Archive for August, 2007

Well who’d have guessed it? There are loads of people out there who think that thermarests are pretty damn cool. I have to agree – they are… but I just wanted to do some basic number crunching comparing thermarest with exped.

So – we’ll take my Exped 7 DLX as the base and then compare that with a ‘comparable’ thermarest and then the smallest thermarest.

Stats on the 7 DLX

Cost: £115
Size: 193×65 cm / 76×26“
Thickness: 7 cm / 2.8“
Weight: 1170 g / 41 oz
Packed: 30×15 cm / 12×6“

The nearest thermarest I can find is the LuxuryCamp™ XL

Cost: £104.99
Size: 196×76 cm / 77×30″ (3cm longer, 11cm wider)
Thickness: 6.3cm / 2.5″ (1cm thinner)
Weight: 2295 g / 5lbs 1 oz (a massive 1125g heavier)
Packed: 76×14 cm / 30×5.6″ (wow – this is the biggy – it’s 46cm wider but 1 cm thinner when packed)

What I can’t quite work out is that if this mat is thinner when you’re lying on it where does the extra come from when it’s packed – ahh it’s because it’s 11cm wider – but that still doesn’t account for it being nearly .5m wider than the exped – that’ll be the down at work.

In order to get a thermarest that packs to the same size as the exped you have to go for something like the ProLite 4™ (large) which packed comes in at 13×5.1in. (33x13cm) but is only 3.8 cm deep… not that comfy.

Obviously both brands have smaller and larger mats – but I just can’t get over the difference in the weight and pack size for a more comfortable mat that can also deal with a greater range of temperatures and comes with all the same bells and whistles like chair conversion kits and strap on pillows (from the pack cover).

It may not be cheap, but £115 for total sleeping comfort is worth every penny. I love camping, there’s nothing I’d rather do that get way out into the countryside in the middle of no-where and sit staring at the stars. But when I crawl into my little tent I do actually want to sleep.

There’s a glut of cheap ‘simple’ sleeping mats on the market – in fact there are also some pretty expensive ones – things like the thermarest – but does anyone else think that they’re just the biggest things ever!? I mean… who is going to pack one of those on the back of their bike?

Sure, the small one is tiny, but it’s so thin that even my little 10 month old kitten would find it uncomfortable. So enter the king of sleeping mats – the Exped 7 DLX!

The thing you have to understand of course is that this is no ordinary mat – oh no – it’s actually filled with down – and because down compresses so damn well it packs up really really tiny – much smaller in fact than the smallest thermarest. Having said all that when you inflate it – it’s wonderfully comfortable – even my large frame doesn’t touch the floor and it’s toasty warm on the coldest of nights.

It’s also quite clever – none of this just leave it inflate and then top up with your breath (which actually puts water into your mat and shortens it’s life) no! You use bag it comes in to inflate it! Amazing!

There are some funky videos and stuff over on their website over here – but I can’t link to them directly thanks to silly javascript and frame funniness.

In short this thing is amazing – and I’m beginning to feel that I’m cheating on this whole ‘roughing it’ trip.

Well I’ve now got an interactive map thingy – which you can find over on the Route page.

It shows the planned route so far, and then when I actually go it will update with news and photos from each of those locations and perhaps a few more… the theory being yellow dots are planned stops and then purple dots will be actual stops with photos / videos!

Oh the fun I’m going to have in various internet cafes!

I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to Morocco without some rubber – I mean – how is man supposed to travel all those miles, all alone, astride a vibrating 600cc motor and not want for a bit of rubber between his buttocks.

So I bought some…

Dirty naughty rubber toy

And very comfy it is too!

The thing I think I’m most looking forward to when I get up into the Atlas Mountains is the stars.

Every time I go home to Wales I’m amazed at the number of stars I can see, the way the night sky just comes to life in a way that no-where in London or the South East can match. Then I start to imagine what the night sky must be like when there’s nothing within 100 miles of you, no Cardiff or Newport spewing out watts and watts of unwarranted light into the night sky.

What treasures await me whilst I sit outside the tent, hot chocolate in hand gazing up at an unpolluted sky.

…beside the seaside! And so on.

Mark With is 40, divorced and riding a motorbike around the coast of Europe. He is certifiable, but by God I envy him no end. I’ve really been enjoying his flickr stream, with beautiful shots of sweeping coast lines and cloudless skys.

It rather helps matters that he’s riding a stunning Triumph Bonnie, built in a factory so far away from the sea it just seems right that it’s being dragged around the coast line.

Mike is an inspiration, and it’s his photo sets that have given me the drive to make sure I make it to Morocco in three weeks time 🙂

Beside The Sea Side Triumph

You simply have to know where and how you are going to store all of the essentials, otherwise, where would we be?

Most important bit of kit for Morocco

Damned if I know… so I thought I’d ask the people who would know… the overlanding community over at Horizons Unlimited.… I asked…

Interesting question.. I thought I could answer it pretty well… in fact I’m a bit of an armchair adventure motorcyclist – that’ll change in September – but I’ve read every single book I can get my hand on and talked to so many people….

So it was interesting when I was reading Ted Simon’s latest book – Dreaming of Jupiter – that I found myself thinking..

“He’s not really being an adventure motorcyclist because he’s staying in hotels”

How stupid is that? I just caught myself in time and called myself many silly names… but it got me to thinking… what is it that makes a biker and adventure motorcyclist? Where does the line start?

In September I’m off to Morocco – I’m going on a CBF600 and will stick to the main roads where I can. Morocco is a well trodden route and as I’m not going off road, and I’m not on a KTM or a GS. Does that mean I’m just on a biking holiday?

Then in July next year, same bike, but this time I’m going to Russia and back, is that adventure motorcycling or just a long road trip on the bike?

Is going RTW on a bike and staying in hotels adventure motorcycling? Or do you have to rough it at every opportunity and try to break records?

It’s quite interesting when you think about it and I discovered that I was being really rather elitist with no good reason – I’m sometimes a prat.

What do you think? (not about the prat part)

I got a whole host of replies, some saying that we shouldn’t be snooty and should just experience the adventure in our own heads, to others who feel that in this day in age, being continuously connected means we’re never really having an adventure… I’m still not sure what it is… but have a read for yourself and say what you think.

Or rather… ‘why I shouldn’t be allowed to fix my own bike’.

It seems every time I try to fix my bike, do something simple, it always turns out to be a pain in the butt. In this case I was putting new pads in the front callipers ready for September – I didn’t want to be riding the length of France, Spain and Morocco on brand new pads – and I completely screwed the retaining plug for the pad pin… this was the result

Broken pin

Then to add insult to injury I ordered a replacement off ebay from a breakers up north and they sent me this

Unknown Calliper

If you can tell me what bike this part is for I’d be grateful – because it ‘aint for the CBF! New (correct) part should arrive today – so hopefully I’ll be back on the road tomorrow.

However, given I plan to do an oil change this weekend – that could be short lived!