Eurothrash 2016: Normandy, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire

So with another girls’ weekend in Newquay ahead of Alison and none of my riding mates able to come with me if I went anywhere, I decided I’d head to a part of France I’d never visited before, so I thought I’d head to Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

I looked at the “Ride” magazine guide to France and some of their suggested routes around there and the Atlantic coast and booked a couple of other overnight stops at the end of a couple of routes, sight unseen.

I booked a Eurotunnel crossing with their Flexiplus fare so that I could be as pressure-free as possible on my way back with the longest leg of the tour. After a 4.30am start, I turned up in plenty of time and was waved straight through and onto a train waiting to leave. They even gave me my own personal carriage 🙂

The Sprint GT and an empty carriage

The Sprint GT and an empty carriage

After around 560km I arrived at my hotel, having had to talk my way around one of the barriers stopping entry to the town without a code – which I had, thinking it was the code to the hotel’s own carpark (which they don’t have). Thanks to Accor’s loyalty plan, I’d been able to check in early so I spent the afternoon wandering around the actual Mont-Saint-Michel with its narrow streets and steps. Perfect for pushchairs, apparently…

I decided to walk back to the hotel as the queue for the bus was very long and after dinner came back out to take some more photos as night fell. Here are some photos:

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My next stop was at Quimper. I’d found what was supposed to be a four star place to stay without really realising it was a campsite and that there weren’t really hotel-type rooms in the accepted sense in the Chateau itself. Worse than that was the 5.00pm check-in. I messaged them to see if I could check in earlier but hadn’t heard back before I set off so I enjoyed the lovely roads and stopped at Guingamp for coffee and lunch:

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I checked my emails to find I could check in earlier after all, so off I went. I arrived around 4.00pm and checked-in at Reception, rode around to the chateau and couldn’t find any way to get in. After 45 minutes, i was lucky enough to find someone who could point me in the right direction, by which point I was a sodden, sweaty lump thanks to the hot day and a full set of leathers.

Still it was nice and ‘authentic’ and I did enjoy my time there:

Parked-up for the night

Parked-up for the night

L'Orangerie de Lanniron

L’Orangerie de Lanniron

L'Orangerie de Lanniron

L’Orangerie de Lanniron

Check-out time was 10.00am so after breakfast I set out for St Nazaire on some more lovely roads, going via Quiberon, which meant filtering along through the traffic queues onto the peninsula. A nice stop for moules and a wave to America and I was back on the road.

Hello America!

Hello America!

Moules Mariniere

Moules Mariniere

I arrived at the Hotel Majestic La Baule and wandered off to take some photos and get a coffee and Coke … and a Cuba Libre.

2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1153

The next morning after a lovely breakfast I waved goodbye and set off for home: a small matter of 770km.

The sun's up and it's time to leave

The sun’s up and it’s time to leave

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

I made it to Calais in plenty of time and despite the “helpful” UK Border Agency making me remove my helmet – even though he could clearly see my face – which slowed things up, I got on to an earlier train back (see my earlier comment about Flexiplus).

Home and a shower and a coffee and I was almost human after 2002km. I do like the Triumph Sprint GT 1050 and I also like my new leathers: Triumph “Taloc” leather jacket and jeans which are heat-reflective with zipped ventilation to help you keep cool and they’re also weather-resistant/waterproof supposedly. I only had a couple of light showers so no chance to really test that out, but there are inner liners to let the rain run out if it makes it through the leather.

2002km

2002 kilometres

1244 miles

1244 miles

Eurothrash 2015: Harz Mountains

I just realised that I hadn’t posted about last year’s Eurothrash to the Harz Mountains in Germany, so here we are now.

It was a quick blast there whilst my partner was sunning herself in Newquay with her friends. We’d booked to stay with Gregory Niven at his biker-friendly pension – Gregory rode a Kawasaki Versys by then – so Yox (on his Versys), Purge (on his Kawasaki ZZR1400) and I set off to Germany on a really hot day. The beers at Gregory’s place were welcome by the time we got there!

