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 2016 Motorcycle touring season begins…..

It is great to be out and about again on the bikes Elan Valley visitor centreand our 2016 touring season started this last weekend with our 3 day On & Off-Road Riding tour through Mid and North Wales, hard to believe that it has been 6 months since we last did this tour back in October 2015!

It was a chilly start to the tour riding to our meeting point on the outskirts of Shrewsbury with 1 degree showing on the temp gauge and frost on the parked cars we rode passed…… but by the time we came to setting off it had warmed up by 6 degrees and we took in the Shropshire Hills under blue skies.  The wind picked up as we climbed through the hills on the Welsh Border (probably why we passed a new site for wind turbines..!!), but everyone was still able to take in the stunning views as we made our way to lunch at The Elan Valley visitor centre pictured above.  The waters were coming over the dam which is quite a spectacle and does not happen all that often, the wind picked up at one point as can be seen from the spray rising at the top of the dam wall.  Day 1 then continued with a ride passed Clywedog Resevoir, quick fuel stop in the “ancient capital of Wales” before arriving at The Lake Vyrnwy hotel which was to be home for the next couple of days.

A great dinner was had by all in the Tavern Bistro that evening overlooking the lake with the same views being enjoyed over a hearty welsh breakfast on Monday morning before we rode a short distance to our venue for the day with The Mick Extance Experience.  glove wringing comp!!The weather “gods” seemed to know which day we were on as they provided a decent amount of rain for the morning session but then we were off-road riding so it just added to the number of and depth of the puddles to be negotiated…… or in one guy’s case – swum!!!  He came out laughing and after a bit of wringing of the gloves was raring to go for the next session.  The basis of these tours is to give riders more experience of off-road riding which then aids them on the road – we’ve all come across gravel at some point during our road riding but after a day with Mick and his team it gives you more confidence on how to deal with it.

The riders on the tour had a wide spectrum of experience from those who have ridden off-road before and even entered competitions, to those who had no experience at all and yet everyone rode around in the same group, 3 instructors were out with the group of 11 riders and Geraint played sweeper and photographer for the day, capturing some great pics of the laughs, the mud and the trails as can be seen if you visit our facebook page or the gallery on our website.  After a short ride back to the hotel a few took advantage of a sauna in the hotel spa before dinner which was followed by a talk from Mick about his 7 times Dakar experiences.

Tuesday we headed into the Snowdonia National Park for the last day of the tour – sublime conditions for riding with drying roads from the start, hardly any traffic, wide open roads and the splendour of the mountains to enjoy throughout the day. Riding through Snowdonia The only slight disappointment was that the peak of Snowdon was in cloud, but then as long as it was being kept on the mountain tops it meant that we had great conditions at road level to enjoy 🙂

We have 2 more of these tours this year to look forward to with details on our website – one in June and the last one of the year in early October – we are looking forward to them already!!

What would be your best motorcycle “Groundhog Day”?

It’s the 2nd February which is celebrated as “Groundhog Day” in some parts of the world, you may also be aware of the film made in 1993 starring Bill Murray who played a character who got caught in a timeloop and ended up reliving the same “groundhog” day over and over.  This was not a particularly good day for the character in the film but just imagine you could relive some of your best motorcycling days – what would they be and why? 🙂

We’re going into our fifth year of DragonMotoTours and as you can imagine have covered many thousands of miles in that time and enjoyed some of the best days of being on two wheels so it’s pretty difficult trying to say what our best “groundhog” day would be.  We’ve come up with a few below and it would be good if you could let us know what yours would be and why:-

  • In July 2012 we took a 17 day break to Colorado and Utah and would relive each day of that tour. Riding to Monument ValleyRiding to Monument Valley was something particularly special as you can see from the photo here.  We’d hired a couple of GS’ from Denver and covered over 4,000 miles each.  This was the first time for Jan riding in America and with the roads being open, flowing and traffic free it made for perfect  motorcycling with stunning views at practically every turn.  A day we would not mind being “time looped” back to……
  • Our first European tour as DragonMotoTours was through France and Italy and on the 6th September 2012 the weather conditions were perfect for riding, good temperatures even in the highest points of the Alps, blue skies and clear air.  Top of Col D'IseranWe set off from the Aosta Valley in Italy to ride over the Petit St Bernard pass, a technical climb to the cafes at the top was followed by a stunning ride down into the valley towards Val D’Isere, through the town famous as a ski resort but thankfully clear of snow!!  We then ascended the Col D’Iseran which is 2,770 metres at it’s peak and is one of the highest paved roads in the Western Alps.  We took this photo of our Versys from the top looking towards Lanslevillard where we had a lovely lunch by the river side before running a return route back to Aosta.  Riding the roads both ways was brilliant as we were able to appreciate the stunning views from all angles whilst riding two of the best passes in that part of the world……. certainly up there in our “best groundhog” days 🙂  We have been lucky enough to relive this route on other tours and would certainly recommend it.
  • In August 2013 we toured closer to home in South Wales and on Sunday 11th we visited the Rhossili BayGower Peninsula and the stunning beach at Rhossili Bay.  Again a picture perfect day for being on two wheels, not a cloud in the sky all day, flowing roads through South Wales and onto the Gower.  The pace of life on the Peninsula is such that a “saunter” through the back lanes down to the Bay was all that you wanted.  Certainly a day we wouldn’t mind reliving…..
  • In August 2015 we were in the French Alps again for another day which we hope will become a brilliant “groundhog day” as we return to the Col de la MadeleineCol de la Madeleine in August this coming year.  It started off with the sun rising over the Bauges mountains, white wispy clouds soon disappeared and this azure blue sky stayed with us all day as we rode not only over Madeleine but also over the Cormet de Roselend.  On the descent from the top of the Col de la Madeleine we had stunning views of Mont Chamonix which was about the only alpine peak with snow on 🙂  We had lunch that day in a pretty little auberge who could not do enough for you and served all 20 of us in no time (and we hadn’t booked!).

