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Black Sea to Red Sea


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#1 Lang

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 12:29 AM

Folks might be interested in our upcoming trip on Dnepr MB 650's. We have 20 bikes leaving from Bila Tserkva (near Kiev) Ukraine on a 6,000km ride through Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan to Israel. There are 16 Australians, 2 New Zealanders and 2 Americans. We leave on 01 May and finish 06 June. When we start the trip the daily blog will be on www.next-horizon.org

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#2 harleych

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 12:24 PM

I am not sure if 20 Dneprs can make 200 km a day together. Some motorcycles will be broken and other people will have to wait for them.

#3 berger

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 05:04 PM

View Postharleych, on 02 April 2011 - 12:24 PM, said:

I am not sure if 20 Dneprs can make 200 km a day together. Some motorcycles will be broken and other people will have to wait for them.

:laugh: :laugh:
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#4 Lang

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:23 PM

We are not travelling in a Hell's Angels mob but every man for himself (probably in small groups) leaving in the morning with an afternoon destination and doing your own thing during the day but remaining on the planned route. We have a lead car organising hotels. The mechanic who rebuilt all the bikes for us is riding at the rear with a "coffin box" style side car full of spares (everyone will also have spares shared amongst them). His mission is to act as tail end Charlie and not pass the last bike.

#5 harleych

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 02:15 PM

What way in Ukraine? shortest road to Romania or what?
sommer 2009 i saw in odessa an australian couple who ran to red sea alone by K-750.

for lower answer about trip:
Kamanets-Podilskyi look canyon. Vinnycja...I saw only pond in General Headquarters
werevolf, where Adolf Aloizovitch drank herbal tea and watercolors sketched .

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#6 Cold War Trophies

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 01:09 PM

Sounds like its paced a bit too fast and with an open door for some problems.  One can drive to Romania in a single day, even by Dnepr if they stay on main roads and don't stop except for fuel, its only 200-300km to border with Moldavia.  I dislike trips like this, or riding in groups in general, because the goal of the day is the rally point and the goal of the trip is the final destination.  Slower, more adventurous riders who want to really see something of the land they pass through will be limited by the pace and daily goal, and those who's only ambition is to remain on schedule for the day will be held up by the tortoises.  Travel by main road and all the charm and beauty of the countries is never seen.  Lang, how will you deal with a lost rider being it seems people will have the freedom to roam outside the pack at some point in the day. What happens if your coffin breaks down?  This should be a reliable van or truck with a trailer chasing the group, not another Dnepr/Ural.  It would be better to handle a breakdown by picking up dead bike and advancing that rider to rally point and then spend time at hotel fixing this bike without having to worry about holding up entire group, and with truck or van you have mobile workshop so headache of a major repair on the roadside and or bad weather will not be a problem.  This sounds like its probably not a very well thought out trip, but to each your own, it will be memorable for one reason or another.

Lang?  What company are you associated with?  What is your experience in organizing and operating such rides?  How many have you done?  I meet people frequently who ask about rides like this, it would be nice to know some of your background.
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#7 Lang

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:03 AM

We had a couple of weeks last year pushing hard on three MB650's around Ukraine just to see the reliability of the bikes and work out a reasonable daily distance (which for this trip is around 200km/125miles a day.) I am happy with our arrangements.

Far from being not well thought out it is using a system I have been using for 30 years on this type of expedition. If you look at www.next-horizon.org you will see some of the stuff we have done - this trip is little more than a tour alongside some of the others. This year is the tenth year of our annual Postie Bike Challenge which takes between 50 and 80 riders on Honda 110cc stepthroughs on 10 day, 3,000km adventures through the Australian outback. More than half the distance is on unmade roads in really remote areas. We have had riders from 12 different countries and over 100 people who have come back for second, third and even fourth trips. Although the bikes are small, the huge majority of entrants are big bike riders. They are pretty hard, 300km a day, trips for some people with exhaustion and injuries not unknown.

The people on the Ukraine trip are carefully selected for self-reliance and a can-do attitude. It is by invitation only and not a trip run by a club or bike tour company open to all comers.

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#8 Lang

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:19 AM

View Postharleych, on 06 April 2011 - 02:15 PM, said:

What way in Ukraine? shortest road to Romania or what?
sommer 2009 i saw in odessa an australian couple who ran to red sea alone by K-750
We are starting in Bila Tserkva and taking 3 days to to reach Romania. We go to Vinnycja then Kamanets-Podilskyi then cross just over the Romanian border on the third afternoon.

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#9 harleych

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 03:04 PM

What you will to do with bikes after Red sea? Send bikes to Australia or what?

#10 Lang

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 04:24 PM

View Postharleych, on 09 April 2011 - 03:04 PM, said:

What you will to do with bikes after Red sea? Send bikes to Australia or what?


