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Thread: Gael Warnings in West Africa.

  1. #1
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    Gael Warnings in West Africa.

    Gael Warnings in West Africa.

    Three years ago this elegant lady returned with me after my first proper trip on the bike to Africa.

     photo 20170829_222023_zpskdackt2w.jpg

    I’d been to Morocco a few times and seen the dunes at Erg Chebbi but was drawn to find out what was further south and venture into the real Sahara. My adventure riding has all happened in the last 10 years. When I look back, I remember that the idea of a ride around Europe seemed quite daunting. It was the members of this forum, GSer, with one of their open invite trips, who encouraged me to take my 1200GS abroad instead if just up to Sainsbury's. Over the last 10 years my appetite for adventure on the bike has increased, nothing too scary though, just enough to take me out of my comfort zone. This year’s trip will be to Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal and Gambia. The detour into Mali is to avoid the notorious Rosso border crossing between Mauritania and Senegal. When I went last time I'd heard the stories about Rosso and had hoped to avoid it, by using the Diama crossing but I ended up going through Rosso on both the north/south and south/north legs of the trip. The Rosso crossing was as bad as I had heard, particularly on the way south. I think there should be an “I survived Rosso” badge for those of us who have had the Rosso experience, like there should be a badge for visiting the one fuel station in the middle of Mauritania and be told there is no petrol. But more of Mauritania later, about 3 weeks later, and hopefully no further mention of Rosso.

    One significant difference for me this time is that I will be having a travelling companion, at least on the way down. Simon will introduce himself later but we also met through this forum, where he read my ride report of the trip to Iran early last year. Simon was planning his own ride to Iran and when I returned, it was easy to meet up as Simon lives not too far away. We chatted about his planned trip, I shared some of my experiences of Iran and we kept in touch when he got back, speculating on future trips. We are also both Irish, living in the south of England and having an Irish passport was a significant advantage for visiting Iran, as we could get an Iran visa easily and did not need to hire a guide to escort us, which is a requirement for British visitors. This trip to Africa will be our first trip together and it may be unusual to do such a long trip not having ridden together but we have met a number of times and read our ride reports and concluded we could be suitable travel companions.

    We’ll I have been around most of Europe and Simon has done a lot of travelling too, some with the legendary Tim Cullis, which I'll leave him to cover. Much of my travelling has been with GSEddie of this parish, Eddie and I have been east as far as Montenegro, south as far as Merzuga in Morocco and north to Trondheim in Norway, all covered by GSer ride reports. A few years ago I got the itch to do a solo trip and my first one, suggested by Edventure, was to Turkey and proved that travelling on my own suited me fine. The solo trip to Turkey set me up for something more adventurous, so I felt confident enough to dip my toe into Africa and decided on Dakar as a destination. At that point I did not fully understand that the Sahara Desert extended for 2,000km and in doing this trip I have to cross it twice but it all added spice to the trip. That solo trip 3 years ago to Africa was on another scale to anything I had done before and I’ve been boring people about it since and whipping out the photos I keep on my phone, at the drop of a hat. The Iran trip of last year Iran was also up there in terms of adventure and certainly concerned relatives and friends as being a bit risky. By far he most interesting part was after I crossed the Iran border and began exploring that great country and its ancient cities. The motorway riding through Europe and Turkey was less exciting and probably more dangerous than my time in Iran. Riding in Africa though is different and you feel the vibe of a different continent when you ride off the boat at Tangier.

    One of the first decisions before these trips is what bike to take and this time it is easy for me, as I only have the one bike, the trusty BMW G650 xCountry single. It copes with the motorway sections OK but comes into its own on smaller roads. The only downside is, we do not handle the sand well together, as the front wheel dances around in a scary manner in deep sand despite my best efforts. To help me and the bike I’ve fitted a Scott steering damper this time and we’ll see if that improves things. I know I was much more confident off-road on the return leg of the trip last time, having “benifited” from many hours of riding on a variety of surfaces. The bike is not overly complicated and I can carry out most of the service actions myself but the tappets shims were checked by Just Motorcycles in Basingstoke, who also did the welding to fit the steering damper. The rest of the service was down to me and included new plugs and front brake pads. A new TKC 80 tyre is on the front and I'll carry a new rear and have it fitted around Agadir in Morocco, just before entering the desert. I suppose I could put both tyres on here but it looks pretty cool riding off on a loaded bike with a tyre strapped on the back. In fitting a new heavy duty chain, I decided to experiment with different sizes of front sprocket, a slightly larger one to assist with motorway riding and a smaller one for off-road sections, we'll see how that works out.

