Spain in the rain!
Touring & travel
27 August 2010 22:12
Accepting an opportunity to ride some of the best roads in Europe transpired into an adventure which exceeded all expectations.
It was exciting, challenging, full of laughs and one that will be remembered as the “no dramas” trip with me, DJ Jutla and Jallani Qureshi, friend and Instructor from Crawley. Jallani and I worked together in 2006 and although he was well underway with his motorcycling, I was contemplating renewing my expired CBT from around 2001.
Four years later Jallani and I reunited at the Birmingham bike show at the NEC. Riding down on my Honda CBR 600 RR and Jallani on his Yamaha R1 this show was to inspire us to plan and prepare for a trip to Europe!
Having only 10 days of holiday for the trip, a decision was made to ride through France and Spain covering both countries from North to South. After breaking the news of our moment of inspiration at the Bike show to our wives and families, we started to plan for our forthcoming trip.
We discussed destinations, required effort (hours riding time), distances and equipment and whether our bikes would be suitable for the trip.
Jallani being proficient with project management and my interest in computers, we decided to manage our trip using MS Excel and decided to create a web blog (www.mb-tours.tumblr.com) to keep our family and friends informed of the trip on a daily basis.
Preparation included a number of key activities including equipping the bikes with luggage capability (Kriega), Sat Navs (TomTom & Garmin), new tyres (Michelin’s with 2CT) and a full service.
Since travelling to Europe requires some mandatory equipment, a first aid kit, spare bulbs kit, Hi Viz vests (required in the event of breakdown only) and documentation (V5, copy of motorcycle insurance, both parts of the driving license) and of course a passport were on the list.
Additionally, as both bikes had manufacture warranty with UK recovery, to have peace of mind we decided to take out additional travel insurance with repatriation (Post Office).
Some items were also able to be shared, for example; only one chain lock, laptop, DSLR and maps were required to be taken to help lighten the load.
With approximately 45 litres of storage space each and 10 days to prepare for, getting everything packed with ease of access was definitely a challenge for us.
Jallani even sacrificed a comfortable pair of trainers for his flip flops! As the departure date slowly came closer, I made my preparations in Birmingham and Jallani in his home town.
After a few phone calls and one meeting midway at a service station in Oxford to agree on the first night’s accommodation in France we were packed and ready to go! The first meeting point was Portsmouth Ferry Port.
Loading the bikes onto the ferry was simple and the Brittany Ferries staff members quickly strapped the bikes in the central isles between the vehicle parking bays.
This was the first time we would unload our luggage bags from the bikes – it was also a good photo opportunity since we would not be seeing the bikes for the next 8 hours!
Having left the port the journey of the shores of England had begun and the boys were excited talking nothing but bikes, the trip and of course what to eat before resting for night.
The ferry across the channel was relatively smooth and having booked a cabin resulted in a more comfortable journey and good night sleep. At about 0600 we got ready in riding gear and re-packed the bags (un-packing and re-packing was to be a frequent activity and a way of the life on the road-one which we would soon master).
We rode our bikes across the waiting platform and onto French ground. After passing the first security check we decided to park up and absorb the port and surroundings. Our first day’s riding was from Caen to Bourges, approx. 250 miles, 7 hrs. of riding [DAY 1].
This was a good day to get accustomed to the road layout and general traffic conditions. After a few stops we arrived in Bourges and then planned for our next day to Millau which would be approx. 280 miles, 7.5 hrs. of riding [DAY 2].
The attraction for Millau was The Millau Viaduct, or in French, Le Viaduct de Millau). As we arrived in Millau we decided to leave our things at the hotel and explore the Millau area.
We found some nice twisty roads and managed to ride immediately under the bridge to take photos. The crossing was to be on the third day on route to Barcelona, approx 260 miles, 7.5 hrs. of riding [DAY 3].
We made an early start the next morning and paid a toll of €4s each for the bikes to cross. Making our way to the bridge we was decided to stop but were soon moved on by a service patrol vehicle – they must have guessed we were looking to take some photos!
We joked that we should have stopped to check the bikes – would they let us down later in the trip??? We carried on and enjoyed the ride across the bridge – it was a clear morning so we got a great view as we crossed.
