Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Europe Tour 2016 Part 1 - Hot hot hot.

The Alps. Biking paradise. I've been over a few times but I could feel the place pulling on me like a magnet, every shitey cheap car air freshener giving me a chemically edged, alpine fresh memory blast.
Aidan and I had been speaking about a European tour for a while, as had HB and I. Ferry tickets were booked and a rough plan formed. We would be joined by Jamie on his Honda Hornet 600, Euan on his BMW GS800 Adventure and Joe and Wojtek who were in Joe's car.
Near the end of June HB and I set off on the Africa Twin to the ferry at Newcastle, stopping of to collect Euan at his house. Euan had already had a wee hiccup, dropping his bike in his garage which in turn had knocked his crash helmet resulting in some damage to the visor. He only discovered this damage about 20 miles outside Newcastle when his visor came undone at 70mph. Luckily Euan managed to keep his shit together and save the visor, somehow re attaching it while he rode along the dual carriageway. Once aboard the ferry we had an unsuccessful search for some superglue to fix Euan's lid before having the usual buffet meal then beers, and a dodgy cocktail in the bar.

phone pics from euro tour

We were greeted to a wet Amsterdam morning. Euan attempted to stave off his cocktail induced hangover in one of Ijmuiden's dockside cafes while HB and I fuelled up the Africa Twin and grabbed some juice and coffee. The Netherlands' rain dried up as we headed south, my trusty old GPS guiding us on a mostly accurate path to Vianden in Luxembourg where we were planning to camp. As we rode the thermometer rose.
20 degrees,


fucking hell, its at 30!


At a water stop. That chemical toilet reeked in the heat.


It was sweltering, we had to stop to take on water every hour or so which we sweated out almost immediately. Our Scottish bodies were in no way used to these temperatures. Eventually we sweated out way across Belgium and into Luxembourg where we got onto the more scenic rural roads lines with shady trees keeping us cool. You can really feel the temperature difference especially when you ride beside a river or lake where the water keeps the air cool. We followed the river Our into Vianden. HB and I had stayed here before a couple of years ago so knew our way about. We headed straight for the campsite where we were met by a closed gate and a big fence. Shite. The campsite was empty, the only thing pitched being a big digger that was there as part of the on going renovations. This was the last thing we needed. We were tired, hot, sweaty and seriously dehydrated. Tempers were beginning to fray and I felt responsible despite having checked the website where there was no mention of any campsite closure. It had hit 37 degrees at times.
"Fuck this, lets get a hotel if there is one."


We rode back into town where there were a couple of hotels. Euan and I parked the bikes up while HB checked availability. Hotel Victor Hugo had exactly what we needed with the added bonus of air conditioning in our room. Ya dancer! After a long shower HB and I met Euan outside where we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon over a few drinks and some food. I sampled Bitterballen, a sort of deep fried balls of stovies, and Aperol, a refreshing Orange Italian wine based spritzer type thing, as well as some local beers.

phone pics from euro tour


phone pics from euro tour

Vianden is a stunning small town and and ideal place to relax after being cooked on the bike all day. We ended up sitting outside CafĂ© Du Pont speaking with the locals about the topic of the moment. Brexit. They, like us, thought it was crazy. The vote was being counted as we spoke and we were all hoping that we would still have a future as EU members when we woke up.
A quick scan on the wifi the following morning revealed that 62% of Scotland had voted to remain part of the EU. Unfortunately the majority in England and Wales had voted to leave. Thing were going to be getting interesting back home. After breakfast we set off while it was still cool stopping to brim our tanks with Luxembourg's cheap fuel. We took the pleasant twisty roads through a few towns before joining the auto route and blasting along the Piage into France. We were still toiling to cope with the heat. It was so hot it was making me dizzy. Water was poured over our heads as well as down our throats. Plans to ride the Route des Cretes were scuppered by the heat, with our sights set only on Rick and Andrea's house in Rickenbach, Germany.