#11 Lang

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 04:24 PM

Everyone (Yanks, Kiwis and Aussies) are shipping their bikes home.

#12 harleych

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 03:37 AM

"the paper work and all the bureaucracy
is unbelievable " we read. Waiting about ride by sidecars...

#13 harleych

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 02:40 AM

here http://paulbgsa.blogspot.com/ wrote




Comment on the bikes - the Dnyper 650s are serious rubbish. They breakdown frequently, require a  huge amount of maitenance and can only be riden at 50-60kph or the engine breaks down.


I don't agree.

#14 Cold War Trophies

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 01:35 PM

I have been reading the blogs on this trip.  My sincerest wishes for participants of such trip were all the best.  It is always interesting to see what people really think of as adventure and a fun time, but it would also be interesting to hear peoples' real opinion and feelings after trip is over.  But what is happening is quite normal.  To even consider a trip like this with these bikes bought in Ukraine, you must first off 100% no doubts be mechanically gifted, even if it is billed that mechanic will be along for the ride because he might not always be there or be any good; changing your own plugs and oil and doing the twirl method does not count here, that is not being a mechanic.  You need to understand how a motor works inside and out and be able to troubleshoot it efficiently; changing parts to find your problems does not count as troubleshooting.  You need to be able to work on the side of the road with minimal tools on hand, and also be able to make do with whatever you can get.  You need to pack in your own tools and spares.  VERY FEW people are of this caliber or have ever had to do it, and this is what is needed before doing a trip like this!  If you cannot speak native language and know correct mechanical terms, you will not be able to get much help at local level without getting huge bill!  You must also understand that people along the way are not interested in making you happy as is the case in the west, it is more to just get your money and get you out of the way.

This is my opinion on this trip, and it is based from doing business and traveling in Russia and Ukraine for 20 years.  Maybe it is just my daily ranting, but hopefully it sheds some light on the reality of adventure travel in these countries of the former USSR and even if buying a Dnepr/Ural there.

A trip like this as organized by Lang is the biggest possible travel mistakes that anyone from countries like USA, Canada, Australia, and most of Europe as a whole could agree to go on.  I say this because most people cannot understand the reality of how things are in a country like Ukraine and the other countries.  This is not an attack on the people from these countries, and it is not a slap in the face to anyone in Russia/Ukraine either, it just is how things are seen from a view point that is looking in from the outside and living within both circles.  I also understand peoples' perceptions of what's fun is different and that each of these people may be fully expecting everything that's happening, but my gut feeling is none of them were truly ready for anything.  My perspective is rather unique for those from the west because I spend so much time over there as something other then a tourist.  And I know a lot of people will disagree with me simple because they cannot believe it is true, they think they are far better then they really are, and of course have never been to any of these places, and if they have been they were on a very well organized siteseeing tour and not doing business at the street level other then buying gifts.

First, Dneprs are not bad machines.  The design and engineering of a Dnepr is first rate, people who claim they are rubbish speak from experiencing worn out machines or those not under good maintenance.  Soviet engineers were not dullards and were some of the best in the world.  But the reality of design and what was made are 2 different worlds in both USSR, Russian Federation, and Ukraine.  No one is going to bring lawsuit because company substituted inferior materials and parts on the vehicle.  Engineers could have found that metal XYZ was best, but USSR government could only make or get metal ADF or someone decided that it was too costly to use correct material and they over ruled engineers and made factory use inferior materials, ADF was inferior metal but they used it anyway.  USSR had production quotas for factories to meet, the plans, and if quotas were not met it was bad news for directors(managers), the same attitudes are still in place today.  So final product, even export bikes and military models were never as good as prototypes.  But all is not lost and hopeless for these bikes, a bit more later.

Russian/Ukraine readers will probably know what I say when I write this.  Especially in Soviet times, if a person wanted to own vehicle, even a shiny new car, they understood and accepted 100% it would have some technical problems right from showroom, and that they would have to solve those problems on the side of the road one day, or in their field, barn, garage, or parking lot.  It is normal for them, they think nothing of it.  If you ask someone if they will guarantee something is good when bought you might get a chuckle.  In USA people curse the person who sells them a used car and one little thing like a blinker goes bad, sold "as is" takes on a whole new meaning in Eastern Europe.  A lot of people would buy vehicle new and take it home and rebuild it.  My business partner in Ukraine always did this before he started buying Korean cars in late 1990s, 23 years ago when we first met I thought it was joke to see motorbike all over floor of his house and it was brand new, his wife accepted it too, in USA a wife would kill her husband if she heard he did this after buying vehicle and scream why he did not buy a good one.  He told me it is normal to tear apart vehicle and he would not consider driving very far without doing it.  Not everyone was doing it, but it was not uncommon.  Today quality of some domestic Russian/Ukraine goods have come up, but it is more exception then rule, quality remains very poor in almost all cases.

