Saturday 27 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 7. Video 2

Another video, this time in better weather. This is the climb up Col de la Madeleine.

Cool photo

Back on Day 7 of my holiday, just as I was approaching the summit of Col du Glandon, there was a car parked at the side of the road with a banner with a company website attached to it. Just after that I saw a man crouched at the side of the road with a very large camera, who proceeded to take pictures of me as I rode past. At the summit, there was a box of business cards with a multilingual sign asking you to take one. When I got back, I looked up the website, and there were lots of photos from various passes available for sale. I looked up the page for the day I was photographed, and I'm numbers BM35874, BM35875, and BM35876.
I ordered a 20 x 30 cm print of BM35875, and a few days later it arrived at my door. I've attached a scan, but it doesn't do justice to the quality of the print. It's MUCH higher quality that I'd expected, and once I buy a suitable frame, it'll have pride of place on my wall. A great momento of a superb holiday!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Spa Racing

Video of some of the racing at Spa taken with my cheapo video camera handheld. Look how close you get to the action, and no-one minds if you lean out one of the 'gaps' in the fence that pitcrews use for showing their boards to the riders. Imagine doing that at a British track - you'd have some Jobsworth come along telling you that 'you can't do that' due to 'heath and safety'.

Apologies to anyone who tried to view this blog earlier and got a 'not available' message. I'd posted the wrong video so had to delete it.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France – Day 11

Up in the morning, and after breakfast hung around the boat waiting for the call to go down to the car decks. There was an announcement that unloading would be delayed due to 'passport checks', but that turned out to be a bit of an understatement.
Eventually we were called down to the car decks, untied our bikes, and waited..... and waited.....
After an unusually long time for unloading a ferry, some of the cars started moving, but it was very 'stop and start' until we eventually got off, only to join a long queue.
One of the dock staff signalled the bikes up one side of the queue and I made my way up towards the 'UK Immigration'. However, nothing seemed to be moving and we waited.... and waited.....
Occasionally we moved forwards about 1 bike length, but we just sat there getting hotter and hooter.
A strange incident happened about 4 or 5 bikes ahead of me. I could see a couple on a BMW RT waiting in the queue. One minute they are in the queue and the next time I look the bike is on its side and they are lying on the ground. The rider picked the bike up, but it must have been running in gear as when the tyre touched the ground it jumped forward. It was hard to see, but I think it hit the side of one of the cars. A large group of people gathered around the bike, it was eventually picked up, but I've no idea of what happened. All of this delayed the queue even more.
Eventually I got to the front of the queue to find that every passport was being checked (despite being checked twice before we got on), all motorcyclist had to remove their helmets to check they matched their photos, and all caravans and campervans (there were a lot of these) were being searched. I'd noticed on board that the ferry had a capacity of 1000 passengers, and how many Immigration officers were doing the checking – two! Yes, two!
When we'd arrived in Belgium we were just waved out of the docks and onto the main road (after all, our passports had been checked on the way on), but coming back into Britain we're confronted with a Third World type checkpoint! Welcome home.
After that it was a fairly easy, dry, and unremarkable 5 – 6 hour ride home. During the trip I'd covered 2082 miles / 3350 km, and the bike had almost behaved itself impeccably. I say almost because on about the 3rd or 4th day I'd noticed that my 'overheating' light had come on in town. A quick check found that the fans weren't operating due to a blown fuse. Once replaced, the light only came on once or twice, and then only in the heaviest traffic. Can't really complain – the fans came on more in one day in France than they do in a year at home, so the fuse wasn't used to that amount of work!

Some of the bikes were at one end of the ferry.

While the rest of us were on a raised 'ramp'

Song of the Day:

Trip to Belgium and France – Day 10

Woke after a good sleep on what would be our last day abroad.
After a huge breakfast, we loaded our luggage onto the bikes. We'd arranged with the ever-helpful staff of the hotel to leave our bike clothes and helmets with them whilst we went for a last visit into town. On the way we even managed to buy oil in a bike shop despite not having a common language with the shop owner!
Bruges city centre was very busy due to the number of tourists and a large street market being held in one of the main squares. We all went our different ways to buy souvenirs and presents for people at home, arranging to meet back at the hotel.
I bought a few things then went for a wander around the city centre taking in the sights.
At almost the same spot as we'd met Donnie the night before, I bumped into him again! He was with his loaded bike and was having a last look round before going for the ferry.
The rest of us met back at the hotel, collected our bikes, and said fairwell to our hosts. From there it was just the 12 mile/20 km ride to Zeebrugge to get the ferry. As we were very early, we went to a beach bar mr combo and Gareth has discovered the year before, and sat about relaxing and chatting.
We'd parked our bikes outside, almost certainly illegally, but when a Police motorcyclist came past, he slowed to look at the bikes, gave us a polite nod, then rode off!
From there it was a short ride to the ferry terminal and onto the boat. The boat seemed a bit busier than the trip over and they had to use two separate areas of the hold for bikes, but we were soon relaxing in one of the bars. Tomorrow we just had the ride home and our holiday would be over.

