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World Tour 2008 - Week 05 Chapter : 09 Jun ~ 15 Jun 2008




The World Tour Live!Journal 2008 is sadly lacking in content. Truth is, this tour has been a bit heavier on the "adventure" side than most.


Initially, we had the delay of our container from Seattle to deal with. Then, the agonizing and frustrating problem of getting our bikes cleared through Chinese customs and Quarantine because of new "procedures" put in place due to security concerns surrounding the Beijing Olympics 2008.


Having cleared that hurdle, we had to unload our two containers of bikes in a dirt field, with nary a loading ramp, container mover, or loading dock in sight. We then had to make-up for lost time with long riding days, skipping several planned overnights, and riding double our normal riding distance to get back on schedule. We've had to deal with more rain and cold than I recall from past tours. All of this takes its toll on our riders, who have risen to the challenge(s) in every respect nonetheless.


But with all the extracurricular activity, and riding at a reduced pace for safety reasons, there have been precious few hours between the end of one riding day, and the start of the next. On many days, even if we had the time for Live!Journal stories and photos, internet connections were unavailable. Those with dial-up access accounts found the networks were blocked in Russia and Ukraine due to the prevalence of fraud and high-jacked accounts. Like the stoic and solid citizens of this part of the world, we deal with it as it comes. The riding has been totally engaging, the roads challenging enough to satisfy any "GS" rider, and as always, we've met great people and staff along the way, but time for anything other than the immediate and needs has been lacking. When we find ourselves with a "free" day, most have chosen to decompress and just enjoy a few moments, wholly absorbed in the cultures and countries we've come to visit.


So, the excuses have been made for all. Here are a few stories for you, and forgive me if they're a bit one-sided. On those days where we have local tours scheduled, I've encouraged our group to partake, rather than spin their stories for you, let me take up that slack as I can.



Best Regards,


Mike M. Paull - Guide



Day 30 - 10 JUN 2008 - Novosibirsk, Russia - Mike M. Paull

If I Had a Hammer



When asked about the issues facing Russia today, one of our local guides, only half in jest replied, “Russia suffers from two problems, fools, and Russian roads”.  Sometimes the two conspire together with disastrous results.


One could write volumes about the roads in this huge country, and little would be complimentary.  The horrendous condition of the “paved surfaces” aside, for almost their entire distance, the highways are a single lane in each direction, and lane markings are virtually non-existent.  With lumbering trucks belching black clouds of diesel, and hordes of Ladas that can barely move under their own power, passing, and passing often, is the only way to make any progress towards one's destination.  Many drivers make insanely dangerous passes, often times with little regard for on-coming traffic, blithely assuming that others will get out of the way.


On the way to Novosibirsk, fate caught up with one of our riders.  Without going into the details, a (car) driver, impatient with a group of our riders who were moving along at the speed limit, attempted a pass BETWEEN two bikes.  He clipped one of them, hard, in the right-hand pannier, instantly slamming the bike and rider down.


It could have been far worse.  The rider suffered a dislocated shoulder, and cuts and bruises along one wrist where his jacket and gloves pulled away from sliding.  He’s well on the road to recovery.  It so happened that another rider was bikeless due to ignition problems, so the injured rider continued his journey in the chase vehicle, and the bikeless rider swapped seats and piloted the injured rider’s bike for the rest of the tour.  For the record, the Russian police cited the car driver, our rider was not at fault. A pleasant surprise, when the injured rider asked about the bill for the ambulance ride, X-rays, and emergency medical services rendered, the officer replied "There is no charge, this is not America" with a disarming grin on his face.


It’s not my place to go into any further details.  Accidents happen, and the why’s and what if’s are the rider’s business.  This story is, in fact, a lead-in to the subject of panniers, specifically the Touratech/ZEGA panniers, and why GlobeRiders so heavily endorses this critical piece of adventure touring gear.


After the right bike and good riding gear, the most important item on an adventurer’s wish list is probably a good set of panniers.  Not only do panniers keep personal gear protected from the elements and dust, they also secure items from casual pilfering.  Many don’t reflect on this, but they are also the best protection you can buy.  Should an accident occur, they serve as “rear crash guards”, protecting the rider’s legs and the bike itself, along with their contents.


In the selection of any equipment, functionality and reliability are paramount, but “field reparability” should also be factored in. This is where the Touratech/ZEGA panniers, due to their materials and design,  fare better than any other make I’ve seen.  The pictures below tell the story (Photos courtesy of Terry Nielsen and Dan Townsley). . . .



Be Careful Out There, Wherever You May Ride!





And upside down view of the mangled pannier after being hit from the rear by a cager (moto-speak for a car driver).

Our oh-so-capable Russian chase vehicle driver, Viktor, asses the damage.

Donning white cotton gloves, and with a couple of good hammers, using the parking lot as an anvil, Viktor gets to work.

An internal review of the results after the careful and considered application of good old-fashioned "hammer modulation".

