular textile riding pants, waterproof pants and jacket to break the wind, and then motorbike jacket over the top, silk scarf and a buff as a balaclava. Of course a cuppa tea to keep my belly warm. The icing on the cake however was fitting a replacement set of heated grips to keep my fingers toasty. I fitted one grip and the controller earlier this week, and have been riding around with only the one grip working, so I can definitely confirm that one hand remains warm and the other like a block of ice. In order to fit the other grip, I needed to order a throttle tube, as the duff hand grip would not come off without destroying the old throttle grip. Even though winter is short, I really did miss my heated grips whilst riding in the rain down in the South Island.. and up at some altitudes, or early mornings/late evenings it gets nippy as. These grips made such a difference that I wore my summer enduro gloves for the most part of the day. Bliss.

This website http://www.adventureridingnz.co.nz/ is a great resource of GPS tracks in interesting places.. So today I thought i’d try a few tracks. I’ve ridden two previously with the Northern Gravel Riders and as much as I enjoy the occasional group ride, I do like to bimble at my own pace and stop for pics and pees when I want to.. and I suppose I am very used to going at my own pace. A needed lay-in prevented me from riding all three tracks I had intended.

So once out off the motorway, through the potato fields of Pukehoke (that remind me of the Fens), I started to climb up into the hills and along the logging tracks. The good thing about Saturdays is the lack of double axled logging trucks flying round tight single track corners. Do you hit them head on or jump down the ravine? I cansmell the sea before I can see it, and soon enough, I round a corner, come out of the trees and see the huge breakers of the Tasman ahead in the distance. I descend towards Port Waikato and back inland. There are tonnes of really interesting limestone rock formations. The pancake rock structures are nearly almost identical to those I saw down in South Island. The gravel tracks run up parallel to the sea, really exposed to the onshore winds in places, and then weedle down into twisty valleys and meadows.. and past clusters of Nikau palms.. Over 200kms from Auckland to Raglan.. and on the back roads I only pass a couple of cars.

I also passed a couple of Hangi (method of cooking in an underground pit with stones).. again I could smell them before seeing them…, ummmm..

Once I hit the sealed roads on the final approach to Raglan, a man was yomping up the road, with a gun in hand, pack of dogs and a wild boar lashed to his back, blood dripping behind.. obviously a hunting success.

Raglan is an interesting kinda place. Always pays to ask the locals where to eat.. found a fab fish and chip shop at the Wharf, which I wouldn’t have found by myself..

Epic confusion with the young lass at the till though. There is a wet fish counter as well as the fast food area. I asked for a snapper and chips, and 12 mussels. ’12???’ she asked? Yes.. 12! Ok… 10 mins later my fish and chip package arrived, it was huge. And inside were 12 battered mussels along with the fish and chips. Oops .. no way I can eat all that in one go! Luckily she gave me the live mussels free of charge.. Best fish and chips so far in NZ, great crispy batter, and soft and gooey on the inside. I took the leftovers and the mussels back to town with me, and blasted back along the highway as i’d run out of daylight to play with. Time to get home and get warmed up.


My elevation on my GPS is obviously up the swannie

Adventures on foot in my own back yard

Went for a stroll the other day… so see my neighbourhood Volcano. Now Kiwis (and anyone from countries that feature volcanoes) can be a bit blase about these amazing things…

Maungawhau- Mountain of the Whau tree…or Mount Eden I ride past it every day. Every now and then I ride up to the summit (yes there is a tarmac road to the car park at the top), sit and watch the sunset… a perfect way to gather myself after work.

So up I yomped to the top of the hill then I marched back down again… After all that walking, I popped into a cafe for a flat white… it was too trendy for my own liking… but you can’t beat Kiwi cafe culture.. Starbucks is for weirdos with duff taste buds.

Germany take two

So, after my failed attempt to leave the UK, I set off again. No big send off, just left the empty house in Soham, and chugged off down the A14, M11, M25 and M20 towards the Eurotunnel. My goal was to reach Ed and Tricky at the Nurburgring.. 700kms, a bit too far for my own liking, and my bum had not been broken in to the DRZ seat. I got lost in Liege- epic road works. Shocked to see kids riding 600cc scooters on pavements, expected those kind of antics in weird countries, not the home of the EU

700kms was epic, but surely helped by the prospect of two lovely chaps promising to set my tent up and fetch me the finest German beers. The campsite was 20 kms away from the infamous Nürburgring. We had plans to unleash the mighty C90 that Ed March had ridden from Malaysia to UK onto the ring . Step one was to get the engine running. It took a few days to source the parts needed. Sadly Tricky had to leave before the trip to the ring, as he had eastern europe calling…

Saturday 23rd June:
After a third night of barbequed Aldi/Lidl meat, beer garden antics and spannering, Ed and I were ready. I stripped the luggage and racks off, and we rode over to the ring. The ring officials took a fair bit of persuading to let Ed and C90 onto the track. I followed Ed closely in the hope of filming him. However once we were off, I was so petrified by the Maseratis and Mclaren Mercedes whizzing past at 250kph, I soon realised I had more pressing issues- staying alive and not crashing! Two thirds of the way round the 20kms of the Touristenfahrten, the safety car came out and started to follow Ed, as he was so slow up the hills, and they deemed him a hazard. He waved me through and I scarpered! I’m not sure if we are ever welcome back there! The smells and sounds were difficult to convey- people cheered Ed’s little C90. Burning rubber and brakes lingered on the air.. All these petrol heads were ticking this mighty occasion off their bucket list.

I hit the road soon after the late afternoon racetrack antics, and got another couple of hundred KMS under the belt. I tried to bush camp in the forest, but couldn’t find a spot with easy bike access, and just as the last chink of sunlight disappeared, I found a camp site.

