Entering our Ninth Year….

Where did the rest of 2019 go!!!  Here we are second week of the New Year and starting our ninth year of motorcycle touring.  We had great plans to have completed our write up of the 2019 touring season but with our Flavour of Spain tour keeping us busy into October and then preparations for MotorcycleLive at the NEC in Birmingham, time rather slipped away from us!  Our 9 days on the Kawasaki stand at MotorcycleLive in November went by in a very busy blur, it was great to catch up with everyone who visited both existing and potentially new clients.

Leading upto the bike show we had already received a significant number of enquiries regarding our 2020 tours and since then bookings have continued to come through consistently resulting in our tours already being nearly 90% full overall, a great way for us to head into the New Year and we are very much looking forward to riding with everyone.  We will be visiting new locations with our Spanish & Portuguese Borders tour in June and returning to parts of the world we have not toured through in a while such as the Isle of Anglesey in October which we last toured in 2015 (hard to believe where the time has gone…).

Our last ride of 2019 was in the week leading upto MotorcycleLive and since then due to other commitments we had not turned a wheel until the 5th of January!  New Year’s day we were up at the Ponderosa cafe on the Horseshoe Pass, Llangollen but with 4 wheels and walking gear!!  Practically unheard of for us, but it was great to see so many people out and about braving quite chilly conditions.  5th Jan PonderosaThe weather “warmed up” to a balmy 8 degrees on Sunday 5th Jan and we headed out to the Ponderosa, surprisingly not as many bikes out as we thought but that could have been because it was blowing a howling gale up there as can be attested by Geraint trying to stand up straight for this photo!

It was good to get back out on the bikes, not least because we need to keep “bike fit”, muscle memory soon seems to wear off over the winter months and because of this we try and get out as often as we can this time of year – it has helped that the gritters have not had to be out salting the roads too often yet.  We went out for another ride on the 10th of January, heading further into North Wales this time.  The roads were practically empty although it was good to see a couple of others out and about heading towards Llyn Brenig.  When the temperature dropped to 2 degrees over the Denbigh Moors it was time to call in at The DragonFly cafe on the A5 near Cerrigydrudion for a warming bowl of soup – they also have a fantastic log burner roaring in there so if you do find yourselves that way we can highly recommend it.  Hopefully the weather will stay mild and we can get a few more ride-outs in over the coming weeks ahead of a planned research trip to Spain in late March….. and then before we’ll know it our first tour of 2020 will be starting in April – we cannot wait 🙂

 

 

Our review of the Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE GT

The Versys 1000 has been our touring bike of choice for 8 years now, we have written before about the many reasons we have continued to use these machines, comfort, reliability, fuel consumption and carrying capacity being just a few, so when Kawasaki announced that a new version the SE GT was coming out in 2019 we were hooked and having seen it at MotorcycleLive in November 2018 we put an order in for one which we collected on the 1st of March, (pictured here with Paul and Liam from J&S at Oakmere).  If the first “running in” mileage is anything to go by we are in for a lot of fun as we go touring over the coming months.

Kawasaki have made significant enhancements to this model compared to our 2017 / 2018 Versys 1000’s (having said that we still rate the “older” models very highly and are continuing to run the others on tour this year).  It is difficult to know where to begin with the changes made.  Putting the electronics to one side, the other detailing is impressive, the new designed screen for example – as can be seen here the top image is of the 2017 model which has easy height adjustment, but the 2019 bike has a bigger screen with more air flow.  On some of our previous Versys we have had an aftermarket taller screen but in hot weather that had the draw back of very little airflow whereas this new design will offer both the protection and airflow we need.

The handguards have been well thought out offering much more protection as can also be seen from the above photo, unfortunately due to the bracketing etc., on the 2017 handlebars the new style guards will not fit (we did ask!!)

Then there is the exhaust, more compact than previous with a cool sound particularly at low speed, reminds us of the sound eminating from some of the Z1000 SX Tourers clients have had on tour with us 🙂

The colour has to be mentioned, as can be seen in this photo it has a deeper tone to it than the 2017 / 2018 green.  Then there are the decals which the Versys 650 models have had for a while now but added to the side panels of the 1000cc model it is striking.

We have opted for the SE GT version, the electronics are top class, the dash for example is clear and can be set up in various modes depending on your preference.  The Kawasaki Cornering Management system is outstanding.  The electronic suspension is easy to operate with 4 riding modes – Sport, Road, Rain and Rider and over the first two days of riding we have had it set up for 2 up with luggage, 1 up with luggage and 1 up no luggage all at the flick of a button.  We are still running in the machine before it’s first service booked in for mid March but have already covered 350 miles and the handling is sublime.  The quickshifter is a superb addition and allows for seamless gear changing during acceleration.

Having covered the above mileage the Versys has now had it’s first wash!  This has given us an opportunity to spot other refinements that have been added to the machine.  The hugger and chain guard are slightly different together with and enhanced swinging arm that you may not have noticed when first looking at the bike.

