Friday, June 3, 2011

First few days, Spain and France

30th May....notes from the road...not great English, but a bit of a record...

Left ferry at Santander at 1pm and took a great road to Vitoria, through hills and valleys.

Started raining heavily and even had sleet/snow up on the high ground. Finished up without the energy or inclination to camp, so the 3 of us have bunked up in a functional hotel called the Duque De Wellington.....  Some beer and plate of food restored our rather soaked spirits. Our spoken Spanish is poor, but the Basque folk are very welcoming and their/our investment in their roads is first class.

We are getting Garmin weary having been sent around the houses, there are probably tricks to learn, but as yet they are causing more frustration than direction.

31st May..... crossing the Pyrenees

We covered some beautiful roads today and the joy of 2 wheels and scenery forgave any rain and shitnav angst.

Great but wet crossing of the Pyrenees. Batty loved the corners.

The bikes are running well and the few tweaks made are just fun and all part of the adventure.

More rain, but waterproof kit doing a great job,  my 25 year old walking boots are giving me the driest feet of the three of us.

Joined by Brendon today, a Brit who now lives in Massive Central. A fun man and rides a very swift 350 Bullet.

We camped by the Garron surrounded by Vineyards. Henry created a mind blowing curry...both in deliciousness, but even more so in spiciness.

1st June. ...on the road to Limoges

Yesterday Batty recorded 136mpg. By far the best and what I was hoping for. Will now start putting veg oil back in and see how we do.

Loads of wind. Found it a bit of a struggle going at 40-50 on the main roads with huge lorrys passing at 55 and cutting one up on occassion. Henry has a new Diesel engine just coming which he is about to test on bikes like Batty and it is 30% more powerful. This is quite a tease as I think if I could do 60mph comfortably, then it would make quite a big difference on Western roads. When I am by myself I will aim for slower roads and pull over when big trucks come up behind. There always remains an option to fit a bigger engine in due course...given a bit of airfreighting and lifting...we will see.

Roger has been beset with troubles on his bike (a 525 Lightning) the battery was knackered and then various brake switches had given up. Now that they are all fixed, things will get better.
He, like us all, fantasize about a new bike when one has trouble, only to forgive all when one's old friend returns to normal and the love affair carries on.

He and I found a lovely campsite near Bellac whilst the other 2 had a successful mission getting Roger a new Battery and supper.

One bit of sad news for the trip, via text from Uzbekistan, is that Mette, who was going to join in Turkey can no longer make it. A great shame and I was thinking of putting out an SOS lest anyone wanted to join me, but then took the view that it was an opportunity to push through Turkey and Iran a bit faster and try and get to Nepal for early would be better weather wise alround.

Brendon was chef and delighted us all with a fine pasta ensemble. Another evening of beer, g&ts and wine.

2nd June. Parting ways

Farewell fellow Bulleteers, as we part company, they to the Rally south of Paris and I for a long over due visit to Caroline and Brian, Emily and Harriet near Poitier. Henry, Roger and Brendon have been great companions and I enjoyed joining them on their run to the rally hugely. Not only was the company extremely generous and fun, just the immersion in many matters Royal Enfield has swelled my knowledge of the bikes no end. Batty and I look forward to joining them in a couple of years time.

Caroline  and Brian are nearing the completion of the restoration of a very fine town house in L'Isle Jourdain. The kitchen produces amazing things, and this is a very happy non camper today.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If I had known 2 months ago what I know now...

WARNING, this post contains absolutely fascinating and brilliant information for those interested in engines running on vegetable oil. For those whose fascination is not so could skip it, I am sure later posts will be softer and more human feeling stuff...all those good byes etc....

When I set out on this adventure, I was persuaded from my own research that running a diesel engine on vegetable oil would be fine, maybe a few starting problems when cold, but otherwise just as normal diesel fuel. The truth is that this is the case in part, but after 2000 miles of trials I was suffering from increased starting problems and lack of power. This was coming to a head about a week ago and I was beginning to despair for the venture as a whole. My mind was racing for solutions, such as mixing petro diesel with vegetable oil and therefore compromising much of the essence of the journey.

A week ago I was having lunch with my cousins in Kent, and this anxiety came out. Then Andrew suggested that I spoke to Paul Day who they had been supporting in his business venture. Andrew described Paul as a scientist who was developing products and systems for running large-scale generators and engines on bio diesel and the like.

