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Trip History


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2014 Write-up
Home Up 2014 Write-Up 2014 Day Trips 2014 Photos

Trip Notes by David Mc  ---

Miles travelled: 2670

Before the trip

Planning started in December 2013 with reservations at the main hotel being made in February. 7 people had committed so rooms for the trip down and back were booked as were ferry crossings.

During April, Guy had to pull out but with almost perfect timing, Brian M e-mailed me and asked if there was space on the trip. Brian took over Guy’s room bookings for the trip down and in Cuneo but didn’t plan to return with the group.

One week before the off I got a message from Gary asking if there was space on the trip. A quick check with the hotel in Cuneo confirmed they had another room and an on-line check confirmed the hotel on the way down had space available. Gary could then use Guys room for the return so we were now a group of 8.


Saturday 14th June

As usual, the bike was already packed when the alarm went off at 04:10 in the morning. Gear on and off I headed down the A12, M25 and M2 towards Dover. It was dry if a little cool so I wasn’t complaining.

I met the rest of the group at Dover where we all said our hellos then headed for the ferry and the usual cooked breakfast. It was agreed that we’d split into 2 groups for the 500 mile run through France. Brian Roger and I were in the “splash and dash” group while the others were in the “more relaxed stops” group.

We were all aware of the French plod reputation with regards to speeding so we settled in to a steady 85 – 90 mph, which was over the limit but, we hoped, not by enough to make us a target. Sure enough Brian did spot a Gendarme in the hedge with his speed gun and a couple of mates on bikes waiting to swoop on the unwary but they took no notice of us.

The “splash and dash” group did exactly that when it came to petrol stops (about every 150 miles) and we arrived at the hotel in Bourgoin-Jallieu with time to check in, park the bikes in the secure parking, unpack, shower and have 3 beers all before the other group turned up. Some further beers were consumed while they sorted themselves out then we headed into town to a Pizza restaurant recommended by the good looking young lady at reception in the hotel.

Sunday 15th June

A late start to the morning followed by a slow relaxed breakfast meant we weren’t on the road until after 10:30. It was agreed to go as 2 groups of 4 with Brian, Roger, David Y and me in 1 group. Brian needed petrol so headed off with the other group to the petrol station while the rest of us waited. After filling up Brian missed where we were parked and headed off in the opposite direction. A quick phone call established he was on the AutoRoute and would meet up with us later so we were down to a group of three.

The selected route gave us 250 miles to the hotel in Cuneo, with about 50 of those on AutoRoute and the rest on winding roads. The weather started dry if a little overcast and soon we were enjoying the roads as we headed up into the hills. There must have been a Harley Davidson rally somewhere in Northern Italy as there seemed to be an endless stream (and there really were hundreds) of Harleys coming the other direction.

On the start of the climb up the Col du Telegraphe we were waving to the many bikes (mostly Harleys) coming down when we were suddenly aware that one of the bikes was Brian! There wasn’t an opportunity to stop safely so we each carried on in opposite directions.

At the top of the Col de Telegraphe we stopped for lunch. We’d just parked the bikes and ordered a round of drinks when Brian arrived. He’ started the climb then realised he’d need fuel soon so turned around and went back to the petrol station, passing us on the way.

Just after getting our food the other 4 arrived and joined us for lunch while we sat in the sunshine and watched the endless stream of motorbikes riding up and down the Col.

After lunch we headed off over another couple of Cols before the rain started on our climb up the Col de Lombarda. By the time we officially entered Italy it was raining pretty hard and the wet roads and poor visibility made the ride down the tight hairpins an interesting challenge.

Despite the rain we all arrived at the hotel at about 18:00, checked in, unloaded the bikes and showered ready for a few beers and a meal out in town.

Monday 16th June

A late start and relaxed breakfast had us all discussing routes for the day. No one was keen on a long run so it was agreed to head up towards Crisolo and the road that was used to film scenes from the Italian Job.  While the initial roads out of Cuneo were pretty boring it wasn’t long before we were enjoying some nice twisty sections.

Unfortunately, when we got close to the road from the film, we discovered that it was undergoing significant resurfacing and had the entire tarmac removed. Not wanting to try some green-laning we chickened out and turned around. After a coffee stop we then made our way back to the hotel via a slightly less than direct route that had us going up and down a few of the foothills in the area. Great roads with generally good surfaces made for a fun afternoon although some of the hairpins were extremely tight and presented a significant challenge. Roger in particular got very close to some of the scenery.

Back at the hotel and it was shower then head out for another good meal and a few more beers.

Tuesday 17th June

A pretty early start (breakfast at 08:00) had us heading up to the Col de Tende and through the tunnel. The sun was out and the sky was blue so the bends were being enjoyed by everyone.  We were in two groups of 4 with Roger, Brian, David Y and me forming one group and after our ride down the French side of the Col we headed for the outskirts of Menton and a cold bottle of Coke. The bike thermometer was showing almost 30 degrees and the sun was shining – perfect.

