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London to Kiev and back

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by jamesowens691, Dec 11, 2008.

  1. This was in October before I got the Honda XL1000 and was on a Aprillia Caponord ETV 1000. If anyone knows how the XL1000 has performed on same sort of thing I would be most interested as am planning some longer ride, that are working towards my circumnavigation rally. Hope you enjoy the read and there is some swearing in it, sorry! Also am sorry but am not sure how to put the pictures on and will try and find out.

    Riding from London to Kiev and then back again in under 7 days

    Now that I am back it feels like a dream of the cold hard bitter night rides and all the things that happened to make this all happen in the first place. It began as so many things do with just a simple idea and a challenge. I was hearing about Ewan and Charlie on TV having done this world bike ride and looked at an episode. Utter piss I thought as I had done some expeditions with the RAF and having a support crew, medical team, back up and friends was more of a jolly than any real challenge of the human spirit to conquer adversity. At this stage I had not passed a bike test and knew very little of them and to most I still do not. Bikes are big, shiny and go fast! What more does one need to know to be able to ride a bike.

    Not long after this my friend got some bad news that she was diagnosed with MS. A vibrant and colourful woman that makes anyone she meets smile. She is that special kind of person that people just like to be around and makes your world that little brighter for having known her. I looked into MS and what it means and what steps could be taken to ease the risks. My friend remains positive about the condition as is her nature to do so. Nothing is too much trouble and moaning is not a quality that would ever be used to describe her, even when she has call to whine.

    So I did what any crazy lunatic does that loves a good challenge, I combined the two and said that I would do a motorbike ride with no crew or mates from London to Moscow and back again in a week! That is about as much planning as I had put into it and I just love all the little things that go wrong on adventures as that is what makes it an adventure…and there was plenty to go wrong!

    I took my bike test and this was not long after a serious car crash that I had coming off the mountain roads in Cumbria and landing on the roof, then having to smash a window to crawl out in the snow and limp 2 miles to a farm house. The Police rescue car crashed getting to me, the ambulance got stuck and in the end a 4x4 Police car made it to me and took me to hospital. Really thought that I was going to die on that one but with the doors caved in and stuck I used my Police baton to break the window. Work gave me a 12 month warning for having a baton off site, thanks for that one guys much appreciated. Anyway, I took my bike test and I was failed, I say I was failed as I did not feel that I failed it. I was failed on the fact that the examiner thought that a woman wanted to use a zebra crossing and I did not stop, she was not at the crossing and was in fact coming along the pavement in the direction of the crossing. I am a Police Officer and I trend to notice these things! So I was failed by the petty little man and his clipboard. I took the test again and the same gimp comes out the examination area, Jesus! Yeah he failed me again, this time based on the fact that at a staggered junction that I had right of way from the other car, she took off at the same time that I did but was speeding and because I can only accelerate to 30mph she has to break, failed! I was livid and then thought that the petty man just had a thing about Policemen. I went to another area of Liverpool for my test and took it with another guy, passed and without so much as a mark on the examination paper. Case proved and yes if I ever see Gimp riding and break that speed limit I will smile while I book him.

    That done it was time to go and get sorted for the bike event, I got in touch with the MS Society and they helped me set up a webpage, I then emailed everyone that I knew and sent off emails to companies. How are you doing this and what is the unique angel? Hmm had not thought about that, I was talking to the Russian embassy as I needed a visa and it would take up to 3 weeks! Oh hell no, I was not waiting that long as it would be seriously cold, I can take the pain but ice is just suicide on a bike so I looked at the map. Ukraine! I took a look on Google and guess what! Since 2005 EU folks do not need a visa for a 90 day stop!!! Fantastic, Ukraine it is then and so UK to Ukraine Kiev was born.

    I was already speaking to an Embassy and that gave me the idea of getting a letter from one Ambassador to the other! So I wrote off and I got a reply the next working day from the press office of the Embassy. They wanted details and support lists, I was just a Copper with a bike and passport! The people at both Embassies are amazing and dedicated and UK Embassy Kiev sorted out a media TV crew to come and film my take off from London. I rode down to London from Liverpool and stayed at the Youth Hostel in Holland Park, just around the corner from the Embassy of the Ukraine. My bags packed and woollies on I waited for the morning and looked around for a barber. I get a hair cut for £25 and for a Liverpool Cop I almost arrested her right there and then for theft, welcome to London James!

    I had packed just warm gear and some advice that I got from Boyd at Almaxx motorbikes in Maghull, great bunch of lads and know what they are talking about. I got a discount on all the stuff and the full body rain suit saved my life in the end. I had some chain lube, rolls of duck tape and a big chain with pad lock, sorted!

