I got one of those automated emails wishing me a happy new year from an old motorbike forum I used to be part of which reminded me I did a fair bit of writing on there back during my first degree.
So as penance for the radio silence I maintained during December I thought I would copy over an old trip report I posted there. It comes along with some pictures.
Let me set the scene for you. I had to move out of my house in Nottingham as I had finished my degree, I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t sure where to go live next, as my parents were leaving the Netherlands for a hamlet in France. So what better way to clear one’s head than hours of riding around Europe?
The following is copied over directly from that post I wrote.
NB: The motorcycle I owned at the time is not renowned for its touring abilities, or for doing much more than scooting youths around town. At most a couple hours ride on a Sunday. (With its 13hp)…
Upon request I am starting a blog of my travels.
A bit about me:
I’m English/French and I’ve lived in Britain, Italy, Germany, France and The Netherlands. I’m 22.
About Foxy Roxy:
She’s a 58 Reg White/Red. I got her last July, she came with a Scorpion Carbon as well as some other small toys, and about 500 miles on the clock.
Here she is the day I got her:
We spent last summer cruising through Nottinghamshire and on a few cruises up to the peaks. She stayed in the garage as I went back to uni, but in the New Year I had a new determination to ride her as much as possible (Though not worth getting leathered up for the commute into Uni).
I was going for my DAS with Beechdale in Nottingham (sound bunch of guys, cannot recommend enough! Though make sure you can stomach their (sometimes crude) humour! )
The day I had my Mod 1 booked, February 28th, I was on my way to Beechdale when I got cut up by a cab driver who left the scene. This is the outcome:
Total Bill of Materials to restore to mint condition according to CMC Nottingham……£2800!
Thankfully, I managed to track the cab driver down, but because he claims he did not cause the accident and is a mere witness, the process is still ongoing through insurance. I have a witness, but it seems that until now he has not yet filled in his statement. He backs up my story, but without it, what can I do?
Regardless, on the 19th of April I passed my Mod 2 and have a fully unrestricted A license!
Spot the Difference?
This is around the time I got wind of an impending move to France on my parents behalf. With my degree coming to a close, I didn’t know what to go for next. I was tempted to upgrade bikes. Due to the fact I like long rides, I was tempted by a Fazer 6 S2. More recently I have contemplated a Hornet as well, though the faired Fazer might be more for me. (This chapter is to be continued).
As the year went on, I went on more trips.
Here she is at Rutland Water on our way to Peterborough to pick up some Kriega Luggage. (Which i simply cannot recommend enough. It’s expensive, but well worth it):
Finally. The plans for the move to France had been finalised. And my degree is over. I’m hoping for a 2:1. The contract of my house in Nottingham is almost finised so I needed to move back to Holland until I went to France.
Instead of sitting in the car for a day, I decided that I would take Roxy with me and we would do the trip our own way over 4 days.
Here I’m trying out different combinations for luggage:
(Bad idea, it rubs).
I am now in Holland and the departure date is next Friday. I have decided on a route.
And on a luggage configuration:
Now all I need is good weather. I’ve also kitted her out with an Ultimate addons iPhone mount, wired into the battery. That way I can use the Navigon app (which is also excellent). And if you look under the bubble, you’ll notice my Robin Hood bear riding shotgun (The bike is from Nottingham after all).
Quick update. I was bored today, so I figured I would go to Germany.
The motorways here are disciplined enough. Driving at the speed limit is doable on our bikes. Just stick earplugs in and rest your head on the tankbag.
Here’s the proof:
Also, this shot is pretty cool I think. They’re wind turbine blades waiting at the border to be transported at night.
Fuel is pretty cheap in Germany too. 20 cents a litre cheaper than in Holland. So in my mind it was worth it!
And who should pull up behind me at a filling station in the middle of German countryside but a van-full of Geordies buying beer and asking me what I was doing in Germany and if I was bonkers to be doing a tour of Europe on a 125?!
I’ve also decided on a final route including all stops and campsites and detours, its 1159km. So with trips to the shops and the like It’ll be 1200km.
Day one: Utrecht (NL) –> Lille (FR). Not very eventful, other than the wind was atrocious. The night before I left, a storm knocked out power to 73000 homes in the Utrecht area. So the roads were pretty soggy. Also, and I cannot say this enough, trust your brain over the satnav! The satnav is like the girlfriend with the maps instructions that you heed to appease her, but eventually, it’ll leave you seething. Overtaking trucks on (very) windy dutch motorways is also tricky. You speed up in the lee they leave in their wake, but as you pass them you hit the wall of air their pushing out of the way and the bike slows right down. After a bit of weaving about, you eventually wriggle free and it’s on to the next one.