    This a view of the bike on a testing trip to Germany a week or so ago.

     photo 20170905_153426_zpswh7rdxy7.jpg

    Last time I crossed the desert on my own I didn't have any tracking or special communication device, apart from a phone. Some fellow travellers I met were a little surprised, particularly travelling on my own across the Sahara. So I had a look at what was out there, included the Spot tracker, but concluded a Delorme InReach Explorer was a better option. Delorme are now part of the Garmin empire and the Explorer allows satellite tracking, message sending and an SOS function. This was also time to look at helmet communication and as Simon uses a Sena Bluetooth system it prompted me to upgrade my creaking Autocom wired system and also move to Sena. My new Sena 10S unit will permit me to hear guidance and play music from the Garmin 550 GPS, talk to Simon at a claimed range of a kilometre and answer my phone. This wireless system will also stop me riding off with my helmet cable unplugged and then trying to correct the problem while still riding, a big improvement in safety. I doubt I’ll take many phone calls on the trip but it may be useful to listen to music or podcasts as I ride along.

    So we are off next week, initially by boat to Santander and then to Tangier Med in Morocco and heading south. Posts may be sporadic but we'll share the task and try to keep this updated when we can. Feel free to come along for the ride.


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  2. #2
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    Like Jim I have a mixed motorcycle resume:



    After ‘Following Dakar’ in January 2006 with Tim Cullis and others



    http://www.ukgser.com/forums/showthr...ighlight=dakar



    I had a great solo trip to Syria and Jordan in 2008 (link below), work got in the way of big trips until Georgia and Armenia 2015, then Iran 2016 (link below) and now the chance to revisit West Africa but with the plan of getting further than Laayoune where I had to turn back last time, lacking time.



    All of these trips were on this beast:



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    Note rufty tufty explorer look with TKCs on the back :-)



    The GS is now sporting about 120,000 kms so it’s probably run in! I debated long and hard whether to bring such a beast on a trip like this, having heard the conditions might be sketchy after Western Sahara.



    But I decided to stick with the devil I knew (rather than bring my untested KTM 690 Enduro) because there is a hope my other half might join me in Senegal for some motorcycle exploration and the GS saddle is definitely more comfortable than the KTM’s, as it will be for the 4000 kms across Spain and down through Morocco and W Sahara, until the tarmac ends.



    And if the worst comes to the worst I am abandoning a bike which has done long years of service.



    The plan is to get to The Gambia, lodge the GS with some kind folk, and return in November with my better half for some more riding in the area. If that all goes well, I may head further South-East towards Ghana in January.



    But the plan is just an aspiration at this stage, with lots of flexibility built in.



    The joys of preparation include…



    Visiting Stanford’s map department …felt like a small boy in a sweetie shop:







    Getting jabs and potions, like cholera, meningitis etc, and having a good rummage in the medical box for what to take…









    Deciding my 25 year-old Aerostich is likely to be a bit hot for Africa so having my Star-trooper moment with a lightweight Rev’it suit:







    Practicing cultural assimilation:



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    Practice putting son’s 1 man tent up







    Get TKC on front wheel







    Only 9 sleeps to go!






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  3. #3
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    Good luck and have a great trip

  4. #4
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    Have a great trip and don't forget the ride report

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    Good luck. Look forward to RR

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    The first thing is to make best use of the space available...And that includes the TKC 80 on the back!


    Who knew that a Jetboil was designed to be exactly the diameter to fit inside the tyre .

    Now just to add the right wines (which I know from past experiences fit well inside a TKC) for the long haul through Marco and W Sahara


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  7. #7
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    Looking forward to following you both on this ride report

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    Now that sounds like the start of a great adventure. Ride safe , have a great time and don't forget to keep us updated.

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    Preparation continues on the eve of our departure.

    Whilst Jim has been doing proper maintenance and preparation, I am reduced to weighing the panniers on my lardy steed:
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Size:  226.6 KB

    I decide I can do without the heavy D lock....And need to move quite a lot from right to left pannier to balance them up as one is 12kgs and the other 8!

    Can't work out where to put this on the bike:

    Jim the international diplomat suggests we will have an easier time crossing borders if I limit myself to the little IRL sticker on my top box.

    The final bit of hardcore biker equipment arrives...

    A £4 pair of Flip-flops to replace those abandoned in Peru earlier this year after 9 years of trusty service.

    They are described as ladies' Flip-flops but at size 11/45 I would not want to meet any lady who wore these.


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  10. #10
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    Ready for departure 0900... Portsmouth in my sights!


