Versys no. 8 arrives!!!

It’s been a while since we last posted but that’s due to us being in the height of our touring season and since we last wrote in July we’ve covered some 12,500 miles riding through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain and all on Kawasaki Versys 1000’s. 

We now have “double green” in the garage with Jan’s ’17 plate and today it’s been joined by it’s “twin” which will become our back up bike (hopefully won’t actually be required but……).  The third Versys caused some interesting comments on social media when Geraint picked it up in June due to its colour which is registered as silver – but it’s been called champagne, titanium and then beige 🙂  It’s colour actually comes into its own when the sun is shining on it as can be seen here in a picture taken recently on our Spain & Millau tour.

As you know, whatever the colour, we’ve written before about the versatility of the model and why we chose to buy the bike in the first place when it first came out in 2012.  In fact, today, we have just parted company with the original bike which has covered over 91,000 miles in 5 years and looked as good today as when we first bought it.  It’s been replaced by our 8th Versys 1000!!!!

There have been style changes to the model over the past 5 years with some not liking the original “flat nose” appearance of the original model – this never bothered us particularly as we have had 3 of them 🙂  However, we moved onto the newer style for our tours keeping the original ’12 plate as a back up.  We’ve noticed subtle changes to the performance and there have been several updates and tweeks over the 5 years.  Kawasaki UK have clearly listened to customers by making seemingly minor amendments such as moving the lock for the seat from underneath to the side – not major you would think but it is a great improvement making it easier to unlock the seat.  There have been slight changes to the position of the rear indicators to meet with latest EU regulations and reflectors on the front wheel.  The gear indicator is now embodied in the dash making it easier to read if ever required.  The fuel consumption on the Versys continues to be a big plus for us, particularly with the mileage we cover each year, there are differences due to the luggage being carried and weight, however, Jan’s latest bike is running at an average of 58.1 mpg and Geraint’s at 57.8.  🙂

We have a busy few weeks ahead of us with 3 tours in the UK in September before our final tour of the year to Spain in October but we’ll try not to leave it as long between blogs next time!!

 

 

 

Our 2017 Motorcycle Touring Season continues

We find ourselves in early July having completed eight of our tours for 2017 – quite where the time has gone who knows!!  Our most recent tour took us through the UK and Ireland with 11 days of terrific riding and a change of scenery at every turn.

Our tour was called  “WISE” which stands for Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England and was run in that order.  We started the tour in Wales at the tale end of the very hot spell which the UK was experiencing during the middle of June and the weather show cased the countryside superbly.  Day 1 we concentrated on the roads in Mid Wales, particular favourites of ours which we regularly ride on our On & Off-Road tours.

Lough Doo

Achill Island

Whilst the colder air and some rain came into the UK we managed to time things just right and crossed the sea to Ireland staying for one night on the east coast before riding across via the Marble Arch Caves in Northern Ireland which we visited and experienced the underground caverns complete with stalagmites and stalactites – we’d recommend a visit if you are ever passing that way.  For the following three nights we headed to the West Coast and took in many parts of the Wild Atlantic Way around Achill Island and the Connemara National Park – hidden treasures around every bend with variety from the crashing waves of the Atlantic on the rocks to calming loughs such as Lough Doo.  The people in Ireland are so very welcoming and never more so when you stop for a coffee – if we’d had a penny for every time we heard “will you be having a scone with that….” we’d be very rich indeed, their hospitality holds no bounds and incorporating that with great riding roads and terrific scenery it is no wonder we keep returning to the Emerald Isle (and on both visits this year we’ve had dry weather!!!!)

