When it comes to long around the world rides, there is always a discussion about should you go on a big bike or a small one. Of course, the most important is the rider, he or she has to have instilled the will to travel , to discover and explore, after that it doesn’t matter what you chose for your ride. So is the case with Shinichi Kobayashi, a japanese rider, who travels the world on a Yamaha Serow XT-250. Last year he passed through Romania, so we asked him so questions about this passion.
1.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 :)?
I started riding at 32 years old,in 1987. A work colleague in my company recommended me riding.
Before that, I thought riding was dangerous, but I liked going to the mountains, so my first motorcycle was Honda XT-250, a
trail model. I enjoyed much riding in the mountains and rural areas of Japan. So I got stuck with the trial motorcycle.
2. When did you have this idea, that you wanted to see the world on two wheels?How much it took since you decided this is something that you want to do till you actually left on the road ?
During my 30’s and 40’s, I read many travel books of international motorcyclist, such as Mr. Takashi Kasori.
He is my master,my teacher. At that time, I was working as a business man, so it was only a dream.
I was enjoying riding only inside Japan.
My first trip abroad was “Trans Silkroad with Kasori” in 2006.
3.We know that motorcycling and traveling go hand in hand, and probably many of the riders dream to ride on the roads you did, so choosing Europe for the trip comes natural.But still, what were your reasons to choose Europe for this epic trip ? I saw you did a lot of traveling around the world before coming to Europe.
There are a few international ferry line starting from Japan, today only to Korea and Russia.
There are about 10 motorcyclist who leave Japan for world-wide-rides. Most of us starts from Russia, then Europe, (Africa), South/North
America then Japan. (or the other way around). So it is very natural for Japanese to pass (and stay long in) Europe.
The culture of Europe is familiar for me. I learned many European languages. I like Europe. But as a motorcyclist, Europe is not the only one goal.
4. I saw in our pictures you ride a Yamaha XT250 ( something we don’t get to see often here in Romania).Why did you choose this bike for the trip and did you do any special preparations to it, before leaving ?
I chose XT-250, a small one, compared to European rides, because of my physical aspect, that is 162cm tall,63 years old.
I do not have much power nor speed, although I have much experience and have endurance.
Mechanically, I prepared very little for my standard XT-250. I only added a big-screen, strong rear-carrier,Yamaha-engine-noise-absorber, handle guards, etc. Also I added GIVI top-case, soft side-cases, two navigator mount (for Garimin Zumo and smart phone).Physically, I trained my strength and endurance at the gym.
5. In 2017 you left for the Eur-Asia trip stage, from Japan through Mongolia, Russia…all the way to Norway, France, Spain , a little bit of Morocco and back to Spain.How was it to be on the road? Was it just the way you expected ?
Not especially. To be frank with you, I have been to Russia twice by motorcycle. Furthermore, not by motorcycle, I visited European countries many times, for business and/or personal trips. Some roads in Russia and Mongolia where tough, road condition was not so good, sometimes sandy offroad. Even thoughI traveled mountainous offroad in Japan for 30 years, I fell down a few times, never in 2017, twice in 2018 (in Georgia mountain night time, and in Greece on an asphalt road).
6. In 2018 you came back to Europe and restarted from Spain. Went to UK, crossed the whole Europe to Azerbaijan and back to Greece and Turkey.Was this a well made plan from the beginning or you improvised on the way ?
Originally in 2017, I thought to finish my all-around-globe trip (Russia-Europe-NorthAmerica) only in 4 months.But then, I changed my mind to travel more slowly.Today my plan is always NOT-FIXED. I prefer to be flexible.
7. During the 2018 trip you also crossed Romania.Since we are a website that promotes motorcycling tourism in Romania we have to ask you how did you like Romania ?What was your experience with our country, in terms of interaction with people, nature, landscapes, roads?
I saw you got the chance to road on the Transfagarasan as well, probably our best known road.
I like the nature side and rural village roads of Romania.To be honest, I recommended Japanese riders (especially lady riders) to visit Romania, because it is best. Personally, I loved these rural lanscapes.the fortified churches,I was wondered to visit these unusual historical places. Also I liked mountain roads, a German rider recommended me to go Transfagarasan and enjoy a good curvy road,but actually, I am not so interested in fast-speed-riding, big-machine, high-speed-curve-road. I love quite, slow, tiny leisurely trip.
8.After this trip to Romania, would you recommend other foreigners to plan a moto-trip here ?What would you recommend them to see and to do ?
