Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

The city of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic is a great treat and definitely worth a visit.

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Cesky Krumlov is a fairy tale in the Czech Republic.

Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc and I, had crossed from Ireland to Continental Europe in mid May and headed South through the Black Forest and the Alps, East to Slovenia and Austria, and after a quick dip into Hungary, endIMG_0470 (2)ed up in the beautiful city of Gmunden in the North of  Austria. Now it was time to move on to the Czech Republic. To the city of Český Krumlov. Český Krumlov is a small bohemian city in the South of the country set in beautiful surrounding countryside, on the Vltava river. As you take the little winding tree lined road north towards Český Krumlov, you see the river that flows towards the city on your left. Along the banks are rafting and canoeing centres where you can take aDSC06707 ride and enjoy the beautiful views from the river. There are many of these centres as well as camping facilities in the beautiful countryside that is South Bohemia. Cesky Krumlov is most famous for it’s massive castle but is ranked alongside Prague in terms of being a UNESCO world heritage site for it’s old city sector. It is amazing. On the day I arrived there was a music festival on I believe, and there was classical music in the streets, which was a treat. As well as the spectacular little squares and medieval buildings, the city has a vibrant air about it and unfortunately it has really been discovered by international tourism. When  we visited last, almost twenty years ago, it had been by train from Prague. We had enquired there about some interesting places to visit in the Czech Republic and someone had suggested Český Krumlov. I had been on a break from work in Bosnia at the time and was relying on public transport.

We took a train from Prague to České Budějovice and then a narrow gauge train travelling at about 25mph brought us to Krumlov. IMG_0474The return journey cost us the equivalent of two Irish pounds and we practically had the place to ourselves. We were delighted because even back then it was hard to get elbow room in Prague, on Charles Bridge for instance. That is no longer true in Český Krumlov. Now it is packed to the rafters with people wielding selfie sticks and queues in the restaurants are almost a definite. Back then the local food and beer was so cheap and yet of such great quality. I was amazed at the number of people that still chose to shell out three or four pounds for an internationally famous Dutch beer when the Czech beer was gorgeous and a large bottle of the tasty brew was about 50 pence or cents.

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The castle is so massive it’s almost impossible to take an image of it that gives you the sense of it’s size. All of what you see above is part of it. Here is another view that might help to give you  an idea of just how big it really is.

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In the first photo the section above is just the left hand portion of what you see. You can walk right up into the castle and through the maze of passageways and squares that made this a formidable fortress as well as a Palace in the days before it became a museum.

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Enjoy the beautiful town squares and I hope when you visit there are as many bands and musicians for you to listen to. Expect the food to be excellent here in the Czech Republic and local beer is vDSC06811ery good even though it is difficult to find a bar in the traditional sense. I found a restaurant called Papa’s and I was lucky to get what appeared to be the last remaining table on the veranda over-looking the river. The food and wine were fantastic. The dish I had was turkey wrapped in pastry and sitting on a bed of spinach. I highly recommend you give Papa’s a go if you’re ever looking for some place to eat in Český Krumlov. I found a little bar later that served local beer and it was as good as I remembered it to be from the previous visit.

This area is extremely popular with motorcyclists and they were everywhere. I saw a most unusual BMW bike parked near a pension / hotel and I wondered what the motivation for the livery was.  The reason for the popularity withDSC06822 motorcyclists is the challenging roads and the beautiful views as well as good food and beer. I stayed in a great little pension / hotel called The Vlatavin and the couple that own it definitely went above and beyond to make Suzie and I feel secure there. Suzie had her own  covered mesh compound for the night and the accommodation was first class for me too.

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So, having enjoyed Český Krumlov, it’s time for a good sleep because tomorrow is going to be a long day. I intend to cross Germany in one day and it’s a wide country. The weather is holding well with good temperatures so it should be a nice spin.

 

 

Adventure Biking to Laconia Bike Week.

Adventurous bikers travel to Laconia on every type of bike from just about every where.

Adventurous bikers come in many different guises.

