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…..

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 🙂 🙂 

 

 

Riding empty roads in Wales!

We’re in March, so you have to ask is it winter or spring?  It has been difficult to tell here in the UK of late with snow, ice and gales lashing our shores in the last week or so and as a result there has certainly been a reduced presence of motorbikes on our roads.  With a “weather window” presenting itself yesterday we decided it was about time to get some much needed miles under our belts, particularly as our first tour starts in just over 5 weeks (lets hope the snow has gone by then!!!).

One of our Versys 1000’s still needs to achieve the first service mileage so it was a double green ride-out for us and within no time of setting off heads were turning at the sound and sight of two motorbikes – they were either pleased (like us), to hear the Kawasaki engine noise or more likely thought we were a bit mad……. particularly as the temperatures never really rose much above 4 or 5 degrees for the majority of the day!  As our day progressed we did cross paths with around ten other motorcyclists who were keen to enjoy the dry roads.

Naturally, as can be seen here, we collected our fair share of road dust and it has to be said road salt which we are well aware puts many motorcyclists off taking their bikes out at this time of year, but a good rinse off at the end of the ride soon sorted that out 🙂

Jan rides with handlebar muffs at this time of year which are easy to fit and with the heated grips on low make for a very comfortable ride.  These particular ones are Oxford and fit well on the Versys albeit a slight adjustment had to be made whereby the original handguards have had to be removed – again an easy enough process.

As we headed into the Snowdonia National Park there was evidence of the snowfall experienced last week, but not as significant as we had expected.  There had clearly been a lot of drifting snow, one thing to be mindful of is to look out for running water across the roads as the snow thaws and particularly on the higher ground we kept a close watch on the temperature being mindful that some of the areas not exposed to much sunshine could have been icy.  Other than that the roads were dry and an added bonus were that they were empty of traffic 🙂   We called in at Llangynog for a warming brew before riding over the Berwyn Mountains, lunch at Trawsfynydd lake and with an afternoon stop at A&D Motorcycles in Denbigh we covered just shy of 200 miles.  The scenery was, as ever in Snowdonia, stunning, with the peak of Snowdon just under some cloud as we rode past, however, the surrounding landscape was given all the more clarity in the crisp air.

With the first of our tours starting next month and one of them being based in North Wales there is much to look forward to – we’re just hoping that the roads in April in Snowdonia will be as dry and as empty as we enjoyed yesterday 🙂

 

 

 

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 🙂

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.

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.