7 Jul 2013

The trip in hindsight

While suffering at home in London in 30°C weather with clear skies and nearly 100% humidity, and after nearly a whole bottle of Chat-en-oeuf circulating through my veins I thought it would be a suitable time to reflect on the trip.

Hightlights? Visiting Tom in Lille, my friend Laure in Ammerschwihr, my friend Renate's family in Flachau and meeting Dirkyan in Belgium all top the list.

There were a few more. Hôtel La Val in Ruèras Switzerland with its kind and accommodating husband and wife team, Hôtel Ambiente in Wemding Germany with its considered mix of old and new carried out to perfection, and Urberacher Hof in Urberach Germany with mum and daughter team Margarete and Gisela who made us feel part of the family. Honourable mention to Hôtel du Commerce in Thônes France with its tip top restaurant and meeting Zoë our expat Irish hostess (and fellow biker).

Every country we went to was full of generous, kind and welcoming people without exception. It’s interesting how countries gain reputations from visitors but our experience shattered all the preconceptions. From petrol station attendants to restaurant servers and hoteliers, everyone did more than their fair share to make us feel welcome. I don't know how much of that was down to travelling by motorbike but it doesn't matter really.

But which country did we enjoy most? I would have to say Germany. There is a certain acceptance ingrained in German culture toward outsiders that I can't quite put my finger on. The roads on the whole are an engineer’s wet dream with curves and bends seemingly designed to fling a motorbike around. And the autobahn is always close by when the temptation of opening up the taps on the bike becomes too strong to resist.

I can’t neglect the Grimsel Pass in Switzerland, however. This caught me out, temperature dropping from 17°C at the bottom to 0.5°C at the top with a full on snowstorm. Perhaps I didn't express earlier just how terrifying the experience was... I really thought, at a few points, that the next hairpin corner would be my last, slipping on black ice and sliding off the guardrail-less edge and smashing to our deaths on the rocks hundreds of metres below. But I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.

To balance the Grimsel, the Cormet de Roselend was the definition of joy on a bike, especially on the way back with a mad German man on an R1200GS as a pace bike in front of us. I think we caught him out keeping up on a fully loaded F800GS, a testament to the capability of BMW’s midrange GS bike.

Finally, the real star of the show was the bike itself. After nearly 3,000 miles of heavy going (225kg including us and the luggage) it kept chugging along without retort, not giving a single problem along the entire journey. True, I replaced the rear brake pads in Austria, but they were nearly shot when I left London. I checked the oil a few times along the way but I needn't have bothered—it didn't use a drop. And the economy was the biggest surprise—60mpg on the nose. Considering the weight and the steep mountains we crossed, this figure is nothing short of a miracle.

I can't wait for the next adventure later this summer—though it won't be quite so far from home, I'm thinking Wales or Scotland.

Alps 2013 quick links

Day 1: London to Lille
Day 2: Lille to Hagondange
Day 3: Slow road to Ammerschwihr
Day 4: Ammerschwihr
Day 5: Ammerschwihr to Thônes
Day 6: Thônes to.... Thônes
Day 7: Thônes to Ruèras
Day 8: Ruèras to Flachau
Day 9: Flachau
Day 10: Flachau to Wemding
Day 11: Wemding to Urberach
Day 12: Urberach to Antwerp
Day 13: Antwerp to London

The gear and how it held up
The trip in hindsight