Classic Bike Guide




Check to see if you’ve got any services coming up. You might not need one right now but if you’re planning to do 4000 miles then you might end up going well past your next interval. Plus it’s an extra chance to have a close-up look at your bike and spot any potential issues. See next section...


...and do it well in advance! I’m speaking from experience here. On this trip I thought I had most things checked over and sorted well in advance. It was only while changing the rear tyre that I noticed a very stiff drivetrain. Further investigat­ion found the gearbox output was severely compromise­d and the swingarm bearings completely worn out. Without some good friends and very helpful businesses, the trip would’ve never happened. Ten years ago, I decided to do an oil change on the day I was due to leave... only to shear the thread on the sump!


Google Maps is pretty efficient; it was amazing how many roads from the TET were marked on there. You can create offline maps if you’re expecting to be away from civilisati­on for a while, but it is essential to have some back-up form of navigation. Many rely on sat-navs but in my case it was an iPad with offline maps loaded to it and a compass that kept me going in the right direction after my phone got drowned. A detailed paper map would’ve been my preferred option, just to have something non-electronic, but I failed to find one in time for the journey.

I like to plan my journey with a large paper map of Europe so I can mark places I’d like to visit and recommende­d roads. I can use this to make a rough outline of the tour, leaving plenty of flexibilit­y for spontaneit­y or unexpected issues.


How many underpants to pack is a personal choice, but here’s a rundown of the bits and pieces I keep in my panniers to help keep the airhead moving.

Oil: Most classic bikes tend to burn or leak a little and my ST is no different… around half a litre every 1000 miles.

Tool kit: The supplied BMW kit is pretty well thought-out, but I added a ratchet with the correct sockets to make wheel removal easier.

Tyre repair: I really should learn inner tube replacemen­t, but for now I’m taking an aerosol instant repair can.

■ Buddy tow rope: Has many uses.

■ Compact tyre pump: I use one designed for a bicycle – very lightweigh­t, would take a long time to pump, but at least it can be done!

■ Tyre pressure gauge

■ Multitool

■ Spark plugs

■ Cable ties

■ WD40, visor cleaner & 3-in-1 lubricant: Kept in small plastic perfume dispensers (labelled so you don’t use the wrong one!)

■ Clean cloth

■ Oily cloth: Can start clean!

■ Spare clutch cable

■ Duct (gaffa) tape

■ Electrical tape

■ Hose repair tape

■ Thread seal tape: (plumber’s tape) ■ Threadlock

■ Length of electrical cable

■ Battery booster: In case I leave the heated grips on again!

■ MFH compact military buck saw: Amazing how often you find a big branch down on a seldom used route; this can save a huge detour!


I’m always in a battle between must-haves and keeping the bike as light as possible, but often the must-haves win. This, along with photograph­y gear, means I end up with a lot to bring and a lot of extra weight. To reduce the effect on handling and also how heavy the bike feels, I try to pack the heaviest items lower in the bike.

I also make sure I’ve got a fair bit of space left in my luggage so there’s room to pack food for the day and so I’m not constantly battling to close bags. Not only this, my tours from Wales tend to start with a full complement of winter riding gear which is needed less as I head further south; all those thermal liners and winter gloves need to go somewhere!

■ Dirtsack Longranger pro panniers:

I’ve had these for a few years before the trip and find them to be holding up to my abuse very well (they often end up cushioning the bike from falls!). The supplied straps are well thought-out and they stay securely fastened to the bike. Waterproof­ing has held up in the worst conditions. I wish they’d made the outer pockets waterproof as well, and also perhaps the style could be a little more interestin­g!

■ Oxford Aqua T50 Roll Bag: Like the dirtsack, I’ve used and abused this for a few years and it’s holding up well. The fact that the supplied straps attach to the bottom of the bag means you can access your things without unstrappin­g. They can be a bit fiddly if you want to take the bag off every day, so I switched to some ROK straps which are adjustable and clip undone instantly.

■ Hepco & Becker Xplorer 45 Top Case: The top case is in the unfortunat­e category of being both the ‘most useful piece of luggage’ and ‘most unfashiona­ble piece of luggage’. Thankfully H&B designed these to look utilitaria­n and rugged so I don’t mind how it looks so much. It provides a useful place to put valuables when leaving the bike for an extended period of time.

■ Givi Easy-T Magnetic Tank Bag 25L: Unfortunat­ely discontinu­ed, but I always liked how the magnets didn’t cover so much of the fuel tank; just an aesthetic thing but it makes a difference when you’re looking at your motorbike every day!


As it was springtime (just), I decided on the Michelin Anakee Wilds which are knobbly enough to take on muddier sections without being horrendous­ly noisy on the road. The only downside of these tyres is I only get around 3000 miles out of a rear tyre, so a replacemen­t was required along the way. In the summer a much less off-road focussed tyre would’ve been fine.

only basic wind protection, and a modest 50bhp; it is definitely no Autostrada cruiser but it is comfortabl­e, with the riding position and smooth engine meaning you don’t mind sitting a little longer at a slower speed, enjoying the ever-changing scenery.


On arrival in Albania I realised my first mistake. I had my passport, green card insurance, Covid pass, and internatio­nal driving permit but no vehicle registrati­on documents – which turn out to be vital for crossing borders in this part of the world! In the early hours of the morning I had to wake my fiancée back at home to email a PDF copy. The border guards were not overly impressed but it was enough to get me through.

To join the TET I took the most direct route – what seemed like a fairly major road when looking at Google Maps. That road turned out to be a stone military road built by the Italians during the Second World War and barely maintained ever since. The frugal suspension travel on the stock ST suspension meant for a bumpy ride as I tried to pick the best line across the stones. Spectacula­r as the views were, it was tough going. If this is just the road to the TET, how hard is the TET?!?

Next month: Owen and his R80ST finds out...

“In Albania I realised my first mistake. I had my passport, green card insurance, Covid pass, and internatio­nal driving permit but no vehicle registrati­on documents – which turn out to be vital for crossing borders in this part of the world!”

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 ?? ?? In Albania at last. After border issues, at least I was here
In Albania at last. After border issues, at least I was here

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