What can possibly go wrong?
What can possibly go wrong? Everything. Or almost everything. But let’s start from the beginning. We had some serious plans for Poland. Visiting friends here and there, attending a couple of motorbike meetings, doing the Polish section of TET, or at least a few parts of it, dealing with some administrative and medical things. And then finally saying goodbye to family and friends and heading towards Romania to continue with our journey, attending more meetings and visiting more friends.
None of that happened as planned.
Bikes on strike
The issue with Agata’s bike took more time and effort than we initially assumed. We tried fixing the issue ourselves, reading the whole internet content on G450X and TE449 bikes. Frustrated and running out of ideas (or having some ideas that we could not turn into action due to lack of tools like a diagnostic software to read or set the computer) we used some help. That required transporting the bike 100 kms away. After two weeks, the bike was ready to be picked up and after the initial success, or what sounded like one, the bike started behaving in the same strange way again – struggling with starting and stalling soon after it finally started.
The main suspect was the wiring, so we opened every single connection and checked every wire. As we progressed with this task, our eyes were opening more and more on how poor the condition of the wiring is. Cracked cables not being isolated, rust and short circuits everywhere. Yes, we should have known that earlier, but we assumed the wiring was checked at the time the bike was assembled. Apparently it was not.
Lesson learned: don’t assume anything and check everything yourself, even if you pay for a job to be done. Or just do it yourself if you are able to, just to be sure. And then check again.
After a few days of discovering new issues and applying the fixes, sometimes using the parts from another bike to replace the ones that got broken due to short circuits or previous unsuccessful fixes, the bike came back to life.
It was the music to our ears, to hear it starting more eagerly than ever and nicely roaring when getting in high revs. And not stalling after closing the throttle.
Joris became an expert in bike’s electric wiring as well as mounting and dismounting the secondary butterfly for the throttle.
However, we still needed to wait for some replacement parts before we could assemble the bike. And nothing went smoothly here. The availability of some parts was an issue. Of course in the shop everything was “in stock” but only after placing the order and paying for it, it turned out, that “the part was discontinued”. Or something among those lines. Basically – not available. It took some effort again to have all the parts ordered. And having them reach us was another story – for example one shop apparently sent two packages with the same shipment number, so the courier company needed to return both of them to the sender with a request to have them correctly labelled and shipped again. Than meant another two weeks of delay.
Once the bike was in one working piece again, we desperately needed to go somewhere. After 4 days of riding of TET, 70kms from “home”, the bike went on strike again and we seemed to be back to square one. As the electric part was sorted out last time, we focused on the fuel supply, as the spark and exhaust colour suggested the mixture is too lean. We cleaned the injector, removing a pinch of dark fluff, reinstalled it and the engine started again pretty smoothly. To be extra sure, we already ordered a new injector and a new ignition coil, but it seemed like we were good this time. We checked the fuel pump and filter to be on the safe side, but all looked well. We were happy to be able to ride again so we wanted to assemble the bike as soon as. An then another thing went wrong – the rear shock started leaking when we almost done with putting all things back together. Our heads hung low again and hands dropped. How much bad luck can you have? Another repair needed, another waiting time for the parts to come and for the suspension to be fixed (but at least we ccould count on the best suspension expert in Poland, Piotrek vel. PeKaeS who went above and beyond to fix the suspension that is so rare, that there are rumors, that more people walked on the Moon, than those suspensions were produced). To add to that, the ignition coil that we received was defected – one of the pins was misplaced, and we could not plug in the connector, so again – return, refund, new order. Staying in Poland for much longer than planned and not having a proper riding trip in 2 months… we were more than frustrated and bored. The weather changed, indicating the autumn is coming and we were still not further than in our starting blocks.
Finally the shock was fixed and on Agata’s 40th birthday (yep, she’s old) the bike was in one piece again and RUNNING!
