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Stuff that is good, and stuff that is not

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I'm in a hotel in Holland, and my bike is outside, now sporting a covering of snow after my journey into town this morning for a meeting. I have the rest of the day to kill before my next journey tomorrow morning, which is a meeting an hour down the road on the way back to the Eurotunnel.

I came over yesterday, leaving Harrogate just after 6 am and arriving here 12 hours later. With the exception of the first hour down the A1 it rained non-stop to Folkestone, and after a half-hour hiatus on the train things got considerably worse on the other side. Gusting rain that you see coming in huge sheets across the fields that sends you wandering towards another lane when it hits you, torrential downpours, and at one point a hail and thunderstorm of such ferocity that cars and trucks were pulling off the motorway with me to sit it out.

But if nothing else, it has given me the chance to thoroughly field test my gear and see what has made the grade and what hasn't.

First up, my Held waterproofs. They did a fantastic job of keeping me dry for most of the journey, but I guess even the best stuff has its limits, and they finally gave up somewhere near Antwerp. I can't complain though, because although I was a bit soggy I wasn't particularly cold. They were almost completely dry again this morning and performed faultlessly in the early morning rain and snow.

Next, the Kriega luggage. I hate the hard panniers and top box that came with the bike: you have to disassemble half the back end to fit the frame, they look naff, need two trips to the bike to load / unload, and take up way too much storage space in the garage. So they will soon be starring on Ebay, and I have gone for the Kriega US30, two US20s and a US10. Properly, properly impressed. They are modular, so you add more as you need it, and hold a surprising amount of stuff. The webbing loops are fitted to the subframe under the seat, so it's just a case of flipping them out when you want to use them and poking them back when you're done. The whole lot locks together with neat little clips, and is rock solid on the move. You can take the whole lot off in one go at the other end, and when you get back home the three smaller bags roll up neatly and fit in the big one, taking up less shelf space than a single pannier. Result! Best of all, after 12 hours of relentless punishment yesterday the contents were absolutely bone dry. Astonishingly good bit of kit, and I'll be looking to see if they do a tank bag: mine isn't waterproof, which doesn't really matter because everything that I put in it either is (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5: the perfect adventure camera - go and buy one immediately) or is in waterproof wallets.

Let's just say that the same high praise is not forthcoming where the Gerbing XR-12 heated gloves are concerned. To commit my thoughts on these to print is to risk a description that will not rise above the excremental. They were fantastic for the first hour of the trip, keeping my pinkies toasty warm. And then the rain started. According to the blurb that came with them, they use a new high-tech waterproofing technology, for which read 'we made them out of something with the same water-repellent properties as sponge.' To put it into context, as I was waiting to board the Eurotunnel I un-tucked the gloves from my jacket, lifted my hand up and made a fist. I estimate that no less than half a cup of water came out of each one. There is a fleecy lining, which soaks the water up like, well, a sponge, and once wet getting them on and off is something of a struggle. I can only assume that the inner wiring didn't like the soaking they got, because the controller went haywire and then stopped working altogether, leaving me with a pair of soaking wet unheated gloves. Luckily they seemed to function on the wetsuit principle, in that once my hands had warmed the water in the gloves they didn't get much colder.

Given that they failed so spectacularly I think a return to the manufacturer might be in order: the internet is not awash with complaints, so I can only assume that one of us has cocked up somewhere.

Right - time for tea. It's a bit of a posh restaurant at this hotel, so you can imagine my dismay when I sat down yesterday evening after my journey to be told that the chef would like to propose 'structures of cauliflower'. I asked if there was any chance of him proposing structures of pie, and when the waitress looked at me blankly I requested any form of dead animal, preferably wrapped in pastry. And give them their due, what they served up was a very good dead animal indeed. :)

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Good write up there Mark, fair play for venturing over to Europe this time of the year, rather you than me business or not. Water proof gloves are a very hit and miss sort of thing, heated water proof gloves is really asking for to much l feel. I much prefer heated grips and a good pair of gloves and if l know lm in for a soaking over mitts. Agree, Hard panniers can be a pain, we have them for the Busa hardly ever use them these days, if there's any traffic to get through they make the Busa so wide it's almost impossible to slide by. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast l use the Marine site, gives a far bigger and accurate picture of what happening now and what's coming

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weat ... /#?tab=map.

Safe journey home Mate, hope you catch a window in the weather

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It was certainly chilly - ignition and choke both frozen solid on Friday morning, and the bike covered in hail that had frozen rock hard! The roads around a Wageningen were lethal too, with a couple of bad patches of black ice. I also discovered that deep gravel that has frozen solid, and which suddenly disintegrates into icy clumps under the wheels, is one of the most unpleasant things you can ride on. Luckily I managed to stay upright, and once on the motorways everything was fine.

I had to do some demon filtering around Antwerp which would have been a bit too tight for comfort with the hard luggage, but no problem with the Kriega stuff. I was really lucky with the weather on the way back too: very cold but bright skies through Holland, Belgium and France, and only about 10 minutes light rain when I got off the train in Folkestone.

All good fun, and I'm heading in to Paris next month!


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