Old Gits Logo 3.gif (12598 bytes)2011 Write-Up

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2011 Write-up
Home Up 2011 Photos 2011 Photos B 2011 Write-Up

 

Trip Notes by James W  ---

Old Gits 2011 Tour

To escape the stresses of life I was planning to go away during the first week of May, however as my biking mate had crashed his bike a couple of months earlier, it was going to be a solo effort. I was a bit worried about touring on my own so I posted a thread on the Pistonheads forum asking if anyone else was going on tour that week. One of the replies I got was from “black-k1” saying “Can't do 1st to 8th May but I can offer 26th to 31st May http://www.old-gits.org/thenexttrip.htm”.

In a twist of fate my youngest got chicken pox on the Saturday before I was planning to do my solo tour at the beginning of May, so instead of a week away on my bike, I had a week of Cbeebies and the local playground, which was nice but not the holiday I had in mind. To be honest I was in two minds whether to go abroad on my own and would have probably ended up doing a couple of one / two day trips in the UK.

I thought okay, I am 40, ergo an “old git” and going by the site and past trip write ups, black-k1’s offer looked to be a good bet, so I booked the ferry and emailed black-k1 (David Mc) saying I would love to tag along if that was okay. David kindly agreed.

To avoid delays and being late (as that would not be a good way to introduce myself to the group) I booked a hotel in Dover (Holiday Inn) for the night before (Wednesday) the off (also three others from the group, Steve, Guy and fellow newbie Gary were also staying there). Steve and Guy were very friendly and we had a pleasant chat in the bar of the hotel. Gary turned up about 10pm after a few last minute things delaying him. We said a quick hello, then turned in to ensure we were all well rested in readiness for tomorrows travelling.

The next morning we were all ready at 6am and set off for the short ride to meet the others at the ferry port. I then remembered that I had forgotten to fill up with petrol so shot off to get a full tank and catch up with the others at the port. Got there in time (thankfully I wasn’t the last arrival) and said a few quick hellos before proceeding to the ferry check in. The crossing was uneventful and allowed a hearty breakfast to be consumed by all. It also gave me the opportunity to say hello to the rest of the group, a nice bunch, friendly and easy to get on with. A good mix of nationalities as England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, USA and Australia were all represented.

We got off the ferry, settled into a staggered line and set off down the autoroute at a brisk pace to Beaune (600 kms). It was sunny with a few clouds but very windy which made for tiring riding (especially when overtaking lorries). The thrill of being away on holiday abroad on my bike more than compensated for this. We stopped for a late lunch in Troyes (can’t remember the exact time, possibly 2ish) and lucked upon a nice looking patisserie with picnic tables outside – looked promising – but to our disappointment it was closed. The door then opened and the owner beckoned us in, I guess he saw ten hungry bikers and thought it was worth opening early. The sandwiches / baguettes / flan / cake were all delicious and consumed while lying on the grass outside the shop in the sunshine – now I knew I was on holiday.

 We set off again wanting to get to the Premier Class hotel for our overnight stop, the remainder of the ride was uneventful and we all arrived in good time for a well earned shower and rest. Dinner was had in the local Buffalo Grill, I wanted to try the ostrich but it was sold out – must have been good – instead I had the French national dish of steak frites. The conversation was entertaining with many stories of past experiences being told.

Being an old git my memory is not what it used to be, so the chronological order of events over the days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday all have merged into one in my old, confused and addled mind, so rather than attempting to recall the specific order, below are some of the high points of the holiday (note to self – keep some sort of diary next time).

It was great dumping all of the luggage when we got to Gap so we could enjoy our respective bikes without being laden down with extra weight (lunches and dinners permitting).

The weather was clear blue skies, hot and sunny for the duration with temperatures hitting the early 30’s Celsius (or 90 Fahrenheit in old money), making the evenings pleasantly warm too. The only day it rained was Tuesday morning on the ride back to the Calais from Dole.

Keeping such a large group (ten of us) together when doing ride outs from Gap was difficult and resulted in stops to wait for stragglers. To alleviate this and as some wanted to do different things, we split into two / three groups for the ride outs which made things a lot easier (and sometimes came across each other during the day).

