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 🙂

 

How many scones can you have on a Motorcycle Tour….!

When you think of a tour of Ireland you think of the “great craic”, warm welcomes and rain!!!  We had all three but luckily only a small amount of the latter 🙂  and the other thing to now add to any motorcycle tour of the Emerald Isle is “scones”!!!!  Scones anyone...We had brown ones, fruit ones, warm ones, butter and jam with some, just butter with others and cream and jam was perhaps the favourite of the majority!!  The jam and cream ones were baked by Des and his team at The Thatch, Crinkill – if you are ever in that part of the world call by you will sure of a very warm welcome, it’s a 300 year old thatched cottage and has been in their family for 6 generations.

Our 4 day tour through the heart of Ireland started with a ride over the Views from Wicklow GapWicklow Mountains, the views from the top are wonderful, albeit a bit breezy on the tops!!!  The open landscape offered us a flowing ride both on ascent and descent before we rode through Curragh common, an area renowned for its horse racing studs and training grounds, onto our hotel for the evening.  We encountered a shower just before our coffee stop – they say timing is everything!!!!  which was true in this case as we came back out to the bikes just as it was blowing over.

Day 2 of the tour took us on the Lough Derg scenic ride, blue skies and very little traffic made for a pleasant ride to morning coffee at Flynn’s bar, no scones this time but a very warm welcome yet again with roaring fires and coffee and tea on constant refill.  Onto Killaloe for lunch overlooking a very full River Shannon which glinted in the sunshine before we rode over the hills to Kinvara on The Wild Atlantic Way.

Day 3 was something of a history lesson, with the visit to The Thatch that morning followed by a ride over Slieve Bloom mountainsthe Slieve Bloom mountains which, along with the Massif Central in France, are the oldest mountains in Europe – it’s a great ride over the wide open space which opens out to a panoramic view of the lowlands below.  We then picked up part of the Gordon Bennett route and stopped for a photo at the memorial which explains a little about the history of the road race which took place in 1903 – the average speed of that race was 49.2mph over the 327.5 mile distance – some going in that era we think you’ll agree.  Our last step back in time for the day was a visit to The Kilbeggan Whiskey distillery which is the oldest licenced distillery in Ireland dating back to 1757, the tour was excellent and as we were riding bikes they gave us a handful of minatures to take away which we were able to taste after dinner in the hotel that evening 🙂

The last day of our tour was a country ride back to Dublin Port and the afternoon ferry.  We took the scenic route all the way rather than the motorway and had a lovely dry roads all day.  Morning coffee in Granard was made even better by the warm, homemade fruit scones which everyone tucked into heartily before heading onto lunch in “Ireland’s Ancient east” as the region around Ardee is known.

A warm welcome We thoroughly enjoyed riding the roads through Central Ireland over the 4 days of the tour, even some of the peat roads, which can be undulating at times, brought a grin to everyone’s faces.  We are looking forward to returning to Ireland in September when we head further south to the Ring of Kerry, details of which are on our website.

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!!

The first 600 miles of Jan’s new Versys…..

21st March 2016 was the dayVersys 21-3-2016 Jan picked up her new Kawasaki Versys 1000 from Kevin at J&S Motorcycles, Oakmere.  The bike was handed over with 4 miles on the clock, only another 596 to do before it’s first service…….  With our 2016 motorcycle touring season about to start on the 10th April these miles had to be put on quickly and so on leaving J&S we set off on a 100 mile ride into North Wales to pick up Geraint’s newly painted helmet which Mike from MAD Designs had just completed.  HelmetIt’s the same design as previous but “blinged up” a bit more this time, (looking forward to the sunshine picking up the sparkles 🙂 !!!!!), and due to the design on this SHOEI helmet the Welsh Dragon is set slightly further back.

A few days later we added nearly 200 more miles onto the new bike with a ride into North Wales on a typical UK spring Bikes near Dinas Mawddwyday which had sunshine, blue skies, rain, hail and even snow on the hills as you can see from this photo of “old style” Versys and the new bike taken near Dinas Mawddwy.  We had, what can only be described as “Millionaires motorcycling” that day with very little traffic on the roads, it felt like we had Wales to ourselves at times 🙂

After Easter Geraint had a few Assessment days booked in and on two of them Jan rode to the start points to clock up the last couple of hundred miles needed.  Riding to Ludlow on the 2nd April certainly gave an opportunity for some wet weather riding!  It lashed it down all the way there and back but it’s good to get in the practice for all types of weather.  Unsurprisingly the majority of motorcyclists would not deliberately go out for a ride in the pouring rain but when you’re on a tour and you encounter poor weather it is always useful to have had some experience of how to adapt your riding to the conditions.

The final 120 miles were put on the bike yesterday (6th April), this time Jan rode to Welshpool to the start point of another Assessment, the cafe was certainly the best place Howling gale!to be when the skies turned black and the wind started howling!!!  Luckily as quickly as the storm came it blew through and Rob was able to undertake his Assessment ride in reasonable weather and Jan had a good ride home stopping off for a photo at Ellesmere lake.

Today the bike goes in for its 600 mile service ahead of our first tour of the year which starts this coming Sunday 10th April – Wales On & Off-Road.  We’ll also be having the new Metzeler Roadtec 01 tyres fitted to it which we will putting to the test over the coming weeks and months and you can read up on how they handle in our forthcoming blogs.

