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 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 🙂

 

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 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………..

 

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.