This has been a busy year since my last post. The summer is of course my favourite time for riding and as this post would suggest I have done a couple of trips down to Spain. But previous to that I have been getting lots of pratice in on European roads taking in several places on the bike including a day trip to Bruges to look at the swans and a champagne drinking spree in Epernay.
I was not particularly impressed with the lack of seating for motorcyclists on the Eurotunnel. It’s alright for car drivers sat there listening to their radio’s but having to stand or sit on the floor is just not really on, not when a couple of fold down seats would be easy to install! Come on it wouldn’t hurt guys!
The Champagne region was generally pleasant to ride through, with endless vineyards over the hills but the roads were not taxing, mind you who goes to Champagne to spend their time driving?!
The next big event was in June undertaking the Last mile ride with Ross Noble to raise money for maintaining the bikes that take medical resources in the Sahara dessert. We were a team of lady riders (mostly from Hampshire) called Top Crumpet – after Zoe had a post removed by a very over sensitive forum member of her idea of hot crumpet on a bike (see below).. you can only imagine the images that had previously been posted on the forum of Gents with .. well.. no protective gear on at all. So with a good sense of humour we adopted the logo below
The day was a charity ride with a twist. We had to do various challenges on the way and tweet in pictures as evidence or collect items to take back to MCN headquarters. We met up at 8.30 and went to a cafe ready to fuel up (on coffee) and wait for Ross to text the tasks. First task Get a pic of your team at the starting point
Easily done! The day started getting trickier with task 2 Find someone called Ross with proof and have your picture taken with them. Pretty tricky and lots of talking to strangers. You can imagine our team of leather clad beauties jumping off their bikes and running like Amazonian’s towards anyone! for any of the challenges…
Then the texts came in thick and fast.. 3 at once!
Task 3 Find the most random item and bring it with you Task 4 Find something orange and bring it with you Task 5 Have your picture taken with a mechanic
The game was on. We stopped in a carpark outside a builders merchants still on our hunt for a Ross. Then I spotted some astroturf.. how random and rather topical considering the world cup was on. By the time I had made it inside the girls had found a guy called Ross!! Unbelievable!! I asked if they happened to have any astroturf samples and a really helpful man took me over to a box and guess what was in there? Only ORANGE astroturf!!! Have you ever seen such a thing? 2 challenges in one. I mean who could possibly have something that was orange and more random?
As it happened the lovely heated grip that I had installed in January had come unglued from the throttle so I had been maniacally gripping for 40 miles so the mechanic task was a good time to stop and quickly reglue it on. Luckily I could borrow a lovely ratchet (useful as when I had installed the grips to get the bar ends off I ended up having to use a wardrobe pole as a lever as the end was on too tight for my allen key!) within 5 mins we were back on the road. I now had a super glue covered hand and tank (any tips for removing superglue whilst leaving paint are gratefully accepted!)
Task 6 have your photo taken using a spanner was performed by Jenniann who adjusted something 😉
Task 7 Find someone who looks like Ross Noble Jenniann came in to her own again on this one, Whilst having a light refreshment in a local establishment (the Red Lion in Chesham) she went to a local charity shop and borrowed this stunning wig. A few of the locals were only happy to oblige us our photo. Big thanks to Nick and to his very understanding wife! Luckily we had evidence to show her it was all above board 🙂 Yes that is a zimmer frame we are knee downing off!
Whilst happily covorting with the locals more tasks came through. Task 8 have your picture taken at a local landmark. Task 9 Take a picture of you and your team playing in a playground in full bike gear. With new tasks on we had to drink our lemonades fast and head to Dunstable (our tactic, yes we had a tactic, was to get to Dunstable and use Sally’s local knowledge to do as many of the tasks as we could then we could peg it to MCN Peterborough ready for 3pm).
As we were about to set off Task 11 Find a copy of the MCN and have a funny picture taken with it came through and so it only seemed fitting to take this one…
Obviously taking the whole day very seriously when Task 10 Find a medical centre and have your picture taken infront of it we thought of a serious location.
