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On the trail of a new adventure

By David Neely

He’s back in his Co Antrim home after having to cut short his round the world bike journey. But the maps are out again on Wilson Lynn’s table as he plans part two, undeterred by having his bike wrecked when a Russian truck carrying it over snow laden mountains in China hit a drift and crashed.

Another rider with less determination would have thrown the towel in and said enough is enough. Bu as I’ve reported here previously, he went on to buy a little 125 Suzuki in Vietnam, rode it all the way south to Singapore and gave the machine away as it was too expensive to ship to Australia.

In Aussie land he bought a 250 Honda, continued his travels there, sold the bike and his panniers to a local dealer and flew home with all his luggage in two black plastic bags. Now he’s planning the second part of his adventure: Africa, South America, North America and possibly Canada.

Since he left Northern Ireland at the end of last September, Wilson has had more biking experiences in the past five months than the majority of us have in a lifetime’s motorcycling. He was on his single cylinder BMW F650 GS Dakar which was damaged beyond repair in the truck incident.

He’s ridden on mud roads, rock strewn roads, roads where it was easier to ride beside the road because the road itself was so bad. He’s been brought off his bike by a falling rock in a landslide, and crashed six times in one day when slush turned to ice and locked his front wheel.

Things went relatively smoothly until he reached Azerbaijan which borders the Caspian Sea. After buying his ferry ticket to cross to Turkmenistan officials demanded to have their palms greased.

“They started of asking for 100 US dollars but eventually I got them down to 10. I discovered that corruption and bribery was ripe and had to pay out twice after than.

“I learnt that policemen in different countries would try to flag me down and demand money for no reason at all. So I got wise, didn’t slow down, waved at them as I rode past and shouted ‘no money.’ ”

His two favourite countries were Kazakhstan, riding the bike there was ‘scary but interesting’ and Vietnam. He encountered bitterly cold weather in Kazakhstan and tells the story of how, when the temperature was at least – 20C, he came off the bike the six times in a blizzard.

“At one stage a car driver stopped to help me pick up the bike. Slush built up between the front mudguard and the wheel and froze instantly. Even my boot froze to the rear brake lever, it was so cold.

“The weather was so bad that I decided to go back about 30 miles and try for shelter in small building which I had passed earlier. When I reached it three railway workers signalled to me to come inside. The railway ran parallel to the road and the building was where they slept.”

Wilson raced to get inside and discovered he would have to sleep on the concrete floor as there wasn’t a spare bunk. It was too cold to go outside to his bike for his sleeping bag and, besides, his panniers were frozen shut.

“I lay down on the floor with just a sheet over me and later that night felt the sheet move and something running up it and then sitting on the side of my face. It was a rat, I think it was looking for heat. I could feel it claws. I knocked it away; I was too tired to do anything else.”

When he went outside to the bike in the morning he could not move it off its side stand. It had frozen to the ground, there was permafrost just under the surface. It took a hammer and chisel to free the stand.

Later in his journey he was to meet Tim, an Englishman who, unbelievably, was travelling by push bike. He had nearly frozen to death in his tent the previous night and at one stage Wilson towed him for 60 miles to a truck stop as he would not have made it otherwise.

Wilson’s plans for part two are quite fluid at present. He thinks he will leave again at the end of the summer and if the roads are metalled or much better than what he’s just experienced, he’ll take his R1200GS big trailie, otherwise he will have to source a replacement for his 650. As a matter of interest, he rode with bog standard suspension and the rear shock and the front seals did not leak, despite the dreadful conditions.

For a journey like his he advises that luggage should be kept to a bare minimum. It’s vital, he says, to be able to pick up your bike on our own in the event of a spill. He took two cans each holding 10 litres of petrol and found them absolutely vital as the distances between petrol pumps were great in remote areas.

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