GETTING US & BIKE THERE: Research/advice

Click on images to enlarge them.

Preparation: A few months of it:
. . .- Own a home, needed to rent it out and do advance maintenance;
. . .- Pack or trash home belongings, it takes longer than you think;
. . .- Arrange for what-happens-if, for example our demise en route;
. . .- Arrange for online bill-paying, pre-pay max possible for KISS;
. . .- Prep the bike & accessories, a biggie;
. . .- Study up, research tech stuff and travel destinations;
. . .- Select, buy, pack carefully everything we took along;
. . .- Etc.
It took a lot of time, work, research.

Hopefully this blog will save you some time and money in this dept.


Flying: We flew Toronto-London with the bike on Air Transat. Ballpark cost US$1500 for the bike's airfare, plus two humans' tickets.

For similar cost we could have chosen some continental destinations instead, but wanted to start with UK, mainly for close-family-in-Manchester reasons. But it turned out to be a good place to start for bike/technical reasons as well. (See UK Resources blog.)

Let me save you some time, I have crossed oceans with wheels before, including by ship, and did lots of shopping (Lufthansa wanted $6,000 for one-way bike freight.) Air for a bike is a far better method than crating & shipping by sea; for a car, obviously this advice does not apply.


Best to take your own bike: Purchasing a Honda, other Japanese brands, a Harley (have not studied BWM lately) is far less expensive in North America; and this way its your bike, you know it well, it’s not a lemon, you have detailed it for weeks or months ahead, de-bugged it – etc. This beats the heck out of buying a bike and starting from scratch in Europe.

The many accessories are also cheaper in North America.

Plus, buying/prepping a bike takes a lot of time, at home versus in an overseas hotel. Good decision to do it this way: 'Black Bike' (as it is now affectionately called) had 12,500 km before leaving Canada, a few small bugs were gone and many good modifications were done at home. See technical section for details.


Air cost: US$1,500 for the bike one-way air freight, plus about C$450 for each of us. A good deal, no hassles, just drive the bike to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver airports, 2-3 days in advance, they strap it on a skid, you meet it there. Done.

Easy clearance in UK, except for $300 for British Customs and the broker. We arrived a day ahead of bike to get some jetlag sleep-off, glad we did.


Arranging bike freight & insurance call Motorcycle Express LLC, Gail Goodman knows her stuff, provided great service, they have sent thousands of bikes across. And Toronto/Montreal/Vancouver/Calgary are your choices, no USA departures. (800) 245-8726 or (516) 682-9220 #107

Buy your personal flight tickets from someone else. We bought directly from the airline (for quite a bit less than Gail’s Canadian travel agent colleague had offered us.)


Which bike to take? Very personal choice. See Bike Technical blog for my views.


Airline review: Air Transat

Bike arrived perfectly.

Big but: extremely lost bags took five painful days to recover. Much chasing of Air Transat UK, Montreal, countless phone calls and a couple hundred bucks phone/clothes/toiletry bill. Air Transat gets high-five for bike delivery, two thumbs way down for not helping lost-bag customers: Damn awful no-care service in UK/Canada – excepting one fine fellow we found by phone perseverance in Manchester Airport. Wish I had his name to thank him publicly, but he found them, YAY! Five days is a long time with carefully organized bike travel bags and your valuables missing.

Claim money from them? They did not offer, I wasn't in mood for a fight, which in any case is hard to conduct from the road. So I'll just pan them here.

Evidently the destination tags had been torn off our bags somehow – it happened during the non-government security inspection & X-ray. Our names were on them, our destination, but that did not help quickly. All I can suggest is, when your life depends on your bags, as it will after a few weeks of painstaking micro-packing:
. . .- Clearly label the hell out of each bag, in 2-3 places on each bag/box
. . . .in case they lose them.
. . .- Strong cardboard box around each soft bag; easy to open in one
. . . .spot for security inspections.
. . .- Full Magic Marker bold destination address/phone, your name,
. . . .flight number strongly taped to each bag so its impossible to remove/tear.


Where to start the trip? For North Americans, UK is a good place to start a longer trip. Not essential of course, and there are excellent options. But UK has the advantage of no language issues; a slightly shorter flight; customs stuff is easy and well organized.

And you save much driving, start on the west coast of Europe, then head East/North/South in any route you want. Plus, we're really glad we saw Scotland first, tested ourselves and bike a bit on the great twisties there; we might have missed it later which would have been regrettable.

Finally I found some superb and reasonably priced bike-prep resources (see UK Resources blog) which would have been much more difficult in other countries. It's one thing to speak French as we both do, quite another to get into tech-talk in another language. Germany was an option, many speak excellent English there, but it would have been more expensive.



  1. Peter, your blog is AMAZING! I don't know how else I could ever get such a "grounds-eye view" of the places you are visiting.

    I'll bet more people would send comments if they could find the little, tiny comment links. Is there any way to make them more obvious?

    Happy trails!

  2. Thanks Bill, That's diplomatic: I call it a "worm's-eye view" but has same end meaning ... Let me see if I can do anything to fix this difficult comments posting issue.

  3. Very interesting. I travelled many of these countries 40 years ago and find the differences in development to be very telling. Turkey and E. Europe have clearly made great strides, while Egypt and others wallow in corruption and lack of progress. Keep up the good work!