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…..

A summer tour motorcycling in Eastern France

Early August is traditionally the time of year when the french people take their summer holidays, understandable given the weather is usually good and with such a vast country there are many destinations for them to choose from should they wish to stay within their own country.  It was during this time this summer that we chose to have a tour into Eastern France and whilst some of the major tourist locations such as Lake Annecy were busy, in the main, we were lucky to enjoy quiet roads and places to visit.

We started our tour riding  through Northern France and the wine regions of Champagne and Bourgogne.  Many a motorcyclist avoids the north of the country due to the lack of mountains – but as can be seen from this photo it is not only other riders – it is also more importantly for us cars which seem to be thin on the ground – and yes we agree there are not many mountains but the curves of the roads through the open countryside provided us with many grin inducing miles 🙂

The speed limit reduction introduced in July 2018 in France on country routes from 90kph to 80kph did not impact significantly, it allows for more scenery to be taken in and when it comes to the more technical roads in the mountains it is highly unlikely that you would be at 90kph anyway so yes it can add to the length of a journey but best to give it a “gallic shrug” and enjoy the ride.

The main destinations for this particular tour were the Eastern Alps and Bauges Mountains near Annecy and Chambery and also the Vosges Mountains both South and North which run through the Alsace bordering the Rhine Valley.  The Col de la Madeleine is a fantastic road to ride and we had near perfect conditions for the day, warm temperatures, very little traffic and spectacular views from the summit which peaks at 2,000 metres.  This photo is taken from the summit and sees our group heading down towards the Bourg St Maurice side before we rode the Cormet de Roselend, another favourite road of ours in this region.  The weather was just right as we approached our chosen auberge for lunch in the glacial valley but inevitably in the heat of the summer in the mountains storms gather and we had a doozy of one for about 10 minutes.  As we reached the summit of the pass the blue skies opened up again and dry roads before us – we pitied the poor riders going in the opposite direction to us though!!

The Vosges Mountains were out next destination – the Ballons D’Alsace and Routes des Cretes being some of our favourite riding roads in that particular part of France.  The ridge road of the Routes des Cretes goes on for a total of 55 miles and at an elevation of over 3,000 ft there are some beautiful views over the surrounding forest clad mountains and valleys.

As you can see from these images we were not joking above when we said the roads were quiet 🙂  While crowds can be found on the french beaches and near main tourist locations (our planned lunch at Lake Annecy had to be abandoned as there was simply no room to park!), we will never be concerned about running a tour in France when it is their peak holiday season – it was clear to us that no matter what the french roads are to be enjoyed no matter when and we are looking forward to touring their again in 2019 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

 

Touring the French & Belgian Ardennes

Our first European motorcycle tour of 2015 was over the early May bank holiday this year with 4 nights staying in one location in the heart of the French Ardennes and daily ride-outs to the Champagne region and also through the Ardennes both in France and Belgium.  Parked up in BelgiumA cross section of bikes joined us on this trip, 4 Kawasaki’s, 3 BMW’s, 5 Triumph’s, 2 Honda’s and 1 each of Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati.  We made quite a splash of colour as we rode through this region 🙂

The weather was a little “colourful” at times too with a mix of rain on some days, downpours on others and sunshine for our ride into Belgium.  Still it brought out the smiles within our group, in particular when John realised he had left his carefully folded waterproofs on his kitchen table at home!!!!  Dressed for all eventualities!And as for Jane, well she had come prepared for all weathers 🙂  We had included a visit to the Battle of Marne Memorial monument which ordinarily offers spectacular views over the vineyards of the Champagne region, however, in this instance as Steve aptly pointed out “the only bubbles he could see were those on his visor”!!  enough said…… So it was onto lunch which we had booked at an Auberge and they treated us very well, providing us with our own dining room, a large table set for lunch, hangers for all our wet gear, tables for our tank bags and helmets and a wonderful meal to go with it – not to mention champagne which some of the pillions were able to enjoy!  We took the french approach and had an extended meal so that the worst of the rain could pass, giving us an opportunity to ride some of the fantastic motorcycling roads in the dry through the vineyards and forests of the Ardennes on our return to the hotel.

On the Monday we headed east to Belgium and had blue skies to accompany us for this ride.  The open roads flowed as we made our way to the border and we were rewarded with views of the forests of the Ardennes opening up ahead of us, dotted with the yellow rapeseed fields which gave the landscape a fantastic splash of colour.  Coffee was at The Orval Abbey which is also home to a brewery and cheese factory – and as tempting as they both were, all of our group abstained from sampling  (didn’t want anything to hamper their progress on the Belgian roads!!)  Semois ValleyLunch was overlooking the beautiful Semois Valley and the ride on the ascent to this view point was something else, with twists and turns taking you higher through the Ardennes…. it was no wonder everyone was smiling when we stopped at the top 🙂

Our sojourn into Belgium continued for a short distance before we crossed the border back into France and after a quick divert into Sedan for a fuel stop, we left the town traffic behind us as we enjoyed yet more empty roads which snaked through the French Ardennes back to our hotel.

We had designed this tour to give our clients a chance to have a short break away in Europe within a reasonably short distance of the UK and to show them that the roads in this region are a motorcyclists dream – open, flowing with very little in the way of traffic.  The area is steeped in history with our tour including a stop at not only the Battle of Marne Monument, but also the Navarin Ossuarie and a stunning American Memorial.  The variety of scenery on offer varied from vineyards to forests and beautiful valleys such as the Semois.  We are very much looking forward to riding the roads in this region again very soon!