Latest News from the Dragons!!

As well as using this site for our blogs on touring and all things motorcycling, we are also going to be including news updates for you from the world of DragonMotoTours.  You will have noticed that we recently updated our website ahead of our 2018 touring season and streamlined some of the pages resulting in our previous Newsletter tab being archived, however, you only have to check out our blog site and you can keep up to date on our winter activities as we have several research trips coming up.

The tours for 2018 are selling well and we are already looking ahead to our 2019 season – nothing like planning ahead!!!  We have to comment though that from the uptake of our tours for next year many of you out there are already planning your motorcycling holidays and if any of our tours are of interest to you please contact us either via the website contact page or direct to info@dragonmototours.co.uk

We will be at MotorcycleLive 2017 at the NEC which starts on the 18th of November running through to Sunday 26th and if you would like to find out which tours we have availability on come and see us on the Club Kawasaki stand in Hall 3 as we are going to be there all week.  There are lots of news bikes going to be on show on the Kawasaki stand including the Versys range of bikes – as you know we particularly like the 1000cc model having used these for touring now since 2012 – infact we blogged about our 8th Versys arriving a couple of months ago 🙂  If you are visiting the show it would be great to see you.

Our Flavour of Spain Tour 2017

Our 2017 Touring season finished at the end of October after our Flavour of Spain Tour.  We first ran this tour in 2016 and such is the popularity we are including it in our 2018 and 2019 seasons.  It’s a great time of year to visit Spain with quiet roads, the autumn colours showing themselves and the temperatures are just about right for riding at high teens – mid twenties 🙂  In fact during our 3 nights on the coast several of our clients took more than one dip in the Med and spent time topping up their tans before returning to the UK winter!

We mentioned last year that there is no doubt in our minds why Spain produces so many great motorcycle racers as they have terrific riding roads to go and practice on!!!!  (Well ok most of the racers don’t tend to have road licences but you get our drift….) These curves through Valencia Province typify the type of roads we enjoyed over the near 2,500 miles of the tour and we are very much looking forward to returning there in 2018 for our Northern Spain tour in May/June, our Spanish Spa tour in June and Flavour of Spain tour in October.

Wherever we rode during the tour we were offered a very warm welcome – albeit sometimes there were some bemused looks as 20 bikes rode through some of their sleepy villages and quiet towns.  We even had a comment made that “the british don’t tend to come to these parts”!!!  🙂  Well that is, after all, why we tour where we do to show the hidden gems of the country, to meet lovely people and to enjoy spectacular scenery along the way.  At one lunch venue we were even given our own welcome sign and they’d opened up especially for us preparing a 3 course lunch with a drink for €10!  No wonder our group look so happy…….

The diverse nature of Spain lends itself to touring whether you enjoy open roads, sweeping bends, hairpins, mountains, coastlines, lakes and much more we can guarantee you will not be disappointed.  We are already researching for new destinations in our 2019 and 2020 seasons and extended our stay in Spain post completion of the tour, spending 5 days riding within the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees before heading north through France – we’re already looking forward to putting together new tours to incorporate the roads and scenery 🙂

If you are going to the MotorcycleLive event at the NEC this month come along and chat with us – we can fill you in on our plans.  We’ll be on the Club Kawasaki stand in Hall 3.

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!!!

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 🙂

 

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”!!!

 

 

 

 

 

A busy year of Motorcycle Touring…….

For regular visitors to our website you may have been wondering why our blog has not been updated since our Norfolk & Suffolk tour back in May.  It is hard to believe that 6 months have passed since our last blog – where has the time gone?  Actually a very easy question to answer – “We’ve been touring” 🙂  It has in fact been our busiest year with 17 tour events undertaken, 10 countries visited and just short of 23,000 tour miles covered, (not forgetting the miles covered through the Welsh hills and forests on the 3 off-road days we enjoyed on tour with The Mick Extance Experience).

We now turn our attention to 2017 and already we are very much looking forward to a busy and exciting year with even more new tours being introduced into our programme.

A Flavour of Spain2016 was the first year for us where we ran a tour to Spain, it was our intention from setting up DragonMotoTours five years ago that we would run a tour here,we covered 8,000 miles over the winter months researching different regions to tour which would give people a real Flavour for the country, its people and more importantly for it’s motorcycling roads.  As a result of our research we are going to be touring in Spain on three separate occasions next year concentrating in the north for one tour, riding through the Spanish Pyrenees for another and repeating our Flavour of Spain tour in the autumn of 2017.

We will be attending MotorcycleLive at the NEC Birmingham from the 19th to 27th November on the Kawasaki stand for the duration of the show and you can catch up with us there or follow our blogs over the next few weeks when we will bring you upto date with the highlights of our 2016 tours, the variety in terrain we rode through, the places we visited, the people we met along the way and we’ll take you through our 2017 season to come.

 

Motorcycling in the East of England

In 2015 we announced that we would be running a motorcycle tour to the counties of Norfolk & Suffolk in the east of England with the most common comment being “we’ve never been there….”.  Within a few short weeks of that announcement the tour was full and carried a reserve list, such was the interest in riding in this part of the UK.  Whilst there may not be dramatic mountain scenery and passes to ride, there are several interconnecting B class roads which flow through both counties taking you passed windmills, through thatched cottage villages, open countryside and along the coast with so many interesting places to visit – we only scratched the surface over the 4 days of the tour.

