Living in Cyprus and riding the same roads of the island can get boring, so why not go for a ride around Europe, whole Europe.
There is no secret that we love motorcycles and trips. During winter we browesed the internet, facebook groups, forums…looking for inspiration for the next season.The best thing about technology now days is that you can easily get in touch with peoples that inspire you. This is how we got in touch with Constantinos Koushiappis from Ridegaia.com , who is touring around Europe for 2 years now.
What we liked about Constatinous’ trip is that he doesn’t have a deadline, he is not rushing into places, he takes things how they happen, enjoying the best that he can this whole experience. Besides that, he also does some great videos about the places he visits. We loved the video series about the time he spent in Romania, so we decided to contact him and find out more about him and his journey.
First of all , tell us a little bit about you. When did you start riding motorcycles and how did you get stuck with this passion 🙂 ? When did you come up with this idea? Did you had this idea of traveling all over Europe before becoming a motorcyclist ? I read your presentation on the website. How would you describe yourself now, after two years on the road, did anything change during these 2 years of traveling?
Firstly I would like to thank you for the opportunity you are giving to me to speak about my trip. It’s always a pleasure for me to give information about my travel because I want to show people that it is not very hard to travel long distances and for long time, if they want it.
I started riding in 2012, that’s 4 years before I started this trip. The whole idea of becoming a biker started after I took my decision to travel the world. I still remember the day I took that decision, since my whole life changed instantly. Before getting the bike I used to drive a Land Rover Discovery. I soon realised that it would be way more expensive to make the trip with that car, so I continued searching and I found people that would travel on motorcycles.
I thought that it would be a great idea and way more adventurous to do it on the back of a motorcycle, so it was decided. I sold the car and I bought my beloved Honda Transalp 700.
It didn’t take me long to realise that I like the two-wheel way of life. The motorcycle became my other half. I cannot even image my self without a motorcycle now.
After 2 years on the road, a lot of things changed. I am calmer as a person, and I can take better decisions regarding travelling. I know how to avoid bad situations and I love the fact that I make friends everywhere I go.
I am a very social person, which is a skill that really helped me since I am a solo traveller.
1.So you had this dream and I read on your website that you worked 4 years as a waiter, saving some money for this goal. Did you set an amount of money that would be enough to start the journey or how did you decide you are ready to begin? And also did you think of ways on how to support financially your journey , while you were on the road ? Cause as you said, people usually think that you need to be a billionaire to go on this kind of trips.
After I finished my studies in Greece, I went back to Cyprus. It was the worst economical period of the island back then since the economical crisis hit. I started working as a waiter after I was dismissed from a couple of jobs that were within the field of my studies, either due to redundancy or bankruptcy of those companies. I needed to collect the money to leave the island as soon as possible.
I set a goal for 10.000 Euros to start my trip in Europe, but when I had that amount of money I sat down and I calculated the costs again, and I came to a conclusion that it was not enough to keep me on the road for 2 years. I stayed to work for one more year, to save more, and then again the same happened… The money were not enough…
Somewhere there I realised that the money will never be enough. The more I had, the more needy I was becoming regarding the trip. Once I realised that, everything made perfect sense form me. The next day I quit my job and I set a 6 month period of preparation before I leave the country.
I started ordering bits and bops for my riding, camping and motorcycle gear, and everything else I was going to need. I started reading more about my motorcycle, learned how to service it, how to change the chain, sprockets, brakes and deal with whatever could go wrong that I could fix by my self.
I renewed all my official document, went to the doctor for medical exams, prepared my first aid kit… A lot of preparation really… All that preparation was always accompanied by my friends of course. The trip had already began from the first day of preparation, for me.
I wanted to share this trip with more people, so I wanted to document it. Also I thought it would be a great thing to look at when I am too old to ride bikes. The idea of creating a website popped up during a discussion with some friends. But having a website can be costly, so I printed some T-shirts that are available for purchase by people that like and follow the trip, so I can cover the cost of the website. The cost of the trip itself is covered by me so far, but I am very optimistic that I will start earning something from youtube in the future, since I like what I am doing and I put a lot of love and dedication in my videos and I hope people will like them as well.
2.Also during these 4 years did you somehow prepare or train for this trip. I know that in 2014 you had your first moto trip outside Cyprus, in Turkey. Was that like a training trip for the bigger journey ?
