England, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Switzerland 2800 miles 12 days
For my main holiday this year I chose to ride across into Europe, all the way down to Lake Garda in Italy, taking in France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. This was done via the tour company Magellan Tours.
The week before leaving the UK, the weather was poor, temperatures cool and wet. When the tour dates were moved by 4 days, I decided to use that to my advantage and travel to Folkestone earlier, taking in the National Motorcycle Museum, the Milestones Museum and other locations on the way.
On the day of leaving it started dry, but I knew the gleaming Vstrom 1000 wasn’t going to stay that way for long. My first stop was the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham. I arrived just after the doors were opened and headed straight for the cafe, for breakfast. This is a great bikers location, several large rooms of motorcycles from the earliest bicycles through to modern sports bikes. I spent at least an hour wandering around but had many miles to cover.
The highlights for me was the bike with a projection showing its journey and the artwork on the fairing
Next, I ride onward towards the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke. This interested me mainly because it was indoors, but on arrival, I found so much to see and photograph. They also have a nice cafe
So a mass of vintage buildings, vehicles and all done in a nice setting. Of course, the Photography store and motorcycle were my favourites
and the lone Peacock, Bob!
So that was the end of day one! don’t worry I’m not doing a day by day breakdown. While I stayed in the Basingstoke Country Hotel, due to its swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi, which I took full advantage off, the rest of the hotel was tired and not recommended, mainly due to the mood of staff and quality of food
The next day, the sun was out and temperatures were rising. I continue via Wakehurst Kew Gardens, a lovely estate with loads of land to explore. I spend time in the gardens, visit the house and of course test out their cafe, which was excellent
At this point the motorway route to Folkestone looked boring and busy, so I re-routed via A roads all the way, it meant at least 1 hour more riding, but across the south countryside the roads were quiet and progress was made
So at this point your thinking, that’s the first two days, what about the European part of the trip. Well, I’m going to provide a link, as I don’t work for them or promote for them in any way, so if your interested take a look at https://magellanmotorcycletours.co.uk It was on the Italy, Dolomites, Lakes and Alps guided tour. This includes riding the Vosges mountains, Baden-Baden, B500, Timmelsjoch pass, Alps and famous Stelvio pass, amount many more great passes, forests, parks, lakes
In the city after dinner, we visited Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims
After the first few days of riding through France, Germany, we finally drop into Italy and Lake Garda. After a short lunch stop in Riva Del Garda, we travel down the West side of the lake to Maderno, where we take a days break from riding. I hiked up to St Michael’s church via the cobbled streets and zigzag walkways up through the steep mountain, to reach the highest vantage point in the area. Then walked the old town, clocking up 6.5 miles and a healthy number of steps
The hotel Adria Resort are biker friendly with various other groups onsite, with a pool and dedicated area for the Magellan group, it was a great place to relax. I’m so glad we did, because the next day we head to the famous mountain passes and start some interesting hairpin bends, rising and falling up and over the mountains
I may have the position of these photos wrong, but its biking related as its part of the old racetrack, they wanted us to visit
The collection of photos here covers the next few days. Weather as you can see stayed perfect. I felt this period of travel was best for photography, using my new Sony HX99, with its 24-720mm range, I got snap happy
I had ridden down the pass, saw this view on the way and decided to ensure that my bike and I got the shot, as this landscape says it all
For most the European travel the days were hot between 30 and 40 degrees, while on a motorcycle mean a constant breeze, the airflow was hot, many reduced their riding gear to the minimum. Thankfully I have vented summer gloves, a jacket with LOTS of vents and a flip helmet that allowed various combos to keep as cool as possible. Still hard work some days, with a cold shower at the end a must
As we were still hundreds of miles from the UK, the next two days were high mileage, covering 250 or so miles, with 5-7 hours in the seat. For some the navigation devices played up and they were riding up to 12 hours!! That was tough
I returned to the UK via the Eurotunnel, staying in the same Hythe Imperial hotel, but this time for some reason, I got a large suite room, massive bed and bathroom. I used their pool and spa, went into town and had an early dinner, followed by a good 12 hours sleep! I was knackered (mainly to heat)
On the last day, I had to ride from Folkestone on the South coast home in Cheshire, I asked TomTom for the fastest route, it indicated motorways, but shortly after delays and issues meant taking A-roads was the way to go, at least until past London! In part I regret that decision as I did 25-30 miles of filtering through the Congestion route, it was very congested. Once North of London things improved, but hell almost every motorway was being worked on and all but the M6 Toll road, was restricted to 50 mph – really makes no sense – we can ride at 60 country roads and 70 on dual carriageways, in my view the backbone of Britain is officially broke. It took from 11am to 6pm, 7 hours, should have been 4.5 hours
So in summary, it’s good to ride in Europe, pay attention to the roads, the laws and ride well. Be prepared, for all types of weather, for breakdown and have the necessary recovery and health insurances. The countryside is fantastic, if I came away with anything, its that most countries have less traffic, more space and clearly more relaxed for it. As soon as I starting riding back in the UK, poor road conditions, aggressive drivers, people simply haven’t got a second to spare, but for what?
When touring back to back, give yourself time to relax, off the bike days, there is little point travelling for days to reach the furthest point on the route, only to ride through it and head back. In some areas we only saw the road, bends.. and hotel, it makes sense, lets all just chill
It took at least 2 hours to clean the bike and gear, but we’re ready for our next adventure!!
© 2009-2019 Carl Sumner @ http://www.photographit.co.uk