Someone recently put up this post on a Facebook page I follow called “Adventure Bike Riders”:

This page is exactly what Facebook should be about!
I’m taken by how many people are on here from every walk of life and from every corner of the globe, all joined by one thing with 2 wheels.
No negativeness (usually) and all the nice comments and mutual respect, regardless of who we are or what we choose to ride.
It’s bloody marvellous isn’t it!
Keep it going folks, life is too short X

It’s fair comment in my opinion and it’s what motorcycling is all about. I am really looking forward to this year’s big trip in Europe. I will be taking the ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in Northern France in about six weeks time and travelling down to the Alps, but enjoying everything in between. Last year I went to Boston and travelled up to Laconia Bike week in New Hampshire and the most important impression I took from it was how overwhelmingly friendly everyone was and how everyone respected their fellow bikers. It didn’t matter if you were into adventure style bikes or cruisers, everyone we met wanted to talk to us and ask where we came from. I saw KTMs and Africa Twins and 250cc scramblers on Weirs Beach Boulevard as well as lots of custom bikes and of course the big cruisers like Harley Davidson and Indians. We met people there from every State in America and from other countries as  well. One guy had ridden his big cruiser from Alaska to New Hampshire. The first part of his journey had been all snow and ice and poor driving conditions. It took him three weeks to get to Bike Week. He may not have been on a BMW GS1200, but that is adventure biking at it’s finest.

I was travelling with Matt, a friend of mine, riding a 2013 Harley Electra Glide I had hired at MOMS Motorcycles in Foxboro, and initially I had found it very heavy and unwieldy, especially as we were hitting some seriously challenging roads. I am not normally a cruiser rider and the roads we had been riding on would be really great for enduro or adventure style bikes, but not for the Lincoln Town Car, as I had christened the Harley. I have to acknowledge though that this bike was definitely growing on me. In fact it didn’t put a foot wrong, and even when the conditions became demanding, I was getting a kick out of leaning it into the corners and it behaved absolutely impeccably no matter what I or the roads threw at it. It had great weather protection and even when it rained, hardly a drop got by the big fairing.

One of the “must do” activities when you are at Laconia Bike Week is to visit Mount Washington and the Mount Washington State Park. It is the highest mountain in the North Eastern U.S. at 6,288 feet (1917 m.) and has a very erratic and dangerous climate. The highest wind speed ever recorded, other than in a cyclone, at 231 mph (372 km/h) makes this a place to be taken seriously if you want to make a bike trip. In fact there is a visitors centre on the way up on the Mount Washington Auto Road and when conditions are bad you are not permitted to go beyond the visitors centre. When we arrived up there we were disappointed to learn that the road to the summit was closed. It had snowed about three inches earlier with wind speed recorded at over 100 mph. The snow ploughs were out even though it was June, and it wasn’t going to be possible to ride to the top. The parking lot would usually be packed at this time but because the road was closed with temperatures at the summit between 15 and 34 Fahrenheit ( -9 to +1 Celsius), taking the wind chill into consideration, and winds too high, there were just a few visitors in the souvenir shop and the restaurant. Mount Washington would have to wait for my next visit. So we went and rode the “Kanc” which is another of the famous attractions for bikers in the Laconia area. The two major highways in the area go North/South and the Kancamagus highway, or Kancamagus Scenic Byway, connects these roads East to West. It is open most of the year, except for during really heavy snow, unlike some other roads in the area. It is a 32 mile or 52 km stretch through the White Mountains, connecting the towns of Lincoln and Conway, that is a favourite with bikers because it is a winding mountain road, that seems to go from one left hand to right hand sweeping bend, interspersed with hairpins and continuous inclines or declines. It you travel east from Lincoln, you enter the White Mountain National Forest following a branch of the Pemigewasset River, ascending until you reach the summit at Kancamagus Pass where there is a viewing point. bridgeThen you start down by the Swift river, all the while enjoying some great riding because of the sweeping bends which sometimes tighten into hairpins. Eventually the terrain begins to flatten until you find yourself on the Main Street in Conway. I cannot emphasise enough how beautiful this whole area is with fantastic viewing points to pull over, rest the weary bodies and enjoy the spectacular forest, mountain and valley views. Quaint small towns, river crossings with covered bridges and many other quintessentially American attractions abound.

