6 Jul 2013

The gear and how it held up


  • BMW F800GS Trophy with OEM aluminium panniers and usual bits - new rear pads €66 at BMW Motorrad in Kaprun Austria (nearly ready for replacement at the start of the trip)
  • Heidenau K60 Scouts - about 50% tread at the start, now about 20% tread
  • various tools + tyre irons/spare tube - not used
  • DRC mini foot pump - not used
  • chain lube - used daily 1–2x

  • GoPro Hero3 - no issues (but battery life is horrible)
  • Nikon D7000 + 2 lenses, polarising filters and speedlight - no issues, excellent battery life (at 75% after 500 shots)
  • SPOT Connect - absolutely rubbish, see below
  • BMW Navigator IV GPS - no issues, but software really needs a 'navigate to route' function to join up on pre-programmed routes... currently the only option is to navigate to start of route so you are on your own to find your way to a point along the route
  • Sena Bluetooth SMH-5 intercom - no issues, see below
  • iPhone 5 - no issues, Booking Tonight app was immensely useful
  • iPad 2 with camera connection kit and compact bluetooth keyboard - no issues, although not really needed along with laptop
  • DIN to 3x USB adapter with device cables - no issues, only used once as devices charged each evening in hotels
  • Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries + USB charger - not used (see below re SPOT Connect)
  • MacBook Air (work laptop) - no issues

  • bike documentation/insurance - required, but not used
  • passports - only used to re-enter UK
  • St Christopher talisman - clearly it worked, we got back in one piece!
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - required, but not used
  • bank/credit cards + driving licence
  • emergency map - not used
  • personal hygiene items + ear plugs
  • carrier bags - for dirty laundry, wet gloves etc
  • small gifts for friends/family

  • Icon Patrol waterproof jacket/trousers/gloves + Variant helmet and spare visor - see below
  • TCX X-Desert waterproof boots - no issues, dry feet all the way!
  • Caterpillar shatterproof safety sunglasses - no issues
  • CamelBak 1.5l hydration pack - apart from a plastic taste to the water for the first few days, this was much more used than I thought it would be, wouldn't travel without it now
  • spare non-waterproof gloves - no issues
  • t-shirts/vests, shorts, cargos, trainers, underwear, socks

  • BMW Boulder 2 jacket with waterproof liner/City 2 trousers - no issues, whomever BMW commissions to make their gear does it well and it is up to the task
  • Hein Gericke gloves - no issues
  • Shark S500 helmet - no issues, although not a particularly quiet helmet
  • Icon Patrol waterproof boots - no issues
  • waterproof over-suit - cheap and nasty and performed as expected at its price point
  • shirts/vests, shorts, jeans, shoes, underwear, socks

+++ Sena SMH-5 Bluetooth headset/intercom

This was the quiet star of the show—from hot to cold, and rain to snow these little units never stopped, never gave any problem at all. They are the least expensive units in Sena's range but well-featured and support multiple bluetooth connections, so GPS instructions, mobile phone, music player and intercom functions all work as expected. Battery life is fantastic, with the intercom open all day they last nearly 2 days on a charge, and charge via USB. This is an example of a device that does what it should do without any fuss. Are you listening, SPOT?

Photo: Sena SMH5 • Source: Sena Technologies

+++ Icon Patrol Raiden gear + Variant helmet

Couldn't be more pleased, it's not particularly expensive gear compared to some but it is well constructed, fits me perfectly and works as advertised. I've shelled out a bit extra to replace the stock, unremarkable pads with D3O versions (CE Level 2) but otherwise it is as shipped. I stayed completely dry through all sorts of rain, with one exception—a bit of dampness seeping through the undersides of the trousers after 2 hours of downpour including an hour on the French motorway. The Variant helmet shape is also great in rain as the airflow combined with the peak keeps the visor clear of rain, and in hot weather it is the best ventilated helmet I've had to date. A lot of people seem to have an aversion to brighter coloured gear but to be blunt I don't and whatever makes people see me means one less person to plough into me on the road. Too bright for you? They make their gear in black also. And the hood is great when you take off the helmet on a rainy day. Doesn't flap at speed either.

--- SPOT Connect

The biggest disappointment of the trip with respect to gear—YES I know it says on their website that they recommend using special Energizer Lithium batteries but what they don't say is that other batteries either don't work at all, or only last an hour or so. The special Energizers are virtually impossible to find anywhere in Europe. Top that off with constant Bluetooth connectivity issues (phone and device stop talking) and a stupid app on the phone which needs to be in the foreground or the unit stops sending tracking points, and you have a product that would do better smashed at the bottom of a rocky Alpine chasm than come along on my next trip. Infuriatingly disappointing after wasting a shitload of cash on this plus another shitload of cash on the subscription fees. And the map sharing function on their website works like something from 1999. In 2013 devices should not be such a struggle—are you listening SPOT? Built-in battery, USB charging and up-to-date software should not be too much to ask for a 'premium' product.

Photo: SPOT Connect • Source: SPOT LLC

Alps 2013 quick links

Day 1: London to Lille
Day 2: Lille to Hagondange
Day 3: Slow road to Ammerschwihr
Day 4: Ammerschwihr
Day 5: Ammerschwihr to Thônes
Day 6: Thônes to.... Thônes
Day 7: Thônes to Ruèras
Day 8: Ruèras to Flachau
Day 9: Flachau
Day 10: Flachau to Wemding
Day 11: Wemding to Urberach
Day 12: Urberach to Antwerp
Day 13: Antwerp to London

The gear and how it held up
The trip in hindsight