We went again to have it tested and attended a Motomyczki meeting in Bieszczady mountains. Agata’s bike was running better than ever, but on the way back home it was Joris’s one that stopped cooperating. The starting / kill switch needed to be replaced, the clutch cable broke again for a second time in one month and the battery was not charging. We checked that it was not the inverter. And later it was confirmed it was the generator. And as there were no spares available (original or aftermarket) it needed to be regenerated. So we gave it in good hands with PeKaeS and Moto Port again, because the road was calling again, and Joris didn’t feel like working on the bike… again.
At the same time as we were dealing with the wiring issue in Agata’s bike, we wanted to fix our decals. That meant we needed to have them printed and stuck on the fairings. Unfortunately the printing facility was late by about a week with the order as it was nonstandard, so the fairings got stuck at the shop, waiting for the decals to arrive and be affixed. But finally all got sorted out and we are very happy with the outcome. Thank you GrafNet!
The whole timing of the stay in Poland was subordinated to the appointment that Agata had in the US Consulate with regards to the US visa. She had one, valid for many more years, but it needed to be “transcribed” into the new passport as a result to the change in her name. At least that was the embassy recommendation, to have all the papers sorted out. Due to the fact that tourists can’t visit USA nowadays and no visas are allowed to be issued anyway, the meeting, that had been scheduled more than two months ago, was cancelled without a prior notice, on the day of the meeting and 20 minutes after it was supposed to start. All arrangements for nothing. You can imagine all the people waiting in front of the consulate, being turned down. Some probably needed to travel to Krakow a long way, stay there overnight… Loss of time and money and being left feeling helpless. Next appointments could be made for October at the earliest, but still depending on the situation. Well, it looks like the visa fee of 160 USD (converted to PLN at a thievery exchange rate) will be lost. Anyway, one of the guys working in the consulate said that if Agata can prove the name change when entering the USA, she should not have any problems using the previously issued visa and he said that his wife had proven this works. This was super comforting, so straight away we arranged a sworn translation of the relevant papers – just in case we need them. It just means more papers to have with us…
A day before we set of on our trip our “big camera” started showing an error. After some research on the internet it turned out to be a problem with the flash and battery charging. We got it to the service, but it was the first time they saw this error in this model and could not fix the issue for more than one month.
Also the phone of Joris had some issues with the touch screen getting locked an not responsive or the screen showing some stripes instead of an image from the camera. Updating the software and all apps solved the problem, hopefully for good.
To add to that, there is a problem with the charging of Garmin Montana on Agata’s bike – the 3A fuse on the charging cable gets blown immediately when connected to the battery and prevents the device from charging. It is a new thing, as previously all was working well.
Once we thought the problems with Agata’s bike are over, we set off for a few days to ride TET and see how the bikes cope off-road when fully loaded. It was after the rain, so the tracks between the fields were full of muddy clay, but it was not too bad (just one fall for Agata on a super slippery ground, the speed and confidence were missing to succeed 😉 ) The small roads and parts through the forests, sometimes very sandy were a good training ground and actually there were no further touch-downs. The more we rode, the more fun and confidence we had (especially Agata).
We spent two nights at local farm-stays, one of them being worth mentioning. It was an old manor house with an exciting history (even linked to the kins mentioned in the Polish national epic “Pan Tadeusz”), fantastic hosts and delicious food. All for an affordable price, that helps the owners to move forward with restoring the place that had their best times some time ago, but we believe can have even better times in the future. So, if you are doing TET, section 3a and look for accommodation near Krzyżanówka, we recommend a stay at Dworek na Woli (few tips: get off the bike and take off your helmet when asking for the stay overnight 🙂 and order dinner and breakfast if you can to experience traditional Polish food)
We also spent one night at a camping in Kazimierz Dolny, where we met a fellow traveller, Anna aka. Feel The World. It was a great evening with not enough time and not enough wine to talk about all the travels, plans, experiences, expectations and hints and tips. It was a great evening/night and we hope to meet somewhere down the road for more nights like this. Maybe in a more wild environment without the lawn mowers starting at 6:15 in the morning…
From Kazimierz we headed to Krakow, but Agata’s bike broke again. We tried a roadside repair, exchanging the ignition coils. We were curious if that would be the case. Agata asked “if this works, what shall we do?”. The response came not from Joris, but from the Google Maps app that suddenly decided to have something to say: “Head South”. We laughed our asses off and it helped to release the frustration a bit. The swap initially seemed to help, but after some kilometres the bike would go no further, so this time Agata’s dad came to the rescue (if you are curious, the bike fits in VW Caddy 😉 ) and we could actually start our search for the failures again.