Back at Weirs Bridge the highlight for me was Keith Sayers freestyle motocross show. There was a crowd of people watching the show of top class motorbike aerial acrobatics, where Keith Sayers, with Todd Potter and James Carter wowed the crowd, jumping from very steep ramps and doing amazing somersaults and other aerobatics. The show started off with one bike in the air, and culminated with all three bikes spinning through the air at the same time. Before we left we had a look at the fantastic custom bikes at the Infocus Mobile Audio Stand and let me tell you they were so impressive. These custom bikes have massive speakers built in behind the fairing and in the side boxes. The sound systems are integrated so seamlessly that they enhance the appearance of the bikes. I have included some images at the end so you can admire their work.

That was my visit to Laconia Bike Week and hopefully I will visit there again, maybe for the 100th Bike Week. Warmth and friendliness was a common theme throughout the whole visit. Everyone we met on the trip was so friendly and just a note to demonstrate that: on one occasion that we pulled over to enjoy the view of the White Mountains I had parked the Lincoln Town Car in a depression of the ground on a hill. Matt said he would give me a hand to push it backwards out of the depression (as I couldn’t go forward because of a big rock just in front of the front wheel). As he was just about to push, a guy stopped his truck, jumped out, and asked were we in trouble and did we need help. He was probably a biker as that is “the biker code”, but he may have been just a random passer-by. Either way it is indicative of the easy, friendly and helpful attitude we met as a constant on this trip. A great trip and I am looking forward to this year’s adventure in Europe.

Suzie Stars in Dancing On Ice.

A scoot to Kilkenny, icy blast to Mount Leinster and a run to a bike show in Dublin before a date with a man with a scalpel.

About to suffer an absence from biking, I got out on the V-Strom in spite of very wet and cold weather.

I had a date with a scalpel wielding medic yesterday so, knowing there was going to be a period that I would not be able to take Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure out to play, I took the opportunity to get out last week. My first destination on Thursday was  Gorey Business Park in Wexford, the South East of Ireland, to the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland). David had a few spare tickets for customers for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter Show, in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Showgrounds, starting the next day, Friday. He kindly gave me my ticket and I had a coffee and a browse through the motorcycles on offer in the AMI shop, and as usual there were many fabulous examples to ogle.  After a chat with Derek, the Patriarch of the Ryanhart motorcycle dynasty, I headed off again on Suzie to Kilkenny.

One of my favourite short rides is to Kilkenny and a quick visit to Sullivan’s brewery Tap-rooom. I wrote about it in an earlier post about medieval Kilkenny (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-K2)sullivans and my feelings on their beer have been vindicated. There is a medal hanging on the beer taps indicating that the experts at the recent beer judging in the Alltech Dublin Craft Brews and Food Fair event, rated it very highly too. I ran into Ian, their Master Brewer while I was parking the V-Strom in the car-park at the rear of the premises. He is also an avid motorcyclist and we swapped a few war stories on our biking adventures abroad before I went in to order my pint of Sullivan’s Maltings Red Ale and Tikka Chicken Pizza. A pint and a pizza for 12 euros is good value in my book and the chef busied himself with their own wood-fired pizza oven making me a gorgeous crispy based offering. Ellen the bartender was kind enough to advise me to move Suzie into the covered area that is the walkway into the Tap-room to prevent it getting too wet. Which I gladly did because the rain was now teeming down. I had a  browse in their excellent wine and liquor shop at 15  John Street, before heading out on Suzie in the rain again.

