Monday, 7 January 2013

Biker Bitz

I had been planing to do a write up on the blog, about some of our various biker trips abroad over the last few years. I have finally got round to starting to do something about it. It is intended to encourage more people to give it a go and to also point out out some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Countries where I have hired a bike to do our own biker holidays include. The USA, Crete, Cyprus, India, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Tunisia and Morocco. There are many bike based tour companies around the world that can organise your trip. However, they tend to try and cover as much as possible in the allocated time. This can mean riding against the clock and we don't find that style of riding enjoyable. 

Our biker holidays are not intended to cover large distances to and from from the UK. They are not intended to cover large distances in our location of choice. We always choose not to ride overland to our destination, but to do a fly-ride type of adventure. In this way we can maximise the length of time we spend at our chosen location. As well as arriving fresh and raring to go. We can stay in hotels of our choice as a base and we are not burdened down carrying large amounts of equipment on our bikes.

So what do you need to have in place to enjoy such holidays? 

Always take and wear protective equipment such as armoured mesh biker jackets, trousers, helmets and boots. You will need mesh in hot climates for the air flow to help keep you cool. We usually end up donating our helmets at the end of our adventure to someone or other for services rendered. This leaves us with room for the bits and pieces we always end up bringing back. Remember, always wear a helmet and protective clothing, whether you’re the driver or a passenger.

Whenever you park your bike always choose a place in the shade. If your going to be there for a while plan a location where the bike will remain in the shade throughout your stay, it may be in the shade now, but will it be when you return.

You will need a small lightweight rucksack and a cargo net to stow your gear in if your going to leave the bike. We have one with a built in water pouch which makes it easy to store the water you will need. You will soon become very adept at removing your biker gear whenever you stop in hot climates. Remember you will need to carry water with you at all times, you may breakdown miles from anywhere.

Ensure you have a drivers licence that covers the region that you are travelling in or through. You will need an International Driving Permit for some places. Make sure you always carry a good quality (as lifelike as possible) colour photocopy of your licence (laminated) or permit on your person. You will see why later.

Ensure you have your Passport, road maps and crib-sheet. Make sure you always carry your passport on your person. A good fold-up map of the area is essential as well as a text based crib-sheet of your pre-planned route. To help you prepare your crib sheet, read travel guides of the area to help find places of interest to visit. Don't forget to look on Google Earth. At the same time be prepared to go off-route to explore places that you happen to find that look interesting. Let your hotel know of your plans. Especially when you expect to return. You can also leave them with a copy of your route crib-sheet just in case.

In some places, the hire of a vehicle includes some form of minimal insurance. This is to protect the hirer from loss. You will need specialist insurance cover to protect you from all kinds of third party claims. If you do decide to hire a motorcycle or scooter, make sure you use a reputable hire company – check that they are licensed to hire bikes to tourists. Check what areas your are allowed to travel in with the hire vehicle. 

Travel insurance, you need to make sure that your cover is not negated by the terms and conditions. Quite often exclusions such as riding motorcycles and scooters are included in the cheap-as-chips holiday insurance. This is intended to protect them from claims from the average Joe Public holiday maker. Hiring a scooter and riding around in sandals, shorts and tee shirts and getting a bad dose of gravel rash or sometimes much worse. 

However, some companies will give the required cover if it is declared that your going on a “planned biker holiday” they may ask to see you itinerary. They seem to see it as the same sort of risk as people going on a skiing holiday. Point out that you will be taking and wearing the right sort of protective equipment throughout your adventure. Don't leave it until the last moment to arrange cover as it usually takes a few weeks to set up. Shop around as you would for normal vehicle insurance travel insurance can be quite expensive. Remember, its what's covered your looking for, more than the price.

Pre-plan your trip carefully – include fall back plans for what you need to do if anything goes wrong – like a major breakdown. What to do if you start to run out of time and you are a long way from your destination (train travel for you and your bike) for instance. Some countries require you to carry a first aid kit and or to carry spare bulbs. Remember a fine can be very large on foreigners and sometimes the bike will be impounded until you pay. Sometimes, even your licence will be impounded. That's why you always need to have good quality photocopies to hand over! You might also want to keep a bribe handy - just in case! A bung always works in India.

