Sunday, 19 April 2015

On the road in Norway... Valdresflye Plateau

Greetings,

Welcome to the Arctic Rider blog, and thanks for reading.

First of all, since my last blog I finally got around to closing my giving page after all post-ride donations and DVD sales had been collected. The final total including gift aid that will go to brain injury charity Cerebra is £5,001.58... DOUBLE my target. THANK YOU so much to everyone who donated and supported me, it wouldn't have happened without you.

Final total of £5,001.58 raised for Cerebra from my ride the Arctic

This certainly isn't the last from me and my charity motorbike causes, I'll be announcing my next adventure for 2016 very soon.

Sticking with Arctic Ride 2014, the DVD is still available (in very limited quantities) to buy and is available on eBay (click here)


Now I've mentioned many (many) times on this blog how amazed I was by Norway and it's roads. If I'd known they were going to be such great biking roads, I'd have been there a lot sooner. Even if you are not a biker the scenery, people, and culture of Norway is something that cannot be missed.

The website BoredPanda.com summed up pretty well the 24 reasons why Norway should be your next travel destination and I have to say I must agree. However, even though they included the Trollstigen Pass (see my video of riding up the Trollstigen by clicking here) and Geirangerfjord, they missed out one of my favorite places in Norway, the Valdresflye Plateau. Valdresflye is one of the highest passes in central Norway with some breathtaking views. It wasn't part of my original planned route through central Norway on my way to the Arctic, but my friend Hans convinced my to take the extra miles on the chin and ride with him over the pass... well worth the extra miles and extra hours on the road.

As with most of my trip to the Arctic, I captured the ride over Valdresflye on my GoPro and condensed the few hours riding into a 2 minute and 39 second video. Check it out below (mobile device users - Click here).


Please leave any comments and give my video a like on YouTube.

That is all for this blog. As always thanks for reading and supporting! You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Stay tuned for my 2016 trip announcement.

Ride safe.

Gordon

Friday, 27 February 2015

Suzuki GSX650F review

Hello there,

And welcome to another edition of the Arctic Ride blog! My trip might be a distant memory (last year in fact) but there is still plenty to come from me both for Arctic Ride 2014 post trip (like this blog) and future adventures.

I'm pleased to announce that earlier this week my blog reached 45,000 views which I am both pleased and humbled about.

So with this blog I wanted to share my thoughts on the bike I rode on my ride to the Arctic this year, the Suzuki GSX650F. I've had many people ask me to review the bike and, well, here it is.

My GSX 650F and I at the Arctic Circle in Norway


As a background in my 9 years of riding I've ridden a smallish cross section of bikes, but I feel it has been enough for me to put some context behind my views on the GSX650F. An example of some of the bikes I have ridden include my first bike, Suzuki Marauder 125, a Yamaha Virago 535, Kawasaki ER5, SV650S, BMW LT 1200, Harley Davidson Street Glide 1800, and a Kawasaki KX125.

On to the GSX650F, I made some slight modifications for my trip. I fitted the bike with 2 Givi MonoKey sideboxes, and a 46lt Givi MonoKey topbox. As well I had a gel touring seat and a tankbag.

Lift off: The Suzuki at my starting point, St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay


I had an overriding memory of riding in the arctic on my bike and that was "This bike must be the best 'mid range' touring bike there is" and this is why:

Comfort

I rode just over 6,000 miles in 3 weeks, and did some days in excess of 600 miles and not once did I feel uncomfortable to the point where I had to pull over, which I've had on other bikes I've ridden in the past. The bike is easy on the wrists when gripping the bars, the seat and leg position allows an upright body position, and fairing keeps the most of the wind off you.

Speed and Power

With 85bhp with a weight of around 216kgs this bike has plenty of power to deal with all real world situations on the road. Ok, it can't do 180mph like its big cousin the GSX-R 1000 but its got everything you could ask for on the road. On the autobahn it easily kept up with the traffic doing 100+mph. On the Norwegian country roads, even fully loaded with 3 touring boxes, power to nip past camper vans and Volvo estates was no problem at all. It was so easy in fact I started calling 3rd and 4th gears 'The sling shot' as a drop down of the gear and a twist of the throttle and I was past anything that was in my way.