This led to me visiting Paul at his office and workshop near Sittingbourne on my way home. As a backdrop Aquafuel  have been awarded many times for their innovative and successful development of  engines and power sources in both environmental and highly efficient ways.

After a short meeting it soon became clear that I was heading for a serious problem, which would have probably meant the engine failing in a few thousand miles. The thing about vegetable oil is that it is much more corrosive than petro diesel and also because of its viscosity, ignition relies on the oil being hot and fluid enough as it enters the combustion chamber to fully ignite.

So there are two things that needed to be dealt with. The first was the rapid deterioration of normal engine oil when using vegetable oils,  almost immediately apparently there is much greater wear on the engine components as well as congealing around the piston and rings. This has been overcome by using an incredibly high quality oil that is only available, at the moment, for use in large-scale plant. This oil is so robust that Paul thinks that it will take me halfway around the world before I need to change it. He is looking into this further, and has said that he will be able to courier a supply to me when the time comes.

 The second problem is how to get the bike to start on a fuel successfully without it coking up the injectors in the cylinder head.
The solutions are either:
 - to have a dual tank, one being for regular diesel or bio diesel, which one would start the engine on and once hot, switch to vegetable.
-  to have a heater that will bring the oil up to full ignition compatible temperature
-  to mix in 25% diesel fuel with the vegetable oil.

Had I known this I would have had a combination of the first two solutions, all of which Paul would have helped develop scientifically.

So it looks like I'm going to have to use 25% diesel fuel. This is sad but unfortunately the ticket is booked and I'm leaving in two days. It would not have taken much to have changed it and it would have been a matter of a few hundred pounds to have made the bike almost 100% vegetable oil fueled.

I might look into having a tank made with one part for vegetable oil and a much smaller compartment for bio diesel, this would save the day a great deal.

I went back to Aquafuel yesterday and I spent an hour or two with David, who is an engineer working with Paul. He showed me what was involved in cleaning out the injectors, which will need to be done every 2000 miles approximately to keep it running well. I learned so much about the engine in those few hours that my confidence in this element of the journey is 10 fold by comparison to what it was before.

As a further bit of most unexpected and extremely generous sponsorship, Paul has waived the charge for their very valuable time setting me up, wishing me every luck along the way. I am very very touched by this and I know Batty is loving her new oil  and will run forever.

It has made me think that there is a business opportunity to be had providing a solution to the problems that Paul has solved. It would involve the small unit supply of the special oil in 1 L containers, a heating element system for the vegetable oil, and possibly a dual fuel switch and tank for motorcycles.

Thank goodness for double glazing...

Tucked up in a goose down sleeping bag with a very comfortable integral sleeping mat, secure in a fabulous 2 man tent, rewarded this soon to be tent dweller with a great nights sleep.....Right up until the planes started coming over at 6am, drowning out the busily chirping black birds and my friendly robin who always says hello, when I go into the garden. I had forgotten one of the main reasons for getting the house double glazed was the dawn to dusk aircraft...the sooner Heathrow moves to the Thames Estuary the better for many Londoners.

I have not sought any sponsorship for this trip, but have been knocked out by the generosity of Big Agnes who make the tent and sleeping bag that I am taking. George Bowie, my fellow EO forum mate, has set up a new business, Nine Point Nine, supplying those who want the best kit for all things out doors. His offer of the kit turned into Big Agnes saying that they would supply it for free, if I let them know how it performs on the trip.
5 stars so far. The products are very light and seem super tough. With Big Agnes coming over to the UK, the likes of Eurohike will have to be upping their game to compete, and by some measure.
I am not a great Tent expert, but my brother George is as about as expert as you get, having run the south west's premier marquee company for the last 20 + years with his wife Fiona. A big shameless plug for The Devon Marquee Company.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My new bedroom

I am testing my new tent tonight. Not very adventurous being in the garden, but then better to do so than hundreds of miles away.

Big Agnus is the brand of tent and it took just 10 mins to put up, and that included reading the instructions. It is a great tent and I have my pal George Bowie to thank.

I will post tomorrow on how I slept and also how this last 10 days have been, pulling all the last bits together for the trip, all the good byes etc.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Best turned out bike on the road

Yesterday found us down near Brighton fitting the new panniers, they are made by Metal Mule, and are beautifully finished an extremely strong and practical for my needs. Paul and his colleagues were fantastic in helping me set it up and in fact are going to refine the Top box fittings furthermore over the next week. 