Dinner that first night – as all nights whilst we were there – was at the nearby Zum Belgier with their large selection of Schnitzel:

Tasty Schnitzels!

Tasty Schnitzels!

The next day we went off on a route that Gregory had laid out for us. A nasty front wheel slip on the Sprint ruined my confidence in the OEM Bridgestones, though:

This was what the front tyre looked like when we stopped:

Skid?

Skid?

This was us at our stop shortly afterwards:

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That evening, a somewhat peckish Yox ordered a light snack:

So Yox is having a weiner schnitzel with Bolognese sauce (meat) AND an 8oz steak on the side. Just in case.

So Yox is having a weiner schnitzel with Bolognese sauce (meat) AND an 8oz steak on the side. Just in case.

The next day it was off to Colditz. Except it was closed…

En route to Colditz

En route to Colditz

Still, we got some footage despite my lack of confidence in the tyres:

The next day it was wet; showers throughout the day but in between the rain we were taken for a blast out by Gregory:

2015-07-19 15.59.14 HDR 2015-07-19 15.58.49 HDR

And then the heavens opened. You can see from the footage that I was just not at all happy with the (lack of) grip from the front:

Then it was back home and after I’d switched back to miles and got home, I reckon it was a pathetic 400 miles of rain on the way home rather than the epic Pyrenees deluge…

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No Updates?

In case anyone was wondering about the lack of updates, I should probably let you know it’s all injury-related.  After the calf muscle taking so long to settle down, I’d assumed that following a bit of rest and all the cycling in Gstaad, it’d die down a bit and I could start running again.

And then on the 8th August after a long day starting at 2.30am with a drive to the airport to drop Alison off for her holiday, I tripped walking home from work later that night and I appear to have done something pretty nasty to my left ankle. Here are some photos with my right ankle in shot for comparison:

The same night The next day Compare and contrast

Yes, I should’ve gone to A&E to get it checked out, but:

  1. It’s a long way to St Thomas’ from where I am and I couldn’t walk, so public transport would’ve been a nightmare (and there was no Alison to drive me); and
  2. If it is broken, they’d put it in a cast which would mean this week’s motorbike holiday for me would be off, as would my two holidays next month.

So we’ll wait and see if I can run on it in Fuerteventura next month and if not, I’ll get it checked out in October.

Three Years Later…

Hooray! Blue Rex sailed through its MoT today with not even a single advisory!

Today’s mileage reads as 18,935 miles. August 2015 was 18,869. May 2014 was 18,860. May 2013 showed 16,207.

Euorthrashes on Blue Rex finished in 2013 with the purchase of the Sprint and yes, it did do only 9 miles in 2014/2015…

Switzerland 2016

So the plan was for us to take the Triumph Sprint GT for a two-up trip to the Alps with a couple of our friends this summer. But for various work-related reasons, that all fell through which just left Alison and me going alone. I found a lovely-looking hotel in Gstaad that looked the part, booked it and asked them to reserve a place for the bike in their garage.

And then Alison said, “Why don’t we take the MX-5? We could then even chat whilst we’re driving!” And so we changed plans and booked a Eurotunnel fare that was “Flexiplus” coming back for the MX-5. We’d have packed the Sprint’s top box and panniers relatively lightly, but the MX-5’s boot space gave us a little more space to play with; this is our luggage for a week away, comprising two holdalls, one wheeled bag and two running rucksacks with our running gear in:

Gstaad Luggage

Gstaad Luggage

London to Gstaad is quite a schlep so I found somewhere near Dijon to stay on the way down and the way back and booked those too and on the appointed day off we went with the roof up as it was an ‘oh-dark-hundred’ start.  Once we got to Folkestone, the roof came down and for the rest of the day’s drive it stayed down until we got to Gevrey-Chambertain and the Hotel Arts et Terroirs.  The hotel was quaint and comfortable but didn’t serve Dinner on a Sunday, so we walked into the town centre for a lovely meal at Chez Guy.