Scotland was our next port of call and after a promising calm sea crossing to Ayrshire the weather turned somewhat “dreich” as they say there.  Our group were determined not to let the weather beat us but it was something of a shame when we rode to the Mull of Galloway only to encounter so much fog you couldn’t even see the lighthouse 🙂  Still our second ride-out into the Trossachs National Park was significantly better and we enjoyed some of the best motorcycling roads in the area, stopping off at Loch Lomond Shores where we are always made to feel very welcome – they even let us park in the coach bays!!!  This area of Scotland is often referred to as “The Big Country” and with these high trees skirting the roads you can see why 🙂

Riding out of Scotland through the Borders into England for the last leg of our tour was a little challenging, the roads were some of the best transition day routes we run under normal weather conditions but we encountered driving rain and high winds across the open landscapes of the Dalveen Pass and through the border towns of Moffat and Selkirk passed St Marys Loch which was commented on as “exhilarating” by one client but maybe not one of those days you would ordinarily associate with riding a motorbike on!!!  Still the warm welcome at each of our cafes in Thornhill, St Marys Loch and Cornhill on Tweed more than made up the poor conditions – nothing like a toasted teacake and a brew to bring a smile back on any motorcyclists face……

The challenges on our England leg continued when a tree fell across our path on our ride-out through the Kielder Forest National Park – it was not even particularly windy that day but no doubt the lashing rain the day before had soaked the roots of the said pine tree – luckily the first van which turned up had a saw in the back (what are the chances of that!!!!) and the road was cleared in no time.  Fortunately for our last day of the tour riding through Northumberland, Durham, the North Pennines, Cumbria and Yorkshire the weather was once more back with its sun hat on and boosted by an excellent lemon drizzle cake at the White Monk tea rooms in Blanchland we all enjoyed the roads across the open moors.

Out of 11 days of riding we experienced 2 wet days and in anyone’s book for a motorcycle tour that’s pretty good going 🙂   We’ve got our Belgian Ardennes tour coming up in a few days followed by a 12 day tour of Spain and France where we take in the Millau Bridge.  As ever we are very much looking forward to all of our tours and will keep you updated with photos on our facebook page and gallery.  Enjoy your summer of riding – we know we will 🙂

 

Touring in Wales April 2017

We are well into our touring season now having completed the first two tours of 2017 and for both we had terrific weather to show off the stunning scenery and roads of Mid and North Wales.

Our first tour was in early April when we once again combined On and Off-Road riding in conjunction with Mick Extance and his team.  We rode through Mid Wales on day 1 stopping at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre for lunch and the waters of Caban Coch reservoir were flowing over the dam giving a great backdrop for lunch outside (who’d have thought we’d be eating al fresco this early in Spring!).  The route continued over the Dylife Gorge and into the borderlands of Mid and North Wales for two nights at The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel where we had a terrific sunset as we dined overlooking the lake.

Next day it was off-roading in the Tanat Valley.  This was our 7th tour working with Mick, both of us had seen the benefit riding off-road can have on your on-road skills, gravel on tarmac pales into insignificance after having a day on the forest roads 🙂

Snowdonia was our region to enjoy on the last day of this tour and once again the weather played its part with clear views of the mountains and very little traffic on the roads for the majority of the day.

We didn’t think the weather would hold for our second tour of Mid Wales which started a week later, but how wrong were we!!!  The ride over Dylife (in the opposite direction to that undertaken a few days earlier) was nothing less than sublime – the views back towards the mountains of Snowdon were stunning.

And it continued throughout the 4 days of the tour, when we rode through the Brecon Beacons National Park, stopped with Penderyn Whisky for an extremely interesting tour of the distillery – no sampling though!!!! we were all given minatures to sample at a later date 🙂

We rode through the Elan Valley from the direction of Aberystwyth, the 5 reservoirs were all glistening in the sunlight and the open moorlands gave for a great ride – check out our latest YouTube video and enjoy some of the road with us.

These tours were a fantastic way to not only start our season off but to showcase Wales.  We next head across the Irish Sea to the counties of Mayo and Donegal taking in some of the Wild Atlantic Way – lets hope the skies are as blue as they were in Wales!!!

Our 6th Versys has arrived!!!

Since 2012 our touring bike of choice has been the Kawasaki Versys 1000 – it has proved to be the perfect all rounder for our needs.  We have now covered over 170,000 miles on 5 Versys and the 6th entered the garage yesterday 🙂  Jan collected it from J&S Motorcycles at Oakmere and it was “all smile”  as Kevin handed over the keys.  At all times we have 3 bikes available for tour, 1 being a spare which is currently our original 2012 Versys which now has 86,000 miles on the clock.