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    Quote Originally Posted by simondippenhall View Post

    Ready for departure 0900... Portsmouth in my sights!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Good to know there may be a few people reading this, makes it all worthwhile, welcome along.

    Well a lot gets packed into the weeks before a long trip and it is inevitable that a glitches will occur. The hope is that if problems arise before you leave you have a chance to sort them out and all on the trip goes smoothly and hopefully that will be the case this time.

    It’s been a habit of mine to start each long trip with a new set of tyres, chain and sprockets and brake pads to minimises the chance of a problem, including punctures. For the last 55,000 miles the strategy has worked, though chains and sprockets did not come into the equation when I was riding the shaft driven R1200GS. So this means diving on to eBay etc. to order parts. I normally order a sprockets and chain as a set but this time by mistake I just ordered just a chain. No probs, plenty of time for the sprockets I thought, but some orders were taken by people who did not have stock, others sent out parts which did not fit, all causing frustration and delays. I also ordered a small front to give me slower revs on the motorway, but got my gearing wrong, it should be the other way around. So it took some time to get the correct setup. I had similar problems with the brake shoes, where the new ones were noisy in use, again needed to be sorted.

    Having worked through these technical issues the bike was pretty well ready and we decided to have a meet up with loaded bikes to see how they handled and chat over a few remaining equipment decisions. The bike seemed to handle well fully loaded on the way to the cafe. We had a cuppa and agreed on me taking a simple gas stove and Simon would bring his Jetboil. We shared out the food and were amused we had a few sardine cans, which probably came from Morocco and were now on their way back.

    As Simon departed I popped into the next door garage and topped up with fuel. It was only when the lady at the till mentioned I was paying for diesel I realised there may be a problem. Surely she had got the wrong pump but then it dawned on me that it was my error and I had just put diesel in the petrol tank of the bike. Oh good! So what to do? Well first I paid for the diesel. Then after considering the problem, I bought a 5l petrol can. As I was equipped for a trip, I had a siphon kit on board. So I moved the bike to a car parking area without starting and siphoned off 5 litres from the tank into the new can. Then a further 3l into a spare can on the panniers. After filling the petrol tank with fresh petrol I rode home without problems, very relieved and pleased the issue had been sorted in 30 mins. Always good to test the recovery equipment.

    So the bike was ready and I had a few things to put in place at home, one of which was get a load of logs delivered and stacked. I was struggling as my regular suppliers were not responding. Passing a sawmill I drove in to find a scene from a Nordic TV detective episode. The yard was in the middle of woods and appeared deserted. Lots of pools of water around the yard with the glisten of spilled diesel. There looked to be no one around and in fact it felt a bit creepy and I thought of leaving. Then I saw a guy working in a shed carving wooden figures. He pointed to a cabin behind the shed and I approached. A lady came out with 2 small dogs. Watch out for the black and white one, she said. She took my details and as I went to leave the little black and while terror sunk his teeth in my leg, the leg my physio had been working on that morning, to ease my stiff knee. Oh good, I said again!

    I left hurriedly, followed by the woman apologising and not far behind the yapping dogs. The bite had drawn blood but luckily I was wearing heavy jeans and I did not think the teeth had penetrated the cloth. Later that day I ordered logs from another supplier. That evening to my surprise the sawmill called asking wen I wanted the logs delivered. I explained I was the potential customer who had been bitten by their dog and I wasn't sure I wanted to buy anything from them. The guy apologised but in the end said there was nothing he could do apart from keep the dog on a lead in future. I suggested there was one thing he could do, which was deliver me some logs, for free. After a quick intake of breath, to my surprise, he agreed. Sure enough he delivered and my time before leaving was made all the more busy by having to stack 2 loads of logs. Enough logs for the winter though. The bite is also healing well, by the way.

    There were a few nice things happened before leaving, including eating some of this wonderful cake as my birthday is during the trip.


    One great present was this CD of music from the Sahara. That is now loaded on to my phone and am looking forward to listening to it in the appropriate setting.





    The day of our departure dawned and I loaded the final bag on to the bike and headed for Portsmouth. I rode in and was asked where I was going and said Santander. The guy looked surprised and said there was no sailing today to Santander but there was one to Bilbao, and leaving at the same 11:30. Oops, well as Simon had made the booking, it seems we are going to Bilbao. Anyway, Simon arrived with the tickets and we are on board and sailing down the channel.



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  12. #12
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    Have a great trip - looking forward to this....

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drumacoon Lad. View Post
    Good to know there may be a few people reading this, makes it all worthwhile, welcome along.

