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.

 

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.

Happiness is a girl called…Suzuki.

Getting in some trips on the new V-Strom 1000. Laurie loves the comfort…

The new V-Strom exceeding expectations.

My wife Laurie was not a fan of the seat on my Yamaha Fazer. It was a reliable bike and brought me on some long trips and back, safely without and issues, breakdowns or fuss. dsc05573-2When I decided to change, Laurie’s comfort was one of the highest priorities, and the V-Strom Adventure I got from the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcyles of Ireland) to test ride, came first in her rating. It got an immediate thumbs up with a special reference to how comfortable the seat was. So, we picked the Suzuki V-Strom up, all shiny and new, in Gorey Business Park in the first week of January. To say the least, she is loving it. I think the number of miles we covered on it together has probably already exceeded the number covered on the Fazer.

Last weekend we did some nice miles, heading to Duncannon beach in Wexford, in the dsc05574South East corner of Ireland. It’s a lovely beach with great views of the Hook Pennisula and the Waterford coastline. It’s one of Laurie’s favourites, having spent all her childhood summers there. Duncannon has some great pubs and restaurants and we hookstopped on the beach, which is firm enough to drive on. The “Ta-Dah” moment in the featured photo is when Laurie found a suitable piece of driftwood to put under the side-stand so we could park up for a little while. We headed for the Hook which is another of our favourite stops. Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. After a visit to the Lighthouse restaurant we were off again. Waterford City and The Copper Coast was next on our agenda.

We got new Scott jackets and pants along with Schubert helmets that are very comfortable and we are very happy with them. I am particularly happy with the communication system because I can’t hear a word she says. Probably down to my bad hearing. Perfect.

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Musings on Medieval Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a great old city with lots to offer the visitor including some new experiences in beer.

New discoveries in Kilkenny City including the Growler

Some motorcyclists wash their motorbikes and put them away for the “winter” months at the end of September. This time of year can be a really great time for day-trips and even longer rambles. dsc05300This year the weather in October (and now in early November) in Ireland has been exceptional and there is no excuse for not kicking it into gear and twisting the throttle. A really great destination for a trip in Ireland is Kilkenny, a city in the south east of the country on the banks of the Nore River. Kilkenny is about an hour and a half from the ferry terminal in Rosslare Harbour, if you are coming from Uk or Europe, and about the same distance from Dublin. If you are planning on staying, there seems to be an endless supply of accommodation here.

 Kilkenny Castle, ancestral home of the Butlers, is now a great place to visit. The grounds and ornamental gardens are fantastic and are particularly worth a visit at this time of the year when the trees are turning dsc05330their beautiful golden autumnal colours. It’s a little bit late in the year to enjoy the full potential of the formal rose gardens with the fabulous fountain, but it’s still worth seeing. The inside of the castle is a great tour too, and among it’s treasures is the fantastic art gallery, part of the National Gallery of Ireland. Across the road from the castle is the Kilkenny Design Centre, in what was the coach and stable yard of the castle. It is now an internationally renowned centre of excellence for many craft workers and artisans.

Kilkenny seems to be a Mecca for tourists, which is not a big surprise when you see the numbdsc05335er of great cafés, restaurants, bars, hotels and tea rooms as well as the large number of historic buildings and other attractions on the “medieval mile” which is a tour that includes the Castle, Rothe House, the Smithwicks Experience, Saint Canice’s Cathedral and many more interesting attractions. The town itself is a great shopping town and the old passageways such as the Butterslip, many still with the original flagstones still in existence from centuries ago, bring you through an archway, under the buildings and down to a lower street below. There are quite a few of these passageways that are reminiscent of the medieval city.  It’s also famous for too many festivals to try to tell you about them all, but there are festivals celebrating food, arts, theatre, comedy and beer, and more.

A beer festival? Yes indeed. Kilkenny had a very famous beer festival and it drew large crowds a few decades ago but it was discontinued only to be recently revived as the Kilkenny Craft Beer Festival. In 2017 it will be held from the 5th to 10th July. I suggest you mark it in your calendar. If you are looking for a reason to visit Ireland or Kilkenny it will be worth your while mulling those dates to plan a visit, especially if you like your beer. If you’re a biker and you want to visit a biker friendly place in Ireland, this might be the trip for you, as there always seems to be lots of motorcyclists here.  Kilkenny has always been famous for its brewing industry.  The Monks of Saint Francis Abbey started brewing their own here around the 13th century and brewing caught on in in a big way in Kilkenny. Richard Cole and John Smithwick started a brewery in Kilkenny around 1705 and their Smithwicks ale was brewed there up until a few years ago. The Guinness Group purchased Smithwicks in the 60s but the brewery and the Smithwicks experience is still there, at least as a visitors centre.