Fuel Economy and Range

The bike more than matched my expectations of a 650 and was surprisingly good on fuel both on the motorways and on the twisty country roads of Scandinavia. It cost me around £18 to fill the tank in the UK (at 125p p/l at the time of the trip) and this would see my through 150 good paced motorway miles and around 180-190 on the twisty slower roads, which certainly helped when putting 6,000 miles worth of fuel in the tank over 3 weeks.

Price and ££££

I was a lucky biker when I picked up my GSX650F for sub £2,500 for a bike with less than 10k miles on the clock and only just needing an MOT. Even from new the price compared to other bikes used for touring its very very cheap. It also benefits from a moderate insurance group and a wide range of cheap parts, which are readily available due to it having the same engine and frame as the new Suzuki bandit 650.

A factory Spec Suzuki GSX650F


I would highly recommend any tourers or weekend riders looking for a good priced bike to take a look at the 650F. I've been nothing but impressed with this machine and love to see more of them taking the adventures they deserve. All specs from the bike included below.

If you have any questions you would like to ask me about the bike that isn't cover please comment below.

Ride safe.

Gordon

---------

SPECS

Engine: 656cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve, four cylinder, four-stroke 
Power: 85bhp @ 8,900rpm 
Front suspension: 41mm Kayaba forks, adj for preload 
Rear suspension: Kayaba shock, link type, adj for preload and rebound damping 
Front brake: 310mm discs, four-piston calipers 
Rear brake: 240mm disc, two-piston caliper 
Dry weight: 216kg (claimed) 
Seat height: 770mm 
Fuel capacity: 19l 
Top speed: 130mph (est) (I've tested it to 115mph on the autobahn)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Top 5 Arctic Rider moments 2014

Hi all,

With 2014 coming to a close I wanted to thank you for reading my blog and supporting my efforts for Cerebra this year. Its been a wonderful year and I never thought that I would do so many new and interesting things! So, in the spirit of the internet's addiction to lists, I've created the Top 5 Arctic Rider moments 2014. Enjoy!

5 - NEMCRC Croft race meet VIP

The North East Motor Cycle Racing Club (NEMCRC) were sponsors of my Arctic Ride 2014 and as part of that they got me very exposed to club events to drum up more support. In April I was lucky enough to be invited to the club's Croft Race meet where I was a VIP guest for the day. This meant that I had exclusive access to areas of the track that are usually only for officials. I was able to sit a top the Race office with the Clark of the course to get a great view of the circuit and the starting line, and given access to the recording team. I was also interviewed by the race commentator about my ride and given an unrivaled view of the track. However the best part of the day was being given the honour of presenting the race winners with their trophies.

Croft Montage


4 - Interview BBC Radio Newcastle

I certainly never expected to get the media coverage that I did for the trip, especially with the BBC at their Newcastle studio. I did 3 interviews in total at the BBC but the best was being interviewed by the drive time show's John Harle and having it filmed by my trusty buddies from MPH studios. If you buy the Arctic Ride 2014 DVD the full interview is included in the extras.

At BBC Radio Newcastle

3 - Meeting Norwegian Bikers

Ok this this one is a bit of a cheat as its not 'one' moment but a collection of a few along the way during my ride. I met up with what can only be described as some of the most genuine, generous, and epic people I have ever met. I was touched and amazed by their generosity to help me as a complete stranger. But at the same time it optimised the spirit of the biking community which spreads the whole world over.

Special thanks to Lars and the gang in Trondeim for the BBQ food, riding the Atlantic road, and the tour of the city. To Hallvard and the Helgeland club for the Reindeer curry, the cabin that kept me warm, and the company on my entry into the Arctic. Also to Geir and his family in Tromso. Thank you for welcoming me into your home, treating me to some amazing reindeer food / brown cheese, for the mountain climb on my 'rest day', and for the great banter and chat!