phone pics from euro tour

Everyone assumes that you can batter through Germany in no time thanks to the limitless speeds on the Autobahn but in reality its easier sitting around 130 kph. Anything more and you begin to guzzle fuel at a rate that means more fuel stops and less time on the road. 130 is also a relatively relaxing pace and we cruised as comfortably as we could in the heat from Strasbourg to Freiburg only getting slightly lost once around Offenburg when the GPS and my navigational skills shat themselves over the new road layout. Familiar Freiburg was busy with commuters, the traffic torture in the heat, and in no time we were winding up some seriously fun roads into the cooler air of the hills. My heat tiredness was blasted away battering around the switchbacks. This was our first properly nice roads off the trip and the Africa Twin's first proper two up test. I was concerned that the Honda would toil in the twisties when loaded up compared to the GS Adventure. I needn't have worried, some mild tweeking of the forks and some big adjustments on the rear kept the bike nice and tight even with the two of us, all our camping gear and luggage on board. My average hairpin skills were coming back to me and I was getting used to chucking the loaded CRF about. The roads became more and more familiar as we got closer to Rickenbach. I had got my ZZR1100 from Rick last year (see this post for the story) and HB and I had visited two years before so I now know the area quite well. We were a sweaty mess by the time we rolled up to Rick and Andrea's house. I introduced Euan and had a big swig of the cold beer that had been brought out to meet us. Showers cleaned us up and a trip to the local shop got us sorted for food and beers. While having barbecue and beers outside we could see flashed of lightning in the next vally where a storm was doing its stuff. We were also receiving the first messages from Jamie and Aidan. They were on the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. Their plan was to get off the ferry, meet Joe and Wojtek who were in Joe's car and ride down in convoy. Eventually the storm rolled over head and we watched it from the shelter of Rick and Andrea's porch.
HB, Euan and I spend the next day with Rick and Andrea chilling out. I nipped down to the shops to get some flip flops as I'd left my Adventure Sandals (TM) back in Vianden, nightmare! We went over to Todtnau to ride the Luge and eat some currywurst. They all rode in the car while I followed on the bike, getting caught in the rain on the way over. Euan and I got soaked again taking the chairlift up to the luge but it was worth it. The luge is great fun, well worth the 9 euro. If you're in the area don't miss it out.
phone pics from euro tour

Andrea, Rick, HB, Euan and Eddy the cat.


phone pics from euro tour

phone pics from euro tour
Caught in the rain.

hoob phone pics
Going up.

Once back at Rick and Andrea's an eye was kept on the phones. Wojtek was giving us updates from the passenger seat of Joe's beemer. I was pretty worried about that lot to be honest. I was concerned that one of them would get lost, or that Jamie and Aidan would be unable to find Joe and Wojtek. We were also hearing that it was pishing doon with rain all over the route they were taking. All my fretting was needless though, Wojtek's updates assured us that they were doing fine.
They all rolled up that evening. Introductions, greeting and cold beers were passed around before the shower ritual. That evening we headed out to Stefan's Pizzaladen. We had a great time at Stefan's place. Full of pizza and proper German schapps we headed back to Rick and Andrea's where we carried on.

phone pics from euro tour
The whole crew at Stefan's. Round the table there's Wojtek, Andrea, Rick, HB, me, Joe, Aidan, Euan and Jamie.


Another feast was layed out for breakfast. While we ate we talked about the day's route. We were heading up to visit Wolfgang, only an hour or two's ride north. Because I'd already drank shitloads of the beer I figured it would be good to visit Rothaus Brewery. Bike's were repacked with Joe's car being filled with lots of everyone else's stuff. I jumped aboard the Africa Twin and went to wheel it...

The fucks goin on?

Something's no right here.

Flat tyre.

Fuck sake.

Will we make the brewery?

Find out in Part 2.


  1. Doh! New bikes aren't allowed flat tires.

    I don't envy you on the heat. We had temps in the high 30's and low 40's this summer. Crap for riding.

  2. I have the ability to look past the toilets the Heat and just look at the beauty of it all. What an adventure I would love to do it one day. I also love the bikes.

  3. 32°C sweltering? Hardly that's normal summer temps here in Australia.
    We had a 41°C day on our snowy mountains trip last year, that was hot.
    Nice pics again mate

    1. Yeah, but it's humid as fuck too. Anyway, Scottish summer is 22 degrees with 25-26 being really hot. I was cooking!