The upright style and excellent seat for both rider and pillion offers the comfort we require to enjoy the roads and take in the scenery of all the countries we tour through.  We have been extremely impressed with the fuel range (250+ miles), and luggage capacity which the Versys provides, both are key things to consider if you are a seasoned tourer or new to it.

So why change from the 2016 green Versys to the 2017 model and what’s new?  Mileage played a big part in the decision with 28,000 touring miles covered in 12 months on Jan’s 2016 bike.  There are some subtle changes to the 2017 model which now has a stripe detail on the nose cone and side panel.  The gear selector indicator is now enclosed in the clock face, the underseat lock has been moved to the side rather than underneath which makes it easier to access.  The top box on the Grand Tourer model now comes with a cushioned back rest for added comfort for the pillion and the rear indicators have been lowered as can be seen from the photos below.

We took the new bike into Wales for it’s first 100 miles to start running it in before our touring season starts this coming Sunday 2nd April.  The first ride-out was as expected with smooth handling and comfort.  When we pulled into fuel up, Jan attraced some attention from 3 police motorcyclists out on a training run who admired the new detailing on the bike – a bit less noticeable than on their bikes but striking all the same!!  We are certainly looking forward to riding the Versys during our 2017 season and beyond 🙂

2016 Model Indicators

2017 Model Indicators

Riding Roads of Austria in the Winter

Picture the scene…. “Winter in the UK, a smattering of snow appears from the sky”…… roads close, trains can’t run and basically panic sets in that drivers cannot cope with the weather conditions –  What must the people in Europe think?!!

We recently undertook a research trip to Austria and Italy looking ahead to our 2018 and 2019 motorcycle tours, we originally planned to only visit the hotels thinking that many of the riding routes we would like to check would be closed due to the snow – were we surprised? 🙂  Only one of the roads on our list was closed due to the weather, and so we found ourselves high in the Austrian Alps and the Dolomites travelling some amazing roads complete with skiers whizzing passed us as they enjoyed the winter sun.

We had a clue that the roads might be passable as we enjoyed the B500 and the high route through the Black Forest – this German rider was certainly making the most of the good weather and practically had the road to himself.

Continuing south to our base in Austria we could see the Alps rising covered in snow but bathed in sunshine and whilst the area looked like something from a Christmas card snow scene we were able to appreciate exactly what fantastic motorcycling roads there are in the region come the summer months – as exampled by this hairpin which appeared to be cut through the snow…

We’ve toured through part of the Austrian Tyrol, Alps and the Dolomites in the past and it is well worth the ride to get there.  One of the passes we particularly enjoyed on this visit was in the Dolomites which are spectacular in the summer with their “squared mountain tops” and rocky outcrops and here we were negotiating twists and turns and hairpins at over 6,000ft surrounded by snow, skiers and chairlifts 🙂  The high passes in these regions and in the French Alps are so well used whether it be for winter sports or motorcycling in the summer – we remember riding over the Petit St Bernard Pass between Italy and France and stopping for coffee at La Riondet with clients who had been there whilst ski-ing as the riding road becomes a ski slope during the winter months!

We did fall lucky with the weather on this particular trip as several of our days were under cloudless skies – lets hope they are like that when we next tour there 🙂

 

SunVisors and Heated Grips – a UK Winter ride-out!

So the blue skies came out this morning and some very welcome winter sun and we figured it would be a good to take advantage of the conditions and head out for a ride on the motorbikes.  We’d had some heavy rain over night and that washed most of the salt off the roads but it also meant rather damp roads…… not to mention the mud and within less than 5 miles the bikes looked like they’d been off-roading 🙂 

We had to ask ourselves whether it is something only motorcyclists in the UK experience i.e. the need for heated grips and sun visors at the same time!!  We expect not but it does give you food for thought.  One thing for sure is that having a sun visor built into the helmet is a boon.  We went from shade to sunlight throughout the day and it makes life so much easier than having to make the pre-ride decision of whether to wear sunglasses or not.  Many helmets have them built in now, our personal preference is for the Shoei but whatever you may be considering for the new season by way of a change to your crash helmet it may be worth considering getting one with the visor built in.