    I waited in the YHA and lay there looking at the bunk above me with the odd stain looking back at me. The oddest feeling started and I was not sure what was going on at first, it was nerves. For the first time in so many years I was nervous that I could not do this event. That pissed me off, I do not get nervous, I simply do and keep doing till I have completed it or I died trying. I shook the stupid feeling from me and went for a walk and a smoke. I thought of all the things that I have done in my life and this was not going to be anything different. I had lived in the mountains of Indonesia being the only white man there, I had been in the forces and did god knows what, I had sailed the UK in a Hurricane 4.5, I have climbed every peak in the UK, been shot at, stabbed, god knows how many fist fights and I had embraced a community of 'Travellers' that are supposed to hate my kind. Sort your self out James was the key thought in my head and I smiled, went back to the bunk and fell asleep.

    It was morning and the feeling was replaced with determination to get it done and the fact that I had no support, did not know the roads and my map was a A4 sheet of town names sellotaped to my tank was just fine by me….bring it on!

    The embassy had arranged for a TV crew from INTER to be there to meet the Ambassador to the UK and also film my riding off to Kiev. The Embassy of the Ukraine is an impressive place and very secure, I was lead in to the main room with a large chandler and solid wooden floor. There was a lady there from the BBC to do a tape interview also. One call from the Embassy had done more than 120 emails from me! I had a quick chat with Olexander the Diplomat and a guard came over asking who I was with a frown. The guard was nothing new to me in my world and I would normally be that guard and rather than making me uncomfortable, it made me smile and laugh a little as Olex waved him off.

    The Ukrainian Ambassador was very nice and well presented as one would expect, some small chit chat about bikes and the roads in Ukraine and he signs my post card for me with the Embassy stamp. It was another hour or so with the TV crew with interviews and film shots before I could set off and is really more Ewan's thing than mine to have a camera in your face. I was asked a lot of questions that I did not really have an answer for, I am a basic person and I was doing a bike ride to raise money to help MS and my friend…above and beyond that I left in the lap of the gods and my own determination. So any questions about how long will you ride and where will you stay, the truth is that I had no idea about any of that and I didn't care. I have very few talents but the main one that I do have is that I never give up and have a real iron will when it comes to hardship and endurance. But nothing prepared me for the pain and wonderment that the trip would hold for me.

    I set off at about 11am down the M20 to get the train to Calais with little issue and a smooth ride at 70mph, it was not long before I was on the train and driving on the right hand side of the road. This was the first of many issues for me as I have dyslexia and my left and right is not the best in the world. I would have to stop at a junction and work out physically how to turn on a right bend in the right hand lane. The French, for some reason best known to them do not like road signs and I do not read French anyway! So I end up heading the wrong way for about 40mins towards Paris! I could see no water and this was supposed to be a coastal road big clue there! So I stop and look for the town on the road sign on the map, bugger! And back I go and this time head for Dunquerke and the town of Brugge.

    I made good time now and felt better about the trip as I went towards Gent, then Antwerp but the Dutch also have an issue with road signs. The main issue is that they do not like to tell you where that road goes past the next town. So you want to go to Breda but the roads split, one says Flurrggen and the other says Gurggen or something but no sign for Breda. So I stop and find that Flurggen is the next small town on the road to BREDA! In England you get a list, Manchester 40 miles, Stoke 60 miles Birmingham 90miles BUT not with the Dutch. You would get Oldham but NOT that it goes to Manchester!! So I had to stop a few times until I got on the E30 that is 300 miles of road that takes you to Berlin.

    The Germans! They drive like their kid is in the front seat choking to death and they have to get to the hospital! I was doing around 80mph and I was a slow one on the road. It dark as they do not have road side lights like the UK and they whiz past you at 130mph in a smoking Audi or BMW. They seem to have no idea how brakes work or indeed how long it would take to stop without hitting the car in front. I got to see two smashes and when a German crashes………He crashes! I had rode past France, Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany and now the cold was kicking in at 11pm. I had been on the road for 12 hours with the odd stop for a coffee to help un numb my hands, heated grips will be on the bike next time for sure! I was getting tired and sore but okay to go on until the pain in my toes from the cold that had worked past 3 layers of socks and a pair of AFO boots was getting so sore I was wincing as I rode. I made it as far as Hanover at 2am and with 14 hours of ride it was time to rest or risk being killed on the German highway with the NASCAR lunatics. I got about 6 hours sleep I think and a hot coffee as I had no euros on me and was using a card to get fuel. I had forgot to get the money from the bank in the UK!
  2. The 6hours sees the dawn coming and warmer weather, nothing could prepare me for how cold it is to ride a motorbike in Germany during October at night. It was not cold, it was bitter and painful beyond words. I could see my breath in my helmet as I rode and feel the cold go to my lungs with every breath that I took. It was time to dig in and get mean and that is what I did, I put the bike in gear and set off like a bat from hell. I got to the Berlin ring road and just like the M25 there is a traffic jam. Yay for bikers and skipping down the gap was great, most even moved to the side to let me past with the odd dickhead trying to block me. I did flip the bird and smiled as I swept around the other side and went 'off road' up the grass on the Caponord Endro. I head down to Cottbus and for the Polish border as soon as you cross you get to see the change in roads! It went from a smooth even ride that was even boring at times to a patch work quilt of tarmac that looked like it was laid by blind Irish immigrants!

