The plan was pretty straightforward and had been carried through in various forms so many times before, going right back to 1975. We’d fly into Heathrow, pick up the Valkyrie from my cousin Tony’s garage in Woking, fit new panniers and head off to Rome. What could possibly go wrong?
For reasons to do with work and family, my wife and I divide our time between Dubai, the UK and South Africa. We keep bits of kit in each location to save humping too much stuff on and off planes. So the day before we left Dubai for London, we tried to remember what was where.
Summer riding gloves? Inside my helmet with the Valkyrie in the UK. Sleeping bags? My wife, who is also called Peter, sorted through a pile of about six and asked me which ones we needed to take. None, I replied confidently, since they too were with the bike. Then I came across my trusty waterproof riding boots and wondered why they were in Dubai. Surely I’d left them in the UK? No, I decided, last time I was there I’d used my short summer boots, so they were still there with the bike, helmet, gloves, Rukka riding suit and sleeping bags.
Twenty-four hours later, after the taxi had disgorged us at Tony’s house, the serious tour prep began. The Valkyrie was wheeled out into the sunshine and I rooted through the gear surrounding it. Out came the tent, the new air mattresses, inflatable pillows and… that was it. No sign of sleeping bags or boots, tall or short. The first smidgen of doubt crept in.
I unzipped the two Kuryakyn soft panniers and found the Rukka jacket and trousers; opening the matching carrier-top bag yielded my helmet – but no gloves. Further searching proved fruitless. Obviously for some bizarre reason I’d brought the sleeping bags, boots and gloves back to Dubai after the last trip. It was now mid-morning Friday, and we were due to set off first thing Sunday morning. Bugger!
Before we went shopping for gear we already had – but not in the right country – I turned my attention to fitting the second-hand Givi hard panniers I’d bought a few months earlier from another Valkyrie rider on an owner’s forum. He’d kindly delivered them to Tony’s house to await my arrival.
A quick inspection showed them to be in very good condition and the brackets looked like a bolt-on fit, so I removed the Kuryakyns (not an instant task, as you have to unbolt the pillion seat first) and their supporting brackets. Offering up the Givi brackets showed them to be indeed a near-perfect fit; this shouldn’t take long.
But, of course, the bolts that held on the old brackets were too long to suit the Givi ones, and I had nothing suitable to hand, so the Kuryakyns had to go straight back on: the bike had a 2 pm appointment for its annual MOT test (roadworthiness check). As expected, the Honda breezed through the test, and we set off in search of boots.
The nearest dealer had some unattractive boots for sale at prices northwards of £150, and that seemed too much for an emergency replacement. On, then, to Halfords, every UK biker or motorist’s default port of call for nuts and bolts. Nope, they didn’t have the bolts I needed, but they did have sleeping bags on sale at half price, so we filed that away for comparison purposes and would resume the enforced shopping spree on Saturday.
There’s a very cool online motorcycle clothing specialist in the UK called Motolegends that has an actual shop in nearby Guildford, and a quick look at their website showed several types of boots on sale at around £90. More than I’d hoped to pay, to be honest, but hey – needs must. So we set off for Guildford on Saturday morning in bright sunshine to beat the heavy rain forecast for that afternoon (this being Britain, we didn’t succeed in that, of course).
As luck would have it, all the £90 boots weren’t in stock at that particular warehouse, so I tried on three other pairs at prices nudging toward £200. When did bike boots get so expensive? Obviously, sometime after I bought my last pair. Unfortunately, none of these boots fitted me well enough.
The helpful salesman suggested I try a short Daytona boot, which of course fitted me like a glove – a £275 glove! Peter and I decided that they were an investment and would last forever (they have that reputation), so we sprung for the boots. A pair of waterproof, summer-weight riding gloves set us back a further £50. Thanks, Motolegends – great gear and no more expensive than the norm; it was just that I already owned all this stuff…
A trip to the camping store Milletts revealed a wider range of sleeping bags than at Halfords, and they were also on sale, although at slightly higher prices. We bought two for about £15 each, but drew the line at paying £18 for the only other item we seemed to have forgotten – a European electric two-pin adapter for our standard UK three-pin plugs. £18? Seriously, Milletts?
We had no further luck with bolts, so we returned to Tony’s where the black Valkyrie was duly washed and polished, in the hopes of better weather tomorrow; I never start a touring trip with a dirty motorcycle. The Givis were put reluctantly to one side and we packed the gleaming bike for Sunday’s early start, about £360 poorer but, maybe, a little wiser.