The only mechanical issue we had, to my knowledge, was experienced by Bob N on the borrowed Firestorm – a failed front brake. Bob kindly let the leader of the group know by hacking past him, pumping the front brake leaver to display nothing happening, then conveniently pulled in, right in front of a Citroen garage where we discovered that the brake hose nuts were slightly loose and leaking a bit of brake fluid, so nuts tightened and fluid topped up (thanks to Guy B being able to ask for brake fluid in French – he was the trip’s most fluent French speaker due to listing to Michael Thomas CD’s) we continued on our way. I am sure those brake nuts came loose on their own – Bob’s far too nice to warrant anything different ;-) although his story about his actions following the LA riots still makes me laugh when I think about it J excellent stuff.

The Gorges du Verdon is spectacular, the roads were twisty, the road surface was without fault and the views amazing. I found it hard to focus on the “limit point” of the corners due to my eyes being drawn to a) the sheer rock face flashing last on my left, b) the massive drop just over the two foot wall (in places) to my right, c) the panoramic views. The road weaved it’s way around (and sometimes through) the rock, clinging to the side of the gorge, with rock overhanging the road in places, sometimes you could see far enough to know the next couple of bends would be traffic free, or oh-oh there’s a coach / camper / car to get past / approaching. Other times you couldn’t see anything past the tight approaching bend and had to ensure you were ready for anything to come around it (usually drifting a bit wide). The satnav helped to highlight if the approaching bend was a hairpin or not (bad habit I know, but I needed all the help I could get!). I realised while riding these roads that I have a long way to go to get as good as the guys I was with, who put me to shame on my sportsbike, despite being on tourers / sports tourers (but nice enough not to rub it in too much). It doesn’t matter what bike you are on, it’s the rider’s skill and experience that counts, although I think I did pretty well on roads that demanded total attention and I had never ridden before. By the end of the holiday I was riding down roads and taking bends with a lot more confidence. Although there’s always a danger of being a bit too confident, as I found on one hairpin which I completely messed up and ended up going wide on, luckily nothing was coming.

The gorge also has a huge lake where we had a quick stop, the water was so blue and looked very clear, absolutely beautiful. I dunked my head into it to cool down and seriously contemplated stripping off and having a swim, but didn’t want to ruin the beautiful vista for the locals or my riding friends (also I didn’t have a towel).

Throughout the holiday the roads were consistently entertaining whether they were fast sweeping, wide roads, or tight back roads only wide enough for one vehicle. You could spend a fortnight on the bike in this area and still not come close to exploring them all or being bored. I also found in France they do not advertise road warnings outside of towns too much. For example in the UK if you are approaching an area of road resurfacing there will be at least half a dozen signs warning you before you get to it. In France, as I found, there was one “men at work” sign, then round the next bend the entire road was a virtual gravel trap for a few kms. It was a puckering moment on a sportsbike, fully laden with luggage, hitting a gravelly surface at 60mph and being showered (literally) with stones from the bikes in front. I completely closed the throttle and gently feathered the back brake, thankfully no one had a spill and we gingerly continued. I was very careful whenever I saw a “men at work” sign after that. Warning – the French will only warn you once, possibly twice, then it’s up to you.

We rode down to the see the Med one day, as it would be a shame to be so close to it but not visit it. We took a windy back route of single lane roads (still no potholes) through the landscape, including a couple of olive groves, all very lovely. Due to the heat it was pleasant to have your jacket halfway open to get a bit of ventilation  flowing which was a great idea I thought, until David Mc managed to capture a stunned bee down the top of his T-shirt which he only noticed when we stopped for a water break, needless to say he was stung. I rode with my jacket zipped up after that as I don’t think I would have been as cool as him if I had a bee in my T-shirt (I have a bit of a phobia about bees / wasps / hornets as I have never been stung). Eventually we ended up in a place called La Napoule and had lunch (pricy but not too extortionate) right next to the La Napoule Chateau overlooking the marina which contained some very expensive looking boats. We ambled down for a closer look at the beach after lunch which was sandy and contained many beautiful sights including the La Napoule Chateau, a volley ball court and a couple of “bouncy castles” for public entertainment ;-)

Part of the ride back from La Napoule was on the autoroute so David Mc (on a BMW K1200S) and me (on a GSXR1000K8) tried a “top gear roll on test”, both starting at 0.8 leptons in top gear, then just pinning the throttle and seeing which pulled away quickest. The GSXR just had it but there was very little in it. Needless to say due to the light traffic on the autoroute, the sunshine and lack of luggage on the bikes, the time on the autoroute passed very quickly, so quickly in fact we had ample time to stop just prior to the toll exit to ensure we all had the right money ;-) before continuing on our way.