At some point, fed up with being stuck, Joris took his bike and rode TET again, section 3 and 4 in the western direction. Maybe not the best idea to split up a dream team, but he needed some fresh air and change of scenery. And maybe have a feel of traveling solo, and realize that sharing is a double pleasure.
Joris took off and had to do a first 50 km to reach TET track. Then the fun started, sandy trails in the hot sun, keeping on the throttle and ass to the back. Heavy loaded Draka performed super, looking his way through the deep and dry desert sand. But the forest tracks were dry and hard, what resulted in a major crash in one of the deep ruts created by the tractors. But no harm done, just the ego slightly dented, but spirit stayed high. Joris loved the high speed riding, adrenaline at the top. For the evening a nice quiet camping was found, and some cold beers, bit of cooking and letting Agata know all was good. Next day promised to be beautiful again, with full sun and nice tracks. After an unexpected meeting with some Polish fellow riders Joris gave his dragon the go. Only the tracks were as hard as concrete. Thanks to the dry weather the mud turned into solid rock. Draka got the beating of his life as Joris pushed him to high speeds through the rough terrain. But the rider and bike made it through the day and enjoyed the beautiful scenery that Poland has to offer. Looking for a nice spot to stay for the night, Joris found a nice quiet beach by the lake, and a local shop to provide for the thirsty rider. Joris planned to have a skinny dip in the lake, but the water looked warmer than it was…so he sticked to the thirsty part. After taking off the next morning, Joris had to switch to section 4, and again, on the crossing he was meeting some fellow TET riders. But as they were going in the other direction, Joris kept solo to ride the trail. Section 4 gave more gravel roads and more easy terrain. Draka could prove his rally skills, and Joris opened the throttle to the max, reaching highway speeds on the gravel. Flying low gives that extra touch to riding. For the evening Joris found another great spot near a small lake. But cooking was not in his mind, and his beer had run out…so he went looking for a place to eat. The only possibility nearby was a camping with restaurant, so off Joris went to explore. Turned out the camping was run by a Dutch guy who settled 16 years ago in this beautiful country. Hours of talking about traveling went by, and also the bottles of wine, but they didn’t went by…As the camping looked great and Joris could use a shower after some days of riding, he decided to check in the next day, leave luggage behind and fly Draka lightweight over the tracks. What a ball both had, Draka could prove his rally roots to the fullest, and so he did. After a super ride and sweating in the saddle, Joris took a well deserved shower and was invited to a local wedding… and Polish people know how to party, that’s for sure. Next day would be asphalt road, as Joris wanted to visit a friend, Tess (aka. Adventure Tess), who was for a family visit in her hometown of Wroclaw. She arranged for Joris a very nice appartement in the city centre, and took it upon her to guide him around and show the nice spots of the city. For the evening Joris was invited to the famous biker bar that Wroclaw has, where he spent the night and met up with a well-known Polish biker, Marian nad his famous bike and he made some friendship that will last forever. But after spending the night in luxury, his mind was set to meet up again with his better half. After all, traveling solo makes you meet way more people and gives you freedom of choices, but shared happiness counts double.
When Joris was challenging TET on his own, Agata spent some time with her mom and sister and they went for an extended weekend to Krynica. This is an annual ritual for the other two, but Agata joined them for the first time. And they had a good time. But still, it was not the same as being on the road 🙂
We planned to meet with some friends, mostly on motorbike trips or using motorbikes to get to them. Due to all the issues we missed to meet with a female group “Baby na Motóry” for their annual meeting. We missed the summer meeting of BMW F650GS club, that we regularly attended in previous years. We also missed the meeting in Romania we planned to attend and then move onwards in our journey.