    I thought that Germany was cold…….I was wrong! Poland does not spend money on wind blockers for the highway or even set up tree lines to stop the wind, the cars went from Audi and Merc to rust and MOT failures in a matter of hours. I was happy and could feel my toes, what I did not expect or plan for was chapped lips! Now with the cold wind I could feel my top lip starting to rip, not the most pleasant feeling when riding and being bounced all over the road but bumps and lumps. It was hard going through Poland but the place is beautiful to see and the road does improve when you get on the A4 toll road that Euro development helped with. I stopped a few times for fuel and coffee the further you go across the East of Europe the less people speak English. The good thing is that Europe uses pictures on the roads for service stations and not words like the Welsh do!

    It was now late in the evening and the roads had taken the toll on my shoulders and chest muscles. I was in good shape and strong but nothing made me ready for 9 hours of Polish roads and being bounced around like a new born. Another thing that I had not thought of was the amount of old arsed trucks spewing fumes on me, my eyes are now burning and my head is pounding like it will split the helmet. One great thing was that the bike was just lapping up the abuse and I seriously doubt that normal street bikes would stand up to the same test. After 14 hours on the road I was done as I hit the town of Krakow on the far side of Poland and near to the Ukrainian border. I was surprised how long it was taking me to get there and thought it would be a simple case of lapping up the miles. Bikes are NOT like cars and you have to concentrate all the time, no stereo, no heater and no chance of coming out of a skid without hitting the ground.

    Krakow had a large service station and a café, I got what looked like a cheese burger and chips but when open was not like any burger I had seen, the coronation dressing was a shock but did take away the taste of the 'meat', not sure what it was and was not going to ask as I was tired and hungry. I got about 8 hours sleep and woke in the dark hours of the new dawn with puffed up red eyes, sore feet and a dull ache all over my chest. I was not even half way and really did think 'I am just not going to make this one alive' it was now the start of day 3 and the fun at the Polish / Ukrainian Border.

    I awoke to find my right eye was weeping now and looking like something from a Rocky film, my hands hurt to move as the joints had started to get repetitive stress injuries in the knuckles and my arse looked like I was a Baboon at mating season! I check my gear in Krakow and the horrible sight of SNOW all over the 5am road that has no lights and the biggest oldest trucks in the world running on it, well ****!. Pain does not kill you it just pisses you off but snow, snow was just going to make it impossible! I spoke a guy in a German truck and asked about the weather report and he told me it was supposed to be sunny later and I then sent a text home for a weather update and told there was no snow. I was stood in it up to my boot laces and pushing it off my bike! The roads looked clear from all the trucks and fumes that get belted out so I just get on the bike and think slow miles is better than no miles. It was ****ing scary and seriously cold out there as I head across the last parts of Poland. The EU A4 road runs out and it is back to the patch work quilt job, as a biker you also find that they do not lay the under rock well and have huge sweeping channels where the truck tires have sunk the road. No problem if you are in a car but on a bike it is like riding down a toboggan shoot and pulls you off course.

    It was very painful and slow going and now my ears are hurting as the felt on the full mask is rubbing my lobes inside the helmet, I use the pain as a guide and when my hands, knees, toes and arse cannot take anymore I pull over for a coffee and a smoke. I must of drank a litre of coffee and I am talking about this weird Polish stuff that is frothy and has a hard sediment at the bottom, rather a shock for the first time you drink it! It was hot and that was all that was important.

    The snow did thaw at about 11am and I had been slow riding then for about 4 hours and not made much progress as I began to come to the border of Ukraine but the snow had become water and slush as a huge truck thunders over a huge pot hole and tidal waves me from helmet to feet in a wave of ****ty watery iced slush! It hit me with enough force that I swerve blind from the crap on my visor and skid to an emergency stop. He in the truck just kept on trucking, *******! I clear my visor and find that my oil light and neutral light are on, NO!! I check for damage but see no leak and the oil line is still above minimum so I carry on and hope that some water got in the fuse box and caused the lights to trip. They soon fade off again and I thank my lucky stars that it was just a drop of water in the fuse box. That would have been the end of the trip and to only make it half way, well not even that! Would have been a disaster of major proportions!

    The border of Poland and Ukraine is met at first with a huge line of trucks at the side of the road that goes on for a few miles, parked up cars and pissed off truckers! I was a biker J I just pulled out and whipped down the road past all the traffic and into the check point. Large burly looking skinhead guards everywhere, cool! My kind of people and I was happy to see them. I was waiting and then waiting some more and looking at the two cars in front and them not moving. I got off my bike and walked to the front, Oye! Hollered to the biggest guard I could find and he spins around and comes over and into my personal zone, I close the gap a half pace and look him in the eye. "why is the line not moving?" I ask rather pissed off and he looked around and shook his head, I hold up my passport and said British, then point at the line of cars and make a shooing motion with my arms and then shrug. This was my game of charades and how to say 'am not waiting here all ****ing day, get this line moving!" he looks me up and down and I can see him thinking so I look at him and let him think, he makes a twisting motion that means motorbike and I nod, he points to say come around to the front and goes and speaks to the girl at the desk. I come around and hand in my 'papers' done and dusted and off to the check point stamp man, I was happy now and the guards more relaxed came over to point at the big shiny bike. Men all over the world will always love big shiny toys that go fast no matter what country you are in! I let them have a look and do some 9000rpm rev ups for them with big smiles and pats on the back. I even pulled a small wheelie for the lads to a cheer and clap and set off into the country of the Ukraine.