We stayed close to the seaside resort of Cromer for 3 nights right at the most north east tip of Norfolk.  Riding through Thetford ForestOur location gave us lovely routes to ride through both the Thetford and Kings forests and we were only a short distance for a ride-out on the Sunday morning to the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum at North Walsham.  A real treasuretrove of a place to visit and the owners have a strong passion for motorbikes.  It does have a feel of stepping back in time, a lot of the bikes are fully restored whilst others are what you might call “work in progress”… Norfolk Motorcycle Museumand we would like to take this opportunity to thank George and Valerie for making us so welcome.

Whilst on the subject of warm welcomes…… we had these at all of our coffee and lunch stops in both Norfolk and Suffolk and had a particularly good welcome from the volunteers at 100th Bomb Groupthe 100th Bomb Group Memorial at Thorpe Abbotts.  They had even thought ahead and cordonned off some hard standing for us to park the motorbikes on as their usual carpark is gravel 🙂  The museum is housed in the original airfield control tower and is a moving testament to the Americans who came to Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk to fight alongside the allies during World War Two, well worth a visit should you find yourself in this part of the world.

On the Saturday ride-out we had one eagle-eyed client who spotted that one of the tyres on another bike looked “soft” – as it turned out when we got to our lunch stop there was only 9 psi in the tyre which then drew us to find a rather large nail embedded in the rubber!  Geraint managed to plug the tyre and after a couple of phone calls we were able to source a new set of tyres for the bike from Orwell Motorcycles at Ipswich.  Thanks to everyone at Orwell who provided excellent customer service.  Geraint rode with Martin to Orwell’s to make sure that everything was ok on route there which meant that Jan had to take the lead on the afternoon leg back to the hotel!!!!!  It doesn’t happen very often and everyone played their part in the corner marking with a special thanks to Bill & Janet for stepping in and being the back marker for the afternoon 🙂

We had started this tour on Friday 13th which is considered an unlucky day in some parts of the world and although we had a random road closure to contend with on the morning leg, we felt it was a lucky day for another one of our clients who spotted a nail in their tyre at morning coffee only to find that it had gone into the sidewall only and they were able to continue on the tour, so tyres had been a bit of a theme over the weekend!

We will certainly consider returning to the east of England to run a motorcycle tour in the future so keep checking our website for future dates….

 

Ride & Dine Tour 2016

Our first tour into Mainland Europe for 2016 was over a week from the end of April and over the May bank holiday, riding through 5 countries and what turned out to be several seasons!!!  Snowball fighting in The Vosgeswhoever would have thought we would have a snowball fight on the 1st of May?? 🙂  As it goes we had very little rain which was the main thing and although the temperatures were unseasonably low at times the sun was out for most of the tour giving us great dry riding roads.

The clue is in the title for this tour where we rode and dined very well too!!  The hospitality of our 3 hotels on this tour was outstanding and their locations offer us such a wide variety of motorcycling roads it would be easy to end up spending 7 weeks there not just 7 days.

We started our tour with a ride through France and Belgium into Luxembourg which was home for the first 2 nights.  Riding the German / Luxembourg borderThe old town of Vianden with its impressive chateau lies in the Our Valley and is very close to the border with Germany.  All roads are smooth and “potholeless” in this part of the world, they have open sweeping bends which flow through the countryside giving you excellent crossviews as you take in the beautiful scenery.  We had a blue sky day for our ride-out from Vianden which firstly took us into Germany and then across the border back into Luxembourg riding through the Mullterhal which is known as “The Little Switzerland of Luxembourg” – it’s a small area but great fun to ride as the road snakes under rocky outcrops.  Esch-sur-SureFrom there we continued through the Duchy to the small community of Esch-sur-Sure.  We took this photo from the top of the castle – quite a hike up the steps but the views of the River Sauer as it meanders through the village are well worth the climb 🙂

The Alsace region was out next destination and is a fantastic area for motorcycling, the wine villages are so pretty with their half timbered structures and narrow streets all nestled in this vast wine growing area.  The Rhine river is close by as are the Vosges Mountains which we had our Sunday ride-out through.  Due to the unusual weather conditions for the time of year we had to cut our plans to ride the Col du Bonhomme which was under snow!!!  But the lower Cols in the region were open, we visited Dabo but sadly the mist came in and the views of the Vosges were somewhat limited!!  Undeterred we continued ascending the 11kms of the Col du Donon, wide sweeping bends which flow to the top of the Col and this was where we found the snow!!!  There had been a fall of it overnight and the table tops at the cafe were white over – this then became the ammunition for the snowball fight!  The roads, themselves were fine, well gritted and it certainly gave everyone something to laugh about over dinner that evening.

As we left the Alsace we rode through the Vosges, A sunny Col du Dononthis time ascending the Donon the otherside and what a difference 24 hours can make, clear blue skies, temperatures doubled, dry riding roads and beautiful scenery.  The weather remained kind to us for the remainder of the day as we rode to the Champagne-Ardenne region of France which was home for the last 2 nights of the tour.

Our ride-out on the penultimate day of the tour was through the French and Belgian Ardennes, sunglasses were required which is always a good sign – our indicators were not needed much though as we hardly saw a car all day to overtake!!!  We rode through the forests and View from Rochehautthe beautiful Semois Valley to have lunch overlooking what must be one of the most photographed locations in Belgium from the high village of Rochehaut before descending into the open landscape of the French Ardennes.  On returning to our hotel, we were able to enjoy after ride-out drinks on the sun terrace before sitting down to our final dinner of the tour sampling some of the excellent cuisine the french are so famous for.

Thanks to everyone who joined us on this tour, we had several new clients and some who had never done a motorcycle tour before, this taster of northern Europe has hopefully given them an insight into why we love touring so much 🙂