In case of setbacks…keep going!
Two years after enjoying the New York to LA adventure, which led to the idea for an electric adventure motorcycle, we were back on track for another motorcycle adventure.The goal this time, from Nijmegen the Netherlands all the way to Istanbul Turkey. I just quite my job to start-up Fransiscó, so I was on a really tight budget. I bought a cheap adventure classic, a 18 year old Honda Africa Twin. In preparation for the adventure I maintained and modified the bike to make it more reliable. I will come back to that later on.
Of we go!
On a sunny early Friday morning we departed from Nijmegen. The idea was to quickly cross Germany using the Autobahn, and take the scenic backroads from Austria onwards. Just as I got into the rithm, only 100km into the trip, the Africa Twin suddenly lost all power. Miraculously I was able to slalom myself between the big trucks towards the side of the Autobahn.
Ouch, this is not a great start. Now, I have over 5 years experience as a car mechanic, so I was quickly able to pinpoint the issue to the fuel supply. However, I grew up in a post carburator time. As it happened to be, the Africa Twin had a carburator. With carburators, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can do more harm than good. Luckily, just 2 days prior to departure, I subscribed to a European Road Assistance service from the Dutch ANWB. Knowing my own strengths and hoping for an experienced road assistance mechanic with carburator knowledge, I made the call.
Some time later, a grey and experienced man from the German ADAC turned up. Brilliant I thought, “he must know the ins-and-outs of carburators”. His first words to me: ”Does it have carburator, because if it has, I can’t help you. I will arrange transport to the nearest Honda dealership.” Oops! Remember my tight budget? And now they want to bring the bike to a dealerships. Sounds expensive.
Some 15 minutes later, a truck came, the bike was put on the bed and of we went to the dealership. At the dealer, the head mechanic was consulted. He only rode 100m on the bike, turned around and told me the engine was totalled. I think the bike was to old for him or he was not fancying repairing it, so he called at a total loss. It happened to be that the ANWB Road Assistance contract stated that, if the vehicle could not be repaired within 48 hours, I was entitled a rental.
In my case it was a total loss, or at least that was the opinion of the mechanic. Funny thing, the ANWB only had access to rental cars, they didn’t have any rental motorcycles in their fleet and argued that renting one was near impossible on short notice. As a service they were offering me a plane ticket to Istanbul as an alternative to the rental car. Rather useless for me since I was on a motorcycle adventure! With a lot of persuasion, hussling, convincing and also some luck I was able to rent a motorcycle at that same dealership. A new adventure bike. Reliable, fuel efficient and comfortable. All covered by the Road Assistance.
With a delay of a couple of hours, we took of again towards Instanbul. We crossed The Balkans and via Athens we finally reached Istanbul. In total we spend 17 days on our bikes, rode over 7000km’s, reached our goal, and safely returned to the Netherlands.
In the fall of 2014 I, together with a friend, rode from Nijmegen to Istanbul and back in 17 days. The variety of conditions, scenery and environment are the exemplary for how an adventure motorcycle is used.
Considering the financial situation I was in, I could have opted to return home when my motorbike broke down 100km from home. Persistence, creativity and some luck however enabled me to find a way to continue. The result: a fantastic adventure that I will never forget. And it didn’t cost me extra money.
After the trip, the broken motorcycle was transported back home. After further inspection it indeed turned out that the carburator needle was clogged up. Most likely caused by old gasoline. Despite all the preventive maintenance I did, I didn’t flush the fuel system before departure. Lesson learned!
I completely dismanteled the bike for benchmarking purposes. In the process learning a lot about motorcycle construction, and getting an even better feel for packaging, kinematics and size of components. Although I had to sell everything due to a lack of storage space, it still serves as a perfect reference for the adventure motorcycle project.
Parallels to Fransiscó
When running your own company, as most entrepeneurs can confirm I think, you will have to be tenacious. Things not always go the way you planned it. Cooperations don’t work as hoped or some people don’t deliver on their promisis. When this happens I always think back to the motorcycle adventure:
- There is always another way
- Keep your eyes on the goal and find your way
- The adventure is the reward itself
- No matter how prepared you are, there can still be an unexpected element
- In case of setback….keep going!