As we head to the boarder between France and Spain we found some fabulous roads – some of which were tempted to back track and ride through again!
But as we were on a schedule we concluded there would be much more to come. At the border we stopped briefly and had our photos taken by a German tourist – unfortunately he missed our heads and he must have preferred the bikes!
We were allowed to ride straight through and headed for Barcelona!! Arriving at the city we decided to stop by the New Camp or in Spanish the L'Estadi (Camp Nou) – there training pitch seemed liked a Premiership football stadium!
We had planned to stay in Barcelona and the next day we would make our way to Valencia, approx. 250 miles, seven and a half hours of riding [DAY 4]. On route we found a beach area, Playa Ju Pucol, and rode our bikes as close to the beach as we could.
The parking pucks came in handy on the beach!! From Valencia we would make our way to Alicante, approx. 116 miles, 3.5 hrs. of riding [DAY5]. My aunty and uncle would be at their holiday home so we planned to give them a surprise visit.
On route Jallani noticed that my bike seem to have a build up of oil near the side stand rest and we became concerned that it might be an oil leak so we decided to call out recovery (AA).
We feared this might be the end of our adventure but we were determined to get to Santander! After waiting for 3 hrs. and overcoming some translation issues we managed to persuade the recovery driver to load both bikes onto the truck we hitched a ride to Alicante☺.
This short break from riding was welcomed as we had done approx. 1100 miles over 5 days. The recovery truck dropped us directly at a Honda dealership in Alicante - this had to be the busiest garage I’ve ever experienced – it was a total chaos!
They cleaned up the area and confirmed it was the chain lube which we had generously applied to the chain on my bike the night before! I’m sure someone had one mentioned not to apply it the top but rather the underside of the chain! Relieved with the result we continued on our forward journey.
We rode for a long time and changed our visors from dark to clear as it was getting dark. The area was a new development so our Sat Nav was not having any joy.
A local person drew us an old good fashioned map and we arrived around 11 pm at my Aunty and Uncle’s house. We ate freshly cooked food, listened to my uncle’s climbing expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro in the 1960s.
We had a good rest and in the morning all the neighbours came around to see us and have photos taken with the bikes! It felt like we were actually on a holiday and the first time we had relaxed.
Originally, Malaga was to be our next destination but we decided to aim for Granada and explore the Sierra Nevada instead. Alicante to Granada was approximately 280 miles, 8hrs. of riding [DAY 6].
The next day we would aim to cross the Sierra Nevada, approx. 250 miles, 7 hrs. of riding [DAY 7]. This day was exciting – we found some excellent roads – and almost ran out of fuel in the middle of no where!
Although we made it, Jallani had to coast his bike down the mountain for almost four miles – the joke being that I struggled to keep up even though his bike was off!
I seemed to attract stray dogs on this day and as one nearly took my front tyre off all I could see was Jallani in hysterics in my side mirror – thanks mate I thought!
The next stop was Madrid, approx. 130 miles, 8hrs. of riding [DAY 8], followed by Madrid to Valladolid approx. 150 miles, 4 hrs. of riding [DAY 9].
We encountered one police stop check on route and saw other bikers warning us of the stop as they passed us. Since we stuck to the local speed limit we were fine ;-).
The final day of riding from Valladolid to our final destination – Santander was approx. 150 miles, 3hrs. of riding [Day 10]. Next, to catch the ferry home and 24 hrs. to reflect on our journey, laugh and catch up on our sleep!
Although I was a little concerned about taking a sports bike for this type of trip it proved to be viable and highly recommended. With the right preparation, managing the riding and ensuring we allowed for regular stops helped it to make it really an enjoyable experience.
Synchronising our fuel stops also helped to combine stops and rests. In total we covered approx. 2500 miles in 10 days.
In the future we plan to ride on the Isle of Man (2010), a camping trip to Scotland (2010) and hopefully to Europe again in 2011 with a destination to be confirmed.
All in all, this was a fantastic first trip in terms of gaining riding experience and will hopefully help me to progress with my advanced riding skills.