BBQ in Trondheim
Hallvard and I saying bye
Geir and I in Tromso, Norway


2 - Reaching Nordkapp

After I crashed in Sweden in 2011 I thought reaching Nordkapp was never going to happen. But 3 years later I achieved my dream and was able to raise ton of cash for Cerebra. It wasn't until I was home I was properly able to reflect on what it meant. It was life changing and taught me that dreams can come true... Oh and they do an epic hot-dog up at the visitor centre.,,, 10 out of 10

On top of the world
1 -  Coming home

Without a doubt the best moment of the trip and #1 Arctic Rider moment of 2014 was getting back to blighty, riding off the ferry into Newcastle and seeing my (pregnant at the time) wife Kirsty. Only twice have we been apart for more than a few weeks, both motorbike adventure related. When I'm away riding its always hits home just how much Kirsty is light of my life and without her I wouldn't have achieved what I have... Arctic Ride 2014 and The Arctic Rider wouldn't exist without her.

Its great to travel and experience new things but it also gives you an appreciated for what you have at home... I'd do it all again and knowing that I'd get to come home at the end of an adventure like this to my family its the highlight of the trip.

Oh and coming home also meant that I didn't die or total the bike.... WIN!

Knowing me so well Kirsty came armed
to the port with a can or Irn Bru.... legend
Well that's it for my Top 5 Arctic Rider moments of 2014.

Here's to 2015.... Ride safe everyone!

Gordon

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Welcome back from The Arctic Rider

Greetings,

Welcome back to the Arctic Ride blog. I told myself that once my ride was finished I would continue to blog but that hasn't quite happened. While I've been active on the Arctic Ride Facebook page and on my Twitter account I haven't been able to keep up the progress on this blog. Not without good reason though as at the start of August my daughter Islay was born and has been occupying my time ever since. You'll be please to know I've already had her wearing my lid watching the Moto GP with her.

Back on to Arctic Ride news and its been over 5 months since I completed my ride. The ride will stay with me my whole life with some great memories and lessons learnt. And due to some great work from MPH studios and filming from yours truly, you can now buy the Arctic Ride 2014 film on DVD. It includes a 50 minute film of my trip and some of the experiences I went through along the way as well as some extras including the trailer, full interview with the BBC, and some outtakes. All profits from the DVD go to Cerebra to help brain injured children across the UK. And at £10 surely makes a great Christmas present for any biker or adventurer type folk.

Click here to buy

To get a sneak peak of whats to come on the DVD check out the trailer below.



Also since I've been away from blogging I attended the Cerebra children's awards at the Houses of Parliament. My wife Kirsty, and Islay, joined me along with families who have been helped by Cerebra, the charities sponsors, and other Cerebra Ambassadors, Trustees, and employees.

Cerebra Ambassadors

It was great to be involved and to see families who have been helped by the funds that have been raised through my trip to the Arctic.

Thanks again for supporting and reading the blog. There is plenty more to come to fill the long night including; GSX650F review from the trip, Other charity bikers, and Gordon's top Christmas bargains.

Look out for those and ride safe.

Gordon

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Looking back on the ride

Ahoy there blogmates,

Welcome back to the Arctic Ride blog. I might have completed my trip to the Arctic Circle but there is plenty more to come from me.

Me and Robbie on launch day
Its been 4 weeks since I arrived home and it has given me plenty of time to digest my adventure. I've written a lot about the charity Cerebra on my blog already over the past months but one of the biggest takeaways from my trip has been the difference the money raised will do for brain injured children and their families across the UK. The effort that I have put into the planning and execution of the trip would be for nothing without the support and donations I received along the way, which I am very thankful for.

Waving bye to friends and family - 6,000 miles to go...
Something else I'll take away from the ride is my ability to actually go and complete such a big project. There were quite a few doubters when I said I was planning my second attempt to Nordkapp, not only that I wouldn't make it to Nordkapp but also that I wouldn't raised my £2,500 target for my trip. Again the support I received along the way keeping me motivated, especially from my wife Kirsty, was instrumental from the success of the trip. I lived and breathed my Arctic Ride for nearly 18 months and I enjoyed almost every second.

 Day 12 - The bike and the Lyngen Alps, Northern Norway
Something that I got from my trip and I'll remember for the rest of my life is the reaffirmed love of riding my motorbike. Even on the bad, cold, wet days... I loved it. I loved the challenge of the gravel roads, of the driving wind against the bike, and of pushing on through on days I wanted to stop. If anything I like riding my bike even more (if that's possible) than I did before the trip.