It was pleasing on the ride today to see several other motorcyclists out enjoying the conditions and everyone was keen to give us a nod or a wave, I guess seeing other motorcyclists on the road in the UK winter is something of a rareity so we took the acknowledgements whenever they were made. 🙂    One thing to be mindful of whenever riding, but particularly in the winter, are other road users – they are not expecting motorcyclists to be out and about at this time of year but we were pleasantly surprised by the acknowledgements we received from car and lorry drivers today (we think Jan’s pink hi-viz vest may have been the reason!!!).  The low winter sun can be quite blinding at times but it seemed to bounce off the pink colour quite well today.  We use UrbanGlow for our hi-viz these days, Geraint uses the white and also the green/yellow colour, the mesh of the vest is good for warmer weather and we are looking forward to riding in those conditions later this year whilst on tour.

Two weeks ago we wrote about riding in 34 degrees whilst in Malaysia – today was hovering between 4 and 7 degrees, but despite the significant drop in temperature it was great to get out and about on the bikes – although the washing off of the mud and grime is probably going to take as long as the ride-out itself!!!  Let us know of your winter riding experiences and keep safe.

 

Kawasaki Riders in Malaysia

As we’ve already mentioned we caused quite a stir on a recent visit to Malaysia when we took our bike gear with us, borrowed a bike from a family member we know over there and did 1 days riding around the island of Penang and 3 days riding in the Cameron Highlands.  The area is one of the hilliest in Malaysia and the highest points are over 5,000ft.  It is also home to Route 185 – a real must for motorcyclists and up there as one of our top ten roads to ride.  The total length of the road is nearly 200 miles but the section we rode was  over 35 miles of curves and bends through lush green landscape and not a village or town to interrupt the flow of the ride.

On our way to the Cameron Highlands we met up with a group of Kawasaki Riders who were out of a days ride-out.  They had a VN900, a Versys 650 and Versys 1000’s in the group and we met Jack and Jill (and no these were not nursery rhyme characters!), who had been riding their orange Versys 1000 for over a year.  They’d added a slightly higher touring screen but no other changes and they had the same view as us with regard to comfort of the seat and excellent fuel range.

Our next Kawasaki encounter came at the end of our ride of Route 185 in Simpang Pulai.  Given the temperatures had risen to 34 degrees we’d pulled over at a local café for a cooling drink and a leg stretch and met a group of 9 Kawasaki riders who were about to take the ascent into the Highlands.  They clearly had a passion for their bikes which ranged from Z1000SX to Z800 and Z750’s all immaculately presented and some great colour schemes….

Their grasp on the English language was far better than our Malay, however, talking all things bikes is a great leveller and we were very glad to have met such a great group of riders.  We are certain they would have enjoyed Route 185 as much as we did.

If you want to see what Route 185 is like you can visit our YouTube page and watch a short film we uploaded there recently….. we hope you enjoy 🙂

Malaysia Jan 2017 – part 2

We promised you an update on the remainder of our visit to Malaysia so here it is!  We thoroughly enjoyed our time on two wheels in the Cameron Highlands as we described in our last blog, but our encounter with motorbikes did not end there!!  The majority of bikes in Malaysia are less than 150 cc and are clearly the “workhorses” of the country with everything from chickens and eggs to gas bottles and the weeks shopping being transported around 🙂

Their ingenuity when it comes to riding holds no bounds even if one of the bikes runs out of fuel it would seem that someone will be there to give a helping hand (or in this instance a foot!!!).  It did not end there either as the next one we saw required not one but two to assist him in reaching the next available fuel station…..  (We are not sure this would wash back here in the UK!).

There are motorbike shops dotted all over the island of Penang, and not only the lower range of bikes – it would seem that the larger touring and sports bikes are also popular in Malaysia – we had to ask ourselves “How many bikes can you get in one small shop???” when we visited HotBikes – makes for a great display but does not exactly give the customer much opportunity for having a sit on and try out for size etc 🙂

We spent some time looking at the accessories and clothing – understandably, given the climate, we saw a lot of vented clothing on sale. Many of the brands we are familiar with in Europe were also over there – HELD equipment, Dainese and Alpine Stars to name but a few.  It did make us smile to see that some of the clothing had thermal liners – when the temperatures range between mid 20’s and high 30 degrees it seems to us that there would not be too much call for winter gear (now isn’t that a nice thought….).  One thing they do have in common with the UK is rain (albeit warm rain!) and they have it covered for motorcyclists should a storm come through whilst you are on their motorways – under many of the overbridges there is a dedicated lane for motorbikes taking you off the road to shelter until the storm passes through.  They also have dedicated lanes for bikes at the toll booths on their main routes, it does seem you are riding on a footpath at times !!! but whatever the route it means that motorcycles are not charged to use the motorways which we felt was a very good idea.