Tools are worth taking, just for the small roadside running repairs. A tyre plugger type of puncture repair kit is essential. Plus the CO2 canisters (these must be carried packed in your main luggage for the flight) You can cram all the tools you will need into a small tool roll.

My last and most important tip is never ever for any reason ride at night.

Rather than me re-inventing the wheel - buy yourself one of the popular – overland biker travel guides or books. For instance the “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook” by Chris Scott is the motorcyclists' trip planning bible. Read it, and then when you think you know it all, re-read it again!

In 2007 myself and Mags did a couple of biker trips in Turkey making our base both times in a small town called Hisaronue, which is located high in the mountains overlooking Oludeniz. Hisaronu, is really beautiful, and is surrounded by wonderful and breathtaking wooded mountain scenery. We mainly travelled in and around the area known as the “Turquoise Coast” between Fethiye – Oludeniz – Patara and Kalkcan. Keeping within a 75 mile radius of our base location. We always tend to seek out the out-of-the-way non-tourist places to visit. We went back again six weeks later as there was so much to see and do we could not cover it all in one trip.

The hotel that we used as our base was a small family owned business and the staff were very welcoming. We normally book bed and breakfast as we intend to spend most of the day out touring on the bike. We always have a good breakfast before setting off to explore. Eating lunch can be very easy in Turkey as most villages have a local café where the locals congregate. Our choice of a location in the mountains proved to be a very good choice. During both of our visits Turkey was enjoying a heatwave even by their standards.

The roads in Turkey are generally quite good. Reasonably well maintained, but when travelling in the mountains you have to watch out for rocks and boulders that regularly fall onto the roads. However, the driving standard of the Turks leaves much to be desired. Their police are very keen and well armed and must be treated with due deference at all times. In the main they are quite helpful if a bit suspicious of everyone. There are armed dissidents operating in eastern turkey, however the western side is relatively quiet.

The bike we hired was a 250cc Mondile cruiser. We chose the bike because it had a couple of small panniers where we could stow all of our bits and pieces. We paid about £10 pounds a day which included insurance and damage waiver cover. The bike performed quite well, two up, in very hot weather, 40 deg C. With the only problem experienced being a broken clutch cable. We managed to get a roadside repair done for about £2.50 which soon had us on our way again.

Things to do and see, in South West Turkey.

Even Turkish families go on holiday here in the Taurus mountains overlooking Olu Deniz, because to them it is considered to be a paradise. Paragliding over the mountains down onto the beach occurs all year round. This is one of the best places in the world for paragliding and has become a Paragliders' Mecca. Fethiye market on Tuesday is busy and Olu Deniz sunsets are not to be missed.

Then there is Saklikent gorge in the southern Taurus mountains which is a beautiful, mysterious and stunning place. The Gorge is a 20km‑long canyon 40 minutes' drive east of Fethiye on Turkey's Turquoise Coast. You will need to wear clothes you don't mind getting wet though! Saklikent gorge is advertised as the second-largest gorge in Europe. However, Saklikent gorge is in Asia. Where I suspect it is not so grand when compared to others. It is however, the longest and deepest gorge in Turkey. It is a spectacular place, with the water sculpted walls soaring hundreds of feet high above. 

Summer is the best time to visit as the water filled canyon is deliciously cool and shady with cold water. Outside of and tucked within the gorge, locals have set up small restaurants with seating areas on wooden platforms suspended just above rushing spring waters, great places to kick back upon Turkish rugs and cushions with a beer all under the welcome shady trees. .

Head south to Patara and visit the pink Roman amphitheatre. Patara beach, an 18 km long strip of sand bordered by mountains and sand dunes is voted one of the best beaches in the world. It is a national park and the breeding ground of the endangered loggerhead turtle. This area was home to the ancient Lycians who were one of the most enigmatic people of antiquity. Although little historical record has been left behind them, what has been discovered, reveals a fascinating people culturally distinct from the rest of the ancient world.

Most of all, have fun.

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