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 Jan 2017 – part 2

We promised you an update on the remainder of our visit to Malaysia so here it is!  We thoroughly enjoyed our time on two wheels in the Cameron Highlands as we described in our last blog, but our encounter with motorbikes did not end there!!  The majority of bikes in Malaysia are less than 150 cc and are clearly the “workhorses” of the country with everything from chickens and eggs to gas bottles and the weeks shopping being transported around 🙂

Their ingenuity when it comes to riding holds no bounds even if one of the bikes runs out of fuel it would seem that someone will be there to give a helping hand (or in this instance a foot!!!).  It did not end there either as the next one we saw required not one but two to assist him in reaching the next available fuel station…..  (We are not sure this would wash back here in the UK!).

There are motorbike shops dotted all over the island of Penang, and not only the lower range of bikes – it would seem that the larger touring and sports bikes are also popular in Malaysia – we had to ask ourselves “How many bikes can you get in one small shop???” when we visited HotBikes – makes for a great display but does not exactly give the customer much opportunity for having a sit on and try out for size etc 🙂

We spent some time looking at the accessories and clothing – understandably, given the climate, we saw a lot of vented clothing on sale. Many of the brands we are familiar with in Europe were also over there – HELD equipment, Dainese and Alpine Stars to name but a few.  It did make us smile to see that some of the clothing had thermal liners – when the temperatures range between mid 20’s and high 30 degrees it seems to us that there would not be too much call for winter gear (now isn’t that a nice thought….).  One thing they do have in common with the UK is rain (albeit warm rain!) and they have it covered for motorcyclists should a storm come through whilst you are on their motorways – under many of the overbridges there is a dedicated lane for motorbikes taking you off the road to shelter until the storm passes through.  They also have dedicated lanes for bikes at the toll booths on their main routes, it does seem you are riding on a footpath at times !!! but whatever the route it means that motorcycles are not charged to use the motorways which we felt was a very good idea.

Unfortunately we did not have more time riding in Malaysia on this visit – just means we will have to go back sometime to explore more of the country and who knows with Thailand on the border we just may have to visit there as well – as they say “watch this space”!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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………..

 

A busy year of Motorcycle Touring…….

For regular visitors to our website you may have been wondering why our blog has not been updated since our Norfolk & Suffolk tour back in May.  It is hard to believe that 6 months have passed since our last blog – where has the time gone?  Actually a very easy question to answer – “We’ve been touring” 🙂  It has in fact been our busiest year with 17 tour events undertaken, 10 countries visited and just short of 23,000 tour miles covered, (not forgetting the miles covered through the Welsh hills and forests on the 3 off-road days we enjoyed on tour with The Mick Extance Experience).

We now turn our attention to 2017 and already we are very much looking forward to a busy and exciting year with even more new tours being introduced into our programme.

A Flavour of Spain2016 was the first year for us where we ran a tour to Spain, it was our intention from setting up DragonMotoTours five years ago that we would run a tour here,we covered 8,000 miles over the winter months researching different regions to tour which would give people a real Flavour for the country, its people and more importantly for it’s motorcycling roads.  As a result of our research we are going to be touring in Spain on three separate occasions next year concentrating in the north for one tour, riding through the Spanish Pyrenees for another and repeating our Flavour of Spain tour in the autumn of 2017.

We will be attending MotorcycleLive at the NEC Birmingham from the 19th to 27th November on the Kawasaki stand for the duration of the show and you can catch up with us there or follow our blogs over the next few weeks when we will bring you upto date with the highlights of our 2016 tours, the variety in terrain we rode through, the places we visited, the people we met along the way and we’ll take you through our 2017 season to come.

 

Motorcycling in the East of England

In 2015 we announced that we would be running a motorcycle tour to the counties of Norfolk & Suffolk in the east of England with the most common comment being “we’ve never been there….”.  Within a few short weeks of that announcement the tour was full and carried a reserve list, such was the interest in riding in this part of the UK.  Whilst there may not be dramatic mountain scenery and passes to ride, there are several interconnecting B class roads which flow through both counties taking you passed windmills, through thatched cottage villages, open countryside and along the coast with so many interesting places to visit – we only scratched the surface over the 4 days of the tour.

We stayed close to the seaside resort of Cromer for 3 nights right at the most north east tip of Norfolk.  Riding through Thetford ForestOur location gave us lovely routes to ride through both the Thetford and Kings forests and we were only a short distance for a ride-out on the Sunday morning to the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum at North Walsham.  A real treasuretrove of a place to visit and the owners have a strong passion for motorbikes.  It does have a feel of stepping back in time, a lot of the bikes are fully restored whilst others are what you might call “work in progress”… Norfolk Motorcycle Museumand we would like to take this opportunity to thank George and Valerie for making us so welcome.