Unfortunately we did not have more time riding in Malaysia on this visit – just means we will have to go back sometime to explore more of the country and who knows with Thailand on the border we just may have to visit there as well – as they say “watch this space”!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Malaysia Visit January 2017

How best to describe our second visit to Malaysia?    Penang Words such as “beautiful”, “chaotic”, “amazing” and “crazy” come to mind!  The weather is glorious at this time of year as we arrived at the tail end of their rainy season with temperatures ranging between 24 and 35 degrees – slightly better than those being experienced back in the UK at this time….. 🙂

Your senses are heightened wherever you go here, there initially seems no order about things here but then we talked yesterday with a couple from India who say that life in Malaysia is extremely organised when compared to their country!!!  They recommended we visit India next to experience the real meaning of the word “chaos” 🙂

We’ve been fortunate to ride a motorbike over here for 4 days of our trip and as everywhere the common bond between motorcyclists has been very evident.  Meeting fellow motorcyclistsWe spent three days in the Cameron Highlands riding (amongst others) Route 185 and having descended into Simpang Pulai we met a group of Kawasaki riders who were about to head up into the hills.  They were fascinated with the fact that we had come over from the UK, brought our bike gear and were riding over here.  Route 185Having ridden Route 185 we told them how much we’d enjoyed the flow of the road, the bends which continued for over 50 kilometres and is up there in our top ten of roads we’ve ridden so far.

Last time we visited Malaysia we rode only on the Island of Penang, and revisited some of the roads this time around.  It may only be a small island but all of life is crammed on to it.  14 being chased by a dogWe certainly couldn’t imagine riding back in the UK or Europe and encountering monkeys crossing in front of us or have wild dogs chase us….  There is certainly a lot more traffic on Penang than we experienced in the Cameron Highlands but well worth riding around if ever you find yourself in Malaysia.

We’ll update you on the rest of our travels in Malaysia in the coming days before we return back to the UK, we’re looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful country……..

 

MotorcycleLive 2016 – catch up

This was the third year we were invited to be on the Kawasaki stand at the MotorcycleLive show working with in their newly launched Club Kawasaki area.  It was good to catch up with everyone from the team, Lee Bowers, Lee Dunham, the team from Xpress Coffee and also to meet new Kawasaki partners Team 6-t-9.

Thank you to everyone of our clients who visited us during the show and we met many more whether it be directly through Club Kawasaki or by people visiting the stand and asking pertinent questions about our Versys 1000 which we had on display or touring in general.  They say that travel broadens the mind and what better way to do that than on 2 wheels!!

H2The Kawasaki stand was extremely impressive in Hall 2 with the full range of 2017 new bikes on display ranging from Z650off-road, touring, sports bikes and from the hi-tech of the beautiful H2R to the classic retro style of the Z650 – plenty to view for the crowds of visitors which came each day.

The visitors were also able to enjoy a superb stunt show put on once again this year by Lee Bowers and his team.  If you were not lucky enough to catch the display at the NEC this year, look out for events Lee will be on during 2017 you will most definitely not be disappointed 🙂

During the course of the show many of the Leon HaslamKawasaki race teams and riders visited the stand and as you can see from this photo Leon Haslam was very happy with the unveiling of his racebike for 2017.

We were so busy chatting all week that we did not have an opportunity to visit the rest of the show but hear from everyone that there were some great new motorbikes on display from all of the manufacturers giving a lot of people plenty to think about as we head towards the festive period – we can certainly give you some ideas of how to make the most out of your bike if you choose to come touring with us 🙂  We’ll be updating our social media sites over the winter months with some teasers for roads we’ll be riding in 2017 and also a look back to those enjoyed in 2016 so keep an eye out for these our via facebook, twitter and instagram pages………..