Sunday, March 3, 2013


No, no, the OTHER left....

Biggest Bull Moose I have ever seen. Enormous. Must of been AT LEAST 1200lbs minimum as it walked right out in front of me. Just stood there, snorted, steam rising from it's massive flared nostrils, and stared right at me. I could see him tense up, like he was getting ready for a charge.
I started to get nervous. He lowered his head, his eyes locked on me.

Ok, ok, so it wasn't a Bull Moose, just a case of operator error. But the Bull Moose story sounded better.

Anyway, the official version is that the sidecar tire caught in the snowbank above, and as I rolled on the power to try to recover and ride out of it, the 2 Wheel Drive pulled me into the bank more and more and ended up burying me nose first in the ditch. Luckily, snow is soft.
And luckily Hekki was ahead of me, so when I didn't show up after a few minutes he doubled back and I had my tow strap already tied to the back of the outfit and ready to be hooked on to his trailer hitch.

So the irony here is that I got a sidecar because it was much more stable on the road in winter conditions than a motorcycle. Really?. 
Which road would that be then?.

I was on my way to the Reindeer Races at the Mäntyvaara Racetrack with tickets that I received courtesy of Nina at the Rovaniemi Tourist Office when I had my "little mishap", my slight but abrupt change of direction. 
Never having been to a Reindeer race before let alone know that they even held Reindeer races, I was a little intrigued. And now that I have 3 Reindeer skins as part of my winter insulation kit, I figured I'd like to get up close and personal with the animal whose hide is the best and warmest skin I've come across and used so far. 
One of the reindeer skins I use for the sidecar as a seat cover, and the second I use as ground insulation under my sleeping bag when I camp. 

Reindeer skin has remarkable heat and insulation qualities thanks to the hollow hair follicle of the animal. Reindeer hair is hollow, like a tube, so the air becomes trapped inside and becomes warm when close to the body. Air is also trapped by the long thick fur and is doubly insulated. I used to use a Thermarest air mattress under my sleeping bag for ground insulation and for a while there, it did it's duty and performed quite well. That is until I crossed over into the Arctic Circle region and started to experience on a daily, and nightly basis what it's like to live, and camp in -20° and below all Winter long.
The Thermarest is now for sale if anyone's interested. Cheap.

Reindeer skins have been and are used by indigenous cultures like the Sami culture in Lappland, Finnmark in Norway and the Evenk culture in Siberia, Russia for a long time now, for food and clothing.
Reindeer skins are a byproduct of reindeer meat production. In Lapland, as well as with other reindeer herding cultures, the resourceful Sami people use every part of the reindeer for food, clothing and decoration. Reindeer remains an important part of their culture and existence. My cache of reindeer skin products seems to be growing the longer I spend up here in the Arctic region.  And as a meat, reindeer is delicious.

So the third skin, which was a gift from Eva Bjorkli in Alta in Norway, I used in order to make a pair of wind deflectors for my legs when riding in sub zero temperatures. I had considered getting a pair of Gerbings heated pants, but I just didn't want to have a whole bunch of electrical clothing that can eventually cause issues. I already lost one heat controller for my heated jacket liner, and thanks to Tom at Gerbings, they shipped out a replacement to me in Norway. But I prefer more natural forms of staying warm in colder climes.
Besides, I've always favored the ingenuity and look of homemade improvements on well traveled bikes and sidecar outfits. Necessity is the best mother of invention. Most of the improvements I've made to my outfit so far have taken me quite a considerable amount of riding time in all sorts of weather conditions, getting soaking wet, or in this case getting the tops of my thighs freezing cold in order for me to come up with a solution of how to make something that keeps that from happening.

