A Winter research trip to Ireland

The winter months are obviously not the best time of year to go motorcycle touring, that is of course unless you can whisk yourself away to some hot foreign climes and hire yourself a bike for a few weeks – in fact in the winter of 2017 that is exactly what we did when we visited Malaysia and rode through the Cameron Highlands – a great experience where we met some lovely people and found great riding roads – you can read about it in our blog post from January 2017.

No such trip for us this year though instead we’ve had days in the office preparing our routes and itineraries ahead of this 2018 touring season and also planning for our 2019 and 2020 tours 🙂  We also took ourselves off to Ireland at the end of January to fine tune a couple of routes for our tour in September of this year but mainly to look ahead for the future.

There are some who think they can ride along the Wild Atlantic Way in just a few days which is actually possible but then you would miss such a lot of the splendour of the rugged landscape, the variety in scenery, the magnificance of the Atlantic whether it be on a calm or stormy day (in the case of this photo taken on our recent trip!)  and most importantly for us the people who are so very welcoming wherever you choose to visit.  We prefer to run our tours which take in the WAW in “chunks” staying in one county for 2 or 3 nights to make the most of the regional scenery and roads.

It is easy to forget that the WAW is not all about the coastline, yes this is the main focal point and the Irish tourist board have done an excellent job on providing routes and places of interest to visit close to the sea, but travel a short distance inland and you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery.

On this research trip we concentrated on Connemara and County Clare, whilst we are familiar with both counties having toured there previously, it is always worth a refresher now and then and we discovered new places to visit in the future (we’ll keep them under wraps for the time being though !!!) 🙂  There are some parts of the WAW which would be worth visiting if you are travelling by car but maybe not so good for a motorcycle tour, due in the main to the type of roads.  Whilst we are all familiar with the undulating nature of many of the road network in Ireland due to the peat bogs much of the tarmac is laid over, there are some which in the more remote locations are not, shall we say….. designed for 2 wheels!  If you do find yourself in a car in Connemara though you may wish to venture a few miles off-piste to some of the outer network of islands and take in the moonlike structure of the rock formations, very similar to The Burren National Park in County Clare but on a smaller scale.

Our winter research continues in February with a two week trip through France and Spain – look out for our facebook posts from that one and then in March we’ll be heading through Germany and Italy – we’re already looking forward to the new tours which will come out of these trips.  🙂

 

Off-Road Riding in Wales

As in previous years we will once again this year be combining on road touring through Mid and North Wales with a day off-road riding with The Mick Extance Experience team.  We have two tours this years one at the end of April and the other in early October and there is still space on both of these if you would like to join us.

The tour in early Spring will give you a good start to the touring season as it is a short tour over three days, the first riding through the heart of Mid Wales over the Dylfie Gorge which gives you the first glimpses of the Snowdonia range which you will ride through on the third and final day of the tour.

We have had clients join us on these tours with no experience at all of off-road riding whilst others range from having dabbled in the past to those who either own off-road bikes themselves or who have undertaken other courses.  It’s kind of a “one type fits all” experience.  Mick and his team not only have a wealth of knowledge between them but a huge sense of fun as well which is a great environment for learning new skills.  The forest tracks they have on their doorstep not only provide you with terrific scenery to ride through but also a huge variety of terrain, with gravel tracks, forest roads, hills to climb and descend and as many muddy puddles as you want!!!

Transferring the skills you learn on the off-road day is a key element to the reason we put these tours together with Mick Extance.  This will be our 4th year and each group who join us go away with a huge sense of achievement and a lot to smile about 🙂

If you think this tour might be of interest please check out the details on our tours page or you can contact us direct at info@dragonmototours.co.uk

 

 

Happy Christmas from “The Dragons”

Without stating the obvious!!!  it’s Christmas next week but it seems like no time since we were preparing for the festivities in 2016….. This year has certainly flown by for us, we have had a terrific season of touring having covered nearly 24,000 miles in that time each one with a smile on our faces too 🙂  There are so many highlights to the 2017 season we are working on a YouTube video which we shall be putting up on our channel in the next few days reviewing the year, so look out for that one.

Even though the tours themselves are over we have not gone into hibernation as some may think!!!  The winter months are when we plan for the future and we are already well on the way with the route plans for the 2018 touring season and deciding on where to tour in 2019 with some research trips coming up in the first 3 months of next year.

Our 2018 tours are booking up quickly and if you are interested in any of them please get in touch so we can advise on availability.  We’ll be starting the season off in the Emerald Isle revisiting County Donegal.  When we were there in early May this year we had wall to wall sunshine so we are hoping the leprechauns are going to be on our side again in April 2018!

We have three tours next year in Spain, the first starts at the end of May when we are repeating our Northern Spain tour  which we first ran in June of this year – 8 riding days through a region of contrasts from lakes and mountains to gorges and valleys.  We then stay in Spain for a new tour  – the Spanish Spa and end our 2018 season as we did this year with our Flavour of Spain tour in October.

Also during 2018 we are touring through France, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Luxembourg and Austria so a lot to look forward to and for those of you who have already booked and for those considering joining us we are very much looking forward to riding with you.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and enjoyable 2018.  

 

 

Dewi’s fun time at MotorcycleLive 2017

Before you ask – we’ve not lost the plot….. we just thought you might like a slightly off the wall review of our week at MotorcycleLive 2017.  It was a great event this year, just over 107,000 people visited over the 9 days and we are sure that none of them would have been disappointed with the variety of bikes and equipment on display.  However, one “person”  who we know had a blast was our very own DewiTheDragon!!!!!  He has been riding with us over the past year having left his “home” at The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel in October 2016 and some of you who follow us on Instagram and Twitter may have already seen that he likes to get in on the action when on tour…..  🙂

He managed to sneak in to the bike show last week and whilst we chatted on the Club Kawasaki stand with people about touring, bikes and riding in general, Dewi took himself off to try out not only some of the Kawasaki range but also made friends with James Ellison and took a turn at being a coffee barista!!!

The Kawasaki stand was truly impressive this year, set out into zones it was easy for everyone (including Dewi!) to find their way around whether it be to the touring section or retro, through to racing and also off-road.  As Geraint demonstrates here, the Ninja H2 SX SE was probably one of the most sat on bikes on the stand closely followed by the Z900 – the Cafe Racer being Dewi’s favourite.

 

 

Our little dragon also took himself off-roading before any of the crowds arrived 🙂 and having exhausted his options with bikes we discovered that he had helped (or more likely hindered!) Sam and Tristan from Express Coffee 🙂

All in all a pretty busy week for Dewi…..!!!

It certainly was a good show for us and we very much appreciated how many of you took the time to call by and visit us.  We met so many new people as well all with one thing in common – the love of motorbikes.  2017 has been a terrific touring year for us – bring on 2018 🙂

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.

Versys no. 8 arrives!!!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Our 2017 Motorcycle Touring Season continues

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

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

Lough Doo

Achill Island

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

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

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

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

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

 

Touring in Wales April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our 6th Versys has arrived!!!

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

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

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

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

2016 Model Indicators

2017 Model Indicators