A Winter research trip to Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Off-Road Riding in Wales

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

Touring in Wales April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 🙂

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………..