    Well a lot gets packed into the weeks before a long trip and it is inevitable that a glitches will occur. The hope is that if problems arise before you leave you have a chance to sort them out and all on the trip goes smoothly and hopefully that will be the case this time.

    It’s been a habit of mine to start each long trip with a new set of tyres, chain and sprockets and brake pads to minimises the chance of a problem, including punctures. For the last 55,000 miles the strategy has worked, though chains and sprockets did not come into the equation when I was riding the shaft driven R1200GS. So this means diving on to eBay etc. to order parts. I normally order a sprockets and chain as a set but this time by mistake I just ordered just a chain. No probs, plenty of time for the sprockets I thought, but some orders were taken by people who did not have stock, others sent out parts which did not fit, all causing frustration and delays. I also ordered a small front to give me slower revs on the motorway, but got my gearing wrong, it should be the other way around. So it took some time to get the correct setup. I had similar problems with the brake shoes, where the new ones were noisy in use, again needed to be sorted.

    Having worked through these technical issues the bike was pretty well ready and we decided to have a meet up with loaded bikes to see how they handled and chat over a few remaining equipment decisions. The bike seemed to handle well fully loaded on the way to the cafe. We had a cuppa and agreed on me taking a simple gas stove and Simon would bring his Jetboil. We shared out the food and were amused we had a few sardine cans, which probably came from Morocco and were now on their way back.

    As Simon departed I popped into the next door garage and topped up with fuel. It was only when the lady at the till mentioned I was paying for diesel I realised there may be a problem. Surely she had got the wrong pump but then it dawned on me that it was my error and I had just put diesel in the petrol tank of the bike. Oh good! So what to do? Well first I paid for the diesel. Then after considering the problem, I bought a 5l petrol can. As I was equipped for a trip, I had a siphon kit on board. So I moved the bike to a car parking area without starting and siphoned off 5 litres from the tank into the new can. Then a further 3l into a spare can on the panniers. After filling the petrol tank with fresh petrol I rode home without problems, very relieved and pleased the issue had been sorted in 30 mins. Always good to test the recovery equipment.

    So the bike was ready and I had a few things to put in place at home, one of which was get a load of logs delivered and stacked. I was struggling as my regular suppliers were not responding. Passing a sawmill I drove in to find a scene from a Nordic TV detective episode. The yard was in the middle of woods and appeared deserted. Lots of pools of water around the yard with the glisten of spilled diesel. There looked to be no one around and in fact it felt a bit creepy and I thought of leaving. Then I saw a guy working in a shed carving wooden figures. He pointed to a cabin behind the shed and I approached. A lady came out with 2 small dogs. Watch out for the black and white one, she said. She took my details and as I went to leave the little black and while terror sunk his teeth in my leg, the leg my physio had been working on that morning, to ease my stiff knee. Oh good, I said again!

    I left hurriedly, followed by the woman apologising and not far behind the yapping dogs. The bite had drawn blood but luckily I was wearing heavy jeans and I did not think the teeth had penetrated the cloth. Later that day I ordered logs from another supplier. That evening to my surprise the sawmill called asking wen I wanted the logs delivered. I explained I was the potential customer who had been bitten by their dog and I wasn't sure I wanted to buy anything from them. The guy apologised but in the end said there was nothing he could do apart from keep the dog on a lead in future. I suggested there was one thing he could do, which was deliver me some logs, for free. After a quick intake of breath, to my surprise, he agreed. Sure enough he delivered and my time before leaving was made all the more busy by having to stack 2 loads of logs. Enough logs for the winter though. The bite is also healing well, by the way.

    There were a few nice things happened before leaving, including eating some of this wonderful cake as my birthday is during the trip.


    One great present was this CD of music from the Sahara. That is now loaded on to my phone and am looking forward to listening to it in the appropriate setting.





    The day of our departure dawned and I loaded the final bag on to the bike and headed for Portsmouth. I rode in and was asked where I was going and said Santander. The guy looked surprised and said there was no sailing today to Santander but there was one to Bilbao, and leaving at the same 11:30. Oops, well as Simon had made the booking, it seems we are going to Bilbao. Anyway, Simon arrived with the tickets and we are on board and sailing down the channel.



    Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
    The CD...

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  14. #14
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    A brief update: we arrived safely in Morocco yesterday afternoon and are now down the coast
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    But not before a mini-drama as we set off from Plasencia at 0700. I fuelled when Jim rocked up saying 'we have a problem' namely a flattish tyre.