During that period I took a smaller trip of 18 days in Turkey with a friend of mine.
The plan was to ride through Turkey and go to make the round of Greece, then come back through Turkey again. EVERYTHING went wrong on that trip. My motorcycle paperwork was completed wrong as soon as I landed in Turkey and then we couldn’t leave Turkey because of that. We decided to stay in Turkey and see more of the country. My friend’s bike and mine collided while riding, so we stayed in our room for 2 days full of bruises, we got lost, we got tired… AND WE LIKED IT! It was a proper mini adventure! That “pilot” trip was the beginning.
3. When you started the journey, you had a plan , 40+ countries and about 100,000 km distance in aproximatively 2 years. I read on your website that you wanted to arrive first, after 5 months to Nordkapp. Why did you picked up Nordkapp as you first important milestone?I am asking because in the last years,there is a certain hype around the Nordkapp many riders targeted this destination and it’s like a starting point for many adventure riders. It’s like you need to cross off this destination before you can call yourself a moto traveler 🙂 .
The plan is still the same with some differences. The countries are now 46+ and the years to complete it became 3 instead of 2. I realised that I want to spent more time in the places that I visit. So I found a job in the UK for this winter, to be able to stay on the road for 1 more year.
Nordkapp was a destination that I wanted to visit since day one. I chose to head south because I started the trip in April, so I had all the rainy season in front of me to see Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and the Baltic countries and then I would be in Scandinavia in the summer.
The second reason was the money… I thought it’s better to go up there while I had the money to do it. In my very first plan, I was going to head west first and leave Scandinavia and Easter Europe for last.
Getting to Nordkapp nowadays is not that difficult neither challenging.
The roads are great and the only thing that can slow you down is the weather really.
I wanted to go because I had the time to do it. But if someone doesn’t have the time to go there, it’s really not something that they will miss. It’s a distance of 500 km just to get the achievement of visiting. Norway is far more beautiful on the western coast, the Lofoten Islands and the mountains in the middle.
I don’t believe a destination or an extreme point can give you the title of adventure moto traveller. I know people that visited Nordkapp but they have their bikes locked in the garage 6 months of the year. Are they adventure bikers?
Don’t forget that Cyprus is the easternmost country of EU, so I wanted to visit some of the extreme points of it. Nordkapp Norway, Cape Tenaro Greece, Capo da Rocca Portugal and more.
4.So, it’s 2016 and it’s go time. With what expectations did you hit the road ? First country was Turkey, you already’ve been there, you knew what to expect and after it came Bulgaria and our “beloved” Romania. Did you do some research before heading to each country ? For example I saw you talking about the abandoned chanels near Bucharest that should have connected the city to the Danube and I can assure that many romanians don’t know where those are. 🙂
What was really concerned me it was the fact I was about to travel alone.
I remember that it was the main thought circling my head during the last 2 or 3 days before departure.
Once I pulled that clutch lever and kicked the first gear in, every concern was gone.
I felt that I was going for a normal ride really. I left my village and hit the motorway like it was a normal day going to the capital.
Turkey was a country that I visited before. I wanted to make sure that they will get all my paperwork right this time. I decided that I will keep off main highways so soon enough I found myself on the Anti-taurus mountains heading for Cappadocia. The first day felt so normal that I didn’t even realis what I was doing… I was living my dream. Everything I had was on that bike, and I was free to go wherever I wanted.
There wasn’t any serious planning for each country. I made a basic research about nice roads and popular monuments that I didn’t want to miss and that was it.
Most of the things I saw it was because of locals’ recommendations, so I was adding them to my schedule as I was going.
Romania! I’ve heard so much about that country from motorcyclist friends, so I was very curious to find out my self if it was true. I arrived to Bucharest and I went to a hostel there. I met a guy called Dan and we started talking. He told me about the channels and the abandoned port of Ceausescu, so the next day I went to visit. Also Vama Veche and Constanta were not in my plans. I visited those places because of Dan. I made a promise to myself that I will trust the locals and try to visit as many places as they would recommend (because they know better)… The plan for Romania was very simple, Carpathians and the Castles, Danube area and then Maramures and Bucovina.. I ended up making a huge circle in the country visiting Constanta, Tulcea, Brasov, Sibiu, Hunedoara, Singisoara, Resita, Timisoara, Cluj Napoca, Iasi, and may more.
