JANNEKE & TIM: @GRAVELFORBREAKFAST
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orca’s – 10/22/18
For the ninety second installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orca’s, we are very excited to share the story of Tim and Janneke. You may know them as @gravelforbreakfast.
Tim and Janneke are a couple from The Netherlands, who are currently on an extended adventure motorcycle ride from Amsterdam to Kathmandu.
Of course I always recommend checking out the source material for any travelers blogs so you should also directly visit their website, www.gravelforbreakfast.com.
Tim and Janneke are excellent reminders that they time to live your dreams is now. Waiting to experience the world is no way to live.
Please check out the interview below and enjoy their photography from their travels.
What do you do for work?
Tim: before going on this adventure, I worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a tax lawyer. Originally however, I studied philosophy. Still not really sure how I ended up being a tax lawyer!
Janneke: I am one of those few persons that found a way to combine their hobby and profession. I work at a small packaging design agency as a senior designer. The ability to make money with being artsy in a commercial is very pleasing.
Tell me about your bikes. What do you call them?
Tim: Africa Twin 750 RD07a.
‘Amadeus’. I chose this name because back when I was a student I desperately wanted to go to an exclusive private party in Amsterdam. We were not invited however. Via a friend we learned that a certain Austrian guy named ‘Amadeus’ was on the list with a +2. According to our source he wouldn’t come. So I had to pretend being Amadeus that night, including fake Austrian German accent! Would be fun to meet the real Amadeus one day.
Janneke: Africa Twin RD07A.
Machines deserve a name, it gives them a soul. I named my black stallion Salvador. Up until 2 years ago, I didn’t know anything about bikes and wasn’t able to ride one either. Getting my license and starting this trip with Tim therefore has a surrealistic touch, sometimes it feels rather dreamy when I think about the high passes and difficult gravel roads that I conquered. Crazy stuff! Have you yet found out which Salvador is my inspiration?
What other vehicles did you consider for your travels and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the ones you bought?
Tim: I had a Ducati Multistrada 950 when we were preparing this trip. I briefly considered making the Multi adventure ready. The amount of modifications and money required put me off though. Also everyone was obviously warning me NOT to do this trip on a Ducati due to reliability concerns. I’m still not sure whether this reliability talk is a myth or not… The other bike I seriously considered was the new Honda Africa Twin, which ticked a lot of boxes for me.
In the end we decided to go for the old AT, first and foremost for aesthetic reasons (see Janneke’s story below). But also because the low price meant a low Carnet de Passage deposit with the ADAC. We also really liked the history of the bike and the mechanical simplicity.
Janneke: We ride the same type of bike, Honda Africa Twin RD07A, since that might come in handy when one of them decides to have a failure. And we don’t have to carry around multiple spare parts.
Personally, I am a sucker for everything that is old, iconic and original so I feel honored to drive this piece of technical brilliance across Central Asia. A machine that is able to cross every kind of badass terrain, suitable for long distances and easy to repair. Like mentioned before, I did not know anything about bikes, but as a creative person I do like the appearance of things. And a creepy insect, big bug or worse; something that is not symmetric are nót part of that. So I said to Tim, can you please find us a bike that looks friendly and has round headlights? And there he was, the old Honda AT.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to them?
Tim: yep! Most upgrades we did back home, but also some along the way. The best upgrade for me is the heated grips. Wouldn’t have survived the Pamir highway without them. Other upgrades are: 2x USB charging port, Kaoko cruise control, Garmin Zumo (useless), iPhone RAM mount (awesome to navigate with iPhone), higher windscreen, new battery (Motobatt – has done great, even in below zero temps). Arrow exhaust to save weight, removed the passenger foot pegs, heavy duties crash bars, racks and panniers. In Almaty I had a new Hyperpro rear shock mounted as the old one wore out just like on Janneke’s bike.
Janneke: I have the same technical updates as Tim. On my dashboard I attached a GoPro remote, great for my front fender GoPro, I can activate it without stopping. My rear shock broke along the way, so we gave it a Hyperpro upgrade. I choose to lower my saddle a bit, so I swopped that for a Touratec comfort saddle. Sits like a queen. And I placed headlight guards because that just looks bad ass. My bike is heavier due to the saddle, the passenger foot pegs and original exhaust. Next time I will upgrade those too.
What is your favorite part about living/working off of your motorcycle?
Tim: my favorite part are the first 5 minutes on the bike after what feels like endless packing in the morning. The AT has this instant familiar feeling and gives you a certain calmness as well as confidence that he will get you anywhere you want. Every day those first 5 minutes on the bike have that instant feel good vibe which always remind me why I wanted to do this trip.
Janneke: Because we are on a sabattical and riding isn’t our job; everyday feels like Sunday!
What is your least favorite part about it?
Tim: it is bloody awesome to be able to see so much of the world, to be introduced to so many new cultures and people. But every now and then I miss the feeling of learning new skills, or being challenged at work with some seemingly insurmountable problem.
Janneke: Sometimes I miss the repetition. I am a person that is most happy when I know I can go running every other day, but traveling is not a routine. Although every day is Sunday, you can’t count on sun all day, or find the extra energy after a harsh day of riding.
How many kilometers have you put on your bikes?
Tim: I bought the bike with around 86.000 kilometres. Right now it is at 6000 km, since the odometer went back to zero at 99.999! So I did about 20.000 kilometer on this bike.
Janneke: Salvador started at 64.000, and has done the same 20.000 as Amadeus.
What is the best place you have taken them?