Whilst on the subject of warm welcomes…… we had these at all of our coffee and lunch stops in both Norfolk and Suffolk and had a particularly good welcome from the volunteers at 100th Bomb Groupthe 100th Bomb Group Memorial at Thorpe Abbotts.  They had even thought ahead and cordonned off some hard standing for us to park the motorbikes on as their usual carpark is gravel 🙂  The museum is housed in the original airfield control tower and is a moving testament to the Americans who came to Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk to fight alongside the allies during World War Two, well worth a visit should you find yourself in this part of the world.

On the Saturday ride-out we had one eagle-eyed client who spotted that one of the tyres on another bike looked “soft” – as it turned out when we got to our lunch stop there was only 9 psi in the tyre which then drew us to find a rather large nail embedded in the rubber!  Geraint managed to plug the tyre and after a couple of phone calls we were able to source a new set of tyres for the bike from Orwell Motorcycles at Ipswich.  Thanks to everyone at Orwell who provided excellent customer service.  Geraint rode with Martin to Orwell’s to make sure that everything was ok on route there which meant that Jan had to take the lead on the afternoon leg back to the hotel!!!!!  It doesn’t happen very often and everyone played their part in the corner marking with a special thanks to Bill & Janet for stepping in and being the back marker for the afternoon 🙂

We had started this tour on Friday 13th which is considered an unlucky day in some parts of the world and although we had a random road closure to contend with on the morning leg, we felt it was a lucky day for another one of our clients who spotted a nail in their tyre at morning coffee only to find that it had gone into the sidewall only and they were able to continue on the tour, so tyres had been a bit of a theme over the weekend!

We will certainly consider returning to the east of England to run a motorcycle tour in the future so keep checking our website for future dates….

 

Ride & Dine Tour 2016

Our first tour into Mainland Europe for 2016 was over a week from the end of April and over the May bank holiday, riding through 5 countries and what turned out to be several seasons!!!  Snowball fighting in The Vosgeswhoever would have thought we would have a snowball fight on the 1st of May?? 🙂  As it goes we had very little rain which was the main thing and although the temperatures were unseasonably low at times the sun was out for most of the tour giving us great dry riding roads.

The clue is in the title for this tour where we rode and dined very well too!!  The hospitality of our 3 hotels on this tour was outstanding and their locations offer us such a wide variety of motorcycling roads it would be easy to end up spending 7 weeks there not just 7 days.

We started our tour with a ride through France and Belgium into Luxembourg which was home for the first 2 nights.  Riding the German / Luxembourg borderThe old town of Vianden with its impressive chateau lies in the Our Valley and is very close to the border with Germany.  All roads are smooth and “potholeless” in this part of the world, they have open sweeping bends which flow through the countryside giving you excellent crossviews as you take in the beautiful scenery.  We had a blue sky day for our ride-out from Vianden which firstly took us into Germany and then across the border back into Luxembourg riding through the Mullterhal which is known as “The Little Switzerland of Luxembourg” – it’s a small area but great fun to ride as the road snakes under rocky outcrops.  Esch-sur-SureFrom there we continued through the Duchy to the small community of Esch-sur-Sure.  We took this photo from the top of the castle – quite a hike up the steps but the views of the River Sauer as it meanders through the village are well worth the climb 🙂

The Alsace region was out next destination and is a fantastic area for motorcycling, the wine villages are so pretty with their half timbered structures and narrow streets all nestled in this vast wine growing area.  The Rhine river is close by as are the Vosges Mountains which we had our Sunday ride-out through.  Due to the unusual weather conditions for the time of year we had to cut our plans to ride the Col du Bonhomme which was under snow!!!  But the lower Cols in the region were open, we visited Dabo but sadly the mist came in and the views of the Vosges were somewhat limited!!  Undeterred we continued ascending the 11kms of the Col du Donon, wide sweeping bends which flow to the top of the Col and this was where we found the snow!!!  There had been a fall of it overnight and the table tops at the cafe were white over – this then became the ammunition for the snowball fight!  The roads, themselves were fine, well gritted and it certainly gave everyone something to laugh about over dinner that evening.

As we left the Alsace we rode through the Vosges, A sunny Col du Dononthis time ascending the Donon the otherside and what a difference 24 hours can make, clear blue skies, temperatures doubled, dry riding roads and beautiful scenery.  The weather remained kind to us for the remainder of the day as we rode to the Champagne-Ardenne region of France which was home for the last 2 nights of the tour.

Our ride-out on the penultimate day of the tour was through the French and Belgian Ardennes, sunglasses were required which is always a good sign – our indicators were not needed much though as we hardly saw a car all day to overtake!!!  We rode through the forests and View from Rochehautthe beautiful Semois Valley to have lunch overlooking what must be one of the most photographed locations in Belgium from the high village of Rochehaut before descending into the open landscape of the French Ardennes.  On returning to our hotel, we were able to enjoy after ride-out drinks on the sun terrace before sitting down to our final dinner of the tour sampling some of the excellent cuisine the french are so famous for.

Thanks to everyone who joined us on this tour, we had several new clients and some who had never done a motorcycle tour before, this taster of northern Europe has hopefully given them an insight into why we love touring so much 🙂

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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