 

A Kawasaki demo day with MCO

We were invited to join the Motorcycle Centre Orrell team for their Kawasaki Open Demo day today (19th March 2016) and despite the significant chill in the air, there was an excellent turn out throughout the day.Going out on test rides  A wide range of the latest Kawasaki motorcycles were available to test ride, with the Versys 650 and 1000 cc models proving very popular as was the ZX10 and the GTR1400.  There were several test ride sessions available throughout the day with two or three outriders accompanying the group.  They certainly looked good leaving the showroom and turned heads out on the open road riding as a group. 🙂

With the nip in the air we were kept warm with help from the Our tea ladies for the daygirls who were manning the coffee stand, they also had put on a traditional hotpot and red cabbage dish for lunch which went down extremely well with all of the riders who attended the event!

Whilst we were at the event we were able to chat a whole host of riders who wanted to know what sort of bikes we used for our tours and also about add ons that we could recommend such as the Oxford heated grips which are easy to fit and use.  With us both having Versys 1000’s we were able to confidently talk through the benefits that this model has for motorcycle touring and one guy even cancelled his test ride on the GTR, took the Versys 1000 out and came back and put a deposit down!!! 🙂  We could also talk through with people the feedback we have from our clients who come on tour on models such as the GTR 1400, the Z1000 SX and the ER6F.

Cruiser style.....Geraint took the opportunity to try out a cruiser style for a change….. although not sure it would work for some of our longer European tours!!!  Electric pushbikeHe then tried out an electric push bike which MCO are selling – took all the effort out of pedal cycling that’s for sure, but not maybe a good idea for touring!!!

It was a busy day and we would like to thank Charles and the team for inviting us along to the event.

 

Talking Motorbikes at our 2016 Winter Social

This is the third year that we have had a Winter Social event in the month of February and we held it this time in the Caernarfon CastleRoyal Welsh town of Caernarfon.  The idea behind the event is to bring people together who have a love of motorcycling and touring during the middle of the winter when, let’s face it, the majority of riders have parked up their bikes!

Leading up to the event on the 6th February, the weather forecast had been “holding fair” and some were intending on riding to North Wales taking advantage of the glorious roads through Snowdonia, but we were sandwiched between the named storms “Gertrude” and “Imogen” and so all two wheels were sensibly left at home…….

We had 70 sitting down for dinner that evening and during the course of the day it was great to catch up with everyone as they arrived at the hotel.  The level of chatter gradually escalated as more arrived and they spotted either friends they’ve ridden with previously or met new people and in the case of one of our new clients, Mike, he spotted someone in the bar who he had not seen for 10 years!!  They do say its a small world 🙂  As people greeted each other, it was hilarious to hear comments such as “I didn’t recognise you with normal clothes on” or “which bike do you ride?”, funny how motorcyclists recognise each other either by their riding gear or what type of motorbike they have!

Leading up to the event we had several fun filled hours putting together a dvd presentation from the tours we have done in the past.  For this particular evening we did a “down memory lane” one and looked back at some of the classic photos we have taken since our first tour in April 2012……. boy, did we look young then!!!!! 🙂

The hotel had laid the room out for us with a welsh colour scheme and daffodils and provided excellent service throughout the weekend, so a big thanks goes to everyone at The Celtic Royal, we are looking forward to staying with them again on our tour of North Wales in the autumn.

Power Ranger singingWe had music provided by our very own “Green Power Ranger”, Chris who played a set on his acoustic guitar and then had people joining him to sing along. Beckie, aka “The Red Power Ranger” did a good set despite not being able to read the words due to the special glasses Chris made her wear 🙂

We’d like to thank everyone for joining us at the weekend and it certainly kickstarted the touring season for us – what with the lighter nights coming and longer days, it was a great way for everyone to start thinking again about touring and enjoying the spectacular scenery and riding roads we have planned for the year ahead.

 

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……

 

A quiet time for motorcyclists…..?

Generally January is a quiet month for many people, post Christmas the indulgences of the festive period have caught up, new year resolutions are tested within the first week or two and that diet just doesn’t seem to be working!!!!  But for motorcyclists it can seem an even longer month if the colder weather hits and especially if the roads are gritted, many decide to take their bikes off the road for the winter months whilst others ride all year in all weathers.  In our experience many of the riders who join us on tour throughout our touring season will also ride out on their bikes over the winter, even if it means spending nearly twice the usual time washing the muck off 🙂

Over the winter we don’t run tours and ride-outs although we do get the bikes out as often as we can, nothing like blowing a few cobwebs off on a crisp, cold sunny day in January and February.  However, the majority of our winter is spent planning ahead to the upcoming touring season, making sure the routes are ready for our clients, taking in bookings for the tours we have planned and also researching for the following year.

This is the third winter we’ll be holding a Winter social event, this year to be in early February.  It’s an opportunity for everyone to catch up either with people they’ve met on tours before or to meet people who they will be riding with over the coming months and generally a lot of “motorbike talking” will be undertaken 🙂

We have held the event in Mid Wales for the past two years and this year will be heading further North to the beautiful coastal town of Caernarfon. Caernarfon Castle  It would be wonderful to think that the weather will be kind to us and we can all ride through the stunning Snowdonia Mountains on our way there, but in reality it is most likely that other modes of transport will get us there this year, especially as the forecast for the next few weeks is for the UK to be caught up in a “cold blast”…...

One of the great things we get to do as part of our preparations for the Winter Social is to put together a presentation of tours and ride-outs we have done over the previous touring season and also to look ahead to the motorcycling tours we have planned for 2016, we show this over dinner on the Saturday evening and it is certainly a great way to forget the winter blues and to focus on what is important to us as motorcyclists……. the roads, scenery and people.

January may be portrayed as a quiet month but it doesn’t fall into that category for us, we are as busy as ever not necessarily clocking up the physical miles but preparing the routes for the miles we are to cover in our season which starts in early April.  We’re looking forward to keeping you updated throughout the year and hope that you all have a great year of motorcycling.  The “quiet time” of winter will then be but a distant memory 🙂