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I have gleaned many useful bits of info from this forum in the past, so I thought I may reciprocate.
A few words on DIY panniers for the TA. Frankly, new hard panniers and fitting rack are an extortionate price, so a DIY solution seems a good idea. The panniers themselves are not a real issue. Ideas include two cheap hard suitcases, old ammunition tins, or even marine ply boxes. Mine were fabricated from sheet aluminium bent up and riveted together, with lids to suit. A 1 inch re-inforcement strip was riveted to both the inner edges of the middle and top of each pannier and two one inch strips riveted across the width of each pannier at the top edge. Bolts through these protruded through the drilled lid to enable the lid to be screwed down.
The trick is to attach them to the bike. After some thought, I chose a simple solution of 6mm and 8mm threaded bars of about 16 inches in length – but whatever is the width of the panniers plus clearance , especially for the exhaust. These located each side into 3 existing tapped holes, namely at the pillion footpeg bracket, and the two tapped holes in my top box rack. All of these holes had their bolts removed and the threaded bars inserted and fixed by lockwashers and nuts. An additional 10 mm threaded bar was affixed to the subframe behind the numberplate – I used Munson rings for this.
To this hedgehog arrangement, the panniers were offered up. Pre-drilled holes each side through the top re-inforcing strips took the bars, and a drilled extension strip bolted to the pannier and extending forward of the pannier took the footpeg bar. Another re-inforcing plate bolted rearwards on the inner face of the pannier took the numberplate threaded bar. All of this was made rigid by simple lockwashers and nuts on both inner and outer edges, deburred and lined with large binbags.
All of this cost about £50 and I decided to test it all out by riding to Switzerland – again!
Switzerland is the place. The alpine passes are sublime once you get used to the innumerable hairpins, and the scenery is of course magnificent. I spent 2 days travelling down through France, and upon arrival managing several trips up and over various Alpine passes, a trip out to Lake Como – bellissimo! – and generally walking about on the lower/higher slopes looking for Edelweiss. Prices are surprisingly affordable, but public transport/cable cars/beers from the bar are most certainly not. I stay in a B&B chalet with en suite, kitchen, TV radio etc etc with a stunning view for £25 per night, which I think was good value. The Co-op shop in the village is simply excellent as are many others. Swiss themselves are a pretty humourless lot, but that’s just my opinion, yet this is compensated by having no aggro, a civilised and ordered society, spotless public transport/towns/countryside and a taking deal of pride in whatever they do.
A few tips perhaps
Beforehand - Bleed and clean out brakes, change oil and filter, ensure tyres are OK, grease everything that needs it. Pay particular attention to chain. I lubed it every 500 miles. Tension was no bother.
Take all necessary tools, gaffer tape, spare clutch/throttle cable, tie wraps, rags, wire and lamp test rig.
Autoroutes – Some are now expensive, so worth considering your route, but avoid normal roads in France if you wish to get anywhere. They snake through every minor village/town, are full of wagons and not the most direct of routes especially in hilly areas. My 1995 TA was happy at 5500 rpm all day i.e. 70/75 which seemed to suit it – and me. Range of about 140 miles before reserve wasn’t great, but forced a rest stop for fuel every 2 hours or so which probably wasn’t a bad thing. Fill up with super for a longer range, of 155 miles for me, if gas stops are sparse. Gas is even more expensive in France/Italy, considerably cheaper in Switzerland. Obviously fill up in Switzerland just before crossing any border.
I found the Channel tunnel very easy and quick. I turned up early twice and boarded an earlier train. The extra price for the flexi ticket seems to apply for day periods rather than hours. Stay with your bike as it can lurch around a bit. Good website.
Riding – Autoroutes and all Swiss roads are sublime with wonderful fast surfaces, no arseholes and good lane discipline. Put your lights on at all times. Swiss autobahns notionally require a sticker – available at a price naturally. I have never bothered, and no-one has ever bothered me. Alpine passes of course require some degree of common sense. It is cold and snowing at 2000+ metres, so ride/dress accordingly. Watch out for coaches, who seem to take great delight in overhanging over to your side of the road round the hairpins, anyone driving a tractor as their intentions are hardly ever communicated, and keep your eye on the road despite the magnificent scenery. Plenty of very steep drops act as a good incentive here. Tunnels there are a plenty. I rode through the 17km St Gotthard and you really, really do not want to break down in there. Make sure you and your bike are in good order.
Watch out on roundabouts for traffic coming from the left when entering roundabouts, and in France from the right when you are on the roundabout – they still haven’t quite mastered who has priority yet. This is especially relevant first thing after your first night abroad. Profuse apologies to Gaston/Pierre/Jacques or whoever you were in that battered Renault 5.
I have found that most people are much more respectful of bikers than over here. Given Swiss laws, owning a bike is nowhere near as easy, so I suppose it may be deserved. Do obey the speed limits. Swiss are sticklers for rules, even though some are a little odd – jaywalkers are always right for example, so do not honk at them or rev your motor – Japanese tourists excepted, naturally.
Panniers were excellent by the by, and all was dry after heavy rain. I urge you all to get out there and ride!
Bon voyage and gute Reise
Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Pics coming soon - blond bints sadly lacking in Switzerland surprisingly, but as for raven haired Italian beauties in Mennagio and Bellagio.....
 
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