european road trip 2016 -part 3

This is the third and final part of the Blog Post for the 2016 European trip. Click here for Part One and here for Part Two

Friday: With the weeks routine now well established we were ready to leave the Logis Le Pont du Champ at Beaucroissant by 09:00am. Our plan for the day was to head for Burnhaupt-le-Haut in the Alsace-Champagne region of France.

As with previous days the weather looked set to be another scorcher and not for the first time on the trip I was glad I had oped for my textiles rather than leathers,  this would be another day where the jacket lining would stay tucked away in one of my panniers.

Before setting off I had done the usual check around the bike and noticed that my front tyre was looking a bit close to the wear indicators – I’d opted for Bridgsetone Bt23‘s at the first tyre change on my bike back in 2014, and although I could recall having another rear tyre fitted earlier this year I couldn’t recall when I had replaced the front, but it looked like it would probably be OK for the rest of the trip

Friday (112)

It was Mick’s turn to lead the route for the day, and despite a bit of a dodgy start to the days riding it was to turn into another day in which we would more than fill our riding boots. Our first stop of the day was in the small town of Virieu.  Had we gone there direct from Beaucrossiant it probably would have took us less than 30 minutes or so but for one reason or another we didn’t go there directly … its fair to say we went slightly wrong when setting off,  and some of our initial route was more akin to green laning than touring!

The options for our ride to Burnhaupt-le-Haut meant that we really couldn’t help but find good roads, we stayed in the hills and to the west of Chambery and headed into the  Haut-Jura national park.  We had briefly discussed the possibility of heading in the direction of Annecy and its beautiful lake but in practice it would have made for just too long a day.

As it was, we headed on towards Saint Claude and then to Belvedere de Cinquetral an area that because of its location is popular with hangliders, we stayed west of the Swiss border and although at one point only around 40 miles or so from Geneva, we didn’t bother going as we had been there a few years back on a trip (to Austria I think). At that time the four of us had stayed in Evian Les Bains, a spa town on the shores of Lake Geneva.

We rode on the D69 which was fabulous and great fun and another superb example of whats on offer in the region – I can’t recall the precise detail of our route for that day – but the weather was hot, the roads were good and the banter along the way was up to the usual standard – who could ask for more.

Along the route we stopped for a late lunch and to be honest long before we had stopped I was beginning to get a little concerned about my front tyre – there had been a couple of times when it hadn’t felt right. On more than one occasion I had tempered things to take account of what was in fact a tyre that was now reaching the wear indicators very rapidly.

A check of the tyre when we stopped gave a sure indication that it just wouldn’t be sensible to try and get home without having a replacement. In fact it was so worn that the thought of riding on it in rain wasn’t at all pleasant – the fact that there seemed to be no prospect what so ever of rain was by the by – sometimes what’s in your head counts more than reality.

Over lunch we decided that if we saw somewhere along the way then we would call in, and if not then I would check for somewhere local to our hotel with a view to getting a new tyre first thing on Saturday morning.

Maybe not surprisingly, given the roads we were on, we didn’t see any bike shops on our way to our overnight accommodation at the Au Lion d’Or – but that aside the place looked decent as we pulled in, and we were greeted by a particularly helpful and pleasant receptionist as we checked in.

In fact she proved to be extra helpful when I asked if she knew of any nearby places where I might get sorted with a tyre on Saturday morning, and it seemed to take her no time at all to locate the nearest place which was actually a KTM dealer about 10 miles or so away.

The Au Lion d’Or was located close to a main road (had excellent secure garage parking for the bikes) and had a restaurant and bar that was part of the hotel set up and that was just across the car park. It seemed a popular stop for truckers as well as regular travelers and the food was plentiful and good value.

I arranged with the other fellas that I would see them at breakfast but that I would take mine a little earlier than normal and head off on my own to get a tyre sorted around 08:30 or so in the morning.

Some pictures below from Thursday. Clicking on the first will open a scrolable gallery

Scroll down after the pictures to continue reading.

Saturday: I was packed and ready to go and left the hotel early to head off for a new tyre – I gave the others the postcode of where I was heading for and we planned to meet later after they had taken a more leisurely breakfast, there seemed little point in the four of us hanging around whilst my tyre was sorted.

