I’ve said for a long time that you can tour on any sort of bike, and ultimately it’s hard for me to imagine any bike that doesn’t come with some sort of compromise. Clearly depending what your expectations are and what you want from your bike will depend on the level of compromise.
My earlier trip this year to parts of eastern Europe and other places was on a Kawasaki Z1000 SX, a bike designed for touring and one that I rated particularly highly and with few compromises when it comes to setting off on a road trip. The Z1000 really is a fabulous bike but it was a rather different Kawasaki that my wife and I set off on when we had our most recent trip to Spain and Portugal, and to be honest I wasn’t quite sure how well our Vulcan S 650 would measure up.
We have had the Vulcan for around 12 months now and have used it for days trips, most recently when we had a cracking day in the Yorkshire Dales
In the event, the bike turned out to be better than good as we traveled without a plan, setting off from Santander to spend time in the Picos, Asturias and Galicia before heading down into Portugal and then ambling around a few of the National Parks and mountains and a couple of weeks later arriving back at Santander for the ferry home.
I plan to write a separate and more detailed Blog post in due course about how the bike handled and how we managed on it for two weeks and 2,500 miles – this post is really just an overview of the trip.
We set off on the 280 or so mile journey from Manchester to Plymouth early on a Sunday morning, knowing in advance that it would be dull and boring, in that respect our expectations were fully met! Dry down to the Midlands and then wet, wet, wet to Plymouth, although to be fair we broke the monotony with a decent stop for a bite to eat at the Haldon Grill Transport Cafe (near the M5 in Exeter).
I’ve done the Santander and Bilbao routes before, and on previous occasions the crossings were smooth and routine, this crossing wasn’t quite ideal and my wife was left with that horrible motion sickness/sea sickness feeling for much of the journey.
The Brittany Ferries service itself is really good and in my opinion compares very favorably with other ferry operators and really is an excellent way to get down to Spain without the drag down from the Northern ferry ports. On this occasion disembarkation from the ferry took an age and probably the longest it’s ever took on any of the ferry crossing I have done.
But once off the boat the rainy journey to Plymouth, the dodgy crossing across the Bay of Biscay and the frustratingly long wait to get off the boat were soon forgotten as we cleared the port and headed for the N621 and Panes and then into to simply stunning and magnificent Picos de Europa.
I have traveled in Europe a lot over the years – lots of times in the car with either my wife or family, plenty of times when flying to holiday destinations etc and probably around 17 or so European bike trips – and I have to say that whilst the Picos are not as extensive a mountain range as the Alps, Pyrenees etc the three days we spent there were an absolute revelation to me – and if anywhere was made for a motorbike then it’s here.
I done plenty of the passes in the Swiss Alps, I’ve biked in Austria, Trentino, the Dolomites, the Pyrenees, the Italian Lakes and so many other places – but without doubt the Picos hold their own when matched against anywhere that I have ever been on a bike.
We ended up staying for three nights in a decent hotel called San Glorio in Llanaves de la Reina, 1,400m up and right on a fabulous road that scythed through the limestone rocks.
After three nights we moved on and stayed in Ponferrada for one night then onto Lestove in Galicia where we booked one night at the superb Casa Antiga de Monte and then ended up staying for two nights.
Whilst there we rode over to Santiago de Compostella and then onto the Atlantic coast, generally enjoying fine weather, wonderful scenery and blistering roads.
After our time in Galica we headed off to Portugal for a few days, you can read more about that in Part 2.
For now there’s a small selection of our pictures in the gallery below – clicking on any one of them should open a scrolable gallery.