A quick scoot to Borris, a small town in the general direction of home and I made the decisionninestones to go over Mount Leinster which had a little snow on it when I looked out my front door in the morning but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem. The rain was coming in heavy intermittent bursts but it wasn’t really an issue either. I made it up to the Nine Stones which is the viewing area at the bottom of the road to the Mount Leinster TV Transmitter mast or antenna, and took a snap with my phone showing a wet and misty County Carlow. I noticed that the gate to the TV mast road was open, which it almost never is, but knowing that the road is really only for RTE TV (national television broadcaster) personnel I wouldn’t be going up there. After all, it’s probably not allowed. And anyway there could still be ice and snow and the usual gale force wind so it would be dangerous up there. So, of course I set off up the road to the mast knowing there were a couple of places I could turn so as not to get to the icy, snowy and blowy bit. Which I duly ignored and got the full dancing on iceblast of the icy gale-force wind I was expecting when I rounded the last bend before the mast compound. Even so, it was hard to battle the wind, but at this stage you are totally committed, no turning back, with a nice covering of ice on the very steep narrow road and snow on the banks. The wind kind of picked me up and deposited me in the middle of the compound, wheels and boots sliding gracefully along in our version of “Dancing on Ice”. I think the judges would have been impressed. I was swiftly reminded why the RTE four-wheel drive vehicles have a little shelter built there to protect them from the large lumps of ice that fall off the mast and could easily damage a vehicle. It’s not a pleasant feeling thumping off a helmet either. I killed the motor briefly, and hanging on to the bike with my knees, I managed to retrieve my phone for another quick snap before the old adage: “discretion is the better part of valour” kicked in and I got out of there, rather gingerly.

The next day, Friday saw me heading off in nasty sideways rain. Real rain. If you get straight down rainDSC05578 in Ireland it’s not considered real rain. Straight down rain brings the comment “it’s a grand soft day” instead of a hard day with proper sideways rain. Straight down rain is kind of summer rain, but don’t let that fool you because summer is a moveable feast in Ireland that doesn’t follow any real seasonal occurrences or dates. I rode up to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter show and luckily found a nice sheltered place to get the bike out of the nasty weather. The show itself was excellent. The AMI & Overlanders, Touratech Stand was one of the highlights and their customised black Africa Twin was a sight to behold. It’s theirs for the year for tours and demo rides and I hope I am back fully fit in time to get a jaunt on it before it goes on a holiday abroad. I am not sure DSC05599how to give you an idea of the scale of this event because it was way bigger than I imagined it was going to be. All the major manufacturers of bikes and suppliers of clothing and protective gear as well as many other organisations were present. There were lots of exhibitions too, custom bikes, vintage bikes and the myriad prizes, cups and medals, as well as the leathers of a certain Mr. Joey Dunlop. A Northern Ireland motorcycle legend, Joey Dunlop was voted the second greatest motorcycle icon ever by Motorcycle News, and many would argue should be considered number one. DSC05666Some living legends were called to the stage in the Main Hall and gave interesting accounts of their racing experiences too. Of course there was food and drink stands and at times when the rain eased off a little it was possible to go outside and see the stunt riders performing their skills in a fenced off paddock. I imagine it is more usual to see four legged steeds being lead around there because the RDS is most famous for equestrian events. I could have stayed ogling the bike beauties for days. All the best adventure bikes from Honda, Yamaha and many more as well as fabulous cruisers from Indian and BMW. Ducati, Yamaha, Harley, Suzuki, Triumph, Husqavarna, Royal Enfield and many more were also showing their fabulous wares. As well as the beautiful vintage Indian in the featured image, the modern “behemoth” Indian Roadmaster was spectacular, but all the manufacturers did themselves proud. Kudos to Carole Nash for a fine spectacle. And that was only Friday with two more days to go in what had to have been a brilliant weekend for all the motorcycle enthusiasts who attended over the weekend.

I met Colin, an old school friend, also a big bike fan, and we nattered away for about an hour and then it was time to gear up and head back out into the heavy traffic and sideways rain. It was a rotten dark, wet evening heading down the M11 on Suzie but it was worth it.  Now lying convalescing in my sick bed (read: being spoiled rotten with beverages and tasty bits) I know I will again be suffering some withdrawal symptoms (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-ST) and worse than the last time, because this time I have a bike in the basement but am just not allowed to use it for a few weeks, or maybe a week, or maybe… We’ll see.

