This summer gave me the perfect chance to try out some riding kit in extremes of temperature and weather, whilst on a 2500-mile road trip to Croatia and back. Plus of course I’ve done a fair few UK miles attending other rallies and events over what has been a hectic few months. Over the next few weeks we’ll be adding reviews of the kit we’ve been using and abusing…
Firstly the scooter: My mode of transport for the Croatia trip had to be reliable, quick, comfortable and able to carry two people and luggage, including camping gear. The obvious choice was a Vespa GTS 300 and a great choice it was too. Our group of seven scooters were all on GTS’s and the only problem we had was one overheating at high altitude. The others all ran perfectly, averaging between 250-300 miles per day in high temperatures. One of our group covered 470 miles in one day on the way back and he was still ready for more, testament to these great machines. Visit: www.uk.vespa.com
This prototype tracking Adventure device was added for peace of mind and to allow friends and relatives back home to track our progress. It’s the latest development from Datatool and won’t be on sale to the general public until later this year. Aside from providing a stolen vehicle recovery solution Datatool will also phone the owner if the bike is moved without the ignition being on. The device allows a user to login (providing you give them a guest login) to track a journey in real time. The kids at home enjoyed following our progress and knew exactly when they had to get the house cleaned ready for our return! With rising numbers of bikes and scooters being stolen it makes sense to buy the best security you can afford. At £179 for the standard TrakKING device it’s much cheaper than an aftermarket exhaust and could potentially get your bike back and hopefully help catch the thieves whilst it’s at it. You also need to take out a subscription and pay for fitting. I used their approved installer, Pete, ‘Bike Alarm Man’ (find him on Facebook), he fitted it at my home address and was excellent. Visit: www.datatool.co.uk
Taking two people and camping gear for a fortnight away means you have to get your luggage sorted properly. I searched around and eventually opted for a set of 60-litre Oxford Panniers, they cost £129.99 and look good, are easy to load and fasten (the zips are much preferable to roll top panniers). In addition to these I also used a matching Oxford Cruiser bag (£119.99) to provide an additional 75 litres of storage space. The cruiser comes complete with a clip on bag that simply fastens to the top using quick release buckles. Not only did this bag fasten easily on the rear carrier but it also offered a great backrest for my pillion. www.oxprod.co.uk
One item I really wouldn’t have wanted to do the trip without is the TomTom Rider. It’s a bike specific sat nav and as such it’s waterproof, has a long life battery (about six hours if it’s not hard wired in) and has a whole load of useful functions, as well as excellent mapping and a constant update on fuel stations along your route. It uses a Ram Mount to attach to the bike or scooter (different types of mount are available if needed) and can easily be wired into your machine to provide constant battery power. The 45 country European mapping was spot on, making sure we took either the fastest, twistiest or shortest route every day. It got us directly to our chosen campsites and took the stress out of finding a garage in a strange foreign country. During our trip there was only one minor glitch and that wasn’t really the fault of TomTom, an Italian motorway services had closed down meaning we were almost out of fuel by the time we reached the next one.
The Rider also has a ‘Winding routes’ feature to help you find an exciting route, you can customise it so it’s hilly, or flatter depending on how you and your machine are feeling and you can also plan a circular route for a day out.
The 11cm screen is full colour with easy to read maps, it can be used in either landscape or portrait and the touch screen can be used with or without gloves and it can be pinched to enlarge if required. You can connect it to your phone, upload routes via PC and there are a whole host of other functions if you need them.
The basic kit (Rider 40) costs £279.99 and comes with a Ram Mount and cables, Lifetime maps of Western Europe including 23 countries. The 400 costs £319.99 and includes Lifetime speed cameras, traffic and 45 countries. The 400 Premium pack also includes a useful car mounting kit, an anti-theft solution for bike use, a travel case and costs £399.99.
Way back in 1994 I bought a Kyham Igloo tent; it was an umbrella style quick erect tent – a revelation after years of ordinary triangular shaped traditional ridge tents. It was a bit bulky but I was able to carry it on the rack of my scooter and it was used for a good few years before I bought something else, I can’t remember what happened to it to be honest but I expect I’d put it away damp and it went mouldy.
This summer with a two-week scooter adventure to Croatia (where we’d need to be moving camp daily) and a whole load of other camping trips to fit in I decided (after getting recommendations from friends) to buy a new quick erect Kyham Biker tent. The design of the tent hasn’t changed too much over the years; it comes as a complete item that can be erected within a minute of getting it out of the bag. Simply hold the centre and clip the folding poles into a locked position, peg it down and you’re in. There’s just one pole to insert around the roomy front porch and if you want to have the front open you can use the two additional aluminium poles to hold the door upright. I also opted for the additional footprint groundsheet to give extra storage space in the porch, rather than it just being grass in there and just in case the weather got really bad I bought a set of storm guy ropes and strong pegs.
Since buying the tent we’ve had our two week 11 country trip to Croatia where we camped everywhere from a lakeside campsite in Austria to a stone campsite on an island in Croatia (without an easy erect tent we’d have struggled to pitch there). The tent packs up to a manageable size and the bag it goes in is plenty big enough to accommodate the tent, pegs, extra groundsheet, a picnic blanket, a lamp and an air bed pump. At 6.8kg’s and a packed size of 60cm x 20cm x 20cm it fits on the front carrier of my Vespa GTS easily enough, or on the Sprint rack of my Lambretta. We’ve experienced weather ranging from red-hot to torrential rain and the tent has been perfect so far, apart from on one occasion when I didn’t peg it down properly and some rain got through the side. The sleeping area is large enough for a double airbed and there’s enough space either side to stow two lots of riding kit, panniers and luggage for a two-week holiday. The porch itself is a great space, made much more useable by the footprint groundsheet, although you have to be careful what you leave in there as we found out one night when a thunderstorm soaked some clothes we’d left out overnight. I’d prefer the porch to have a sewn in groundsheet like the sleeping area to make it even more useful.
Overall though the tent is excellent, not too expensive, can be put up very quickly after a long days riding and put away within a few minutes as well, without having to fight trying to get a bulky tent into an undersized bag. Well recommended, visit www.kyham.co.uk
Choosing kit for a trip where on the same day you can wake up in the Alps and be watching skiers at breakfast, then riding to an Austrian lake in 30 plus degrees can be quite tricky so I opted for some base layers and a mesh style jacket and trousers.
This Buffalo Coolflo was perfect for the job, it was bright enough to be seen (although I got a bit of stick from my travelling companions who called it a ‘play suit’) and wasn’t expensive at just £89.99 for the jacket and £79.99 for the trousers. It has a removable waterproof, windproof and breathable liner (it kept me dry on the only rainy day we had) and once the liner was removed it kept me cooler than my friends in their ordinary textiles so I had the last laugh. As lightweight, functional and inexpensive touring items go you’ll have to try hard to beat it for less than £200. You can find the full Buffalo range at www.thekeycollection.co.uk
We’ve covered the Knox Studio Collection and armoured vest in the past but both me and my pillion have used them all summer, with various different jackets. They’ve been fantastic, comfortable to wear, unobtrusive and they give you better protection than simply relying on the armour provided (or not as the case may be) with your regular jacket. Get yourself one, you’ll love it. They cost just £99 and the full range of Knox products can be found at: www.planet-knox.com
We’ll be adding more kit and reviews to this feature so keep your eye on it.