37 amazing days!
Romania really impressed me in many ways! From east to the west the landscape is changing so many times. You have the Black sea, the Danube Delta, the beautiful Carpathians, traditional villages of Maramures, rich monasteries of Bucovina,
The haunted forest of Cluj Napoca , the abandoned Village of Geamana which is now submerged in toxic waste… There are so many things to see in Romania that definitely 37 days are not even close to enough.
The people were fantastic. Romanians were the first people that would open the doors of their houses and invite me inside to sleep or eat.
Ιt happened a couple of times while I was in the country and I couldn’t believe it… they didn’t even know me.
Most of the roads of Romania are in very good condition. I found my self in remote areas with very bad roads, or no roads at all, but the basic road network is really in a very good shape I believe. Especially on the Carpathians. Great roads, very good asphalt, lots of traction!
The chain problems began long ago! I was just trying to avoid changing it as long as I could
I started the trip with a very cheap chain, thinking that there was no need to spend a lot of money on something like that. I was just trying to avoid changing it as long as I could.
6.Which brings me to my next question. I know that you choose this specific motorcycle model because is reliable and easy to maintain. Did you have any major incidents or issues while on the road ? And how about your mechanic skills, did they improve on the way ? :).
When I was searching for a bike I knew that according to my budget I had only 2 options.
I love the Japanese school, the simplicity and the toughness of the engines.
I had to choose between Suzuki Vstrom 650 and Honda Transalp 700. What I liked on the Transalp was the spoked wheels and the ability to ride in the dirt better, and the narrower front cowl.
The Vstrom had cast wheels and huge front cowl, that gave me the impression that it was too big.
Both of the engines are great though… the Suzuki is more fuel efficient and has better autonomy since the tank is way bigger than the Transalp’s.
7.Speaking again about Romania, you rode on some of the most iconic roads and mountain passes from Europe so far and also you rode on Transfagarasan and Transalpina. What do you think about these two roads compared to others?What would be your personal top 5 roads that you rode in Europe so far ?
I rode a lot of roads, but when I was in Romania I couldn’t ride Transfagarasan and Transalpina since it was too early in the season and the passes where closed.
I went up to a point on Transfagarasan and I found barricades.
On Transalpina I went up to the crossing that leads to Petrosani and then I found barricades again, so I continued to Petrosani instead of the pass.
But those 2 roads are in my “Want to ride” list since day one, so probably I will be coming back in Romania to ride them.
8.One of the reason or better said , the execuse that many people use for not riding their dream roads is that it is expensive. Which it is partially true…I saw your expenses for the first year, which were around 8300eur for the entire year. That’s almost 700euro per month. There are people that spend a lot more doing nothing, staying at home.This proves that where there is a will there is a way. You manage to keep the expenses very low, if you stopped smoking you could have gone even lower 😛 . Still, considering that you would have had a bigger budget to spend, would you have done the trip differently ?
Keeping the budget low is really challenging, especially when I travel in an expensive continent like Europe. But it is totally doable. There are a lot of things that someone has to give up to keep the costs low. I don’t stay in Hotels and I don’t eat in restaurants. I prefer cooking for myself or eat in small shops, where the locals eat. I always like to try the local cuisine of course but I don’t have the luxury of doing it everyday.
My number one option of accommodation is my tent and if I will find myself in a city I will choose a shared dormitory in a hostel.
My biggest expense is the fuel. It’s true that I spend less money than the average European, but this comes naturally after a while.
If somebody decides to travel for 2 or 3 years they will soon realise that it doesn’t take much to keep rolling.
Smoking is something that I was considering stopping, but then I thought I should have at least some kind of “luxury” in this trip. I don’t really smoke a lot, and I do like enjoy cigarette with my morning coffee or after a meal.
It passed through my mind that if I had some more money I would travel differently but I think I would spend more on museums and activities, not on accommodation or food.
9. I believe a very important part of this traveling experience is meeting different type of people. I guess you met other travelers on the way. Do you remember any funny story or interesting encounter that you had on the way ?
Meeting people is the most important part of the trip. I believe a country is defined by its people and not by its natural beauty or the road quality.
I met a lot of people in this trip, both locals or other travellers and I am very happy about that because my perception of the people now is a lot better than when I started.
There are many stories that I could share, but something that comes to my mind now, is a day that I was searching for a natural bridge in Bulgaria.
