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Old 10-30-2014, 07:53 AM   #1
EastRoad OP
Road Viking
Joined: May 2014
Location: Switzerland
Oddometer: 99
Switzerland - France - UK - Belgium and back

As the bike season slowly comes to it's sad end (god, how do I despise winter) and I was lucky enough to find 10 days of spare time I thought I should put them to some decent use and hop on the bike ...

Starting in switzerland I basically crossed over france with a stop for visiting old friends, then over to UK (with the ferry from Ouistreham to Portsmouth) and from there up to wales (which, despite having spent a LOT of time in the UK, I've never before been to, but for a quick trip passing through on the way to ireland).
From there to St. Albans - again visiting good friends - and then for the way back to Dover and Calais, then into Belgium (which was sadly flat and foggy - so I haven't really seen much...) into Luxembourg and back to France.
There I had planed in to stop at "Uckange" to visit the last standing (but non-operational) Blast Furnace that had been preserved. (I have a professional affinity towards steel ;) ).
Into Colmar for dinner (been there before) and back to Switzerland.

Roughly some 4500km (the map isn't accurate as it shows a lot more highway than I did choose to take).

Longest stretch in the saddle was 850km in a day (france, as I was basically a day late for the ferry ;)... happens when you stop over at friends places).

Weather was a mixed bag - starting days were nice indeed and the progressively colder with a hint of rain... but it certainly didn't deter me from enjoying the ride.

Btw. if you ever wanted to feel like in a proper action movie: Enjoy a 6-pm traffic congestion on the highway around Paris... if you're adapting to local rider-style, you'll swoosh between lanes, rapidly changing from left, ride, middle at comfortable speeds of 50-80km/h. Deadly stupid? maybe... but the most fun I had in a traffic jam ever.

and here's a few impressions:
Starting with "MOTO-KITTY"

(the seat of the BMW in the morning looked like a kitten had taken it for a wild offroad-ride)

Wales (amazing scenery, amazing riding... quite frankly, the place is stunningly beautiful)


and more "moo"... tastier:

St Albans preparing for Halloween:

Spot "Skeletor" ;)

Belgium (unfortunately it was heavily overcast and cold - but "hail the heated grips".)


France, Uckange


"End of the Journey"

Hope you enjoyed them.
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Old 10-30-2014, 05:26 PM   #2
The Dogger
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Location: Great Britain
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Nice trip , thanks . Can you add a little detail ?
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Old 10-31-2014, 02:19 AM   #3
EastRoad OP
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Joined: May 2014
Location: Switzerland
Oddometer: 99
Originally Posted by The Dogger View Post
Nice trip , thanks . Can you add a little detail ?
Thanks - Well I'll try (Details), but if you want something specific, just ask ;)

The trip itself wasn't a long planned thing and I went with pretty minimal packing.
I had one small 21liter backpack that I was able to fit almost exactly into the top case (which is a CRAPPY HEPCO BECKER X-PLORER... DON't Buy... they suck).
The backpack basically contained my "daily needs" some clothes, wash gear etc... so when I would go for the night, or otherwise get off the bike, I could simply take the pack and then store helmet & Co. in the top box. Very handy.
As mentioned I was NOT happy with the actual top-box... I had bought it cheaply while ago and got served what I deserved for what I had paid: something where the plastic has shortly started to develop cracks and would let water in... I was basically forced to seal all edges with silicone and apply some epoxy from the outside. The top-box will go.

Aside from this I had two small soft panniers (ortlieb bicycle panniers) that mount to a custom frame (made it myself). they're quite small.
One contained my regular shoes and some motorcycle related tools and tyre repair stuff. the other contained cold weather bike-clothes (and it was well worth having).

Btw. for the Top.Case had made a steel sub-frame that bolts directly onto the bike's steel frame... so I wouldn't have to worry about overloading or cracking the aluminium part on the R1150:

Works like a charm and has enough bolt-holes to adapt to any kind of top-case system.

Initially I had no real route plans at all - despite about 10 days of time and the wish to visit two good friends.
The one in France lives near a small town called "lamastre" which is located within the "Ardeche" - a rather beautiful area.
The town is about two hours north of Marseille to give you some orientation.