Withdrawal Symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms and loyalty to a great bike (or not).

No motorcycle in the basement where they should be at least one.

Happy Christmas and a great impending New Year to everyone, but I am suffering withdrawal symptoms. Self-inflicted of course. Not the usual, aftermath of Christmas type symptoms. From over indulgence in food and beverages consumed with the Christmas fare, and not even from visits to the purveyors of fine beers and liquors. In the form of the local publicans. No, none of the expected outcomes and consequences of the holiday period.

I sold my Fazer (1000c.c.) a few weeks before Christmas and now, strangely, the basement is entirely bereft of motorbikes. An unusual problem. It is usually a case of trying to squeeze between the handlebars of several bikes. I sold my vintage Z about a year ago and the Fazer has been sent on it’s way too. I sold it a few days after handing over a bundle of greenbacks, coinage or dough. Whichever is your favourite moniker for your hard earned funds, for a new bike. A new bike that I won’t get possession of until 2017.

Of course now, every time I have reason to leave the house I meet motorcycles and motorcyclists. When I was on my way home from delivering the Fazer, for onward transmission to it’s new owner, I stopped at a garage and met two fine gentlemen with the shiniest of shiny sportsbikes. Think Kawasaki with 1400 c.c. and BMW with a bloody jet engine. The riders told me they live in Dublin but originate from Russia. And isn’t it a fine day for a blast. Well it would be if you had a motorcycle. So that was a week or so before Christmas. Everyday since I have met buddies on cruisers or adventure bikes. Hasn’t the weather been really great? Nice to get out of the house after all that turkey. Get lost you teasing pain in the…

Sympathisers such as my wife say it won’t be long until there is a brand new shiny bike where the Fazer was. That is no consolation. None whatsoever. That’s like saying to someone that is going through a break-up that time is a great healer. Never say that to anyone who is going through a rough time. Well, I always believed that the Fazer and I would be together forever. dsc04838-2_liI suppose it’s not the first relationship that seemed destined to be forever that didn’t survive. Now every time I go through the basement of my house, which is very often, because I keep that other form of transport that I use, that shall remain nameless, outside the basement door, all I can see is reminders of what used to be. Helmets, open face and full face; bike jackets and pants, leather and textile; biker gloves, goggles, buffs, scarves, balaclavas, chain oil, tool sets and all the other accoutrements that a biker collects over the years. And most especially the vacant spot dedicated to and supposed to be full of bike. Or bikes. They are a reminder of my loss. So stop trying to console me. Specially on a day that everyone is saying is so fine, and the holidays are still here, if you are a normal person who gets holidays when there are supposed to be holidays. Even my brother-in-Law Declan told me he would probably ride up today on his Triumph America. Well guess who isn’t riding “bitch”. Walkers talking about walking. Runners talking about running. Even swimmers talking about swimming. Get thee behind me Satan!

Fazer and I had some great times together. In the featured picture I was on one of my blasts to Hook Head in the South East tip of Ireland. One of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. In the other image I had Fazer packed for a blast around Europe. Never once did it have as much as a slight mishap or leave me down in anyway. Totally reliable. Oh, what times we had. I am now the person that I have occasionally made a slightly disparaging remark about. A biker without a bike. And I am not in the least bit happy about it. Roll on the early days of 2017 when the folks at AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland) in Gorey can register my new purchase for me and I can try to start a new relationship. Oh what a coquettish, cheating, fickle person am I…

 

Long Way Round

Long Way Round; The International Best Seller by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. 20004.

Long over-due read. Why have I never read this before?