“The bridge of God”. I got lost going off road, when I noticed some cars in a field. Thinking, that was the place I was searching for I ended up in a private field with some locals having their picnic with their families on a bank holiday. They offered me something to eat and drink but I politely declined because I wanted to find the bridge. Then they told me there wasn’t such a bridge around and they insisted I sit with them… After 2 hours of drinking palinka, rakia and cheap Bulgarian vodka and eating some traditional wood-oven stew with some other delicacies, they told me that the bridge is just 500m down the road… So I got on the bike again, in a slightly tipsy state, and went to find the bridge.
The irony was that those people were all cops as they told me, but they had absolutely no problem to send me off to my destination slightly drunk.
10. Traveling all by yourself can be dangerous. Did you ever feel threatened or have you been in a dangerous situation during your trip so far?
Well, that, I believe, is a misconception. I’ve never felt that my physical integrity was ever threatened or in danger by other people so far… Nobody tried to rob me or kill me. I only got my laptop stolen while it was locked in my hostel room in Prague, but I wasn’t there…
I think the danger that comes with solo travelling is when you wonder off-road – in places that people don’t really go – and have a fall. I found myself in that position a couple of times, once in Romania, once in Albania and in a couple of other places.
In Albania I hurt my back really bad while I was trying to lift my bike on my own.
If any of the readers now are afraid of this, I would tell them to get on their bikes and start travelling. They will soon realise that people are very helpful and kind, especially in the rural areas. The criminality stays mostly within big cities.
11. I saw you were in Brno this summer for the MotoGP race. How did you enjoy that experience ? I am asking because , the first time I ever went outside Romania on my bike it was also for the Czech MotoGP in Brno. And although it rained all the way through Romania and Hungary, when I arrived there…the people I met there and the atmosphere , made the whole trip worthy.
It would have been a shame to travel for 3 years in Europe and not attend a MotoGP event, since I like the sport and I try to follow it.
Despite that events like this are not lining up with my budget, a MotoGP event was almost mandatory to visit in my head.
The atmosphere in a GP is really great. You meet all kinds of people, all ages, all ethnicities, but there is a connection between them all… They all love motorcycles. It was a pleasure for me to be there and experience this. The people yelling on the tribunes, the excitement, the disappointment, the sound of the bikes… Everything was just summing up for a great atmosphere.
12. I checked your equipment and load list and I want to ask you what’s your opinion about the helmet you are using, the Shark Speed-R, considering your rode with it for many many kilometers. I am asking because I’ve been using the same model for the last season and would love to here your opinion 🙂
My Shark helmet is the second helmet I ever owned. I always double check and triple check a helmet before I buy it.
The Shark fits my head shape 100%, which is the most important thing a helmet must do.
If it doesn’t fit on your head then you jeopardise your safety first, and then your comfort.
The shark is a lot lighter that my previous modular helmet as well, which is always a good thing since I am wearing it a lot of hours every day.
I had the option for a lighter helmet with good fit- which was the AGV AX8 EVO – but I chose the Shark because of the inner cutouts for my intercom system and the build-in sunglasses…
13. What are your plans for 2018 ? You are currently in UK and there are still some kilometers to be ridden till you reach the most western point of Europe. What people should expect to see in the coming months on www.ridegaia.com
Well, since I decided to take it slower and enjoy travelling for one year longer, I though it would be a good idea to find a job for the winter and put some more money in the “let’s travel forever” box.
I still want to see 15 more European countries before ending this trip.
My plans include Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Faroe Islands, France, Spain, Portugal, Andora, Monaco, Italy, Malta.
On the site I hope I will be able to provide more info for every country in the future. This is something that is going to take a lot of time since, except of my personal experience, there is lots of research involved.
14. One more quesition. How did you pick up the name for your website, is there a special meaning?
Finding a name for a website is harder than many people would think. I chose to combine 2 words that describe what I do and where I come from.
GAIA (Greek: γαία) is the ancient Greek word for earth. It still exists in the English dictionary but is rarely used. Ridegaia literally means “ride the earth” , that’ why I named this trip #RideEurope under the name of Ridegaia.
I am hoping to do #rideAsia and #rideAfrica and more some day!
For more information,stunning pictures and videos Constatinous journey, you can visit Ridegaia.com youtube channel, facebook,instagram account and website.