Installing the panniers and GPS mount

A couple of weeks ago a huge parcel was delivered to my apartment; I was not there, so the doorwoman picked it up as she usually does in these cases. But this time, when I say “pick up” what I mean is “took delivery”, because it was such a big box that the poor woman could not move it on her own. My flatmate got home before I did and he managed to get it on the elevator and drag it into the flat.

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It was the last big purchase in preparation for the trip: a pair of Touratech Zega panniers, mounting frames for my bike, some accessories for the panniers, a headlight guard, a Garmin GPS and a mount for the GPS.

Now I only needed the time to install everything on the bike, and the perfect moment came last weekend. A rainy weekend meant that my plans to go cycling on Saturday had to be scrapped, so I went to my parent’s and got down to it.

I knew I would need at least a whole day for the panniers and the GPS base, as the latter meant taking appart all the fairings and maybe remove the fuel tank to get the wiring from the battery to the front of the bike, and the former came without the mounting parts installed. I got the panniers without them for two reasons: Firstly, if I did it myself, I could position the panniers exactly where I wanted on the bike, and secondly and most important, it saved quite a lot money. The only drawback? It takes time, because it means that 18 holes have to be drilled on each pannier, and that’s after having taken all the right measurements.

Having learnt from Steve Stallebrass’ blog that it is quite hard to mark the drilling points while holding the panniers against the frames on the bike, I first installed the frames on the bike, had a passenger sit on it to make sure the panniers left room for her legs to rest comfortably on the footpegs and then marked the general position of the pannier in relation to the frame.

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I then removed one side of the frame (no need to remove the other, since the rectangular frame the panniers attach to is identical on both sides) and marked the exact drilling points comfortably with the pannier lying on the floor.

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Once the points had been marked, I punched a small dent to make sure the drill would not slip and scratch the panniers and started drilling the holes, first with a 3mm drill and then with a 5 mm one. The two bigger holes for the rotating brackets were made with a 10mm one. All that was left then was to file any shavings and smooth the holes and screw the mounts in. It sounds quite straightforward, and truth be told, the process is not complicated, but it did take quite a long time to do it on both panniers.

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Now the panniers could be mounted on the bike, it was time to mark and drill the holes for the mounting plates that support the accessories I had bought for them: a holder for a 3-litre jerrycan and another one for a couple of bottles.

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It was now time to install the GPS mount and the wiring that will keep it charged while it is attached to it. I did have to remove all the plastic fairings from both sides of the bike, but luckily I managed to get the wire through the front fairing and under the fuel tank without having to remove these.

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The Garmin Zumo I bought came with a RAM mount kit, but I prefer to use this one, as it is lockable, so I do not need to remove the unit every time I stop. I will recycle the RAM mount  for the SPOT tracker.

Finally, I put everything back together and tested the GPS. It works!

This is how the bike looks now:

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Spot Satellite GPS Messenger

This is one I have been having doubts over for a long time. To buy or not to buy. As with many other things involved in the preparation of a trip like this, there are scores of very well argued opinions for and against the SPOT tracker all over the Internet. Some say that it can save your life; some say if something really bad happens, it will not guarantee that help gets there on time and for anything less serious, there are other ways of getting help, so it is an unnecessary expense, not to mention one more item to carry and worry about.

After weighing pros and cons for my particular case, this was the conclusion I came to:

FOR:

– There might not be phone signal in most of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, so no way of getting help on the road.

– I can let people back at home know that I am OK and they can track my progress almost in real time on a map.

– My mum would be more than happy that I carry the thing.

AGAINST:

– I have been told that phone signal is surprisingly good around towns and anyway, I will not be far from populated areas for that long.

– Being rescued might incur in hidden expenses that can amount to a lot of money (but then again, it is much better than not being rescued at all…)

– It is expensive, at 159€ plus 99€ for one year’s subscription to the service (yes, you do have to subscribe).

I was not going to get one, but a week ago I thought I would check on eBay to see whether I could get a used one and I found a new one on the States for 90€ plus shipping, which was still considerably less than buying one here, so I decided to order it (and make my mum happy).

I went to pick it up from the post office this morning and when the guy behind the counter gave me the box, I though ‘well, it had to happen, a new one for so little money could not have been real… I’ve been conned’. And I had good reason to think so – the box I had been given was labelled ‘Phillips Headphone Set’. Panic.

I walked out onto the street and towards my bike thinking about how unlikely I was to get my money back and trying to convince myself that 90€ was not that bad. I put the box on the bike’s seat and ripped the tape sealing it to find… The real box containing my SPOT!

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I went to work, very relieved and much happier! When I got home this evening I was eager to open it and see how it worked.

The box contains the unit itself (a lot smaller than I thought); a kind of pouch to carry it around your arm, velcro it to a surface (the patch is too small, though, – I think I would lose it quick if I stuck it like that on the bike) or just hang it on to your belt or trousers; two replacement covers for the emergency buttons; the instructions and three batteries (Energiser Ultimate Lithium, the instructions are adamant that only this particular brand and model should be used). It does not include a cradle to mount it on the bike, but I can probably get one cheap and adapt it to the RAM mount that came with my Garmin and that I’m not going to use (more about that in another post).

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2013-05-02 23.14.51Now that I have almost everything I need for the bike I am planning to go on a test trip in a couple of weeks. I will get it activated this week and see how it works then.