What we initially achieved though were a couple of meetings with our friends for a beer in the beautiful city of Krakow or attend a BeerWeek Festival.
Also a Belgian friend, Jurgen, was passing through Poland and stayed with us for a few days.
We attended a Meeting in Bieszczady, where we met a bunch of friends not seen for some time and met in person a fantastic couple, Ela and Grzegorz aka. Screw It. Let’s Ride (make sure you follow their adventures if not already doing so – they ride 2 up on a Harley and had some nice adventures in North America, including sailing with a bike on a yacht to Cuba and recently came back from a trip around the Baltic Sea.)
The breakdown of Joris’s bike on the way back made us stay with Kowal from Podrozemotocyklowe.com (his wife, Barbara was out in Georgia where she organised a women-only trip to enjoy the country’s nature, food and wine). We not only got picked up with a bus, but also welcomed in his house, helped with getting some bike parts and showed around nearby cities (Łańcut, Rzeszów, Przemyśl). Not to mention we got coffee served in bed (but not only). Actually it was a perfect proof that maybe travelling with a bike that is not fully reliable and has some breakdowns make you meet people and see places. We’ll think about that 🙂
By the way – Kowal and Barbara who are known to many by transporting motorbikes to Central Asia and Western Africa are working on another very exciting and unique travel project. Please make sure you follow them for more news! We keep our fingers crossed that all is finalised and the World fully reopens next season. A small hint on the project is below 🙂
Behind the scenes
We also thought to do some planning of the next stages, working on our web shop and writing posts, but that did not happen as well. We did not feel like planning for future steps not even knowing when we could hit the road again. Setting up the web shop was more difficult than it seemed after watching all the tutorials and videos, and spreading the news through social media that we are looking someone with WooCommerce experience did not return a single response. (If you are reading this and would like to help with our web shop – please let us know 😊) And finally we struggled with having a video from our first stage of the trip put together, due a massive workload and holidays of our editor.
Maybe we have reached the limit of bad luck for the trip, or at least for some time and from now on everything will go smoothly. Maybe it was not bad, that all the issues happened early on, so they could be fixed relatively quickly (it takes less time to have parts shipped from Germany to Poland than somewhere in the middle of Africa) and cheaply (we could stay at Agata’s family so we did not spend too much on living). On the other hand the spare parts costed some money, but maybe would prevent some more expensive issues. We got to know our bikes better, especially when it comes to the wiring and at the same time were able to fix or improve some other minor things that we had never found the time for previously.
However, the problems caused a lot of frustration that impacted our morale and relationship. We got so fed up with all the bad luck that we decided to “have a break” from motorbikes. Anyway, the season has changed and it became a bit too late to get into Romanian and Bulgarian mountains and Turkish uplands. Moreover, many of the countries we planned to visit during the early stages of our trip still have restrictions for tourists due to COVID-19 pandemics. Our heads are running at 100 ideas per hour about what to do and how to proceed. Unfortunately, the concepts vary greatly and it is difficult to choose one option, especially with so many unknowns still in place. We probably need to take time to sort everything out in our heads, away from motorbike related frustrations, so… for a short time we switch to vanlife, try to go somewhere warm and cheap and maybe improve our fitness level a bit, as we feel a bit rusty and like we have been sitting on a couch doing nothing for a bit too long…
Hints & tips
- Per Joris, Poland is underrated. It is definitely worth visiting (on/offroad), as it is beautiful and relatively cheap (at least for European standards)
- Take life as it comes 🙂
- Don’t let the problems step in between you and your partner. This time was a heavy test for our relationship and we learned a lot. Together is stronger than apart 🙂
- Having problems on the way makes you meet great people.
Problems are useful because they show that we usually deal with them somehow and there is something to talk about.
Thanks for the interesting stories.