Other than motorway riding on day 1, not a lot to report. Interesting bits in Belgium were the Antwerp ring-road, which is congested 24/7. No problem on a bike though, you just lane-split at 90kmh. Just be wary of tourists who are clueless, and if theres a faster bike behind you, let them through. The one thing that cracks me up is people with big bikes who are afraid to use them. There was a guy on an 1198 in Antwerp. Sitting at the lights showing off, revving the engine, but as soon as the lights went green he shot off, only for me to overtake him moments later (with all my bags and luggage) and lane splitting past him as he thought he might just sit behind a caravan in traffic like a pansy…..
Eventually got to France and my initial reaction to the traffic was “I am going to die”, but after a bit, I got used to it, and it was all good. Spent the afternoon with the guy who got me into bikes a few years back. He took me to an open track day (a weekly thing organised by the local bike-cops at their own training track), and I got into bikes in a big way. I was going through a bit of a downer at that time, and I really focussed on bikes. Got through it and a year later, I got what I was working towards, Foxy Roxy.
Spent the afternoon with this guy (he’s retired) but he’s nutty about bikes, and we went round all the dealerships, and I got to see why all my French friends say their Mod 1 is so difficult. It’s basically like ours, but the figure of 8, U-turn and obstacle avoidance are an “all-in-one” thing and its timed. 22 seconds to do the lot. Minor fault if you’re .5 sec over and Serious fault if you’re 1 sec over (Fail).
Day two: Lille (FR) –> Vernon (FR). Set off round 10ish for a ride down the A1 (Nutter-highway as I like to call it, because all the foreigners go about 160kph), eventually turned off because I noticed my bags were loose. My biker mate also gave me a waterproof overall that was too big for him, turned out to be a godsend on day 4. After a quick coffee me and Leandre parted ways, he went back to Lille and I opted for the N50 towards Amiens rather than the A1 to Bapaume. It was all national roads and the speed limit is 90 (which I took as an instruction to do V-max) fully loaded with a full tank of fuel and me (80kg) on board, the bike sits comfortably at 110. This is where I got my first proper experience of biking in France. Turns out that despite their reputation, French drivers behave exceptionally well towards motorcyclists. When you come up behind them, they mostly pull over a long way to the right (there’s usually a hard shoulder about 1-2m on the N roads), and let you pass. Even on white lines, oncoming vehicles also pull out of your way. A quick flick of your right foot is common courtesy as a “thank you”. Also, there is no “biker nod” in continental europe, you simply hold your right hand out. Also, cars and bikes (and the odd truck) have the tendency to flash you if you’re coming up to cameras or police with speed-binoculars. Solidarity amongst motorists is strong in France (until they notice that you’re a foreigner, as I have experienced driving my Dad’s dutch-reg’d car).
After getting to Amiens (which I skipped) I took a short blast on the A16 (50km or so), to get some quick mileage out of the way. I stopped in Beauvais for some lunch and then left the motorway for some pleasant riding on small roads through sleepy villages. The satnav lady was PMS’ing at me again, so took me her own little way, which was still pleasant, but I did think a few times there must be a more efficient way of getting through here. After a fuel stop, Roxy turned over her 5000th km.
Couple more hours riding got me to Vernon, and you could tell it was saturday afternoon, as there were bikes everywhere. Arrived at my destination, (another friend from when I lived in Paris), and we hung out for a bit. She had just passed her test and gotten her hands on a mint GSF650 Bandit and she was rearing to have a ride, so off we went. Unfortunately she dropped it on the way out of the garage, though in her defence, she has very short legs and her garage exit is a really steep, corrugated concrete slip-way. I almost dropped Roxy as well. After mending bruised ego’s we went to Suzuki and she had the bike checked. Just a scratched engine casing and a snapped clutch lever. Nothing serious. We then went off for a ride round some little roads to see where her bf lived (also a bike nut, has a Kawa 750 and an R1 (not limited to the legally required 106bhp of course)), where she worked and a few others. Back to Vernon for a chat and a (soft)drink at a cafe. We then got pic-nic materials for dinner and went back to the Sailing club where we met, for some dinner and nostalgia’s sake. Dawned on me that we’ve been friends 8 years, which is not to be sniffed at.
It was the “St-Jean” also known as the “fete de la musique” but the parties didnt look very lively, so instead, some late night riding was in order. At 11:30 we got back and decided it was time to sleep.