We’ve picked just 4 rides out of hundreds that we could have wirtten about and it has been hard to pick these.  We can’t wait to find out what your best “groundhogs” have been……

 

The Lakes of Wales Ride-Out

On Sunday 7th June we undertook our third motorcycle ride-out of the year taking in three of The Lakes of Wales together with a stunning run along the Welsh coastline.

After meeting near Whitchurch in Shropshire we crossed into the Welsh borders on flowing roads to our morning coffee stop at our first lake of the day – Lake Vyrnwy.  Artisans cafeWe had booked ahead to call in at Artisans cafe by the lake who were more than ready for us with plenty of home baked cakes and scones available for us 🙂   There were a couple of other bikers already there having a quiet brew…… they must have wondered what was happening with all the motorbikes turning into the car-park, there were 33 of us in total!

We had a great ride away from Lake Vyrnwy on an open B class road which offered spectacular views of the hills as we approached the A road between Welshpool and Mallwyd.  However, as we joined the main road our progress was thwarted by a considerable queue of vehicles which turned out to be due to a charity cycle event taking place further up the road.  As Geraint arrived at the front of the queue, the driver of the escort vehicle did apologise for the delays they were causing – it was frustrating for us as motorcyclists even though we were able to filter for some of the way, imagine what was being said by the drivers of all the cars in the queue!!!!!

Soon though, “normal service” was resumed and we had a free run from Dinas Mawddwy with Riding from Dinasthe mountains of the Snowdonia range opening up ahead of us as can be seen from this photo.  We significantly increased the fuel sales as we pulled into the petrol station on the outskirts of Dolgellau before riding over Bwlch Llyn Bach which gave us our first glimpse of the second lake of the ride-out, Tal-y-Llyn which is set in a beautiful “V” shaped valley.

We had pre-arranged to have lunch at the Tyn Y Cornel hotel which sits at the far end of the lake and having had the twisty section of road to ride along the shores of Tal-y-Llyn we were all ready for something to eat.  Sheila and her team had already prepared the sandwiches which had been ordered and as soon as we arrived they started cooking the hot food – fab service from everyone at this lovely hotel 🙂

The Welsh coastlineThe ride from lunch took us along the Welsh coastline which is a great motorcycling road on any day, but particularly for us on Sunday as the conditions were near perfect with blue skies giving rise to crystal blue seas and fluffy white clouds floating just above the mountain tops.  This was one section of road where you simply wanted to soak up everything and the saying “Riding a motorbike is like being in a picture” was never truer.

Bala Lake was our third and final lake of the day and whilst some enjoyed a cuppa, others were caught on camera with ice-creams and there were even burgers “on the barbie” for sale…… wonder if the people working out in the gym next door were tempted….!

We rode out of Wales into Cheshire with our afternoon departure point being The Sandstone near Broxton where a few of us took advantage of the weather and sat outside in the garden enjoying a brew before heading off home.  We had riders travel quite a distance to join us for this ride-out, one from near Huddersfield, others from Droitwich and Kidderminster, Shrewsbury and Warrington and we know that they saw Wales, and in particular the three lakes we visited, at their best.

On & Off-Road riding in Wales, April 2015

In late August / early September 2014 we ran our first On & Off-Road riding tour in conjunction with The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel and The Mick Extance Kawasaki Experience and it proved so popular then, that we have put three tours in the same format on for 2015, the first of which took place from the 26th – 28th April and the others are in July and October.

The tour is limited to 12 participants in the off-road day and this was only our second all male tour since we started DMT, in fact we could have called it a “family affair” as we had a grandfather, father and son, and two other father and sons on the tour, all very keen motorcyclists and a great group of people to ride with over the three days.

Clywedog Reservoir

Clywedog Reservoir

We started the tour on the outskirts of Shrewsbury and headed through the Shropshire Hills towards the border with Wales for our first Day 1 Brew stopcoffee stop in a small tearooms which has over 27 teas on offer, not to mention excellent tea cakes! From there we continued on some very open flowing motorcycling roads into Mid Wales and lunch was at The Elan Valley Visitor Centre.  We continued towards Machynlleth having a spectacular view of Clywedog Reservoir sparkling in the sunshine, and the blue skies continued all the way to our hotel which was our base for the duration of the tour.