    This is Jim, not doing a Papal 'kiss the ground' but inspecting the offending, newly fitted tyre:
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Views: 612
Size:  210.6 KB

    So we thought our ambitious plans to get to Algeciras and catch the 2pm ferry were sunk!

    Fortunately it was a slow puncture which could be managed by refills at refuelling stops.

    We got to Algeciras and had a rare old time finding the Estacion Maritimeo where we could buy tickets to Tanger Med. We were up and down through the same roundabouts s few times before we spotted it. The agent offered us tickets at 111€ each

    After we pushed back it suddenly halved to €55 which is what it should have been in the first place!

    We net sine congenial Spanish bikers and a Welsh biker with whom we ride down to Asilah where we are now.

    Our bikes parked Maroc style
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Views: 614
Size:  219.9 KB

    Not pictured: our gardien who for 30Dh (€3) is guarding the bikes overnight...He assured us he sleeps all day and guards all night...We did test that by coming and fiddling with the bikes later and he was quickly at our side. Just as well as Ibhave a loose tyre and lots of gear stuffed inside it.

    Today we head for Marrakech!

    Footnote 1

    Jim was so disappointed the boat was for Bilbao not Santander that we had to make up for it

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Views: 606
Size:  183.1 KB

    Sadly the machine was not forthcoming so bread and water for Jim

    Footnote 2
    Actually we ate very well last night, pate we had transported in Jim's topbox for 24 hours in the heat followed in my case by a multitude of prawns at a lovely seafront restaurant. What was I thinking of? My darling wife spent half our honeymoon in Morocco with gastroenteritis after dodgy prawns.

    Fortunately our systems survived this first endurance test.



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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by simondippenhall View Post
    A brief update: we arrived safely in Morocco yesterday afternoon and are now down the coast
    Name:  IMG_7908.JPG
Views: 613
Size:  243.8 KB

    But not before a mini-drama as we set off from Plasencia at 0700. I fuelled when Jim rocked up saying 'we have a problem' namely a flattish tyre.

    This is Jim, not doing a Papal 'kiss the ground' but inspecting the offending, newly fitted tyre:
    Name:  IMG_7902.JPG
Views: 612
Size:  210.6 KB

    So we thought our ambitious plans to get to Algeciras and catch the 2pm ferry were sunk!

    Fortunately it was a slow puncture which could be managed by refills at refuelling stops.

    We got to Algeciras and had a rare old time finding the Estacion Maritimeo where we could buy tickets to Tanger Med. We were up and down through the same roundabouts s few times before we spotted it. The agent offered us tickets at 111€ each

    After we pushed back it suddenly halved to €55 which is what it should have been in the first place!

    We net sine congenial Spanish bikers and a Welsh biker with whom we ride down to Asilah where we are now.

    Our bikes parked Maroc style
    Name:  IMG_7903.JPG
Views: 614
Size:  219.9 KB

    Not pictured: our gardien who for 30Dh (€3) is guarding the bikes overnight...He assured us he sleeps all day and guards all night...We did test that by coming and fiddling with the bikes later and he was quickly at our side. Just as well as Ibhave a loose tyre and lots of gear stuffed inside it.

    Today we head for Marrakech!

    Footnote 1

    Jim was so disappointed the boat was for Bilbao not Santander that we had to make up for it

    Name:  IMG_7900.JPG
Views: 606
Size:  183.1 KB

    Sadly the machine was not forthcoming so bread and water for Jim

    Footnote 2
    Actually we ate very well last night, pate we had transported in Jim's topbox for 24 hours in the heat followed in my case by a multitude of prawns at a lovely seafront restaurant. What was I thinking of? My darling wife spent half our honeymoon in Morocco with gastroenteritis after dodgy prawns.

    Fortunately our systems survived this first endurance test.



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Just a brief comment following Simons update. What started as a disappointing day yrsterdsy turned into a very sivvesful one as we covered over 500km in Spain, caught a ferry to Morocco and rode for an hour in Morocco on arrival. In Simons photo I'm actually carrying out the saliva test on the tyre valve. Details of this test, including the viscosity of the saliva, will be found on Google.

    Asila is a perfect first stop in Morocco, with its ancient median and good restaurants. Some pictures of the media follow and one of how the bikes were tucked in last night.


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  16. #16
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    Click here to find out how to remove these ads

    Just a follow-up to the covering of the bikes. The bargain when was looking after the bikes overnight was quite precise on where we should park and I now understand when and the reason for the blankets. See photo below where he slept beside the bikes, under the blankets, excellent commitment to hits role.

    Lastly, can anyone who is familiar with Tapatalk assist me with setting it up on Android where a reply does not copy the previous post. Thanks


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