Back by popular demand, guest blogger Peter!
Here, in the central highlands in Turkey is a living demonstration of how, with determination and effort, any nation on earth can feed itself. Maybe “plains” is not truly accurate as the country varies from broad, high elevation plains 1000 to 2000m above sea level, lying between stark, rocky, bare and dry mountain ranges with little evidence of surface water or any vegetation whatsoever. Yet the local farmers farm every square centimeter of soil wherever it exists, right up into the mountains at well over 2000m elevation.
The farming equipment is modern and new. Unlike eastern Europe. Typically around 80 to 100hp tractors and no evidence of zero till. Three, maybe four meter wide implements, ground water irrigation – manually moved spray equipment watering higher value crops like corn, vegetables and tobacco along with large areas of dryland cereals. Wheat and barley. And harvesters. Everywhere. Modern, large machines but 1/3 the comb width we would use. Clearly to get into small spaces and steep undulating hillsides.
The grain storage is also worthy of a mention. Thinking, Australian Wheat Board. Don’t bother. They don’t need ‘monopoly” grain storage here. Any hardstand will do. Or not. Dirt pads, petrol station hardstands. Every one we passed, for hundreds of kilometers – utilized for temporary grain storage. Imagine fronting BP in Australia asking for permission to use their driveway. Things just work here, clearly, in their own way. Turkey’s hard red winter wheat, grown on their Great Plains is renowned as having a ‘unique, rich, and complex flavor and excellent baking qualities’. Mixed with oil spills at the petrol stations, is it any wonder the bread here is good.
Most people catch planes and trains. As we all do from time to time.
Taking a ‘postie’ over 6000km of Europe’s best and worst roads, we have perfected a way to “catch’ trucks.
Honda postie bikes are powerful beasts when compared to all manner of automobiles at the beginning of the internal combustion engine in the 1890’s. In 2017, maybe Honda didn’t envisage them being used in this way. Had they, we might have another 10 or 20hp. As it is, our mighty 109cc engines produce about 8hp (5.8kw) and 8.5Nm of torque. That is about the equivalent torque that would be created by a 1kg block of aged Emmentale Swiss cheese, holding it at the length of your arm, out horizontal. I kid you not. And that is at sea level. At 2000m, well, more like a block of mild cheddar.
So we have learnt to catch trucks. This has been forced upon us for several reasons as follows:
1. Honda’s unbelievable oversight
2. Mongol rally rules limiting us to 125cc (but one guy has a 250cc bike and another, 700cc).
3. Winds and high altitude on route we have chosen
4. Bikes loaded for a self supported trip 2/3 rds of the way around the world
5. High traffic speeds and poor road manners (Turkey especially)
6. Steep and mountainous roads
As you can clearly see, all these things are beyond our control. We could go into blame, in that sense, or simply find a solution. After all, as you can also see with the Turkish farmers, we are at the home of ‘finding solutions’.
Catching trucks is a science. Let me first explain what is meant by ‘catching trucks’. Postie bikes loaded as they are can manage 80-85km/h comfortably at sea level, no wind and just under full throttle. Add or subtract wind and we can zip along at up to 100, even 105 or as low as 60 and back to 3rd gear.
Now, if we can get in the slip stream of a large truck, we get a highly advantageous tow allowing us to comfortably do 90 to 95, uphill and down dale. The other advantages are great fuel economy and it is much easier on the rider as we are out of the wind.
Back to the science. We get a useful advantage even as far as 50 to 75m behind but that improves as the gap closes. Too close and the road conditions are not visible to allow sufficient reaction time should there be need to change line.
It goes like this.
• Identify a suitable host – one preferably going 10 to 15k’s faster than we can mange on our own. This is determined by observing their approach speed
• If possible time your run for the top of hill where trucks are slowest and we have the downhill run to catch them
• Move off the road onto the side or into the far right lane (rhs drive)
• As the host approaches and passes, lean forward(streamlined), full throttle
• Make sure no other vehicles are following before moving out and quickly into the slip stream
Too great speed difference and they are gone before we are up to speed. Now the aim is to stay in that sweet spot. The perfect host is one that is speed limited to no more than 105kph so we don’t lose them on downhill runs and loaded just enough that they are neither too slow nor too quick uphill.
When the relative speed is not correct, the hill too steep or the wind heavily in our faces, we occasionally miss our host. As we have been known to do with planes and trains as well. Momentary disappointment. There is always another.
When we find the perfect host, we like to name them. Talk to them. Normally we name them by some advertising on the back. Or their number plate. So far, Erikli has been our best and longest host – he/she carried us from Istanbul, south for over 100km. If they are a perfect host, but then take a turn or stop, we also call them names.
There are some other important instructions for those wanting to perfect this art, sorry science. If the wind is quartering, sit off the opposite rear wheel. Less buffeting and more wind protection. Don’t sit in close to the mid line of the truck. Firstly, if close, you cant see ahead. Secondly If there is an object on the road, the truck will go around or straddle it. this is not where you want to be from a safety perspective