As a whole, if you take Dnepr and rebuild it to factory specifications, and use good parts, it is nearly as good as any BMW boxer and can be driven for 10s of thousands of kms without any major problems.  It really is. The only thing that keeps it from being AS GOOD is the question about metallurgy in the castings for engine and gearbox cases.  We cannot control that, nor can we make our own cast parts without huge expense so it must be used as is.  One big problem is what parts to use.  There are also not any official service manuals printed today for Dnepr, and the vintage ones you find are very vague and literally written for someone with professional experience or blind faith.  I have complete library of factory drawings for all Dnepr bikes, these drawings show real tolerances and what materials should be used, it is huge asset for me, but it is something people will never see outside of my shop.  I also have real service manual in the works in a format even basic DIYer can follow.

A business man who is honest and can be trusted 100% in Easter Europe is a rare person.  I can count all the people I've done business with whom I trust and have no worries about on one hand.  If he is your close friend you can probably always trust him, but people do business over there knowing there is always an angle to every deal, you often pay extra for a service we'd consider part of the deal.  If you pay for car and cannot take it home right away you should pay someone extra to guard it or it might be missing something when you come back!  If someone is in position of power and they know that service or item is required or important for your goals, you can be sure you WILL pay extra for it, it not any question about it.  

Shop clerks and factory workers have no chance to work their own deals and angles or get paid bribes, and they always see the big shot getting the bribes and they also have to pay extra to get things done when those higher up seem to be immune to it, it is why workers generally care so little about their job and work quality.  When you see bad new parts from KMZ, it is really fault of the system as a whole.  The person who made it usually a very nice person who works hard, shows up for work every day, may have very high education and works at lowest levels, has bills to pay, and feels very unappreciated at work.  The person you meet in their work place will not be same person after the leave and meet with their friends.

I have found that Russians and Ukrainians are not any smarter then those of us in the west, they are just more clever through more experience at dealing with daily problems.  Most Americans I know would have a very hard time living in Russia.  I have taken some friends with me and outside of being given a tour it is impossible for them to cope.  They could eventually learn it, but life in USA and most of Europe is at the very least quite convenient compared to living in Russia/Ukraine.

In USA we hide behind the law.  If someone screws you, you call the police or a lawyer, or write a blog.  We trust that everyone is honest and expect it of them, and even when someone rips us off, we get peed off about it but generally don't understand how and why it happened, and if it happens again we start blaming everyone but ourselves.  It might be same in Europe, but since I do not go there much I cannot say how it is there.

It is really hard to trust anyone in eastern europe for business, and you must be very careful if you are foreigner and no familiar with langauge.  Lang's mechanic was such a person.  He hired this man to go over bikes to get them ready and to drive with them to take care of problems.  First big problem Lang probably made was trust, then he also did not organize a truck to follow the group, what mechanic wants to ride a broken down bike behind a group only to work on them every day?  Mechanic on such a trip in these countries visited should have been treated like a king.  This man should have been given a nice comfortable ride and a box truck that could double as a tow vehicle and comfortable mobile workshop.  This mechanic probably demanded to be paid up front it might have happened.  He probably did enough work to make bikes run for inspections, and once trip started no one saw him again, it is written in blogs he became ghost.  He was following group, it was easy for him to just make first exit from roadway and no one would see him again or even be able to find him.  New SIM for phone costs about $5-$6 in Russia, it is easy to hide from foreigner!  Why he did that?  Because he knew what work he did and what nightmare was to follow, who knows if he was even good mechanic! Mechanic is probably not a terribly bad guy, what he did is normal because there was nothing done to make him work til end, he probably felt rich tourists should have paid more and treated him better, and in reality there was probably nothing that could have been done since mechanic truly held the most cards in this situation.

The seller of those bikes was the same way as mechanic or any other Ukrainian businessman, they buy MV650s from same government ministries as I do.  I can tell you 100% that bikes we buy are scrap metal and need 100% complete ground up rebuilding before they can be sold.  Literally you take the spark plugs out and throw away the rest of the bike.  The art of used vehicle sales is the same all over the world; buy cheap, sell high and keep expenses to absolute minimum and push crap onto the street if you can get away with it!  All that we can usually reuse of old Dneprs after refurbishing is frames and cases and some internal mechanical parts, rest of it goes to recycler, it is how I do it and why I offer a real warranty on my bikes where no one else does.  To buy a Dnepr in Ukraine to drive all across region and NOT first give it major and complete overhaul is inviting disaster.  You cannot even think about skipping this process.  