    It was already half way into my day light hours and I had only just hit Ukraine on day 3, not good! I put the hammer down and became more aggressive in my riding on the seriously bumpy arsed roads to Kiev. Issue, I do not speak Russian or Ukrainian and not only are the signs not in English but they are not even using my alphabet anymore, I can work out that Antwerpen is Antwerp but KNIB with an upside down N was the meaning for Kiev, Kiev is not spelt Kiev in Ukraine it is Kyiv and I could work that out, so I had to stop and ask a trucker at the side or the road who had no idea and was looking for Latvia! Oookay moving on I find a little old woman and ask " Kiev, Kee ev, Kee iv, K nib" the K, Nib gets the nod and points down a road and I head off working out that KNIB means Kyiv that means Kiev and I follow the signs!

    I was flying and the signs for speed are not very clear in Ukraine, there are no road lights and the place looks amazing with farm land stretching as far as the eye can see. I pull in for petrol and then recall that I have no Ukrainian money! They take visa and I get a receipt but am now unable to eat or drink as I have no 'cash'. This is going to be one seriously long hard ride tonight! I was getting weak, sore and the temperature was dropping by the second as I hurl down through small rural villages. A cop comes out on a 'crossing' looks more like a splash of paint on the road and waves this white and black baton at me. Oh hell no! I had no cash and spoke no Ukrainian or Russian…so…I waved back all polite and carry on. He has a Larda that looks like it should be in a museum and I have 1000cc of Italian grunt under me. I got to the straight and drop the hammer Vroom! I could see him in the side mirror just put his hands on his hips and shrug, yeah mate it was pointless trying to even bother coming after me. Over taking in Ukraine is an art form in a car to not get killed, I had a bike that would pull me up to 100mph in a matter of seconds and whip me around the trucks and cars like they had pulled over. I was history and on my way to the city.

    It was now night and bitterly cold with no food from 6am and it is now 7pm, I am dry, cold, hungry and tired with another 160km or 100miles of Ukrainian road to go. To add to this there is a great deal of construction going on for the roads and they are being improved with terrific effort but it does mean that the diversions are about 3 miles of off road pit hole dirt and I thank god I was on the Endro style bike. It made great work of the nasty rocky mud and cut past more trucks and to the junction that leads back to Kiev.

    It is so very odd when you go 13 hours without food and water while doing physically strenuous riding, the cold and the pain keep you alert but it also numbs you to that pain at the same time and you become sort of tranquil in essence. I did a great deal of thinking in the last few hours of that road about people and friends and what it all means to be a human. I did not come to any great conclusion but I do feel better and somehow more focused that the basic things are not basic but fundamental and the important things are in fact nothing but window dressing to the basic things you need to be you.

    There was no moon tonight and so it was black dark with nothing but the light from my bike to see as far as I could any 'killer' type lumps on the road but I carry on, I am getting there tonight no matter what. I have no idea of what the place is like as it is just black and no sign of lights of a major city, just I assume farms upon farms and then the oddest thing happens. You come up what seems like a small hill and then BOOM like something from Encounters of the 3rd Kind, this huge city of lights and neon is there! I lower my torso to the tank and drop the hammer Vroom and I am off to the city.

    I got in the city of Kiev at about 8pm from starting at 6am in Poland but now I have to find the Embassy! I pulled over and ask about at a large shopping centre and what happened shocked me to the core. I was a stranger in a Capitol and I asked two blokes where the Embassy was? They did not speak English so I went back to the curb and sat down for a smoke. I then ask a taxi man that spoke pigeon English and got some sort of direction, then it happened! 4 lads come over in sort of USA style hoods and jeans but with a Eastern block style, I thought 'Oh yeah, here we go then, am tired and sore but I got armour, training and armour knuckled gloves' yeah I fancy my chances BUT I get a sudden smile and a lad is pushed forward to me. I look him over that says ' am a polite guy but you throw a dig and I will take the teeth from your head before your fist gets past your hip' he stood back and looked at his friends. There was a pause and they nudged him again ' please, you are man looking for the England?' I lifted my brows and felt embarrassed that I had challenged the man down in the first place and let my prejudice of Liverpool gangs get the better of me 'yes' I said with a smile. The men that spoke no English had gone off to find someone that did speak English and brought them back! This was a busy capitol and if someone in London was lost and did not speak English how many would go looking for a stranger that spoke say 'French' then bring them back to help! I was amazed and humbled by this kind gesture.

