3-4 July 2019
Yesterday was my last day of work. I didn’t have a set date or time when I would set off on my round the world trip. This time I have 10 months, not 2 weeks, so I don’t have to hurry.
Still, I want to set off as soon as possible.
I never really pack in advance. When I was setting off on my previous trips around Europe, I’d just quickly throw my things in the bags couple hours before I set off. But this time there doesn’t seem to be an end.
First I need to go and exchange some money at the post office.
Back home, now I need to book my ferry from Calais to Dover (France) as it’s cheaper if I book few hours earlier. I go and book my ferry for 2am. It’s 7 or 8 hours ride to Dover, so if I set off late in the afternoon I should be able to make it.
I already checked the bike all over countless number of times to make sure everything is working as it should. Also took it to Jim at Ewen Haldane motorcycles in Greenock several times who helped me to prepare the bike.
Now to get on with packing properly. I sort of started throwing things in the bags few days ago, but now I need to pack the rest and organise everything. I was hoping to be done by 4 or 5pm, but it’s 7pm when I’m finally finished.
Now I just need to get my gear on, say goodbye to my mum and set off.
I start the bike. As I hug my mum she can’t hold the tears. I get on the bike, wave goodbye and ride off.
Bike feels heavier than I expected – I do in fact have more luggage than on my previous trips. But I know I will shortly get used to it, I always do after a day or two.
I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel. It feels like just another trip. I’m riding on the same road towards the motorway as always, leaving Glasgow and then South towards Dover – just like every time.
Couple hours later it’s dark already. I continue towards Dover with only some short breaks for fuel.
At some point I see a flash in my mirrors – like a speed camera. Crap.
A while later I’m on A14 between Peterborough and Cambridge when my headlight starts flashing. It’s around 1 in the morning. I take a first turn into some country road to get off the main road.
Turn the key off, and back on but the lights don’t come back on. I get off the bike, take the seat off. There is a lot of smoke under the seat and the battery is all swollen. I start panicking a little. What do I do?
There isn’t much I can do with battery which looks like it’s about to explode. I have no choice but phone my breakdown cover – I say to myself, “luckily that I’m still in UK and not somewhere in the middle of Kazakhstan”. My breakdown cover only covers me for UK.
Around an hour later, recovery truck arrives. But the driver tells me that he didn’t realise it’s a motorbike and he can’t take my bike on his truck. He phones his recovery company and they send someone else, but he stays and waits there with me.
Turns out that he is a biker also and we kill time talking about bikes. Over an hour later correct recovery truck arrives. I’m not exactly sure what to do, where do I tell them to take me at this time of the night? It’s after 3am already, so there is no point paying for a hotel now. Plus I would then need to pay for a truck in the morning to take my bike to some garage.
I decide to just go to some garage straight away and wait outside till they open. I looked up some garages in the area, it looked like there was a decent one around 15 miles away.
It’s 4:30am when we get there but they don’t open until 8:30am, so I need to wait outside for 4 hours. Finally someone appears to open up. They say that they are really busy and they should have some new battery for me, but they won’t be able to check my bike to find out what’s the source of the problem.
But they decide to take my bike in and check the voltage. Turns out that with the lights on it’s charging at… 18v! Instead of 14.2 or 14-something. With lights switched off, it’s not charging at all. I have a spare rectifier with me, cheap, chinese one – I’m not sure if it’s even working at all. They check this one, and with the lights on it’s not charging at all but with lights off it’s charging at 13v. So not really enough, but enough to ride with the lights off for a short while.
They have battery in stock that fits my bike so I buy it from them but they don’t have any rectifiers. They phone some of the garages nearby and they quote me well over £200 – way too much. Finally they find a place where I can get good quality rectifier for around £100, but I need to ride an hour back where I came from to pick it up.
I put fairings back on and load luggage back on the bike (which in itself is half an hour task if I need to take panniers off – usually I leave them on the bike overnight and only take top bag with me which takes 10 seconds to take off).
An hour later I get new rectifier. Now I need to take all my luggage off again, take rear fairings off, change the rectifier and put everything back on again.
Finally I’m on my way again. Nothing like a breakdown on a day 1 of a round the world trip!
Needless to say, I missed my ferry.
I’m prepared to pay £50 as I get to the ferry terminal 150 miles later (it was £25 when I booked online). But I explain the situation with the breakdown and the girl in the ticket office asks me if I have any proof – receipt from the garage. Luckily I didn’t throw it away, I give it to her and she prints new ticket for me – for free!
Now to get through some security checks. I really hope that they don’t want to check my luggage in a great detail – I’m not taking all my luggage off for the third time in one day!
Luckily they just ask few questions and let me go.
It’s late in the afternoon when I finally board the ferry. I park my bike beside some other bikers, and almost drop my bike – side stand was only half way down! But I manage to catch it before it falls down.
Couple hours later I get off the ferry in Dover – France. With only one hour of daylight left I head East, towards Poland where my next stop is.