Day three: Vernon (FR) –> La Motte Ternant (FR). Woke up on the floor in my friend’s flat. Made some coffee and she picked up croissants whilst I had a shower. Unfortunately a grey and wet day, but not pouring, so I rejected the rain suit. she rode with me to the motorway, where we split. I went in towards Versailles so I could ride past my old house in Jouy. It was Sunday and I missed a turn in Versailles, so I roared into town centre and it was market day. Joy-of joys, it took me about 20 minutes to go 300 meters. Got through and rode out past my old house. Wasn’t nostalgic though, the three years we lived there were not the happiest. Got out of there and set my sight on central france. Drove through Paris suburbs until I got on the A6 the so-called “Autoroute du Soleil” or Sunshine Motorway, which I quickly renamed the “motorway of ************ty british weather I thought I left behind”. At least the surface got better as I left the capital behind, until it was snooker-table smooth. Easily lapped up about 250kms over 2.5 hours. For the first time that day, I rode with some music feeding in off the iPod, and I have to conceed that whilst its not a great idea in town. If you ever have to do motorways, or any sort of longer routes, its quite nice. Unfortunately, my iPhone had only downloaded 3 albums off of the iCloud. So I’m now pretty familiar with The Killers and Kanye West. The most exciting thing that day was almost running out of fuel, I’m not entirely sure how far these bikes can go on fuel reserves, but I thought 50k might be stretching it, so I peeled off the motorway and got some fuel. I then thought I might look for some food but it was about 14:00 on a Sunday, and everything was closed. So I got back on the mway for another 50km and ate at the AutoGrill.
Finally got to the Morvan and left the motorway for good, could tell the temperature was much hotter round these parts. Good roads round there. I recommend it as an overnight stop if you guys should ever attempt a folly like this one.
Set up camp and had a sit down and a read, the noticed I had no food, no water, I didnt even have a torch (such a prepared camper). So I rode back into Saulieu to get sweets, drinks and crisps at the petrol station (miraculously open), and asked if there were decent places to eat. (This couldnt be a French roadtrip, if there weren’t some good food thrown in). I was advised that the creperie was good. And indeed it was. delicious brittany style “galettes” with ham, goats cheese and tomato sauce, and a salted caramel crepe for desert. Absolutely divine. Went to bed a very happy man.
Day four: La Motte Ternant (FR) –> Trévignin (FR). Last day. Woke up very cold, with a banging headache and a really sore throat (like I’d been gargling sand). Turns out my dad’s trusty 30 year old tent wasnt really waterproof anymore, and it was gushing down. I packed the tent as soon as I was up (after a steaming hot shower, I honestly cannot fault the campsite “Le Village” in La Motte, €10 for the night, great facilities, and free bog roll). This time I donned the rain-suit and decided to leave. It was 7:15…….Admittedly the places I was now driving through were gorgeous, back on a smooth Nationale road I ate up miles, the only downside was following a lorry loaded with sand, and he hadn’t covered his load, both Roxy and I were now covered in crap.
Stopped for coffee and croissant at about 8:45. I needed to be at my Aunt and Uncles for 11:30, where I’d invited myself for lunch. I have 60 klicks left to ride…….No matter, I took the rain suit off and kept going. I sat in their garden for a couple hours just relaxing and reading my book. The respite from the rain was welcome and I was warming up. For the foodies amongst you: My uncle dished up pan-fried veal liver in butter and herbs and some cheesy pasta. Delicious.
After lunch, we had a few coffees, had some chit chat, and then my cousin came home from work, he had his lunch and made some more coffee “Bien tassé” (nice and strong), and I had about 5 cups of that. Needless to say I was buzzing a bit when I left. It was about 3 oclock and I had 180 km’s to go till I arrived. Satnav was predicting a 6:20 arrival, to which I said “F that, I can get there before 6 oclock). I rode Roxy hard, very, very hard. I got there at 5:55, and this incudes a 5 minutes stop for fuel and a piss, and endless traffic in Bourg-en-Bresse. I don’t need to emphasize that I was quite hyper.
After leaving Bourg-en-Bresse I rode across the plains and then, out of the mist, the mountains rose. (Honestly, just like in the movies). The road started to climb, and eventually some twists and turns started to show up, until the road just became a rider’s wet dream. I was tired, felt ill, my bags kept pushing into my back every time i touched the brake, but those last 80km’s through the mountains were so worth it. There were long dark tunnels where the (very hot) Scorpion was spitting and crackling and scaring the ************ out of cyclists.
I was getting hot and tired, it was about 32 degrees and I had my full gear on, but I just wanted to arrive, couldn’t be bothered to stop.
I’m here now, I’ve moved in, and I’m flying back to Britain thursday, Roxy is having a holiday down here and I’l pick her up in August. Taking her for spin this afternoon (because, there’s windy roads on my doorstep…..literally) and she is having her 6000km (3500m) service tomorrow.
All is well in my little corner in the world.
This little trip proves that you can tour on anything. It’s great fun, and I recommend you all send your little 125’s off in style with a long trip if and when you upgrade. High mileage is doable, and these little bikes are so reliable that you dont really need the toolkit (though obviously, don’t come crying if you leave without it). In fact, the only weak link in the equation is the rider. If I didnt have to stop for food, sleep and toilet breaks, Roxy would have done the whole trip in a single sitting, I’m sure of it.