On one of my days in Northern Norway, I pulled my bike to the side of the road coming to a stop with gravel and dust at my feet. I took off my helmet and felt a cold mountain breeze across my face. As I got off the bike I turned back to see the road I had just ridden. A coating of snow either side of the road, wet from the countless waterfalls that drain form the snowy mountains, and empty twisting beyond the spiky peaks in the distance. I'd battled with the stifling heat of traffic in London, Antwerp, and Hamburg; fought the wind of the 8km Oresund Bridge; and shivered my way through countless tunnels and mountain passes. But I was here, nearly 3,000 miles from home, in biker's paradise, and in the dream I'd been having for the past 4 years.

At Nordkapp

This feeling has confirmed that this certainly won't be my last motorbike challenge (more info in future blogs where I might be heading!).

There was a quote I saw recently which I thought was appropriate:

'All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible' - T.E.Lawrence

To me . My ride may have made only a small difference but it was born out of a desire to do something different. Follow your dreams and live the life you want to live, I assure you that you won't regret it.

Ride safe,

Gordon

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Day 22 - Home

Hi everyone,

So... 22 days, 9 countries, circa 6,000 miles... And I'm home. What a trip. What an adventure!


I awoke early on the ferry, worried about waking up late and missing the entry up the Tyne. I got up and packed up my things. Suddenly it hit me... I was home. After all I'd been through on the trip, this was it. It didn't feel like I'd been away for 3 weeks. I had some lonely and down moments on the trip but thinking it was coming to an end was sad too.


As the ferry approached the breakwater, I went out on deck to see my town from the river and also to try and spot my welcome home party. My wife Kirsty had drummed up support for me coming home to make sure I had a welcome to rival my send off 3 weeks earlier. 


After (just)seeing my party in the distance as the ship rolled up the river, I went down to the car deck to de-strap the bike. This proved a bit premature as it took me around 5 minutes to de-strap the bike and I ended up waiting another 45 minutes to get off the ferry. Tusk. I got the same feeling in my stomach as I'd had 3 weeks ago at the lighthouse, excited but nervous. 


3 weeks might not seem a long time to some, but for me to be away from my pregnant wife WAS a long time to me. Knowing I'd be greeted by my friends, family, and film crew, I was doing my best  to control my emotions and be safe riding the bike.

Then, the ship doors opened and I rode down the ramp, back in blighty, and headed out of passport control. Then I saw my crew and knew I was home!


I rode the bike up full speed, stopped, kick the side stand down, flipped up my helmet and looked for Kirsty. A hug and a kiss the perfect tonic for the 3 weeks of emotion and adventure. I then jumped off the bike to 5 fives and hugs from my friends and family, and it felt great! I was then presented with the best present of all... a can of Irn Bru! :D original and best! 


I then jumped straight into an interview with my film crew from MPH Studios for the Arctic Ride movie. We did this straight away to ensure they captured my true emotions of being home!

I was lucky to get any filming done at all after the Port of Tyne refused to let MPH do the filming, even in none restricted areas. Luckily Jon and Phil are true professionals and took this on their stride and still got the shots needed.. Cheers guys!

After the filming I got on the bike and headed the 10 miles home. Clicking the bike into gear, I knew these were my last miles of my Arctic Ride 2014, so I opened up the throttle and bombed home, remembering to ride of the left hand side of the road (and be safe of course ;) ). 

And I then I was home. I pulled the bike up next to my garage and got off the bike. I think it will take a good few days for it to truly sink in what I've done. Not only the miles and the actual ride, but all the pre-work, blogs, and social media updates. And most important if all, the ever rising total (now above £3,500) for Cerebra.

But this certainly isn't the end of my adventure even though I've ridden the miles. A week on Thursday (26th June) I'm having an after party at the Brewdog Bar in Newcastle 7pm - late - all invited so please come along and join me.

Then I'm going to showcasing the bike and trip at the Bikewise Motorcycle Show in Durham on 20th July. Again pop down to the North East's best bike show.