I had always intended to read this book. I had seen the series on TV and loved it. So why had I never read it? I can’t answer that, but a colleague recently gave me a well thumbed copy of the book and I wasn’t able to put it down. Not just because it is about motorcycling… well that too, but because it is a great read. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman tell a story of a shared love of motorbikes that leads them to undertake an epic 20,000 miles, east from London, through Europe, Asia and North America. The book is a beautiful insight into a great friendship between the men and their families that started when they met in Ireland,  in Casey’s Pub in County Clare, when they both worked there. Both had moved their families there when they were members of the cast of a movie called Serpent’s Kiss. Originally a big bike trip had been McGregor’s idea and gradually it evolved from a trip to Spain into something much larger and infinitely more ambitious. The plan was hatched in a little workshop in London, surrounded by motorcycles and with maps laid out in front of them, to bike all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific and then to cross to Alaska, travel down through Canada and on to New York. While many experts told them it was an impossible dream they refused to give up on it. Eventually the team they put together made it happen by sheer determination and dogged tenacity, knocking on the door of every potential sponsor, TV channel, production company and motorcycle manufacturer. The journey was filmed by a combination of the two friends carrying the necessary equipment to record their exploits, as well as by the support crew, which included a motorcycle rider who was also a cameraman, Claudio Von Planta. The support crew, which travelled in four wheel drive vehicles, included David Alexanian and Russ Malkin, the directors,  as well as another cameraman,  Jimmy Simak. Also Sergey, a former special forces soldier and a chain smoking Russian Doctor, called Vasiliy,  they brought along because some of the trip was so far from any medical assistance.

Boorman had first become smitten by the motorcycle bug when he met Sean Connery’s son, Jason. Connery had stayed in their family farm in Wicklow when his Father, John Boorman, a famous director, cast him in a movie he was making in Ireland, called Zardoz. Jason had a little 50cc monkey bike which he allowed Boorman to try out. Boorman promptly fell off but he loved it so much he eventually managed to persuade his parents to allow him buy a 100cc Yamaha trials bike. A neighbour had built a motorcross track on his farm where Boorman spent hours and hours learning the art of motorcycling. He had a lot of scrapes on his bikes, being stopped on the road by local sergeant with no lights, licence or any documentation to when he defied his parents and bought a bigger bike and promptly crashed into a fence with barbed wire right in front of where his dad was playing tennis.

In contrast, McGregor was denied permission to buy a bike, even when he was desperate to do so, having lost his first love to a boy who had a motorcycle. He passed his test after he had moved away from home and rushed to a bike shop to buy what turned out to be a dog of an old Moto Guzzi. But he determinedly  stuck with it, restoring it to it’s former glory. When he became a famous actor he was usually not allowed to ride his bike when on location. Production companies’ insurance agents were determined that no movie shoot would have to come to a halt because some idiot actor had just had a spill off a bike. McGregor dug his heels in when he was being sought for a role in Moulin Rouge, a movie being made in Australia. He and Nicole Kidman had the lead roles. He insisted on being allowed ride his motorcycle and packed up the bike and rode out into the outback wilderness, lit a fire and camped for the night.

The amount of equipment they carried on the bikes nearly scuppered the trip from the outset. A combination of the excessive weight and anxiety caused by the worries of the impending trip, caused Boorman, the more experienced of the two bikers, to drop the big 1150GS twice on the morning they set off. He had been adamant that KTM was the better choice of bike for the trip but KTM were convinced that there was a substantial risk of the trip being a failure. BMW, on the other hand came good for them and were pragmatic. Delighted to be part of it and happy for them to get as far as they could in the adventure. They didn’t worry about failure as long as they gave it a good go. The adventures of the trip included being stuck for hours upon hours at the Slovak and Ukrainian borders, having a gun pointed at them in Kazakhstan and finding themselves on the banks of a huge, fast flowing river in Siberia, where the bridge had been washed away. The motley crew suffered breakdowns, illness, insect bites, thefts and catastrophic frame breaks, all in the course of the adventure. Along the route they met some extraordinary people who helped them out or just gave them encouragement. Bikers rode along with them on some parts of the journey and at the end they were accompanied by a large group of bikers when they entered New York, surprisingly on schedule, after all their experiences.