After the stop we started heading north and into some pretty dark clouds. Sure enough, the rain started accompanied by some impressive lightning and thunder. The roads we were on were narrow and challenging but we all made it without incident.

The rain kept up and upon the approach to Isola and a fill up with petrol we decided to ignore the part of the planned route that took us over the Col de Bonette and instead went straight up the Col de Lombarda. This was a good decision as the other group ended up having to turn back on the Col de Bonette due to the laying and falling snow. Even on the Col de Lombara, around 1000ft lower, there was falling snow and the temperature was down to 0.

Eventually our group got back to the hotel very wet, but having enjoyed the ride. After showering and changing we headed out across the town square to a café where we discovered that ordering beers resulted in the delivery of the beers and some large plates of hot bread and pizza tapas. These were eagerly consumed and further rounds were ordered.

Wanting to be different we found a Chinese restaurant close to the hotel and headed over for a meal. The other group had just arrived back at the hotel so agreed to join us as soon as they were showered and changed.


Wednesday 18th May

Again the day started wet. Brian had decided he wouldn’t be going on any ride outs has he was concerned he was losing tyre pressure and he needed to replace the bolts that held the top box mounting plate to the rack. (They’d worked loose on the ride down.) We all hung around the hotel for a while and had lunch in town but, as the rain had stopped, Alain, James, Gary and I then took a run over the Col de Tende and up the D91 south of the town of Tende.

The roads had dried as we rode up the Italian side and we started to have some real fun. The tunnel lights were on red so we had the opportunity to filter to the front of the queue ready for the lights to change and the charge through the tunnel and down the other side. Some decent angles of lean were achieved although I was having issues (I’m not sure if real or imagined) with my new(ish) Michelin Pilot Road 4s gently moving sideways at the very extreme lean angles. Nothing too worrying but enough to stop me pushing all the way to the limit.

The ride up the D91 resulted in a coffee at the hotel at the top before the return journey back down then up to the tunnel. While we filtered to the front of the queue a Romanian in a VW Passat took umbrage to this and took off out of the queue, before the lights turned green to get a head start up the hill to the tunnel. The hairpins up to the tunnel gave us the ideal conditions to “redress the balance” and I over took the Passat after the first hairpin, James over took after the second, Alain over took after the third and Gary over took after the forth! Slightly childish but great fun!

After returning to the hotel for a shower and change we all headed across to the café with the beer and tapas to meet the others before heading off for yet another delicious meal.


Thursday 19th June

We had planned an early start with the intention of getting straight on the bikes and heading for the Gorges du Verdon. According to the Sat Nav it was a 280 mile round trip via the “direct” route so we climbed up the Col du Lombarda (now dry!) to stop at the top for some photos and to admire the view.

Following the sat nav we turned north out of Isola then turned west up a small road but were stopped by some workmen and locals about 5 miles later. Apparently the road stopped being a road a few miles further on and became a goat track! Again, not wanting to try off-roading on 250kg sports tourers, we turned around and headed back down the M2205 then west along the N202. What lovely stretches of road! Good surfaced fast sweeping bends and very little traffic. Yet again as I pushed my tyres I got the feeling that the rear was “moving” as I approached the limit. At that point I decided discretion was the better part of valour and backed off slightly, keeping away from the last 10% of the tyres.

Lunch was had in a small restaurant in Castellane just after the start of the D955. This is probably my favourite road of all time and it was as good as I remembered even though we turned off to head for the Gorges before we got to the very best bit of the D955 (Comps-sur-Artuby to Draguignan.)

Our arrival at the restaurant at the start of the Gorges du Verdon had us parking to take photos while those who had not seen it before just stared at its beauty. This is where the problems started! We all mounted up and started to head off on the Gorges road only to become quickly aware that Roger wasn’t with us. Upon returning to the restaurant car park we found that his bike had refused to start. While the battery was fine the starter was not turning over (not even trying) and the start-up diagnostic  check was not being done. An attempt at a bump start confirmed the bike was not firing so recovery was called.

By the time things were sorted and the bike loaded into the recovery van, it was going to be too late to take the bike to the nearest BMW dealer at Frejus so Roger stayed in a local hotel in Comps-sur-Artuby, near to the home of the recovery truck owner, ready to go with him and the bike to Frejus first thing in the morning. The rest of us made our way back towards Menton via the D21 and D2 and the Autoroute. Half way back it started to rain and didn’t really stop raining until we got back to the hotel.

At Menton we turned up the Col de Tende road but by now it was dark so the climb up the Col road in the dark and the drizzle was a challenge. I was at the front so got to use main beam. As a result I think some of the other Old Gits will now be off shopping for HID kits and 100w bulbs. Eventually we returned to the hotel at about 22:00 which gave us just enough time to quickly shower, change then grab a kebab (with chips!) from the local kebab shop before turning in.