Saturday (15)

I was at the KTM dealers by about 08:45 and although the guy in the shop was really helpful he said it would be better for me to head to a nearby Kawasaki dealer that was literally less than two miles from where I was, so off I headed and I was outside the Moto Pulsion Kawasaki main dealers in Lutterbach before they opened at 09:00am.

Unfortunately my optimism at getting a new tyre for my Kawasaki from a Kawasaki main dealer was totally misplaced – and I was told that as there was work booked in they couldn’t fit me in … naturally I questioned this but to no avail, the best offer, was that if I waited until mid afternoon they might be able to fit a tyre for me but they couldn’t say for sure – this was especially frustrating as there were (literally) stacks of new tyres on display. The single saving grace was that I was given the details of another place to try a few miles further on. I’m afraid that on this occasion Kawasaki did nothing to enhance their reputation. I had expected more and was left disappointed.

My experience at the next place was stark in contrast to the Kawasaki dealer, although I had the address I struggled to find the place and several people I had stopped to ask were unable to help me, but it was about the fourth person I asked who told me to wait where I was as he was just nipping into a local shop and then he would be back in his car and he would lead me to the address – and he did exactly what he said he would do – what a top man.

I arrived at Moto Expert (Mulhouse) and received superb service and got sorted with a new tyre Bridgestone BT30 (which have replaced the BT023 in the Bridgestone range).

In addition to that,  the guy who did my bike, took it upon himself to check my engine oil, lube the chain, and check and tighten a few bolts – he did this on the basis that I was a a good way from home etc. I had got so much less than I had expected from Kawasaki and so much more that I might reasonably have expected from a ‘generalist’ bike shop.

By the time I was done and on my way it was probably around 10:45, and although this had put a dent in the day it did allow me to get sorted and also to meet and strike up a conversation with a very decent French biker called Eric (pic above)

I met up with the others around 11:00am as they had waited at a cafe just a few miles down the road, we were soon on our way and were headed for Berdorf in Luxembourg.  I had cocked up with my route planning, although I had spent time before the trip on working out a decent route I had brought the wrong stuff with me and although I had realized the previous evening it had been far too late for me to start looking at maps etc  and so we decided that we would try the curvy roads setting on my Garmin 590 LM.

There are plenty of different views about using sat nav’s on motorbikes and I wrote a piece about that earlier this year (when I fitted it on my Guzzi Cafe).  If I’m honest I find some of the views about using a sat nav a little tiresome, and find that some of the arguments are presented as though to not use a sat nav makes you more of a biker with a more purist approach … sometimes I’ve seen some pretty extended debates online about the relative merits etc – I actually think it’s as simple as if you want to use one then do, if you don’t then don’t.

Anyway it was a fine opportunity to see whether or not the curvy roads was actually any good – and do you know what it was absolutely brilliant and took us through stunning scenery, superb roads and probably about 90% or so of the roads were first class, and frankly even with low level maps I doubt we would have plotted a route as good as the one we did.

Along the way we stopped for a memorable lunch …memorable only for the €30 omelette that the others shared between them – it was one of those bizarre sort of trip moments, that doubtless will become legendary in our recollections of the trip.

We had pulled over for a drink and lunch at a place called Chez Christine, I checked if they served food and basically we could have what ever we wanted … as long as it was eggs. It was sort of tragic really as the lady who ran the place was on the street almost desperately begging us to eat there. Omelette wasn’t my thing so my lunch for the day was a couple of cups of coffee – whilst the others shared what looked like a massive omelette – which in all fairness they said was alright but €30 for an omelette!

It was another great days riding and some of the roads off the N66 in Alsace provided great riding and great scenery. The weather forecast had suggested that we were in for a cooler day (mid 20’s rather than in the 30’s) but the forecast was hopelessly wrong and it was another day of steaming hot temperatures, which meant we had to stop for cold drinks on a few more occasions before we reached our overnight stop in Luxembourg.

It was around 7:20pm or so by the time we checked into our accommodation on Saturday evening at the Hotel Scharff in Berdorf, and we really needed to be in the restaurant for around 8pm to make sure we were  in time to order what turned out to be a really decent meal.