A mixture of old and new (borrowed and blue), I had varying degrees of confidence in the kit I took with me on the trip. The luggage for example was a complete shot in the dark – but it pays to be flexible and try and work with it rather than thinking over all its down sides. Ultimately I never felt like any kit let me down – although I let the kit down a number of times by not fastening it down properly… You can see it all in action in my returning home video here.
Helmet: Shark S900c Foret Replica (£200)
I owned a helmet with an internal sun visor before and while they don’t look that cool, they’re really useful moving between shade and sunlight (e.g. tunnels). That, a pinlock visor and the fact it looked badass were enough for me to buy this helmet. It was really comfortable day in, day out and rarely felt heavy despite the lack of windscreen.
Jacket: Frank Thomas Tourino Aquatech (£150)
I’d purchased this on a rainy day in Leeds, way before the trip, caught up in the romance of life on the road. It’s a robust 4 in 1 textile jacket with detachable waterproof, insulation layers and armor. For the trip I stripped it down to shell and armor, opting for a separate synthetic jacket underneath when it got wet and cold. This meant I didn’t have to pack a separate waterproof jacket – saving pannier space.
Trousers: Jeans (£20?)
Crosshatch Jeans – the ultimate in fashion before function. I had EU recovery and an EHIC (which I forgot to take with me…), so why would I worry about debilitating leg injuries when I can look this good. I got my money’s worth out of them and they were knackered by the time I got home – but at £20 there was no worry about putting them in the bin.
Boots: Aldi Crane Touring Boots (£29.99)
More of an experiment than anything as I was morbidly curious as to how good 30 quid boots could be… but as it happens they were more than good enough. Comfortable, respectably dry (not completely dry…) and more than capable of power stomping out the more worrying wobbles. By Turkey, the inner had detached a from the heel, maybe adding another minute to to getting them on and off. I had no problems really, apart from the trenchfoot after leaving them on for 48hrs.
Gloves: Unknown (£30)
I bought a pair of armored gloves from a local bike shop and barely used them. I much prefer the feel of a work glove, so wore a rugged little black pair for most of the trip. By Croatia I’d lost the armored pair and didn’t really care. The image is the closest thing I could find to what the work gloves were like – couldn’t have cost more than £5.
Luggage: Moto Detail 80l universal luggage system (£80)
Bought as a complete set, but I only took the saddle bags on the trip. They were attached by three main velcro straps (one under the pillion seat, two above), two straps to the footrest hangers and one improvised bungee strap joining them together around the back of the number plate. Not as waterproof as you’d like, I opted to put the important stuff in waterproof sacks or plastic bags. While Sarah was on the bike we had them filled to capacity, using every inch of the extendable 20 litres – which made them very wide. Non-extended you’re usually alright to filter, extended – forget about it. Sarah sat alongside them ‘comfortably’, I just set them up a little lower on the bike.
Luggage: Berghaus Extrem 80l Backpack (£~80)
A couple of years old, I’d originally purchased the bag for my mountain leader training. At 80l it’s huge for lugging around on your back, but worked a treat as storage mounted on my pillion seat. It has an internal, roll top waterproof sack and lots of straps to cinch down nice and tight. I don’t think they make these bags anymore, and cant find spares (a shame as I melted the strap on the exhaust at some point in Turkey). Everyday items I stuffed into a 25l rucksack on my back.
Tank Bag: Piece of shit eBay thing (£15)
For £10 you can’t complain. Or, you can – if the magnets used to hold it onto the tank are so weak a 10mph wind knocks it off. I did a hack job before I left to try and salvage it, cutting out and replacing the magnets and sewing on some non-slip matting to the underside. Worked wonders, but the lack of waterproofing and high shine map case knocked its functionality back a little. I’d highly recommend a tank bag, but maybe spend a little more money on it.
The Tent: Vango Tempest 200 (£200 a few years ago)
Again, I only took this tent because I already owned it. Nevertheless it’s a brilliant piece of kit – lightweight, quick to pitch and more than spacious for one. Panniers went in the porch overnight. A little tight for both me and Sarah (now everything went into the porch!). The tent started off with a bent pole after my mate borrowed it and fell into it, drunk, but it made its way back with no further signs of damage.
Sleeping Bag: Rab Summit Alpine 300
A loyal companion through a number of bivvys, I’ve always been impressed with this down bag despite it not actually coming with a full hood… Easily warm enough for Europe, particularly with a tent to keep the heat in. I used a £30 3/4’s self-inflatable roll mat all the way to Montenegro and a pile of clothes and bags from then on (threw the mat out for space).
I’m not really sure – I stole it from my brother then subsequently lost the travel bag with the name on. What I can tell you is it was a standalone one, rather than perched on top of a bottle. This is why I didn’t take my own MSR Pocket Rocket. Also, if you’re going to try and eat local foods where you can you don’t actually need to cook that much. I took two of the huge coleman gas canisters and barely used half of the one. I ended up giving the second to a fellow biker I met in Turkey. #OverPrepared. I had one titanium pan to cook on and an insulated mug for coffee.