The book is made up of sections written by both men from their perspectives on the journey. The two were determined to make the journey itself the most important dynamic, not the production of the documentary. The struggles, fears, doubts and points of view of each rider is set out in detail. The reader recognises the characteristics of each and lives through the personal conflicts that they deal with on the trip and also the coming  to terms with, and overcoming their individual conflicts, along the way. A lot of things are tested on the journey: motorbikes, equipment, patience, character, friendships and much more.  Mafia, corrupt officials, border bureaucracy, automatic weapons, terrible roads and other problems were encountered. In Ukraine they visited a UN orphanage and some other worthwhile children’s projects along the way. A natural suspicion of the motives of people they met on the trip had to be re-evaluated too.  The journey was cathartic for the two friends. While adventure motorcycling has always existed, it has certainly become more of a “thing” since this journey of adventure was aired. The term adventure motorcycling was apparently coined in the 1990s, but now adventure motorcycling and the bikes, clothing, equipment and accessories that go with it are the industry standard. Our two friends, I’ll wager, had a part in making that happen. I highly recommend you get a copy of the book and the book of the second journey, Long Way Down. Do so soon, because the series is likely to become a trilogy in the relatively near future.

Passenger’s Point of View

Yamaha XT1200ZE Super Tenere versus Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin. A Passenger’s point of view.

Super Tenere versus Africa Twin

Last weekend we went up to Glenmalure, County Wicklow, to the Overlanders and Adventure Motorcycles Ireland Ltd. and Touratech Travel Event. A great event in beautiful surroundings and luckily, fantastic weather. It went from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August. On Saturday my brother-in-law, Declan and I, took up an offer to be driven up so we could have a beer with the great food on offer at the Glenmalure Lodge. I really liked the Lodge as did the others, and  I would be very surprised if we don’t book in there for future visits to Glenmalure, and all that this fantastic scenic area has to offer. We were very happy with our food and the selection of beer. My choice was a cold craft beer on tap which was great and very welcome in the heat. Thanks for doing the driving Laurie!

There were some very interesting displays, talks and demonstrations over the weekend, but my favourite aspect was the offer from the guys from AMI to take the Yamaha Super Tenere and the Honda Africa Twin out on a test drive. Glenmalure offers the kind of environment that these bikes are meant for and when I enquired, I was told there was no problem taking a pillion passenger out on the rides. The bikes in question are two fine examples of the genre, but pillion comfort is a very important issue if your “significant other” intends to travel with you regularly. I wanted to know what her verdict was on these two offerings, as this will make a big difference in relation to a decision I will have to make, not too long from now. So early on Friday, when it hadn’t gotten too busy, we took the opportunity to test out these two great bikes.

The XT1200ZE Super Tenere from Yamaha was first, in a mat grey colour. An impressive bike with a 1,199cc, liquid cooled, inline 2-cylinder engine, this bike definitely has all the bells and whistles: shaft drive, traction control, cruise control, ABS and electronically adjustable suspension, to name just a few of its goodies. We left the event compound, with Glenmalure Lodge on our right and turned right up a bumpy, narrow and twisty mountain road, up over the hill and back down to a T-junction and turned left towards Laragh. The Super Tenere is a big bike at 265kgs (584lbs) but with a maximum output of 82.4kw, there is power in abundance. DSC05116 (2)After a couple of minutes I found myself getting to grips with this bike and I was mightily impressed. We turned right in Laragh and tried out the smoother road, through Annamoe and on to Roundwood. We stopped in Roundwood to have a chance to discuss our first thoughts on the bike and I adjusted the riding mode from Sport to Touring, which is just the press of a button. We headed back, retracing the route to Glenmalure, where we were immediately offered the Honda for our next test ride.