The final result. The lid is a bit warped, but snugged down just fine once the latches were engaged. The robust pannier mounts didn't even need to be tweaked.

Much maligned pop-rivets are the perfect solution for "spot welding" in the field. With an application of a internal bead of RTV silicon to seal the pan to the body, the pannier is functionally as good as new. If the lid/case seal isn't straight enough to keep rain and dust out, placing the contents in a large trash bag works just fine.



Day 33 - 13 JUN 2008 - Irbit, Russia - Mike M. Paull

As you might have gleaned from previous journal entries, I pilot a sidecar on our tours, not a motorcycle.


Sidecarists often refer to this admittedly odd combination of a motorcycle mated to a single-wheeled "car" as a "hack" or "rig" or "sidehack". The motorcycle itself is the "tug" or "pusher", and the car is called a "tub" or "chair". In sidehack racing parlance, the passenger is unglamorously referred to as "The Monkey", due to the frantic weight shifts and re-positioning she or he needs to go through in an attempt to keep the rig from flipping over in turns. Sidecars are not motorcycles, yet motorcyclists are magnanimous enough to usually consider a hack as one of their own.


And yes, they are Chick Magnets (along with being Kid Magnets, Geezer & Codger Magnets, and Mean Barking Dog Magnets like no other form of transportation I know of).


Thus, I always look forward to our bi-annual visit to Irbitskiy Mototsikletniy Zavod (IMZ), Russia's only manufacturer of heavy motorcycles, and the world's last remaining producer of pre-assembled hacks, better know for the sidecars they manufacture under the Ural trademark. The factory tour has always been equally popular with our riders.


The IMZ/Ural factory is located in the small town of Irbit, in the foothills of the Ural Mountains, from which the name is derived. Urals were originally a reverse-engineered clone of a BMW WWII hack, put into production by the Russian military as part of their war effort. The first units were produced in a factory in Moscow, but as fears of the long-range bomber capability of the Germany Luftwaffe rose, the factory was moved deep into Siberia. The original plant was a beer brewery. Although it's a tenuous association at best, I find it amusing that the only two Russian-made products that I know of that seem to have achieved any level of international commercial success are vodka, and Urals.


Although not intentionally planned, the timing of our visit has recently coincided with Russia Day, a four-day holiday during which the factory is shut down. As an aside, this holiday was originally called Independence Day, but as people began to realize that the Russian Independence Day was a celebration of independence from, . . . themselves (the Soviets to be precise), it has now been simply rechristianed Russia Day).


The holiday notwithstanding, the factory manager and his family were on-hand to conduct our tour. To anyone who has seen a modern manufacturing facility, this huge and sprawling complex is a wonder, the wonder being that it can produce anything at all. I've been here before, and to my eyes, the fabrication and final assembly areas have undergone profound (positive) change. Although the equipment has been in service for a very long time, it is well maintained, the layout and work stations are neat and orderly, and it's obvious that a lot of care and thought have gone into making the plant as good as it can be given the remote location and general lack of manufacturing infrastructure in Siberia.


With two-wheel drive an option, and a host of modern improvements made to the design (Keihin carburetors and Nippon Denso alternators from Japan, Brembo disc brakes from Italy, Sachs shocks from Germany, Austrian-made gear sets, American-made wiring harnesses, solid state ignition systems), the performance and overall reliability of the Ural product line has seriously been kicked up a notch, and then some.


It's a product with nostalgic appeal, a great history, and as most of our riders own a BMW, our tour of the factory and adjacent museum was like a homecoming of sorts.


[Photos courtesy of Terry Nielsen]


  • For more information about Ural Motorcycles, please visit the by clicking here.


Happy Motorbiking, on Two Wheels, or Three!







Day 35 - 15 JUN 2008 - Between Yekaterinburg and Ufa, Russia

The Continental Divide



Wikipedia defines a Continental Divide thusly:


"A continental divide is a line of elevated terrain which forms a border between two watersheds such that water falling on one side of the line eventually travels to one ocean or body of water, and water on the other side travels to another, generally on the opposite side of the continent. Because the exact border between bodies of water is usually not clearly defined, the continental divide is not always definite for any continent (The International Hydrographic Organization's publication Limits of Oceans and Seas defines exact boundaries of oceans, but it is not universally recognized). Moreover, some rivers empty into inland seas, and thus do not end up in the oceans."


Rolling a few scant kilometers west of Yekaterinburg, the group came to the Continental Divide Monument, this one dividing the watersheds of Europe and Asia. In "photo op" of Debbie and Harrison below, the Cyrillic words for Asia and Europe appear to be reversed, as this shot was taken from the backside of the monument. I should note that on the Africa Adventure last year, these two had a similar shot taken at Cape Agulhas, which divides the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. In the other photo, a signpost denotes the distance to such major cities as Berlin, Copenhagen (2,891 kilometers), Berlin and Paris (4,545 kilometers).








Images from the World Tour 2008 - Russia [Courtesy of Debbie & Christian Harrison, and Terry Nielsen]






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