 Cool sign on bike parking bay.

 Amazing what you find parked in sidestreets.

Waiting at the ferry terminal.

Song of the Day:

Trip to Belgium and France – Day 9

Sorry for the delay in posting but since I got back from the trip I haven't had a minute to myself. The story continues.....

I think we were all glad to leave Metz. The hotel was the worst one we stayed in during the trip, it was the cheapest but wasn't as good as we'd hoped. A mixture of things – it was in a rather run down industrial estate, was next to a railway line, and the other residents gave us the feeling that the bikes might not be there in the morning. Add to that, that due to very recent roadworks, our SatNavs tried to lead us along now non existent roads, do no longer existing turns, and after a rather long, hot day in the saddle it was the last thing we needed.
However, the bikes were still there the next morning, so we were up early and way to out of France and back into Belgium. It was a fairy short and very pleasant ride to our next destination, Bruges/Brugge.
(Like many towns in Belgium it has 2 names. English speakers tend to refer to it by its French name, Bruges; whilst the Flemish speaking locals call it Brugge. Since I'm writing in English I'll call it Bruges).
We easily found our hotel for the night, Olympia Hotel. It gets a link as it was the best hotel we stayed in, so it wasn't long before we had forgotten the 'difficulties' of Metz.
When we arrived, an elderly man on a bicycle started shouting at us in Flemish (which none of us understand), but he seemed to be telling us that we couldn't park there. We checked with the hotel owners and it turned out that it was OK to park there – the old man just didn't like strangers parking near his house! It wasn't a problem as the owners let us park in their driveway, even moving their own cars so we could all park safely. (See what I mean about the 'best hotel'!)
We got changed and went for a wander into town. Bruges has quite a compact centre, and our hotel was only a 15 minute walk away. If you've never been, you should make the effort to visit. I'd been to Bruges a couple of times before, but still hadn't tired of it. Very ornate, very well preserved, and it has a pleasant atmosphere about it, so it was a perfect way to 'wind down' after our trip. We had a good meal in one of the many restaurants, and in the main square bumped into Donnie, who we hadn't seen since the ferry over.
Managed a few photos before the light went.

Song of the Day:

Monday 15 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 7. Video 1

First video from the trip. This is the climb up Col du Galibier. As you can see, this was cold and wet, but worth it for the ride up and view from the top.
Of note: that's a Dutch registered Trabant that passes at 4:48, and the tunnel at 9:58 cuts off the last part of the Col. Also note the lack of guard rails to stop you plummeting to your death!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - intermission

That's me home now from the trip. I'll try and get the remaining days' posts up fairly soon. Also got lots of photos, plus some videos. Watch this space!

Thursday 11 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France – Day 8

Start of our journey home and the longest day of our trip. I always feel that when you're heading home from a holiday, it's good to have a long day to 'break the back' of the journey. So we'd planned on getting to Metz today, a journey of around 360 miles / 580 km.
I managed to get separated from some of the others in busy traffic and ended up riding the journey by myself on main roads. Not really much to report other than it was a warm, sunny day, and at one service station there was this very large chess set!

This cat hung around tables at a service station hoping to get scraps. Always walked away when I tried to take its photo!

Song of the day:

Trip to Belgium and France – Day 7

A day late as I was a bit tired last night.

I'd planned today as a long day riding the high passes, and what a day it turned out to be! I'd worked out an approximate route taking in a number of the climbs used during the Tour de France. I started by riding Col de la Madeleine and Col du Glandon, both fairly easy roads giving good views of the surrounding mountains.

As I was riding down from Glandon through the Défilé de Maupas I saw a sign saying the route to Huez via Villiard-Reculas was open. I checked my map, and this road was marked as 'difficult or dangerous section of road' – what more encouragement did I need! The road wasn't that bad, well surfaced, but a bit narrow and with tight bends. However, it more than made up for that with spectacular views.
The town of Huez is more than half way up the climb to Alpe-d'Huez, another TdF favourite. I road up to Alpe-d'Huez, but the town was very busy with traffic and there appeared to both road bike and downhill mountain bike events taking place. Also, a lot of campervans had already 'claimed their spot' for the TdF stage to be held on the 18th!
Didn't bother stopping as it was so busy and turned around and road down the spectacular road. There were dozens of cyclists riding up – every one much fitter than me!
After that I had quite a ride to the next stage of my route – the climbs over Col du Galibier and Col du Télégraph. On the way it started getting colder and I had a shower or rain just before Galibier.
Touring tip: if your riding suit has a Gore Tex liner which you remove for riding in hot conditions, don't leave it in your hotel room when you go out! I got pretty wet going over Galibier, but luckily it was warm and sunny when I got over the summit, which dried my suit.