The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin was next and the one on offer was in the “Victory Red” livery and had HDSC05123 (2)onda side boxes and a top box. The Africa Twin is a 998cc parallel twin with a maximum output of 70kw weighing in at 228kgs (503lbs). This bike is offered with Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission but the bike we were test driving was the six speed manual version with ABS and traction control. We took off on the same route and within a couple of hundred yards /metres, I felt as if I was riding a bike I was very familiar with. The bike is light and nimble for a “litre” bike and it was hard to believe I had a passenger and luggage with me. The advantages of an adventure motorcycle include the upright seating position and the ability to soak up the bumps and wallows of less than ideal terrain. This bike has it in spades and together with its wide handle bars and longer leg space, I think I would have great fun on this bike, as well as the ability to do longer solo tours in comfort.

But we are not here to talk about solo tours. What matters is what the pillion passenger thinks. I asked Laurie what she thought of the comfort of each of the bikes. We had both agreed that the longer leg room you get is a big plus, and much easier on your back and knees in particular. It means you can go for a longer distance before you look like John Wayne when you dismount. While neither of us is particularly tall, we are not overly small either, but more to point, if we were to admit it, the sunnier side of fifty has drifted by, or whooshed by in my case. For both bikes she said: vision is great from the pillion seat and the extra leg room is so much more comfy than what she is used to.

Super Tenere

  • A bit jerky at the outset but overall it felt like there was less vibration on the Tenere;
  • Great vision forward and could see speedometer and rev counter;
  • Seat was great, the most comfortable of the two bikes;
  • Much smoother when touring mode was selected; and,
  • Scary because there was no top box which she is used to.

Africa Twin

  • Pillion seat is sloped,  causing her to occasionally slide forward;
  • The top box, with pad, was comfy to lean against and felt more secure;
  • Great vision forward on this bike too, can see the dials easily;
  • Side boxes position were fine but dismounting was a challenge; and,
  • The Honda seemed the “vibier” of the two bikes.

She is more accustomed to being a passenger on a street bike with an inline four cylinder engine. Most people agree that an inline four cylinder is a very smooth option, though twins have important advantages too. Too make matters worse, I was impressed with the pulling power of the bikes and intentionally delayed gear changes to see how well the bikes performed when not necessarily in the correct gear. As for the Tenere’s initial “jerkiness”, I forgot to check which mode the Tenere was in and it turns out it was in Sports mode. I shouldn’t have started out in Sports mode under the circumstances. The fact that the Yamaha had no luggage and the Honda was fully kitted also makes a difference to the test riding conditions. In relation to the passenger sliding forward on the Honda, the angle of the pillion seat is noticeably sloped forward. In other words it is high at the back, tending to cant the passenger forward towards the driver, if there is sudden deceleration. Which there was. A Landrover came to an abrupt stop in front of me for no apparent reason and I had to grab a lot of brakes. I noticed her weight shift forward suddenly, and while this might have been uncomfortable for her, it didn’t result in the usual sudden weight and pressure on me as the rider. It’s possible that this will reduce as the passenger becomes more accustomed to the bike.

So, what conclusions can we come to after this comparison? These are both damn good bikes. Both have a lot to offer and are very comfortable. Of course BMW and KTM, as well as some other noteworthy manufacturers have to be considered where adventure bikes are concerned, but that is not what we are about here. She has had her say and now for mine. I like both bikes and found them both very comfortable. I think the Tenere has a march on the  Africa Twin where technology is concerned and I have always thought cruise control is a great tool for any type of touring bike. It gets you to where you want to be, especially when you need to use motorways / highways. While the seat on the Honda seems very good for the rider, and I love the riding position on both bikes, it would appear that the Tenere is ahead for long distance passenger comfort. Derek Rynhart from Overlanders and Adventure Motorcycles Ireland Ltd. told me that he and his wife toured Spain on the Africa Twin and had no issues with comfort so I don’t think it is going to be a big problem.  If you and your passenger got on the ferry to Cherbourg and rode down to Northern Spain, then started popping in and out of all the small villages, bays and beaches along the coast, there is no doubt that both bikes would be well capable for both the ride down and the subsequent exploring. The Tenere would get you down there most comfortably, but the Africa Twin would be king, once you started tackling the little rough and sandy, local roads down to the beaches and bays.

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