The evenings in Gap were spent in the square in the centre of the town, where we enjoyed beer, sitting outside by the fountain, enjoying the sights and conversation of the day’s riding and experiences. We tried two of the restaurants around the square, returning to one twice. A good selection of food, catering for all tastes with the exception of Guy finding a fly in his carbonara (he did ask for extra meat though). The meal we had on the final night in a Buffalo Grill style place but this time called Oncle Scott’s was not up to the usual French standard, although it did give me a chance to try ostrich, which was quite nice. I liked the fact that Mark R (the Australian of the group) had the kangaroo which he dutifully called Skippy. Richard S tried something called “Andouille de Guemene” which we all agreed, didn’t taste very nice, but had no idea what it was (found out later it was tripes, ewwwww).

 We rarely came across any police or gendarmes, only saw one speed trap and virtually every driver coming in the opposite direction flashed their lights to warn us, so no dramas were had (although we kept it “within reason” the majority of the time anyway). We had an experience of coming up behind a dark blue Peugeot to spy a large twin lens camera box in the back, wasn’t sure if it was a device to check your speed while the car was moving or just stowed in the back of the car, didn’t risk overtaking and instead stopped for a water break, which probably looked a bit suspicious in hindsight. One other time we spotted a marked gendarme car in front, so fell in with the queue which was plodding along behind it. After a few kms of this the gendarme pulled off into a layby the pulled back out right behind us, hmmm I thought, waiting for the blue lights to pop on, they didn’t, I think he just didn’t want to delay anyone too much :-D he turned off soon after so “brisk pace” could be resumed.

 The ride back up to Calais was mostly autoroute and non eventful. The final day, Tuesday, was raining from the off. It would have been nice to stay completely dry but didn’t mind as anything wet could be dried off at home that evening. I found that my Alpinestar textile jacket zips let in quite a lot of water, the cheap waterproof over trousers I got for 18 before I left were fine. Good job it didn’t rain before as I had no other jacket – will ensure I have a waterproof over jacket for next year. The weather cleared up half way back to Calais and we managed to get an earlier ferry at 3pm after making good time so back to the UK at 4pm (after changing our watches). Another quick downpour in Dover followed by the joys of the M25 at 5pm reminded me of the poor lane disciple all UK drivers seem to have (huge queue in outside lane, less in middle lane, inside lane virtually empty, yet no one moves across despite only going 0.0000001mph faster than the vehicle – if there is one – in the lane to their left). I spent most of the journey relaxing on the inside lane doing 56mph singing along with my ipod, to avoid a “red mist” blast through the traffic. I suppose the UK is too overcrowded.

 Overall an absolutely fantastic holiday. The itinerary and routes were very well planned by David Mc (he found a great deal on the Ibis hotel in Gap which was the cheapest of the three that we stayed at – per night – and very comfortable), his careful planning really laid the foundations to ensure the holiday was an absolute pleasure of biking, eating and company. I can honestly say that all of the people on the trip were fun, easy going and really made me feel welcome and included, despite not knowing any of them prior to the trip. I don’t think I would have had as much fun or done half as much, if I had gone away on my own.

 With the ferry trip and the additional night in Dover, the entire trip (food, drink, petrol, accommodation, everything) cost me around 1k. I am not entirely sure of the exact miles covered but had to be around 2,000. Well worth it in my opinion, not sure where we are going next year, but the old gits annual tour will now be a permanent fixture in my diary.

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Trip Notes by David Mc  ---

Miles travelled: 2016

Thursday 26th May 

Route:

Distance: 364 Miles

Roads: AutoRoute's (mainly toll roads)

Arrive at Beaune to stay at the Premiere Classe - Beaune

I woke at 03:30, excited and ready for the trip. It was 15 minutes before the alarm went off but I got up anyway. The bike was all packed from the night before so after a quick coffee I headed off down the A12, across the Dartford Bridge and down the M2 to Dover.

Richard was already there and waiting for me at the port meeting point and we had about 15 minutes before the others started to arrive. After all the introductions we decided to check through passport control even though Mark hadn’t arrived. Mark did turn up while we were waiting on the dock side so we all loaded onto the ferry and eat a large breakfast.

Although overcast, Calais was dry and we were soon off the ferry and heading down the AutoRoute. There was a strong cross wind so speeds were kept below about 80mph but there were no problems and we started adding some miles. By afternoon the wind had dropped and cruising speeds on the AutoRoute were up to the mid 90’s.

