Further into Spain we ride…..

Having spent nearly 4 days riding south along the Spanish / Portguese border we turned the bikes east and over the last couple of days have ridden through Andalucia and the Provinces of Murcia and Valencia.

Where to start?  There have been three constant themes on this trip so far – great roads, stunning scenery and good weather…..  time will tell on the latter 🙂  Jan achieved a bit of a milestone on Monday’s ride in Andalucia with her 2017 Versys clocking over 50,000 miles in 2 years.  The bike has proved to be an excellent touring machine, but then so have all of our Versys 1000’s.  The new 2019 SE GT of Geraint’s is also living up to all expectations, from when we first saw it at MotorcycleLive in November 2018 on the Kawasaki UK stand we were keen to try it out on excellent riding roads and bringing it to Spain and Portugal has certainly achieved that goal!  

Any bike would seem to handle better on pothole / traffic free roads we are sure you will agree and the SE GT is no exception.  There are though other minor changes over previous models which are noticeable as we cover the miles on this trip – the hand grips for example are very slightly smaller than the 2017 /18 model, not a major change but it does give for good feel when riding, this is together with bonus of the improved shaping of the handguards which have worked a treat when the temperatures have been cooler first thing in a morning.  The screen on the higher setting on the SE GT provides good protection from some of the cross winds we have had on the open roads, for a short distance a couple of days ago we swapped bikes so Jan could try out the new model and it took a bit of getting used to for Geraint riding the 2017 model with the smaller screen again with the wind noise being something he noticed straight away.

As we have crossed through Spain, we have never seen as many olive groves as we encountered riding in Andalucia and then as we headed to the coast we rode through both cherry orchards and orange groves, the country is diverse in so many ways!

Each place we have stopped off at for either coffees or a bite to eat have been both welcoming and entertaining – the chatter which goes on in the bars is on a whole different level, not only do they “put the world to rights” over coffee they also do it at a very loud volume!!  We have caused something of a stir too, we guess they don’t see many people from the UK turning up on two green bikes in some of the remote areas we have been to with no english being spoken (good for testing out our language skills!)  Many of the bars and cafes are long established such as this one in Valencia Province, looks like someone’s house to be fair on the road side, but go through the doors and the place was buzzing, we were greeted with a warm smile and a great tasting coffee.

It would have been “rude” not to have visited the coast whilst on this trip, so we booked into a hotel about 50km’s north of Benidorm in a quieter but never the less bustling resort for a night.  We even took the Versys slightly off-road to get this photo 🙂

We head north today back into the mountains, making our way eventually to watch some of the World Superbike racing at Aragon and to support the Kawasaki Racing team riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, as the saying goes….. “bring it on” !

 

 

Riding our Versys 1000 SE GT in Spain

Having ridden through France we crossed into Spain yesterday and our first stop was a motorway services….. we have to say not typical of those found in the UK – a three course lunch would set you back €10 and the place was spotless and the staff friendly (probably because one of the waiters rode a Kawasaki Ninja 650 and was admiring our bikes !!)  We left there well fed and raring to go on the open roads under azure blue skies into the province of Burgos for an overnight stay.

Today we headed west with ever changing landscapes but one static theme…. no traffic!!!  Mind you one thing you don’t expect to see is a jet fighter in the middle of nowhere but that is exactly what we came across 🙂   Both are awesome machines but we know which one we prefer!!

Our Versys 1000 SE GT has now passed its first 1,000 miles and is proving a treat to ride on the Spanish roads.  Admittedly the smooth surface helps and there have been plenty of curves to enjoy, the cornering of the machine is like going round on rails and the electronic suspension setting has been perfect given that we are fully luggaged up.

As this is a research trip we do sometimes go off the beaten track to either rule in or out certain roads and routes and today was no exception.  We headed up a mountain road in the Province of Zamora, looked spectacular on the map and yes the views from 1,800 metres were superb but it proved not to be such a great road surface, however, both bikes handled the rather bumpy route no problem and again the suspension on the SE GT came into its own.  (Sadly as good as the views were we shall not be including this in any future tours!).