    I thank them warmly and make my way to the Embassy, I pull up outside and look up at the glorious sight of the Union flag waving softly in the breeze at me, I became warm again. I know it sounds like bull**** but I am a deeply patriotic person that does love this country and what it means to be British in the best tradition and value of the word. Not the political crap or the immigration, the issues and the problems but the dignified, determined and honourable way that should be the core of being British.

    Two police guards came from a box and looked me over, whoops! Yeah I was an AFO protection officer and I just pulled up outside an Embassy with a helmet and load of bags on it! Jesus James you should have known better than that but I was tired. I spoke to the guys but they spoke no English so I slowly got my docs saying 'passport' then show them my passport and police id, "Colleaga" one says to the other with a respectful nod. Then it is back to pointing at the bike and speedo J I called Lesya from the Embassy and Mike comes around with Tatya as the Duty Officer. What a great guy and it seems that the Embassy are putting me up in a flat! yay! I go around and the place is beautiful to a man that just spent 3 days in the cold and ****ty benches and not eaten or drank. They even had a frozen pizza in the fridge and a BATH oh god yes a bath! But then I am informed that England is about to play in the final and did I want to go to the local bar. Shocking! Not only had Mike come down to let me as was part of his duty but he then invites out a stranger that must stink to high heaven to come and go the pub. I was off to the pub and treated to a pint, heaven. It was at this stage that I noticed that every woman seemed to be a damn model and dressed in thigh high boots! Beer was about 30 pence, large screen TV of England in the rugby final and great group of folks from the Embassy and a t bone streak on the way………I thought I must have died on the bike ride and like a ghost this was my version of heaven and I did not know that I was dead. England got beaten by the South Africans and I knew I was alive and well in Kiev!

    We end up drinking, eating and talking till about 2am I think as I crossed a few time lines and I head back to the flat and take a LONG hot bath and fall asleep in the water. In the morning at 10am I was to meet the British Ambassador to Ukraine and have more filming done. I took my tired, sore but warm and fed body to bed and curled up with the mobile phone alarm clock.

    I woke up sore and tight to the sound of the phone going off as the alarm and a call from Lesya to arrange the pick up time to go and see the Ambassador, during the call I run out of credit and find that I cannot call out to my provider to top up the credit! I am no longer able to make calls in the Ukraine and let anyone know how I am doing and that I am safe. My phone works on O2 and people should be aware of this when they go to the Ukraine.

    I got dressed and went outside to have a look around at the place as waited for Lesya to pick me up. The street outside is lined with rows of painting for sale and small stall shops selling various items, it was cold I think but I was wind burnt and everything that was not 80mph in 2c was feeling rather warm and the cool air on my face felt great.

    Lesya arrived and is the person from the PR team for the Embassy, very hard working, organised and a people person that seems to run as a theme in the Embassy to just go above and beyond to help people out. We head off for a coffee at the Ukraine version of Star Bucks, it is Star Bucks but is written in Russian letters. I like coffee but I am not pretentious about it I just like coffee, it took a few minutes for them to work out that I did not want an espresso, cappuccino, latte I just wanted a coffee, black with sugar and a chicken sandwich. It was very nice and the place was crammed with more models in thigh high boots for some reason.

    Lesya will not let me pay for the morning breakfast and then we get to go on the cable bus! Very cool and not been on one since I was a child. We get to the Consulate and I meet his Excellency in the foyer, he was not what I was expecting and was obvious from just a few seconds of chatting to him that he was acutely aware of peoples feelings and how to put them at ease. He adopted a relaxed posture with an easy smile and greeted me asking simple easy questions with some jokes, I was impressed and I am not the easy to impress. The camera crew turn up and the Ambassador guides me in stride to a side room to do the filming, we do the simple hand shake and he signs the card with the stamp then a few questions from the INTER team for him. He went from simply chatting about me and the trip into what would be seen as a well rounded and smooth speech about charity, people, unity, visas, development, progress and future events in Ukraine! Great, I had to follow that in my interview and I just smiled and laughed and said that I was not going to be delivering something like that I had just not planned anything, I got on a bike and I started riding till I could not ride anymore then I carried on, he just laughed and said I would be fine. We go outside and do another meeting for the 'first' time a few times and then it is off to the square of Independence for some filming of the bike and interview.

    I had to ride around and do some breaking shots, then close ups and then a walking interview as I chatted to the INTER team, the camera man was a biker! And seriously impressed that I had made it all the way here in 3 days, I was determined to get back in 2 I told him.

