I passed my motorcycle test first time in February 2008. Prior to that I’d been riding around on a rebuilt Yamaha RD125LC. With the UK motorcycle test set to change, a friend and I decided it would be a good idea to get our full licence, and take off on a European tour. We both took our test as the same time, but unfortunately he failed both the initial test and the retest. In the end I thought sod it. I wasn’t enjoying work, so decided to just go for it. What happend next was a 5000+ mile journey form Norwich to the Black Sea coast and back again.
Bike and Equipment
After passing, I was desperate to get my first ‘big bike.’ I flooded BCF and other forums for weeks with ‘Spec me a bike’ style threads. In the end I decided on a 1996 GPZ500. It cost just £640 leaving plenty of change for modifications, and luggage.
At 12 years old the bike had obviously seen better days, but with 25,000 miles on the clock I knew that there was still plenty of life left in it. And it felt like a rocket ship compared to my 125cc machine. Reliability is crucial when touring, and from my research the post 1994 GPZ500s had few major issues. The chain and sprockets on my GPZ were good, the tyres were nearly new, and it had just been treated to a new battery and front brake pads. Once I got the bike in my possession I completely cleaned out and balanced the carbs, installed a new fuel filter, flushed the coolant and checked the valve clearances.
The only modifications I made to the bike were a cigarette lighter power socket, and a non-slip pillion matt. I flirted with a touring screen but decided that it looked ridiculous on the GPZ. Luggage-wise I order a Renntec rack, unfortunately I cut this a bit fine. The rack arrived just 2 days before I was due to leave, and it was the wrong model, so I decided to do without.
I bought some cheap buffalo panniers from M&P, and a Lidl tank bag. As I’d be campingI also needed a complete set of camping gear too. I picked up a huge, but light weight 2-man tunnel tent, a vango summer sleeping back, and indulged myself with a self-inflating matt, and pillow.
On to the journey
I didn’t have a plan set in stone, but I did map out a rough route, that would take me all the way to the Black Sea coast. My first destination which was Prague, from there I would visit multiple places in Eastern Europe.
Before that though, my tenancy was up on my rented house in Norwich so I went to visit the folks back in Wolverhampton for 4 days. Pulled up at the service station on the way form Norwich to Wolverhampton where I checked the bike over again and chilled out for a little while before the start of what was going to be a month and a half on the road.
I rode down to London where I was playing in Bluesfest, a 3 day lacrosse festival. Whist there I was joined by my girlfriend who was doing part of the tour with me as pillion. Originally she was going to travel Europe by train and I was going to be riding the continent with a mate of mine who was re-taking his test in early June. Alas he fails his test and so decided to wait until next year.