We came off the AutoRoute just south of Troyes and headed down some N and D roads. The traffic was reasonably light and to start with we managed to keep the full group of 10 pretty much together. We were settling in to the nice roads when we were suddenly confronted with lots of loose gravel chippings over some road repairs. There were a few miles of these in patches which tended to focus the attention but we all got through them without incident. After a while we broke into smaller groups and headed for the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel and checked at around 17:30 before went for a beer and a meal at the nearby Buffalo Grill.

Friday 27th May 

Route:

Distance: 215 Miles

Roads:  A mixture of N and D roads

Arrive at Gap to stay at Ibis - Gap

Thursday started with a light breakfast at the hotel and us forming into groups. I travelled with Bob, Guy and James as we were the first to finish breakfast and get our bikes loaded up.

The weather was dry but was warmer than the forecast had suggested and it got better as the day went on. The roads were pretty boring to start with, either with lots of traffic or small and bumpy back roads. After a stop for a coffee and a bite to eat we then headed towards Grenoble but Bob pulled over in a small town having found he had no front brake. (Luckily it didn’t cause an accident.) A quick investigation revealed that the banjo ends on the braided steel hoses had worked slightly loose where they attached to the hose and had allowed the fluid to leak slowly until the master cylinder reservoir was empty. A quick tighten of the connectors and a refill of fluid bought from the Citroen dealers that was on the other side of the road to where we stopped had Bob and the Firestorm back on the road.

A bike swap at a later petrol stop had me on the FJR1200A and Guy on the K1200S. It took a while to get used to the auto clutch but I stared to enjoy the FJR and Guy appeared to like the K1200S. At this point the roads started to improve with some well surfaced open bends. I didn’t want to be pushing someone else’s bike, loaded with luggage, around such nice bends so we changed back again and carried on with the journey.

Getting through Grenoble was awful! It took nearly an hour to get through the traffic lights that appeared to be placed every 50 yds but we were finally on to the N85 – Route Napoleon and the fun really started. What a lovely stretch of road!

Gap arrived all too soon and we booked into the hotel before meeting up with the others and heading into the town for a meal and a few beers at an Irish bar.

Saturday 28th May 

Route – Not really sure but included Draguignan and the Gorges du Verdon

Distance: – Not really sure!!!!

Roads:  A mixture of N and D roads

The day started sunny and clear. Routes were discussed over breakfast and the suggestion of a visit to the Gorges du Verdon was agreed by everyone. After filling the bikes at the local petrol station we headed out of Gap South on a route that avoided the A51 motorway. This is where things stared to go wrong! With such a large group and some traffic on the road we started to get broken up. Add in a few wrong turns and sat navs that didn’t agree on the same route from A to B and we ended up with people being spread over a wide distance with lots of phone calls being made. When we finally all got back together it was agreed that smaller groups were a better option and Roger, Bob and I headed off towards Draguignan. Our route included a run down the D955 which is possibly one of the best biking roads in the world. We all had great fun with some pretty serious lean angles all the way down to Draguignan where we stopped for lunch.

Despite our best efforts and a number of phone calls we didn’t manage to meet with the others who also lunched in Draguignan although we did spot them on our way out of town before we headed back up the D955 to then head for the Gorges du Verdon.

A stop at the top of the canyon for a sandwich and coke served by a very attractive young lady was then followed by a ride down the side of the canyon where we gaped at the simply awesome views while trying to avoid becoming an addition to the scenery. (It’s quite hard to ride safely while staring at the views down such a staggering piece of Mother Natures handiwork.)

After the Gorges du Verdon we headed back to the hotel then into town for a very nice meal to then to watch some football match (European Champions League Final - boring!) on the TV in the bar.

Sunday 29th May 

Route – A51 and N85 down to the Med coast for lunch then back again.

Distance: – Not really sure!!!!

Roads:  A mixture of A, N and D roads

Sunday morning breakfast had a number of different groups forming with Steve Me wanting to do one of the Cols into Italy. I wanted to have lunch at the Med. so Guy, Bob, James and I formed up as a group and headed south. From the day before we knew that the first 25 miles out of Gap going south was pretty boring so we jumped onto the AutoRoute and paid €2.70 to avoid the crap roads before rejoining the N85 as the road became interesting.

