A Weekend in Glenmalure.

Another great Touratech Ireland event organised by the team at Overlanders and AMI.

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A great opportunity to meet up with friends in stunning Glenmalure.

Glenmalure was the venue this past weekend for the annual TouIMG_0901 (2)ratech Ireland Travel Event. It’s in it’s third year I believe and Derek, Hazel, David, Craig and Gary and the extended Overlanders and AMI family did themselves proud again. Mrs Rambler and I headed there on Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure bike. The event was excellent, as we have grown to expect, set in a magnificent location in the heart of Wicklow. Glenmalure is a beautiful valley in the mountains, very popular with walkers, climbers and cyclists as well as motorcyclists. The list of events for the weekend was impressive. Ride-outs, off-road skills and presentations about exotic biking locations such as Morocco, Asia and Siberia, for example. The photographs from the trips made exciting viewing. Of course there was a fine selection of exhibitor stands too with bikes, clothing and luggage and all kinds of gear to be examined and IMG_0909 (2)discussed and plenty of bikes to try out. The selection of bikes that AMI had on display in their marquee was magnificent. We thought the numbers attending were even bigger this year with bikers from many countries having travelled to this event as well as a good number of the Hakuna Matata members too. Hakuna Matata is a motorcycling club that Derek is a founding member of. It was nice to meet up with some of the guys again and join the venerable ranks of froth blowers on the picnic benches outside the Lodge in good company.

Glenmalure Lodge had plenty of fine food and bevvies to sample. It is a cosy family run hotel, restaurant and pub. To be fair it has a captive audience in this valley but it is a distinct favourite with explorers in this part of Wicklow, the ‘Garden of Ireland’. It is close to some popular attractions such as Lugnaquilla, a favourite peak to climb in Leinster, that is just south of Dublin; Laragh and Glendalough are close-by and both are also very popular destinations for walkers and others interested in outdoor pursuits; and, The Wicklow Way is very close, as is Avondale House and Avoca. The Lodge is a firm favourite of ours and true to form, the food was top class as usual, both for evening fare and the full breakfast we had the next morning. There was great music in the bar at night and lots of people availed of it for a spot of dancing.

Mrs. Rambler and I stayed in a B&B just a few steps up the road called Coolalinga and it was a quaint little spot that was nice and comfortable. IMG_0915 (2)We received reports from those that stayed next door in The Wilderness Lodge, self catering accommodation and they were equally impressed. The camping area was well populated with probably about fifty camper vans and lots of tenting bikers. I believe there may have been one or two late night parties there, with the occasional barbecue being fired up for a sausage or burger after returning from a little socialising in the Lodge. Pat, a friend of ours, said he had been catching some ZZZs when he heard the rattle of the barbecue and shortly thereafter got the mouth-watering smell of sausages. When he ventured out of his camp he was immediately invited to sample the wares by the friendly camping neighbours and a mini party ensued.

On Sunday I was investigating one of the exhibitor stands where the Royal Enfield retro bikes were on view and fine single cylinder thumpers they are, as well as the great side-car rig on offer. Chris, from Sprocket and Hubs motorcycle shop, was telling Mrs Rambler and I that they are hiring bikes as well as selling the Royal Enfield range in their shop in Adare. I was closely examining the Benelli 502 on display, which is a relatively newcomer to the smaller adventure bike market when Chris invited me to take it for a spin. IMG_0917 (2)I hopped on and took it over the hilly terrain to Laragh and back. A distance of about 30 kilometres I would estimate. After the big Vee (V-Strom 1000) I had to learn pretty quickly not to be shy with the throttle on this 500cc twin, but it’s a fun little bike that’s well planted, with a comfortable seat and a very effective screen. It’s not going to knock any of the big name adventure bikes off their pedestals but at it’s price range it would make a good alternative as a cheap commuter or a weekend traveller. The price in question is 6900 Euros. For an additional 800 euros there is a fantastic set of GIVI luggage, big enough to fit a kitchen table and chairs. It certainly would be a great option as a hire bike for someone visiting here that wanted something to bike tour around the Wild Atlantic Way, at 100 euros a day, which includes the basic insurance deal. Thanks for the spin, Chris. And a particular word of congratulations to the team at Overlanders and AMI for a smashing motorcycling weekend.

 

In the Summertime When the Weather is Hot.

Great weather in Ireland means biking. Hot weather in Clare brings on a need to visit the picturesque village of Doolin.

