It’s a human story – the founding of a friendship

It is usually true that one story hides another and in this case it’s very much the case. The original one starts in Turkey back in 2009 on our Sydney to Oslo adventure. It was a clear autumn morning and the skies were blue announcing fine riding weather. As we typically did, we took down in two lots our gear from our hotel room in central Istanbul, first our gear that packs into our panniers then returning to our room to collect our valuables, riding gear and checking that we hadn’t left behind any of our affairs. On the way out, we checked out and made a break taking advantage of the lack of Sunday morning traffic to navigate out of Istanbul in direction west-north-west towards Greece. Although looking extremely clear earlier, the weather was starting to turn with strong gusts of wind sweeping us across our lane on the freeway and grabbing our helmets, trying to flick us off Francois. The gusts were so strong we could lean against the wall of air while riding. Then all of a sudden Francois began to stutter, at 120km/h*, like he was running out of fuel. I had to slow and pull over to the emergency lane as Francois began to stall at 100km/h creating a potentially dangerous situation. Clutch in, rolling down the freeway I just want to make it another kilometre to the rest stop coming up. Changing down to forth gear and letting the clutch our to restart Francois, he coughed and splattered and failed to respond. Now my mind was flying through all the possibilities, battery, fuel, impossible because we had more than half a tank, then what?? Bad batch of fuel perhaps. With the hazard lights on we started to roll into the freeway rest stop. Now I was almost certain that we had a fuel pump failure. Indeed I had just a matter of days earlier been reading about this known problem. And yes all the symptoms seemed to fit. Off the bike, there was no buzz from the fuel pump that typically pumps fuel as the contact is switched on. The battery was fine, lights and starter motor turned over just nothing else. So I proceeded to check my box of tricks for a piece of wire to act as a jumper to bypass the Fuel Pump Controller. With only one piece of wire I had to cut and strip it to create a jumper for both wires… the first problem; there were three wires! Which ones do I need to jump… ok no big deal I’ll just look at my smart phone which has  the wiring diagram, to figure it out. I change over the memory card and realise immediately that was the memory card that had a virus and was erased back in India. So now I need internet connection to search for the details. Unfortunately, there was no hope of finding the internet on the side of the freeway some 70kms from Istanbul, we were surrounded by fields of wheat and sunflowers and the truck stop had a very understocked grocery store which also served the odd hungry customer with a small restaurant. It was so windy even the metal garbage cans that weren’t attached began rolling around pushed by the wind. My attempts to bypass the Fuel Pump Controller (aka FPC) were in vein, all I managed to do was drain the battery by creating a short. Now with no hope of fixing Francois, there was no option but to call for help.

Breakdown in Turkey

Loading Francois onto the tow truck

After about a three hour wait our tow-truck showed up and gave us a lift back to Istanbul and the BMW dealer. As is was Sunday and getting late, we decided to head back into town and make the most of being without Francois, to stay in an inner city budget hotel which didn’t have any parking but was close to the Galata Tower and main pedestrian strip. We were determined to turn this breakdown into an opportunity and not let it ruin our trip. In each problem or breakdown is an opportunity waiting to be explored. The next day I returned to the BMW dealer and Arja explored central Istanbul. Whilst waiting for the dealer to open another traveller on a GS, by the same make and colour as Francois pulled up. He had a lot of stickers on his bike and was obviously from Spain with the capital ‘e’ on his number plate giving his nationality away. I said hello and began to chat, the rest is history, well it is the story actually. That Spanish motorcyclist was none other than Miquel Silvestre who had just come from Central Asia and was heading to Syria and Jordan. Since our encounter in Istanbul we have keep close contact and have helped each other out on several occasions. Miquel introduced us to several of his media contacts and hosted us in Madrid during our visit in March 2011.

GS Riders Pascal & Miquel having a cold one in Istanbul

One of Miquel’s contacts was the media agency that is now responsible for BMW internationally and it secured us an interview with a very kind and friendly person (who of course we can’t mention here). Nonetheless our story has been since published by various English motorcycle press. For that and for your time and collaboration we’d like to say thank you.

Our full story by BMW can be read here

Interview by BMW – Riding2up (PDF)

BMW Motorrad International

We’ll add links to other sites that publish our story as well. If you find one, please let us know or just post a comment here.

Extreme Couples – Arja Pascal & Francois


* The maximum permitted speed for motorcycles on all roads in Turkey is 70km/h. This antiquated law doesn’t take into account larger cyclinder motorcycles. It is one of the biggest political issues for motorcyclists in Turkey. Even though the speed limit is restricted for all motorcycles to 70km/h they are still permitted on freeways, curious really. The reality is that motorcycles as other vehicles are not controlled for speed regularly on freeways in Turkey so this higher speed, keeping up with other traffic, is generally tolerated. Needless to say that it would be far more dangerous travelling at 70km/h on a freeway with cars travelling at 120k/h or faster.