There are some great eateries in Kilkenny but a recent discovery for food and beer needs to be shared here.  First established in 1702, the Sullivan brewery was the biggest in Kilkenny, a city known for brewing and it has re-opened in recent times at John Street. dsc05354The Tap-room opened in August this year and it is a worthy pilgrimage for beer drinkers. A couple of recent visits have convinced me that this is a destination with many added benefits when I swing the leg over the bike and try to figure out which direction to take. Thdsc05366e Sullivan’s ale is a great drink and far superior in my humble opinion, to another well-known ale that was formerly brewed in Kilkenny.  I was reliably informed by a pretty young lady behind the bar that the beer is so superior in taste because they use four different barleys which are there on display beside the Growler dispenser, more about which I will explain shortly. It seems that a number of varieties of hops are used too, to get the great taste that doesn’t have that crafty beer after-taste that many people profess not to like. The Sullivan’s Brewing Company has a lot of Smithwicks names associated with it. I met and briefly spoke with Paul Smithwick on my most recent visit. It would seem that Smithwicks and Sullivans, once great rivals in the brewing industry, may have thrown their lot in together to revive the famous tradition of beer crafting in Kilkenny and it seems likely to be a resounding success.

There were some added benefits to my visit to The Tap Room as well. An offer of a wood fired pizza, made right there, and a great pint of the brew, which is called Malting Red I believe, for a tenner is a great idea. Jalapeño peppers, pulled beef and other tasty bits on a thin crispy base along with the delicious beer was a great lunch and the pièce de résistance was the aforementioned Growler. Now, this is a new experience for me, and one that has already enticed me to revisit there.  A Growler is a container for draught beer. In this case, it’s a seal-able litre bottle that the dispenser first removes the air from and replaces  with CO2 (I think), and then fills it with the tasty draught brew. dsc05370It meant that when I had finished my lunch I could fetch the Growler that I had brought back with me from my previous visit, from the top-box on the bike, and get a refill. This task was performed admirably by the helpful young lady behind the bar. I then had a litre of the delicious draught brew to bring home to enjoy in my own time. So guys, if you are looking for a place to head to when you are out for a blast, I recommend a spin to Kilkenny and if you fancy a bit of lunch, and if your taste in beer and pizza runs is a similar vein to mine, I suggest you stop in Sullivan’s Tap Room, on John Street, Kilkenny.

Return of the Z1

Return of the Z1 to Ireland. Michael from Germany is back on the same 1975 Z1 after twenty-five years.

Taking the ferry to broaden the potential for adventure.

I met Michael in Rosslare Harbour a few days ago. He was travelling with three friends from the same area. I bumped into the  four Bikers, two male and two female, from near Dortmund in Germany. They had been in Ireland touring on their bikes and were staying the night in Rosslare before boarding the following morning for Fishguard. They were then going to ride to Dover for a crossing to Calais. Their holiday was fourteen days in total. Three days riding and ferry crossings each way, and eight days touring Ireland. Sounds like my kind of holiday. What caught my eye first was what I thought was a Z1 from the seventies, but from the distance I couldn’t figure out what looked strange about it. Being naturally curious, especially when it’s something to do with motorbikes, I approached and spoke to the group. Michael told me the bike was a 900cc 1975 Kawasaki Z1. When I was up close I saw what looked strange. The tank was covered in black duct tape. Michael explained that he had first covered the tank with clear plastic, and then covered over the plastic with the duct tape. Would it damage the paint when he took off the tape? No he was certain it wouldn’t, because he had used this method before to protect the tank from the tank bag, and the tape was only in contact with the underneath surface of the tank. Michael had toured Ireland on the same bike twenty-five years ago, and was back with some friends to do another tour. He had lovingly restored the bike to a fantastic standard and showed me pictures of the process to prove it.

My ideal holiday begins with me heading to the Ferry on my motorcycle. I love travelling around Ireland. There is never a shortage of places to go, events to attend and attractions to visit. Sometimes though, in the interest of adventure, it’s nice to set your sights on the further horizon. Recently I have mentioned this to a few motorcycling friends, and was surprised at the number that said they didn’t think it was something they would ever do. I am not sure why this might be the case, but I rode down to Rosslare Harbour a few days ago, and I can tell you there are no shortage of motorcycle enthusiasts who are in agreement with me, in relation to crossing the sea, to experience a motorcycle adventure in the UK or on the continent. SONY DSCI met quite a number of people from the UK and from further afield who had come to Ireland for a motorcycle holiday here. If you intend to take to the seas, Rosslare is a great option. Within a couple of miles of the harbour, or Rosslare Europort, as the sign at the entrance to the harbour says, there are a lot of guest houses, bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants and bars. So a night here would be well worth considering, whether you are heading out on a ferry, or have just arrived in Ireland. There are plenty of attractive villages and tourist destinations within a half an hour, to a hours ride, from Rosslare too. As well as the harbour area, there is Rosslare Strand, about ten minutes away and Wexford town is about a fifteen minutes ride. Wexford is a historic (old Viking) town, with a great night life and is famous for cultural events such as the annual opera festival and nice beaches like Curracloe, which is where the opening beach scenes of Saving Private Ryan were filmed. Within close striking distance are villages like Kilmore Quay and Carne and the very popular Hook Lighthouse, famous as one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world, at 800 years old. A light has been lit at the spot where the lighthouse is since the 5th century, long before the building was established, or so the story goes.