More blue skies are promised for tomorrow when we head across the border to try out some of the roads in Portugal – watch this space to see how we get on 🙂

 

 

First time abroad for our Versys SE GT

Having picked up our new Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE GT on the 1st of March and done the obligatory 600 miles run in and service, we have headed out to Spain and Portugal undertaking research for tours in 2020 and 2021 (nothing like planning ahead!!!)  This is the first big trip on the new bike and if the first two days are anything to go on the rest of the miles are going to be cracking 🙂

We took a long way round to get to the ferry terminal at Portsmouth on Monday, calling in at Blade Kawasaki Swindon for a meet up with Jez great welcome as always and a fantastic array of bikes, we could have stopped longer but then we did have a ferry to catch!

We took the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen and it was unsurprising that we were the only bikes on the boat (it is March after all ….) The only other two wheels were to be found on a pushbike – rather him than us as we arrived into Caen to a very foggy and cold morning for the first 40 minutes or so.  However, once the early morning mist had disappeared and the temperature started to creep up from the -3 degrees (!!) our ride for the rest of the day through France on the Tuesday was fantastic with blue, cloudless skies and very little traffic – as most of you know we tend to avoid motorways where possible and this ride was no exception.  The open roads are something we actively seek out as you can see from this photo of Geraint – now that is a long road ahead….. but can you see any traffic???  🙂 🙂  The Versys SE GT came into its own on these roads, plenty of curves through the forests of the Loire region to try out the cornering management system which works like a dream, (there will be more to come on the technical aspects of the bike over the next couple of weeks so, as the saying goes – “stay tuned”).

Although our intended tours to Spain and Portugal will not include a ride through France we still like to seek out quirky coffee stops and some of the artwork in this particular one near Alencon kept us amused :-

why is it that a pain au chocolat and a cup of coffee always tastes so much better in a french boulangerie?  It could be the fact that their pastries only cost €1 each 🙂 🙂

Our research trip continues now after a stop off near Bordeaux we head across the border into Northern Spain – we will keep you posted…..

Another Touring Season over…..

With today being the shortest day of the year it seems like a good time to reflect on our 2018 Touring season whilst also thinking about next year…….. of course there is the little matter of Christmas to take in over the coming week but it never hurts to reiminisce 🙂

The last three months have been full on for us which is why our last blog was back in September after our tour of the South West of Ireland.  Since then we had a 5 day research trip in Northern France, a tour of Luxembourg, an On & Off-Road tour and the last tour of the year was our Flavour of Spain which ran 7th to the 19th of October.

Returning from Spain we were straight into updating our website with details of our 2019 tours, had brochures to print up and then attended the NEC in Birmingham on the Kawasaki UK stand for 9 days – it was great to see how well attended the show was once again and in particular a thanks to all of you who called by to say hello and have a coffee.  Sometimes the winter months can seem very long when you are a motorcyclist but having MotorcycleLive gives everyone a boost and with so many new bikes to look at, plenty to think about over the months before Spring…!

The last few tours of 2018 seemed to go by in something of a blur, on the whole the weather was good for us, some “rain in Spain” but nothing of any significance but then having the ferry home cancelled the day before sailing was enough to make everything else pale into insignificance!!!  We have to say that everyone on the tour rallied well when we had to break the news to them that they had a choice of an extra week in Spain as that was when the next availability for us all would be to sail back, or we could all ride north through France to get one of the sailings from either Caen or Le Harve.  It was not an ideal way to end the tour having to add on an extra 700+ miles but everyone agreed that as nice as it would be to spend an extra 7 days riding through the Spanish countryside it was not the best option and so we all set off north.  The weather was kind to us which was a huge bonus and we found a great hotel on the outskirts of Bordeaux to accommodate all 24 of us in 17 rooms and provide an excellent 3 course dinner and good breakfast.  The route to Bordeaux gave us an opportunity to ride the spectacular valley route through to Logrono in Northern Spain, as can be seen from this photo the red mountains provided spectacular scenery, it felt very much like some of the canyon roads in Utah and Colorado at times.  We had researched this route in the past in the winter months one year, albeit in a car, so to experience the route on two wheels was better than expected and whilst not planned for on our Flavour of Spain tour it certainly helped with the long ride to Bordeaux 🙂  It isn’t an ideal way to end a touring season, but what can you do when a ferry develops a technical fault – you certainly would not want to be in the Bay of Biscay if a fault happened out there!