Monday morning we headed over to the Tanat Valley to be met by Mick and his team who Briefing at Mick'sthen kitted everyone out in all the necessary safety gear and a comprehensive briefing was delivered as to how to handle the bikes and before you knew it everyone was out riding up into the forests and mountains.  As with this tour last year there were a mix of abilities as far as off-road riding is concerned but by the end of the day everyone throughly enjoyed the mud, the boulders, the inclines and declines and the sense of achievement as they negotiated the forest roads whilst learning new skills which are valueable not only for riding off-road but also for improving your road riding skills, especially slow speed and awareness of what to do on gravel or uneven surfaces.  Spectacular views over the Tanat ValleyThe views were stunning and several photo opportunities had to be taken during the course of the day as can be seen from our gallery.

We returned to the hotel for dinner that evening and a presentation delivered by Mick about his experiences in the Dakar Rally.  Everyone was enthralled by what Mick and all other participants in this Rally have to do to succeed.

For the last day of the tour the weather had been forecast to change, but luckily for us we continued to have blue skies although a little blustery riding over the Berwyns and into the Snowdonia National Park.  The top of Snowdon was easily seen albeit the cap of the mountain was covered in snow!!!!  We had a coffee stop at The Oakeley Arms hotel who had a roaring log fire burning to welcome us and then a lovely lunch stop at Conwy ValleyThe Eagles hotel in Llanrwst nestled in the Conwy Valley before riding over the Denbigh Moors and across the border into Shropshire for our dispersal point of the tour.

We had a fantastic tour where we enjoyed open roads, beautiful vistas and we are certainly looking forward to joining Mick and his team for the next event in July 🙂

 

First Tour of the 2015 Season – South Wales

Sometimes things come together in a way you can only imagine and that was exactly what happened for us on our recent motorcycle tour of South Wales.

When we put the tour onto the schedule for 2015 and chose the dates of 17th – 21st April we had our fingers (and toes!) crossed for good weather as we had previously toured through this part of Wales in the summer months of July 2012 and August 2013. Newgale beachAll we can say is that the “sun gods” were with us as we had brilliant blue skies accompanying us as we rode open roads through the counties of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire and visited the picturesque Gower Peninsula.

The other key ingredient to a good tour is the people and we were joined by an excellent group all sharing the passion of motorcycling whilst enjoying the scenery and locations we visited. It was good to renew acquaintances who have joined us on previous tours but also to meet new people and over a third of this tour were new clients to DMT.

Our tour started on the Friday with a route starting in North Shropshire, crossing the border into Wales and riding to a very picturesque spot at Elan ValleyThe Elan Valley Visitor Centre, nothing quite like an al fresco lunch to set you up for the excellent motorcycling roads we had planned for the afternoon.  We had a quick “pit stop” at The West End Cafe in Llandovery and suitably re-fuelled with ice-creams 🙂  we set off for the last 30 miles to our base for the weekend in Carmarthen.

On the Saturday we had a ride-out route into Pembrokeshire through rolling hills taking in the smallest city in the UK, that of St David’s before stopping for a not to be missed photo opportunity at the top of the Presili Mountains Presili Mountainswhere the views back over Pembrokeshire to the south and over Cardigan Bay to the north were stunning – as you can see some of our riders took time off their motorbikes to soak up the views 🙂

We stopped in the small fishing harbour town of Aberaeron for lunch and yet more ice-cream before heading back to Carmarthen.

For the ride-out on Sunday we called in at The National Showcaves of Wales, a great place to spend time at, although there was a very “fresh” feel to the air on the ride down the A40 and everyone was more interested in a warming brew in the on-site cafe rather than a visit down into the caves…… maybe next time!  Luckily we came back to the bikes with the temperatures on the rise and by the time we got to Rhossili BayRhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsula we had perfect riding conditions and were able to soak up the beauty of the beach and the surrounding landscape including Worms Head, as you can see from the picture, it is no wonder this beach ranks within the top 10 in Europe 🙂

The last day of the tour continued to be ridden under blue skies with yet more open, flowing riding roads through South and into Mid Wales.  We had morning coffee at The Owl’s Nest Tea Rooms and Diner in Llandovery and had an excellent welcome from Ian and the team – they even took a small video of us leaving as you can see from our facebook page!  Black MountainThe road over the Black Mountain has recently been reduced to a 40mph speed limit but quite honestly you would not want to ride too much faster on that road otherwise you would miss the excellent views you have from the top and as you descend towards Llandovery the hairpins you encounter mean you need to be keeping your speed low……. it’s still a fun road to ride!

In summary, we had waited the 6 months over the winter since our last tour of 2014 looking forward to the start of our 2015 motorcycle touring season and it was a cracking way to start the year………. thanks to all who joined us and here’s hoping the sun shines for us for the rest of the year 🙂