I dropped into one very nice pub and restaurant, just a few hundred metres from the entrance to the port called Culletons of Kilrane, and I was very impressed with the food and the pint of Guinness that accompanied it was as good as you will get. I was served by Derval, who is the owner of the business, and has been in charge there for over a year. It’s a very friendly place that I think you should consider visiting. So, I recommend a foreign adventure, whether you decide to stick to the UK or head across to the continent. If you decide to travel via Rosslare, in the very South East corner of Ireland, it’s worth considering making it an overnight stop off point at the start of your adventure. You will definitely enjoy the treats it has to offer.

Rosslare Gallery

My Riceburners

We boarded the Stena ferry in Cherbourg for the overnight sailing back to Rosslare. Declan, my brother in law and I had met up in France, in the Loire Valley area, and did some touring around together. img_0207We stayed with Alan and Sophie, friends of Declan’s, in  a lovely village close to Amboise, on the bank of the river Loire. Beautifully wined and dined by our hosts,  we had ridden up to within an hour of the ferry the evening before we were due to get the sailing. The next morning we had intended a quick stop at Mont Saint-Michel, but as luck would have it, there was a marathon taking place, so we could only see Mont in the distance. We headed for Cherbourg, and after a short wait, boarded the ferry. There were a lot of bikes there, and Declan’s Triumph America, 2005, was met with a murmur of approval, and some of the French guys came a little closer to inspect it. We met Pierre and Pascal, who were both particularly animated in their praise and interest in the Triumph. Pierre was a burly Frenchman with a big grey  moustache. He told us that he had a vintage Triumph that he had done a lot of touring on, but his current bike was a Harley, as was Pascal’s.  After a short conversation we agreed to meet in the bar, as soon as we were settled.

A short time later we joined the ancient order of froth blowers in the ship’s lounge and soon our new French acquaintances arrived. Pierre was sporting a very colourful waistcoat, not of the type normally worn by bikers and also had a very fetching, red leather handbag, with a strap, worn across his shoulder. “Declan, Pierre has a red handbag”, I said before he came within hearing distance. “He’s French” was the reply. Pascal and Pierre joined us and the conversation continued on a motorcycle theme. Declan’s Triumph America was, once again, the main topic, or at least Triumphs in general. I was beginning to wonder if all French bikers have a fetish for Triumph, or Steve McQueen, or was I missing something? What about my Yamaha? Quite an accomplished machine with a lot more of the continent under it’s belt than the Triumph. I have to admit that I am a fan of Japanese motor cycles, or to use the pejorative term: Riceburners, which is an insult to a group of motorcycle manufacturers, that grabbed a fairly dull industry in the 60s and 70s, and successfully produced the first superbikes, and have caused a revolution in every aspect of two wheel travel ever since.

When I was a young teenager, back when the earth was covered in snow and ice at both ends, forest in the middle bit, and the dinosaurs had only just faded into the annals of history, my method of transport was by means of a bicycle. When I came of age to become a motorcyclist, I visited a local shop that dealt in bicycles, and small motorbikes, to see what might be available. I always worked weekend and summer jobs so I had some cash saved. I had bought my first racing bike in this shop and now it was time to graduate to a bike with the added attraction of a motor. rd125I spotted the Yamaha RD125, a two stroke little beauty, in nice condition, with not too many miles. This was circa 1981 or 1982, I believe, and I made my purchase for the princely sum of £800 Irish pounds. The bike was probably a mid to late seventies model but it was perfect for my teenage needs. I bought a full face helmet and a leather jacket, a lá Marlon Brando style, and became a biker. Or so I thought at least. I went all over the country on this little bike and it always got me where I was going. The only problem I remember having, was on a return trip from Tralee, in the south west of the country, a distance of 125 miles (200km). I checked the two-stroke level, in the little bottle under the side cover, and discovered it was just empty. I was stranded for a little while, afraid to drive any further in case of causing engine damage. I found a little fuel station in the small town where I had stopped, called Cappoquin. There was a young guy, not much older than myself working there. He told me that he had heard that engine oil could be used, in place of two stroke oil, in the case of emergency. Not having a lot of choice, as it was Sunday evening and nowhere else was open, I took his advice and used some. It got me home the last 50 miles of my journey without any problem.