Sunday 24th June
Rocking up at night is always a worry as you never know in what dive you could have pitched your tent in. I struck gold. I was camped in a meadow… glistening sunlight over the dew.. thank goodness!

Once I set off in the morning, the intention was to head south, and keep off the Autobahns and see the small towns and countryside. This was all good.. the houses and town squares seemed picturesque, however the lure of the Alps was not far. The second half of the day, I changed tack, and blasted off back onto the Autobahn. Seeing my first mountain took by breathe away…

DRZ with Magadan side bags

My chosen luggage includes the Magadan Bags, from Adventure Spec, designed by Walter Colebatch..

I spotted a rack system on someone elses DRZ and gave it a go. I bought a random set of givi racks from ebay, in order to get a curve. Armed with a bunch of images from google, my Dad’s genius friend Chris re-jigged the frames to fit my bike, and cunningly used the void opposite the exhaust, to create a perfect place for an extra jerry can or tool tube… The first edition was far too heavy, so holes were drilled into the plate to reduce weight. A few coats of powder coat finished them off.

Corinne, Chris’s partner had a stroke of creative genius by suggesting that a Walls Icecream sign was used as a heat shield, to protect my luggage from the heat of the exhaust.

The Magadan bag straps are placed under the seat for additional security. Some users have straps keeping the bags against the rails, I haven’t needed these, they don’t tend to move about once loaded.

Once on the road, after a few tumbles in the dirt, the rack cracked. I had it rewelded in Tajikistan, by a kid wearing sunglasses, once in Nepal by a good compadre Jim, and once by Aaron in Auckland. I plan to rework them and strengthen them over the next few months. This is the up side of using plain old mild steel, most people in weird places can re-weld if need be.

The first set of waterproof lining bags turned out not to be properly waterproof. Luckily I did not have to find out the hard way. Nothing got terribly wet to be honest, despite torrential rain and water crossings. However a honest email from the supplier warning of the potential problem and promise to post a new set of liner bags out remedied this. I loved the first bags, they were supple and slid into the outer bags with ease. The new replacement liners were made of a thick vinyl, that is very stiff when cold, (they soften nicely in the hot sun), and not as durable, already got a few holes in the bottom of the bags.

As for the outer magadan bags, these have really held up. I wore a hole through where the rack had a sharp point (took the angle grinder to that eventually). A hole where I was clipped by a car on a mountain pass in Tajikistan, and the odd small rip from small crashes on dirt. Nothing has gone through the paramid layer, the stitching remains good, the fabric hasn’t faded, and the buckles are still good despite one having a chip missing.

I use the pacsafe cables. These have started to rub through the holding loops, so I don’t know how long these will last, but the benefit of these bags is when there is a problem, it is simple to fix, just take to someone with a beefy sewing machine, or a sailing upholsterer etc… or even do it yourself….


A couple captured the moment they were held up at gunpoint by bandits while travelling through Guatemala.

Heidi Burton, from Cambridge, was riding as a pillion passenger on her Canadian boyfriend’s motorbike when a man emerged from a bush with a gun.

Footage from Dan Landsborough’s helmet camera shows a second man appear, wielding a machete.

The couple were allowed to leave after the men had taken rings from Ms Burton’s fingers and a bag of items.

Ms Burton wrote on her blog that they had “thoroughly” researched the road between San Pedro La Laguna and Santiago Atitlan.

“It seemed there were no reports of criminal activity since a few years ago,” she wrote. “Dan had taken this route a few weeks back on his motorbike and returned, with no issues.”

Dan Landsborough and Heidi Burton
Dan Landsborough and Heidi Burton say the incident will not stop them travelling
A man takes a wallet from a man in Guatemala
A phony wallet was taken from Dan Landsborough during the robbery
But she said when it came to the journey on 10 April she felt relieved as they neared the end of a dirt road which had forced them to slow down.

“A masked bandito appeared in the distance holding a gun out at us, and right next to us another jumped out of the bushes with a machete,” she said.

“They demanded “dinero” (money) and proceeded to search us.

“It all happened so quickly, we barely had time to think about the consequences.

“I read that people have been hurt when resisting robbery in these situations, so we tried to make it a smooth transaction and only really thought about how dangerous it was once it was over.”

A bag of items including electronics, worth about £170, was cut from the bike.

A man with a gun holds up a couple on a motorbike
The couple were forced to stop their motorbike when a man appeared from a bush, holding a gun
Mr Landsborough, who is from Calgary, said he had “researched the situation” in his mind.

“Nine times out of 10, banditos like these just want money and valuables and quickly,” he said.

“The moment the first one jumped out and pointed the gun at me I knew what was happening.

“I just tried to go to a calm, composed place inside of myself, read the situation as it develops, give them what they want, quickly, and get out of there.”

The couple, who are both 34, said the experience would not put them off travelling or returning to the country.

“Crime can happen anywhere,” Ms Burton said. “It is only the small minority of individuals in Guatemala that give it a bad name.”

The moment we all dread on the road…. Robbed at gun/knifepoint…

Changing brake fluid

I changed the front brake fluid today as I feel the brake response is getting tired, just like the rest of the bike really.

I mullered and ground out the stupid screw (Suzuki fastenings are notoriously made of what I call cheese, the nuts and bolts have the strength of cheese). So it took a while for me to find someone who could get the bugger out and replace it. Some kind chap at my new workplace did it.

As you can see from the image the light amber coloured fluid is new ad clean and the dark stuff is what came out. I think I’d be wise to repeat the process again soon to make sure there is no more crap inside.

Let’s hope I stop a bit quicker now!