The 2019 touring season is nearly upon us and this is certainly a bike which will create smiles for all of those miles 🙂 🙂

The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE GT

So here’s the thing, we go away for a week of winter sun and see from social media platforms that Kawasaki UK are having their Official European Media launch for the new 2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE GT on the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura 🙂

We set off on the Wednesday for a visit to the south of the island of Fuerteventura and on our return through the mountains that afternoon we see one of the new bikes riding towards us!  The roads they had chosen for the ride were superb, technical tight turns in some places opening out to sweeping bends all with spectacular scenery and under pure blue skies – they could not have had a better day for testing the new bikes.

Fortunately for us we were at one of the stunning view points on the Betancuria road when a few more Versys could be seen approaching and

one in particular being tested by John Westlake of Bike magazine pulled in to the same car park giving us a superb opportunity to see the bike not only in action but to ask him how he was finding it.   He was clearly enjoying the performance of the bike especially on the roads of Fuerteventura.

Whilst on the stand with Kawasaki UK at MotorcycleLive last November we were able to see the SE GT version on the stand but seeing it out on the road was something else.  We already have one on order to be collected ahead of our 2019 touring season and having been able to see this machine on the roads it was designed for has left us in no doubt it was the right decision 🙂 🙂 

 

 

Spring is here – Goodbye Winter!

So today is the day we motorcyclists look forward to….. the first day of Spring and to be honest it could not come soon enough 🙂   We saw a post recently which summed up the Winter quite well “It is like it has had a tantrum, run out of the room and then stormed back in saying – and another thing…..!!!”  The clocks will soon “spring” forward an hour with lighter evenings and as we have sent out our first tour itineraries today it most definitely feels like the touring season is finally just around the corner.

The cold weather has been biting in Europe too, we were in Germany and Italy last week on a research trip for our 2019 / 2020 seasons and  so very glad we made the decision to go in the car rather than on the bikes – we felt very sorry for this Belgian rider who would have ridden in decent weather to the hotel one day and woken up to this the next morning!  But then the capacity for coping with the snow is on a different level in Europe to the way we deal with it in the UK.  Only a few days ago we were at over 7,000 feet in Italy and this small mountain pass was perfectly clear we think the road sign was very apt in this instance 🙂

We did have some blue skies and sunshine whilst passing through Austria on route to Italy last week as this beautiful snowscene demonstrates – we are putting in our order for the blue but not the white for the start of our first tour of 2018 when we visit County Donegal, Ireland in just over 3 weeks 🙂

For info, following on from our three winter recce trips we now have a clear steer of how our 2019 tour programme is likely to pan out, the tour to the Dolomites in July of next year is already full with expressions of interest and we now have two confirmed UK tours lined up – Mid Wales in April and Devon in May.  Ireland and Spain are most definitely on the agenda with a visit to Millau also on the calendar in June and we will be returning to the Vosges in August of 2019.  Other tours are in the pipeline so look out for updates throughout the year.   Whatever your plans are for this year we trust you have a safe and happy year of riding.

 

 

Chasing some Winter sun – “Dragon” style!

Conversations regarding where to head to for some winter sun tend to be based either around a ski-ing trip or visiting warmer climes such as the Caribbean or Australia and New Zealand but not for us!   We took ourselves over to France and Spain for just shy of two weeks on a research trip, checking out hotels and new routes for tours we plan to undertake in 2019 and 2020 – the weather was mixed it’s fair to say but worth everyone of the over 4,000 miles we covered 🙂

Admittedly we had some cooler temperatures through France but when you are greeted just over the border into Spain by this sign in the foothills of the Pyrenees you know the trip was worth it.  Not every Repsol garage has the good grace to decorate their signage with a motorbike but perhaps they should?! 🙂  There is still a (some may say), old fashioned feel to the majority of fuel stations in Spain where an attendant serves you, we find it rare to have automated pumps over there outside of the major cities.  Ordinarily when on a tour it’s quicker to go to a multi pump station to get as many bikes filled up as possible but when it is the Spanish way you just have to go with the flow and usually there will be a cafe or bar nearby where you can take in a coffee or enjoy some local tapas and fuel the bikes at a slower pace.  The fuel station facilities are always immaculate too, something some of the UK locations could learn a lesson from.

Aside from that, in Spain the fuel is a good price too, which cannot be said for France at the moment which is actually slightly more expensive than the UK based on current exchange rates and some tax levied earlier this year.  They still have terrific riding roads though albeit something you should be aware of is a new legislation passed recently which comes into effect from July of this year (2018) when all national routes will be reduced from 90kph to 80kph

As for Spanish roads, well they never fail to amaze along with some of the most stunning scenery.  We have ridden in America in the past and many parts of Spain remind us of the states of Colorado and Utah  – no wonder a lot of “spaghetti westerns” were filmed in Spain.  As can be seen from this ride near Teruel, at this time of year, you can be riding at elevations of over 5,000 ft for miles and hardly see a sole and surprisingly very little snow too considering it is February!

Which ever way you choose to soak up some valuable vitamin D over the winter we hope you enjoy yourselves and just think it’s not too long now until Spring 🙂

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.  🙂

 

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.

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.