On the outward leg of the journey to the continent I had met up with Paddy Ryan on the ferry, and bikewe had travelled together for the first few days, but Paddy was heading towards Prague and I towards The Hague. I stayed with friends, Damir and Alisa, and their lovely daughter Uma, and then I travelled through Germany for a week, turned West into France, eventually meeting up with Declan in Amboise, France. We stayed with Alan and Sophie, as I mentioned earlier, and did some day trips close by. The Loire valley offers lots of treats, fantastic views and attractions to visit. The weather was showery but still very warm, so occasionally the wet gear had to be worn, which is always uncomfortable in the heat. That’s when the trouble began.We were scooting along on the autoroute when a shower started. We pulled in and donned the waterproofs and set off again. We were on the way to visit Chateau de Chambord, a beautiful French Renaissance castle, chambourdwhen I noticed the Triumph starting to slow down. Gradually it slowed to not much more than a crawl, but in the mean time the shower had dissipated. I noticed the Triumph give a few little chucks and then it started to accelerate again. When we stopped I asked what happened but Declan wasn’t sure. The bike had just lost power. I had a sinking feeling about it, but we enjoyed the visit to the Chateau, and forgot the problems with the Triumph. Not for long. After a coffee break at a rest stop, the triumph wouldn’t start. The ignition was fine but the starter button was dead.  I told Declan to hop on and put the bike in first gear. This was the first time I pushed started the bike for him. The first of many. Within a few minutes the Triumph lost power and gradually came to a full stop. Here we go. More pushing. Very little starting.

I had just spent three weeks riding around Europe on my trusty Yamaha. Up through Northern France, through Belgium and Netherlands. When I got to The Hague I had ridden all day in torrential rain. Just a few extra coffee stops to try to get out of the wet, but I had made my friends’ house, in the late evening, sopping wet. My gear had taken two days to dry while I was given the tour of The Hague. europe-2014-200Down through Germany with a stop in Neunkirchen for a few days, where my friend Thomas Schmitt had looked after me while I toured the sights within striking distance of the clubhouse I stayed in. Occasional rain and any other adversity was easily handled by my Yamaha Fazer 1000. But now, without even having had to check the tyre pressure on the Fazer on my European tour, just a spray of chain oil in the evening, I was the one pushing a motorbike. The Triumph had only crossed the channel a day or so ago and had done a few hundred miles at best. Declan said it was his bike’s way of telling him he had no business going out on a motorbike in the rain. I laughed. For a while.

And so it went on. Obviously an electrical problem. Two it seemed. The starter button just refused to work and the issue of losing power was a different problem. And of course the rain became more persistent. Every time the Triumph spluttered and stopped, or when we were setting off again after a break, I had to push. The heat was a killer. Full motorbike gear, waterproofs on top, and then push a heavy motorbike. Because of the need to keep the throttle open on the Triumph when it started, I found I had to run back to the Yamaha and try to catch up. And then, after a few miles, do it all over again. Eventually it happened. No matter how far I pushed it wouldn’t start. I was exhausted anyway and couldn’t push much more. Sweating so much I was wet on the inside as well as the outside. Declan was nice and relaxed, sitting on the bike, never having had to push. At a quiet rest stop, we wheeled the bike into the public toilets to dry out. It sat there for about a half an hour, with some bewildered looking French people doing a double take, when they walked in to the bathrooms. A Triumph Motorcycle there in the foyer area, looking like it couldn’t decide to go left or right, into the ladies or gents.

So now, sitting in the lounge of the Stena ferry, listening to the conversation about the Triumph,  I was a little peeved. Two Frenchmen, with American bikes, talking to an Irishman about the British bike he was riding. And me there, the pusher of said bike, being too polite to mention the escapades of the last three days. meThe conversation turned to the Harleys the French guys were riding, but at no time was there even a mention of a certain Yamaha. Maybe the problem is similar to what I have heard said about car drivers’ perception of bikes. A lot of drivers don’t even see motorbikes or pedal cycles. Maybe cruiser riders don’t see street bikes. Well, a lot of people didn’t see it coming in the 60s or 70s either, when the Japanese manufacturers went from making nice little motorbikes, like the Honda Super Cub (Honda 50) and turned their attentions to bigger machines. Honda’s CB 750 is thought by many to have been the first superbike. Except by Kawasaki fans. They know the first true superbike was the Z1. They might have been thought of as Riceburners in the early days, but when stalwarts like Norton and Royal Enfields, couldn’t compete with their reliability and went to the wall, there was a new found respect for the Japanese bikes. It was not so with my companions on the Stena boat. Just cruisers, Harleys and Triumphs. Ah well, all I could do was sit there benignly, blowing the froth off another one, and listen to the motorbike experts.

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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