When you buy a Dnepr from foreign source, what can you expect?  I can say 100% with confidence you get at best a washed pile of junk that you will pay a premium for and then spend thousands of dollars rebuilding and hundreds of hours of your own time fixing it.  If you are smart you take care of all problems at once and be done with them and have good vehicle, other wise bike nickels and dimes you to death.

I had one PM exchange with Lang before this trip started.  I did not have enough contact to form any solid opinion of his integrity.  The fact that he's there laboring along with those people and has not abandoned then tells me he is a good person and meant well and wants to do right by all of them.  Good for you Lang.  But I wonder about his credentials in adventure travel because doing such trips in any 3rd world country would be the same as in Russia.  I don't think his experience is so real as he claims, or maybe he has only done these in very developed countries like USA, Australia, maybe Canada where vehicles are of good quality and quite reliable, and services are readily available and workers have reasonably good work ethics.

If he had experience doing this he would have sent his own mechanic ahead of the trip to prep the bikes, not rely on local labor, it's how I would do it since my reputation would hinge on the reliability of those I hire.  A professional translator would have been hired for the mechanic and some helpers hired to get this work done and source good parts.  Then they would have had serious support vehicle for the group, not another Dnepr and small Lada.  This group should never have been so big, the more people you have the worse the logistics and problems are, ideally they should be separated into 3-4 groups all independent of each other with their own support structure.  There would have been someone as the lead off with mobile phone who had language skills making the hotel reservations hours before the group arrived, in fact the trip should have been driven a month before to check the hotels and make sure they were really there and good, it was some comments about hotels or lack of.  

I know this was an adventure tour, but travelers should never discount the value and need for a comfortable place to sleep, and when you are riding motorcycles it is 10x more tiring then driving a car and tired driver is a danger to everyone else around him and on the road.  Tired person can never enjoy trip and will miss so much.  These people are not Bear Grylls who loves drinking and covering himself with his own pizz.  or maybe they are, who knows.

I have been involved with organizing some hi adventure motorcycle trips, so it is not idea I do not know anything about.  If you are going it solo, you can wing it and take things as they come, what happens only effects you, but the minute you add a person complexity builds and that butterfly effect of problems grows.  Think before you ever consider a trip like this, think good and hard.  Trips like this trigger dreams of our youthful side and that we can take it and overcome, but is it worth it to have a problem laden trip in the name of adventure, this same trip could have been done on modern Asian or German bikes with much better results.  From my experiences with American bikes, I would not even consider a Harley as suitable for such a trip.

I could tell a lot of mis-adventure was in store from these people in how the ride was originally portrayed in this thread.  Maybe it is what they are wanting and expected, but somehow I doubt this is the trip they were promised.  Ultimately the memories will be the stuff of lore and all the hard points will become well polished edges as you tell the story over and over, but you'll never get back the lost time that could have been spent enjoying your trip and learning more about the places you passed through.  The goal of the adventure is to learn and expand your horizons, not merely to survive the trip at all costs and make it to the finish line, it becomes a race not an adventure when you let the trip become more about surviving at all odds.

I can already imagine that someone will debate this, or they will read it and say that nothing bad would happen to them and that they could handle situation very different.  Keep in mind that Lang did not even have enough strength to get his group across the border as one group and they accepted and bought the BS of a passport control officer.  I would have given agent $100 and reminded him I am bigshot tour guide with official state invitation and will be giving gift to someone else if I have to wait for next shift to get across the border,  THAT is how that situation could have been handled, not letting these people get control and then join forces against you.  If he did not accept it then you take group and drive back up road and wait for next shift, after all group is already delayed, you then send a small group of 2-3 through to see what happens and they call back on mobile to relay results and what if anything they had to pay and what trouble they had, then you send the rest of the group if things looked good, the next person will be more willing to accept your offer or maybe not even give you any trouble at all, it seems to be how things work out.  And you should always have a gift ready when you pull up, like a nice bottle of foreign bourbon, 20 people in a group requires a gift before anyone can ask, don't be the greedy foreigner, be generous!  They do not know you are not bigshot or on official invitation, if you act official and like you are in charge you win the argument.  I always act like I am there to buy the whole country and I know the directors.  A jerk you say, no, it is how things get done.  Strong  man wins.

I release the post back to everyone else now.   :cheers:

C
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#15 rivers

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Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:23 PM

Lang, sounds like a great trip. I'd love to ride to interesting new places at an easy pace on roads that these bikes were made for. Here in the states even the back roads are so good even minivans are always on your arse at 60 mph. I'll bookmark the next horizon site and try to follow along from my sofa. These  Dneprs you're using, any of them low power flatheads(sidevales)?
Have fun,
Joe




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