However, it was even wetter and very misty going over Télégraph, so misty that I didn't see the fort or even the sign at the summit, and only realised I'd passed it when I started going downhill. At least it was sunny again in the valley so I dried out a bit!
From there it was a fairly straightforward hour and a half's ride back to the hotel, or it would have been had there not been a very heavy thunderstorm! So bad that I stopped to shelter under a tree and to transfer everything from my suit's pockets to the topbox to stop them getting wet. It was obvious that the rain was on for the night, so I rode back getting thoroughly soaked in the process. By the time I got to the hotel, every garment I was wearing was soaked through and only my feet were dry.
I shot some videos whilst riding over the passes, hopefully there will be enough reasonable footage to edit something together when I get home.
Most of the rest of our group rode similar routes, but Stuart, Gareth, and Terry D managed to get as far as Italy, only getting back after dark.
This was to be our last night in Chambéry, we're starting the trip home tomorrow.

Song of the day:

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 6

After all the riding we've done over the last few days, we were glad to spend some time off the bikes and explored Chambéry on foot. A very interesting city with a well preserved medieval city centre.

Just about every postcard of Chambéry features the 'sculpture with the elephants', so here's a photo.

Again it was a very hot, sunny day, and we saw 34° on one display.
We bought some things in a local supermarket and had a picnic lunch at tables outside our hotel.
By late afternoon, it had cooled a bit so some of us went for runs on our bikes. I explored some of the lower passes near Chambéry, and basically rode around at random seeking out interesting looking roads.

This was a good rehearsal for some of the higher passes I intend riding tomorrow.

Song of the day:

Monday 8 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 5

Another nice sunny morning as we headed off from Dijon to the Château Savigny-les-Beaune. I'd visited this last year, as it has a large collection of motorcycles, fire engines, tractors, jet aircraft, and models. If anything, there were more exhibits on show, plus dozens of bikes awaiting restoration.

Leaving Dijon

Cool sidecar
Interesting aerodynamics!

Anyone remember this from the early 70s? In Britain it was called 'Groundhog'.

Just some of the bikes awaiting restoration. Imagine having this lot in your garage!

After coffee in a nearby café, we spent the rest of the morning at the Château having a good look at the exhibits.
By the time we were leaving it had started to get very sunny and hot, and continued that way as we made our way to Chambéry, our stop for the next three nights. On the way, the coutryside changed from intensive grape growing to mountains.
About 20 km before Chambéry, we had a few very short bursts of rain. Nothing really, just a couple of minutes at a time, not enough to make us stop to put our waterproofs on.
We'll all probably have at least one day off of the bikes and take in some of the sights of Chambéry.

One of our stops

A local (originally from Belfast) stopped for a chat. Note cool car!

Song of the day: 

Sunday 7 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 4

Remember I said something about avoiding motorways? Well, I left a bit later than planned this morning, so rode down the motorway for a while with the others. They stopped for breakfast, but as I knew I had a long day ahead of me, I headed on.
I took the rather boring motorway as far as Luxembourg, then rode through France on 'N' and 'D' roads so I would see more of the country. The weather was very sunny and I saw 30 degrees on my thermometer. I've always liked rural France, and it's a real joy to ride through the countryside on mostly deserted roads, passing through villages, and just catching the smell of the fields.
As I approached on village, I saw signs saying there was a classic car show. I stopped and there were about a dozen or so beautifully preserved cars on show at the end of a street which had been closed for a market. The market was for antiques/bric a brac/junk (well, mostly junk), but there was a very tatty Motobecane for sale. Don't know anything about it other than it was a prewar(?) two stroke with plunger suspension and a hand gearchange. AS you can see from the picture below, it looks like it's spent a lot of time abandoned, probably in a barn.
After that it was a pleasant ride to our next stop, Dijon. We were soon booked into our hotel and I went out to take some photos before it got too dark.
Tomorrow – the Alps!
(It looks like I'll have to wait until I get back before I post the rest of my pictures as both Flickr and Facebook don't seen to wan to upload pictures fom my netbook.)