When I spoke with my friend Eva Bjorkli in Norway about my cold legs problem (Eva does furniture upholstery) to see if she could make something, she "gifted" me one of her Reindeer skins she gets from the Sami people for me to use for my project. On one of my visits to her house while having coffee one evening, she disappeared and came back half an hour later. "Here" she said, "for your project". For a brief moment I thought she went off into the forest behind her house and bagged a fresh deer she was gone so long, but it just took her a bit of time to rummage through her very very large barn to find a reindeer skin suitable enough. Thank you again for your gift Eva.

Ari Vilanders.

I would be lost without Ari's help. Ari can do anything, a great craftsman, a super cool guy with a fantastic garage that he lets me use, and with superb musical taste. Not only do I have the use of his very large heated garage with constantly playing and piped in blues music, but Ari's been invaluable with fabricating up what I need to get the job done. Ari fabbed up the 6mm frames for me to lace the reindeer skin onto for my leg wind deflectors. Thank you my friend.

No, not my dog. That's Ronja, Ari's dog, but she loves me, and I love her too. She's a great help in the garage, keeps me company. Wish I could take her with me on my trip. 

The finished product.
And speaking of skins, yes, that is a sheepskin lined handlebar muff on the outfit, but that's for another post.

Ok, so I'm not going to endear myself to PETA or any tree-huggers reading this post, but the man with the trailer selling all the different animal skins on the way into the reindeer track had a beautiful Sealskin jacket that he said like a furnace inside, and that, truth be told, I fell in love with. It was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. And yes, those are traditional Skulla boots he's wearing too, of which I have a pair of also. Skins and furs may be politically incorrect in a lot of places, but not up here in Lappland.
Above the Arctic Circle they have been used for centuries as much needed insulation and warmth against the frigid temperatures, as well as the animal being a necessary food source. 

Someone doesn't look to happy. Or maybe that is his happy face.

Meanwhile, a big thank you to Janne Yliniemelá, owner of Raskas Osa here in Rovaniemi, Finland for his generous "Sponsor Gift" to me of the CTEK Battery Charger and an LED rechargeable headlamp. The CTEK charger I've already mounted permanently on the Pelican camera case I have on the back of the bike where a top case would normally go. Thank you Janne. And again it was all due to my friend Ari who went in to talk with Janne and ask him would he be amenable to helping me out with some product.

I never did like top cases much, the supplied brackets always made the case sit too high and make the bike a little top heavy if you carried much stuff in it. But I also didn't like how I had my Pelican case attached either. I used ROK Straps to tie it down, similar to a bungee cord, but stronger and thicker. Which meant whenever I had to open the case to get out a camera I had to undo the straps to get the latches on the case open. Which is normally not a big deal. Until you ride in -25°, then it's a chore. Plus the fact that anyone could come along, cut the two straps going over the case and boom, it's gone. So I didn't like the impermanence of it. So while over in Ari's garage one evening we put our heads together and custom made a set of Pelican Camera Case support brackets specifically designed for my bike. 
Take a look.

We started out with a piece of custom handpicked wood from Ari's woodpile out back. 2" X 6" for inquiring minds.

Luckily we found a pair of 2 be 6's, so after determining the angle of the cut needed and cutting, set the Pelican case on top and BOOM !!!. Perfect.

Perfect. Simple solutions for simple people.
Guaranteed not to rust either. If you want to build this for your very own BMW GS Adventure I'll send you the plans. Just mail me a self addressed envelope along with 3 easy payments of $49.99, S&H inc., and I'll send you an exclusive set of blueprints right to your mailbox. Seriously.
Offer void where prohibited by law. 

That's it for this week, but wait, there's more.

I finally, FINALLY, got to photograph my very own Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights that have eluded me for so long here in the frozen north. It took me over three months of nearly stalking the night sky to get these shots. AND I very nearly froze to death too. It's not easy holding a metal bodied camera in -20° with no gloves (I can't shoot with gloves on), after 10 minutes my hands were numb. NUMB.
Next weeks post will have the images from that nights shoot, plus some out and about in the Karu MC and Rovaniemi.
And there'll be more accessories too. WARN just shipped over some goodies to me last week, the WARN XT17 Portable Motorcycle Winch being one of them.
Myself and Ari just spent the weekend installing and it looks killer.