Now this was my first stop over on the trip and it's a bout a 6 hour ride from my home town. 6 hours if you'd rush it and opt for highways.
8 if you take a more relaxed approach (which I did).
Through switzerland I decided to go for the fastest route out.
To be honest, Switzerland offers some lovely riding - but I was pretty fed up with it - having done nothing but switzerland for the past few months as I didn't have the time to go abroad. So I wanted out, fast - and I did.
It's basically a long autobahn with far far too many speed cameras. So riders beware... the Swiss are good at this. too good. (I often muse that without riders and crazy drivers filling the state's rather fat piggy bank the country would have been bankrupt ten years ago... at least this is how it feels if you look at the high priced tickets on speed violations.
Anyhow I'm getting off topic.

So after crossing the border at Geneva I basically went quickly for the more relaxed mountain & country-side routes which offer some damn excellent riding.

One thing I really LOVE about riding in france is the car drivers (yes.)
I have to this day find another country that is so welcoming towards riders.
Traffic congestion? they ALWAYS (well 99%) make space and let you pass.
Slow moving? they give way.
Number of idiots who basically want to kiss your rear wheel with their fenders: almost none.
Huge traffic jam: set both your turn signals ("emergency mode") flashing and drive. Even at stand still, many of the car drivers move their vehicles aside so that riders can pass unhindered.
I've driven past police cars like that (whilst basically tailing a french super sports bike)... and immediately was thinking "I'm screwed" (in switzerland, such a feat would cost me my drivers license for about a month + a hefty fine)....
But guess what? the cops moved aside?! Trust me - I was puzzled.

Needless to say I love riding in france.
The roads can become a bit less welcoming up in the higher country with frequent pit-holes, dislodged gravel.
But you keep this in mind and match your riding style and it's no biggy either.

When I arrived at my friends place I used his internet connection to make a booking for the Caen-Portsmouth overnight ferry (takes about 6 hours and you can book a cheap cabin)....
Originally my plan was to cross over from Brest to Plymouth - but unfortunately said ferry link does only operate on certain days of the week, at a schedule not to my liking. So I decided to skip plymouth (where another friend does reside).
I also stayed a tad to long at my friends place in france. and then had to make a wild rush to the ferry port in Caen (Ouistreham). Thus my main sight this day was the French Freeway.
The only thing that proved really nasty were this stupid road-toll booths all along the route. Basically requiring ungloving, fetching coins or notes ... all the time.
One weird piece of info: They're supposed to take credit cards.
Which would have made it far less inconvenient.
The problem though is that some of the older automatic stations have random problems with foreign master cards. I've heard mixed reports on this and it's basically a 40/60 situation.
To add to the trouble when you had opted for the credit card lane and the machine would refuse your card... you had to press the "assistance" button and wait - for half a day (exaggerated) - with very friendly car drivers queueing up behind you (my french is good enough to get friendly encouragement)... then you can pay cash.
I always keep one credit card and some coing and cash in simple water tight bag in my jacket's chest pocket... this way I at least don't have to fiddle with getting out the wallet.

Ferry Overnight.
Quite a lovely choice and I can highly recommend it.
Certainly it would have been cheaper and faster to go over Calais / Dover. But for some reason (I love travelling by boat/ship) the longer trip over Caen-Portsmouth did appeal to me. It added some psychological "I travel" aspect to the journey.
And also saved me from a night at an overpriced road-side motel.

Travelling from about two hours off Lyon to Caen was already an 850km stretch ((530miles) ... and that with the traffic was about 8 hours of riding.
By the time I arrived due to leaving too late it was about 10pm - just on time for the ferry.
But taking the night ferry basically saved me some time as I was ready to go on road again early in the next morning, well before heavy traffic.

Even the R1150 gets a nice cushion on board of the Ferry (although the strap looked less then comfortable):

Originally my Idea was to go up to Scotland - but as the weather wasn't looking that promising (the UK - according to the french news - was just hit with a hurricane a day before my arrival... I guess it was a bit over exaggerated, but weather looked foul enough)...
That aside I had been up in Scotland many times before (I'm rather fond of the place) - although not with a bike (something that I'll do next time).
So I did opt for Wales.
I had passed through wales before - on a train - and was always told by others how beautiful it is. (although some of my English friends would have mostly horrid stories of sheep to share... )

That was an amazing decision I have to say - as Wales proved to be about as stunning as it was described...
The weather and it's eerie fog everywhere was just adding to the almost mythical quality of the mountainous / hillside landscape.
The roads were surprisingly good - but for the frequent cattle grids (but luckily the big cow (R1150) doesn't mind cattle grids at all).

Overall the R1150GSA felt quite at home on those roads. passing between a mixture of country side roads, forest roads, mountain roads.