The last 4 came through together so we had plenty to do and also some left over from the earlier. Dunstable was super and we got 13, 14, 8 and 15 knocked out quickly. (Task 13 get a picture with your team and an animal, Task 14 get a stranger to wear your vest and helmet, Task 15 Take a photo of a reflection of your team in something that’s not a mirror) where I was lucky enough to have an iguana scuttle across my lid. Thank goodness I had my lid on because to be fair it was quite icky and very quick!!
My favourite task was number 9 and we ladies did it in style with very odd looks from the children and parents as we have come steaming across the grass in our full kit!
Finally we made it to MCN and sat down to enjoy our well earned lunch 🙂 and were we got to proudly display our findings (the astroturf) and meet Ross himself.
Put it this way, there were not many ladies there, and there was most certainly not another pack of cackling ladies. We stood out like sore thumbs and our obvious gun hoe style was noted by Ross, especially in his speech. We didn’t win anything with the ‘Nice Boys’ beating us with a ceramic orange Aardvark (yeah that was pretty orange and random too!) but banter was shared.
See all the images from the day on twitter using #lastmileride
The next major trip was the one I had been planning all winter, Austria! I loved the Alps last year but was still too inexperienced to really enjoy them. This year I trained, studied (Motorcycle craft: police guide) and practiced to be better at reading roads, more confident and more controlled – ultimately faster.
Lesson 20. Get help and learn to better a rider
If you struggle I would suggest watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVWLIfChUwg although the story is quite cheesy the message behind has changed my life and riding. I’ve gone from being able to ride a road to dancing with the meanders! I just really wanted to try it out on the mountains.
So week booked off work and ferry booked typically the weather just turned from glorious heat to raining all over Europe especially Austria and France for the whole week!! 😦 So an alternative was sought and the only dry place left was Spain. So you can guess where we went! This trip encompassed Andorra which I drove to in April so I was very aware of the roads (in fact Andorra only has one road so it’s not too hard to go wrong!) There is a lovely pass that has 10 or so hairpins followed by a quick sweeping run into Soldeu. This however is high and in the mornings or bad weather is well in the clouds. That is not a pleasant ride I can assure you, especially with cows and horses in the road huddled together. Quite mad! So we headed for sunnier places… Tarragona
Map of route.
We headed out of Andorra and went up towards Viehla. This road was outstanding and technical. It had it all, fast sweeping curves, technical elements of steep graduated hairpins and some beautiful scenery, just the place to practice my new skills. Passed a massive waterfall on the left, the biggest I’ve seen in the Pyrenees, which I hope to see again. The road was not the sort of place to be stopping for frivolous pictures! It was still a little cold up at such altitude so we came back via a reservoir on a fast, curvaceous road that followed the contours. This was my sort of road, nice tarmac, good curves, no elevation so visibility was great even from the opposite side of a contour, finally I got my pegs down!! It made me jump to be honest and still does!
The remaining ride to Tarragona was across Spanish countryside which is largely uninspiring and pretty flat but there was a nice little row of hills just before the coast that we crossed and explored on another day.
Super short ride map… lots of twisties!
This short run is a great way to spend a morning. The route is on a tight twisty with great views. There was very little traffic (2 cars) on this entire route so was even more fun. Highly recommend pottering about here if you’re in the area. There is also a really nice little cafe as you enter Prades, stop and buy a drink from the lady 🙂
Hitting up Tarragona we watched the epic match of Germany vs Brazil whilst eating a great meal and drinking mojitos. I had a vested interest in this world cup only because I had a dream that was so vivid in which Germany won and we were in a German bar at the time. Not only was this an outstanding match but my prophecy was one step closer!
Now anyone that knows me will know that I have a particular porchant for cocktails particularly of the rum kind! Seeing this advertised was just super!!
This trip was soon cut short and I headed back 1000kms on my own with no map and not much phone charge in the rain. With what very little knowledge of France I had I navigated solo on the N roads back to the ferry only getting lost once around Le Mans. It was an empowering ride because I did it but was not pleasurable, especially once my waterproof trousers had ripped. I vowed I would never have a trip like that again.
