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The short-cut to long distance Euro trip

He had always dreamt of riding solo through Europe.

But the practicalities of taking time off from work and family, combined with the red tape involved in taking a foreign vehicle in European union, made his dream seem impossible.

But Mr Surinderpal Singh, 36, found what he calls "a short cut".

Rather than suffer the cost of riding or shipping a bike from Singapore to Europe, he bought a motorcycle in Ireland.

From his Irish start point, he would begin his 32-day, 8,200km odyssey.

Mr Singh, the proprietor of a transportation company, says: "It was the best way to save time and money. Also, if I stayed on the road for too long, my wife would be upset."

He contacted Irish firm Motofeirme to acquire the ride and handle the ownership papers.

RESEARCH

After meticulously researching which ride would suit a pan-Europe, partly-mountainous tour, Mr Singh let Motofeirme do the rest.

"I just told them the type of bike I wanted," he says.

"Once the motorcycle was registered in my name, I could travel to any European Union country without the need for a carnet (a customs permit for foreign vehicles)."

Mr Singh spent 2,000 euros (S$3,250) on a second-hand 1996 Triumph Trophy - a 900cc sports tourer. It would have cost almost twice as much to rent a bike for the period. The insurance was only 160 euros ($260).

His plan was to spend as little as possible. Cautious of the cost of eating out in Europe, he often ate fruit bought on the road and munched on 2kg of cashews and almonds, and energy bars he brought from Singapore.

Nights - aside from the rare occasions he stayed at friends' homes - were spent in a tent.

His road trip began on April 30 and spanned 10 countries across the continent. It included a 15-hour ferry ride from Rosslare on Ireland's southern coast to Cherbourg in northern France.

Mr Singh also rode through Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, the Netherlands and Britain.

It was a captivating journey.

Mr Singh talks excitedly about the ancient castle built into the side of a mountain in Slovenia and the views of snow-covered mountains in Switzerland.

He was touched by the friendliness and curiosity of the people he met.

On the Balkan leg of his journey, he met locals ­who were genuinely concerned for his welfare.

Says Mr Singh: "Their faces said it all. They were curious about why I was alone and wanted to know if I was all right."

Even with a language barrier, Mr Singh reassured the worried locals and they would part smiling.

SMALL WORLD

On particular encounter proved how small the world can be.

In Vicenza, Italy, Mr Singh stumbled upon a Sikh temple where he struck up a conversation with the head priest.

"He asked me which village my ancestors had come from in Punjab. When I told him, he burst out laughing," recalls Mr Singh.

"It turned out that his parents used to rent farmland from my grandfather."

After a trouble-free month of grand vistas, Mr Singh had his strangest encounter in the final stages of his journey.

A snapped chain on a remote road in Wales meant he missed his ferry to Ireland, leaving him stranded in a small village next to a cemetery.

Says Mr Singh: "I had to spend the night curled up in a phone booth to stay warm.

"At 2am, something came up next to me and said 'Boo' in my ear. I quickly turned around but no one was there."

In all, Mr Singh says he spent about $7,200 - including fuel, repairs and airline tickets. But buying the bike had a final advantage. He was able to recoup $3,000 by selling it in Ireland.

To learn more of Mr Singh's journey, go to surindersunrider.wordpress.com


Mr Singh's Five Tips for riding long-distance in Europe

1 Buy quality riding apparel that protects your body and keeps you warm.

2 Make sure your helmet is broken-in. A new and uncomfortable helmet can be a source of distraction.

3 Get a reliable helmet communication system that can sync via Bluetooth with your mobile device for clear GPS-aided road directions.

4 Plan each day's route in advance. Getting lost is no fun in a remote land.

5 Choose the right motorcycle for the journey. Do your research. This bike will be your home for the duration - you will need to be comfortable.

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