    When all the filming and shaking of hands is done they tell me they will send me a DVD of the of the filming when it has been edited and I make my way for something to eat as it is now 3pm. Lesya meets me again and says that there is reports of snow in west Ukraine and that I should stay at the Embassy another night. I mull that over for a few hours, the flat is amazing and comfy and I could do my postcards later and look around the city. I agree to stay a night much to her joy, she seems to have a motherly concern that I am going to end up a red spot on the Ukrainian roads.
  3. And so the journey back begins! I was still sore but I felt I could make better time with not having to stop as much and check the map as I now know the road signs and during my last good meal at the Irish pub in Kiyv I got the waitress to write down the names of the towns in the Russian alphabet spelling! Armed with this new knowledge I went back to the flat and filled in some post cards for some friends of mine and took another bath for my joints. Took my last sleep in a comfy bed and had arranged to meet Fred the Embassy security manager at 07.30hrs Ukraine time. I had parked my bike at the rear of the Embassy for a secure lock up and what better that having a load of gates and two Police guards for my precious bike!

    It was a clear and bright morning but I was not looking forward to the trip back as I knew how painful it was going to be to get back in two days, this was going to mean some serious riding and I had thrown on an extra pair of socks for the cold rally. I got an escort from the city from the Ambassador's driver, yet another act of kindness from the Embassy team in Kiyv! Heading out of the city I was doing some maths that if I do an extra 10mph over 10 hours that is going to give me 100 miles on a trip, so an extra 10mph was given while I had the good light and I spare no quarter to cars, whipping past them with the power of the bhp that I had at my disposal. I was chewing up the miles this time and my plan was to get Ukraine and Poland behind me as quickly as possible as night riding would be far better in Western Europe on the well laid and illuminated roads.

    This was the key to cutting down the journey time and I went for it, trucks, cars and busses got passed like they had stalled and I checked the oil on my baby, she was running on the low side but nothing serious and so I pushed her on. The power ripping up the miles and zooming past the traffic that leaves a car stuck for miles at a time looking for a gap, a biker needs no such gap and the pull of the bike gets you past a slow truck in a matter of seconds! I made light work of the Ukraine roads and was in Li'viv within 5 hours, it would take a car and average of 7 hours I am told and that extra little push was paying dividends over time.

    I got to the border of Poland and the Ukraine and again there was a huge line of trucks waiting to cross for about 3 miles, I went past them with my normal power and grace from the Aprilia! Then it happens, as it normally does it comes right out of the blue, a huge arse Russian truck just pulls out on me and I react as quickly as I can. You just know when you are not going to make it when you are a biker and time slows down as you react, I push my hip out hard and swerve my bike….BANG! and I am looking the other way now and losing the traction from the wheels but slowing fast, I feel the body start to slip under me and I know it is dropping. I get pissed off rather than scared and I am on a wet road and put my foot down, taking the weight of the bike and as my leg stretches and the heel of my boot slides on the tarmac. I have been doing kick boxing and sports from a young age and I let my groin take the strain of the bike while holding her up with my arms on a slide angle till I come to a stop. The truck just keeps going and what was I going to do on a bike against a truck!?! So yeah, he gets the finger! I check my bike and the truck has ripped the side panel bag off but not caught the actual bike! Time for duck tape and I sell-o-tape the bag back on in true bodge it fashion and get riding again.

    At the check point I have to wait again but this time rather than waiting and walking around looking for a guard I tried the direct approach. I pulled up, gave a few power rev tunes with the twin exhausts and fly to the front of the line and OVER the 'stop' line. This gets immediate attention and I opt for the hapless British tourist lost in the big Ukraine. English? I ask and the Guard shakes his head and points at the back of the line, I smile and nod and but go nowhere and hold out my passport to him. Again he shakes his head and points to the back of the line and again I look back then to him with a smile I nod and hold out my passport "English?" I say again with a smile, this is met with a frown and a groan and he now points to a office box where I get my passport stamped, at last I now seem to understand him and rev over to the desk. I toss my documents in and smile "good morning! I am British and would like to get my backside back to the uk as soon as possible please darling" I said this at full Liverpudlian pace and heavy on the accent. You would be hard pressed to understand me if you had been from Yorkshire let alone the Ukraine and I smiled knowing this nodding at my documents. She pauses and looks at the Guard who shrugs and I give him a smile and thumbs up! She shakes her head but stamps the passport and passes it back "Thank you!" two rev blips and I am out of there.

    Poland! I still have daylight and plenty of it for the trip as I hammer on down the road to Krakow, I was sort of sad to leave the Ukraine and the country has so much to offer a tourist that I felt cheated that I had so little time to spend there. I will go back again for a 'tourist' holiday for sure. I can then take my time and look over the many wonderful places that the country of Ukraine has to offer. That is if they still do not have the visa to deal with. I would hope not as to me a visa says 'we do not trust you' and Ukraine is working and working well to becoming a full member of the EU family and I do look forward to that day.