                                                   Place de la Republique, Dijon

Nearly forgot, Song of the Day:

Saturday 6 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 3

Today's the day of the 'Bikers' Classic' at Spa Circuit!
I headed off early to the circuit to try and get photos before it started getting busy. I had a pleasant ride of about 30 miles (50 km) to the circuit along a lot of very pleasant country roads. What I noticed was that the countryside was becoming more hilly and wooded. I passed through the very pretty town of Spa itself, then it was the short journey to the circuit.
I bought my ticket (25 Euros for the day, plus 5 Euros parking), and rode to the bike parking area. This was a large field partly covered in gravel, and I was early I could find a level spot where the ground was solid enough to allow the bike to park safely.
I locked my helmet to the bike, changed my shoes, and locked my boots and jacket in the empty panniers (luggage was left back at the hotel.)
Even though it was fairly early, the sun was out and it was very hot. I unzipped the lowers of my zip-off trousers, then applied lots of Factor 50 sunscreen – I learned that lesson last year at Dijon!
The event is mostly based around racing bikes of the 70s and 80s, and there was a huge selection of different males and models of both full race bikes and road based racers. There was also a 'market' area where stalls sold all sorts of bike related stuff, many selling parts. I did see lots of bits for my CL 350, but managed to control myself and my wallet!
After a couple of hours I met up with the others and we had a good look round and watched some of the racing. We never managed to find Kawa or Donnie, but that wasn't surprising when you saw the size of the place.
I stayed until about 16:00 then headed back to Liège, stopping for fuel on the way as it was Saturday and I didn't know whether I'd be able to buy fuel on a Sunday. I needn't have worried as almost all of the fuel stations have card readers, and not only did the one I used accept my ordinary RBS bank card, it also automatically changed to English!
When I was leaving the parking area, I along with all the others bikes were stopped by security who checked that we had ignition keys in our bikes. Basically, they were checking that we hadn't stolen the bike and had 'hot wired' it. I'd never had this before, but it was good that they were doing something to prevent bike theft.
Although we had all left the circuit separately, we all arrived back at the hotel within a couple of minutes of each other – and we had taken different routes! Spooky!
I took over 200 photos, here are a few to give you an idea of the bikes there, and I'll post a link to the others once I've uploaded them to Flickr. I also shot some video of the racing, but that will have to wait until I get home to edit it.
We leave tomorrow for our next stop, Dijon. This is about 300 miles (500 km), and I intend to get up early and ride it all on back roads! Have a look at tomorrow's post to see how I get on!!

Song of the Day:

Friday 5 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 2

Had a reasonable night's sleep on the ferry, so it was down to the restaurant for the 'all you can eat' breakfast. I saw an amusing incident – an woman in her 60s picked up a teacup and saucer, placed a teabag in it, then went to the drink dispenser that has pictures of fruit on it, and pressed the button marked 'Orange'. When orange juice and not the hot water she had expected was dispensed into her cup, she turned to her husband and proceeded to blame him for 'letting her do it'!
Suitably fed, we waited for the call down to the car deck to untie the bikes and ride out into Zeebrugge. We stopped at a nearby petrol station so the ones that were a bit late at Hull and didn't have time could fill up and headed towards our next destination – Liège.
I'd set my Sat Nav to 'no highways', so we would avoid the motorways and see a bit more of Belgium from the back roads. There were a number of deviations due to roadworks and traffic holdups, so we went on  some very back roads!
However, we realised a group of six bikes is really too much to keep together in traffic, so we split up and travelled by different routes. Stuart and Terry D made a detour to visit the battlefield at Waterloo, and spent a couple hours at the centre there.
We all eventually met up at the hotel we'd booked. This was right in the City Centre, so had plenty of places to see, and to eat and drink nearby. We had a good look round what is a very attractive city, and I'll take some photos tomorrow. No photos today as I'd left my camera switched on since yesterday and the battery was flat!
Today had started out a bit misty and overcast, but as the day went on it got brighter and hotter! Song of the day:

Trip to Belgium and France - Day 1

At last ! The holiday starts!

I left the house at about 09:00 in light rain for the ride to Hull. About 20 minutes later the rain suddenly got heavier and that was the situation for the next few hours. On some parts of the M74 motorway, the spray was so bad that traffic had to slow to about 50 mph (80 km/h) due to the lack of visibility. The rain lessened by about the half way mark, and just before Scotch Corner (which isn't a corner and is nowhere near Scotland), I spotted Terry G stopped for a rest in a laybye. We headed off together and the rain eventually cleared. I had a great feeling when I saw the first roadsign for Hull, and at that pint the sun came out! This really felt like the start of the holiday.
We arrived at our meeting point, a Sainsbury's supermarket, had something to eat and wait for the others. Soon after, Donnie, who was travelling with us and attending the Bikers' Classics, but not staying with us arrived, soon followed by mr combo.
Time ran on but the others hadn't appeared, so we filled with fuel and made our way to the ferry terminal. It's only about 7 miles (11 km) but seems to take forever due to heavy traffic. When we got to the terminal, the others had gone straight there due to running late, and the sun had become quite bright and actually hot!!