Monday morning after a lovely breakfast, we packed and set off towards Gstaad, making full use of the Sanef Tolling “Liber-t” tag e’d ordered in the UK and which allowed us to approach some péage toll booths at up to 30kph (the rest having to slow right down) and just drive through with no need to collect tickets or fumble for cards or cash.  Use this link to receive €5 off yours!

On arrival at the Hotel Gstaaderhof we drove into their underground car park and made our way to our lovely room with a hell of a view!

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Tuesday saw us heading up the other side of the valley for a BBQ lunch laid on for us by the hotel which was a lovely gesture, followed by a rest day wandering around Gstaad. The plan was to go for a run in the late afternoon – I’d plotted out a couple of routes before we left – but a thunderstorm put paid to that.

Wednesday’s afternoon weather forecast was looking a little dodgy so after breakfast we borrowed a couple of mountain bikes from the hotel – at no charge! – and headed off for a shortish 20km ride:

Great fun!

Thursday was to be our drive up into the Alps with a plan to drive for a couple of hours to Innertkirchen and then start a figure of eight drive through the Five Passes. We hadn’t really left enough time for this and by the time we’d been stuck in some roadworks leading towards one of them, we decided that time wasn’t on our side, so we made do with just the Susken Pass, Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass.  Great fun, although the smell from the MX-5’s brakes showed we’d been pushing it quite hard…

Wave!

Wave!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Twisties

Twisties

Friday was another rest day. Well … if you count riding 42½km on mountain bikes as rest! But the day started with an invitation up to the top of the Höhi Wispily for breakfast cooked by our hotel’s owners. Fabulous views and a lovely breakfast.

Cheese!

Cheese!

Berghaus Wispile

Berghaus Wispile

After breakfast, we walked back to the hotel, changed and then hired mountain bikes from the hotel. We ended up doing some laps of Gstaad and out towards Saanen, stopping on each lap for a drink and a rest at one of the town’s restaurants. Sadly my Garmin fenix 3 has a habit of resetting itself when it’s paused for longer than 25 minutes (originally 5 minutes) and that’s just about as long as it takes to lock up a bike, find a table, order and drink a coke, a water and an espresso and then get the bill. So this ride got logged as four separate rides:

Saturday and we headed away from Gstaad. We’d decided to change our plans and rather than returning via Gevrey-Chambertain as originally booked, we’d earlier cancelled the booking and instead decided to go home via Strasbourg and the rather nice Château de l’Ile & Spa which had a pool. Very useful as temperatures had hit 33°C on the autobahns in Germany (where the MX-5 had hit 125mph and rising (with the roof down) before traffic built up and slowed us down).

 

First Beer of the Day

First Beer of the Day

After breakfast on the Sunday, we headed off for Calais and the Eurotunnel, still with the roof down. We almost managed a full continental trip with the roof down until an hour or so off our destination there was a torrential downpour. In the MX-5 we can keep above 80mph in rain and only get flicked with drops off the side window, but this rain was so heavy we couldn’t see far enough ahead to keep speed up and once we’d backed off sufficiently to be safe, we were getting very wet! Still, after half an hour or so, the sky lightened up and we dropped the roof for our return into Calais.

Having paid extra for Flexiplus, we were relatively quick through Border Agency and onto the next train, so well worth the extra money.

So, how did we fair? The MX-5 was lovely but – even with our 2.0 litre engine – it could have down with a little more oomph and possibly more fanfare? Ours puts out 160hp but that’s less than my RX-8 R3 at 230hp. The RX-8 has roughly the same power to  weight ratio as the new 170hp Abarth 124 Spider which is based on the Fiat 124 Spider which is in turn based on the Mazda MX-5…

So that got me thinking: I’d loved the open-top motoring of the MX-5 but wanted more pace and noise and we’d managed quite well with the limited luggage space in the MX-5, so as my RX-8 R3 is getting long in the tooth – 87,000 miles and 6½ years old – maybe it’s time to make the switch? So I’ve placed an order for one subject to a test drive on Sunday at Silverstone race circuit. Maybe next year, we’ll take the Abarth to the Pyrenees?