I don't know why - but my targeted city for a slightly longer stop was "Aberystwyth" right by the coast. Why? I guess I liked the name on the map and that it was by the sea-side. Never had heard of it before and wasn't sure if it would be nice.
But that is one of the things I absolutely love about bike-trips... if I don't like a place: ride on.
But my intuition had chosen wisely I would say - as Aberystwyth is quite a lovely town - very pleasant indeed.

But the best choice was to take the old mountain road from Rhayader instead of the newer routes.
That would pass thorough stunning valleys along I guess WW1 or older ruins (couldn't really place them) ...
Absolutely mind blowing and some of the better riding I've seen over the years.
There's still a lot of those roads left to explore and I could have gladly stayed longer.

After Aberystwyth - up to Bala...
Nice roads - but they paled in comparison to the rout taken to aberystwyth.
You probably know this feeling if you had the pleasure of experiencing something very amazing - then for a while the more mundane stuff seems even more mundane.
It was still quite good - but the weather definitely had turned a bit of an uglier shade and it was raining on and off.
But I have to add - that I am VERY pleased with my Klim Latitude Jacket and Pants... not a drop of moisture made its way in.

Oh and as mentioned before in the initial post - stopped over for lunch about 20 miles off Bala for a burger at a pub with a "bikers welcome" sign.
A wise choice indeed... as the burger, for which I can only assume that at least five lovely cows had given their precious lives, was bloody delicious (actually one of the nicest burgers I've had in a while).
Stuffed to the brim I decided to press on for St. Albans to make good on my promise of visiting a good friend of mine for a few days.

St Albans in case you don't know it is a smaller town about an hour north of London... Very briefly used to be the capitol in britains roman days and hence still has a lot of roman ruins and history.
The place itself is quite worth a visit too, very lively town - also hosting what is supposedly the UK's oldest still standing pub (but I've heard of other pubs having a similar claim). It's called the "Ye Olde Fighting Cocks" - from it's hay day where cock-fighting was a popular pastime of the general populus.
Lovely old pub with a genuinely cool old atmosphere - no kitsch.
Good food & drinks too.
There's a number of pubs featuring "Cock" in their name... the most funny one was the "Cock inn" ... not sure if I'd want to name my restaurant "Cock Inn" though

More later... work is calling
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:37 AM   #4
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Man alive, you took some great photos! Beautiful!

Thanks for the RR, very much enjoyed it
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:02 AM   #5
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Very nice; glad you took us along.
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Old 11-12-2014, 08:06 AM   #6
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Nice photos. Looks like an interesting trip
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Old 11-12-2014, 01:19 PM   #7
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Great report! Looking forward to the next segment! While I have yet to ride in France, I have accumulated thousands of miles driving there, and yes, you are correct, the courtesy shown to riders is incredible. I observe these cultural norms myself and always get a good feeling when I move over to let a rider pass and he or she gives me the little "right foot waggle" to say thanks. I am with you regarding the toll stops on the Autoroutes! So many! I think there is a special card you can purchase just for autoroute tolls, where the card has a certain value and you use in special machines at the toll stops. I was caught out at one of those recently (the overhead sign I misread to indicate credit card) and had to wait for "assistance." But at most other toll stops I have found the correct lane and have been able to use my foreign (without chip, just mag stripe on reverse) credit card successfully.
Revel in your time!
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Old 11-12-2014, 01:56 PM   #8
Tigers R great.
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Location: St.Leonards on Sea, England.
Oddometer: 3,605

If you like a ride around Wales you could do the Welsh National Road Rally. 9th May 2015. Get an entry from this site.
I've done it for the last 7 years and it's a real blast. If you complete it you go home with some real Welsh Slate.
2002 black Tiger955i, 72000 miles and counting.
2012 black Tiger800XC, 40000 miles and counting.
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:28 PM   #9
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Very cool trip, your route looks really similar to my 2012 trip although it was in reverse.

Looking forward to more.
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Old 11-13-2014, 05:56 AM   #10
EastRoad OP
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Joined: May 2014
Location: Switzerland
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Thank you guys for all the positive feedback!

and blacktiger: cool info... will check it out, as I'll be back for wales at some point anyhow ;)
(But my next project on the horizon before the big trip will probably be Morocco and the atlas mountains - again starting locally of course ;) - oh damn, how I wish winter was over already. it's been only about a week without nice riding and I already show signs of withdrawl.)
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