For all tourist, I recommend historical place, such as the Bucovina Monsateries.
Other Japanese female motorcycle journalist,Ms.Yuko, commented “In the countryside of Romania, it looks like good old Europe remains. I want to go there again.”
For on road riders, generally I recommend high-speed-curve-road, such as Transfagarasan. But Japan is a very mountainous country, we have much curvy roads like Transfagarasan.
9. Covering so much mileage, during these two European trips, we would love to hear your opinion on what were the best roads that your rode on,in terms of stunning views, curves, fun factor,etc. What would be your top 5 ?
It is very difficult for me to answer.
As I said, I am not interested in curvy roads with fun factor, but some of the best roads for me have been:
(1) Russian Siberia road, nothing but forest. I met no one for an hour…
(2) Romania country roads, riding with horse-cart and agricultural trucks, riding 40km/H slowly as a bicycle, etc.
In 2018, after traveling eastern Europe, many children started waving their hands towards me. It was a heartwarming experience! Never in East Europe, but was quite often in Russia.
(3) Azerbaijan border. Very dangerous road, mine fields everywhere on the side of the road.It looked very much like a desert, very little traffic also
(4) Lofoten Peninsula in Norway
10. I saw that you take a lot of time to visit as much as possible and learn about each local culture.What would be the places that you enjoyed most on the way and you would recommend others to visit? (not motorcycle related necessary)
For Christian people, visit Islamic countries.
For Islamic people, visit Christian countries.
For western people, visit eastern and vice versa.
For Japanese people, go abroad!! Anywhere will be OK. (Japanese people are too workaholic.)
11. Did you had any incidents or issues along the way?
(I saw you had a small crash in Greece and I know from my own experience,I also crashed in Greece some years ago, that the asphalt is a little bit slippery than regular). Was there a moment when you felt at danger or were there any tense moments ?
Generally, it felt not so dangerous.But I got a little bit frightened, when I crashed in Greece, because I couldn’t identify the reason. I think I was driving very slow and safely! Is it because my age??? 🙂 and yes the road in Greece is very slippery.
Riding manner in Georgia is much different than other countries.
Driving is aggressive, ignoring lanes. I couldn’t enjoy cruising leisurely.
I’m not scared with interruptions by other cars, because I’m used from Mongolia or South Italy,like Napoli.
One day an old couple was walking on the sidewalk, and when I got close to the center line, I was overpassed at a very rapid pace
between the couple and me! Terrible!
When I ran in the middle of the expressway express lane, I was overpassed between the express lane and the median.
Even if I “cruise” the driving lane with an inter-vehicle distance of 60m, an interrupt will be made from the
right and left side.
In other words, there was no time I could ride and enjoy landscape.
12. 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?
Yes, that is right. I like meeting different types of people. For this purpose, I studied 7 foreign languages.
I stayed in some Russia riders club house. At Birobidzhan, I stayed 3 nights in a member’s home.
His daughter stole my electric Russian/Japanese dictionary, we studyed language together.
Staying in a farmer’s house in Georgia. I swam in a lake nearby ,lake Ilia, I saw who he makes the wine in the barn, helped him out with mowing the cows.It was such an amazing experience.
13. Probably there are people reading this and thinking to replicate your trips,but they just remain at the status of project. They think they don’t have the time or don’t have the money or both.Could you make a rough estimate on the money you spent during this trips,so that they could estimate a budget for a future dream trip?And also , how do you manage to have so much time for these trips, I saw in 2017 you had more than 100 days on the road ?
For budget, about 50 euro per day in Russian/Mongolia/east-Europe. More than 100 euro per day in western Europe.
For young guys, “money” and “time” are critical. For old soldiers like me, “physical strength” and “struggling fighting spirit” are
14. If somebody is thinking about doing this kind of trip and is currently doubtful, what would you advise them ?
I would say “Start the trip before you die”.I worked as an ordinary businessman for about 30 years. I have some bank-saving and small pension. It is enough for my budget. But It is very difficult for old person to maintain my normal state of mind and to continue traveling daily.
15.What are your plans for 2019 ?
Not yet fixed, maybe in Balkan on May/June, in Swiss/Italy on July/August, hopefully also to Romania again!,temporally return to Japan on September/October.
Then after November, go to somewhere, Africa/Iran/America? I would like always to be flexible!
You can find more about Shinichi on his blog. http://ko-ba.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2018/12/post-01f3.html