Taking my chances I changed riding partner and had the glorious company of a colleague who is a chef (I know how lucky? food and bikes – lets hope there are some cocktails in there too!) we had talked about his trip to Barcelona before and so we did his route. http://goo.gl/maps/1XzJg
We set off at 5.30am, an ungodly hour but it meant we could be on the Dover ferry ready to do a day of intense riding down to Toulouse, our first stop off. The day was very long as we avoided all the toll roads and my lovely FZ6 only has 150 mile range before things get tricky (See Alps post!) This meant that every 2 hours we had to stop. It all got sketchy when we got separated in the dark and I ended up chasing a different bike down the road, only when I had caught up did I realise it wasn’t my friend and I thought somehow I had managed to be solo again after vowing not to be. An ambulance went passed in the opposite direction and my heart sank… I really wanted to find my friend, now. Anyway a toll booth approached so I prepared to sit it out. Then I received a text, thank goodness he was just up the road 🙂 Funnily enough I bumped into the BMW rider at the next services. Luckily he didn’t think I was a maniac.
Coffee and heated grips got me through the last 200 miles! They are still my favourite and most practical gift ever, in the summer as well as winter! We arrived at 1.30am after going round and over the canal several times trying to get to the hotel because of road works blocking everything. Finally a beer, shower and bed!
We had an earlyish start the next day and after a good breakfast (hmm I’m still not sold on a continental breakfast.. I mean I like the coffee but really??!!) we set off to do the Toulouse – Barcelona run across the mountains 🙂 It was said to me “Anyone can ride fast in a straight line but I will have you on the corners” I was excited. Game on!!
Not as adventurous as the previous Pyrenees routes I was sceptical about the beauty of the roads and knew I wasn’t going to be challenged to any hairpins or particularly high elevations but I shouldn’t have been so pesimistic! The roads were nice and fast, not too much traffic either considering how easy it was to cross. There were of course waterfalls, tunnels and twisties which is all that really counts! It follows a reservoir similar to the one outside of Vielha but with less tight bends. We did stop for a few sexy bike shots at the reservoir which is also where she celebrated her 30,000 mile! Happy birthday old girl!
I was also lucky enough to be able to borrow a GoPro from work so thought this was no better time to run it in! After being rather paranoid I made some tethers out of go kart brake cable so I knew that the camera wouldn’t be left on the road. You can see a short video of the route here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVddU7fEa6g.
Avoiding a very large grey cloud over the hills surrounding Barcelona we rocked up and base camp and as if it was meant to be, moto parking opposite with room for 2 bikes, Yes :). There looked like some interesting roads similar to the ones outside Tarragona, but we didn’t have time to explore them whilst becoming acquainted with Gaudi’s architectural stylings in the city and sipping daiquiris.
The journey home was uneventful and even the winds of Hurricane Bertha weren’t going to stop us – even though she tried by blowing us across 2 lanes of a motorway (luckily there was no other traffic!) In typical Simply Vik style Something had to happen and in the port of Calais I dropped my bike, well was blown over to be more precise but there were plenty of helpful hands about once we had stopped laughing. I was asked if I would have been able to pick up the bike on my own and I said no, I’m just lucky that I can flail about on the floor and a guy will come over to help.
Today I was shown this rather good link that I would advise all motorcyclist to read as it has pretty clear instructions on how to pick up a fallen bike so next time I will try this out myself! http://www.womenridersnow.com/pages/Bike_Lift_Technique.aspx
I’m still pretty impressed that my mate did 4 days on a sports bike and could still walk! I have no idea how he managed to be hunched over for so long with his knees round his ears. My hat is off to you 🙂
When I read back to last years posts I can’t believe how terrified I felt on difficult roads when now I just really enjoy them. I would feel really anxious when roads were suggested but with all the training that has disappeared. Time seems to stop when I’m riding nice roads, that Zen feeling when there is nothing else but you, the bike and a beautiful corner. Instead of coming to each manoeuvre I can flow now and it really feels like dancing with the landscape. I think it might be the only thing I can actually do gracefully, or at least I feel graceful when I do it! Wonder how I will feel this time next year…
A good summer, not the one I had planned but still good anyway. Austria will have to wait for next year…
Ride on 🙂