    I am now heading up the middle of Poland and it is getting darker by the second, the only thing faster than the light fading is the temperature dropping around me. Biking in the cold is a trade off for endurance, the faster you go the colder you get and the sooner you have to stop and heat back up, the slower you go the warmer it is and longer you can ride but you lose the light and the light was the key factor in the bad roads situation. I had been riding now from 8am Ukraine time to 2am Poland time when I hit Legecia. I am done and with 780miles of Eastern block road over and some 18 hours on the road I had to sleep or fall off the bike! I am cold, cold to my bones not just skin cold. On a bike there is a deep painful cold that you can get that just makes everything ache from the inside out. It feels like your bones have been frozen and the most simple move requires a serious dedication of effort. So I find a motel and book in, screw it I need a bed tonight. A nice place with a locked car park that would stop a car but not a 1000cc enduro monster that just pulls up the grass hill and around the lock gates past a gap no wider than a fat trucker.
    Am so sorry it took me so long to get this last part of the trip done!

    I get in and book the room with no problem but then find that they do not take credit cards! Eh Gads! I have some GBP on me and work out that 100 Polish is about £20, great and the girl at the desk speaks English to a degree. I get my £20 and she then says no, Euro! Euro is not now nor I hope ever will be British pounds! So after much talking and getting so tired my eye begins to weep blood again, I was getting rather worried about it this stage. She takes my passport and informs me that I may pay in the morning. Fine then, I am in no mood to argue and I head for a thaw out bath and then almost crawl into bed for some well needed sleep.

    I woke late, about 9am and get washed when I notice that I have a small cut over my tear duct and was the reason that my eye was weeping, this was a great relief to me and then I went in my pockets and I got my small change from coffee and buying bits and bobs. I have 40 Polish and a load of Euro coins and get an idea. Yes, got it as I paid for my room in half Polish and then convert the rest into Euro and can get my passport back with my small change. Also getting rid of my small change is a bonus. I was still left with about 200 Ukrainian but I just roll that up and shove it in my pack.

    Back on the road and this time I have full day light and open roads of Europe. I take my time getting my gear ready as I now know that this pays dividends in the later hours of endurance riding and off I roar towards Germany. I made short work of the few hundred miles to the German border and in fact there is no border really to speak of. Yes I am back in Europe and no more check points apart from the French!

    I was now feeling rather warm as my body had grown accustomed to the bitter sub zero cold and so a day riding the sunshine for hours on end was actually the fun part. It is firmly in your mind that the night is going to come and you feel a sort of instant shift in the temperature, like pockets of cold that lets you know the real pain is about to begin again.

    This helps drive you on in the daylight and take as much advantage as possible, so much so that it was not until I reached the Berlin ring road that I stopped for fuel, no coffee, a quick smoke and leap back on the monster and tear up the road towards the Netherlands as fast as possible. The autobahn is wonderful I this time I took full advantage that I knew where I was going and could go as fast as I dare. No more flashing to move over this time as I drop the hammer and cruise at 130mph. Now it is me doing the flashing to get the cars to pull over as I rip past Hanover and keep the throttle on. I have to stop more for fuel but that is fine as it still cheaper than UK fuel at 55mph!

    I am now heading towards Antwerp and the night has set in again, the slow lowering of the sun gives a slight sinking feeling as my fingers first notice the drop in temperature. I was doing well and with 10 hours of riding behind me I was thinking that I could make France all in one night and get the train back in the morning. I just wanted to get home and end this now and that was the prevailing will that made me grit my teeth and hit the damn Antwerp ring road. It was busy, not as busy as Berlin but still enough to slow me down and anything that made me go slower was a real drag.

    I pulled over on the Euro way or motorway or whatever they call them over there and just plunked down on grass verge exhausted. I lay back in the dark and the loud sound of trucks growling past and pulled off my helmet to have a smoke and just look at the stars. I needed some peace, I needed some strength and I needed it now. The stars have always been a form of inspiration to me and I am sure to many others that ever just sat and looked at them, not to name them or know anything or as tool to get in some girls knickers because you're all sensitive and so on but to just look. I lay back on the grass on this busy road at night smoking and looking at the stars and I could feel my issues of cold, pain and frustration simply ebb away as the cosmos grins back at you. You, my friend are a little baldy monkey on a little machine sucking poison on the side of a little ball of dirt and water. Yeah, it does kind of put things into perspective and I grin, sit up, put on my gloves and helmet, get on that bike and head for home.

    When the cold is too much to take or the bike needs fuel I pull over, smoke, look up with a grin and then get going again. It was not till I got a sign for Calais that I even notice that I am making some head way. Then all of a sudden I get a sign for Tunnel of Euro, well La Euro something but it has a picture of a choo choo train! Good enough for me I thought and it is amazing how you get a second winded will of conviction when that finish tape is in sight. Pure psychological adrenaline and I pull into Calais tunnel at 1am and need to hit London by 10am to do the trip in 7 days. My ticket is booked for 6am but I am so pumped and up for this now that I book on right away and pay the little extra.

    As soon as I get on the train and park my bike up I roll my gloves up and lay on the side to fall asleep. It is warm and the gentle rocking the train floor as she heads for UK is bliss. Seems like seconds when I hear a distant ding noise going off and I come around to find we are pulling into Folkstone! The ding noise was for me! They have cameras on the train and this was my alarm call to get off. I must remember to thank them for that as I get my kit ready and flick the electric start that guts the engine back into life.