High temperatures in May in Ireland definitely means bike time.

It’s getting close to my big trip in Europe but the weather has been so warm and dry in Ireland DSC05705 (2)that it would be almost impossible to resist a little motorcycling. The Wicklow hills are in my back yard so myself and Mrs. Rambler did a trip to Powerscourt Waterfall. At 400 feet or 121 metres it’s quite impressive. It’s in a mountain valley near Enniskerry about half an hour South of Dublin. It’s a very popular place to visit and particularly when the weather is warm it gets a large number of visitors. We combined it with a visit to some of the quaint villages in the area. Roundwood, Laragh and Glendalough are only a short distance on the V-Strom and we did a quick spin up to Sally gap and Lake Tay which are only a stone’s throw away as well. There’s always something to see in the Wicklow area and lots of people come out to take advantage of it when the weather is good, and why not. We enjoy hill-walking a lot and Wicklow certainly has a lot of possibilities for outdoor pursuits.

Last Monday I was checking my favourite weather app and noticed it was indicating 23 degrees in Clare so I packed the tent and a few other bits and DSC05733 (2)pieces on to the V-Strom and that’s a fairly easy task as it came with panniers and I added a top box. The trip to Doolin in County Clare is about three and a half hours but I stopped a few times for fuel for the Suzuki and fuel in the form of coffee for me. I was delighted that the app was right in relation to temperatures. The readout on the dash showed a steady increase as I went West. By the time I hit Clare it was staying steady at 23 degrees Celsius. It even showed 24 degrees briefly with a blue sky and plenty of sunshine. I rocked up to O’Connor’s Riverside Camping and Caravan site about 4 pm in the evening and set up the tent. DSC05779 (2)I hadn’t done it for a while but I got it up without too much of a problem. I have stayed at this site before and it’s really smashing. The staff are friendly and helpful and I also noticed a new addition in the form of “glamping” yurts. I had never seen these in the flesh before and they definitely made my little tent look far away from glamorous. I couldn’t believe how luxurious they looked inside and had to take a picture to show Mrs. Rambler. If we get a chance later in the summer we might just give them a go.

I spent an hour or so exploring on the V-Strom. It’s only a few minutes to Doolin Pier where you can take a ferry ride to either the island or to view DSC05756 (2)the Cliffs of Moher. I visited some of the little towns nearby too. Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna are only short distances away. When I got back to the tent I parked up the bike and walked up to O’Connor’s pub which was always a great spot for food and music. By now I had built up a good appetite. I was relying on previous experience and was not disappointed. The food was as good as I had hoped. DSC05767 (2)It’s always a good place for seafood and the service is quick and efficient but I was obviously too early for music. Not too worry though because Doolin is a great place for traditional music and after a leisurely walk taking in the beautiful red sunset I visited some of the other pubs. They were all very busy and the music and poetry renditions were great. It is hard to believe that Doolin could be so busy this early in the year. It seemed like there were twice as many visitors from outside Ireland as from within the country. As is usual in these homely places with nice music and lots of visitors, everyone talks to everyone, and it’s a nice way to meet people and have a relaxing evening.

Back to reality the next morning. I realised why I don’t chose to stay in the tent too often. I was a little stiff to say the least of it. It’s nice to do it occasionally but I don’t think I’d like to be crawlingDSC05730 (2) into a tent for a few nights in a row. I folded away the tent and sleeping bag and packed up the bike. I decided to forgo the pleasure of cooking my own breakfast even though the kitchen facilities in the Riverside site are first rate. I stopped not far from Bunratty Castle and  enjoyed a hearty full Irish and then set off for home. It was a nice trip in brilliant weather but now its time to start getting ready for a longer bike adventure, further afield.

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking the ferry to France shortly so today I visited the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) shop in Gorey to have someone else throw an eye on the V-Strom before the big adventure. Of course there was no sign of the lads. Gary, Craig and Derek are off working hard investigating routes for future tours or actually guiding a tour at the moment. David had just headed off somewhere before I arrived. It’s amazing how these guys always find somewhere urgent to go on their bikes to somewhere interesting and exotic, like Portugal or Greece or Morocco, where the weather is good. It’s hard work but someone has to do it. Which left Joanna and Conor minding the fort. Which they were doing admirably. Conor had a quick check on the bike and we adjusted a few things, all with a view to satisfying myself that everything was in order for the anticipated high mileage in the next few weeks that I am really looking forward to.