Tim: Kyrgyzstan for sure. We knew Kyrgyzstan would be awesome, but I didn’t realize how awesome. One day we rode from the Son-Kul Lake where we slept in a yurt and got snowed in. After the snow melted we had such an epic day going over multiple passes through the Kyrgyz Mountains. Over 200km of easy gravel roads in the best landscape I have seen. After every corner we had to stop to make new photos as the landscape just kept changing. Don’t tell too many people, otherwise it might just get very crowded soon!
Janneke: I can only agree with Tim. Kyrgyzstan surprised us in so many ways
and the long gravel road through the mountains was just epic. The sun at our backs, soft teddy mountains, and a changing scenery after every corner was amazing.
Is there just one?
Tim: I loved the Wakhan corridor in Tajikistan too. For my skills some parts with loose sand were pretty difficult. But the combination of the altitude, the challenging road and the Afghan border on our left side for hundreds of kilometers was simply epic.
Janneke: I really enjoyed riding across Kazakhstan. Not because of the road, it was only straight tarmac, but because of the desolate feeling. We rode so many straight kilometers through the Kazakh steppe, it made me realize that I am pretty badass as a woman riding this heavy Africa Twin across Central Asia.
Favorite road driven?
Tim: for me definitely the road between Ushguli and Lentekhi in Georgia. We left at 6:30 in the morning and had 50km of off road where we only met 1 other vehicle. This was pretty hardcore stuff for us. Muddy patches, huge rocks, puddles of water. We are not experienced off road riders, so this was a massive challenge for us. It felt extremely rewarding when we made it unscratched! We have a nice video of this trip on our website.
Janneke: Yes, Lentekhi was a challenge! But driving along the highest parts of the Pamir Highway gave me such an epic feeling. I felt so small in between those huge, mighty snowcapped mountains.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about going on a long motorcycle trip, what would you tell them?
Tim: don’t worry if you know absolutely zero about fixing your bike. Along the way you will meet so many people who are willing to help you if your bike breaks down. In fact, this trip made me realize how rewarding other people seem to feel when they can genuinely help you. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable by telling people you meet that you face a problem you can’t handle. Usually those initially bad moments turn into special memories.
Janneke: If you really want to go, you can make it happen. No matter how little experience in driving or camping you have, it is the backbone that will guide you.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were those kind of people?
Tim: I used to be and in a lot of ways still am a materialistic person. I like the fanciest gadgets and the newest motorbikes. The moment I bought the motorcycle of my dreams, the Ducati Multistrada 950, I was on a high that I thought would last forever. To my detriment, just looking at ‘her’ wore of quite quickly actually. Only when I started thinking which adventures to take her on, the spark got back.
Janneke: When I was little my parents took me and my sister always out camping, France, Dutch islands, every summer. I believe I had the best time, but got anxious to know what other great things the world had to offer. Backpacking after high school was an obvious choice and while being on the move I more and more appreciated the travel part of it. Don’t knowing the final destination, don’t knowing if the road will be hard of easy, what kind of scenery do I pass. Ever since that adventure, I always choose to go from one place to another.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
Tim: perhaps without realizing, my parents are the world’s experts in relaxing. If my parents take you or a stroll through the city, be prepared to stop for a coffee every 10 minutes, chill in the sun while reading a magazine or just in general practice the black art of ‘doing nothing’. I think I have taken this attitude with me on the road, which helped me a great deal when things went completely different as planned. I rarely get stressed out somehow.
Janneke: My parents always taught me not to postpone things if you have the option to do it right now. Grab your chance while you are at it. The world can be so different in one or two hours. Not only big things, but also the small. It gives me a satisfied feeling to do bike maintenance right after we arrived, to stop at that coffee shop while we pass it, and fix a visa if we have the opportunity. Knowing this, it actually makes me a bad decision maker, what if the next option is actually better? I can be in huge doubt with myself every now and then!
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
Tim: I think it would be very hard to go on such a long trip without planning it through. In our case we were planning this for a year or more. Janneke taking driving lessons, saving up for the trip, planning the route, researching the visa requirements etc. It really was a very conscious choice and a thought-through plan. In the end, I took the decision to quit my job as I wanted to experience total freedom rather than knowing up front what I’d be doing when returning home in January. In that sense I took a leap of faith.
Janneke: I believe not all travelers have this hippie kind of lifestyle, the go with the flow attitude. For me, this trip has nothing to do with finding my inner soul or do things I wouldn’t do at home. I am here to see things, indulge my mind with the people, food and culture I encounter along the way. To see and experience things, because I am curious.
Where do you want to go next?
Tim: when we get back home, my ‘material’ side wants to apply all lessons learned during this trip to build a very light and awesome looking adventure bike (Husky 701 Rally, Tenere 700 or KTM790 adv?) for our next trips. I’m thinking to explore the TET (Trans Euro Trail) in the countries around the Netherlands first. Destination for a next bigger trip… somewhere remote. All tips welcome.
Career wise I have been asked to come back to my former job which is very tempting, but in the meantime I’m going to pursue a small crazy childhood dream by sending my resume to all Formula 1 teams to see if they have any work for a philosopher turned tax lawyer!
Janneke: When we return home I can only say that I turned into a pretty good rider. A shame to let that go, but a lighter bike would make my life a lot easier. Having a trip to look forward to has always been my kind of style, the reward why you spend that much time at the office. We talked about so many destinations, can’t choose yet! Since my office granted me with a sabbatical, I will continue my design job.