It is apparently the first time the boxes have been fitted to a Royal Enfield, and Paul has taken particular interest in this venture, and sees more and more overlanders electing to use more classic bikes to add greater dimensions to people's journeys.

You may notice that there is a sticker on the back of the top box of the logo. I have had many printed both of this size and smaller, 2 inch diameter to stick around the world as I go. A quick plug for AA Labels, who have been both excellent in turnaround and in quality. Whilst I did plan to get some stickers for the boxes, it was my flatmate Paddy ClanWilliam who suggested getting the smaller labels for the trip. Paddy is a veteran overland motorcyclists of some 10 significant journeys, here is a link to his more recent one . With all his knowledge and experience he is an excellent friend to have in the house whilst preparing.
 This is a photograph of him cracking open a bottle of fizz when I first got Batty home.

700 mile test run

Before Batty and I leave, the plan is to have covered about 2000 miles on trials. I left on Saturday morning for my cousins Charlie, Sarah  and Arthur who live near the Humber in Lincolnshire, it is normally a 200 mile run, but with the satnav set to avoid motorways etc it turned out to be more like 250. With a vicious headwind, it proved to be quite a test for Batty's 10 hp engine, which is good for 50 mph on the flat, but sometimes this was down to 40 mph. About seven hours we arrived having wiggled up through  the  Fens and enjoyed seeing a lot of the country which motorways deny you.

Charlie, Sarah  and Arthur had laid on a bit of a gathering of Lincolnshire pals and it was lovely to see  them all before going. Some great photos were taken but alas, l managed to delete them as I downloaded images from both the camera and my phone at the same time. So annoying……but a lesson learnt. Found them.....

The trial continued the next day, having changed oil with Charlie at the 300 mile mark,  dropping in on pals, Mark Watkinson (of logo artwork fame) and and Dan and Henrietta Black before heading to Ely  where I stayed in a local pub  and was a tourist for a few hours.

The strong winds did not give up and the next day I eventually got home at about nine o'clock in the evening having stopped to see Giles and Ali on the way south.

Batty was fantastic and very comfortable to ride, although I'm sure I will get a lot more saddle fit, I don't think many bikes offer the comfort of that big seat and the general riding position. Although weary after long days, I was not stiff of limb or swore of ass.

After consultation with Henry of price part, my concerns about only doing about 80 or 90 miles a gallon on vegetable oil are not founded, and I am assured that it is a matter of adjustment before we see the mileage up to the 150 mpg territory.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Princess

Prince William isn't the only chap with a new Princess, yesterday I met for the first time my new bride for this journey. Batty is everything a man could want in a companion; Not too fast but will always gets there, beautifully proportioned and built for comfort, loyal and reliable, and unlike Kate Middleton she will always obey (well that's my understanding anyway).

The first ride had a bit of an abortive start, in that the battery turned out to be duff and after 20 miles would not start having filled up with a gallon of vegetable oil. Back at Henry's garage he quickly resolved the problem and had me off again after an hour.

Henry had set the bike up with diesel oil, so my first few miles were on that forbidden fuel. However now she is full of vegetable oil and running very sweetly. Luckily for me I was able to purloin 20 L of oil from Galapagos, which is one of my favourite hostelries in Battersea High Street. Elaine and Steve, who run it, have been very supportive and were very generous in allowing me the oil at cost price,   about £1.10 p per litre.

Here is a video made by Peter Gray. He brilliantly drove me down to collect the bike. As you can hear got terribly excited about the bike and is threatening to get one himself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Travel Safety Training

Had a very useful day, largely surrounded by late teen and early twenty year old lasses and a few chaps, learning how to travel safe, spot and avoid dangers, keep well and generally how to look after yourself.

It was run by Objective Travel Safety and Charlie and Eleanor where our excellent trainers

Whilst largely common sense, it was a day full of top tips and would recommend it to travelers of all ages.

Monday, April 18, 2011

First Pictures of Batty

Here's Batty.....

MOT'd and ready to be registered, which should be a matter of days now.

After that the top box and panniers need to be added and some crash bars.

Please note the rather generous and comfortable seat...for those who have mentioned piles and the like.