Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

One of the better biographies I have read in the last 5 years was James Baker’s “Work hard, study and keep away from politics”. This was the advice of his father and, I suppose that he thought that 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad. But he also espoused one of the maxims in business and personal life which I have also learned, that if you fail to prepare you should prepare to fail.

There are few people who have the talent to “wing it” every time, and for most of us we either take the time to prepare or accept the consequences. A bike trip is no
exception.

We are fortunate in having an experienced leader, sweeper and support van driver available, with at least one of them having made the journey before. We have a recommended, though not mandated route, and pre-arranged hotels which have been selected for security of riders and machines. And if all goes to plan, these will help tremendously. However as we have been told more than once, this is a “supported
expedition” and as such you are responsible and accountable for your actions
and to quote Robbie Burns “the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley” ….landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, civil unrest and snow all having featured in past trips.

Personal Preparation – A Dirty Weekend in Wales

I had taken basic off-road skills training for the Himalayas trip 2 years ago, and more advanced technical riding for the Cambodia trip, though a “wee spill” during training prevented me from going. The October 2010 BMW official Off Road Training weekend in South Wales shared the same biblical rains as the Ryder Cup being held just 15 miles down the coast where play was suspended for most of the day. The first of many skills learned was to deliberately drop the bike on gravel, and then pick it up, unaided. Following cone slaloms and emergency stops on a gravel studded quarry floor we set off into the forest to play in the mud….. some of us didn’t quite follow the recommended path.

A Dirty Weekend in Wales

Preparing the Bike – an easy choice

The perfect bike is the BMW R1200GS…or so I thought as I have been slowly up-rating my trusty 5 year old one over the past 2 years. But then I faced the next big decision to replace the hard plastic BMW luggage with Aluminium luggage, and the cast-alloy wheels for spokes. BMW made the decision to buy a new R1200 GS Adventure very easy by making replacements so outrageously expensive. And the Adventure essentially came ready, straight out of the box. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it!… A few minor “hard parts” to protect exposed parts, and we’re ready to go.

The new toy

The Kit

Globebusters helped by giving us a recommended kit list. Basically everything you need for Arctic, Antarctic, via the rainy season in the tropics. And it all has to fit on the bike for 19 weeks. I think most of the riders on this trip, myself included, have done a test run with the kit, and probably like me, many have discarded what they thought was “essential”,
assuming if we need anything more, we can buy it on route. So the basic stuff…..

I have discovered the delights of merino wool! No, not a passion for sheep occasioned by two bachelor weekends in Wales, but a discovery that clothing made of this particular wool it is warm / cool / dry /comfortable…and doesn’t leave me smelling like a street vagrant even after 3 days of wearing the same t-Shirt in hot and humid conditions….and of course the shorts play a similar role for the nether regions. We are told there will be regular clothes washing facilities in hotels……I hope so!

The Basic Kit

Document Preparation – A well trodden path

Thankfully, although several documents were required prior to the trip, the well written instructions on what to prepare and how to prepare it made life easy.

US EPA forms for temporary import, Customs forms for US, photocopies of everything (passport, licence, insurance, plus originals to smooth the way through border crossings. Insurance documents for US, Canada, Central and South America, supplemented en route with local insurance mandated by certain countries that we pass through to build a local insurance industry.

I have a GPS with me, with maps loaded for US and Canada, and Mexico. But TomTom does not provide much help in South America till you get to Argentina. So time to get out the maps, compass and sense of direction…this could be fun.