Like most things involving middle aged men, it started with a chat in a pub. David and me were discussing the merits of using a transit van to transport our off-road bikes away from the confines of the UK. We’d previously taken large adventure bikes to Norway and Morocco and found them less than ideal when venturing off-road. They were great to get you there but severely compromised once there – too heavy, beyond my skill level and always conscious that if they broke then how did one get home? We’d also ridden the large adventure bikes to Spain so we could then hire proper (smaller) off-road bikes to zip around the campo. That was great but somewhat tedious going through France and Spain to get there and back.
We also had perfectly good off-road bikes in the UK. So the logical step was to hire a van to transport bikes and equipment (OK – we definitely took too much equipment). We had discussed a “hub and spoke” arrangement – leave the van in one place once we’d got there and have day rides out from it, but then we liked the challenge of transiting the Pyrenees. All we needed was a driver to wave us off in the morning and drive to the agreed day’s end point and find the accommodation.
We’d seen a Road Book offered by a company based in France – www.vibraction.org – which had a detailed route from Collioure to Saint Jean Pied de Port. As it turned out the service and RB5 from Philippe was absolutely excellent. I would definitely recommend their services.
Prof Dave persuaded his brother – Dr Chris – to be our driver and put a larger fuel tank on his KTM 450, and apart from hiring a van from the very helpful people at Low C Rent, that’s about all the preparation we did.
I’d decided to take my Honda CRF 250L, which may disappoint those who are tuning into a site about travels on a Husqvarna 701 but it was small and already had off-road tires fitted to it (whereas the Husky still has OEM TKC 80’s which are nearly worn through but I wanted to keep them on the bike until I tackle Russia on a new set of rubber next month). I was also concerned that I didn’t want to smash anything up on the Husky before the big trip.
Day 1 started with this….
Which converted into this…..
Which took me to this…..
Which led me to this……
Which meant I could drive round to Dave’s house so he could load it with this…….
Which meant that I could drive back to my house so I could load it with this…
Which left just enough room for Dr Chris to put his push-bike and gear in between the two motorbikes and off to the Channel tunnel.
Traffic was busy – time was tight – but the old git driving should be renamed the old JIT (just in time) as we got to the tunnel and boarded the train without stopping.
Apart from arriving in the F1 hotel in Tours at 0200hrs after getting severely lost in Paris, driving along forbidden bus lanes and nearly decapitating the van in the lowest tunnel I’ve ever been in, day 1 was fairly uneventful. Fortunately no photographs record the strains of the navigators and driver during this 6 hour French odyssey and no audio evidence exists to verify the unbridled enthusiasm given both to and from the driver and co-pilots.