Of course I've also got the Arctic Ride film. While I've been away the past 3 weeks I've been filming my ride, doing video diaries, and other shots, so that I can share my adventure with you all through the medium of television... More details to follow.

I must finish with a massive massive thanks. Thanks to everyone who has followed my adventure, to those who have kept my spirits up and sent messages of support, to everyoe who has donated to Cerebra, to those who have given their time to give advice and support, to Cerebra for their support and making me an ambassador, to my wife Kirsty for supporting me and my dreams, to all my sponsors, to my new Norwegian friends, to my bike for getting me there and back in one peice, and to my little brother Robbie... The lad who inspired me to do this challenge and who rode every mile with me in my heart. I thank you all!



Until the next blog, and as always, ride safe!

Gordon

Friday, 13 June 2014

Day 21 - The final hurdle

Hi everyone,

So it's Day 21 of my trip and I'm almost home, almost. When I'm back (I've still 10 miles to do once I get off the ship in the UK) over the weekend I'll do a full blog reflecting on the trip. 



Im on my final ferry now, sailing back to the UK, due in tomorrow morning into North Shields. I'm still taking my adventure in. It almost doesn't seem real that I've been on the road for 3 weeks, made it to the Arctic, ridden to Nordkapp, and home again.

But I think it hit my body. I got to my cabin (VIP - provided complementary by DFDS Seaways) and has to sit down. I'm so tired, both mentally and physically. My whole body is sore, my mind strained from the concentration of being on the road for so long. But at the same time I feel on top of the world. 

I've done it... I've bloody done.

Today started as most have on this trip. I awoke to sunshine, got myself up and started packing my tent. It felt odd this was the last time (for while at least) that I would be rolling up my sleeping bag, taking out my tent pegs, and stuffing my life onto the back of my bike.



As I put my leathers on I felt a bit sad. There is a massive part of my soul that is filled with everything motorbikes. I can't walk down the street and hear a bike without looking for it and staring at it. So I took a moment and sat in the warm morning sun. I only lasted about 2 minutes before overheating so I jumped on the bike to get some cool air to my face... The downside if leathers.

I went to the first petrol station I could find and filled up the tank one last time. And boy is Netherlands expensive for fuel... It's worse than Scandinavia! After doing the maths I paid £1.83 a litre... Wow!

In my annoyance I set off and took a wrong turn and started heading North East... WRONG WAY! After turning around I headed towards Amsterdam.

Again the traffic was heavy but the miles disappeared as I thought about home. As I approached the city I pulled over for a spot of lunch where I treated myself to my FIRST McDonalds of the trip. I checked google maps and found I was still 2 hours from the port with traffic so I best get a move on I thought.

Buzzing through the traffic I joined several German bikers who were clearly on the way to the ferry too. When I arrived I checked in, did passport control and parked up.. Suddenly I looked ahead and there was a ton of bikes... It was like a bike meet.


Still having an hour or so to wait or the ferry to load up I had a wonder and loom at the bikes and counted no less than 50 Bikes! I know it's a big ferry but that seemed excessive... Considering there had been just 6 on my last ferry! 


After some waiting in the sun I rode onto the ferry and took my place! As with my first ferry from Dover, I had to strap down the bike myself, and I'm not really an expert on this but I did the best I could. We'll see in the morning if I did a good job or not. Having worked as a deckhand for the afternoon I'm looking forward to my pay-cheque from DFDS later in the month :)

Seen as it's my last night I thought is treat myself to either a burger of pizza... I'm still to decided.

As promised in yesterday's blog, here is what happens to my helmet yesterday. Basically the flip part at the front of it (designed to be flipped up when paying for petrol or during accidents) fell off at one side as I was approaching my campsites. Upon further inspection it seemed a bolt had come loose that hold this in place so I promptly reinserted it and tightened it. I'm not sure how it happened, I've dropped my helmet or anything but maybe it was loose and the constant pulling it on and off had loosed it more... All fixed now.

So that's Day 21. Nearly home and very tired.

Thanks again for reading and look out for the next blog where I sum up the trip and tell you about my final (but short) day tomorrow.

Ride safe.

Gordon