Each of our bikes have travelled over 22,500 miles during 2018, we’ve toured through 12 countries, ascended many mountain passes including the Stelvio with its 48 hairpin / switchback turns, experienced snow in June in northern Spain, ridden through monsoon type rains on our way back from Luxembourg through Belgium in September and splashed in a lot of muddy puddles on our On & Off-Road tour with Mick Extance in Wales in early October.  There have been a lot of laughs, thousands of miles of terrific roads, stunning scenery and we have been able to enjoy all of this with our fantastic clients.  We shall take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and we look forward to riding again with everyone in 2019.

Did “The Rain in Spain, Stay mainly on the Plain”?

When you plan tours to Spain in late May early June it is with a reasonable expectation that there will be warm sun on your back every day….. however, it would seem that the turbulent weather our world seems to be experiencing affected Spain this year and whilst we did not have torrential rain neither did we have the wall to wall blue skies we would have liked!  In fact we rode passed snow banks on one ride-out……. Did this put out tour groups off?  No – as one pillion rightly commented, “if we had wanted hot sunshine we would have booked on a beach holiday in Marbella” 🙂

In June 2017 we ran our first tour of Northern Spain and repeated it this year, the contrast in the depth of water in all of the rivers, lakes and reservoirs was incredible – the Yesa Reservoir in 2017 was very low whilst this year the water line was nearly at the height of some of the trees which have clearly had time to grow over recent years – but no matter what is going on in the reservoir the road around its shores is a terrific motorcycling route and one we never tire of returning to.  Which can be said of all the roads in Spain to be fair – they offer a very relaxing approach to motorcycle touring, no potholes, wide open sweepies when you want them, some technical climbs and hairpins to add variety and all with so very little traffic – the only thing you have difficulty doing in Spain (unless you are near the major cities), is practice your overtaking skills!!!

This is the first year we have run back-to-back tours in Spain starting with our Northern Spain tour sailing from Plymouth on the 27th of May and riding through the Southern Pyrenees, the beautiful provinces of Soria and Burgos and the Picos over the following 7 days returning our clients to Santander on the 4th of June where we met our next tour group who joined us for our Spanish Spa tour.  With the winter season being longer in Northern Spain than usual, both tour groups were treated to very colourful rides each day due to the wonderful displays of wildflowers and poppies edging our routes.  There was also the fact that the daily temperatures were lower than expected which actually is no bad thing when you are in full motorcycle gear – some days could certainly have done with being warmer than the 12 – 14 degrees we had, but on the whole we had around 18 degrees for the riding and sunshine at most of our stops – apart from one of our transition days on the Northern Spain tour when we did get wet coming over the Santa Ines pass – all part of the fun though!

No matter what the weather it would never deter us from returning to Northern Spain, in fact we already have tours planned there next year!  The warm welcome at all of our stops more than make up for any cold days, the roads are a dream to ride and the scenery is outstanding – Spain is a remarkable country and one we will never tire of revisiting.

 

2019 Tours Update

With two of our 2018 tours completed over recent days we are already being asked what our plans are for 2019.  We already have a comprehensive schedule planned and will be updating our website over the coming weeks with more information.  If you would like any details of the tours for next year and would like to register your expression of interest please contact us at info@dragonmototours.co.uk, call us on 07816 396614 or look out for the website updates on our tours page.

There will be two tours in Wales in 2019, one in April and the other in September.  Staying in the UK we shall be running our Devon tour in May which proved very popular when we last visited this county in 2017.

A touring season would not be complete without a sail across the Irish Sea and in late May 2019 we will be doing a two centre tour of the West Coast of Ireland staying in the counties of Donegal and Mayo.

Eight of our tours will be in mainland Europe – 3 in Spain,

2 in France, 2 in Germany and 1 in the Italian Dolomites.

Our clients enjoyed our Spain and Millau tour in 2017 so much that we are repeating it next year, albeit in reverse!!!  We’ll start in France and ride south with 3 days close to the Bridge and The Tarn Gorge before crossing the Pyrenees into Spain for a few days before a ferry sailing back to the UK.  Our other Spanish tours will include a 4 night stay on the Mediterranean coast and our ever popular Flavour of Spain will run in October 2019 – although this one will have a slightly “different flavour” to the previous three 🙂

Not everyone has the luxury of a 10 to 12 day tour and with this in mind we have 3 shorter European tours scheduled, the Saarland region of Germany in early May, the Black Forest in July and the Ardennes region of France and Belgium in late September.

 

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 🙂

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.  

 

 

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.