Contrary to most non-motorcyclists expectations, the joy of touring on one’s bike is definitely not the covering of long distances at speed. Au contraire, IMHO, thundering down motorways isn’t  a very pleasant experience at all. But if you live in South East England, you are faced with Hobson’s Choice if you want to get to the ‘good bits’; especially as train-transportation of one’s motor to Scotland or parts of Western Europe has disappeared along with the 20th century versions of Thomas Cook Train Timetables. FR 4aSure you can take the back roads, but when time is limited as it was last week, spending precious hours on the relatively uninspiring D roads of Northern France is not a great trade-off. So five tedious hours on the A26 & A4 between Calais & Metz, was a case of ‘what could not be cured having to be endured’! But once one gets to the western side of the Vosges, or the northern foothills of The Alps, the fun can really begin and the pleasure-pain trade-off goes into surplus. Travelling interesting roads in a car is nice but more-often-than-not, even with the windows open, it’s all too fast and all too insulated. You miss the feel of the journey, the smells and the sounds. One can of course walk, roller-skate or cycle but then you’re into a different sort of effort-reward equation. On a motorbike, the balance between covering distance and ‘experiencing the journey’ is as close to perfect as it can get.  At times it can be an assault on the senses and nowhere more so that on a  mountain pass – the twisting road, FR 6the elevations, the views, the changing temperature & the smells.  Of course, it can go all terribly wrong. Like the time it rained, and snowed (true!), all the way home from Italy in August.  Or a tragic day between Dingle and Galway, which should have been glorious, but was a miserable wash-out.  This level of the uncertainty, and the impact, of natural forces contributes to the ’spirituality’ of the motorcycle trip. Another is the ever-present sense of danger. Clambering on board a machine, capable of transporting one at high speed with a relatively low level of personal protection, requires a healthy respect for the risks involved; a respect that dictates a need for discipline, concentration and focus. Last but not least, you are on your own; even if you travel with a mate. Once the lid is on and you start to roll, you’re pretty much incommunicado and alone with your thoughts. Put all these dimensions together and a motorcycle trip has a character all of its own. It’s not for everybody but, for me, it’s an experience that really does ‘refresh parts that other beers can’t reach’.Ibis Reims

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2 Responses to THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES Part 1: It’s Not About The Bike

  1. Robin Murtough says:

    Eric, have you changed your bike? This one looks retro, the last one seemed at the forefront for touring. I’m enjoying your thoughts about motorcycling though.

  2. Ericle says:

    Thanks Bins! In October, I traded in my BMW R850R for a new Triumph Bonneville T100 which, as you correctly observe, is a style object more than a thoroughbred tourer. This notwithstanding, the T100 has the measure of the BMW power-wise but not the set-up for longer journeys; as I came to find out, in my rear-end department The BMW was much heavier and my switch was as much predicated on my more local requirements as for the beauty of the object. Having said that I would/will not hesitate to tour again on the Bonnie, but I will definitely require a softer saddle!

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