We did mile after mile (or is that kilometre after kilometre? It is France after all!) of great roads with James leading the way. We arrived at the sea front at about 12:30, just in time for lunch. The weather was hot (very hot) and sunny so we sat outdoors at a beach side restaurant, sweating like a Scouser at a paternity test in our leather trousers and leather boots. (All except Guy who smuggly pointed out that he had packed shorts and trainers in his panniers!)

After a very nice lunch we headed back up the N85 towards Gap and had some more fun on the superb roads. A local on a Fireblade, who had passed us, trying to get us to race, on our route south, came past us again in a ‘”death or glory”’ manoeuvre.  This was surprising as we weren’t hanging around but his final overtake of James left him steaming into a sharp down hill right hand switchback rather faster than he wanted. He pulled the bike over but momentarily lost the back end and almost high sided. Luckily he caught the slide but it shook him up enough that he immediately pulled over, probably to get his heart down to a rate that didn’t sound like a machine gun going off in his head.

We were stopped at the next village by the police as the local carnival was taking place in the town and the main road through was blocked while the floats went down the high street. After half an hour of a coke and watching the locals have a great time, we resumed our journey and headed back up to the A51.

An empty motorway gave us a chance to do some ‘high speed testing’ where we discovered that a GSXR1000K8 and a K1200S are very similar in top gear roll on tests from about 80mph to 150mph, with the Suzuki just managing to pull a half bike length lead over the BMW. A run at just over an indicated 170mph for a number of miles showed that both bikes were very stable at speed. Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, we all waited for 5 minutes when we arrived at the toll booths so that the average speed for the run up the A51 didn’t look too ‘out of place’.

Dinner in Gap was at the restaurant from the previous night where another great meal was had. Mark and Richard didn’t manage to make it back to the hotel until around 11:00 having decided to eat at another town on their way back because it was starting to get dark.

Monday 30th May 

Route:

Distance 250 Miles

Roads : A mixture of N and D roads

Arrive at Dole and stay at the Inter Eric - Dole

After an early breakfast, Guy, James, Steve and I were the first group on the road. We headed back up the N85 and through the slow, tortuous roads of Grenoble. (It took us almost an hour to get through the town! If anywhere needs a bypass in France, this is it!) We then had a great ride along a winding route up to Dole with the roads varying from nice sweeping bends through to single track 1st gear hairpins up the steep side of a valley.

As we approached the hotel in Dole we spotted Bob and Roger walking into town. Apparently they had decided to do some of the run on the AutoRoute but had had some excitement when Bob managed to run out of petrol on the Firestorm about a mile and a half from the next service station. Roger had saved the day by riding on ahead and then persuading a Spanish tourist to lend him a fuel can.

After all the others checked in to the hotel we took a walk across to the only restaurant within a mile of the hotel It had apparently only been open about 2 weeks, and boy, could we tell. The waiter really struggled to handle a group of 10 English speakers with only a small amount of tourist French. A couple of the group thought they’d ordered Orangina only to be given a Gin. Steve ordered a steak that was totally inedible so said he wouldn’t pay for it. At this point the waiter decided that simply hiding in another part of the restaurant where we couldn’t see him was the best way to handle us. Steve’s steak wasn’t paid for and the rest of the bill was counted out to the nearest cent to ensure no tip was left.

Tuesday 31st May 

Route:

Distance 378 Miles

Roads : AutoRoute's (including toll roads)

The plan was to pack the bikes up ready first thing in the morning so that we could eat breakfast when the hotel opened at 07:00 then be on the road at 07:30.  We awoke to light rain so waterproofs were going to be required.

Breakfast was had by the whole group then we said farewell to Richard and Steve who were staying for another few days of exploring northern France. We finally set of at 07:55 and headed straight for the AutoRoute.

While boring, the AutoRoute's allowed us to cover the miles quickly. After a couple of hours the rain stopped and we managed to remove the waterproofs and made good progress all the way to Calais, arriving at 13:30, well ahead of schedule. We were moved from the 16:25 ferry to the 15:00 ferry and all enjoyed a final meal together on the return crossing.

At Dover we said our final farewells and Bob, Roger and I headed back up the M2, M25, A12 to Suffolk. Again, after the wonderful French roads we had to struggle with too much traffic, pot holes and poor lane discipline for the whole run home, but that is biking in the UK!

Everyone had a great time, including Bob who had flown over from the west coast of the US and borrowed a bike from Alan R just for the trip. We all agreed that another trip had to be organised for next year (looks like I have some work to do!!) but there was no real agreement on where we should go. Let’s wait and see!