Wednesday, 26 August 2009
That's what I am. I've had a sneaking bit of apprehension about this Denmark lark, and I haven't been able to pin down what it is.
The distance isn't a problem. It's a total of about 1000 miles each way, which is do-able. I've almost done that in a single day in a car, and I am planning to do this in two or three. Admittedly, huge mileages on the bike will be a new thing, but since I am carrying my home on my back and I am prepared to stop and snooze anytime, I can't see this is going to cause me any difficulty. Nothing's booked (apart from the Chunnel), and no-one is standing with a stopwatch wondering why I am late, so hey, relax.
Nor is it the foreign-ness of it. I will be passing through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany before reaching Denmark. Two out of the four are countries I have never been to before. France, I know well and can get by on my just-passable French. I tried to learn Dutch and gave up, but most Dutch speak English, and even those that don't are charming and helpful, so I don't think I will have a problem there (and looking at my route I will be in NL for about four seconds anyway). I don't speak German, but I can understand enough of it written down to get the basics. So the language issue is a pleasant and amusing challenge rather than anything that keeps me awake at night.
No, the problem has been route-finding. Ever since I looked at the map and saw the mass of blue lines (some laid over the top of others) that obliterate most of NW Europe at 1:1,000,000 scale, I started to wonder how on earth I was going to find my way. (Anywhere in the UK I am quietly confident, but on the wrong side of the road, mixing it up with autobahn traffic at 80+ on unfamiliar territory, and mentally converting km to miles and back again, oo-er missus.)
In a car, you can spread a map out on the passenger seat and consult it when conditions allow. And that is assuming you don't have a glamorous assistant to do the map-reading for you. On a bike, your map has to go tightly folded into a map case and strapped onto the petrol tank (mine is in the lid of the tank bag, but same idea). This means that:
a) you can only see a small part of the map at any one time;
b) you have to look down to your navel to see it, and
c) certain combinations of helmet and clothing make looking down in this manner almost impossible anyway.
Certainly, with my eyesight, I would be peering down, ricking my neck, desperately trying to focus long enough to read a road number, when I ran into the back of the container lorry.
I have compiled lists of road numbers, directions and destinations and written them in LARGE BOLD TYPE in black permanent marker on sheets of A4, but they are just confusing.
What I need is a satnav. I already have a decent one - a TomTom GO720 - which I have come to rely on in the car over the years. But of course, it is not weatherproof or suited to the rigours of being strapped to the handlebars of a bike. However, the best solution, a Garmin Zumo, which is waterproof and suitable for operation with gloves on, would cost the best part of £400. I have tried a longish trip with the TomTom strapped to the tank, but it was not wholly successful. Other than that, there is simply nowhere for the unit to go.
On Monday I found the solution. I robbed the windscreen suction mount from the car (must remember to replace it) and screwed it to the bike fairing just below the screen. It looks OK, and more to the point it holds the TomTom right in the line of sight, which is where it needs to be if I am reading the screen rather than listening to voice instructions. The screen protects it, more or less, and I intend to cover it with a plastic bag if the rain starts. The only problem left is finding a way of attaching some kind of lanyard to the TomTom, so that if it vibrates off the mount it won't disappear forever.
So now I can programme in my destination and set off, without the need to faff about with acres of damp paper and runny ink. That has suddenly made the whole thing look a lot more fun.
I also managed to find a place to mount a 12v cigarette-lighter socket to the bike fairing. This is now wired in and working. It's particularly satisfying, as I have wired it in using some existing wires and redundant connectors I had lying around, and it both looks professional and is easily disconnected if I need to take the bodywork off. I can now use the little compressor that I bought for the air mattress.
It's all coming together.