The group is:

Me – Skorpion Traveller
Terry G – Skorpion Tour
Gareth – Sachs 800
mr combo – Triumph Tiger 955
Stuart (not my brother) – Triumph Tiger 800
Terry D – Kawasaki ZZR 1400
Donnie – Yamaha Diversion 900

We were soon loaded onto the ferry and found our cabins. There was a slight 'excitement' when mr combo thought he had lost his keys, but he'd left them in the bike and Terry G had taken them.
Once at sea it was a typical ferry voyage. Sitting about chatting, eating and drinking until it was time for bed. Tomorrow we'll be in Belgium!

Sticker I made for the trip

And continuing what I started last year, here's 'Song of the Day':

Wednesday 3 July 2013


Recently Larry and I have make reference to 'amigos', but nothing was preparing me for what I saw in my local supermarket....

Amigos - 'tequila flavoured beer'. That just sounds disgusting!

Looking at the advertising blurb, it's aimed at the '18 to 24 year-old target market', or 'people too young and impressionable to realised they're being ripped off', which would be a more accurate description. I bet this costs about 3p to make, but sells for at least £3!
So next time a teenager vomits all over the pub carpet, if it smell like tequila, then you'll know what it is!

Friday bike

Early for a change as I'm going on holiday tomorrow. Thanks to the Faster and Faster blog for reminding me of one of the most distinctive looking British Bikes of the 70s - The Triumph X-75 Hurricane.

Pair of X-75s spotted at the Coupes Moto Legende last year.

Styled by Craig Vetter, this was an attempt to make the Triumph Trident/ BSA Rocket 3 more appealing to American buyers. Some videos about it:

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France – Prologue

Just getting the last things ready for my trip to Belgium and France on the Skorpion. A group of six of us are going to the Bikers' Classics event at Spa in Belgium, then heading down to the French Alps.

Format will be similar to last year's trip and I'll try and update my blog as I go along. Probably can't post from the ferry, so Day 1 (Thursday) will consist of riding from my house to Hull. This is the same journey I made last year, so can reuse the map

When it comes to packing for holidays, some people take FAR too much stuff with them. After all, Belgium and France have shops so there's no need to take things that I can buy there. My Skorpion has 40 litre Hepco panniers and a 40 litre topbox, and that's more than enough luggage space.

I'm not going to write a long detailed packing list but what I intend taking is:

Paperwork: Passport, licence, insurance, registration document, copies of ferry and hotel booking, and phrase books (French and Dutch/Flemish). Maps.

Clothes: Bike clothing I'll be wearing, so: 1 pair of zip off trousers (so they can become shorts ), 1 pair of training shoes, a fleece jacket, a hat, and a light waterproof jacket for walking about.
For 'daily clothes', I take some old t shirts, socks and underpants and discard them as I wear them. I'll only take enough for about 4 or 5 days and buy replacements in supermarkets on the way, see last year's post.

Electrical things: Satellite navigator, cameras (still and video), phone, and netbook (to update blog). Mains leads and French to British mains adaptor.

Others: Toilet bag, spare keys, Swiss army knife, small rucksack, luggage elastics, U lock and cable lock (to lock helmet to bike), sunglasses, credit card, and bank card (works in French machines and petrol stations). First aid kit and Factor 50 sunblock (after last year's experience!)

Tools: Enough spanners to tighten anything likely to come loose, Allen (hex) keys, tubeless repair kit, pump, cable repair kit, a few spare bulbs and fuses, pliers, screwdriver, cable ties and duct tape (for on the road repairs), and a multimeter.

Anything else I need I can buy on the way.

Before I leave the house I put all the things I'll need on the ferry (trousers, shoes, toilet bag, change of clothes) into the rucksack, so that's all I have to carry up from the ferry car deck. (I've seen people struggling up the narrow staircases carrying panniers.

This is the approximate route we'll be taking:

Once we get to the Alps, this is the kind of road I intend riding on.

Col du Chaussy

In keeping with last year's trip, I'll try and think of a song that sums up each day. Sing along now, 'We're all going on a summer holiday.....'