3 Jul 2014

Europe 2014: Wrapping up

How to wrap up... well I’ll start with the negative bits of which there are only a few. The elephant in the room is of course the oil slick between the Czech villages of Leontýn and Karlov which caused the bike to spit us off at 70kph—you can read more here. Coincidentally this is by far the most read entry about this trip on my blog—you guys are bloodthirsty!!

A big negative was missing out visiting our friends in Austria—we were really looking forward to seeing them, but given the mishap, we felt it was best not to go even further from home before the bike could be repaired. Unfortunately this also meant I wasted €40 on vignettes for Austria and Switzerland but that’s not the end of the world.

Perhaps minor in the grand scheme of things, but it really pissed me off that the cleaners came into the room two mornings in a row at the hotel in Berlin at stupid o’clock (around 8am)—with the ‘do not disturb’ hanger on the door. Few things wind me up but I do like my privacy—why bother making these hangers?

Oh, and the rubbish timing of Berlin traffic lights—needlessly causing congestion—the worst I’ve come across in any city.

Finally, the BMW Navigator IV (aka Garmin 660) wound me up a few times because it is bloody slow when calculating routes avoiding the main roads/motorways—I mean have a coffee and a sandwich slow. What takes the GPS app in my iPhone three seconds to calculate was taking up to 10 minutes to calculate on the dedicated Navigator. The workaround is to avoid calculating routes to places further than a few hundred kilometres at a time. I understand the Navigator V is much quicker but I’m not spending £500 on another GPS when this one otherwise works great.

Now the positives. Firstly the technology bits—a special mention once again for the Sena SMH5 bluetooth headsets. The best technology is that which works invisibly in the background and Sena have really nailed it with this product. Never a problem and two days’ battery life out of a single charge. My camera, laptop and phone all happily buzzed along as well.

The bike was great, aforementioned incident notwithstanding. All loaded up we were fairly close to the weight limit but there was more than enough power to go as fast as you like. Even fully loaded the brakes are strong enough to lift the rear wheel and the clutch feather light. With the Gear Shift Assist Pro system, touring is effortless—despite a few random missed shifts where the system seemed to get confused—overall, well worth the extra cost.

It seems the days of boxers engines drinking oil are over, as it didn’t consume any. Average fuel consumption was a very acceptable 51mph—better than many 600cc bikes (my old Honda Hornet got around 45mph), and only 9mph less than my F800GS on a similar trip. For reference, the worst I saw on the computer was 13mpg on heavy throttle accelerating up a long, steep hill and the best was around 75mpg on cruise control at 50mph on level ground.

There is a minor quirk of the fuelling system on this bike—modern engines cut the fuel flow while decelerating (to reduce pollution and improve fuel consumption) and this ‘feature’ made itself known at times while maintaining a low speed (30mph) while travelling on a slight decline, resulting in some roughness.

All in all, the new R1200GS is a reliable, well engineered machine that is great fun even while weighted down for full touring duty. It never leaves you wanting for something better and puts a smile on your face no matter what type of road you’re on.

Locations, locations... Loved Berlin, loved Prague—such different cities, both with something for everyone. The botanical gardens were a highlight—an oasis in the middle of a busy city.

The Fruithof Tack in Belgium, Louis Léger Hotel in Prague and Hotel Ambiente in Wemding all tie for best accommodation. Special mention to Hôtel-Restaurant Braas Sàrl in Eschdorf and Waldcafé Jäger in Bad Driburg for super-70s charm. Hotel Aldea in Berlin did the job, but the experience was tainted by the overeager cleaners.

Other notable highlights included unexpectedly being a part of a town celebration in Germany complete with a marching band, a few good runs on the autobahn and all the beautiful scenery from fields to forests throughout the journey.

But the standout of the trip was our time spent in the Alsace with Laure and her family at their winery. This region is so amazing it must be experienced first hand—so if you have the opportunity, don’t pass it up. A very special thank you to Laure for turning everything around for the better again on this trip.

Finally, thank you to Zev for putting up with the whole ‘grumpy cat’ persona—he’s not grumpy really.

Europe 2014 quick links

Day 1: London to Sint-Gillis-Waas
Day 2: Sint-Gillis-Waas to Bad Driburg
Day 3: Bad Driburg to Berlin
Day 4: Berlin
Day 5: Berlin to Prague
Day 6: Prague
Day 7: Prague to Wemding
Day 8: Wemding to Ammerschwihr
Day 9: Ammerschwihr
Day 10: Ammerschwihr
Day 11: Ammerschwihr to Eschdorf
Day 12: Eschdorf to London