Friday 20th June

During the late breakfast we got a text from Roger saying his bike had been fixed. The right hand switch gear had failed, leaving the computer to think that the kill switch was on, even though it wasn’t. BMW know about the issue with dodgy switch gear and were providing replacement switchgear for all those that failed so Roger got a nice new free set of both left and right hand switches.

We agreed to meet Roger in Imperia for lunch by the sea so we all headed off down the scenic route from Cuneo. The roads were good but, in general, not as good as those we’d been riding the day before in France. A stop for a Coke and then an issue with Italian automatic petrol stations not accepting our credit cards (although I think that had more to do with the “nut on the keyboard” than the technology!!!) had us arriving in Imperia about an hour after Roger.

Lunch was had with the three choosing the Paella getting a much better deal than all the others who chose the Steak Milanese.

After the meal and filling with petrol, we all headed back to Cuneo via the motorway to meet Jane and David (friends of James) who were joining him and Alain on their holiday after the rest of us had gone home.

The meal in the evening was back at the first restaurant with it being noted that the 17 year tradition had been broken and we now had a “girlie” at and Old Gits meal table. While Jane was very welcome to join us it still didn’t feel quite right. I’m sure James and I will get our “ears bent” by the rest of the Old Gits for allowing the sacrilege to occur!

After the meal we all returned to the hotel to pack in preparation for an early start the next day.


Saturday 21st June

The bike was packed and we sat down to breakfast at 07:00. Farewells were said with James, Alain, David and Jane all heading off across the Col de Tende (again!) and Brian heading to see some friends in Cahors, and we all set off at almost exactly 07:45.

On the motorway run up to Turin, my sat nav suddenly decided it didn’t want to direct us via the Frejus tunnel and started pointing us towards Mont Blanc. I’ve no idea why it changed its mind as we were on a dead straight stretch of motorway with no turnings but, hey-ho, it probably knew something we didn’t!

After the Mont Blanc tunnel we started the crawl up through France at a steady 85 – 90mph. A set of roadworks had Ian worrying as his bike fan was not coming on despite the temperature gage getting up to “pretty damn hot”. A stop at the next services confirmed it wasn’t the fuse so Ian decided to press on and hope he didn’t get caught in any slow moving traffic.

The rest of the run was long and boring but at about 18:00 (and 600 miles after we left Cuneo) we pulled off the AutoRoute and into Laon. I was in front and leading the group but managed to cock up the navigation as I’d set the sat nav to a random address in Laon rather than the hotel, so we sailed right passed the hotel and on to the other side of town! D’Oh! An about turn and a return trip had us at the hotel and trying to check in! (We can now confirm Laon is very pretty!)

Apparently, despite me booking 5 rooms each for single occupancy, the hotel claimed they only had one room booked for three people. It was quickly established that the hotel was fully booked so there were no alternative rooms! We all agreed that we were not sharing and after some discussion, we got the receptionist to phone another local hotel to establish that it had 5 rooms free. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t!) understand that we were not leaving one person in the room at her hotel while the 4 others went off elsewhere. It was 5 or none!

Eventually, after we all walked out to head for the other hotel the receptionist suddenly found our booking for all 5 rooms! While cynics might suggest that the French wedding party that were occupying pretty much all of the rest of the hotel had offered some financial incentive for extra rooms thus the receptionist was trying to bully us into accepting fewer rooms and sharing, I, being charitable, think the poor woman was simply confused by the complexity of 5 people (with poor French language skills) wanting the 5 separate rooms they’d booked!

Dinner at the Buffalo Grill had us arguing with the waitress that the steaks we were given were not rare, in fact they were not even medium but were actually pushing well done. Again it took a while but we eventually got new steaks that were rare.

Sunday 22nd June

Roger wanted to catch an earlier ferry so left at 06:20. Ian was worried about his bike overheating so left at about 07:00. David Y, Gary and I had a relaxed breakfast then hit the AutoRoute at about 09:00.

A clear run had us arriving at Calais just before 11:00 and in time to catch the 11:30 ferry though it did cost us €25 each to transfer to what was an almost empty boat.

By 12:30 (BST now!) we were riding up Jubilee Way in Dover to get petrol at the Tesco store at the top of the hill. Then a run along the A2, M2, M25 (where I lost Gary and David Y at the Dartford tolls) and the A12 had me home by 14:45.

I say this every year but it’s totally true! Another great trip with some superb roads but most of all some excellent company. It was great to see Roger, Gary, Alain and James again and great to welcome Brian, Ian and David Y on their first (and hopefully not last) trip. The weather was good in the most part and even the rain and small amount of snow resulted in some memorable rides. Despite Roger’s bike switch gear issue, Ian’s bike cooling issue and a constant “not happy” grumble from Alain’s bike, we all had a great time and everyone got on really well with everyone else. Roll on next year.