Meanwhile, I believe I mentioned last week that MotorTrend are flying a film crew over from the US to shoot the Pt II to the Pt I, A Man, A Motorcycle & A Mission they shot last year in CA, so I'm very excited about that and can't wait to see the final edit.



Anton Damhuis said...

Awesome Murph.

Great to read another instalment of your trip.

The impression I get is that the side-car allows you to take, and accumulate a lot more equipment.
Would you have been able to do the Arctic circle without a side-car and extra gear?

Anton Damhuis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie6 said...

Great update Murph! I'll have to see if there's a way to order some of those grip covers with the fur lining you showed us....looks very nice and warm. As to keeping one's legs warm...while I've not been riding in the temperatures you have been, have you considered wearing rainpaints over your riding pants? I assume you wear layers underneath the pants as well?


IRISH Murph said...


Great question. Well, you're right. Having the sidecar DOES allow me to carry more gear, MUCH more gear. That's part of the reason for going sidecar to begin with. The second was comfort and stability in sever winter, ice and snow.

So yes, I could have done Nordkapp without a sidecar and extra gear, but I wouldn't be able to do longterm traveling as comfortably as I can do WITH the sidecar and the extra space and stability it affords me.



IRISH Murph said...

Dom, you can't buy those in any catalogue, they were made by an upholsterer here in Rovaniemi, a member of the MC I'm staying at. I traded him hotos of his bike and 60's Mercury Statinwagon in return for them. If you could, expect to pay $300- $400 for them. The sheepskin alone was $60 and all the seams are double stitched. Very time consuming but they're custom made for the switchpanels I have. I'll be doing a piece in next weeks post about them.

And rainpants are no match for -20 and below Dom, you need layers and some good thermals. The reindeer skin is much better than rainpants and 10 times cooler looking too !!.


Risto Lepo said...

Hi Murph! I saw your "set" outside hotel City in Rovaniemi in the snowstorm today, march 5th. I'm in town for business from Helsinki for a couple of days. Man I admire your way of jumping out of the "oravanpyörä". If your finnish is not yet there, the guys at the garage can explain what that means 😉.

You've done over 120 tkm and I'm trying to set my mind up for riding with my KTM 990 Adv through the Baltics, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and back home the coming summer. You got it right. How many times I have wanted to say fuckitall and jump on the bike and explore the world.

My ex brother in law from Dalkey, Ireland said that SISU (persistence) is something only the irish and finns possess... You, Murph, are a living example and that's why you enjoy your stay in Rovaniemi.

Happy trails and Godspeed.


Ps. If you need a shelter before crossing over to the east, the door is open and sauna warm....

IRISH Murph said...

Thanks for taking the time to write. Nice set, eh?.

Yea, the "Treadmill" of life is not for me, I like to set my own speed. My Finnish is getting better the longer I'm here Risto. I'm really getting to like Finland a lot, my favorite country so far.

That sounds like a nice little ride for you through the Baltics. I'll be heading down through there myself in April to get to italy for May 15th.

Dalkey was only 5 or 6 miles from my hometown of Bray in Ireland, I know Dalkey well, or at least used to.

I actually may be down in Helsinki in 2 or 3 weeks, not quite sure yet. Keep a lookout for me,



Anonymous said...

Great attitude, i would say you start to qualify to be a Finn. Crazy lifestyle 100% respect!
Advertisment; (although i have nothing to do with this:)
There is a mc "winterrally" at PADASJOKI, Vesijako (near Luopioinen at Tampere region). I think that happening would be good place to drive-by and show true winter-biker attitude!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to wrote the specs of Padasjoki 26th annual winterrally; -24th of March.
more info at forum. VMPK=veteranmotorbikeclub of Finland

Anonymous said...

How can I get me one of those seal coats? amazing/beautiful..