A Little Star of a Village in Wicklow.

Mrs Rambler and I visit Grangecon, with some friends. A little village with a big heart.

Grangecon is a little village with a big heart.

Wicklow is a great county for scenery and mountain walks just south of Dublin city. It’s top notch tooSONY DSC for scenic roads and tracks for motorcycle adventures. We discovered a gem of a village, with a population of about 200 recently when Mrs. Rambler booked us and friends into Moore’s oSONY DSCf Grangecon. Grangecon (Irish: Gráinseach Choinn / meaning Granary of the Hound), is just a couple of miles from Baltinglass. Moore’s is a traditional old time pub and grocery store and also a Tapas Restaurant with accommodation. It’s a very old business that’s been in the Moore family for generations. When we arrived we inspected our accommodation and it was two perfect  little offerings in the courtyard of the restaurant. They were quaintly painted up and sign written to be a post office and a shop. Both were equally well laid out inside with a double and single bed, en-suite bathroom and all the nice little touches that make the difference.

We ventured out on the street and the street was very busy. I don’t think we have seen so many sandwiches, currant buns and large vats of tea in one place for a very long time. There was a SONY DSCtractor run taking place and there was much excitement involved in the proceedings. I don’t know if tractor runs are a uniquely Irish thing but they seem to be very popular here. Young children in particular seemed to love it, some sporting their favourite tractor manufacturers peaked hats and overalls. There were people gathered around the sandwiches and tea emporium, which was a few tables set out close to one another on the street, with the ladies of the tea and sandwich committee making sure nobody was hungry. There were also some people blowing the froth of a few cold ones in the seating area outside the front of Moore’s. SONY DSCYes, I know it’s April in Ireland but it was a warm day and it looked comfortable there. We left Grangecon and headed off into the Wicklow hills for a walk out in the fresh mountain air to work up an appetite. The choice of places to visit is endless in Wicklow. Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in Leinster is not far away, Laragh,  Sally gap and Glendalough are a bit over the hill. Stately homes such as Russborough House and Avondale House are close. There are too many attractions to list. After a walk in the hills we paid a quick visit to Baltinglass.

When we got back to Grangecon, the party was in full swing. The intrepid tractor drivers and their groupies were ensconced in position, holding up the bar in Moore’s, discussing the merits SONY DSCof tractors, vintage and new. Horses, winners and losers at recent races were also a topic being mulled over. There was a great deal of discussion relating to mysterious farm equipment and tractor diff-locks, whatever they are. One guy was giving a full blown commentary on a race he had seen. He was holding his binoculars, which were actually two empty pint glasses, to his eyes, following the action on the track and informing his audience of the progress of the runners and riders. Another guy was pretending to be one of the more successful steeds and was galloping in front of the man with the binoculars. There was a man SONY DSC“playing the spoons” and we also spied an old metal drinks tray that we were told doubled as a bodhrán, a drum to beat. The make-shift band is apparently referred to as “Christy and the Quare Ones” in jest, or so we were told. A couple of girls were telling us of their mishaps that day. One had driven a truck containing horses to an event in a neighbouring county and on the way back had been told of a complaint of her driving. “Sure the size of the thing on them country roads”. Her friend told us of her mishap with a Honda 70 or 90. She had got a spin on it and managed to wheelie it into a garden hedge, with a passenger in tow, I think. Anyway, it was all exceptionally good humoured and everyone chatted away to us as if we were long time friends. Salt of the earth people who loved any excuse to get together and have a party and a chat with old friends or new.

The food we had in the Casa Tapas Restaurant was fantastic even if my companions didn’t share my conviction that we should get one of everything on the menu. It was probablySONY DSC a good thing because there was a lot of food, of the very tasty variety, in what was brought out to us. Calamari, pulled pork, sweet potato fries, chicken wings, patatas bravas and prawn dishes, to give you an idea of what we did sample. SONY DSCThe Desserts on offer were top class too. The breakfast the next morning was very tasty and there was plenty of it. I’d advise anyone who finds their mouth watering at the food, as well as the location, to book early. Apparently they are often booked out many weekends in advance. As well as the obvious reasons that I have described, the proximity of Rathsallagh, which is a popular golf  and wedding venue, means that it is not always available. If you get a booking and go there I think that you will find that Paul and Karen  are great hosts, and like me you will definitely want to pay compliments to the Chef.

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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