    I fly out of the train and then I get a bonus, time zones! I am an hour back from CET and so the 30 min train ride took minus 30 minutes, how cool is that! I pull into the petrol station and fill up with the new shocking ouch price but I am home and I do not care. I do not have to ask the girl is she speaks English and the counter is full of pasties and sandwiches not cakes and sausages!! I have a chat with the girl as it is late on the night shift and I am feeling like I made it already but still have 140 miles to go to London. 140 miles would seem like a long ride normally but I had just done 812 miles none stop and it seemed like popping to the shops.

    I send a text message to Dymitri that I am back in the UK and did Inter want to do anymore filming or could I just go home? He shows some pity and says I must be so tired, go home. I did not argue and I start up the M20 towards London and I hit London at 02.40am, I even stop off at the M25 service station for a celebration Costa Rica coffee, as sit there and look at the empty car park but for some trucks and think back over the week of what I gone through and the times I had thought that I am just not going to make this one, I look to the motorway of the M1 and think about doing the rest of the trek to Liverpool that same distance. Over 900 miles I have done from when I woke and set off at 10am in Poland and it was now 3am at London add a couple of time zones in that and I just did 900miles in about 18 hours of riding hell. That works out at a constant average of 50mph if I never stopped for fuel or had traffic jams or all the other things that I never took into calculation. I was now aware of just what endurance riding was all about and it is about character and strength of will.

    I finish my coffee and get on the bike slowly as the cramp in my legs is getting the better of me after sitting down and as I hit the M1 I come into a thick patch of freezing fog. One thing that will always stick with me from time learning to ride motorbikes was Boyd's words 'freezing fog is suicide, put in the garage, take the bus or the car but just leave the bike alone'. Boyd and Karl's advice had seen a complete novice rider get from Liverpool down to London, London to Hanover, Hanover to Krakow, Krakow to Kiev, Kiev to Lagencia, Lagencia to London in 7days. I was not about to ignore their advice on this and I pulled into Milton Keynes service station and booked a room for the night setting off at first light when the 'death' fog had been burnt away.

    It was a strange feeling seeing the signs for Liverpool as I head up with the commuters and day trippers. Apart from the bike looking like hell then no one would know or even care what I had done alone and without a clue of what I was getting into. Some novice biker from a council estate in Liverpool rode 3600+ miles in 7 days and shook hands with two Ambassadors of state and raised just on £1000, not bad going, not bad at all and I was rather pleased if I did say so myself.

    I pulled into my parents estate (council not grounds!) and the back gates open as ride the bike in and duck my head I am greeted by Dad, Mum, Debbie and my niece Chloe all clapping, it was wonderful to be home. I slept longer than I had in a long time that day and night and the next week the rest of family came around for some drinks, something to eat and to take the piss out of me, it was beautiful to sit and banter with the family again and I have some wonderful memories of the trip.
    I wonder how long it would take me to do that by pushbike ? …………………………

    Note: I still read over this and look back at my attitude and ignorance with some humour of how little I knew about bikes and about people. How much that I thought I knew and how wrong I was in the past. The bike is not the only thing that takes a journey. This is my full account of what happened and an insight to my mind set at the time. Errors are a way of becoming better but we must face those errors and confront them as errors, only then can we bring about change.
    And yes, am aware it needs a good edit for the spelling and mistakes and will get around to that some day
  4. so you did this ride how long after getting your bike licence?
    a few days?
    and with no prior experience?

    fair effort either way!
  5. I'd been riding about 3 months when I did that tour and not been on a bike before. Thanks and very much appreciated mate :)
  6. Hi James. I've only read the first five paragraphs and you've got me hooked! Can't read more atm but I look forward to reading the rest when I get home from work.

    PS...have you got photos? Would love to see some. :)
  7. :applause: fantastic effort, fantastic ride and fantastic write up, well done James, you should be proud.

    +1 to the pics....any to share?
  8. Very awesome James, has been my entertainment since I started at 8, reading it on and off between calls :)

    Great read, fantastic journey. I'm very envious of those that live in Euro, and if they want to goto other countries they simply pack then get on the bike!
  9. SOOO much better than that "really good book that you just can't put down"! :grin:

    Spelling errors? what errors! I didn't see eny at the 'speed of light' I was reading at :p

    Fabulous story James :applause:
  10. Thank you very very much! This was my first effort at writting and indeed on distance riding, I only have about 5 pics from my mobile phone and I am getting some great advice from you all for my 2009 stuff. I will be doing more and this time with PLENTY of pictures to go with the story.

    Am so pleased you enjoyed it and any feedback is very much appreciated.

  11. Great read, James. You'll find if you ride the centre of Australia that you'll be wishing for some of that cold again :LOL:.
  12. Thanks Hornet!

    Am sure by the time I get to Alice Springs my skin will be crackling louder than the pipes on the XL1000. Am going to swap the 5lt aux fuel can for 5lt Total Aussie SunBlock Pomy cream :LOL: